BOUAKE, Cote d’Ivoire (BP)–A Southern Baptist missionary in Cote d’Ivoire was wounded May 8 when gunmen hijacked his car and drove away with the missionary’s son still in the vehicle.
The miraculous resolution of the incident illustrates the critical importance of prayer support for missionaries, noted Wanda Lee, leader of Woman’s Missionary Union, of God’s intervention in the incident.
Travis Forsythe was driving home to Dabakala, where he and his wife serve among the Djimini people group. His 2-year-old son, Nathanael, was with him.
When Forsythe stopped for food late in the day at the city of Bouake, two bandits took the car from him at gunpoint. Forsythe clung to the open door of the vehicle, trying to convince the gunmen to let him get Nathanael out. The driver shot and wounded Forsythe, who chased the car as it sped away with his son in the back seat.
Forsythe’s wife, Kim, and their 5-year-old daughter, Gloria, were not with him at the time. Kim Forsythe was observing her 30th birthday at home, ordered to bed by her doctor because of complications in her pregnancy.
That the carjacking occurred on her birthday may have been the saving grace for her husband and son.
Many Southern Baptist publications carry prayer calendars with the names of missionaries and their birth dates. Thousands of Southern Baptists were praying for Kim Forsythe as the gunmen were attacking her husband and kidnapping her son. The number of intercessors multiplied as word of the kidnapping almost immediately flashed through electronic prayer networks.
Forty-five minutes after the carjacking, the gunmen put Nathanael out of the vehicle and left him alone on a dark road in the village of Katiola.
Villagers put him in the care of a midwife, who fed and bathed the child and put him to bed while authorities located his parents.
Nathanael was back with his father by 1:30 a.m., just hours after his abduction. His father’s injury was superficial, with the bullet miraculously passing through his right side between the ribs without hitting any vital organs. His mother, however, was hospitalized because the shock of the carjacking and kidnapping exacerbated the complications of her pregnancy.
The incident highlights the importance of praying for missionaries and illustrates the power of those prayers, said Wanda Lee, the national executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union.
“We never completely know what we are praying for when we pray for missionaries on the prayer calendar,” Lee said. “It is humbling and exhilarating when we learn about experiences like the Forsythes’ and know, in faith, that our prayers played a role in resolving it.
“We praise God for his provisions in the lives of Nathanael and his family,” she continued. “We will continue to pray for them as they process this event. We also are praying for the hijackers. We pray that they will come to know Christ and be able to turn away from a life of crime.”
Woman’s Missionary Union is known for its emphasis on prayer for missionaries, Lee noted.
“I’ve heard countless miraculous testimonies from missionaries about events that happened on their birthday,” she said. “I’ve also heard them say they put off important decisions until their birthday because they know WMU members are praying for them. One missionary told a group once that he would resign if WMU ever stopped praying.
“It is testimonies like these that energize our efforts to involve our members, from the preschooler to the senior adult, in praying for missionaries,” she said.
All the organization’s periodicals carry a daily prayer calendar or a section where prayer for a missionary family is encouraged, noted one WMU editor.
“Praying for missionaries is the most important way to support them,” said Joanne Parker, editor of Missions Mosaic, WMU’s magazine for women.
“Missionaries are in a spiritual battle,” she emphasized. “They can have all the money and training in the world, but that is still not going to empower them to accomplish the spiritual work of winning people to Christ. Our prayers undergird them in their spiritual work.”
Travis Forsythe is a native of Brownsville, Tenn., and is a graduate of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Kim McKenzie Forsythe is from LaGrange, Ill., and also is a Union University graduate. They were appointed by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in March 1999.
(BP) map of Cote d’Ivoire posted in the BP Photo Library.