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Recovering IMB aid worker looking for new ways to serve God

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A Southern Baptist humanitarian aid worker critically injured in Iraq said she has been “recovering physically and learning how to live with grief” since her husband and three other workers under the auspices of the International Mission Board were killed in a March 2004 attack.

“God has been showing Himself faithful,” Carrie McDonnall told participants at the Woman’s Missionary Union annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., June 19-20. “I encourage those who have known suffering to rely on God and to focus on Him. You can trust Him.”

McDonnall was the lone survivor of the attack in which her husband, David, and three other IMB personnel — Larry and Jean Elliott and Karen Watson — died of automatic weapons fire and blasts from rocket-propelled grenades. The assailants, who have remained unidentified, attacked the IMB workers in their vehicle as they were returning to Mosul from researching needs for humanitarian aid projects in northern Iraq.

The Elliotts, who served 26 years with the IMB in Honduras before transferring to the Middle East in February 2004, and Karen Watson, who had been with the board since March 2003, were killed at the scene. David McDonnall died en route to a military support hospital in Baghdad. Carrie was airlifted in critical condition the next day to a hospital in Germany.

“David and I left for Iraq because we desired to see God exalted in the lives of the Iraqi people,” McDonnall told the audience. “It wasn’t because of some great missionary calling that we went. We were simply two children who remembered what brokenness felt like, and remembered that feeling of grace in Jesus. We wanted to share that in a land that did not know Him.”

The McDonnalls met while serving a two-year journeyman stint with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Northern Africa and the Middle East. They married in June 2002, and began serving again with the board in November 2003.

In a follow-up interview with Baptist Press, McDonnall said she has more surgeries scheduled and will undergo a procedure next week to repair damage to her right arm. The 27-year-old from Sulphur Spring, Texas, said further surgery is scheduled on her left side when she regains her strength.

“The doctors wanted to wait long enough for my body to heal because there’s so much they’ve done,” she said. “This [upcoming surgery] is in my arm; they put a metal plate in when it broke. My body is trying to get rid of it, so they’re just going to get that out. And then I have some shrapnel that hurts my hand.”

McDonnall told Baptist Press the greatest thing she learned from the attack is that “God is sovereign, and more loving than we would have ever imagined. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. It’s coming through something like this where everything else is saying it’s not, and it doesn’t match up, that He is faithful.”

Concerning the future, McDonnall said, “There’s no way I can say what He has in store. My heart is definitely for missions. Really, I just want to be about His business. If His business is me overseas, I’m gone.

“[But] for now, the Lord just has me here in the States continuing to share my testimony and to share what He’s taught me. Until He tells me to move on, that’s what I’m doing.”

During her testimony at the WMU meeting, McDonnall told participants she brought greetings from friends and co-workers around the world as “many of them are on that nameless and faceless side of your prayer list that you so diligently pour your heart out for each day.”

She said sometimes God surprises His followers with the kinds of opportunities they have to glorify His name.

“I certainly would never have guessed I would be with you today,” McDonnall said. “I would have been just fine to remain on that nameless and faceless side of your prayer list. But His ways are higher than mine.

“We are all called to glorify our Father and to make much of Him. We may do this in very different ways but in doing so the nations will be reached and the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be lived out to those who have never heard.”

McDonnall said over the past year she has had opportunities to share what God has taught her in churches and colleges across the country. She has been “encouraging people and getting them motivated to go out and go to missions.” McDonnall added that she has met a lot of people along the way, and heard many stories of what God is doing in their lives.

“I’ve met a pastor who is trying to show his church to see the lost beyond the walls [of the church building], and encouraging them to see the harvest field,” she said. “I’ve met students at the collegiate level with such a zeal to serve our Lord and there’s not much they’re not willing to go and try to do. They want to use their talents and to show who Jesus is.

“I’ve met still others who have taken a group of young girls under their wings to teach them about the Bible and to have a love for God’s Word and to show them the love God has for the lost. I’ve met parents who have seen their children go off to distant lands and they’ve learned a whole new aspect of faith and a whole new importance of prayer and greater trust in Jesus.

“And, I’ve met soldiers who are returning from the war zone and desire to go back to that field, but this time without fatigues so they can continue to help people in desperate need to know the truth and hope and the love of Christ.”

McDonnall has written a book titled “Facing Terror” about her ordeal, published by Integrity Publishers and scheduled for release the end of July.

She reminded WMU participants that they “are indeed many members, and yet one body. Many members but one calling in Christ Jesus to glorify God, to make much of Him and who He is. Whether you are a pastor, a mother, a student and teacher, a soldier or missionary, a calling to follow Jesus Christ remains the same. We are all called to glorify our Lord.

“As a body we must stand firm in one spirit, and one mind, working side by side for the sake of the Gospel. When we understand our calling is to glorify God we will live our lives in a much different way. When we live to fulfill His calling we need an accurate picture … and Christ is the ultimate,” she said.

“The desire to live out this call to glorify God will cause us to get up out of our pews and into this dying world, proclaiming the message of the cross. Our hearts are broken over the darkness because His heart is.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Chute