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Students, friends of McDonnalls gather in prayer at Southwestern

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Students gathered on the steps of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s B.H. Carroll Memorial rotunda at noon March 16 and prayed for their friend Carrie Taylor McDonnall. McDonnall is battling for her life after surviving an attack which claimed the life of her husband, David, and three other Baptist workers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul March 15.

Although it is spring break on the seminary campus, at least 18 students kneeled together, held hands and prayed for healing and grace. Michael Dean, the McDonnalls’ pastor at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth and a seminary trustee, also participated in the prayer vigil.

Several of the students were friends of the McDonnalls when they were enrolled at Southwestern. Erika Wiegand, a 25-year-old missiology student at Southwestern, had been to Iraq twice with the McDonnalls over the past year. Most recently, she led a small group of students to do humanitarian work in northern Iraq over the Christmas break.

“I would go over to their house and eat meals together, and we would see each other around campus,” Weigand said of the McDonnalls before they left last fall for Iraq. “They were very encouraging about me leading a trip to Iraq.

“When I was there, I ended up being a Spanish translator. One of the organizations that we teamed up with, the lady that headed it up was from South America and she only spoke Spanish and Kurdish. David only spoke Arabic and English. So I was the translator between them,” Weigand said.

Weigand said she felt angry toward the attackers after she heard the news. So she called her pastor and his wife, Chris and Kathy Seidlitz of Windsor Park Baptist Church in DeSoto, Texas, and asked, “How do I pray?”

“Kathy said, ‘Erika, we are no better than [the attackers], except we have God’s grace.’ That opened up my heart,” Weigand said. “I went and meditated on Psalm 139 where it says God knows us when we are lying down or when we are getting up…. For the first time then I was able to pray for someone who intentionally hurt someone I loved. It was one of the hardest things to do, but God told us that’s what we are supposed to do, so I did it.”

Those who came to the prayer vigil remembered David McDonnall as a man of deep passion for Arabic people. Brennen Searcy, another student who had ministered with the McDonnalls in Iraq, recalled the time there as “the biggest blessing in my life.”

“David and the others are the heroes of the faith. They are examples of people who have great passion for Christ…. [David] was a blessing to know and a blessing to the Lord,” Searcy said.

Many of the prayers that went up were for Carrie McDonnall as she remains in critical condition.

“Carrie is a strong girl,” Searcy said. “She will grieve the loss of her husband and her friends. But her faith in Christ Jesus will not waiver, I am confident of that.”

Jimmy Shaw of Bowling Green, Ky., who helped lead the prayer vigil, is in the final year of missiology studies at Southwestern.

“This attack has affected me to the point where it has burdened me to do a short-term trip to Iraq,” Shaw said. Currently, Shaw said he feels drawn to serve God in the Amazon Basin in Brazil. But he would go to Iraq if he was needed there. There was nothing about the attack on the McDonnalls and their fellow workers, Larry and Jean Elliott and Karen Watson, that discouraged Shaw from going on an international outreach.

“This has just made me want to press on and go out and spread the Gospel to the entire world including those hard to reach areas and those areas where you may put your life at stake.”

This attitude of anticipation and eagerness to go to dangerous places with the Gospel was shared by Searcy and Weigand.

“This tragedy only strengthens my call for missions,” Searcy said. “My call does not waiver because of circumstances.”

Weigand explained the reason for her desire to go back to Iraq regardless of the danger, noting, “It’s a beautiful culture and they are a beautiful people, yet they are so afraid of the unknown. Their culture is so similar to the one Jesus lived in. God is their creator and their maker. I want to go over there even more now than before.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: A WORD OF COMFORT and GRIEVING & PRAYING.

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  • Brent Thompson