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William Koehn ‘gave his life … helping people and serving God’

MANSFIELD, Texas (BP)–William Koehn spent nearly three decades serving the people of Yemen in response to God’s call.

“He gave his life doing what he loved to do, helping people and serving God,” his son-in-law, Randal Pearce of Mansfield, Texas, said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Dec. 31.

Koehn, 60, was one of three Southern Baptist International Mission Board personnel killed Dec. 30 by a lone gunman who smuggled a rifle into the Jibla Baptist Hospital where Koehn worked as hospital administrator.

Koehn was born in Kansas and managed grocery stores in the state before attending Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. After seminary, he traveled to Yemen to serve at the hospital in Jibla.

“He was what a Midwestern man is supposed to be: hardworking, direct, straightforward, kind and very loving,” Pearce said in the Star-Telegram.

Larry Cox, vice president for the IMB’s office of mobilization, said Koehn was “quiet, meek” and “very committed to his work.” He also mentioned in the Star-Telegram that Koehn made and sold wooden toys, using the money to buy food for the poor.

“Just last week he was giving away basic food — flour, sugar, things like that — to some indigent people,” Cox said.

Koehn’s family released a statement in response to the killings, noting: “He was committed to serving God and the people of Yemen. One of his greatest joys was making toy cars for children in the local orphanage. He died doing what he was called to do. Bill and [his wife] Marty were in Yemen because of their love for the Lord.

“We’re saddened by this news, but we understand that this does not reflect on the people of Yemen as a whole. We have found them to be gracious and kind, otherwise Bill and Marty would never have spent their lives serving there,” the statement concluded.

Marty Koehn was in Yemen at the time of the shootings, but she was not at the hospital. The Koehns have two daughters and five grandchildren. Koehn planned to retire in October 2003 and move with his wife to north Texas to be with their relatives.

Pearce reiterated in the Star-Telegram that the family does not hold any ill will against the people of Yemen. He noted that he had visited the country several years ago and found the people and the land to be beautiful.

The Star-Telegram reported that a Jibla woman who said she used the hospital where the Americans were murdered said the killings are a crime unacceptable in any religion.

“This contradicts Islam,” she said. “They cared for us and looked after us. I can’t even count the number of children treated and saved.”

Scott Whitson, a family friend for more than 25 years, told the Star-Telegram that Koehn understood the risk involved in working in the Middle East but was in Yemen because he loved the Lord.

“He knew what God had called him to do,” he said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: 3 DECADES OF CARE and WILLIAM KOEHN.

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  • Erin Curry