RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) — The lone survivor of a drive-by shooting that killed four Southern Baptist workers in Iraq has been upgraded to stable but critical condition and is “doing well” in a German hospital, according to an International Mission Board spokesman.
Carrie Taylor McDonnall, a 26-year-old member of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, sustained gunshot wounds in all four extremities.
“She was hit pretty heavily,” said Bill Bangham, a spokesman for the International Mission Board, which employed the four missionaries killed — Larry T. Elliott, 60; and Jean Dover Elliott, 58, of Cary, N.C.; Karen Denise Watson, 38, of Bakersfield, Calif.; and McDonnall's husband, David, 29.
McDonnall and the others were researching the need for future humanitarian work in Mosul, Iraq, March 15 when an unidentified assailant opened fire on the workers' car.
Officials of the IMB encouraged Christians to pray for the families, friends and churches of those who died or were injured. Clyde Meador, IMB executive vice president, said the pain of this incident is deeply felt by Southern Baptists worldwide. “We're grieving about the situation,” he said during a March 16 press conference. “Our hearts are broken.”
Meador did not indicate if other IMB personnel are in the area but did say workers would continue carrying out their missions. “Certainly this affects morale, but our folks are there because God has called them to a lost world,” he said.
Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church, said members were “stunned” to hear two of the congregation's former youth workers were shot. Members held prayer vigils in small groups soon after they heard the news about the McDonnalls. Part of Sunday's worship service will be devoted to the couple.
“To have this happen to someone we served with, worshipped with, prayed with, has been a real shaking experience,” Dean said.
The McDonnalls understood the risks they were taking by going to Iraq, but felt called to the work, the pastor said. “They were very aware of the danger,” Dean said. “It meant a lot to see them marching off to serve the Lord.”
As the news spread across the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where Carrie McDonnall was a student and David McDonnall an alum, prayer vigils also spontaneously broke out. Groups of about 20 students gathered for prayer three times March 16.
Greg Tomlin, the seminary's director of public relations, said students described the McDonnalls as “phenomenal people” with an unceasing love for the Iraqi people. The Iraq incident has furthered the students' “determination to finish the task of evangelizing the people of Iraq,” Tomlin said.
Meanwhile, seminary president Paige Patterson and his wife, Dorothy, who were in Germany when the missionaries were attacked, are traveling to visit Carrie McDonnall, reportedly in a Frankfurt hospital.
In Bakersfield, Calif., more than 700 turned out for a prayer service remembering Karen Watson, who was involved in several aspects of Valley Baptist Church there before she left for Iraq last March.
Watson taught a children's Sunday school class and was active in mission trips and the congregation's visitation ministry, according to associate pastor Rich Paradis.
Paradis said church members were saddened by Watson's death but determined to continue her mission of reaching people for Christ. Speakers noted Watson's positive perspective and caring nature. “The thing that sticks out the most about Karen was her love for everybody,” Paradis said.
Watson fully understood the perils of her work in Iraq, Paradis said. The missionary left behind a note for each of the churches pastors in the case of her death. “I wasn't called to a place,” she wrote. “I was called to serve Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, his glory.”