"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

Quintus Tertullian

They Gave Him Their Lives






"It's easy to love your neighbor and to love your friends and to love your family. The miracle occurs when you love your enemy."[4] Lee Hixon, a fellow-missionary at Jibla Baptist hospital

“This (gunman) did not take their lives; they chose to give their lives.”[5] John Brady, the International Mission Board’s regional leader for Northern Africa and the Middle East


Some years ago, I read a popular book written to draw young people to the mission field. It promised adventure, good fellowship and spiritual growth through short-term missions. See the world, it beckoned. Travel for God!

Clever marketing! Naturally, many answered the exciting call.

But God's call is different. He doesn't lure His servants with promises of fun and pleasure. Instead He warns us to "count the cost" and to resist the natural impulse to seek feel-good experiences. He seeks disciples who will love Him more than the world -- who are willing to share in His suffering and follow Him anywhere. Few may answer His call, but those who do will share a joy that can't be compared with the world's thrills and entertainment.

Martha Myers, the missionary doctor murdered on December 30, 2002, knew that well. She didn't fear death when God sent her to a Muslim country hostile to Christianity. Nor did she flee when Yemen was shown to be a haven for Muslim militants, including al-Qa'eda members.[1] Instead, she saw a poverty-stricken people in desperate need of medical care and hungry for God's love.

The intensity and pressure of the work at the clinic didn't keep her from reaching out to the more distant people in her "free" time. Driving a Toyota Land Cruiser on bumpy dirt roads from village to village, she offered help, hope, medicine and treatment to the poor along the way. "Everywhere she stopped on the road, people flocked around and she'd write prescriptions and hold court,"[2] said her father, Dr. Ira Myers.

Dr. Myers knew that her safety was in God's hands. Four years earlier, a group of armed men hijacked her Toyota and hid her under a blanket in the back of the car. When they threatened to kill her for speaking the truth, she answered, "Well, I'll be in heaven!"[2]

Trusting God, she had nothing to fear. Neither Muslim militants, highway robbers nor other life-threatening dangers could shatter her peace in Christ. Though friends and relatives cautioned her, "she just depended on the Lord to take care of her," said her father.[2]

Her 24 years of ministry in Yemen ended when Abed Abdel Razzak Kamel, an Islamist militant armed with a semiautomatic pistol burst into into the humble Jibla Baptist Hospital which serves about 40,000 patients a year. Interrupting an early morning meeting, the gunman shot the much-loved surgeon along with two fellow missionaries, Bill Koehn and Kathy Gariety. He later told police he had killed them to "cleanse his religion and get closer to Allah."[1]

The surviving missionaries were quick to forgive the murderer.  "My friends [at the hospital] want you to know that they don't hold anything against the assailant," said Dr. Judy Williams. "They want him to know that they forgive him and they want him to know God's forgiveness."[3]

"It's easier to forgive because I know her heart for the people," added her brother-in-law Mark Kingery back home in Alabama. 

The people they had served were devastated by the deaths. Yemeni hospital workers built caskets for Koehn and Myers, dug their graves and lowered the bodies into the ground themselves.

"This is my father," one of the Yemeni hospital workers said, referring to Bill Koehn, the slain administrator. "I have to do this."

Hundreds of Yemenis gathered at the hospital for the January 1 memorial service, while many others lined the roads to the hospital. "Something is happening in my heart," said one Yemeni national.[4]

That's not surprising. He had been touched by God's self-sacrificing love which has been changing hearts for over 2000 years.

"The people here who love us are decimated even more than we are, because they don’t see the big picture," said Kaye Rock, another fellow-missionary. "But the Bible says ‘Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the blood of his saints.’ The church is built on the blood of the martyrs, and any of those three people would have gladly given their lives for that.”[5

"They freely chose to give their lives to serve the people of this country," said Dr. Williams. "And although their lives on earth have ended, nothing was taken from them that they hadn't already freely given."[3]

The natural reaction to ongoing threats is to flee to a safer place. But that's not an option for those who have trusted God with their lives. We can’t let someone with a gun make us afraid to do what God wants us to do,” said Kaye.[5]

"We've been begged not to [leave]," said Lee Hixon, another co-worker. "Many [Yemeni] count these folks as family."  Confident that God is in control, he knows that "the call of Jesus Christ to take the gospel personally to hurting individuals far outweighs the risks of living in a country like Yemen."[4]

So he and others will stay until God leads them out. After all, it's in these hard places that God's love becomes all the more visible. As we have seen in China, nothing spreads God's good news -- and filters out the alluring counterfeits -- more effectively than persecution. For

"...we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are

  • hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed...

  • perplexed, but not in despair

  • persecuted, but not forsaken;

  • struck down, but not destroyed

— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

As Quintus Tertullian wrote back the second (or early third) century:

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."


1. Doctors killed in Yemen at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;$sessionid$BJH112YKUSSM1


2. Alabama doctor died doing what she loved in Yemen at http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news/104132972216940.xml

3. Friends gather in Yemen to remember lives of slain hospital workers at http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?ID=14958

4. As 3 slain colleagues' laid to rest, co-workers see ongoing ministry at http://www.imb.org/urgent/story5.htm

5. International Mission Board at http://www.imb.org/urgent/Rankinsermon.htm

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