SANAA, Yemen - In the auditorium of the International School in Sanaa, about 275 Americans, Yemenis, and other international gathered to commemorate the lives of the three murdered International Mission Board Workers. During the service, held on New Years Day, friends, family and co-workers of Martha Myers, Bill Koehn and Kathy Gariety shared memories, sang favorite Christian songs and recited beloved scriptures.
"It was good for people who loved them to be able to remember Martha, Bill and Kathy, to honor the Christ they loved and served and to worship him for the way he worked in and through their lives," said John Brady, leader of the IMB in northern Africa and the Middle East.
"We were able to express our sorrow about their deaths and share the hope that gives us all meaning and the strength we need to move forward," he said.
Brady recalls the crowd rising up, standing in commemoration of the lives of Myers, Koehn and Gariety.
"People talked about the ways Bill encouraged them to be a leader, to think and listen and to care for the Yemeni people," he said. "They spoke about Martha's great passion for the Lord and the selfless way she gave herself to Yemenis, no matter what the cost. They praised Kathy's deep desire to serve people and the way she touched so many lives behind the scenes."
Brady notes more than just American colleagues of the three sharing fond memories together.
"There was a deep recognition that literally thousands of Yemenis also are mourning this loss," he said. "They each were described as people who did more than just talk about their love for the Yemenis.
"People re-emphasized that their motive was love, that they did not come to tear down but to bring hope, the love of Christ and a cup of cold water to the people of Yemen."
The three workers of the IMB were killed instantaneously on Dec. 30 when a lone gunman opened fired on them during an early morning meeting. He seriously wounded a fourth worker, pharmacist Don Caswell, who was able to attend the memorial service unassisted.
The morning before the service, Southern Baptist workers gathered to talk in coping with the tragedy and looking forth to the future. During the gathering, Judy Williams, a physician at the Jibla hospital read a statement for the members.
"These individuals deeply loved and cared for the people of Yemen," Williams said. "They freely chose to give their lives to serve the people of this country. And although their lives on earth have ended, nothing was taken from them that they hadn't already freely given.
"My friends [at the hospital] want you to know that they don't hold anything against the assailant. They want him to know that they forgive him and they want him to know God's forgiveness.
"The real tragedy here is that the very people Martha, Bill and Kathy loved are the ones who will be blamed for this. And they shouldn't be. Our hearts are still in Yemen and we will continue to seek ways to serve here in the months to come."
By Pauline C.