Southern Baptist 32-year legacy lives on

By January 11, 2013

Yemen (MNN/IMB) — It's been just over decade since three Southern Baptist hospital workers were shot and killed in Yemen, and the Southern Baptist International Mission Board says one of the victim's passions is passing on to the next generation.

On December 30, 2002, a Muslim militant entered Jibla Baptist Hospital and shot Bill Koehn, Martha Myers, Kathy Gariety and Don Caswell. Myers died almost instantly, while hospital workers did their best to save Gariety and Koehn. Only Caswell survived.

Marty Koehn made it to the hospital before her husband passed away, and she was able to spend a few precious moments with Bill before he went to be with the Lord. After his passing, Marty realized there were many decisions to be made: would she stay in Yemen? Would she return to the United States?

Within 30 minutes of becoming a widow, she sensed an answer.

"Out of the blue, the Lord brought to mind Elisabeth Elliot's story," says Koehn. "I had never read the book, and of course the movie wasn't out at that point, but I had heard of [Elliot's] story, and the Lord reminded me of it.

"To me, it was His clear indication that I was supposed to go back to Yemen."

After going home to the United States to grieve and spend time with her two daughters, Koehn returned to Yemen — a land where she and Bill had served for nearly 30 years. Upon her return, Koehn also found a role in which to serve: purchasing agent and warehouse manager for the hospital.

It had previously been filled by Kathy Gariety.

"To me, this was another indication God wanted me to go back," Koehn says. "That was the one job I could do because it required someone who knew both English and Arabic, and it was a nonmedical position.

"[The Lord] was preparing everything."

On December 31, 2002 — the day after the shootings — Jibla Baptist Hospital was transferred from Southern Baptist ownership to the Yemeni government. The government assumed responsibility of the medical facility in 2003 and continued to employ Southern Baptist workers until its closing in May 2007. Koehn chose this time to retire in Texas to be near family.

Bill and Marty's legacy is living on in a granddaughter who is considering the mission field. She had visited her grandparents in Yemen as a child and seen their ministry firsthand.

Pray that the Lord would guide her steps.

Yemen is in the Top 10 on the Open Doors USA World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst. Many Christians have been abducted, physically harmed and killed, and churches have been damaged or destroyed. Tens of thousands of Christians have fled Yemen.

One Comment

  • I visited the Baptist Hospital in Jibla in December of 1979, long before the horrendous incident which took the lives of three American doctors and nurses. I can remember a person named “George” and his sister. I had earlier spent time in Israel, and when I mentioned this to them, they were concerned and asked that I not mention that while in the hospital. They told me that they had recently tried desperately to save the life of a little Arab boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog, but that the child had died. They were very upset about the child’s passing.

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