Aid Workers in Iraq Faithful unto Death

Originally published in 2004

It had been a good day in Mosul, Iraq. Five Southern Baptist workers were making progress toward a water purification project. They had met with officials and laughed with new Iraqi friends. They were headed home for a night’s rest before starting again the next morning.

But they never made it home. On March 15, 2004, men who didn’t understand their mission sprayed bullets into their truck. Larry and Jean Elliott, 60 and 58 years old, and Karen Watson, 38, died at the scene. Hours later David McDonnall, 29, died, too; his wife, Carrie, 26, is recovering. These are their stories.

Larry and Jean Elliott

When Larry Elliott watched news reports from Iraq and saw men using dirty oil buckets to draw water, it broke his heart. Months later, he and Jean were planting their lives there. They left behind 80 water wells, 12 Baptist churches and 92 mission points from their 26-year ministry in Honduras. God had called Larry with his hearty laugh and Jean with her infectious smile to others in need of clean water and pure hearts, and they went joyfully.

David and Carrie McDonnall

Like other newlyweds, David and Carrie McDonnall were passionate about each other. But their greater passion was for Jesus and sharing His love with the Iraqi people. They both had served as journeymen in Northern Africa and the Middle East and returned on their first wedding anniversary to lead volunteers into Iraq. Just months before their second anniversary, they counted the cost, accepted the risks and moved there.

Karen Watson

“Don’t make Karen into a saint,” cautions one of her Bakersfield, Calif., friends. “She would hate that.” The former detention officer was “pretty wild” in her younger days, but when she met Jesus, He turned her life around.

On a missions trip to El Salvador, He opened her heart to the needs of a lost world. As war in Iraq began, Karen lived out of a suitcase and worked in refugee camps in Jordan and Kuwait. Then she moved into Iraq, coordinating relief efforts and helping the Iraqi people rebuild their lives.

“To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, … His glory is my reward,” [said] Karen … in a letter she wrote to be opened after her death.

Excerpted from “Faithful unto death” by Manda Roten, To the Ends of the Earth, 2004, Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 2-3.