SBC martyrdoms may help open doors for the Gospel in Iraq
By Allen Palmeri
March 30, 2004
|Karen Watson, of Bakersfield , Calif.|
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leaders who served in December with International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries David and Carrie McDonnall in Iraq said the gunmen who killed David and wounded Carrie are pawns in a much larger struggle.
“I think that the enemy is literally on the run, because spiritually, the enemy is losing a stronghold," said Scott Brawner, MBC student evangelism specialist. “The same holds true in Afghanistan. As fearless as the American soldiers go in, following behind them are people who are willing to give their lives for the Gospel. And the Jihadists know it.
“I read this article where they were saying wherever the American military goes, missionaries are just right behind them. In fact, the article was saying stop targeting American military personnel. Target the missionaries. The missionaries are spiritual. Their work will go on for generations."
The work of David McDonnall, 28, will go on, said Roy Spannagel, MBC associate executive director. His labor in establishing a Gospel beachhead in a Muslim fortress was not in vain.
|David and Carrie McDonnall. Carrie, was the lone survivor and is recovering in a Dallas-area hospital from multiple gunshot wounds. The McDonnalls were from Rowlett , Texas.|
“Satan has had control of that whole region for a long, long time," Spannagel said. “Satan’s pretty well had his will and his way in Iraq , so any inroads by God’s Holy Spirit are going to be confronted by Satan. We don’t war against these individuals. We have no anger in our hearts toward those who did the actual shooting. We don’t even know who they are. The battle is being waged on spiritual ground.
“I believe God does want to do something very powerful in Iraq, so anytime God begins to move, Satan is going to do everything he can to resist."
McDonnall was killed along with missionaries Larry and Jean Elliott of Cary, N.C., and Karen Watson of Bakersfield, Calif. McDonnall’s wife, Carrie, was the lone survivor and is recovering in a Dallas-area hospital from multiple gunshot wounds. The McDonnalls were from Rowlett, Texas, but to Spannagel they were “our" missionaries. They were the ones paving the way for Missouri Baptist short-term missionaries to do humanitarian work in Mosul as part of a formal partnership established last summer.
Spannagel, traveling as part of a four-man MBC delegation laying the groundwork for the partnership, met the McDonnalls for the first time in June. It was their one-year wedding anniversary. He remembered Carrie, or “Niki" as she was called, sleeping with a group of female seminary students in a home in northwest Iraq. David slept with the guys on the roof.
“That’s how dedicated to missions they were," Spannagel said.
Brawner remembered meeting David for the first time in Amman, Jordan, in July of 1999. David was taking Brawner’s desert survival class. Brawner, a former Army Ranger, saw a strength in the future IMB journeyman that would carry over into McDonnall feeling comfortable in Jordan, Sudan, Ethiopia and eventually Iraq.
“He was very, very good at learning cultures," Brawner said. “His jovial laugh and his all-around good attitude impressed everybody. He was very good at making friends."
They maintained an email relationship, with McDonnall giving Brawner feedback on the effectiveness of various short-term mission trips. When they saw each other again in December, it was a warm reunion.
“We drove from Amman to Baghdad in the same Suburban, just to spend time with each other, talk and hang out," Brawner said.
And now his friend is a martyr.
“I’ve been telling students for five years, if you fulfill God’s call on your life, and you carry it to the ends of the earth as He’s calling you to go, there is a good chance that you will be a martyr," Brawner said. “Christians are being martyred every day. They’re just not Americans."
Like Brawner, Spannagel said that McDonnall is the first martyr he has known.
“Iraq is not your normal mission trip," Spannagel said. “It is a very difficult place to be."
The death of McDonnall will not deter young people from going to the mission field, Brawner said. On the contrary, to young people who realize like the McDonnalls did that God is in control of how He is reaching the nations, a martyr’s death like the one David experienced can even be an inspiration.
“There is a movement among men and women age 35 and younger who are willing to go to the nations," Brawner said. “They have a heart and a passion for the nations. In Southern Baptist circles, we don’t have enough money to send everybody out now.
“There is a reward that is only found on the other side of risk, and unless you’re willing to take the risk, you will never receive that reward. I’d say count the cost when it comes to doing missions, but don’t be afraid to go, because God’s in control."