Missionary describes attack that killed her husband
Carrie McDonnall began her speech Sunday at West Haven Baptist Church by reading a passage from the Bible that she said was near and dear to her and her husband's hearts while they were preparing to leave for Iraq in 2004.
With her right hand, she spread the pages of the Bible across a lectern. With her left hand, forever disfigured from the brutal attack that shattered her body, killed three of her friends and left her a widow, she held the book open as she began reading Psalm 108.
Before she finished she repeated the verse "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth," before she began telling her tragic story to members of the West Haven congregation.
Pastor Mike Bronson had asked McDonnall to talk to his congregation after he had heard her speak in Jefferson City, Mo.
"Both of us spent time in war-torn countries," McDonnall told the church members about why she and her husband, David, wanted to return to Iraq. "We weren't naÃive about the situation. We were very aware of what could happen, but at the same time we knew that the Lord was calling us."
Her trip to Iraq wasn't her first time in the country and it wasn't her first time in the Middle East. Both she and David had longed to return there after a previous missionary visit.
After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, she and David went to Iraq to do some mission work. McDonnall said the short two-week trip had left her unfulfilled even though they had accomplished their goals.
In 2004 the couple got the opportunity to go back with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board to do relief and development work.
"We knew the Lord was calling us to go and give what we had," McDonnall said. "Our faith could not move a mountain, but it could board a plane."
They worked in small villages helping get fresh water to Iraqis.
On March 15, 2004, the McDonnalls and three other missionaries, Larry and Jean Elliot, and Karen Watson were on their way back from a small village. To get to their destination, the group had to travel through Mosul, in northern Iraq. McDonnall said they would routinely drive through Mosul because it was the largest city in the area.
"We had been through their numerous times before, so much so that I remember how to get to different places even though it's a few years later," she said.
On that day the group was in a car in a busy part of town when men, armed with automatic weapons, began shooting at them.
Watson and the Elliots were killed instantly, but McDonnall and David survived the attack.
They were pulled to safety by local Iraqi men, which surprised her because in the Iraqi culture, men did not touch women.
"For them to reach in and touch me was a huge, huge thing," McDonnall said. "You especially don't touch a foreign woman who is bloodied from head to toe."
After being taken to an Iraqi hospital, the McDonnalls were transferred to a U.S. Army hospital.
Doctors stabilized McDonnall after 10 hours of surgery, repairing the 22 bullet wounds and removing countless pieces of shrapnel from her body.
She was kept in a medically induced coma and transported to the United States. When she awoke eight days later in Texas, her family broke the news to her that her husband had died from his injuries the day after the attack.
"The room spun. It literally spun," McDonnall said of her reaction. "I was devastated at the loss of my husband and then I had to deal with the physical pain of all of my injuries."
Since the attack, McDonnall has written a book, "Facing Terror," which chronicles her experience in Iraq.
She has toured the United States, using her book and telling her story to help others endure tough times.
"I think a lot of people get encouragement by it," McDonnall said. "We all have hard times, and it is just a reminder for them to seek out God."
Bronson, West Haven's pastor, said he wanted McDonnall to share her story with his congregation.
"When she says something there is a lot of moral authority behind it because of what she experienced," Bronson said.
In March, Gracia Burnham also will speak at the church. Burnham, who along with her husband, Martin, were missionaries in the Philippines when they were kidnapped by a terrorist group in May of 2001. Martin was killed and Burnham was injured during a rescue attempt in 2002.