Iraq Attack Kills 4 Baptist Missionaries

Four workers for a Southern Baptist missionary group who were killed in Iraq were remembered as "people who just had a great heart for helping people out."

Unidentified assailants attacked a car with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades Monday, killing the workers who were trying to find a way to provide clean water in the northern city of Mosul.

Three people were killed in the attack and a fourth died Tuesday morning en route to a military support hospital, the Richmond, Va.-based Southern Baptist International Mission Board said. A fifth person was in critical condition.

Board officials said Tuesday they have no immediate plans to pull its workers out of Iraq.

"Certainly we're concerned about safety. We will continue to evaluate the situation in every location we work in," said Clyde Meador, the board's executive vice president, at a news conference in Richmond.

The group has 5,411 people scattered around the globe, he said, but he declined to say how many were based in Iraq, citing security concerns. The group described the four as humanitarian workers answering a call of God rather than missionaries in the traditional sense.

The board identified the dead as Larry T. Elliott, 60, and Jean Dover Elliott, 58, of Cary, N.C.; Karen Denise Watson, 38, of Bakersfield, Calif.; and the victim who died at the hospital, David E. McDonnall, 28, of Rowlett, Texas. His wife, Carrie Taylor McDonnall, 26, was in critical condition.

The Elliotts were scouting the best location in Iraq for a water purification project, said Michelle DeVoss of Cary, whose First Baptist Church in the Raleigh suburb was home when the Elliotts returned from Honduras, where they had been missionaries since 1978.

"They were fully aware of the risk and they were just called to do it," said DeVoss, who hosted a welcome-back party at her home for the Elliotts in January.

Larry Kingsley, a church deacon, said the Elliotts understood that their humanitarian work in Iraq would focus on helping human needs rather than ministering to souls.

"They knew going into Iraq, they couldn't really share their Christian faith unless somebody asked them," Kingsley said. "They were there in a humanitarian situation. ... They were people who just had a great heart for helping people out."

Watson was a detention officer with the Kern County Sheriff's Department in Bakersfield before joining the mission board in January 2003, said Bill Bangham, a spokesman for the group that coordinates missionary activities for the Southern Baptist Convention. She arrived in Iraq earlier this month to help the Elliotts and others study how best to allocate the mission board's humanitarian efforts, Bangham said.

Four other Southern Baptist missionaries have died in violence overseas in the past 14 months, three slain at a hospital in Yemen in January 2003, and one killed in a bomb blast in the Philippines in March 2003.