Southern Baptist Missionary Under House Arrest in Dubai

An American missionary is under house arrest and awaiting a higher court hearing after the she was arrested earlier this month for distributing Bibles in a predominantly Muslim area.

A youth minister at First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach told the South Carolina-based Sun News that 72-year-old Vivian Gilmer of Myrtle Beach was charged Feb. 21, while on a missionary trip to Dubai—a city in the United Arab Emirates. Gilmer, who was a member of First Baptist, was on the second leg of her missionary trip—which included a trip to India—before she was told she could not openly distribute Bibles in a Muslim-controlled country.

"As missionaries, you understand the risks," fellow missionary Jackie Owens told the Sun. "No one hopes to get arrested, but it is always a possibility."

Despite the arrest, the church has not stopped missionary trips to India and Dubai, said the Rev. Bruce Crawford.

“We are worried for her, but Vivian knows who she is and where she is going,” said Donnie Perry, whose brother Paul was with Gilmer in India but did not go to Dubai.

"She is always willing to go and serve," said Owens. "I'm sure Vivian is optimistic. She is a tough lady, and she loves the Lord. As a believer, you can rest in that."

According to the Sun, Gilmer is currently staying in Dubai with two other missionaries—one of which is Marie Bush of Waxahachie, Texas, who is also being held in the city. The missionaries, who were both working with the Tommy Cox Evangelistic Association, are under house arrest and have not been allowed to leave the country. The passports of both Bush and Gilmer were confiscated.

First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—the largest protestant church denomination in the United States with over 16 million members.