They Cry in Silence Jul/Aug 2004
Donna and I do not necessarily know the road ahead, but we take comfort in knowing the One who made and is in control of that road.
—Missionary Warren Pett
Warren and his wife, Donna, were missionaries with the Africa Inland Mission (AIM). They were on loan from AIM to Here Is Life, a Ugandan Christian ministry that runs the Esther Evangelical School of Technology in Uganda, Africa. The school trains students in carpentry, mechanics, leadership, Bible, evangelism, and other practical skills. Warren, 49, taught agriculture and Bible courses, while Donna, 48, taught cooking and tailoring.
On March 18, before leaving for the day, teachers, students, and staff met for devotions led by Warren. Around 9 P.M. the Petts left the school to walk home. Soon after, several gunmen wearing military uniforms appeared, demanding the school payroll be handed over to them. Finding they could not enter the school’s secure room where the payroll was kept, the men rampaged through the property, setting a vehicle on fire and torching the houses of staff members. Denied the money, the attackers started for the Petts’ residence.
A courageous student, Isaac Juruga, realized where they were going and attempted to intervene by trying to get to the Petts’ home to warn them about the impending danger. He was shot and killed.
When the men arrived at the Petts’ home, they called the couple out of the house. As Warren and Donna appeared on the porch, they were shot to death.
Their funeral services were conducted at the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, where they were members. They had operated a dairy farm in Wisconsin for twenty-two years before going to Africa in 1997. Scott Arbeiter, Elmbrook senior associate pastor, called them “salt of the earth people. Very authentic. They were vital and lived out what they believed. The news of their lives being taken has sent a shock wave through our church. We are a church in mourning.”
Oli Jacobsen, chairman of New Tribes Mission, stated poignantly,
We’re especially thinking today of Warren and Donna’s children and parents who are grieving and living with the pain of this earthly separation.
Perhaps reflecting on the martyrdom of members of his own New Tribes Mission family, he continued:
Times like this are a brutally painful reminder that we were not created for sorrow and suffering and separation and death, and that we live in a cruel, fallen world. That stark reality makes the truth of what Christ has done for us all the more precious. It is a great comfort to know that Warren and Donna are standing victorious in the Lord’s presence today, rejoicing, and without a moment’s regret.
Not long ago, the murder of American missionaries serving the Lord in foreign countries sent shock waves through the entire evangelical Christian community. That is no longer true. Foreign workers give up their lives at an alarming, escalating rate. Sadly, it is almost eerily common to learn of yet another atrocity committed to sacrificially dedicated “salt of the earth” servants of Christ.
But this is certain: Tyrants and the grave know no victory here. Heaven gathers God’s fallen children home; the Spirit sustains those forced to stay behind; and the work goes on.