She Lived and Died For Jesus

His wife was murdered for Jesus and now he's ready to give his life totally to Christ.
by Melissa Stratis

Gary and Bonnie Witherall, medical missionaries to Muslims in Lebanon. After the murder of Bonnie, Gary encourages the lukewarm American Christian Church to be bold for the truth.

On Friday, February 7, 2003, during 10:00 a.m. student chapel, missionary to Lebanon, Gary Witherall stood before Nyack College students and told them he'd just lost everything that mattered to him on this earth - his wife, his ministry, his apartment, his friends, his church, and the town he loves. But, he said, "I wouldn't trade my life for anyone in this room because I know what it is to live for Christ."

Gary grew up in England and was a choirboy in the Church of England, attending a high school he describes as "very secular." When he was seventeen years old, Gary hit a car going seventy miles an hour with his motorcycle. He woke up in intensive care with broken hands and legs. "I felt God spared my life," he said. "The police felt the same way. I said, 'God, I'll give you my life.'"

Not long afterward Gary heard the testimony of Melody Green, who spoke in England after the death of her singer/songwriter husband, Keith. Gary stood in response to an altar call to serve as a missionary. He joined Operation Mobilization for four years, traveling to over sixty countries. In 1991, Gary enrolled at Moody Bible Institute. "I was four weeks away from leaving Moody," he says, "and I met this girl who I thought was an absolute princess." Gary married his princess, Bonnie, and the couple moved to Oregon, where Gary worked as a pastor.

In January 2000, God gave the couple clear guidance to go to the Middle East, specifically to Lebanon. They settled in Sidon, where there were almost no Christians, and thousands do not know Christ. Gary worked to draw three missions into a close fellowship and working relationship, and they were active in evangelism and discipleship.

In 2001, Bonnie began to work in a clinic for women led by Cheryl Phenecie, a Nyack College graduate and missionary nurse who had begun the clinic as a ministry to the Muslim women in the Sidon area. Muslim women came to the clinic in high numbers, because of the excellent care they received there.

November 21, 2002, was a day off for Gary, but he rushed to the clinic after receiving a hysterical phone message. Pushing through police and others, he found his wife dead. She had been shot three times in the face. "And she had a beautiful face," Gary said.

Immediately Gary felt God telling him, "A seed is being planted in your heart right now. It's going to grow into anger and bitterness, or forgiveness and love. You have to choose now. Choose right now." And Gary said, "I'll forgive. I'll forgive."

Now Gary stands in front of a thousand students, and will travel from here to stand in front of thousands more. And he challenges us with these words: "My wife took bullets in the face because she was not afraid to love Palestinians... We're failing in sharing the gospel because we're afraid... Do you know why America hates Christianity? Because of lukewarm Christians... I'd rather have ten people in this room say it's all for Jesus than have this whole room." He called students to sacrifice, to let go of everything and be willing to die for the cause of Christ.

God has called Gary to find one thousand students who will become missionaries, one thousand missionaries to fill Bonnie's shoes. After his talk, the stage set up in Bowman Gym became an altar flooded with students wanting to give themselves over to this kind of devotion to Christ.

April Home