March 18, 2004 by

Karen Watson


Categories: Extraordinary People

kwatson.jpgKaren Watson was helping to set up a mobile water purification plant in Mosul on March 15 when she and three other U.S. relief workers were killed in a drive-by shooting. She was 38.
Described by friends as a warm and fun-loving woman, Watson joined the Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., seven years ago and dedicated her life to doing missionary work. She joined the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, and began restoring schools for children living in El Salvador, Mexico, Macedonia and Kosovo before traveling to Iraq in 2003.
Watson graduated from high school and worked as a detention officer at the Kern County jail in Lerdo, Calif. In her off-hours, she led a Bible study class and participated in her church’s singles group.
Before she left for Iraq, Watson gave her pastor a two-page letter in a sealed envelope, with instructions to read it if she died overseas. When Pastor Phil Neighbors opened the letter, it began: “When God calls, there are no regrets. To suffer was expected. His glory is my reward.”

7 Responses to Karen Watson

  1. Hal Cooper

    The day Karen arrived in Iraq I was in the suburban that picked her up at the airport. I was there as part of several assessment teams and had been on the ground perhaps four days. As I had been in Fallujah and Ramadi everyday picking Karen up at the airpoprt seemed like easy duty. She and another new worker were there to begin the foundation for everything that has taken place since. In the awful heat of summer she seemed so graceful and unfazed by it all. Later we were able to dine together at a restaurant in Baghdad and I remember her sitting next to me and sharing some of her background in law enforcement. I was amazed at the courage of this single woman coming to a very difficult environment with what appeared to me as absolute peace. Her life and efforts for the people of Iraq and the cause of Christ will bear eternal fruit. For Karen the celebration and rest has begun. For the rest of us we have a towering example to follow. May we not be found wanting in courage and character and commitment. Truly His glory is her and our reward.
    Hal Cooper

  2. Leia

    I was the “other new worker” that Hal mentions who arrived in Baghdad with Karen that day. She was my roommate while we were in Kuwait and for the first few months in Baghdad.
    Today, two years after her death, I still remember her. I remember planning their memorial service and singing her favorite song – “If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile”
    When I can not feel
    When my wounds don’t heal
    Lord I humbly kneel
    Hidden in You
    Lord you are my life
    So I don’t mind to die
    Just as long as I
    Am hidden in You
    Cause I could just sit with You awhile
    You could just hold me
    Nothing can touch me
    Though I’m wounded
    Though I’ve died
    If I could just sit with You awhile
    I need You to hold me
    Moment by moment ’till forever passes by

  3. Tommy Weathersbee

    I was preparing a SS lesson on God’s Missionary Heart and goggled it when I ran across Karen’s epitath/Letter. I have never been more moved.
    Can anyone tell me if any recognizable good has come to the Kingdom as a result of her sacrifice. I am likening her to Stephen in Acts and the resultant commitment of Saul.
    Has anyone learned God’s next chapter here?

  4. Jonathon

    To answer the above question, most definitely yes! Through Ms. Watson’s sacrifice and letter, God is raising up a new order of young college age kids committed to sharing the Gospel both here and in places like Iraq. These are students commited to living the words of her letter that to obey is my objective to suffer is expected, His glory is my reward.

  5. richard michael gibson jr

    i would like to write a tribute about my aunt. here it is several years later and i still feel as if i have not been able to say what a wonderful woman she was. she was caring to all she came in contact with. she gave me alot of her time when she was asked to help with me. now to this day i’v had my up’s and down’s , but it seems to me that i’v remembered alot of her warmth and thoughtfulness and i would just like to say that i miss you aunt karen!

  6. Diana Dollar

    Our daughter is a career missionary in Papua New Guinea. I was touched today, October 14, 2008, as I heard Dr. Jack Graham’s radio broadcast and him speak of Karen Watson’s life and ministry in Iraq. I remember clearly hearing about the death of Karen and the other missionaries. As a SBC pastor’s wife at the time, I urged our church family to pray for the grieving families of these heroes of the faith. I would very much like to know the quote contained at the end of her sealed letter shared at her memorial service. Thank you so much. Diana

  7. Natalie Valov

    When I was in Jr. High I remember one particular wednesday night youth group session more clearly than all the others.We had a guest speaker come in. Her name was Karen Watson. I remember turned of all the lights and simply asked us if it would be hard to to find our way around. We would probably get hurt in the process as well. From off stage she turned on a single flash light and it made all the difference. We could see objects that might have been in our way to cause us harm. She then said that people all over the world lived in the dark every single day of their lives, bumping into things, wandering in circles and getting hurt. She explained that our lives could be like the flashlight. That even though it is so small it could make all the difference in someones journey to reach the other side of the room (or to find Jesus) she spoke with the heart of a missionary. It was the first day I knew I wanted to go and tell the world about Jesus. Now, 6 years later I sat in Pastor Phil Neighbors office and spoke to him about the mission field I would be traveling to in Europe. He told me that exactly where I was sitting was the last place he had ever had a conversation with Karen Watson. She has made a difference in so many lives. Before and after her death. Her memory will live on and without a doubt she was God’s glory

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