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'She died doing what she felt the Lord called her to do'

Five years ago, SERVE Afghanistan worker Gayle Williams was gunned down by the Taliban in Kabul where she had been helping deprived and injured children. She was 35 and a committed Christian ...

Five years ago, SERVE Afghanistan worker Gayle Williams was gunned down by the Taliban in Kabul where she had been helping deprived and injured children. She was 35 and a committed Christian. CHRISTINE FOLLETT takes up the story

Monday 20 October 2008 seemed like any other ordinary day. Gayle dressed in her traditional clothes for work and wound her shawl around her head, ready for the walk to the office.

She and her friend Katja had shared time over a cup of coffee and exchanged plans for the day.

The previous evening the two girls had made a shopping list as Gayle wanted to cook lasagne for the SERVE team. Katja was amused by this, as Gayle was not renowned for her cooking!

The sun was already high in the sky, but there was a slight chill in the air as she finished her coffee and set off alone.

Just past the French Bakery, which sells the best doughnuts in Kabul, Gayle turned the corner, her head down as was the rule for women walking on the streets.

She would not have seen the motorbike which rounded the corner behind her, but she made an easy target for the two gunmen who rode fast towards her.

They stopped. One jumped off the bike, walked up to Gayle and, without a word, opened fire at close range.

She was already dead on the ground as her killers rode through the crowd.

Mark, a SERVE colleague, had just taken his daughters to school and was heading for the office along the same route which Gayle had taken.

As he rounded the corner, he saw a crowd of Afghans in the street and two police pick-up trucks at the far end. Warily he asked two Afghans standing outside a naan shop what was going on.

“An American woman has been killed,” they told him. “You should go and see if you know who it is.”

Mark’s heart started beating faster as he realised that he might indeed know who it was, but he knew that there were no American women on the SERVE team at that time in Kabul, so he hoped it wasn’t a team member.

He and an Afghan colleague standing nearby went to see if they recognised the victim lying on the ground. Horrified, they looked at each other and said: “It’s Gayle!”

The world started to spin out of control. Mark struggled with the knowledge that a dear friend and much loved team member was dead, here on the street where she had so lovingly given herself in service to the people of the country.

He arranged for the transport of her body to the hospital, and dealt with informing his team and others who would sadly have to notify Pat, Gayle’s mother, in England.

Gayle was buried in the British cemetery in Kabul as she had wanted to be, beside the grave of SERVE’s founder Gordon Magney whose funeral she had attended just three weeks before.

Those who gathered gave heartfelt thanks for her life and the love she had shown to some of the most forgotten people in the world.

Her mother Pat said: “No-one could have asked for a more humble daughter with a more loving heart. She died doing what she felt the Lord called her to do, and she is definitely with him.”

The Taliban took responsibility for the shooting, saying it was because Gayle was trying to preach Christianity in a conservative Islamic nation. But this has been denied by SERVE Afghanistan.

Many Muslims have condemned this barbaric act and say that is an abomination to justify it on religious grounds.

Gayle’s sister Karen said that she and her mother have forgiven Gayle’s killers.

“We know that Gayle would forgive them,” she said, “so we do too.”

Gayle was posthumously awarded the Humanitarian category in the Daily Telegraph’s Great Britons Awards in December 2008, for her work “with the poorest and most unfortunate children in a land cursed by misfortune”.

  •  Extracted, with permission, from I Had a Dream by Christine Follett (Farthings Publishing). To purchase a copy for £7 including p&p, write to: Mrs C Follett, 78 Evelyn Avenue, Ruislip, Middx HA4 8AJ. For more information about SERVE Afghanistan go to www.serveafghanistan.org

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