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Humbled by a Story

by Nancy Francis

Posted on March 31, 2007 at 7:31 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:33 PM

I often tell people TV reporters are like cops, in a way. We work strange hours, weekends and holidays. We drive around in different parts of town in marked cars. And our supervisors dispatch us to assignments. Some are personally compelling to us; others turn out to be the journalistic equivalent of a car prowl.

(On a few select occasions, I've likened what we do to working at a sewage treatment plant, but that's for another posting :) )

Recently, I've had the privilege of following a story of amazing grace, the story of Carol Briggs of Tigard and her friend Elizabeth Bwayo.

Last fall, Carol moved to Kenya to work with AIDS orphans. On February, Carol and her friends Job and Elizabeth Bwayo were on the outskirts of Nairobi, returning from a sightseeing visit to an ostrich farm.

Their car was ambushed by a gunman (who turned out to be Kenya's Most Wanted criminal and was killed a few weeks later in a shootout with police).

Although Dr. Job Bwayo was quite famous in Kenya and in international medical circles for his work on an AIDS vaccine, the gunman apparently did not know or care whom he was about to murder. He shot Job Bwayo in the head.

He shot the doctor's wife, Elizabeth in the mouth.

And he shot Carol Briggs in the face. First, the bullet shot through both her hands, which she had raised to shield her face.

They had little money with them and the motive for the shootings is a mystery. It was just one in a wave of brutal carjackings in Kenya recently.

About 5 weeks after the shootings (and after Dr. Bwayo's funeral in Kenya), Carol and Elizabeth arrived at O-H-S-U for continuing medical treatment, including facial reconstructive surgeries.

On their first full day in the hospital here, both were gracious in allowing my photographer Tim Jacobsen and me to visit with them in their rooms at O-H-S-U.
Elizabeth was on a feeding tube and her mouth was stuffed with what appeared to be gauze.

She could not speak, but had things she wanted to say . So right then and there, Elizabeth wrote me a note: "Right now, I am not able to say much but I hope I can share much more when I feel better."

I do too, Elizabeth. And I hope you feel much better soon.

Carol was able to speak, but was barely understandable because of the path the bullet took through her cheek and up towards her brain. Yet she seemed happy to talk with me.

"Americans don't know what poverty is," she told me, describing how Kenyan children would fashion a soccer ball by wrapping tape around and around. Carol also said she had no regrets and that she intended to return to Kenya.

"Aren't you angry about what happened?" I asked her.

She said the only thing she was angry about was that Dr. Bwayo was killed.

"But what about the gunman? I would be angry at him if I were you," I admitted.

"You didn't see him," she said."His face. He was scared."

That's what I call amazing grace. Personally, I cannot imagine even trying to feel empathy for a cold-blooded killer. Yet there she was, in her hospital bed, with metal rods in her hands and bullet fragments in her brain, suggesting I wouldn't feel angry if I could have seen the fear in the killer's face.

I am humbled.

Carol and Elizabeth both have tremendous support, from their families, as well as the Tigard Friends Community Church. No doubt many prayers have helped them somehow transcend the horror of what happen to them, not to mention the brutal ending to the life of a man who dedicated his life to saving millions of lives
It's an immense tragedy on so many levels. Yet in the darkness of it, grace flickers in the lives of two courageous woman of faith .

If you would like to help with Carol Briggs' mounting medical bills (she has no health insurance), you can donate to the Carol Briggs Fund at any branch of US Bank.