Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday's Women of Courage - Cheryl Beckett

This past Sunday, ten members of a Medical Mission were killed in Afghanistan.

Among them was Cheryl Beckett. I did not know her. But, a piece of me - yes - a piece of all of us who face the fear of death to serve others - was taken away.

Cheryl's father, a minister from Knoxville, Tennessee, was remarkably calm as he described her passion to help others.

Beckett said his daughter was gifted in every school subject and graduated valedictorian of her Owensville, Ohio, high school.

Lindsay Braun, her classmate from first through 12th grade, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Cheryl Beckett was "an absolutely amazing person with more guts and conviction than I could ever dream of having."

She'd graduated summa cum laude with a biology degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and had a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University, Charles Beckett said, but turned it down after she felt "called" to do humanitarian work. During college, she had traveled to Honduras, Mexico, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

"Our excitement for her overcame our fears" of having a daughter living in a faraway, war-torn country, Beckett said.

Cheryl Beckett was well aware of the danger she faced but was "passionate" about her work and "devoted" to the Afghan people, her father said. He implored Afghan leaders to "hear the cries" of people whose blood was shed over the years in the name of helping others.

"The wickedness of terrorism is being conquered through daily acts of mercy," the family said in a statement Sunday night. "Peace in Afghanistan can be achieved by the establishment of just laws for all people and the continued sacrifice and selfless love of people working together.

"Those who committed this act of terror should feel the utter shame and disgust that humanity feels for them."

The family has talked daily with Cheryl Beckett's teammates in Afghanistan, and a fund set up in her name will likely fund one or more of the mission projects she was working on, Charles Beckett said.

"We share this pain with those who continue the difficult and dangerous work to which Cheryl committed her life," the family statement said. "We, as a family, will continue to love and pray for the Afghan people. We pray that Cheryl's life and work will inspire existing and future ministries of mercy to press on."

As devoted as his daughter was to her life's work, Beckett said, he thinks she would be "embarrassed" by the attention paid to her death.

"She would be appalled that her picture has been shown across the world," he said.

And he can't help but grieve, not only for the daughter he loved, but for her good works cut short by "terrorists ... mercilessly killing defenseless unarmed people."

"Had these men had the opportunity to know her," Beckett said, "I think they would have laid down their weapons and sat at her feet, and asked her, 'Tell us: Who is it that is giving you this kind of life, and this kind of hope and this kind of love?' "

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