Two weeks ago, the Rev. Colin Smith, senior pastor at the Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, said from the pulpit that in 60 years, they "had not yet seen anyone from this church lose their life on account of following Jesus Christ."
During an emotional ceremony Sunday, Smith led worshippers in mourning the loss of two of their fellow congregation members, a Palatine father and son killed last week in Afghanistan.
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Gary and John Gabel, both active members of the church, were shot to death Thursday during an attack by an Afghan security guard at International Hospital in Kabul, where they had gone to meet pediatrician Dr. Jerry Umanos of Chicago. Umanos also was killed in the attack and John Gabel's wife, Teresa, was wounded.
"Our lives are bonded with this family, and we feel, though we are not family ourselves, nonetheless, a very very great sense of loss," Smith said Sunday.
Smith said that while some might suggest the Gabels should not have traveled to Afghanistan given the danger there, their actions mirrored their values.
"John Gabel was a computer genius. He had a brilliant mind. He could certainly have gained a very great deal in this world, if that had been his aim," he said. "But John and Teresa had a different set of values. They were willing to put themselves at heightened risk by going to Afghanistan."
John Gabel had been a visiting lecturer at Kabul University in the computer science department since 2012, the school's vice chancellor, Mohammad Hadi Hedayati, via email.
Gabel, who taught a database administration course, also ran a small health clinic for Morning Star Development, a Colorado-based charity that operates medical clinics and community centers and provides economic development assistance in Afghanistan.
His mother and father recently traveled to the country to visit him, Teresa and the couple's young daughter, Laila.
Smith held the Gabels up as examples to the rest of the congregation.
"Almost every day in our city, there are acts of violence, so often shootings. And the question that we become accustomed to asking is, 'Why?'"
But he said that is not the biggest question for us today.
"The great question for us today is not, 'Why?' but, 'Is it worth it?'