Joel Shrum had already traveled abroad several times and had a growing interest in helping people in far-flung places, yet his parents were still surprised when he told them he planned to move to Yemen to learn Arabic.
They read about the country, visited him there and became comfortable with it. And although Shrum had become a teacher and grown to love his work and Yemeni friends, they said, he was shot to death by gunmen who may have targeted him as a Christian missionary.
The U.S. State Department is calling the shooting a terrorist act and the parents of the 29-year-old Shrum rejected the idea, circulating in Yemen, that he was there as a Christian missionary.
Jim and Lynda Shrum said their son’s quest to help others out of poverty and build bridges between cultures began about a decade ago when he took a college trip to India to help improve conditions at orphanages.
“He had a knack with people,” Jim Shrum said. “Knocking down barriers, accepting other cultures, taking the good and the bad.”
The Shrums also said they feared for the safety of Joel’s widow, two young sons — ages 4 and 1 — and his Yemeni friends. They said they didn’t want to talk about his widow’s plans out of concerns for her safety.
Shrum was killed Sunday by two gunmen on a motorcycle while driving in the city of Taiz. A text message circulated by mobile phone in Yemen afterward said “holy warriors” had killed “a senior missionary,” but it was impossible to confirm the claim of responsibility.Continue Reading on online.worldmag.com