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MCC grieves worker killed in Afghanistan
Cheryl Zehr Walker
August 8, 2010
Lapp was traveling with a medical team of four Afghans, six Americans, one Briton and one German. All, including Lapp, worked with MCC partner organization International Assistance Mission, a charity providing eye care and medical help in Afghanistan. Local police found 10 bodies on Friday next to abandoned vehicles. One Afghan team member traveled home via another route and is safe. Another Afghan survived the attack and is being questioned by the police.
On Sunday morning, Lapp’s family received confirmation of his death from the U.S. Embassy. After delays due to poor weather in the area of the attack, the bodies had been taken to the capital city of Kabul for official identification.
In media reports, IAM said this “eye camp” medical team had been testing and treating people with eye diseases in Nuristan province for about two weeks at the invitation of communities there. IAM lost touch with the team Thursday evening when members did not call in as agreed. Three vehicles fitting the description of the team’s vehicles were discovered a day later in Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan province, which borders Nuristan province.
Local police said robbery might have been the motive. The Taliban has said it is behind the attack.
IAM, which has worked in the country since 1966, regularly dispatched “eye camp” medical teams in Afghanistan and Lapp, 40, had also been part of previous teams. While Lapp was trained as a nurse, his work in Afghanistan was not as a medic. In his two years there, Lapp was executive assistant at IAM and manager of IAM’s provincial ophthalmic care program.
Afghanistan has suffered war, turmoil, poverty and instability for decades. It is one of the least-developed countries in the world, and the lives of ordinary Afghans continue to be threatened by an array of issues.
MCC’s work in Afghanistan includes education, peacebuilding and advocacy, food security and disaster relief.
Lapp was the son of Marvin and Mary Lapp, and a member of Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, a Mennonite Church USA congregation. In previous service with MCC he helped with response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He also worked as a nurse in Lancaster, New York City and Supai, Ariz. He was a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Eastern Mennonite University and Lancaster Mennonite High School.
No information is available at this time regarding a memorial service.
Lapp was to complete his MCC term in October, and recently wrote about it in a report, “Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country. Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.”
Ron Flaming, MCC director of international programs, said that the people of MCC mourn with the Lapp family, the families of all who died in the incident, and the people of IAM. “IAM is a long-time and trusted partner of MCC work in Afghanistan,” Flaming said.
IAM executive director Dirk Frans spoke of the organization’s focus on security in media reports Saturday. “External experts say IAM’s security systems are among the best in the country… Secular consultants have been critical about our stated dependency on God for our security, wrongly assuming we left it all to prayer. When they checked our systems and way of working they have had next to no additional suggestions.”
In his report to MCC, Lapp concluded, “MCC is very much involved in Peacebuilding in Afghanistan and my hope is that MCC can continue along that vein and continue to help this country work towards peace on many different social, ethnic, and economic levels.”