Local mission team member dies in Chile

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A medical mission to Chile by members of First Baptist Church of Augusta took a tragic turn with the death Saturday of one of the women on the team.

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Debbie Bartley Williams died after the group arrived in Chile, according to Dr. Greg DeLoach, the pastor of the church. The cause of death was not immediately known.  Kelly Jasper/Staff
Kelly Jasper/Staff
Debbie Bartley Williams died after the group arrived in Chile, according to Dr. Greg DeLoach, the pastor of the church. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Debbie Bartley Williams died after the group arrived in Chile, according to Dr. Greg DeLoach, the pastor of the church. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Williams, 59, was accompanying her husband, Dr. George Williams of Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Augusta.

She felt ill during the flight and was rushed to the hospital after the plane touched down in Puerto Montt, DeLoach said.

"It is very tragic," he said. "There's no positive spin on this. You're going to do a mission trip in the wake of tragedy and then tragedy happens to strike."

A team of nine, including five doctors, left from First Baptist on Friday to serve in clinics needing help after February's earthquake. They will continue on as planned, though Williams' husband will return early.

A small memorial was held at a Chilean church, but funeral arrangements in Augusta aren't finalized.

The team headed first to meet the daughter of one of First Baptist's pastors, the Rev. Rodger Murchison. She's married to a missionary in Chile.

They will continue on to Los Muermos. During the week, they will work in a girls' home, speak in a church and visit a nature preserve before returning home March 29.

The team's members attend First Baptist, Reid Memorial Presbyterian and St. Paul Episcopal churches. Most have served on international missions before, Murchison said. The Williams family participated in missions as far away as west Africa, Hungary and Brazil.

"Debbie was such a servant. There isn't any bit of First Baptist Church that hasn't been touched by her," said Cynthia Bennett, a friend at the church for more than 20 years. "We're just devastated. We're trying to make sense of this."

DeLoach described Williams as an active, contributing member of the congregation, both in missions and church life.

"Debbie was a very thoughtful, an incredibly giving person. She operated off a very high ethic of 'To whom much is given, much will be required,' " he said. "She served in just about every area possible. She was very creative. Her background was in theater, and any kind of production we put together, she was the energy behind it.

"I can't even begin to describe how she will be missed in every layer of what goes on at the church."

The Mission

First Baptist Church of Augusta planned a mission to Chile long before the earthquake struck.

It was a good thing, said the Rev. Rodger Murchison, an associate pastor of the church, because with travel restrictions and airport closures, it's unlikely a team would have assembled otherwise.

The same can't be said for the team the church is assembling to serve in Haiti. Though the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on Feb. 27 was 500 times stronger than the one in Haiti six weeks earlier, the situation in Haiti remains dire, Murchison said.

Augustans have been slow to offer relief to Chile. About $1,000 has come in through the Augusta Red Cross, said Sarah Townsend, the director of public relations and development for the Augusta Red Cross.

The American Red Cross was reluctant to release the amount raised for Haiti in the weeks after the quakes, but the response was immediate and gracious, Townsend said. The Masters Tournament alone donated $100,000 to the Augusta chapter. In the week after the quake, Georgians used their cell phones to text more than $500,000 to the Red Cross.

As far as the destruction wreaked by the two earthquakes is concerned, "It's apples and oranges," Townsend said.

In Haiti, the death toll is estimated at 230,000. In Chile, about 430 people are said to have died, according to the latest count by the Chilean government Friday.

Still, Murchison said, the Chilean people aren't without need. More than 800,000 are homeless, and many required specialty medical services long before the earthquake.

The Team
The doctors hope to post updates and photos as they make their way through Chile online at fbcaugusta.org.

  • Brenna Brand and Dr. Robert Brand, of Augusta Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists
  • Dr. Marshall Guill, dermatologist, and Dr. Lou Guill, pediatrician
  • Dr. Randy Smith, of Augusta Plastic Surgery
  • Margaret Murchison and the Rev. Rodger Murchison, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Augusta
  • Dr. George Williams, of Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Augusta, who will return early after his wife's death

-- Kelly Jasper, staff writer

Comments (23) Add comment
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RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 03/21/10 - 05:28 pm
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This is terrible news. Dr.

This is terrible news. Dr. Williams has been my wife's doctor as long as I've known her and he delivered both of our children. The Williams' are great people. My heartfelt sympathies to Dr. Williams, his family and the First Baptist Church congregation.

brimisjoshan
2
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brimisjoshan 03/21/10 - 07:10 pm
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So sorry to hear this news

So sorry to hear this news and my prayers are with this family. May God bless and see Dr. Williams through this time.

Rick McKee
432
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Rick McKee 03/21/10 - 07:43 pm
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This is such a shock. Debbie

This is such a shock. Debbie was an incredible person and awesome artist who selflessly gave of her time and talents. It tells you what kind of person she was that she passed away while on a mission trip to Chile. She's leaves a huge hole at FBC and in the hearts of those who knew her. She will be missed. Condolences to the family.

Nat the Cat
1
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Nat the Cat 03/21/10 - 09:08 pm
0
0
Brim, Rick--my sentiments

Brim, Rick--my sentiments exactly. I cannot help but wonder what in the world could have happened so suddenly in Chile. It's like the earthquake all over again.

I very much appreciate the heads-up. Thank you.

dalukes
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dalukes 03/21/10 - 08:47 pm
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0
I am sadden to hear the lost

I am sadden to hear the lost of Dr. Williams's wife. Dr. Williams has been my dr. for 22 years and has delivered my 4 children. My thoughts and prayers are with you Dr. Williams. May God see you through this difficult time.

Listeningheart
0
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Listeningheart 03/21/10 - 09:39 pm
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My heartfelt sympathies to

My heartfelt sympathies to Dr. Williams, his family and the First Baptist Church congregation. Dr. Williams delivered my second son and I respect his work. I am truly sorry for his family's loss of his wife as well as this loss felt within the First Baptist Church, Augusta.

My thoughts and prayers are with you Dr. Williams. May God see you through this difficult time.

Austin Rhodes
3002
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Austin Rhodes 03/21/10 - 11:07 pm
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Dr. Williams may be the most

Dr. Williams may be the most dedicated physician in Augusta, and he and Debbie have been treasures to all who know them. Our heart breaks with his...

corgimom
38720
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corgimom 03/22/10 - 06:57 am
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I am so sorry to hear this.

I am so sorry to hear this. She is in Heaven now, safe in the Lord's arms.

augusta49
0
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augusta49 03/22/10 - 07:14 am
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What a tragedy. What a loss.

What a tragedy. What a loss. Dr. Williams has been my doctor since I came to Augusta almost 23 years ago. He delivered my daughter and has taken good care of me all these years. I've met his wife a couple of times and have ALWAYS heard nothing but wonderful things about her. She will be sorely missed by all, especially by her church family. She was on her way to a place to give of time and talents and tragedy struck her. I'm sure that she was spiritually ready. Lots of prayers to my sweet Dr. Williams and his family.

DHL49
0
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DHL49 03/22/10 - 09:25 am
0
0
We are so sorry for your

We are so sorry for your loss, Dr. Williams. You are well loved and respected throughout the CSRA and you are in my family's hearts and prayers right now. May God bless you and your children as you move through this challenging time.

whyme
2110
Points
whyme 03/22/10 - 11:25 am
0
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May Dr. Williams feel all of

May Dr. Williams feel all of the love from those to whom he has shown such love and goodness over the past years. He always went out of his way to make his patients feel as if they the most important people during their appointments and deliveries. God bless him and his family.

chadnchloe
0
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chadnchloe 03/22/10 - 03:06 pm
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Dr.Williams has been with our

Dr.Williams has been with our family for 25 years,my heart is broken for him.We are praying for him and his family .He is has always been there for his patients now all of his patients are here for him and his family .We love you god bless you !!

SC88fan
0
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SC88fan 03/22/10 - 02:27 pm
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Dr. Williams has also been

Dr. Williams has also been with our family for over 25 years. He and his family will be in our prayers. We Love you and God Be With You All during this time....

laurenhalvorsen
0
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laurenhalvorsen 03/22/10 - 02:45 pm
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Dr. Williams has been my

Dr. Williams has been my OB/GYN through 5 years of infertility, then the miraculous births of both of my daughters 16 & 18 years ago...I feel like he has become a dear & trusted friend over the years...always loves to see pictures I bring in of "his babies", even though they are all grown up! I am just sad with him today...and will be praying for him during this difficult time in his life! Much love to you from our entire family, Dr. George!

whyme
2110
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whyme 03/22/10 - 03:05 pm
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Not that it matters at a time

Not that it matters at a time like this, but this picture of his wife looks different than one I saw some years back...was he remarried? It sounds like she was just as kind as he is...bless them...

aringus
0
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aringus 03/22/10 - 05:26 pm
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Dr. Williams has been my

Dr. Williams has been my doctor for the last 10 years. He is one of a kind! He delivered my daughter 18 months ago and is now part of the family. I never had the pleasure of meeting his wife, but have learned through all the comments that she was just as lovely of a person as the doc himself. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Williams and his family during this difficult time. I pray that they will find comfort in knowing that Mrs. Williams is now with her Lord, whom she so greatly loved.

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 03/22/10 - 06:15 pm
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Our most sincere sympathies

Our most sincere sympathies to Dr. Williams, who delivered our Great Grandson on January 6. May God give you peace, and relief from grief, through His unending love, mercy, and grace. We will pray for your mission, and for your family.

Sincerely,

Jim and Frances McKenzie

sassygirl12
1
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sassygirl12 03/22/10 - 07:56 pm
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may god bless her family

may god bless her family

JHB2
0
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JHB2 03/22/10 - 08:05 pm
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God be with Dr. Williams and

God be with Dr. Williams and his family. Yall are in our prayers.

mid
0
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mid 03/22/10 - 09:03 pm
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Dr. Williams I am so sorry to

Dr. Williams I am so sorry to hear about your loss...You have been my doctor for a very long time and you are the best...Our love and prayers are with you...

Sincerely,

Pam Lamb

pdolloreofizz
0
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pdolloreofizz 03/22/10 - 11:13 pm
0
0
Dr. Williams, I relocated to

Dr. Williams, I relocated to Hawaii 15 years ago, but I have always tried to keep in touch with Augusta. You delivered my 2 daughters and you were my gynecologist for many years. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your wonderful wife. Please accept my sincere sympathy.

Annette
0
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Annette 03/23/10 - 10:49 pm
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0
Dr.Williams I am so very

Dr.Williams I am so very sorry to hear of your loss......You are the best and understanding doctor I know. I've known you for 16 years,you delivered 5 of my babies.It's just like you've become a part of my family.Your hurt is our hurt.Your loss is our loss.Our love and prayers are with you and your family as well as your church family.MAY GOD COMFORT AND KEEP YOU AND UPLIFT YOUR SPIRITS IN YOUR TIME OF SORROW! WITH LOVE, ANNETTE&GLENN TOBIE/FAMILY

momofour
10
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momofour 03/23/10 - 11:40 pm
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0
Dr. Williams has been my

Dr. Williams has been my doctor for 19 years and delivered all four of my children. He is the most caring and loving man and my family loves him so much. From watching him pray before delivering our 35 week baby, through cervical cancer, through post-partum depression, through the joys of three more babies and the daily struggles of parenting he has been there for us. He makes me feel like I am the only patient in the world, even at 8:00 at night, after a long day. I had the pleasure of meeting "Mrs. Dr. Williams" at a scrapbooking class and she was a jewel. Her love for her family was apparent in her face and her words. My heart breaks for their children and for my precious doctor. May God see you through this and the days and weeks to come. We love you more than you will ever know.

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