Shirley Carroll will never forget Aug. 2, 1990.
She was in Augusta seeing television news reports of Iraq invading Kuwait, and she was concerned because her husband, Dr. Jim Carroll, was in Kuwait City, where he was working as a professor of pediatrics at Kuwait University.
“I talked with him and told him what I’d heard,” she said.
Mrs. Carroll was in the kitchen with their children while she was on the phone with him. At the time, they had seven children; Lydia was the youngest at 3 and John was the oldest and attending college.
Dr. Carroll told her everything was fine. That was the last conversation they’d have for four months.
Their story from the autumn of 1990 is the subject of a new book, Faith in Crisis – How God Shows Up When You Need Him Most, scheduled to be released April 19.
While it’s their story of their ordeal, Shirley Carroll said there’s another story as well.
“In our lives, crises happen, but we have God and his grace,” she said. “This book is really about God.”
Dr. Carroll had been a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Medical College of Georgia when he resigned in 1988 to become what he calls a tent-making missionary, or someone who uses their vocation on the mission field.
The entire family had been in Kuwait, but they’d returned home for the summer, when temperatures can reach an unbearable 120 degrees. Shirley Carroll and the children were scheduled to return to Kuwait within a few weeks of that call.
Dr. Carroll fled his home and ended up at the American Embassy in Kuwait. While he was safe within its walls, he couldn’t leave.
“We were surrounded by the Iraqis. We were hostages, only in the sense that we were trapped,” he said.
The Iraqis cut off the electricity and water to the embassy. Fortunately, there were supplies inside, including water and 6,000 cans of tuna. The five-acre compound in itself wasn’t such a bad place to stay; however, the Iraqi threat was always there, especially when they placed gas canisters outside it, he said.
“I wasn’t afraid of dying,” he said. “I was afraid of them taking us somewhere else and holding us hostage for years.”
Meanwhile in Augusta, Shirley Carroll was on her own. Her husband’s paycheck was tied up in Kuwait, and there was no money coming for her. In her time of need, friends, members of their church – First Presbyterian Church – and strangers helped her in ways she never imagined.
“People gave us food and money,” she said.
A local company provided gas every week and restaurants offered free meals. The mortgage was deferred, and people helped pay the bills.
“Just everyone came to our need,” she said. “I felt so blessed.”
Finally, in December 1990, Saddam Hussein agreed to release them. Dr. Carroll said they were suspicious at first. They’d been lied to many times over the four months, but when the plane landed in Frankfurt, Germany, he knew he would be home soon.
Shirley Carroll’s final leap of faith came in December. Without a confirmation from the U.S. State Department that her husband was on a specific flight into Andrews Air Force Base, she loaded all the children into a vehicle that someone gave to their church for their use. She said she just knew he was going to be on that plane.
And she was right. The family was reunited.
After this experience, Dr. Carroll remained in Augusta, only to visit Kuwait later. He retired as the chief of child neurology from the Medical College of Georgia.
The book contains the couple’s stories of the time, and they plan to donate book proceeds to Hope for Augusta, whose mission, according to its website, is “bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to love and empower families of downtown Augusta to create a flourishing neighborhood.”