Carol Martin is a born storyteller. Like most great storytellers, she finds the greatest material from the narrative of her own life. Carol was born in Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1945 to a family that was poor, but happy. In time, her family became affluent, and when she was fifteen, they moved to Dallas, Texas. Morally, Carol began to flounder. By the time she joined older sister Kay at Texas Tech University, she had made a habit of sneaking out of the house after bedtime. With the last vestiges of parental restriction removed, her behavior quickly spun out of control.
She married Jack Keels, a fellow Texas Tech student in 1964. Despite the fact that Carol had failed out of school, the couple shared a successful business with Kay and her husband. All of that would change in one night. Carol and Jack had often argued about her status as a believer. Carol was convinced that she was a Christian because her good deeds outweighed the bad. One night, after attending a missions conference, she realized that “the scales of justice” were her idea --- not God’s. She became a believer in Jesus that night, and the very next evening when Jack came home, she announced, “I’m going to be a missionary. I hope you’ll come.” To Jack, this was confirmation of a call he had felt, but been evading, for years.
To prepare themselves for life on the mission field, the couple decided to study linguistics and anthropology at the University of Texas in Austin. They moved to Austin in 1966 --- three weeks after the infamous day when a sniper terrorized the campus, killing fourteen people and wounding dozens of others. “This wouldn’t be the only time I would be afraid to go where God led me,” Carol remembers. “No, this was just the first of many times I would feel fear, but I was young and in love with my new Savior. I prayed and asked Him to give me courage.” The couple completed their studies and, with two little girls still in diapers, set off for Colombia in 1970 to serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Jack and Carol spent seventeen years working with the Guayaberos, a native group of about 800 who inhabit the jungle of Macuare. In that time, the couple studied the language and translated the gospels and the book of Acts, as well as a summary of the Old Testament. They also compiled a hymnal that is still requested by the Guayaberos today. The Keels family included four daughters, the youngest two born in Colombia. The family thrived on the mission field, always looking forward to returning when their furloughs were spent. Carol remembers this time fondly, particularly the adventures that accompanied life in the jungle.
Unfortunately, the Keels’ ministry with the Guayaberos came to an abrupt end when they were taken captive by Colombian guerillas who eventually killed two of the Indians before freeing the family. Their home and office in the jungle were burned, and they were told that if they returned, the guerrillas would kill not just them, but also more Indians.
After seventeen years in the field, the Keels still had no known converts. Jack felt an intense bitterness and depression, which led to a drinking problem. Eventually, he took his own life. Carol and the girls were devastated.
Eventually, God brought a new love to Carol’s life. She married Dwight Martin in 1993. Although Carol is no longer serving overseas, she is still actively serving the Lord. She went back to school and became an R.N. and is now the director of a non-profit organization. She and Dwight belong to SOWERS (Servants On Wheels Ever Ready), an RV ministry, volunteering to work for three-week intervals at different projects across the US. They do this for four to seven months a year. The couple has a total of seven grandchildren.
The fascinating saga of Carol’s life, particularly her family’s service in Colombia, is the subject of her new book, WILD INDIANS… AND OTHER COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS. After some time passed, another missionary couple took up the work that Jack and Carol were forced to leave. There are now fifteen believers among the Guayaberos.