HOPEVALE MARTYRS: Remembering the past, inspired for the future
For the past three days we have joined together with representatives from the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches Inc. (CPBC), Japan Baptist Union, and American Baptist Churches USA and members of their International Ministries (formerly American Baptist Foreign Mission) to mark the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Hopevale Martyrs.
Hearing stories, seeing pictures, reading old newspaper articles, and visiting the very place where their martyrdom took place has been a very moving experience for our family.
During WWII there were many American Baptist missionaries serving in the Philippines. Of the 18 American Baptist missionaries who were serving in the Panay region, eleven of them made the decision to remain on Panay island (the island we are now living on) and retreat to the mountains for safety and to wait for the war to end. They called their hiding place in the mountains HOPEVALE (or Valley of Hope). They were certain the war would not last long and that the American forces would prove victorious. This assumption was incorrect, however, and they spent over 20 months hiding out in the mountains of Hopevale, Tapaz on Panay Island.
During that time they constructed a place of worship in the mountains, which they called ‘Cathedral in the Glen‘ (or The Glen), and they lived in bamboo houses with grass roofs.
On December 19th, 1943, the Japanese Imperial Army, after discovering that the missionaries were hiding in the mountains, marched on Hopevale and captured the eleven American missionaries.
Shortly after their capture the Japanese soldiers received orders to kill all of the American missionaries, including a young boy, who was the son of one of the missionary couples. The American missionaries pleaded for mercy from the Japanese soldiers but their requests were denied.
They then asked the Japanese soldiers for one hour, to pray together and sing hymns to God, and this request was granted. After the hour had passed, one of the missionaries approached the Japanese soldiers and said, ‘We are ready’. At that time, the Japanese soldiers took the American missionaries, one by one, to the top of a small hill, near the place where living, and took their life.
The martyrdom of these eleven missionaries has fuelled the growth of the Christian faith in the Panay region, and has propelled the growth of the Baptist faith throughout the region. Today, there are several hundred Convention Baptist (CPBC) churches on Panay Island and many more across the Philippines, as well as several strong institutions such as Central Philippine University, Filamer Christian University, Iloilo Mission Hospital, and Capiz Emmanuel Mission Hospital.
Over the past three days we have been honoured to share in the commemorative events marking the 75th anniversary of these courageous servants of God. Although this is not ‘Canadian Baptist’ history we were reminded today that we are part of God’s continuing story that is unfolding in the Philippines.
Canadian Baptist may not have been in the Philippines back in 1943, but God has led us here now and we are a part of His continuing work of bringing hope, healing, and reconciliation to a broken world, in communities across Panay Island, including Hopevale.
Last year, Canadian Baptist Ministries was able to offer financial assistance to the community of Hopevale in the construction of the new Hopevale Baptist Church and Centre for Peace and Community Transformation after their previous building was destroyed by tension cracks and landslides after a series of small earthquakes. In addition, a team of 9 individuals, participating in CBM’s SENT program, traveled to the Philippines last November to work alongside the community members of Hopevale in the construction of this new building. Today, in partnership with Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries (KPM), CBM is walking in solidarity with, and providing support to, communities across Capiz province, including Hopevale. This is only possible because generous people like you support the work of CBM.
We are humbled, and also inspired, by the example set before us by these faithful American Baptist missionaries. We are thankful that God has called us to serve in this region of the Philippines, alongside amazing partners who desire to see the Kingdom of God advanced and the Gospel message proclaimed and demonstrated through word and deed.
Thank-you for your partnership in the ministry of Canadian Baptist Ministries and in support of our global partners!
As we were participating in these commemorative events we received an email from Terry Smith, CBM’s Executive Director, informing us that 2018 is shaping up to be a financially challenging year for CBM, in large part due to the Canada Post job action, which cause delays in mail service across the country. As you are aware, CBM relies on the generous and faithful financial support of individuals and churches across Canada to carryout it’s work around the world. The reality is, if CBM experiences a significant decline in donations in 2018 it will have a significant impact on our ability to support our global partners in 2019, including here in the Philippines, in spreading the Gospel through word and deed.
If you still have plans to support CBM before year-end would you consider adding a little bit more to go toward the shortfall? Or, if you have already contributed to CBM in 2018 but have the ability to give a bit more, would you please consider making another contribution prior to the end of 2018?
Often times individuals think that their contribution won’t make a difference, but we are able to serve in the Philippines, on behalf of Canadian Baptist, because of these kinds of faithful and generous gifts from individuals and churches. Any size gift will help CBM meet it’s budget obligations and ensure that Canadian Baptist Ministries is able to fulfill its financial commitments for 2019.
Michael & Melanie
Kyla, Sean, Carter & Allie