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Killed for Christ in the Philippines – a Love Story

January 12, 2017

Native missionaries holding hands in the Philippines.
Indigenous missionaries remain in hostile, remote areas in the Philippines that foreign missionaries have left due to security risks.

A little over two years ago, a Muslim in the Philippines named Datu* found himself at a Christian wedding – his daughter was marrying the son of a Christian pastor Datu had stoned for sharing Christ with his family members.

The pastor was now preaching at the wedding in a town (undisclosed) on the western peninsula of the island of Mindanao. Throughout the courtship, Datu was one of several area Muslims who had hurled stones at the pastor, his church building and his home. Some of the Muslims had issued threats, with Datu saying he wished to kill the pastor's son for courting his daughter.

Pastor Bagwis* had shared the gospel with Datu's family members in the first place because his son, Efren*, loved Datu's daughter. When Datu saw that she returned Efren's love, the Muslim father objected, but over time he acknowledged that Efren was a good man, said the director of an indigenous ministry that discipled the pastor.

Datu consented to the marriage after exacting a high dowry – a carabao (water buffalo), cow, goat and chicken. The ministry director said God miraculously helped Pastor Bagwis to provide the dowry. The date of the wedding was set, with Pastor Bagwis stating they had to be married in a church because his son was Christian.

While foreign missionaries have largely left the Philippines due to security threats, indigenous missionaries there continue to live, work and preach in harsh spiritual climates.

"During the marriage ceremony, Pastor Bagwis preached Jesus Christ crucified," the ministry director said. "To God be the glory, Datu and his family repented, confessed Christ, believed and accepted Jesus Christ."

Datu and his oldest son were baptized a month later, and Muslim relatives began to threaten and harass them. His son was so bold in proclaiming Christ in the predominantly Muslim area that Pastor Bagwis obtained permission from Datu and the director to relocate him for his safety to a ministry center in a distant city, where he received further discipleship training.

Datu, meantime, continued to be discipled and also became bold in proclaiming Christ, increasing the ire of Muslim relatives.

"He suffered the same things that he had done to Pastor Bagwis," the director said. "If before he was the one who stoned the church and Pastor Bagwis, now he also suffered the same things after he became a Christian and practiced and obeyed biblical doctrine."

In the last week of December 2015, Datu's son went home to visit his family. The next week – a year ago this month – the director received a call from him that Datu had been killed.

Filipino family with coffin.
The slain Christian's family made a coffin and buried him in one day.

He had five stab wounds on his back, and his neck had been cut in the front and back in an apparent attempt at decapitation, "because Muslims there practice beheading if they don't like the person," the director said.

Datu's son told the director that the family and other church members had gathered on Jan. 2, 2016 for a dinner of thanksgiving for blessings of the previous year. His father had told them that he would first get two ducks that he would cook for the feast.

After waiting for hours, they began to search for him. At 3 a.m. on Jan. 3, a neighbor found Datu's mutilated body. Unable to pay for a coffin, a morgue or a funeral service, Datu's son and the pastor hurriedly built and painted a coffin and buried him that day.

"Please pray for the man who did this horrible and brutal thing to Brother Datu," the director said. "They suspect that the one who did this is Brother Datu's uncle, because he is the right hand of the imam there. Please pray for their salvation."

Datu had received threats, but he'd said he didn't mind because he felt he deserved them for having previously persecuted the church, the director said.

"They killed him because Datu was boldly sharing the gospel in the town," he said. "I told his children that they have to remember their dad as he was before he was killed, and that the memories they have to hold dearest are the ones of when he was healthy, and especially the wonderful moments God gave of praying together and having fun together. And, best of all, that we know we will see him again in Heaven."

One year later, the family continues to hold fast to Christ and proclaim him, along with the ministry's other indigenous evangelists. While foreign missionaries have largely left Mindanao due to security threats, indigenous missionaries there continue to live, work and preach in harsh spiritual climates.

The director said Muslims recently visited another center on Mindanao where a children's program was held. One of the visitors told the center leader that they had come to observe activities to find out what they were doing that had incited their fellow Muslim tribesman to burn down their church building last year.

"Maybe what you do is 'haram' [forbidden by Allah]," the Muslim told the leader. "The center leader said, 'Okay, you can observe us.' The man and his wife and child, and other wives from the tribal group who moved to the village got to join the children's month celebration."

Other Muslim women also came to observe, with the leader and Christians praying and fasting that God would shine and be magnified, the director said. They prayed that they could offer educational scholarships to their children, and that the Muslim visitors would know that what they offer as a Christian learning center is not bad but all for the glory of God.

After the month-long children's program, the Christians invited the visitors to a meal, which the Muslims declined.

"These visitors would not eat with them even if they prepared food for them," the director said. "The guests said, 'There is another time we can eat together with you.' Pray that the bridges that were built for the gospel, and the seeds that were sown, would bear much fruit!"

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 801PGE. Thank you!

* (names changed for security reasons)

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