75 years ago in the hills of Katipunan, Tapaz, Capiz in a place they called “Hopevale”, the 11 American Baptist missionaries and one little boy, together with other Americans who sought refuge with them, were most probably preparing for their Christmas celebration. This could have been their second Christmas since they evacuated on 1942. But it was not meant to be. On December 20, 1943, the American Baptist missionaries, who were assigned to Central Philippine College, Capiz Emmanuel Hospital, Filamer Christian College, and churches, were executed by the Japanese soldiers who captured them.
This year on December 17-20, 2018, the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, together with Central Philippine University, Filamer Christian University, Iloilo Mission Hospital, Capiz Emmanuel Hospital, spearheads the celebration of the 75th Hopevale Commemoration. The memorial of their martyrdom will be celebrated in the following venues: Central Philippine University, Katipunan Evangelical Church, Hopevale Baptist Church, and Filamer Christian University.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let it be that we will remember the sacrifices of Christian martyrs throughout history. And ultimately, let us not forget that Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, gave His life and died in Calvary. This Jesus, who was visited by the shepherds when he was born, is the same Jesus who is our Good Shepherd.
Here is a poem by Rev. Dr. Francis Howard Rose, one of the “Hopevale Martyrs”, entitled “Jesus, Thou tender Shepherd”:
Jesus, Thou tender Shepherd of the sheep,
In vain we try this mountain trail to keep,
Keep Thou Thy flock within safeguarded door
And in Thy bosom, O bring us home once more.
Life’s dark enigmas everywhere abound,
Make, without Thee, a ceaseless nightmare round
Where shall we turn, in turmoil, loss, and strife?
Thou are our answer, Thou are Eternal Life.
Thou are the Truth, Incarnate Word of God,
All others fail to point us out the road.
Though seek we rest, our Quest will never cease
Until we find Thee, find Thee our Perfect Peace.
Jesus, Thou Mighty Shepherd of the sheep,
We trust our all, Thy pierced hands to keep
Against that day, in Thy fair Morning land,
When, in Thy Presence, before Thy face we stand.
Advanced Merry Christmas everyone!
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
December 17, 2018