On December 18, 2023, people from the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Central Philippine University, and Filamer Christian University braved the trip to Brgy. Aglinab, Tapaz, Capiz even amid heavy rain brought by Typhoon Kabayan. When we visited the Cathedral in the Glen, an open-air church designed by Dr. Francis Howard Rose, we reflected on the profound sacrifice and unwavering perseverance in faith demonstrated by the Hopevale Martyrs, who met their martyrdom on December 20, 1943, in the hills of Katipunan, Tapaz, Capiz.
Here are three things that we can learn from their legacy:
First, we must persevere and sacrifice in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the face of imminent danger, these American Baptist missionaries, including Jennie Clare Adams, Prof. James Howard Covell, Charma Moore Covell, Dorothy Antoinette Dowell, Signe Amelia Erikson, Dr. Frederick Willer-Meyer, Ruth Schacht Meyer, Rev. Dr. Francis Howard Rose, Gertrude Coombs Rose, Rev. Erle Frederich Rounds, Louise Cummings Rounds, and a young boy, Erle Douglas Rounds, clung to their faith. A line in the poem of Dr. Rose, “Jesus, Thou Tender Shepherd”, reminds us of their commitment: “Thou art our answer, Thou art Eternal Life.” Their dedication to the Gospel even in the darkest moments, challenges us to examine our commitment to faith.
Second, artifacts can strengthen our Christian faith.
The artifacts preserved from the hills of Hopevale, the site of their martyrdom, bear witness to enduring hope amidst tragedy. Despite the destruction, sketches, poems, and hymns survived, testifying to the indomitable spirit of these missionaries. Their legacy echoes the promise in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In times of adversity, our hope in Christ remains unshaken.
Third, there is redemption in Jesus Christ.
It was five days before Christmas when the American Baptist missionaries were killed. Among their belongings was a translated Swedish Christmas hymn, “When Christmas Morning Dawns.” They were probably preparing to sing this song on Christmas Day, but it was not meant to be. The lyrics, translated by Signe Amelia Erikson, express a longing to be in the presence of God, free from sin. Just as the hymn anticipates the dawn of Christmas morning, our faith assures us of the redemptive promise that “when Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).
May this reflection on the lives and enduring spirit of the Hopevale Martyrs, who sacrificed their lives in Katipunan, Tapaz, Capiz, inspire us to live out our faith with sacrificial love, enduring hope, and the assurance of redemption through Christ.
May God bless us all!