Thursday, July 9, 2009

History of the United Brethren in Christ in the Philippines

At the meeting of the Board of Managers held in May, 1900, in First Church, Dayton, Ohio, it seemed fitting, as a memorial of our Silver Anniversary, to open work in a new field, and the Board adopted a recommendation to establish a new mission either in Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, or Japan, leaving the matter to the Trustees for careful investigation and final decision. Much time was given to consideration and prayer, and the decision reached November 19 was unanimous in favor of the Philippines.

First Missionaries. A call was made for workers with immediate response. Rev. Edwin S. Eby, Elkhart, Indiana, and Rev. Sanford B. Kurtz, Hygiene, Colorado, were appointed. They sailed from San Francisco, February 19, 1901.

Shortly after their arrival on the field, a conference of representatives of all the evangelical denominations working in the Philippines was held in Manila for the purpose of reaching some understanding as to territory, and to agree upon some general policy of work. An organization was effected to be known as the Evangelical Union of the Philippines. They agreed upon a tentative division of the islands, making each mission responsible for the evangelization of the people within its territory. To our Church were given three provinces in the northwestern part of the island of Luzon — Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and La Union, having a population of 450,000 all speaking the Ilocano language. Later Ilocos Norte was assigned to the Methodist mission.

Temporary Headquarters in Vigan. Early in May, 1901, our missionaries took up temporary headquarters in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, about two hundred miles north of Manila. A house was rented and they began the study of Spanish. Tracts and portions of the Scriptures were distributed among the people; trips were made into different parts of our territory in company with the representative of the American Bible Society; gospel meetings were conducted for the soldiers stationed at Vigan. Everywhere the opposition of Catholicism was met.

Rev. and Mrs., L. O. Burtner joined them in the fall of the same year. Progress in determining a permanent location and in establishing the work was slow and within three years these workers had resigned.

Rev. and Mrs. H. W. Widdoes were appointed to the Philippines at the Board meeting of 1903. They sailed from San Francisco, September 19, 1903. Some time was spent in language study and in looking over the ground in Manila.

Relocating Headquarter. Mr. Widdoes, preparatory to moving into the province, decided to first secure a good location. He went by rail to Dagupan, and while waiting there for a steamer to take him to San Fernando, went with a colporteur to a neighboring fishing village, where he found a ready reception, and the people glad to buy portions of the Scripture. In the village Mr. Widdoes found a boy of fifteen who could read. He gave him the Gospel by John in his own dialect, and turning to John 3:16, asked him to read it. He did so and immediately ran into the house to get money to buy the book.

There is an interesting history connected with the early translation of these Gospels which the missionaries were distributing. During Spanish times, a friar stationed in this province in some way came into possession of a Bible which he studied, and was converted. He then secretly began to translate the Gospels into the native dialect. He was discovered before he had finished the work and had to leave the Islands; he went to Spain and completed the translation of the Gospels and the Acts. He then returned to the province and began the distribution of these, but was poisoned soon after by the other friars, and the good work stopped. As soon as the American occupation made it possible for the Bible Societies to work here, they began distributing these Gospels which had cost the translator his life.

After waiting several days and no boat appearing, Mr. Widdoes, through the efforts of a native Christian, finally hired an ox-cart, and started overland for San Fernando, making the journey of fifty miles in twenty- three hours. This gave him an opportunity to see the country in which we were to work.

City of San Fernando, the capital of La Union Province and an important center, was decided upon as a strategic point for headquarters. A house was rented and Mr. Widdoes moved his family there February 11, 1904, and at once began a vigorous campaign. They were fairly besieged with visitors, most of them young men, asking questions about the Bible. Men came in from the neighboring towns to secure tracts and to buy Bibles. A Bible class and a Sunday school were formed, the high-school pupils, with their knowledge of English, giving much assistance.

Discontinuance of work considered. It was urged by some of our workers at home that the Association discontinue the work in the Philippines and concentrate on Africa and China. This question had a full discussion at the meeting of the Board of Managers, held in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in May, 1904. The decision of the matter was finally left to the Trustees in consultation with the Bishops; The advice of the latter was secured at once and heeded. The Trustees gave much time and thought to the consideration of the question. July 1 was set apart for prayer and on that day a special meeting was held with Mrs. Rike and Mrs. Marot present as advisory. The matter was finally decided July 8, the vote being nearly unanimous in favor of continuing the work.

As the force of missionaries increased the province was districted — each missionary with his wife was given the supervision of a number of towns and out- lying barrios. During several months of the year they gave special training to the Filipino workers in their districts.

Territory increased. Several trips were made to the Igorots province and other parts of unoccupied territory. In 1907 the territory was increased by the addition of the sub-province of Amburayan which lies to the east and north of Union Province. Our mission had been working in the southern part of this province. That the United Brethren might have full control of Amburayan, the Methodists, who had been working at Tagudin, the capital of the province, turned over their work and a congregation of thirty members. This added a population of 25,000 to our mission, about 10,000 of whom are Ilocanos; the remainder are Igorots, a few of whom have been received into the Catholic church; the others vary from those who have been affected by the higher civilization of the Ilocanos, to the rude tribes of the interior mountains. Four new congregations were organized among these Igorots during 1908. In Benguet province there are about 10,000 more Igorots whose condition is about the same as the people of Amburayan, and who are best reached from La Union Province. We are responsible therefore for about 175,000 people, since this territory has been turned over to us, no other denomination having work in these provinces.

Later the addition of the Ifugao country and the wild tribe of the Kalingas added 200,000 pagan people looking to us for the gospel. A missionary has been sent by the Filipinos to the Kalingas and a successful opening has been made. It is expected the mission will soon open a station in Ifugao.

Conference Organized. During the visit of Bishop Mills the Philippine Conference was organized February 14, 1908, with nine members, the four missionaries, and five native pastors.

The Filipino churches rapidly assumed their current expenses and contributed more or less generously toward the erection of their own chapels, but in order to promote a spirit of helpfulness to others, a Church Erection Society was organized at the annual conference in 1909. This society has continued active and has helped many congregations to build chapels and church buildings. Its scope has been widened, how- ever, and the funds are used not only in loans for new churches, but also to help support the pastors on the weaker charges and pay the traveling expenses of the Filipino Supervisor. This office was created in 1919 in harmony with the policy to have the work carried on by the Filipinos themselves as soon as expedient. The supervisor is elected annually by the conference.

First Sunday School Organized. The first successful Sunday school was organized at San Juan in 1906, under the personal direction of Mr. and Mrs. Mumma. Near the close of 1907 more extensive plans were made and Sunday-school literature was prepared. The work developed rapidly and has had almost continuous growth. The first National Sunday School Convention of the Philippine Islands was held in Manila, February 24-26, 1911. Here the Sunday School Association of the Philippine Islands was organized. Each year special Sunday school convention and institutes are held. Rev. J. L. McLaughlin, Secretary of the Philippine Sunday School Association, stated in 1915 that our territory was more thoroughly developed along Sunday-school lines than any other in the Islands. We have a larger percentage of our members in the Sunday school and have more Sunday-school organizations than churches. Junior and Senior Christian Endeavor societies are also a part of the organized work. The work of the graduates of the Young Women's Bible Training School is especially valuable in these departments.

The first Bible Institute was held in May, 1905. When seventeen young men, most of whom understood English fairly well, gathered in San Fernando for month’s instruction in the Bible, Church History, and Doctrine. This Bible institute has become a permanent feature of the work.

From the beginning the missionaries have tried to emphasize the individual responsibility of converts to extend the Kingdom. As a result of the emphasis laid upon this phase of Christian living, there are now a number of volunteer workers who conduct, regularly, services in their own homes or in the usual meeting places, without receiving any remuneration. These workers are encouraged by being permitted to sell the Scriptures and tracts on the percentage plan, and when they attend the Bible Institute, a small allowance is given them to aid in the purchase of food. This volunteer phase has been one of the secrets of the rapid growth of the work in this mission.

Remarkable Growth. April 3, 1914, was the tenth anniversary of the organization of the first United Brethren Church in the Philippines. The following summary of progress was given. "The ten years have witnessed many changes. Progress in the Is- lands has moved with giant strides. The Philippines are included in the mighty national race movement now on in the Orient. When our first missionaries landed in San Fernando in 1904, they had no friends to greet or welcome them. The people were antagonistic in their general attitude. There were no good roads, few conveniences for travel; no trains, no auto- mobile in all the province. When the tenth anniversary was celebrated our missionaries have daily mail in San Fernando; regular auto lines carry passengers cheaply and with expedition. Then there was no evangelical Christian, no Sunday school, few Bibles; in 1914 there were two thousand, two hundred forty members in thirty-five churches; two thousand members in thirty-eight Sunday schools; fifteen employed preachers and five graduate deaconesses and a force of seventy lay and volunteer preachers making known the good news."

A special evangelistic campaign was conducted during the anniversary year and four hundred fifty- eight adult baptisms resulted.

The Mission Stations.

Our missionaries in the Philippine Islands are located at two mission stations, San Fernando and Manila. From here and from the thirty-three organized churches, the influence of the gospel radiates in all directions.

San Fernando.

San Fernando is the capital of La Union Province, and is the headquarters of our mission. Here are the high and trade schools and pupils come from all parts of the province.

Besides the supervision of the entire field, several distinct phases of work are carried on in San Fernando, such as the Evangel Press, the Young Women's Bible Training School and medical work.

On account of high rents and unsatisfactory houses a mission residence was built in 1904. December 24, 1904, a church was organized with five members. The lower story of the mission house was dedicated December 25 as a chapel for the use of the congregation.

San Fernando is a difficult place in which to work, and progress has been slow. Many of the congregations are students from other parts of the province, but some of the best people of the town are members of the church.

Church Erected. That confidence might be inspired and strength and stability given to the work, about $5,000 was raised for the building of a substantial church. It is on the main highway that leads from Manila to the north end of the island. It is one block from the public plaza and 100 feet from the mission residence. The cornerstone was laid May 3, 1910, and the new building dedicated December 11, 1910. It has a seating capacity of 350.

The Evangel Press. One of the most effective means of reaching the people and of developing and strengthening the work is through the printed page.

When the missionaries first arrived on the field they found that the Bible Societies had the New Testament published in the Ilocano- For several years the missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal, Christian, and United Brethren Missions working among the Ilocano people were busy directing the translation of the Old Testament. This work was done under the supervision of the American Bible Society, whose agent chose Mr. Mumma to read and correct the manuscript and supervise the printing in Japan. In August, 1909, the completed Old Testament in Ilocano was first offered for sale. The people, as a rule, receive the Scriptures with great joy, and for several years previous to the appearance of the Old Testament, had made frequent inquiries concerning it. It is not unusual to hear testimonies like the following: "It is not the work of the Americano that has made me accept the new religion, but the reading of the Book!" "I am not following the religion of the Americano, but the teachings of Jesus Christ as written in the "Sacred Word." Both the Old and New Testament are sold at a nominal price.

The Filipinos are fond of music and enjoy singing gospel songs. From time to time English hymns have been translated by missionaries and Filipino workers into the Ilocano. In February, 1908, a word edition of an Ilocano Hymnal with 181 hymns was published jointly by the Methodist Episcopal, Christian, and United Brethren Missions and is one hymnal now in use all over the Ilocano territory. An edition with the music was later printed in Tokyo, Japan.

Weekly paper published. In September, 1905, our mission began the publication of the "Dagiti Naimbag a Damag" (Good News), probably the first weekly paper in Ilocano. Many of the people could read but they had practically no literature and no newspapers or books. It began as a four page weekly. It furnishes such world news as will interest the average reader among the people, editorial items relating to the progress of the work in the field, serial articles upon such subjects as the reformation, important doc- trines, etc. An instructive and practical exposition of the Sunday-school lesson is given, which is used with good effect by Sunday schools of other missions. A part of the paper is given each week to lessons for the Junior societies. These several departments of the paper have their permanent place upon the pages, with nicely designed headings, and the people look with eagerness for what is of special help and interest to them. The subscription price was twenty-five cents per year, but has now been raised to seventy-five cents. While the amount received has not been sufficient to pay the cost of printing, it has been a paying investment, as the testimonies of the many who have been reached by it, are proof. In less than five years the subscription list was over 1,000, and it was sent into fourteen different provinces. It not only goes into the homes of the subscribers but is often read by several families jointly, those not knowing how to read, gathering about one who reads aloud to them. Bishop Oldham of the Methodist Church said of it (1912) that it was the greatest single Evangelical factor in the Orient.

The Methodist Ilocano paper, known as "Abogado Christiano" (Christian Advocate) was united with ours some years ago. It is now a joint publication with the Methodists, printed by us and known as "Dagiti Naimbag a Damag ken Abogado Christiano." The Methodists edit and are responsible for two pages each week. It has also been the policy of the mission to print thousands of copies of special articles in tract form for free distribution,

A printing-press with outfit was sent to the field in the fall of 1908. It arrived in San Fernando in February, 1909, and has been put into operation on the lower floor of the mission house, and has more than fulfilled the expectations of the missionaries in the in- creased efficiency of this very important part of mission work, and also in the greatly reduced expense. Previous to this time the paper had been published by the Methodist Publishing House in Manila. The first work of the press was the following message to the Trustees:

"To the Board of Trustees of the W. M. A., Dayton, Ohio:

"Your missionaries in the Philippines think fitting that the first imprint upon the new mission-press should be a message of greeting to you. Accordingly we hereby extend to you and all the donors to the press our greetings and sincere thanks for the hand- some equipment that is now ours to help propagate the gospel in these islands. We are more than satisfied with what you have sent us, and we hereby dedicate it to the glory of God and the enlightenment of these people, praying Him that the leaves that go forth from its forms may indeed be leaves of healing to the sin-sick and wretched people among whom we labor. We believe that this is a step in advance, and the expense involved is more than justified by the greatly increased efficiency that will result to our work.

"We are sincerely yours for service,

Sanford B. Kurtz,

Marion W. Mumma,

Ernest J. Pace.

"San Fernando, La Union, P. I., March 20, 1909."

In addition to the "Naimbag a Damag," leaflets and tracts have been published. Wide circulation was found for an edition of "Pilgrim's Progress." A second edition of an Ilocano English dictionary is al- most ready for distribution. The new printing plant, during the first four months of its operation turned out nearly 200,000 pages of printed matter. The growth of this department is seen in the fact that in 1920, three million pages of printed matter were prepared and distributed. The first building and equipment were soon outgrown and a new building and press were purchased. In the new quarters a reading room was established for the convenience of students and others who might care to use it. This was called the Arford Reading Room, and had been made possible through the gift of one thousand dollars from Mr. and Mrs. Arford, relatives of one of the missionaries, Mrs. M. W. Mumma.

The Young Women's Bible Training School. One of the most important phases of our work in San Fernando is that carried out through the Young Women's Bible Training School. The purpose of the school is to train young women for the work of deaconesses. The school was opened and built up under the charge of Miss Matilda Weber who went to this field May 24, 1910. The first class was organized this same year, in a bamboo building with grass roof. In spite of un- desirable neighbors the school grew steadily. On the north was the provincial jail in which the insane people of the province as well as the criminals were kept. On the opposite side was a long row of stables in which from fifty to sixty horses were housed. It was soon realized that better and bigger accommodations must be secured. The fund was largely contributed through the Love-Offerings of 1916 and 1917, and the Woman's Day Offering of 1917. The new building was completed in 1920 and was dedicated August 26. It is of re-enforced concrete with tile roof, beautiful in its simplicity, and stands on a hill overlooking the town and sea.

It is a two-story building with verandas on the four sides, two of which are used as sleeping porches, the other two for reading and study purposes. There are four large dormitory rooms upstairs and three bedrooms for the missionaries in charge. On the lower floor are the kitchens and dining rooms for the students in the west wing and for the missionaries in the east wing. The main floor is divided by the folding doors into four class rooms which can be thrown into one large auditorium. There are a large cement water tank and an electric light plant which will supply as well the church and the old dormitory now used as a dispensary.

Of more interest than the building, are the girls prepared there for lives of service- They arc lifted above the narrow environment of ignorance and with broadened horizons and consecrated hearts and minds they devote themselves to the task of spreading the gospel and the church, of combating sin, sickness and superstition. Recently the course has been standardized so that it is an accredited school. Sixty girls can be accommodated in the new dormitories. In the year 1920 twenty-two were enrolled in the course. There have been, since the beginning in 1910, twenty- two graduates, most of whom are in active service. The deaconesses are in great demand and are proving a vital factor in the extension of the Kingdom in the Philippines.

In addition to the girls in training in the Young Women's Bible Training School, about thirty girls are given dormitory privileges in the building. These girls are some of the thousands who have poured into the cities that they may take advantage of the opportunities offered by the government for education. With quarters in the Training School, there is the opportunity for Christian contact and influence.

A dormitory for boys was also opened in San Fernando in 1910.

Medical Work. At San Fernando medical work has been established. From the beginning the missionaries have been called upon for aid in almost all kinds of illness and trouble from extracting aching teeth to the more serious maladies. The need of a doctor and a hospital has been keenly felt, and has been partly met by the going out of Miss Clara Mann, a trained nurse, in 1920. In 1921 the United Brethren Mission Hospital was opened in the remodeled building formerly used as the Young Women's Bible Training School. A doctor and more adequate hospital facilities are urgently needed.


In the division of territory among the various denominations by the Evangelical Union, Manila was left open so "that each mission might be actively engaged there.” In response to a specific need, our mission extended its work to this city.

In the development of the native church in the Philippine Islands, just as is true in any of the mission fields, or at home, the need of trained teachers, leaders and pastors-has been keenly felt. The need of teachers and leaders has been partly met by the institutes for workers and the deaconesses. To meet the need for trained pastors, the United Brethren mission has. For a number of years, cooperated with other denominations — the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Christian, in the building up and support of a Union Theological Seminary. To realize the necessity and value of this ' work it must be remembered that through the in- creased advantages for education offered by the government, illiteracy is decreasing so that more highly trained and better educated workers are needed to meet the problems that arise.

Union Theological Seminary. The Union Seminary was opened in Manila and has been highly successful. Many of our native pastors were permitted to leave their charges in order to receive the training offered. The quarters of the seminary have been out-grown and a splendid seventy-five acre site has been purchased and buildings planned so that this important center for evangelical work in the Philippines may be adequate. A preparatory course has been added, equivalent to that of a high school. The first two years of college work are also given, and it is hoped that soon the complete college training can be offered. This would then become the Philippine Christian University with a wonderful field for usefulness and service. Our denomination has contributed five thousand dollars towards this work.

Church and Dormitory in Manila. As one result of cooperation in the Union Theological Seminary there has grown up an important work in Manila.

One of the missionaries in Manila, serving on the faculty of the seminary, and the Filipino pastors who had gone there for training began evangelistic and Bible class work, and a church was organized in 1912. A dormitory for young men was opened the same year. Manila is one of the cities into which the young people have poured to receive an education and dormitory accommodations are lacking. Since the opening of the building it has been filled and there is usually a long waiting list. The young men are required to attend a devotional service in the morning and great interest is manifested. Since our denomination is responsible for work among the Ilocanos and there are now thirty-one thousand Ilocanos in the city our field of work is a large one. In 1921 the Sunday school and church services are carried on in a down- stairs room of the dormitory. A site for a new plant has been purchased and it is hoped soon to have a complete center including chapel, kindergarten, parsonage, dormitories and playground.

Other Stations.

The first United Brethren Church organized in the Philippine Islands was located at Caba. This is a town of 4000 population, about thirteen miles south of San Fernando, This church was organized on Easter Sunday, 1904. From this little congregation have gone out five young men as ministers of the gospel.

From this and other centers the evangelistic work has been carried on and organizations effected until in 1920 there were reported thirty-three church organizations. To the south of San Fernando, in addition to Caba, churches are found at Naguilian, Baguio, Bauang, Aringay, Agoo, Tubao, and Rosario.

Baguio is about twenty miles back in the mountains from San Fernando and is the capital of Benguet Province and the summer capital for the Islands. During the hottest season of the year, the higher government officials remove to this place to conduct their business. From time to time since the beginning of our work in the Islands, our missionaries have gone to Baguio, which is 5,000 feet above the sea level, for rest and have found the cool, pine scented air very refreshing. In 1912 a rest cottage was built which has proved a great blessing to the missionaries. A chapel was erected in 1918.

To the north of San Fernando there are church organizations in San Juan, Bacnotan, Balaoan, Bangar and Tagudin,

Development of the Native Church.

Much has been accomplished by volunteer workers. Many villages previously unwilling to listen to the gospel have become friendly through the efforts of these workers who have gone to the remote villages and new places to preach and to do personal work. The churches have grown stronger, and have advanced in self-government and self-support. In 1913 the budget system of finance was adopted. The church Erection Society has already been mentioned. A number of chapels have been built through its aid. In 1912 a missionary society was organized. By the end of 1913 more than one hundred and seven dollars had been collected. The first missionary work consisted of sending a teacher to a large village in the mountain province near Tubao.

Missionary Activities. At the Annual Conference held in Caba during the first two weeks of April, 1920, the greatest enthusiasm and the highest point of interest centered around the discussion of the conference missionary activities. The conference missionary society had sent two missionaries to work among the Kalingos. On a recent trip Mr. Widdoes found that the missionary here, Mr. Leones, had won and baptized one of the leading men and had chosen a good center from which to work. Crossing into Benguet, the other mission field of our Ilocano Church, Mr. Widdoes found eighty-four Benguet Igorots among whom were two of the most influential families, ready for baptism. Two Sunday schools and two congregations were organized. At the last Annual Conference, March, 1921, two pastors and two deaconesses were sent to the mountain district under the direction of the Filipino Missionary Society. The church in the Philippine Islands has been inspired by the big United Enlistment program of the Church at home and has endeavored to enter into a similar effort. A stewardship campaign was carried on and more than one hundred signed the tither's pledge and about two hundred-fifty the intercession pledge. Many young people promised to give their lives to Christian service. Under the guidance of the missionaries, the leadership of strong native pastors, the United Brethren Church in the Philippine Islands is going forward to still greater things for the Master.

Summary. To carry on the work in the Philippines we had in the spring of 1909, eight American missionaries and nine Filipino pastors. At the conference that year there were reported nineteen organized churches, forty-nine regular preaching places, 851 communicant members, 4,000 adherents, eleven Sun- day schools with a membership of 467, five Junior and Senior Christian Endeavor Societies. The total value of property was $4,691.00.

For the year ending December 31, 1920, there were in the Philippine Islands nine American missionaries, thirty-two native workers, thirty-seven organized churches with a membership of two thousand eight hundred fifty-eight. There were one hundred thirty-five additional preaching places. Thirty-nine Sunday schools with a total enrollment of two thousand two hundred eighty-two, eight Senior Christian Endeavor societies, membership three hundred forty- eight; sixteen Junior Christian Endeavor societies, membership four hundred seventy-nine ; one boarding school with twenty-seven pupils.

Lillian Ressler Harford and Alice Estella Bell. History of the Women's Missionary Association of the United Brethren in Christ (1921).