Guatemala and the Philippines
Two Adventist pastors were killed in armed ambushes in Guatemala and the Philippines last week, highlighting the danger that some church workers face in restive regions of the world.
We are saddened by these violent attacks on Adventist pastors . . . We will continue earnestly in prayer for pastors and church leaders and especially remember the families of those who have suffered.
Masked assailants attacked Pastor Noe Gonzalez, 54, and his wife as they rode home on a motorcycle following evangelistic meetings that he had led in the town of Hierbabuena in east Guatemala on October 23, the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division said Monday.
Pastor Gonzalez was shot four times and his wife, Oralia, was struck on the head and left for dead. She was treated at a hospital and released hours later.
A day earlier, masked gunmen opened fire on six people preparing to board a vehicle in a village in the Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, killing Pastor Ramil Ansong, 29, and his 50-year-old father, Jose.
The other four people in the group, including the pastor’s mother, escaped uninjured, according to local media reports.
Police have opened investigations into both attacks but not identified a motive in either.
Deadly attacks on Adventist pastors are rare but not unheard of.
Pastor Noe Gonzalez ministered in the mountainous region of east Guatemala for more than 10 years. [Photo courtesy: Guatemala Union]
“We are saddened by these violent attacks on Adventist pastors,” said Dr Derek Morris, associate secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association, which trains and supports pastors. “In such difficult times, we can find encouragement in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:10: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'”
Dr Morris added: “We will continue earnestly in prayer for pastors and church leaders and especially remember the families of those who have suffered.”
While few details were immediately available about the attack in the Philippines, Pastor Gonzalez died amid an increase in violence in Guatemala that has worried local church leaders.
“We want you to live each day in the presence of Jesus so that you can be prepared for whatever incidence you may face each day,” Pastor Guenther Garcia, president of the Adventist Church in Guatemala, said in a statement to his country’s 117 pastors. “Do not be discouraged by the wickedness, injustice and depravity that you are called to face as you proclaim the good news of salvation.”
Gonzalez was the fourth Adventist pastor to be killed in Guatemala in the past 33 years.
Pastor Gonzalez had faced the threat of death before. Years earlier, he boldly defended the president of a local mission, Pastor Jaime Torres, when a group of angry indigenous people beat Torres and took him captive, said a friend, Pastor Gustavo Menendez.
“Pastor Gonzalez offered his life to save the life of the Adventist president and the situation diffused,” Pastor Menendez said in a statement released by the Inter-American Division. “His heroism and commitment to the work of God will always be remembered.”
Pastor Noe Gonzalez posing with his wife, Oralia, and three of his four adult children. Oralia Gonzalez escaped the attack relatively unharmed. [Photo courtesy: Guatemala Union]
Hundreds of church members attended the funeral of Pastor Gonzalez on Sabbath, October 25.
Pastor Gonzalez was born on July 22, 1960, in Jalapa, Guatemala, and is survived by his wife and four adult children.