Apastor and an elder 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.
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 Oct. 23, the Adventist
Church’s Inter-American Division said Monday.
Gonzalez was shot four times and his wife, Oralia,
was struck on the head and left for dead. Oralia 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 church elder Ramil Ansong, 29, and his
50-year-old father, Jose.
The other four people in the
group, including the Ansong’s mother, escaped uninjured, according to local
Police have opened investigations into both attacks but not identified
a motive in either.
Deadly attacks on Adventist pastors are rare but not unheard
"We are saddened by these violent attacks on
Adventist pastors," said 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.'"
Morris added: "We
will continue earnestly in prayer for pastors and church leaders and
especially remember the families of those who have suffered."
Multiple local media reported that Ansong was an Adventist pastor in the Philippines, but the Adventist Church's Southern Asia-Pacific Division, which includes the Philippines, later clarified that he had served as elder at his church.
In Guatemala, Gonzalez died amid an increase in violence 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,”
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.
Gonzalez had faced the threat of death before. Years earlier,
Gonzalez 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,” Menendez said in a statement
released by the Inter-American Division. “His heroism and commitment to the
work of God will always be remembered.”
Hundreds of church members attended the funeral of Gonzalez
on Sabbath, Oct. 25.
Gonzalez was born on July 22, 1960, in Jalapa, Guatemala,
and is survived by his wife and four adult children.
Inter-American Division, Oct. 27, 2014: “In Guatemala, Adventist Pastor Killed After Leaving Evangelistic Campaign”
newspaper, Oct. 23, 2014: “2 Die, 4 Unscathed in Ambush”