Missionary to the Philippines
1958 – 1991
Doug Harder was a fellow missionary with John in Manila. The following words were penned by Doug on his blog on 21 September 2011:
“When John got up on June 11, 1991 who could have imagined it would be his last day on earth. I’m not sure how he spent the morning….but in the afternoon John was out on the streets practicing the language of the people. He was one of the most disciplined guys I’ve ever met and he was determined to communicate with these wonderful people in this SE Asian city. He was driven by a passion to share with them the love that changed his own life. So on that afternoon he took his 4-year old daughter by the hand and walked through the neighbourhood practicing his verb charts. After some time, Shoshannah grew weary and wanted to go home. And so after buying some fresh bananas, John dropped her by the house. But he wasn’t done. Finding his wife Brenda, John uttered what would be the last words she would ever hear from his lips. “I need to learn these verbs! I’ve got to reach these people with the love of Jesus.” And with that John was back out the door.
“Some time later, a shot rang out….and John was gunned down from behind in a senseless “thrill-killing.” As the gunman disappeared, bystanders quickly hoisted John into a tricycle (motor-cycle with a side car) and rushed him off to the hospital. From what I was told, he may have even been still trying his best to communicate to the man who accompanied him in the tricycle. But by the time Brenda followed a few minutes later to the hospital, John had already ascended into the presence of his Lord.
““I need to learn these verbs.” How characteristic of John. As long as I ever knew John he was driven by such a heart to do all that he could to make a difference in the world. Whatever it took, John was always one to push himself hard to overcome any cross-cultural barrier in order to build friendships with the people. And not for his own sake. John was convinced he had good news that he couldn’t keep to himself.
“I often wonder why John was taken that day, and the rest of us were left. His language studies ended that day; his index cards quietly put to rest. But even after all these years, John’s last words still speak to me. What are the verbs I still need to learn? What verbs will open doors in my world so that LOVE can find a way into the hearts of those who search for it?”
Credit: Remembering John Speers Blog by Douglas Harder
Note: John and his family had flown south to Cotabato City for six weeks to complete his language consolidation prior to joining our team. I recalled meeting him the first time and musing, ” What a promising man – he is going to be an invaluable asset to the team.” We were out in our village, about 60 kms southeast of the City, when we heard on the radio of John’s murder. Traumatised, we caught the next available jeepney to be with the team.