A Tribute To John Speers (1958 – 1991)

A Tribute To John Speers (1958 – 1991) by Dan Rusch

The Philippines Mindanao Island Cotabato CityOn June 11, 1991 my good friend John Speers went from walking the dusty roads of Lugay-Lugay in Cotabato City, on the Philippines island of Mindanao to heaven’s streets of gold, propelled there purportedly by a Magindanaon drug addict and a single shot from a handmade weapon.

On this 25th anniversary of John’s home going I must confess that there is still pain as I recall the memories of that fateful day. You see, John was visiting us with his dear family in the community where we lived with our four daughters. We had often vacationed in each other’s community since we first became friends six years earlier at language school. But this particular visit was a working vacation! John had come to Cotabato to study the Magindanaon language. In fact he was out trying to get a handle on conjugating verbs at the time of his death. Normally we would have been out together, but at the time of the shooting I had been on the telephone at a home down the street, coordinating medical assistance for a member of our translation team.

Josiah Brenda Dan Debbie Shoshannah
Josiah, Brenda, Dan, Debbie, & Shoshannah

A day and a half after the shooting Brenda, Nancy and I stood on the spot where John was shot, only 200 meters from our house. We cried, we remembered John, we prayed. By the time we finished a crowd had gathered so Brenda spoke to them. “John and I came here because we love you. We wanted to study your language so that we could teach you from the Holy Book. I have no hatred in my heart, only love. I bear no grudge against the man who killed my husband. I forgive him. Will someone please tell his parents this?”

Josiah Benda Debbie Shoshannah

Seven months after John’s death my close Magindanaon friend related this story to me. He told me, “Shortly after John’s murder I was very interested in finding out why he was killed. One day someone came to me because he heard I was asking questions. He said he was related to the murderer’s wife. He knew where the murderer was and he was willing to kill him if I paid him. I told him, ‘No! These people are not like us; they forgive murderers! I heard Brenda say the day after her husband was killed that she forgave the man who killed her husband.'”

Dan & Nancy Rusch and Brenda & John Speers
Dan & Nancy Rusch and Brenda & John Speers

Today, Filipinos point to John’s death as the catalyst for becoming missionaries in their country. Dwight L. Moody, an American evangelist, got it right when before his death in 1899, he is reported to have said, “Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.” We will never know the reasons for John’s murder, nor the full impact of his life and death this side of eternity. Because of John’s faith in Jesus, this I do know, thanks to Jesus, death has been swallowed up by life! (2 Cor 5:4) John is more alive than ever. Blessed be the memory of John Speers. To God be the glory.

Brenda remarried and together with her new husband serve the Lord in Canada. John’s two children are also married and carry on the legacy of a Dad they never really knew, but a Dad that loved them dearly.

Credit: Dan Rusch; Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Follow-Up To A Tribute To John Speers Here: