May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Yesterday we looked at the martyrdom of Severino (Junie) Bagtasos in the southern Philippines and we are listening to his mother, after ten years’ time, explain what she has learned about the good that God’s Spirit has brought from the painful loss of her dear son. Purificacion Bagtasos exudes the warmth of a mother and the spirituality of a woman of God. One would not think she’d experienced every mother’s nightmare. She overflows with peace, courage and hope.
She says, “Through this tragedy, God paved the way for the distribution of the Kitab Injil [New Testament] in Jolo. A year after Junie’s death, I heard over the radio an Imam [Muslim religious leader] preaching using the Kitab Injil! What’s more amazing is that it is the Muslims themselves asking and distributing copies of the Kitab Injil, not the Christians!”
In 1986, thousands of Gideon Bibles were burned to ashes in Jolo. Ten years later and after Severino’s death, a revived interest in the Bible grew among the Muslims in the whole island.
She adds, “I remember during the wake of our son, the church was filled with Muslims for the first time. We even had to put in additional benches to accommodate those who were still coming. We took that opportunity to preach and declare Christ to them. One way or another the seed of the Gospel was planted in the hearts of all the Muslims gathered there. It will not return to the Lord void.”
And so it was that Severino accomplished in death what he may not have accomplished in life—to preach Jesus Christ to as many Muslims in Jolo as possible.
Secondly, Purificacion talks about vengeance. “We never filed a case because we know God will avenge us and that is where we stand. It also spared us from the long process and uncertainty of obtaining justice. God has seen what had happened and He knows my son’s murderer. I believe He will give us proper justice in His time.
“I feel compassion for them,” Purificacion adds as she turns her thoughts to the Muslims they are reaching. Muslims believe that if you kill an enemy of Allah on the first day of Ramadan, the act will ensure your passage to paradise. Perhaps blinded by this belief, Junie’s killer chose to commit the crime on the very day Ramadan started that year.
Purificacion never thought she’d outlive any of her children. She experienced dark and painful days. But she says, “The prayers and the letters of comfort sent by Christians around the world helped me and my family as we battled loneliness and depression over the loss of my son…We felt all the more encouraged to continue in the ministry God has entrusted to us.”
Purificacion and her husband expanded their ministry after their son’s death. They took over the Bible studies Severino used to teach. They felt empowered. She concludes, “I don’t remember feeling fear. Instead of fear, we were filled with courage.”
RESPONSE: Today I want my life to be so filled with God’s joy and peace that it will overflow to others.
PRAYER: Remember to pray for ongoing strength and courage for Purificacion and her family.