by Nancy Eng MacNeill
Landing in Manila was a welcome beginning for our trip. The weather was warm and “tropical” according to Bruce’s daughters. After checking into our rooms at the Shalom Center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), we wasted no time in heading out into the city around the center. There was something very familiar about the atmosphere and the bustle of the city. Our first evening we met members of the UCCP and the Shalom Center staff. The evening was full of song, dance, food and family in an atmosphere that was home. Bruce’s grandparents left the Philippines 70 years ago and now the first Filipino Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has come home.
On February 11, our trip took a turn from listening to stories from those in the church, to being a story of the church. While we were sitting down for dinner and cultural dance, Pastor Edwin Egar was abducted. The many pastors who were our hosts for the evening flew into quick action, something they had done so many times before. In the midst of chaos, our hosts from the UCCP believed they had enough information that would prevent any beating or torture of Pastor Edwin Egar. While waiting for the next move, the UCCP members sat down to break bread together. Finding strength in their community, they also found moments to dance and celebrate.
Through the quick action of the church leaders, and what the Bishop would later describe as inept abductors, Edwin was returned near his home. After a very long night, Edwin was being brought to the Shalom Center and a press conference was held in the afternoon. Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow and David Hudson, PC(USA) Area Coordinator for Asia, participated in the press conference as the faith community spoke out against the political climate that allows this type of situation to take place. Following the press conference, our delegation listened to victims and their families, tell their stories about the violence, torture and devastation experienced by pastors of the UCCP.
Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow brings greetings to the UCCP. This picture was taken at the beginning of the visit to the Philippines – the day before the abduction of Pastor Edwin Egar. Photo by Nancy Eng MacNeill.