by Dr. Jean Uayan
When I was writing my dissertation on A Study of the Emergence and Early Develop-ment of Selected Protestant Chinese Churches in the Philippines, I chose Davao Evangelical Church (DEC) as one of the six churches to study regarding its early history. Not only is it the biggest Chinese church in Mindanao in terms of membership, its history is also one of the oldest in that region. DEC came to life from a seed planted in the soil of Davao City as a result of the Sunday School ministry initiated by the sisters Bona (1916-2004) and Valeria Lim. When I interviewed the sisters in 2001, she told me that their father had sent them to study at the Iok Tek All Girls’ Mis-sion School in Gulangyu, Xiamen. There Bona was con-verted during a revival meeting of John Sung around 1934/1935. Coming back to the Philippines in the early part of 1936, she started gathering children, around 100, and taught Sunday School with the help of Alli-ance church member Edith Dangila. One of the students was Rev. Morino Lim, now a pastor of this church. The venue was their own house until it was burned down during the Second World War.
By this time the children were gathered and meetings were held in different homes of the believers. Job Chen had come to Davao and joined this ministry. When the work was revived in 1947, the children numbered around sixty. In 1948, Bona went to Ebenezer Bible School in Zamboanga City and her sister continued the children’s ministry.
From the beginning, this ministry had close contact with members of the Davao Gospel Church, an Alliance church, and the missionaries of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Rev. Ernest Francis Gulbranson and Rev. Charles Eldred Notson (1908-2001), who was given the Chinese name Na CiEn mushi , were instrumental in the initial establishment of the Davao Christian Gospel Church (DCGC) around 1949. On April 24, 1949, Gulbranson bap-tized seven adults who, along with the Lim sisters and Job Chen, became the pioneer members of DCGC. His wife Ruth started training the Sunday School teachers.
The Notsons greatly loved the Chinese and labored faithfully, untiringly and sacrifi-cially by means of visitations, prayer meeting, Sunday School and preaching to nurture the Christians. Notson became the first resident pastor of DCGC when it was formally established in June 1951. It was renamed Davao Evangelical Church on September 28, 1958. One of the admirable mission policies of Notson was that the Chinese should set up their own church and achieve self-rule, self-support, and self-propagation. With regard to self-rule, DCGC was not under any denomination, not even the C&MA. Rev. Notson encouraged church members to tithe and not rely on foreign support, to take care of their own needs. He encouraged young people to enter seminary for training, while at the same time Chinese pastors (Rev. Wesley Shao) were invited to serve in DCGC so that it need not rely on long term on missionaries. He even suggested that the church should build its own school. Unfortunately, the Notsons had to go on furlough in 1953 and were subsequently reassigned to Taiwan.
I truly admire the spirit and vision of this missionary. He did not hesitate to initiate the three-self policy, despite much criticism (even from his own mission). He laid a very strong foundation of faith and practice, allowing the church to grow. Growing from this foundation, Davao Evangelical Church has been blessed for sixty years. One significant mark of this church is that from its first Chinese pastor, Rev. Shao, there has been an almost unbroken line of Chinese pastors, many having a tenure of over a decade. Notson’s encouragement of young people going into seminary training has also been perpetuated over the decades.
BSOP has had a long history (since its beginning in 1957) of training DEC’s members to become pastors. The first graduate (Theresa Chan) of BSOP was from DEC; a rough count indicates that about 28 followed her foot-steps. One of the highlights of the 60th Anniversary Celebration of DEC on June 26, 2011 was the Full-timers’ Choir that rendered a song number. (See photo below) Among the 40 Choir members, 28 (red fonts) are either members of DEC who trained in BSOP, alumni of BSOP who became spouses of these members, or alumni who are now serving at DEC. May this partnership continue to prosper for the glory of our great and awesome God!
First row, L-R: Mrs. Emma Sun, Ptr. Lora May Sun, Ptr. Julie Lao Lim (wife of Rev. Florentino Lim), Ptr. Sonia Lim, Ptr. Joyce Piap-Go, Ptr. Suzanne Teo Go, Ptr. Dorcas So Sy, Ptr. Ade-laine Ang Balete, Ptr. Evelyn Ho Cang, Ptr. Julie Kwong Yap, Ptr. Goldie Uy Andico, Ptr. Sheila Joyce Huang, Ptr. Nancy Tan, Ptr. Judy Chiu. Second row, L-R: Mrs. Irene Ma Chueh, Ptr. Aleta Marquez Lim Huang, Ptr. Son Son Go, Ptr. Phoebe Yu, Ptr. Sheree Joy Go, Ptr. Jane Kathe-rine So Lim, Ptr. Jenny Tan, Ptr. Emilyn Jean Lim, Ptr. Jocelyn “Jojie” Wong Third row, L-R: Ptr. Mark Yap, Pt. Liu Wang Hua, Ptr. Joseph Paul Andico, Rev. Dr. David Go, Rev. William Huang, Rev. Morino Lim, Ptr. William Lao, Ptr. Allen Lim, John Eric Cabada. Fourth row, L-R: Ptr. Samuel Paul Lim, Ptr. Genesis Villagracia, Ptr. Arthur Brian Yap, Rev. Terence Lim, Ptr. Jere Cang, Ptr. Sherwin So, Rev. Felix Ong, Rev. Lin Lin Chueh
Photo taken by the author
Download the July 2011 edition of BSOP in Focus from our Publications page.