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Coworkers remember Bill Hyde as a model of radical grace

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (BP)–Jofel Hidalgo hadn’t seen the Hyde family for 10 years, yet he cried when he heard Bill Hyde had been killed.

The Hyde family attended Hidalgo’s church for two years in the city of Iloilo, Philippines, and sponsored Hidalgo ‘s college education — paying tuition, books and fees. Hidalgo graduated cum laude and is now an accounting manager.

“Success is not mentioned in your curriculum vitae or income statement but in how you passed on your spirit, how you touched lives,” Hidalgo said. “Bill really touched me; the Hyde family is part of me.”

On March 7, a bright and hot afternoon in Davao City, Philippines, Immanuel Baptist Church overflowed as Hidalgo and others gathered to celebrate the life and mourn the tragic death of Bill Hyde, who died March 4 from injuries sustained in a bombing at the Davao City International Airport.

The gathering hinted of a family reunion as friends from across continents, cultures and languages shared both laughter and tears.

The mourners remembered Hyde, who served 24 years as an International Mission Board (SBC) missionary in the Philippines, as an expansive character with strong convictions, breezy bravado and deep compassion.


“Bill was a ring-tailed hooter,” said Phil Brewster, a 26-year veteran missionary. “He was like John Wayne in some ways — barrel-chested, deep-voiced, larger than life.”

“Bill was what I think of as a solid American,” said Filipino pastor Arnel C. Tan fondly. “He was comfortable with his personality and opinions and he spoke strong and straightforward.”

Hyde was a paradox of heady enthusiasm tempered by disarming warmth. He was a sportsmen, fisherman and Vietnam War veteran who bragged on sharing his home state of Iowa with John Wayne. But he also studied music, conducted youth choirs and played chess. And his forceful opinions rested on foundations of friendliness and humility.

“He was a model of radical grace,” Tan explained. “In spite of his strong character, he gave space for others to lead. And if he found he was wrong, he’d admit he was wrong — although usually in short sentences.”


Hyde worked as a church planter in the Philippines. He traveled widely, driving six or more hours three or four days a week, visiting local pastors. He trained, advised and coordinated them in starting self-sustaining, self-replicating, grassroots church groups.

“Bill was a great church planter because he loved the preachers. He was alongside them, not above — no distinction between Filipino and American — they were the same. He ate what they ate, drank what they drank, stayed in their homes,” colleague Susan Stokeld remembered.

“Bill spoke little of our language, but his personality connected with the people. He was always right where the people are,” said Chris Balaga, a Filipino pastor who worked with Hyde 14 years. “His work will continue because of all those years roaming around, encouraging and listening to the people. His legacy will continue.”


Bill Hyde died the evening of Tuesday, March 4, fatally wounded by a bomb in a backpack outside the airport. The blast killed 21 and injured 148 people who were huddled under a shelter to avoid a rain shower.

Hyde was at the airport to pick up the Stevens family, his neighbors and fellow IMB missionaries in Davao.

“I still see it,” Mark Stevens said. “We saw Bill wave — he always picked us up — and my wife and children went out. I was at the luggage carousel when I heard a boom. At first I thought it was backfire, but then the glass caved in. I looked out and saw people lying where my wife and children were supposed to be.

“I immediately went out but couldn’t find my wife, couldn’t find my daughter. I saw Bill lying there. His hand came up and I grabbed it and said, ‘Stay with me brother, stay with me.'”

Seconds before the explosion, Hyde had sent Barbara Stevens and the children — Sarah, 4; and Nathan, 10 months — to the car to avoid the approaching rain. The three were on the periphery when the blast occurred.

Barbara called Hyde’s wife, Lyn, who went directly to the hospital. He died shortly after she arrived.


Hyde is the fourth IMB worker to die violently in the past four months. In December, a gunman killed three hospital workers in Yemen. The tragedies highlight dangers faced by Christians working internationally.

“We’re more vulnerable in today’s world than we’ve ever been, but Southern Baptists should know their missionaries are committed to what the Lord wants them to do and that we are always — and especially in these difficult times — dependent on their prayer support,” said Tom Williams, who leads IMB work in the Western Pacific region.

The Davao bombing traumatized missionaries in the Philippines but has not eroded their resolve.

“Don’t worry about the missionaries and don’t call the IMB and tell them to send missionaries home,” Stevens said. “This is part of our calling; it happens — hopefully not often, but it happens.”

“There is no place on earth safer than in God’s will. He called me to the Philippines and there’s no place else I want to be,” Stokeld said. “Sept. 11 showed that no place is truly safe, so I’d rather be right here serving the Lord.”


Even after losing her husband, Lyn Hyde reiterated her sense of mission responsibility.

“The first thing I said in the car [on the way to the hospital] was, ‘What man has intended for evil, God intended for good for the saving of many lives,'” Lyn said, recalling a Scripture she had read the week before. “And I believe God will do that with this death as well.

“I want the Lord to be glorified,” she said. “I want the world to know why we come as missionaries to countries like this — that Filipinos are worth dying for.

“Ever since I was a little girl the only thing I truly wanted to be — other than a great ice skater — was a missionary, and that call has never left.

“If the Lord thinks I can do it now as a widow and a single woman, then I can do it.”
More on the Philippines bombing: http://www.imb.org/urgent. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: COMFORT, IN MEMORIAM and OVERFLOWING.

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  • James L. Yates