The Blood-stained Bible


On Thursday afternoon, July 7, 2011, I was forwarded an e-mail from a man claiming to have something of value to the C&MA. I called him and introduced myself.

“Did Ed Thompson work for your organization?” he asked.

“I know of an Ed Thompson who was one of our missionaries in Vietnam,” I replied, “but he was killed along with five others by the Viet Cong during the 1968 Tet Offensive.”

“That’s the guy,” he confirmed, “and I have his Bible. I was one of the soldiers who found him and the other missionaries that day. I saw the Bible between Ed and his wife [Ruth] as they lay in that bunker. It was stained with their blood.”

The soldier, Hugh Catron, was 20 years old that fateful morning of January 31, 1968, when he stood over the makeshift bunker at the Banmethuot missionary compound where Ed and Ruth Thompson’s bodies lay. There also lay the bodies of their colleagues, Leon and Carolyn Griswold, Ruth Wilting, and Bob Ziemer. Only Marie Ziemer survived. Captured during the attack were Alliance missionary Betty Olsen and Wycliffe translator Hank Blood, both of whom died in captivity. Mike Benge, a volunteer aid worker, also had been abducted with Betty and Hank and was the only survivor among the three. Mike recalls,

Many men from the American MACV unit and the 155 Aviation Assault Company stationed at Banmethuot attended church in the C&MA compound or the afternoon services held by the missionaries at 155’s compound. Afterward, the GIs were invited to the missionaries’ homes for Sunday dinner and a chance to socialize, a relief from the daily grind of the Vietnam War. 

Hugh Catron was one of those GIs. He recalls conversations with Ed Thompson at the compound. “Ed and I would sit and argue about the Bible,” notes Hugh, recalling a specific disagreement about the literal versus figurative parting of the Red Sea.

Hugh remembers being reprimanded by his sergeant for removing the Bible as a “souvenir” from the bunker where the bodies were found. “I hardly think this is a souvenir,” said Hugh. “My intention in 1968 was to get the Bible back to the [Thompson] family, but I didn’t know where they were from.”

Hugh kept the Bible sealed for 43 years before shipping it to the C&MA National Office in 2011. After having been shared with the Thompson family, it now resides in the C&MA Archives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

January 31 marks the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive massacre in Banmethuot, after which all remaining C&MA workers were forced to evacuate Vietnam. With no missionary presence, it was feared that the newly forming church would be forced underground and ultimately perish. Today, the Tin Lanh Church in Vietnam is the second largest church network in the Alliance World Fellowship, with more than 1.3 million inclusive members.

Ed Thompson’s bloodstained Bible echoes Tertullian’s proclamation in Apologeticus: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” 

—Peter Burgo

4 responses to The Blood-stained Bible

  1. Reading this story brings such special memories. The Thompsons stayed in our home during their last furlough. My dad, Ralph Wetherbee, was the pastor of the C&MA church in Owego, NY, and they were speakers at the church’s annual missionary convention. By the time they left, it felt like we’d known them forever.

    Thanks, Hugh, for retrieving the Bible. What a precious gift for the family. And thank you, C&MA, for sharing the story. How like God to grow His church in Vietnam beyond human imagination.

  2. Detail in 2nd to last paragraph: the remaining C&MA missionaries did not leave VN until spring of 1975, seven years later.

  3. I remember that so well, as my sister and brother-in-law were good friends with the Thompsons and knew the others who were killed and captured when my sister and brother-in-law were missionaries in Cambodia. These godly missionaries will be awarded the crown that is a reward for those martyred for the sake of the Gospel.

  4. I have the book about Betty’s death. Her brother Mark was in our dorm at ICA school in the Ivory Coast. So good to have this info about the Thompsons bible. Their death was not in vain!!

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