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. A few years after the massacre, 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

11 responses to The Blood-stained Bible

  1. This is fantastic news. My mom, Gretchen Foose Santarsiero, was a classmate and good friend of Ed and Ruth Thompson at Nyack.

  2. When I arrived in Banmethuot in November 1966, I had been a Christian for only one year. I was a ‘Stagecoach Driver’ with the 155th Assault Helicopter Company. Since we did not have a Chaplin, the missionary families holding Sunday Worship Services on the base for us, and then inviting us to their homes for the afternoon. I spent many afternoons and evenings with the missionary families and teaching English in the Church and the orphanage across the road from the Church. In mid 1967, I was transferred to the Delta with the 9th Inf. Division, much to my disappointment, but later that year, I was able to return to BMT to spend Christmas with the Missionaries and the friends I made in the Church. My favorite photo from that visit is of Ed and Ruth Thompson, Bob and Marie Ziemer (with their daughter Beth Drummond), Hank and Vange Blood, Ruth Wilting, and Carolyn Griswold with her father, Leon, who was visiting for Christmas. I also have photos of our celebration with the Church (behind the orphanage), with all of us sitting on the ground for the meal. (That was the first time I had tasted dog meat. It was set on top of my rice with the chop sticks of a Church member sitting beside me.) It is hard to believe that was 50 years ago! Wonderful memories of a time so long ago. Just something else we can look forward to in Eternity!

  3. I cannot overemphasize the role that the story of these godly and brave people have played in my ongoing motivation for ministry and commitment to the C&MA and its mission. The blood of the martyrs truly is the seed of the church. This is no more clearly seen than in the church in Vietnam.

  4. I remember Betty Olsen well. I was a student at Nyack when a terrible flu epidemic hit half the student body in 1957. No doctors were called but if Betty had not administered penicillin to me I think I would have died. I was horrified when the news of her capture and the massacre came. Praise God for what He is doing in that country now.

  5. The story & anniversary of Tet brings up both good & difficult memories. I was stationed in Tuy Hoa, Vietnam during Tet. Our combat engineer unit had built a bridge in the Banmethuot area & we had heard about happened. It was during Tet, while in a bunker under a rocket attack, that I dedicated my life to Jesus. Tet changed a lot of lives.

  6. Thank you Jeff. You are absolutely correct, and we have made that change in the online version of the article.

  7. I was a student at Nyack “Missionary” College the day that word came of the massacre. Their daughter was my classmate. God moved powerfully in the lives of many students on campus. Many responded with passionate prayer. Some responded by offering themselves to the LORD for service. …Precious memories! -Bruce Stutzman

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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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