Four missionaries slain in a garbage pit, two others die in a bomb blast. A report on modern martyrdom—and on church growth amid adversity.

A blast shattered the calm of the warm tropical night. The tan-walled house, one of three in the Christian and Missionary Alliance compound at Ban Me Thuot, was blown apart. Killed immediately was mission worker Leon Griswold, a retired insurance man from White Plains, New York. His daughter Carolyn, 41, was badly hurt. The local Viet Cong had begun their part of the bloody Tet lunar New Year offensive.

Missionaries in the adjoining residences nursed Miss Griswold through the next day. The Rev. Robert Ziemer and the Rev. C. Edward Thompson realized they were vulnerable to more attacks, even though their concrete buildings were virtually within earshot of American military outposts. They dug a trench out of a garbage pit, just big enough for the whole staff to huddle down for the night.

As expected, the Viet Cong blew up the other two homes. When daylight broke, the two men decided they would appeal to the Viet Cong to get Carolyn to a hospital. They were shot dead on the spot. Then the guerrillas strafed the trench, killing Thompson’s wife and 42-year-old Ruth Wilting, a nurse from Cleveland.

Ziemer’s wife and Miss Betty Olsen, 32, were forced to lead the attackers to the nearby home of Henry Blood, of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Blood and Miss Olsen were taken captive. The others eventually were let go. Mrs. Ziemer and Carolyn Griswold were airlifted to a hospital at Nha Trang, where Miss Griswold died.

Worst in Sixty-Eight Years

Dr. Nathan Bailey, CMA president, called it “the greatest tragedy in the history of our society since the Boxer Rebellion of 1900,” ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: