As both an ordained minister and a medical doctor, Dr. Raphael C. Thomas had a passion for evangelism, using medicine as a tool to reach the people of the Philippines. But in 1927, after twenty-three years of service, he was required by his mission board to confine his work to medicine alone. Unwilling to abandon his evangelistic endeavors, Dr. Thomas submitted his resignation. A handful of missionary colleagues who had worked in sympathy with Dr. Thomas also submitted their resignations. Returning to the US, Dr. Thomas met with a group of associates to consider what to do. The outcome of that meeting in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, was the birth of a new Baptist mission.ack in the USA, a number of significant missions leaders rallied to the cause of Dr. Thomas and his colleagues, embarking on what they called an “adventure of faith.” An executive committee was formed under the name Association of Baptists for Evangelism in the Orient (ABEO) in order to raise and manage funds.
In 1939 ABEO began a work in the Amazon River area of Peru. This necessitated a change in name to the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). Despite the difficulties caused by World War II, ABWE saw expansion in both the number of fields and missionaries.
Major ministry initiatives of ABWE over the years include church planting, medical evangelism, theological education, urban evangelism, student work, and cross-cultural training.
Long-term evangelism and related ministries have been used effectively, and through the efforts of Filipino pastors, laymen and missionaries, more than 1,500 indigenous churches have been started. The Filipino believers have organized their own local and national organizations, started their own home and foreign mission boards and many Christian schools.
ABWE established two training schools to prepare local citizens for church leadership. The Doane Baptist Bible Seminary is located in Iloilo, and the Baptist Bible Seminary and Institute is just outside Manila. These schools are autonomous with Filipino leadership, but both career and short-term missionaries assist with some teaching. Several other Bible schools have been started throughout the country. ABWE has made a commitment to continue to assist the national church with leadership education and development on all levels in both formal and non-formal modes.
Medicine has been an effective tool of evangelism in resistant and remote areas. Medical outreach began on the island of Mindanao in the Bethel Baptist Clinic, which has major surgical facilities. This medical ministry proved so effective that the islands of Leyte, Palawan and Panay now reap the dividends of established medical evangelistic facilities as well.
To reach these teeming masses of unevangelized people in the cities, ABWE missionaries have partnered with Filipino church-planters to help to establish churches in key urban centers.
Because the Philippines is strategically situated near many other unreached Southeast Asian countries, ABWE has encouraged a Filipino-led agency that is equipping professionals to become involved in missions to their Asian neighbors. ABWE missionaries continue to encourage and to train Filipinos for cross-cultural ministry.