excerpted from Cyrils 1985 Autobiography Grace Triumphant
Just before our return to the Philippines in 1949, we learned of a young man studying at Moody Bible Institute who was interested in the work in the Philippines. During World War II he had been flying over the Philippines in a B-24 “LIBERATOR” (a flying fortress), and he would like to return there on a more peaceful mission. After correspondence, Kenneth Engle joined us in Manila in 1951. He had worked with WMBI in radio work while at Moody so he was a big help as we were resuming a radio ministry at that time. Later he was joined by his fiancée, Mary Lou Leonard, and they were married in San Juan. For some years they helped in the assembly in Binangonan. Then in 1967 they moved to Baguio for health reasons. Baguio is the beautiful mountain resort some 5,000 feet above sea level, where the climate is cooler than in the lowlands.
In Baguio they began to make contacts with neighbors with a view to establishing a work there. Among their neighbors with whom Mary Lou made friends was a Pakistani lady married to a Filipino professor. He had met her while he was studying on a grant in Lahore. She came from a mixed Eurasian background with nominal Christian contacts. Mary Lou got this lady, Evelyn Balanag, interested in studying the course “What the Bible Teaches.” She took home the first two lessons and before very long was back again. Having finished those two lessons she wanted the rest and before the day was done had finished them all. The following day she was taken very ill with severe hemorrhages and was rushed to the hospital. In her extreme weakness through loss of blood, she thought she was dying. Opening her eyes she saw her husband sitting by the bed in obvious concern. Then she had a terrible thought---“If I had died, I would have gone to hell.” Recalling what she had studied in the lessons, she accepted Christ as her Savior, even though still too weak to let anyone know what had transpired.
As soon as she was able, she told her husband and as she recovered began witnessing to others about her newfound Savior. She began memorizing Scripture and encouraged her husband to join her in this. However, she was a bit annoyed that he, who was not yet a believer, could memorize more quickly than she, a believer. She lost interest in the paperback novels, which used to take so much of her time, but giving up smoking was harder. She once told her husband, “I could give you up, but not these cigarettes.” But the time came, in answer to prayer, when she gave up smoking too. Her husband also trusted in Christ along with some of their friends. Many of these were Filipino servicemen connected with the Philippine Military Academy.
One day some Mormon missionaries called on two of Evelyn’s friends and tried to convince them of their beliefs. Evelyn didn’t yet know enough of the Word to refute them, but she felt there was something wrong; so she got them to talk with Mary Lou who was able to show them the truth. Four of these people were baptized by Ken Engle in early 1970 and that was the beginning of the assembly there. While the Engles were on furlough from 1970 to 1972 we lived in Baguio and felt our ministry was particularly to strengthen these believers in their faith in Christ.
For a while the believers met in a home. Then permission was obtained to use a Quonset hut, which served as a guardhouse at the entrance to the military reservation called Navy Base. A Navy Base up in the mountains seems incongruous, but it got its name when used by the US Navy right after World War II. This guardhouse served as a meeting place for a few years. The folks used to say, “It is a guardhouse during the week, but on Sunday it is God’s house.” The Base had living quarters for Philippine Army personnel serving with the Philippine Military Academy. When martial law was declared in September 1972, we no longer had the use of this facility and went back to meeting in a home, or rather, in the carport of a home.
The Engles returned in 1973 and stayed until 1975, and during that time they got permission to meet in a Roman Catholic school building, which had closed, and the property was up for sale. Knowing this was only temporary, the assembly looked for land to build. They were able to purchase a lot and build a chapel quite close to the guardhouse where they had formerly met. There were then no other evangelical chapels in that part of Baguio. In more recent years two teams of workers from Gospel Literature Outreach (GLO) from Australia and New Zealand have helped in the building up of the work in Baguio. Periodic visits by different workers have helped the believers there carry on the work at times when there was no resident missionary there.
We had a number of contacts with the Philippine Military Academy, the West Point of the Philippines. At that time the Registrar, Lt. Col. D. Galia, was a fine Christian gentleman. At a time when they had no Protestant Chaplain we were invited to preach at their chapel service. The cadets were obliged to attend church service in either the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Chapel on base. At the time we lived in Baguio there was a good deal of student unrest in the large cities. Although under military discipline the cadets were somewhat effected by this. At one point several objected to compulsory attendance at religious services. The Commandant arranged that those who didn’t want to attend church should at that time listen to a lecture on good morals! The responsibility of arranging these lectures was turned over to our friend, Lt. Col. Galia. He invited me to give some of those lectures. This was a difficult assignment since I am a preacher, not a lecturer. To relax the atmosphere I tried to make it informal with opportunity for the cadets to participate. Yet at the same time I could not lose that opportunity to present the truth of the Gospel. No doubt when I was the lecturer, they got more religious truth than they would have heard in the church services! These young men were some of the smartest in the country; they had to be to pass the stiff requirements. They were polite and courteous and also quite frank. One of them said he thought I was an imperialist; I was able to show him that I didn’t fit in with his definition.
Beginning in 1968, Ken Engle was able to arrange for a Bible to be given to each graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. We were able to continue this until 1979 and were usually able to have this presentation included in the religious part of the graduation programs. The names of the graduates were printed in gold on the covers of the Bibles and a letter was enclosed. While the graduates usually expressed their thanks at the time, we never had any further word from any of them. It did afford us some opportunities to meet with some of the high military officials. However, in 1980, it was not possible for me to travel to Baguio to make needed arrangements. Also, we felt that the lack of response indicated that the money could be put to better use in other phases of the Lord’s work. So this practice was discontinued. We have heard that another Christian organization is now donating Bibles.
At Moody Bible Institute (1942-43;1946-1950) Ken was in front of the broadcast microphone, and worked alongside Bill Pearce on WMBI, and announced for a program which featured soloist Helen Barth. In 1950 in Milwaukee he met Ed McCully, one of the Ecuador Martyrs, (Jim, Nate, Pete and Roger) and Ed wrote him a letter in 1952, and contributed financially towards Ken's work in the Philippines.
Ken was instrumental in introducing the boys club "Christian Service Brigade" to the Philippines. Rudy Ponce DeLeon was the first "Herald of Christ" in this country, and oversaw the 25+ clubs nationwide for a number of years, as well as worked in Evangelism, Camp Work and discipleship.
After Ken's initial arrival in the Philippines in 1951 he taught gym/exercise for high schoolers at Grace Christian High School, and one of his students was Paul Tan.
Postscript: Following return from the Philippines in 1975 Ken and Mary Lou served in the assembly that meets at Grace & Truth Gospel Chapel, Abilene Kansas, continuing their earler commendations by assemblies in Kansas and Illinois. Ken was active in expository ministry, evangelistic radio, and local hospital chaplaincy work, and MaryLou in music and hospitality.