SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines -- The senseless killing of a pastor and his family has stirred up the Christian community in the Philippines, now even more committed to sharing the Gospel in the predominantly Muslim country.
In the rural town of Isulan, surrounded by rice fields, songs of worship echoed as several Christians paid their last respects to Pastor Rey Debarbo and his family.
Pastor Rey, his wife, and two of their daughters, aged 14 and 8, were heading home from a birthday party aboard a motorcycle, when they were gunned down by unidentified assailants.
More than 30 empty shells from high powered firearms were found at the scene of the crime. The home of the suspects has been deserted since the horrific incident.
According to neighbors, the suspected perpetrators are known to be violent and power hungry.
"These criminals are protected by high-ranking government officials in our town, and this is why we brought the matter to the national government -- to ensure the speedy resolution of the case," one church representative said.
Mila Sanchez, a family member, shared how Pastor Rey's murder is a great loss to the ministry.
"He planted churches among the tribes in remote places in the mountains," she recalled. "Every Sunday, he traveled three hours on his motorbike to teach the Word of God to the people there."
"It is very difficult to accept what has happened, but their death has inspired us to share the Gospel to more people," Sanchez said.
One pastor, whose identity is concealed for his protection, ministers among Muslims. He said the deaths of the Debarbo family serve as an eye opener to the Church in her commitment to reach out to the Muslim community.
"There is still a big animosity between the evangelical church and the Muslims," he told CBN News. "But we need to change that. Who else will reach these people except us who know the love of Jesus Christ?"
"The only antidote to our problem is Jesus Christ," he said. "And where's Jesus? He's in the Church, the people of God. And so to me, I take this as a challenge to rise up and really win them to the Lord Jesus Christ."
Eliza Debarbo, 16, the family's sole survivor who didn't go with them that night, is coping well with the loss of her loved ones.
"My father never stopped telling us how good God is," Eliza said. "I have accepted what happened to my family. I am happy for them because I know where they are -- in heaven with the Lord."
"I will be missing them so much," she continued. "But I know God still has a purpose for my life. I will fulfill my dream to finish my studies and I will do it for them."