April 25, 1925 – September 2, 2010
Elsie, the oldest child in a family of seven children, was saved at ten years of age when she attended a holiness camp meeting with her grandparents. In the fall of the following year, she felt God’s call to missionary service. While attending Cascade College, she became acquainted with the Free Methodist Church and in 1950 learned about the church’s missions work in Kentucky. As a result, Elsie spent seven years at Oakdale Vocational School where she filled various roles, including Dean of Girls and school nurse.
Elsie first arrived in the Philippines in 1957, joining Naomi Thorsen in Lianga, a seacoast village surrounded by jungle on the island of Mindanao. During those early years of Free Methodist work in Northern Mindanao, she co-pastored four village churches with Naomi. She and Naomi saw the number of believers and church members increase greatly, helping to establish the new Filipino church.
In 1960 Elsie, along with Naomi, transferred to Butuan City, the hub of activities for the Free Methodist Church in the islands, to minister at Light & Life Bible Seminary. She served in many capacities including teacher, registrar, school nurse, librarian, dorm parent and four years as director. Seminarians ministered through the distribution of Bible portions, hospital visitation, home Bible studies, jail visitation and barrio (village) Sunday schools. At times Elsie and Naomi traveled with groups of students to outlying barrios by antiquated buses over perilous mountain roads or by motorized out-rigger boats. The seminary’s insistence on academic and spiritual excellence helped to produce a strong national church.
Elsie made a significant contribution to the development of strong pastoral leadership in the Philippines through serving as Chairman of the Board of Ministerial Training. She was privileged to see trained national leaders occupy key positions in the seminary and conference, many of them products of the seminary.
Elsie’s last years of service in the Philippines were spent ministering on Leyte Island. She and Naomi were sent to the city of Tacloban to encourage and strengthen the pastor and congregation of the Jean Schlosser Memorial Church. She worked alongside the pastor by instructing preparatory membership classes; teaching the Bible in homes, in the high school and to college students; working with women’s groups; and doing general counseling. Elsie served in the Philippines through 1976.
Elsie’s Students and Colleagues Write:
From Rev. Nena Marquez, FM pastor in the Philippines: “One of the classes Elsie taught was Church Finance. It was from that class that I learned the importance of budgeting both in the church and in my personal finances. She also taught us that the first item in our budget must be the tithe. … She was one of the many people who molded my life and prepared me to do the work as pastor. Her committed and prayerful life was a good example that encouraged and influenced us to be like her.”
From Bishop Jim Tuan: “I remember Ma’am Elsie as a lover of children as she was our Christian Youth Crusader teacher, and through her Bible lessons I came to commit my life to Jesus. In her time as missionary to the Philippines she encouraged a lot of young people to attend Bible College training and developed them as workers in the local churches … We will always be thankful for the dedicated life of Ma’am Elsie for the Lord’s work in the Philippines.”
From Linda Dalago, former ICCM director in the Philippines: “I had experienced many ups and downs in my walk with the Lord, especially since my parents did not want me to take Bible courses for fear that I would become a pastor. But through the constant ministry of Ma’am, spiritually I became stronger and established in the faith and finished my Bachelor of Religious Education degree at the Seminary. Ma’am Elsie spent time praying and crying for me that I would be the person God wants me to be.”
From current missionaries Jim and Deb Wilson: “Elsie was not just a pioneer missionary in the Philippines. When we were short personnel in 1993, Elsie answered the call and returned to Manila, a very different jungle than she had originally pioneered in. It was our privilege to serve side by side teaching with her in John Wesley Bible College while she also managed the Free Methodist Guest House. Having served here when electricity was more off than on, she took the 12 power outages in 1993 without complaint. Today the Filipino Free Methodist Church stands strong, strong because of the excellent foundation that was laid over 60 years ago.”
From retired missionaries John and Ruby Schlosser: “Elsie was a ten-talent servant of the Lord. She was dedicated, efficient and creative. She had learned in Kentucky to take a rusty mimeograph and scrape it and paint it and fix it up and produce a usable machine. One of our sons remembers of ‘Aunt Elsie’ that she was always smiling. … Perhaps Elsie’s greatest contributions were as an educator, an experienced teacher, registrar and trainer of workers for the Lord. Reverend Elsie Apling is much loved by the Free Methodist Church people in the Philippines and by all who knew her. As the scripture says, “many shall rise up and call her blessed.”