Cyril Edwin Taylor
1940-1941 / NZBTI Diploma (Queen Street Campus)
Cyril had worked for three years as a shop assistant in the clothing trade in Christchurch and then with his father in orchard work before coming to study at the NZ Bible Training Institute (NZBTI) in 1940, at the age of 22. In a character reference for Cyril, his former employer, Mr V. Whiteside of Christchurch wrote:
I consider Cyril to be a splendid Christian evangelist. I believe he will be greatly used of God in winning souls unto Jesus our Saviour. The world is in need of such young men of his type. It will mean much material loss to him to enter into the work of the Lord, but I know God has called him to His work.
In 1943, Cyril joined the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (WEC) and left for missionary service in the Belgian Congo. At the time he left he was engaged to Joyce (Joy) Ivory, a fellow Methodist from Christchurch. A trained nurse, Joy entered BTI in mid-1944 and graduated in 1945. Joining Cyril in the Congo, the couple were married and had four children: Murray, Barry, Colleen and Pauline.
In August 1964, an uprising by rebels, the Simbas (meaning “lions”), saw horrific massacres of both locals and foreigners. A total of 30 WEC missionaries were taken hostage during this time, including the Taylors who were running a Bible school at Lowa.
The eastern flank of the guerrilla army arrested and tortured Cyril and his son Murray, including throwing them on an active anthill. The Taylor family were subsequently sent downriver and imprisoned on the “left bank” of the Congo River, opposite the city of Stanleyville. It was during the deliverance of this city by Belgian paratroopers on November 24 that the guerrillas, in anger, turned on the hostages. The following day, in retaliation for a mortar bomb attack on the prison, a guard slashed the heads of the Taylors’ two little girls Colleen and Pauline, and Joy’s head and arms. Hearing his family’s screams, Cyril rushed to their defence and dragged the threesome down to the underground basement. Shortly afterwards the guards lined up everyone in the main prison hall (except the two girls, and Joy and Mary Harrison) and machine-gunned everyone down before escaping to the forest.
The two Taylor boys, Murray and Barry, escaped by feigning death. Two days later, the paratroopers rescued the six survivors. Cyril was 46 at the time of his murder. Joy was suffering from serious bullet wounds and was hospitalised at Elizabethville. The family returned to New Zealand in December that year.
The account of what happened to the Taylor family in November 1964 is told by another WEC hostage, Helen Roseveare in Living Stones (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988), p160f.