May 13, 1928 – January 28, 2015
Robert was born into a pastor’s home to Oliver and Rachel Haslam, former FM missionaries to Japan. A religion major, Bob graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 1950 and went on to earn a Master’s of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1954. While at Asbury, Bob met Frances Todd. They were married in 1953.
After seminary, Bob was ordained in the Southern Michigan Conference. The Haslams spent several years in pastoral ministry at two Michigan churches, Temperance and Bangor. During a missionary presentation of FM work in the Philippines, the Haslams felt drawn to the Philippines.
Bob and Fran applied to Free Methodist World Missions and were appointed. The family, including children Dan and Karis, arrived in the Philippines just before Christmas 1960. Although Bob and Fran were anxious to get involved in training workers, they spent their first year of service 200 miles away from Butuan City in language study. Bob described this time as “very hard work, but we rejoice with every word, sentence and rule of grammar learned, as it brings us that much closer to our goal of presenting Christ through the medium of this language.”
A year later when the Haslam family finally moved back to Butuan, they were thrilled to train young Filipinos for service at Light and Life Bible College. Bob taught theology and led field work projects that included jail evangelism, home Bible studies and student teaching. He was impressed that students were as eager to serve as they were to learn in the classroom. Beginning in 1962 Bob added the administrative role of principal to his duties. In this position he planned daily chapels, directed the scholarship program, and handled promotion, as well as established the advisory board which would evolve into a board of directors.
In 1962 a flood that lasted a little more than six weeks – the deepest and longest flood in the history of that part of Mindanao – hit the island. The Haslams traveled by boat to the market, to ferry students back and forth to classes and to attend church. “Without the boat, we would have been really stuck,” Bob wrote.
Bob had the opportunity to serve as chairman of the Board of Ministerial Training in 1964. He worked closely with several conference workers to fulfill their education requirements for licensing as conference evangelists. Bob prepared study courses and outlined areas of collateral reading. “It was a thrill to see more than a dozen persons making real progress in these areas during this past year,” he wrote.
The Haslams returned to the U.S. in May 1964 and spent one year in full-time deputation. They were unable to return to the Philippines because of their children’s health.
Bob then took on a key role in the Free Methodist missions department, serving under several titles and fulfilling various responsibilities. Under Bob’s leadership, new concepts and new programs were initiated to assist local churches in planning a missions strategy. These initiatives included Missions Education Seminars and resource development for local pastors and lay leaders. Whatever Bob did, he did with enthusiasm and creativity. He traveled to nearly 20 countries and led mission tour groups to Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Bob left FMWM in 1979 to serve as Director of Communications and Church Relations for World Relief. He returned to FMWM for a short time, then went on to serve as Assistant Vice-President for Institutional Advancement at Spring Arbor University. In 1986 Bob accepted the Free Methodist denominational role of editor of Light & Life Magazine, a position he held until his retirement in 1996.
Bob’s Colleagues Write
Missionary colleague David Yardy writes, “Bob Haslam could be credited for framing Light and Life Bible College on a sound foundation. Virtually all pastors of the Philippines Free Methodist Church are graduates of the college. When Bob and Frances went in 1960, the FMC in the Philippines would have been about 1,000 members. Today it has more than 25,000 members.”
Recently elected Philippine Bishop Alan Bacus writes on behalf of the Light and Life Bible College family: “Pastor Bob leaves a legacy of love and commitment to the expansion of God’s kingdom here on earth. He has touched and inspired the lives of students in training who were called to be pastors during that time. The church and the training institution became what it is now because of the lives of the pioneers … and Pastor Bob is one of them. We thank God for him.”
“Bob was a good friend,” recalls colleague Henry Church. “When Bob left the missions office to work for another organization, I took his job. He had the office well organized, making for a very smooth transition. When I left in 1981 to return to Africa, he took over his old job from me. We were great friends and worked together in a wonderful spirit of cooperation.
“Bob was noted for his terrible puns. They just seemed to flow out of him naturally, without effort. I had been in correspondence recently, and he had not changed.”
Carol (Watson) Ogden, retired missionary to Africa, remembers, “Bob’s wonderful humor endeared him to everyone. He was so personable and easy to talk with. I was hired to work in church relations while finishing my second year of VISA ministry in Japan. Bob Haslam was to be my boss. By the time I got to Winona Lake some months later, he had left to take another position! Then two years later when he returned to church relations, it so happens that I was leaving. So I never did actually work on his team, but he and Fran remained lifetime friends.”
John Van Valin, former denominational publisher, believes Bob faithfully fulfilled his mission as editor of the award-wining Light and Life Magazine: “The loyalty of his readers and his staff stood as a testament to his love for people and his abiding desire to help everyone grow in Christ. A loyal churchman and a theologically trained writer, Bob exercised his pen in helpful reporting of encouraging church news and also as a truly loving critic, never fearing to call the church to account on issues of orthodoxy or practice. His writing, plus the choice of others’ articles, faithfully brought cohesiveness and nourishment to readers within and beyond the Free Methodist Church.”
Former missionary to the Philippines, Jerry Van Kuiken, writes, “When we arrived in Butuan City, the Haslams were back on the home front serving at the Free Methodist headquarters. However, one could not go far without running into the work they left behind. We taught at Light and Life Bible College, and almost all of the courses were originally put together by Bob. His work was detailed and thorough.
“Whenever we returned to the U.S. for furlough, we would visit the Haslams. They were gracious hosts. They never lost their zeal for missions. They were gifted at encouraging missionaries, and always willing to offer whatever help they could.
“The Haslams had left many close Filipino friends behind, and they wanted to learn about their friends when we stopped to see them. They loved to hear of the growth of the Bible College and the spiritual growth that was taking place.
“Bob’s warm friendship and prayer support will be missed.”