Eric Liddell. Oh, Eric Liddell. Let me count thy wonderful deeds!
Okay, enough of that.
Eric Liddell is known for his racing. Albeit strange, his running style won him many a race. His formula was simple: Run as fast as you can for the first part of the race, and ask God to help you run faster the second part.
Eric’s decision to forgo a race that was held on Sunday was quite shocking to his countrymen. He chose not to race in the event he was favored in, thus giving up a chance at a “sure” gold medal.
Eric ended up winning a gold in the event he was the given the least chance in. He was held in great regard by many who had disowned him after he had “dishonored his country”. And many of the others had stuck by Eric through the whole escapade.
After Eric’s success at the games in Paris, he decided to go back to China, where he had been born as a missionary child.
He returned to his birthplace, and started to help his parents do missionary stuff. One funny thing is that the head of the Anglo-Chinese School insisted that Eric and his family live in the French concession, in a huge house. Eric was, in fact, a British hero.
Eric begin his work as a teacher at a high end school. The founder of the school started it because he realized the need for mission work to the rich. He saw the poor being helped, but not the rich. I personally thought this was pretty ingenious. You don’t throw your net over someone else’s net. (See “I don’t understand fishing metaphors!” Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs)
Anyway, after a while Eric married a Canadian doctor, who wanted to be a missionary to China. Her name was Florence.
Then they had two girls in quick succession. Patricia and Maureen.
After five years or so, Eric was asked to help in a town that was in a war zone. China was still in the middle of the Sino-Japanese war. (If you say, “Huh?” you’re not alone. The Sino-Japanese war is also called the Forgotten War.)
He prayed about it and decided that he would go and help the town. He was quickly enrolled as a nurse’s assistant, and quickly became busy.
He became proficient in first aid, and was able to treat minor injuries, and the like. He would also travel to neighboring towns in order to help others have access to the hospital. (It was the only one for miles, and the Japanese had confiscated most vehicle, carts, etc.)
There was one time in which he was to retrieve a man who had been slashed across the face and neck, nearly decapitated, by a Japanese soldier. Eric and a man who had come along with him, rode the man back to the hospital on Eric’s bike. Along the way, Eric’s convoy was shot at by some Chinese men who thought they were Japanese.
Eric realized then that they were in a real war zone. Riding a bike could get you killed, albeit a case of mistaken identity.
After a bit of serving in the towns, Eric was granted permission to return to the English concession, and continue working at the school as a teacher. He lived there with his wife and daughters, and then they went back home on the basis that it was too dangerous for a wife and children in China. The Japanese had already regulated travel out side of the concessions, and Eric knew it was time for them to return.
It wasn’t quite time for his furlough, so he stayed it out, but then was restricted from returning by the Japanese. They said that the foreigners would be aloud to return to their homes, as soon as they were notified.
But the foreigners were soon notified otherwise. The Japanese had decided to put them in an interment camp.
It was run so as to keep the Europeans happy, but it wasn’t perfect. They had to fix the sewage system, and there wasn’t a lot of space. only about a football field’s worth for a few thousand people.
Through it all, Eric led the discombobulated upper class through the hardships. Many of the interns were not used to the hard living as Eric was. In many of the small towns in China, he had slept on wood floors. Hay was a luxury.
Eric was always smiling, and organizing games, classes, and youth group activities.
Eric died in the internment camp of a brain tumor. He was 43, and the only consolation for his wife, was that there was no cure for a brain tumor in 1945, and she knew it.
In all of the written accounts of the internment, there is a reference to Eric, or Uncle Eric, as many of Eric’s little friends called him.
Many remembered him as “constantly smiling”, or “The best christian man I knew.” There are countless other accounts with similar praise, as Eric was truly filled with God’s love, and he showed it in every action.
Eric Liddell was remembered in Scotland, his native land, by an award, that went to the first place racer in the top collegiate competition.
He is, and should be, remembered by all, as a man who truly loved God.
He gave his life to him, all 43 years of it. That’s pretty special 🙂