Pressed, Shaken and Running Over

With all that’s been going on the last few weeks, it’s amazing that I’ve had the time to read a book, but I think it’s been therapeutic. Especially the one I just finished; it’s called, “In Japan, the Crickets Cry”, and it was written by a friend and fellow missionary, Stephen Metcalf. If I could pull out the “takeaway” from the book in one sentence, it would simply be this: “Stuff happens to us all, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t there”. “Crickets Cry” is the story of three men. Two of them we had the privilege of working with in Japan, and all three are very definitely “Heroes of the Faith”.  Their names were Steve Metcalf (the author), Eric Liddell and David Hayman.  Steve and Eric were incarcerated together in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China. David came along much later in Japan as a friend and collaborator. All three of these men are now in Glory.

Steve was a school boy of missionary parents, living and working in the remote town of Taku, deep in the mountains of China. His grandfather had gone there in 1906, and two generations later, Steve was born.  According to missionary policy, children of school age were sent to boarding school; so in 1934, 6-year-old Steve said goodbye to his village friends and was taken 2000 miles (and a week’s journey) from his home to a mission school in the city of Chefoo. There, he joined his older sister, who had been there a couple of years already.

Three short years later, the Japanese invaded, took over the school and ‘captured’ all the inhabitants, about 120 in all.  Many nearby expatriates were added, increasing the number to over 400.

At the beginning, things hardly changed, and the Japanese were considerate and polite, allowing them to hold school and worship as usual. But then, as the war drug on, things became more like a prison. The Japanese began to restrict activities and enforced the rules with increasing brutality.  Provisions began to run low, and life became more and more intolerable.

By1945, Steve was about 16 and was doing his best to keep morale high amongst his fellow prisoners, especially in the area of their faith in God. One day an older man named Eric approached him and said, “I hear you’re one of the youth leaders, and also a runner. But I’ve also noticed that you’re running barefoot.  If you can use them, I’ve got an old pair of sneakers you can have.” The two became friends. Eric led a Bible study, and Steve came along.

If you’ve figured it out by now, Eric was Eric Liddell, the great Scottish runner who swept the 1924 Olympics. He was known back home as “The Flying Scotsman”.  If you saw the movie, “Chariots of Fire”, you’ll remember how he refused to run his allotted 100-meter race because it was to be held on a Sunday. After much discussion, including a face-to-face encounter with the Prince of Wales, Eric was switched to the more grueling 400-meter race. He won it handily, but I don’t want to give any more spoiler alerts. It’s a great movie.

One part I remember especially is the “argument” Eric had with his sister, who felt that he should be more serious about his commitment to ministry, as opposed to doing sports. He said, “When God made me, He made me fast; and when I run, I feel His pleasure”.

It was not only in the sports arena that Eric’s faith was challenged. During the war, he kept insisting, “You must pray for the Japanese. When you hate, you are self-centered.  When you pray, you are God centered”.

Eric Lyddell died in the prison camp at the age of 43, a victim not of Japanese brutality but of a brain tumor. Fortunately his wife and three daughters had been sent back to Scotland a few years before, so they were safe, but it was sad that he was without them.

Eventually, Steve Metcalf was released, had a brief reunion with his parents (they had been separated for seven long years), and then taking to heart the words of his friend Eric, he returned to Japan as a missionary, along with David Hayman, who had also gone to Japan from Australia.  Tony and I were so blessed to know both of these men in their later years.  When asked to speak about Eric Liddell at a memorial service, Steve said, “Eric gave me two things for which I will always be grateful: his shoes, and the understanding that there is great power in forgiveness”.

Words to live by, don’t you think? Let me leave you with some precious words from Jesus, taken from Luke 6:37-38, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”

Have a blessed week,

Marsha

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