Profile In Faith: Eric Liddell - page 6

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From the Summer 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Eric Liddell: Muscular Disciple and Olympic Champion

by Joel S. Woodruff Ed.D.
Vice President of Discipleship & Outreach, C.S. Lewis Institute


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   During the next three years, Eric risked life and limb, apart from his family, to share the good news of Christ in poor villages, ravaged by the effects of war. He slept on dirt floors, ate whatever the villagers were eating, and traveled by bike with an interpreter from town to town. On one occasion, he learned of a wounded Chinese soldier lying in a Buddhist temple twenty miles away. He rode his bike the distance, made a makeshift cart, and, with the help of a soldier who had barely escaped execution by the Japanese, got the injured man to a hospital. During this time the Chinese gave him the name that had been given to his father many years ago, Li Mu Shi, which meant “Pastor Liddell.”
  As life became even more dangerous in China in 1941, Eric sent his pregnant wife and two children to Canada to live with his in-laws. Eric, however, felt called to continue his work as an evangelist.

Japanese Internment Camp

  In 1943, just as Eric was beginning to feel that it was time for him to leave China to be with his family, the Japanese moved into his province and took over the mission station. He was sent, along with two thousand other men, women, and children of foreign descent, to the Weihsien Japanese internment camp. Liddell quickly became a leader in the camp and the favorite of the youth, who called him “Uncle Eric.” Despite his previous stance of not playing sports on Sunday, he initiated all kinds of activities and sports for the youth in the camp on Sundays as well as other days of the week to keep them out of trouble. He also taught science, math, and led Bible studies. After nearly two years in the camp, Eric’s health declined rapidly. He died on February 21, 1945. An autopsy revealed that he had died of a brain tumor.
  It was discovered in 2008, when certain documents were released to the public, that Winston Churchill had negotiated his release from the camp via a prisoner exchange. When learning of the deal, however, Liddell responded by sending a pregnant woman home in his place.
  Langdon Gilkey, a young teacher in the camp, who later became an American theologian, said of Liddell,

It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known. Often in an evening . . . I would see Eric bent over a chessboard or a model boat, or directing some sort of square dance—absorbed, warm, and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the minds and imaginations of these penned-up youths. . . . In camp he was in his middle forties, lithe and springy of step and, above all, overflowing with good humor and love of life. . . . The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric’s death had left.13

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