Li-Mu-Shi – Pastor Liddell
Siao Chang December 1938
Dear Family, t am writing this after an eventful few days. Last Sunday we had planned to hold a big baptismal service for several nearby villages but, already the day before. we heard heavy gunfire in the distance and by breakfast time a scouting plane was circling overhead. so many from the outlying villages didn’t turn up, rightly fearing that an attack was about to start. As 1 addressed those receiving baptism two shells exploded outside with a terrific noise and there was silence for a moment before we were able to continue. I don’t think any who were baptised that day will easily forget what happened. No one left after the service was over, so we just continued with hymns and witness to keep up our spirits. As there were no opposition forces here, truckloads of Japanese soldiers soon hurtled through the village gates and they searched every building in the place. Though they came into the church they left without causing any real damage, but in the evening, when everyone had gone home and was too frightened to come to evening service, the church door opened and in came the man who used to be the local opium-addict, thanking and praising God. It seems that, having reached a living faith in Christ, he had then been arrested on a trumped-up charge but, unlike many others. he had been acquitted. Hurrying home he had come to church straight away to give thanks for his deliverance, unaware of the terror we had all known earlier in the day. Feeling I had been given a congregation. I got on with the service!
How God shows us his goodness in the most unexpected ways! Do you remember that young college football captain in Tientsin who was so irritable and unruly but, as I had never believed possible, in the end was actually one of the 49 boys baptised last May? And earlier in the year at the finals of the North China Championships in Tientsin – one of the finest sports we have had as regards records, – many points were brought up which needed tact and quick decisions and I was very conscious throughout of God’s power to help in the clarity of thinking. It was like the 400 metres in the Paris Olympics – now amazingly 14 years ago -running the first 200 metres as hard as I could and then, with God’s help, running the second 200 metres even harder. I wonder where all those other athletes are now – Harold Abrahams and Guy Butler, and old Tom McKerchar my trainer?
Not that I wouldn’t give a lot for a road surface here like those running tracks. Often now when I’m cycling from village to village, what with the frozen ground and the ruts. I have great difficulty in staying on the bicycle and I’ve a splendid collection of bruises. Nearly everyone is afraid to speak to me in public, but going into their homes. telling them how so many others are in a similar situation, and getting them to sing hymns, has a wonderfully restorative effect – especially when I sing in English – which makes everyone roar with laughter, even though they don’t have much to be cheerful about. Gone are the happy, smiling communities I used to know, where the builders worked in harmony because they were singing and where the annual arrival of the travelling theatre gave us missionaries a chance in the intervals to tell people about Jesus, who can give them the joy that will always be with them. Now, with so many homes vandalised by visiting troops, most people are living crowded together, hungry and prey to disease. At least since the National government outlawed footbinding the women and girls are spared that agonising pain and deformity, but in places where Jesus is scarcely known you find next to nothing is done to help the weak and distressed. especially children and, more especially girls. Do you remember that little girl. frostbitten as the result of neglect, whose feet had to be taken off, though with care she did grow well and strong? Well. I founf out quite recently that she married and that her children taught how love can help and heal. We must never forget that Jesus means us to pass on to others His love in deeds of kind thought. remembering that what is done for one of His little ones is done for Him.
I don’t know if there are any more copies of my book for Sunday school teachers – The Sermon on the Mount – left in Tientsin. If so I’ll bring some back the next time I come. There are one or two potential teachers here who might find it useful. It makes me feel less strange when I hear people giving me father’s old title – Li-Mu-Shi – Pastor Liddell – if lam doing something positive to help them. And certainly the way they respond to hearing about Jesus is encouraging – even aming the Japanese! Not long ago I was stopped by a Japanese soldier who. on seeing my Bible. asked if I was a Christian. I replied that yes. I was. and he shook me warmly by the hand and let me go. I assure you I sent up an immediate prayer of thankfulness – and heaved a great sigh of relief!
But goodness knows where it will all end. What with the Japanese. local warlords and increasingly poor living conditions the situation here is growing worse each day. I wonder what has gone wrong with the world…