Grow: Eric Liddell (Missionary May Series)
We’ve chosen the month of May to focus our grow posts on some of the heroes of the Christian faith – missionaries! I’ve decided to start off by learning some more about Eric Liddell, and teaching my boys about him too. Most of what I know about Eric I learned from watching Chariots of Fire, so I was especially interested to learn more about his missionary work in China.
|Source: Eric Liddell in the Paris Olympic Games|
Eric Liddell was born in 1902. His Scottish parents were missionaries in China, so Eric learned to speak Chinese at a young age. While at missionary boarding school, Eric excelled at all types of sports. Eventually nicknamed “the Flying Scottsman,” Eric planned to compete in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the 1924 Olympic games.
Eric’s beliefs were put to the test when he learned that the final for the 100 meter dash was to be held on a Sunday. Instead of caving in to the pressure he felt from his fellow countrymen, he chose to stick to his belief that Sunday was a day of rest and not a day for racing. Instead, he planned to participate in the 200 and 400 meter dashes. Miraculously, Eric won a gold medal in the 400 meter dash – an event he had hardly trained for – and also set a world record!
Leading up to and following his Olympic victory, Eric had many opportunities to tell others about Christ. When he spoke to people who were mainly interested in his athletic ability, Eric was quick to say that God had made him fast, and that he ran to honor God. It would seem following his unexpected victory that God had also chosen to honor Eric!
If people were surprised by Eric’s decision to forgo a race he was favored to win because it was on a Sunday, they were probably even more surprised by his next decision. Despite his celebrity status, Eric announced his intention to go back to China as a missionary. He knew that God had used him as a runner to share the gospel with many people, but he felt God’s call on his life to return to the land of his childhood.
|Source: Eric Liddell at Xiaochang, China during World War 2 where
he was crossing Japanese lines to bring aid to the Chinese.
China was a dangerous place when Eric returned. He began his work in China by teaching at a school for the children of wealthy businessmen, hoping that they would accept Christ and grow to be influential in China. Later he was asked to move to a poor mission that was trying to help people affected by the conflict with the Japanese. He married while in China, but Eric’s wife and children moved to Canada when the conflict with the Japanese esclated. Eric remained to minister in a dangerous area, doing his best to help the people. He often put himself in harm’s way to bring the sick and injured to the clinic. When all the foreigners in the area were rounded up, Eric was sent to a prison camp. Even there he continued doing God’s work – setting up church services, schools for children, sporting events, and caring for the sick. For two years Eric lived in this dirty and dangerous camp, quickly becoming one of the most respected prisoners because of his positive attitude. At age 43, Eric was unable to get up one morning. He died before anyone could help him, and it was later discovered that he had developed a brain tumor.
While it does seem sad that Eric’s life ended at such a young age, his commitment to Christ has been shared with a great number of people, especially through the film Chariots of Fire. I clearly remember when we watched this film as a family, my Dad filling in the details and answering questions as we watched together. I plan to give my boys the same experience when they are older! You know you all know the song!
We enjoyed reading Eric Liddell: Running for a Higher Prize from the Heroes for Young Readers series. This rhyming book is appropriate for young children and covers the main events in Eric’s life. Eric Liddel: Something Greater than Gold would be a good choice for older readers.
They may not remember all the details, but I think my kids got the main point I was trying to get across. Nothing was more important to Eric than God and sharing his love with others – not winning, not fame, not comfort or safety. May we have the faith to apply these lessons to our own lives as well!