As our global family continues to grapple with Coronavirus, lockdowns, and social distancing, I’m comforted to know I’m not the first person in my family to be quarantined: My ancestor, Marjory Windsor, was eighteen when she and the rest of her Christian school were locked in Weixian, a Japanese-run internment camp in China during World War II.
The conditions were horrid- unrefrigerated meat, clogged cesspools, no privacy, only five square feet per person, and just 23 toilets for 1,800 people. According to a book on the camp, “In order to survive, the internees knew that they all had to work together. They created kitchens and a hospital, started a library, and educated their children without desks, chairs, or a classroom and with few books.”
One of those teachers was the missionary and Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell, from Chariots of Fire. According to one source, “Liddell became a leader and organizer at the camp; but food, medicine, and other supplies were scarce. When some rich businessmen managed to smuggle in some eggs, Liddell shamed them into sharing them. While fellow missionaries formed cliques, moralized, and acted selfishly, Liddell busied himself by helping the elderly, teaching Bible classes at the camp school, arranging games, and teaching science to the children, who referred to him as Uncle Eric.”
When Marjory Windsor was quarantined with typhoid fever and nearly died, Uncle Eric risked his life to visit and comfort her in lockdown. According to Marjory’s sister (who’s still alive and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting), Uncle Eric was “extremely kind and caring to all.”
Liddell, who suffered from an inoperable brain tumor and malnourishment, wrote a letter to his wife, explaining he’d suffered a nervous breakdown due to overwork. He died later that day. A fellow prisoner wrote of the loss, “The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric’s death had left.”
We may guess that Marjory Windsor was among that number.
Liddell’s last words were “Complete surrender.”
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