－譯者 曲拯民 謹識
A Song of Salvation at Weihsien Prison Camp
Mary Taylor Previte
They were spilling from the guts of the low-flying plane, dangling from parachutes that looked like giant silk poppies, dropping into the fields outside the concentration camp. The Americans had come.
It was August 1945. “ Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center ,” the Japanese called our concentration camp in China . I was 12 years old. For the past three years, my sister, two brothers and I had been captives of the Japanese. For 5 1/2 years we had been separated from our parents by warring armies.
But now the Americans were spilling from the skies.
I raced for the forbidden gates, which were now awash with cheering, weeping, disbelieving prisoners, surging beyond those barrier walls into the open fields. Americans, British, men, women, children—dressed in proud patches and emaciated by hunger—we made a mad welcoming committee. Our Japanese guards put down their guns and let us go. The war was over.
Kathleen, Jamie, Johnny and I were the children of Free Methodist missionaries. We and all our classmates and teachers had been taken prisoner in the early years of World War II when Japanese soldiers commandeered our boarding school in Chefoo, on the east coast of China . As the Japanese army advanced, my parents, James and Alice Taylor, escaped to China's vast Northwest, where, for the remainder of the war, they continued their missionary work.
Before the war came, the fabled land of my childhood was a country of acient Buddhas, gentle temple bells and simple peasants harnessed to their plows. But across the China Sea , a clique of militarists was rising to power in Japan and pushing for expansion. They wanted “ Asia for the Asians,” with China , Manchuria and Japan cooperating under Japan's leadership.
They struck first in 1931 with an “incident” in Manchuria , and within six months they controlled it under a puppet government. Next, Japan started nibbling at China , eating her, as Churchill said, “like an artichoke, leaf by leaf.” No Allied power was willing to use military force to stop the takeover.
As the Japanese continued to eat away at China , Dad and Mother were finding it increasingly difficult to continue their work in the Henan province in central China . The Japanese soldiers were cocky. When you pass through the city gate, you dismount and bow to us—that was the order. Twice, when Mother hadn't dismounted fast enough from her bicycle, soldiers struck her across the head with a stick.
So Dad and Mother took Johnny and me and headed for a breather in Chefoo, where the two older children, Kathleen and Jamie, were already enroller in school.
The Chefoo School was, more than anything else, a British school. Its purpose was to serve the many children of Protestant missionaries in a vast, foreign continent—to be a tiny outpost where we could learn English and get a Western-style education. The original school had been 10 rooms and an outhouse, but by our time it had grown into a modern campus, a schoolmaster's dream, just a few steps off the beach.
When the Japanese army arrived in Chefoo, Latin master Gordon Martin was teaching a Latin noun to the Forth Form. “So,” he said softly, “here are our new rulers.”
Wearing steel helmets, bemedaled khaki uniforms, highly polished knee-high boots, and carrying bayonets, Japanese soldiers took up duty on the road in front of the school. Swords swaggered at their waists.
From an aircraft carrier in the harbor, a plane dropped leaflets in Chinese explaining “The New Order in East Asia .”
The Japanese Army is coming soon to protect Japanese civilians living in China . The Japanese Army is an army of strict discipline, protecting good citizens. Civil servants must seek to maintain peace and order. Members of the community must live together peacefully and happily. With the return of Japanese businessmen to China , the business will proper once more. Every house must fly a Japanese flag to welcome the Japanese.
--Japanese Army Headquarters
There was no effective resistance. The New Order in Asia had arrived.
It was the schoolteacher in her, I think, but Mother believed in learning things “by heart.” And with so much turmoil around us—war, starvation, anxiety, distrust—she was determined to fill us with faith and trust in God's promises. The best way to do this, she decided, was to put the Psalms to music and sing them with us every day. So with Japanese gunboats in the harbor in front of our house, and with guerrillas limping along Mule Road behind us, bloodied from their nighttime skirmishes with the invaders, we sang Mother's music from Psalm 91 at our family worship each morning:
“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust…
“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror bu night…
“A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but…He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways…”
Our little choir soared with the music—“to keep thee in all thy ways…Thou shalt not be afraid…”
We children had also sat wide-eyed in Sunday school, listening to spine-tingling stories of such pioneer missionaries as David Livingston in Africa , John G. Paton in the New Hebrides , and J. Hudson Taylor in China .
Hudson Taylor was my great-grandfather. At 21, he decided to give up his medical studies in England to pursue a dream—to take the Christian faith to every province of China . He sailed to China in 1853, and it was he who founded the Chefoo School in 1881.
He did not believe in public pleas for money or elaborate recruiting drives. He believed in God—and miraculous results.
“We do not expect God to send three million missionaries to China ,” Hudson Taylor had said, “but if He did, He would have ample means to sustain them all.” Hudson Taylor founder the China Inland Mission, and God sent a thousand missionaries—and money to support them.
We Taylor children grew up on that kind of faith. Our father was the third generation of tailors preaching in China . It seemed only natural to us when, in early 1940, Mother and Dad left us at the Chefoo School and returned far into China to continue their work. After all, it was China's war, Japan's war. England and America were neutral.
I was 7 years old at the time. My brother Johnny was 6.
On the morning of Dec. 8, 1941 , we awoke to find Japanese soldiers stationed at every gate of our school. They had posted notices on the entrances: Under the control of the Naval Forces of Great Japan . Their Shinto priests took over our ballfield and performed some kind of rite and—just like that!—the whole school belonged to the Emperor.
There was reason enough for panic. The breakfast-time radio reported the American fleet in flames at Pearl Harbor and two British battleships sunk off the coast of Malaya . When we opened the school doors, Japanese soldiers with fixed bayonets blocked the entrance. Our headmaster was locked in solitary confinement.
Throughout the month, Mr. Martin, the Latin master, had been preparing a puppet show for the school's Christmas program, and as far as he was concerned the war was not going to stop Christmas. Mr. Martin was like that. With his puppet dancing from its strings, he went walking about the compound, in and out among the children and Japanese sentries.
And the Japanese laughed. They were human! The tension among the children eased after that, for who could be truly terrified of a sentry who could laugh at a puppet?
But with the anarchy of war, the Chinese beyond our gates were starving. Thieves often invaded the school compound at night, and, to our teachers' horror, one morning we came downstairs to find that all the girls' best overcoats had been stolen. After that, the schoolmasters took turns patrolling the grounds after dark, and our prep school principal, Miss Ailsa Carr, and another teacher, Miss Beatrice Stark started sleeping with hockey sticks next to their beds.
* * *
Meanwhile, in Fenghsiang, 700 miles away in northwest China , a Bible school student interrupted a faculty meeting and pushed a newspaper into my mother's hands. Giant Chinese characters screamed the headlines: Pearl Harbor attacked! U.S. enters war!
Mother was stunned. America at war! She had visions of the Japanese war machine gobbling her children—of Kathleen, Jamie, Mary and Johnny in the clutches of the advancing armies. She knew the stories of Japanese soldiers ravishing the women and girls during the Japanese march on Nanking . Numb with shock, she stumbled to the bedroom next door and fell across the bed. Wave after wave of her sobs shock the bed.
Then—it might have been a dream—she heard the voice of Pat Ferguson, her minister back in Wilkes-Barre , Pa. , speaking to her as he had when she was a teenager, saying. “ Alice , if you look after the things that are dear to God, He will look after the things that are dear to you.”
In later years, she told the story a hundred times.
“Peace settled around me,” she said. “The terror was gone. We had an agreement, God and I: I would look after the things that were dear to God, and He would look after the things that were dear to me. I could rest on that promise.”
In the years to come, she said, as Japanese bombs fell around them and as armies marched and mail trickled almost to nothing, “I knew that God had children sheltered in His hand.”（to be continued...）