Friday, January 9, 2009

A New Hero: Eric Liddell

I’ve heard of Eric Liddell and “Chariots of Fire” but about all I’ve ever known of it is that Liddell was a Christian who was a runner. I’ve never seen the movie.

I just finished reading an article in the Mission Frontiers magazine called “The Flying Man” about Eric Liddell and his story. I am a new fan of Liddell who shares two of my passions: missions and running. While I am in no way a good runner like Liddell, I found several things about his life very interesting!

-He was a 1924 Olympic champion
-the 1981 movie “Chariots of Fire” which introduced the world to Liddell won four Academy Awards and is famous all around the world (especially in China)
-Liddell struggled with whether or not his running interfered with his ministry (he didn’t think so, others did) I can relate to this!
-He once declined to participate in a heat that took place on a Sunday (because it went against his Presbyterian conviction about the Sabbath)
-He set a world record time for the 400-yard dash, saying “the secret of my success in the 400m is that I run the first 200m as fast as I can. Then, for the last 200m with God’s help I run faster.” (Sound like good advice for an ultra-marathon too!)
-Liddell was born in 1902 in China as his parents were Presbyterian missionaries. He went to the U.K. at age six to go to school and later became a runner
-after the 24 Olympics he was the equivalents of Michael Phelps today in fame, but announced that he would return to China following the footsteps of his father and older brother
-Liddell decided to stay in China even after all foreign nationals were advised to leave during the Japanese Invasion so he sent his pregnant wife and two daughters to China (never to see them again)
-he ended up in an internment camp where he continued his faithful ministry (even teaching the fellow prisoners not to hate their captors but to love them and pray for them)
-an opportunity came for Liddell to be released in a POW exchange negotiated by Winston Churchill but he refused to be exchanged, instead giving up his place to pregnant woman
-he died in the camp on February 21, 1945 (only 5 months before liberation) due to a brain tumor, exhaustion and malnourishment
-at his death he was greatly honored and mourned both in the camp and in Scotland
-Liddell’s life and legacy has even been honored by the modern Chinese government

Liddell’s story is to be portrayed in a major motion picture to be called “The Flying Man” which will come out sometime late 2009 or early 2010. Liddell is one of my new heroes because in addition to being such an excellent runner, he demonstrated sacrificial love for the Chinese people in a way that is challenging and compelling even today!