As I conclude, I want to take you back to the setting of Weihsien Camp in 1945. In the cold North China winter afternoon I was with a small group of school chums outside the dilapidated camp hospital. We saw Eric, bundled up warmly, walking under the bare trees beside the place where he had taught us to play rounders.

He stopped to talk with us and smiled. As he spoke, we knew nothing of the pain he was concealing, and he knew nothing of the brain tumour that was to take his life around 9:30 the next morning, February 21, 1945. At the young age of 43 he reached the tape in his final race on earth.

         In his final days the Salvation Army had played his favourite hymn, bringing him comfort, just like he had brought to the mother of one of our schoolmates who had been electrocuted on the roll-call field:


Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul, thy best, thy heavenly Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Katharina Von Schlegel


         The snow was falling gently as Eric Liddell died, a soul serene amidst the sorrows and sufferings of the war that was to end six months later. His last word was "surrender." It was complete surrender.


         His life exemplified the words penned by Dr. Hugh Hubbard of the Camp Discipline Committee:


Weihsien - the test. Whether man's happiness depends on what he has or what he is; on outer circumstance or inner heart; on life's experiences good or bad - or on what he makes out of the materials those experiences provide.

Courtyard of the Happy Way


Eric stated the same truth in his own words:


         Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God's love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love.

Disciplines of the Christian Life


         The shock of Eric Liddell's death rocked the camp. He was our hero and seemed invincible. We all missed him, and so did the Roman Catholic sisters in our building, who also mourned his loss. He had risked his life some months earlier by going into the morgue to comfort Sister Reginald Hary and one of our Chefoo girls, both gravely ill with typhoid fever.

         Many fellow-missionaries and other camp leaders spoke at Eric's funeral service. Our school was part of the honour guard as his body was carried in a makeshift coffin to the little cemetery in the Japanese quarters. A simple wooden cross with Eric H. Liddell painted on it in shoe blacking, was placed upon the humble mound of earth.

         The next day Marcy Ditmanson spoke with the guards at the roll-call time and they expressed their sympathy at Eric's passing. He told one of the guards, Morimoto, a number of significant things about Eric - the fact that he was an Olympic gold medallist, a contestant in races in America, Europe and Asia, that his family were in Canada, and that he had never seen his youngest daughter. Morimoto stood silent for a moment and then said, "Liddell-san was a Christian, wasn't he?"

         Not until early May did Florence get the news in Toronto. Patricia had arrived home from school excited. She had come first in a race. Bursting into the house, she saw Heather crying at her mother's lap. How could their father be dead when they were waiting all this time for him to come home, the children grieved. But Eric was not gone, simply gone on ahead -- a runner and a forerunner.

         "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (Proverbs 4:18).

         Throughout these nearly fifty years we have remembered Eric Liddell. We pay tribute to him today, ninety years since the year of his birth, for his sporting prowess; for his love for young people, Scotland and China; for his life as a teacher and a humanitarian; and for the muscular Christianity that characterized his life as an athlete and missionary to the very end.