By Derek Elles
Since the Olympics begin this week, I thought it appropriate to honor a particular missionary
Eric Liddell (1902-1945), was born in China, was a British Olympic Gold Medalist runner, Scottish rugby player, and later became a Christian missionary. Although Eric was a successful athlete, he did not let fame divert him from his calling to preach the Gospel in his home country of China.
As the child of missionary parents, he attended boarding school near London and afterwards attended the University of Edinburgh. Eric’s athletic drive and ability earned him the nickname “Flying Scotsman” and motivated him to trained for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. As a devout Christian, Liddell refused to run in his favored 100-meter race because it was held on a Sunday and chose to compete in the 400-meter race held on a weekday, where he won a gold medal. Staying true to his calling, Eric returned to China in 1925 like his parents where he ministered to many young Chinese leading them to Christ.
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China underwent civil unrest from 1937 to 1945 as well as invasion by the Japanese. During World War II, Eric was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese and put in an internment camp where he eventually died 5 months before liberation as a result of an inoperable brain tumor in 1945. He became a leader and organizer at the camp helping the elderly and teaching Bible lessons in the camp school. The entire camp mourned several days over Eric’s death which left a vacuum in the lives and hearts of the people he spent his life serving. According to a fellow missionary, Eric’s final words were “It’s complete surrender” as he was discussing a book he wrote regarding surrender to the Lord’s will.
Liddell’s Olympic training, racing, and religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the 1981, Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire. More can be read about Liddell’s life in the following books:
- For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton
- Eric Liddell by Catherine Swift
- Complete Surrender: A Biography of Eric Liddell by Julian Wilson
- Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
Until next week. Blessings in Yahweh’s grace, mercy, and peace.