Cecil Barrett's Internment during WW2
In 1937 Sam Lang and I went to Japan. That nation is a country very few people know anything about--a land of 72 million people, a little larger than New Zealand and all their homes can be put in an area about the size of Southland. They don't have the privilege we have, and they don't have God in their lives. They have gods, yes, many of them, thousands of them. The Emperor is their God for he is the center of their nation and to them he is Divine.
While I was in Japan, many of you used to write to me. Sometimes we spell a word wrong. I know I do. And we have 26 letters whereby we spell a word in our language. Sometimes we leave a letter out, and sometimes we put in one too many. But, nevertheless, being our own language, we understand what is meant. But they have 50,000 characters, and if you write to someone and leave a character out, or put in one too many, they don't know what is meant and they don't attempt to find out. They don't do any thinking for themselves. You have to be correct or else they don't attempt to write. It is just the same in speech. And with all the blunders I used to make, I just got into some nasty predicaments. They will not think for you at all--they don't even go half-way unless you say it correctly and in the manner in which they are used to hearing it. Otherwise, they don't know what you said and don't attempt to know it. They just sit and look at you blankly. It was to these people Sam and I went. Upon arriving there we hired a little house, not much bigger than15 feet. Sam had already been in Japan and knew the language fairly well. But I didn't know a word of it, so I had to go to school every day and begin to learn over again how to speak. Yes, they teach you baby language first and right through the grades up. If you don't get the fundamentals you have great difficulty in expressing yourself. The teachers are very thorough. They start off with encouraging you that a foreigner takes twenty years to learn the language! Well, you feel you are there in the country, so you might as well begin. Two hours each day (except Sunday) and as many hours as you can crowd in at home, you study. In the district where we lived, it was very crowded, so you could touch your neighbors by just putting out your hand. The children got very friendly with us, and though I couldn't talk with them, Sam did. And when I came home from school, I used to use a few words I had learned on those little innocents. Sometimes they would tell me, "Whatever you learned at school isn't Japanese." You feel very discouraged, but you stick it out anyway, and they are not ashamed to help you out. One thing I can say, if you want help, go to children. They were not satisfied with just telling me. But they would tell me a thousand times and then they would take the place of the teacher and say, "Now you do it." You have to learn the language because you cannot reach the people in any other way. Because they don't know English, you try to learn their language, and reasonably quick.
Little by little as time went on, we got acquainted with several very nice people. And as I say, we took the Gospel to that country, one of the "all" nations, and strove by our lives to show a little of what we believed and valued most in life. In living amongst them as we did, we felt that Christians ought to live anywhere and be an example. It was the thing that impressed me much. Because when the white man goes abroad, he lives in such a different style to the people of the country he goes to. And they had never seen in that land, at any rate, white men living among them. There were men who went there on business and were engaged by the Embassy and so on, living in "compounds," separated from the others, living more or less as they would in their own country--in style and luxury. They had never seen a white man living among them as they lived, and it spoke to them very much. It enabled them, although we were not very fluent with the language, nor over-confident in ourselves, to have confidence in us and enabled them to approach and talk to us and question us. Because of their interest in us, which was sincere, we told them the reason we were there and what we were hoping to do. These common people thought it a wonderful privilege that they had the opportunity of talking to us and knowing a little of what we believed and lived for.
It is not as quick as that, or as I have said. There are many walks of life in Japan. The ordinary people are engaged in different occupations, but their living is so different from ours. You people here are used to the 40-hour week and the five-day week with the union rates of pay and provision for old age, sickness, or accidents at your work. There is no 40-hour week there. It is as long as you can physically stand it, and it is almost 16 hours a day you would work. This is Sunday, too, and 365 day per year. Sometimes a holiday comes. Any average man's wage there would be equivalent to three and half pounds a month here. Yet they raise a family of six, meeting the expense of the home. How they do it and have a little extra to spend, I don't know.
It would do any of us good, I believe, at certain stages of our life, to see such conditions as they live under. It would broaden our minds and enable us to realize things and make us quit grumbling about the petty things we do. These people don't know what liberty is and have not done so for many years. Their whole life is regulated for them from the cradle to the grave. Yes, even their thinking is done for them in essential things. All they have to do is fit in and fill their place. They are just ground down--no individuality left there. They cannot live as they choose, nor raise their families as they choose, nor have any liberty at all in that respect.
That was the condition that prevailed when we went there in 1937. But as I say, living among those people and seeking to be an example to them and a help, we aroused an interest in the district in which we lived, and people came to hear us. We had hardly what you would term meetings there, but they gathered at the home from time to time and we would have a talk with them. I told you the Emperor is the center and power of that country, and so if you preach there, you would be told politely to leave the country by the authorities (not the common people). You dare not, that is if you want the privilege to remain, announce meetings. You try to be a little diplomatic in your approach to people.
Now how would you approach people and begin a subject about which nothing is known--that is, the subject of God? First you must convince people that He is. How would you begin? Tell them that He is--preach to them all about Him? You wouldn't convince them very much. Well, we used these things God has set in the Heavens and Earth that even the unthinking man when looking upon them is convinced that there is a power that has created these things, and which holds them even tonight. We endeavoured along the lines of natural history, and the races of the earth, and the bodies in the heavens. In this way, we brought the people's minds to the place where they began to think, "What is the power which has created and kept those things in order until tonight?"
We put a very searching question to them, "Do you think it would be man" They said, "No."
"Well, who do you think it would be? Someone high in the land?" We inferred the Emperor, but not in those words, but they knew what we meant. "Well, who then?" Now we had gotten them thinking and that is the thing they don't often do. How we should rejoice in the liberty we have in thought!
They finally answered, "It must be a power we do not know."
Now we could begin on that. One thing we found was that the people enjoyed the land and a big farm over there is six acres. He would be a big landholder. The average is two acres. And yet, whether it is six or two, those families can make a living, and they appreciated the help we gave them.
Oh, but it was slow work! It was a little over three years that our efforts lasted amongst those people. I don't suppose any of us went to meetings for more than three months before we understood. It shows how interested those people must have become--in spite of our difficulties with the language and being foreigners to them. How interested in the things we were seeking to make known to them, for them to have endured that long a time. But we had to go back to the beginning from time-to-time with these people. For, as I told you, they knew nothing about which we preach. We had to lay the foundation, the acknowledgement that God is God, then building from that. And that is not easy. Those things taught just slipped out of the minds of the people, and they would come again and again. And we would have to begin again from the ground up, over and over again, learning the language at the same time. And it seemed you could never accomplish anything. Well, I believe I feel convinced tonight that if circumstances had not altered, there would have been some who would have come out from amongst them (these 72 million people) to be true to the claims of God upon their lives.
In 1939, the indication of this possibility was undoubtedly appearing to the minds of the authorities, for their attitude toward the common people changed. I am not referring to the white men, I am referring to the Japanese Nationals over there and the attitude of their government towards them--we did not count. The white man does not count over there: they have no time for him; they have no provision or place for him, yet they allow him to go there. And I have never yet found a Japanese of whom I was afraid.
Those Japanese people are as kind and as hospitable and generous as any I have found in New Zealand. There are people, common people, who open up their homes gladly to you and make you welcome--stranger tho' you are. And you feel sometimes humbled that you cannot help them more. I have had a welcome anywhere I have gone in Japan--from the common people. And they will give me a bed if necessary. They would make you welcome to all they have. And often I have gone into the country, to become a little more expert on my own in the language (because when you are together, you often depend upon the better speaker--just the same as Moses depended upon his brother Aaron). So it is good to get away from your companion for a while and stand on your own feet. There and then you have to use what you know and make yourself understood, and it is good practice and an opportunity to prove yourself. Everywhere I went on these occasions the people were just as if they were my own kind and did what they could. They felt a little different, my being a white man, knowing that our tastes and ways are different. But as soon as they knew I could eat what they ate, their embarrassment ended. They think it is a wonderful thing for anybody else to eat the same kind of food they eat and enjoy it. These were some of the people we tried to work amongst and help.
There was one family in which the woman ran a little boarding house for students, who could not help but be impressed with us. Her two sons, one 19 and one 21, were friendly to us. This woman did little things she thought might make our living there a little more pleasant. She was a humble, pleasant woman and she would do washing or mending or cooking now and then and showed by these things she was appreciative of what we were trying to do. Her two sons were going to college and were studying English, one of the subjects they have to take. We helped those boys with their English, and they were very grateful.
Disease is very common in the Orient. Tuberculosis is the most common. Leprosy is another. And these people are not like us in being ashamed to appear in public eaten by disease. There are other diseases that are unmentionable--many that leave their mark on a person. The youngest son of this woman took ill of this disease and died, so the mother invited us along to her home. The husband was very concerned, and in the home was the priest (not Catholic, but a man that instructs the people in the way of the Emperor, who is called "Shinto.") Shinto-ism is one of the "isms" of Emperor worship. This priest was performing the last rites over the body. And this woman, that called us because she had known us for some time, wanted a little comfort, not having much comfort from her husband. She told us in confidence that she would drive that man (the priest) out of her house, but she dare not. That is the condition under which they live. They fear to take matters into their own hands. She turned to me and said, "Would I tell her a little of what I believed." The Japanese people by nature are not emotional. You will never know what they are thinking of, or believing, or feeling outwardly. I have never yet seen that quality or that virtue called love in the families--as we know it. Not between husband and wife or families is any emotion shown at all. But evidently that woman, becoming acquainted with us and knowing what we were seeking to do, showed a little of what touched her heart. She felt perhaps that she could get more comfort in the little that could be told to her stumblingly from us than in all the ways she had known in her own country.
From 1939 to 1941 the government did not leave these people alone, and neither did they leave us alone. They questioned and cross-questioned us and the police visited us every week. You have to ask him inside. And often it was such a long visit that you had to give him a cup of tea. He will not go at your bidding, so you have to make the best of it and entertain him. They were not altogether satisfied with what they learned from questioning us and the answers we gave them. We had nothing to hide. We were not ashamed of anything we were doing, but they shadowed us constantly--even to showing their suspicion of us. This was the manner in which they treated the white men over there, so we were no exception. From the authorities, our common designation is "spy." So no matter what you confess to them that you are not a spy (or put down on the affidavit), you can not convince them that you are not a spy. Unfortunately, that is one of the things you have to fight against over there, because they have (in the past days) discovered people who have gone out there under the guise of missionaries and have used that profession as a means of acquiring a knowledge that was useful to their own country. So they tack the name "spy" to every white man. These things can only be lived down. It is no use being grieved or vexed about it.
Toward the end of 1940, those people who were coming and showing an interest in the things we were trying to teach them were also dealt with by the Japanese authorities. And naturally, they were ruthless with their own and put fear into those people's hearts. Those people became afraid of even coming in contact with us on the streets because they maybe would have to pay a terrible price. Little by little they ceased to come, until finally, we wondered if it was any use staying on or not.
This was surely a discouraging atmosphere to be continually under suspicion and then those you were working among also treated alike. No one likes to confess failure. But as far as I can feel tonight, although seed was sown in the efforts put forth, results are not yet. Maybe this war that has spread over so many nations may be the means of breaking down those powers and that system which operated over those people and kept them bound as they were--I don't know. All I hope is that if this war has been fought for anything at all, that it will be possible for that nation (among others) to be opened up to the preaching of the Gospel.
About Christmas in 1940, we were invited to go to the Philippines, another Oriental country. One outstanding event which I will never forget on our departure from Japan is that the people who had come to our meetings and had become acquainted with us came to say "farewell" to us at the train--which I will never forget, "We are sorry you are going." So evidently there was something beginning in their lives and it can only be with regret that they are left in that condition. We went away to the Philippines, having been invited there by Willie Jamieson (who has charge of the work there) and also by Jack Carroll of America. Those two invited us to come and have a change and see if the war clouds would not disperse. Well, we know they did not. But in the Philippines--what a change and contrast from Japan!
They are a people who, except for their color and way of life, are similar to us. They are English-speaking ( they are taught English in their schools), so they understood every word we spoke.
The Philippine people (because their country is sunny, I suppose) are easy-going, even-tempered people with simple living in tastes. But they have many weaknesses. They don't know as we (and perhaps we don't know too well, either) the responsibilities of life--our obligations to our families and those dependent on us, etc. And in other things, they are extravagant. They are a nation of gamblers. And often it has been the case that the head of the house has received his pay check on Friday night, and by the time he comes home, he is penniless and poor. There is that something in him that he cannot resist, just as if he has something in his pocket which is burning a hole there, and he cannot hold onto it until he gets home. Thus he is separated from that which he needs so much to support his family.
They practice cock-fighting there, and in that way spend a lot of time and money. They treat the rooster with more care than their family. They will do all kinds of things to train that rooster, and on Sunday they gather together at the cock-pit, a huge place. From morning to night they put roosters one against the other. At the end of the day: a heap of dead chickens.
It was to those people the Gospel was taken--ordinary, simple, weak people. Yet it was wonderful--the results that were found. When we went there we saw just how those people respond to the Gospel message. Over here, it seems like drawing teeth to get people out to meetings. You go and invite them to gospel meetings, and they can put up so many excuses that they cannot come. Always there is something that seems to be hindering--for some, it seems they are pretty glad to have an excuse to offer.
Over there, we looked for an open lot of land where we could pitch a tent. We only used the roof, for people would suffocate if we used the sides. As soon as we began to put up the tent, the people came along, "What are you doing here?"
"We are having meetings."
"What kind of meetings?"
"Can I come?"
"Can I bring my friends?"
"Most certainly!" They were all ready.
And in fact, for the first ten days or so we didn't visit. How about it in New Zealand? When we did go to visit them, this is what we hear (in the Philippines): "I have been to your meetings. I am still coming. I know you. You are one of the preachers. Come in!" This is our response after we have been preaching a while. We visit all the neighborhood and get acquainted. They know us before we know them. They love the gospel, and yet they are, or have been, Roman Catholic. Four hundred years ago the Spanish captured the Philippines, and among other things, they introduced the faith of their country--Roman Catholicism. That is a regret to us. Just as it was in Japan that the government has so much power in denying them privileges and rights of life. It is more than regret. It is deep grief, for they have robbed and spoiled these people and made themselves rich and fat on what those poor ignorant people need.
Willie Jamieson was like a father to those people--they love him just as much. There was nothing they enjoyed more than to see him coming among them and opening up to them the scriptures. We would attempt to do the same, and they always enjoyed our company. They acknowledged us as the Sons of God. We are not conceited in that, friend. Because that is what we endeavour in this world: sons and servants of God--the means whereby God can reach you and me, and speak to us, and make Himself known. As I said, these people were weak and easily led astray. Many temptations in their lives, but the gospel seemed to make a great deal of difference in their lives. They now realized their responsibilities to their families and those dependent upon them and understood that they needed bring home what they earned. They changed from gambling and cock-fighting, and other extravagances, because they found life has a greater purpose and a deeper meaning to them.
There is a common acknowledgement or admission among us over there, and that is (now, I don't want anybody to get puffed up): the women are the best. They have far more character. There is something far more solid about them, and you can depend on it. If you advised them, they will willingly carry it out. But the men are weaker. We have seen all these things put right as we faithfully ministered to them in the gospel. There was nothing we enjoyed more than their fellowship. And tonight, the thought of them over there in the Philippines is still a great inspiration to me. I suppose (I don't know if it is wrong to number those people) there may be over two hundred who have already been brought to the fold and family of God over there in the Philippines. And it has been only nine short years that the gospel has been preached over there. There was a wonderful response. They loved and were eager for it.
The parents realize when they make their choice that they are responsible for their little ones, to their friends, and to their neighbors. They say, "The time was when we went in for other things. But now we know better, and we want to live to be an example to our children, neighbors, and friends. This was the result of preaching the gospel.
At the end of 1941, after we had enjoyed such experiences (and our hearts had begun to expand again with hope, and our feelings were restored after the experiences in Japan), again calamity came. War broke out and the invader came into the Philippines. And those people came to us as the Christians came to Paul in his day when he journeyed to Jerusalem--weeping. We had been among them and had been such a help to their lives that they feared to know what to do now. And the enemy was among them. Willie advised them, and we all counseled them, to be true to what we had taught them in the meetings and to keep their faith and trust in God. They . . . should not be shaken by outward conditions, we said. And [we told them] they should try to live peaceably and as quietly as they could, in spite of the new conditions prevailing. And we were taken off to (Santo Tomás) internment camp.
We did not know our future course, but they could speak across the fence, and we told them there was nothing much they could do but [that] they could bring us our beds and a few other things such as that. The Japanese had kindly told us we did not need such things. They said they would bring us some, and they did. In many other ways they showed they were not ashamed to acknowledge us as their preachers and the ones they believed in. From the day the Japanese first entered Manila, they tried to stop all meetings of all kinds, but these people continued. They had their little meetings on Sundays and got great help and strength from them to face those conditions which were so strange to them, which deprived them of their liberty and the ordinary means of existence in their country. In the middle of January 1942, we were told (by "we" I mean all of our kind--that is, missionaries, doctors, teachers, nurses) we would be released from internment. And we, of course, were glad for the privilege of going back to the place we were taken from and again seeking to help our friends there.
There was rejoicing to seeing us coming home again. They gathered 'round us and did what they could again--ministering to us, for every facility for the white man was now nonexistent, and they were poor. The Japanese had pooled everything, and we had to live. We were interned in our homes with the privilege that on Sundays we could have our meetings with our people in our places if we notified the Japanese authorities. We were permitted to go there, and they were permitted to care for us, and we had two meetings every Sunday. And everyone of them came every Sunday. They would never miss--unless sickness or something kept them home. So we had wonderful times of fellowship together. And from these people (being filled with fear and doubt as to how they should live and what they should do) they became calm and quiet--satisfied to leave the directing of their lives to us. In all things they showed they were willing to abide by our counsel and the things we had taught them in the Gospel. This enabled us to live under those conditions, peacefully. Yes, and I believe happily, because of what had been brought into their lives. Formerly, no doubt, they had sought to oppose their enemies, with what result! Now they could still enjoy what we had taken to them, in spite of conditions which made it hard for them to live naturally. They tried to help us as best they could. We knew what was impossible for them to do for us. Things were scarce. They did what they could, though, as many we read of the Bible days did. God has not been ashamed to leave it on record to inspire us, in our turn, to do what we can.
At the end of 1942, we saw that we would have to do something--prices were soaring up and out of reach. Commodities, the bare necessities of life, were hard to get. And my companion, Herman Beaber, one of the American workers, and myself, decided (having many requests made for us to teach English) to do so. These Filipinos said they did not want to have the Japanese teaching. So they asked us if we could, or if we would, teach.
Attached to the place where we lived was a plot of land, and we turned it into a vegetable garden. And besides Herman's teaching every day, he went along to the market every morning and sold surplus vegetables Willie grew in the garden. By that means, we obtained the where-with-all to supply our needs. Leo Stancliff, the other worker, was not very well. So he said, "I cannot do much, but I will cook." Some of you folks know quite a bit about cooking, but I think your abilities would be taxed to the limit with the things he did not get to cook with. He used to put dishes on the table, and I don't know how. They were mighty good, though. By this means we managed to just exist.
I will tell you a few prices. It is the equivalent of value in your money here. You are rationed in certain goods, but you obtain them. And if the quality is not very much, well, it is enough to last you until you get your next ration. And then on blank days, you can call on your friends. Eggs over there are $4 each. Meat: the despised animal--the pig, $14 a pound. Ordinarily, you can buy rice for a few pence for several pounds, but now it was 5 pounds for $100. Sugar, of which 80,000,000 tons are exported in peace time, went up to $100 a pound. I had a birthday in the internment camp, and a friend gave me a teaspoon of sugar. It was quite a sacrifice and quite a present. In fact, the most costly present I have received. Those were the prevailing prices they had to pay, not just we who were white.
In July 1944 we were again visited by Japanese officers and told, "Tomorrow you will be ready with your bag and baggage to go again to internment."
Our conditions, that is, barring the time we were interned in our own homes, were certainly not much better than those in camp. For we had to struggle to live, and our physical condition was none too good. However, on this day of July 1944, we were again taken to internment. Our friends gathered again in sorrow, and again we could only tell them the same things and try to encourage them. They brought a few things and trifles that they thought we could use in camp, and off we went to a place fifty miles from Manila. We left Ernest Stanley in Santo Tomás Internment Camp in Manila. All through the war, he was the interpreter between the Japanese and the Americans--interpreting the Japanese will to the internees. Then he earned a good deal of disfavour for the first two years. But afterwards, they couldn't speak highly enough of him in the efforts he made to benefit the camp. He has suffered much--not bodily, but mentally--because of the things he was willing to undertake to do for the sake of his fellowmen (over 3,000 of them in the internment camp in the city of Manila).
If ever a man lived a Christian life, that man did and truly showed forth the love of God to his fellows there--in spite of conditions which were so entirely against him. Many whom I have met since coming here could not speak highly enough of him. We were taken to Los Baños , fifty miles from Manila. So we did not see Ernest anymore. There were 1,500 ordinary civilian internees and 500 other missionaries and others who went to this camp. The camp was quite comfortable. You don't expect luxury in a prison. And it was fair, as far as living conditions were concerned. As I said, we could take our beds and bedding with us, and others wished they had. There were seven sewing machines taken in and were very useful in repairing clothes. Some took in shoe repairing kits and kept the shoes of the people in order. Many other things of this kind were instituted. And for as long as we had to endure the conditions, it was not unbearable. We were all given duties, and it was good that we were. For it kept our minds occupied and gave our bodies some exercise. We didn't continually burden ourselves over conditions over which we had no control.
For the first three months we had three meals a day--not as you have here. Rice is the base, and with it, a little stew of some kind--vegetable or otherwise. And it kept us alive--gave us enough strength to do what was required of us. But as soon as America bombed Manila (the first time, on September 21), then the Japanese retaliated--not by physical ill treatment, but they reduced our food to two meals a day. The interned with us who were looking after the people if they fell sick did wonderfully well: kept disease down, kept the health of the camp pretty good, but they could not combat disease without medicine. When their supplies ran out, they appealed to the Japanese to obtain more. And they said, "We can not."
The truth was they would not --there was plenty.
People's clothing wore out. In hot countries clothing perishes quickly, and we appealed for clothing of any kind, old or new. But they again said, "We cannot get them." Again, there was plenty, but they would not. From then on, conditions got worse and worse. We were grieved in this: that up to the fence of the camp there was food--not the very best, but still it was food--and sufficient to sustain life for all those internees. There were coconuts, sweet potatoes, peanuts, bananas, mangoes, and all those things which could have sustained life and kept us in fairly healthy condition. But there was a fence between us and this food. Besides, the Japanese police were there night and day. Many attempted to get out and get some of those things, but that was the last day they lived. No questions were asked and none answered. It isn't a very pleasant situation to be in when you are surrounded by only that and the helplessness of your fellowmen.
We four, Herman Beaber, Leo Stancliff, Willie Jamieson, and I (I am glad to say) were not separated in those experiences. From the day we first went into the camp until we were rescued, we enjoyed our fellowship meeting every Sunday morning and a little talk during the week and sometimes at noon or during the day.
It was February 23 of this year when we were rescued from that camp... Los Baños (1945). On that day we had been about our camp duties. We were beginning to again face another day, and our good night to each other had been, "Well, I wonder if our rescue will be tomorrow?" and our good morning, "Well, I wonder if our rescue will be today?" On this morning at daybreak an awful lot of transport planes came over and dropped parachute troops around the camp, and then we knew that, if the fortunes of war did not go against us, that surely the last day in the camp had come. (Willie had spoken to us the day before and said, "All day that verse had been going through my mind: 'Be still and know that I am God.'")
Yes, Willie had been a wonderful help to us there, as he had been a help to those Filipinos, and a wonderful source of inspiration to us enabling us to endure it. This morning (after these troops were dropped--at the same time as they came upon the scene) coming across the lake which separated the camp from the American lines were a flood of tanks. And as soon as the troops had landed by parachute and dealt with our garrison, these tanks were ready to take us out. They just let down the end of them and we walked in.
This helped us to bear the situation which was against us naturally. In spite of everything being so wrong and seeing the weaknesses of men with men, we felt assured of this comfort: that God was taking care of us--that no matter if we had to die, we would be taken, as we term it, "home." We had trust and confidence in God under those circumstances, and there was one thing we were confident of. Why? we do not know. Yet we felt the day would come when we would be released or rescued. And that (combined with our fellowship, and what we obtained from God, and His help to us from day-to-day in giving us strength to endure and bear these conditions), enabled us to live to see the day when we were rescued. We saw self-control of ordinary people who had nothing in their lives, nothing to live for, nothing to hope for, break. And as soon as their control broke, their strength and health broke. And it was not long before they were gone.
Tonight it seems to me after all that happened since, I can hardly believe that the things I am talking about happened--for it is only three months since I landed in New Zealand.
Two of those tanks (amphibious tractors... Amtracs) would just about easily fill this hall--enormous things. And about thirty-five of us (who were able to walk) got into each of these tanks. And away we went through the Jap lines to safety--under fire until we got halfway across the lake. How many men do you think dropped from those planes? One hundred and fifty. Over 2,000 of us internees. About 100 Japanese in the garrison. And we were sick--desperately sick. Yet 150 dealt with this matter. They made a great job of it. The marvelous thing to me is this: that not one of us were even injured in spite of the battle that ran for about forty-five minutes. They took us out first, and they had to come back to get the American soldiers. It was each time through the Japanese lines. Thus they had not fought, but had been doing what we commonly call "pinching" us. They took us to their hospital behind the front lines and began to put us back in health and strength again.
After we were there in the hospital, a friend of ours came down from Manila. And although she was not professing, she shows marks that are very praiseworthy.
After she had visited with us and was ready to go home, we asked her, "Now, could you find out for us how our friends are in Manila?" She knew all of them, or almost all of them, and said she would. She had never broken her word to us at anytime, and we knew she wouldn't this time, either. Manila has been blown upside-down. A few houses standing, travel practically impossible--so she would have to do most on foot. She promised to do what she could. And four days later she came down again and brought two of our friends with her at her own expense. Of course, you can imagine how these felt on seeing us in such a condition, for we did not look as I look tonight. After they had recovered from their feelings, we learned this from them. And we felt glad that we had been enabled by the grace of God to endure those conditions and that our friends in Manila are alive and well. The remarkable thing about it is this also: their homes are standing, yet every home around them is flat. We usually don't preach much about the material side of preservation, but there is certainly evidence that God knows how to look after His own--even under such circumstances as that. He has preserved their homes and their lives. They were eager and waiting for us to come back amongst them and continue meetings.
When I was in Duneden a few weeks ago, I received a letter from Herman Beaber telling me this: that with the permission of the officer in charge of the camp they were taken to, they had visited Cavite, the city where the gospel had first been preached in the Philippines. They had found all our friends again. All of them are well. They have suffered, yes, but they are alive and well there also. That city had been just devastated by shell fire and bombing, [but] their homes are standing.
Well, friends, I know that you have prayed and have desired nothing more than to see us restored to you and God has done it. Undoubtedly, He has preserved those people's homes as an indication to those who understand and those who have to teach these Japanese about God, that He is the He Is. I know there are many about here, professing Christians, believers. But I believe that there are, even among us tonight, those who do not yet know that conviction that God is. He is, not was. That is the thing that enables us to preach the gospel. To think that He is the One who is able to save to the uttermost today, those who put their trust in Him. Doesn't that inspire your heart?
We left Herman Beaber and Leo Stancliff in the Philippines, much to our regret, in one sense, because their condition was low. Yet we left them there (Willie going to the States and I coming here) to gather our people together and do what they could for them. One thing those people used to tell us was this: (I mean those professing and in fellowship with us and those who had the real love and interest in the gospel) "You are too few." There were originally two in the Philippines among twenty million people. Willie joined them, Ernest Stanley, and I made five. In Japan, there were three workers and 72 million people. In Borneo, untouched, how many million? I do not know.
One thing I am confident of is this: there will be wonderful opportunities for those who have eyes to see beyond their own community--the fields white unto harvest. There are a few who have been gathered in the Philippines--part of what is called the Orient. And what can be done elsewhere, if the love of God possesses our hearts, and we are grateful for what has been brought to us, and we value it, and we would like to see others valuing it, too, and living for it--there can be a reaping.
I returned to New Zealand much the same as we went out from it and met in fellowship with people in Australia before coming here. I met our old friend, Tom Turner, and he is not too well. He is still striving to do his part in the gospel fields. John Hardy is in Sydney (a man over seventy now)--not too well in body, but strong in spirit, still willing to serve. Coming here amongst you I see the result of their labours and the labours of others.
I hope, friends, that my words have not been merely a story to you--just a kind of narration which is interesting, undoubtedly--but that it might arouse, if possible, in you a feeling that we have so much to be grateful for, that we enjoy so many privileges. Are we making the most of them? The day will come when our opportunities and privileges will cease. Are we doing what Mary and Martha did? Doing what we can while we can? The day will come when our opportunities and privileges will cease. It is too late then to regret what we might have done. The thing is to be willing to do what God would inspire us to do and to be what God would inspire us to be, wherever we are: whether it is homemaking, seeing to it that it is a godly home, whether it is our family (let it be a godly family), whether it be our work, let it be honorable. In all things, glorifying the One who wants to glorify us and set us in His Kingdom eternally.
I feel deeply grateful that in spite of having been cut off from fellowship with you people for so many years, words cannot express gratitude to friends. "Thank you" is very ordinary, isn't it? But I still feel that when health returns and opportunity permits, it is not here I want to stay. It is over there--away in those lands where privileges are so few. What we know here can be known there. I believe it can, and hope we will unite our prayers. And as Paul and his followers in his day: that a door of utterance might be opened and kept open. That is a part we all can do. We can cooperate--unite that effort of true faithful Christian living that will inspire us and our efforts as we go forth to sow the seed of eternal life. And then we know there will be a reaping.
Cecil Barrett was born in England in 1902 and later moved to New Zealand and went into the ministry in 1934. He traveled to Japan and preached there until the threat of war and then went to the Philippines in 1941. Reportedly, Cecil returned to New Zealand to recuperate after his internment and then later continued as a missionary in Japan until 1964 and then moved back to New Zealand and continued to preach there until his death on Nov 6, 1968.
Cecil Barrett - 1951 - Carnteel Convention, Ireland