The General Sherman churned up the Taedong River on its voyage to Pyongyang. The crew hoped to establish trade relations with a Korea that was decidedly cold to foreign influence. Robert J. Thomas accompanied the boat as an interpreter in exchange for a chance to spread the gospel. He knew the people of the "Hermit Kingdom" needed to hear the message of salvation.
"Why're y' wrappin' rocks with newsprint, Mr. Thomas?" asked an interested sailor.
"This is more than the daily news," he answered, smiling broadly. "I'm wrapping these rocks with gospel pamphlets and tossing them to the riverbank. Any person coming to the river will find and read these and have a chance to learn about Jesus. Are you a Christian?"
"Yessir,” he nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, excuse me, I see the Cap'n comin', I better git. Godspeed to y'," the sailor offered with a wave, tromping to the wheelhouse.
"Good morning, Captain Page," Robert greeted, tossing another tract ashore.
"Mornin'," the Captain responded gruffly. "Looks like..."
"Captain...Captain....," shouted the first mate, bracing for impact.
Without further warning, Captain Page and Robert catapulted to the rail, frantically grabbing hold as the boat stuck fast in the river bottom. Gospel tracts plunked into the murky waters, lost forever.
"Sorry, Captain," yelled the helmsman. "The water's too muddy t’ navigate."
Sailors scrambled to the hull, investigating for damage.
"The hull is sound," announced a sailor to all within earshot.
"All hands on…" the Captain's words trailed off, his eyes growing large with alarm. Swarms of Korean soldiers lined the river's edge. The Sherman's crew watched in horror as the Koreans lashed wood, sulphur, and saltpeter to small skiffs and set them ablaze.
"Man the cannons," barked Captain Page. Sailors scurried to their battle stations, and stood ready for the Captain’s orders.
Cannonballs pummeled the Korean lines as two flaming watercraft sailed harmlessly by.
A third flaming skiff plowed into the ship igniting the starboard side. The Koreans doused the river with soy oil, torching a path rippling toward the General Sherman. The flames licked the ship’s bow and the Sherman erupted into an inferno.
"Abandon ship!" the Captain’s voice thundered above the shouts of panicked sailors.
Robert snatched up remaining tracts and clutched his worn bible to his side as he plunged into the shallow river. The frigid waters shocked his senses, but not more than the scene unfolding before him. Wild-eyed Korean soldiers splashed into the water, wielding machetes.
"Jesus, Jesus," he cried out in Korean to the attackers, offering the Bible as a gift. "Jesus..."
With one angry stroke, Robert's body crumpled in a heap. The soldier ripped the Bible from Robert's hand and shoved his body into the swift current. The soldiers roared victoriously as the charred remains of the General Sherman sank and its crews’ bodies bobbed in the gloomy waters.
"Chang Wi, what are you doing?" asked his curious neighbor, stepping into Chang's house.
"I am putting up new wallpaper," he answered, brushing glue on another fragile sheet.
"But this has words. Why this is...."
"Yes, my friend, it is a Bible." Wang paused to wipe glue from his hands and handed his neighbor a frail page. "Many years ago I took a man's life. Before dying, he did not beg for mercy, but called out the name of Jesus; he offered this book as a gift." Tears welled in Chang’s eyes. "After that day, nightmares chased me for weeks. I knew in my heart I had killed a good man."
"And what about the Bible?" his neighbor prodded
"Ah yes, the Bible," he said, wiping tears from his eyes. "I kept it on a shelf to commemorate a battle victory, but in my heart I knew only defeat. One day I opened it and began to read. I learned about the Jesus, whose name was on the man’s gasping last breath. After much study and consideration, I trusted Him to be my Savior. Starting today, I share the good news of Jesus to all who enter my house.”
"I am interested in learning more about this Jesus,” responded Chang’s neighbor.
"Good. Come closer,” Chang motioned, calling attention to a specific page. “Read this, then we will talk.”
The neighbor thoughtfully read each line of Scripture as Chang quietly thanked God for Jesus…Jesus.
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