Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW (05/02/19)
- TITLE: Sowing Seeds In A Prison Camp
By Mariane Holbrook
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Seven-year-old Jimmy squeezed his eyes closed in heavy concentration. "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee," he said slowly, emphasizing every word.
"That's right! How many does that make now?" his mother asked.
"Eighteen. I've memorized eighteen Bible verses so far."
"Jimmy, we're planting God's seeds in your heart, and they'll grow and grow and always be with you wherever you go for as long as you live."
After Jimmy left for school, his mother prayed for his safety and that he would remember the verse through the day.
This Scripture memorization went on for years until Jimmy reached high school when he was often too rushed for breakfast. After graduating from high school in 1942, he enlisted in the Army and finished basic training after which his unit left for the Philippines.
His mother prayed fervently for Jimmy, wrote encouraging letters to him and reminded him of the verses he had memorized as a boy numbering well over 150.
Jimmy's unit fought alongside Philippine soldiers for several months until the Japanese captured them. The Japanese bombed the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just one day after the raid on Pearl Harbor. Japanese forces controlled the Philippines for over three years
Captured and placed in a temporary prison camp, Jimmy was one of 75,000 American and Philippine troops forced to take part in the 64-mile infamous Bataan Death March.
Because of the brutality of the Japanese, who starved and beat the marchers and shot those too weak to walk, thousands of U.S. and Philippine soldiers died on that walk, recorded as the single worst atrocity in World War 2.
Jimmy was one of 27,000 Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese, 40 percent of whom died in captivity. He was interred in the Cabanatuan prison camp, considered to be the worst of all Japanese prison facilities where about 20 Allied servicemen died every day from beriberi, scurvy, malaria, dysentery, jaundice and dengue fever. The Japanese provided no medical supplies. After several months, the Japanese gave the Manila Red Cross permission to send medicine, but the Japanese hid them away, withholding them for months.
Jimmy suffered so severely from malnutrition that he and a buddy coaxed a stray dog to the opening of their bamboo prison, killed it and shared the raw meat with his fellow soldiers. The rations from the Japanese amounted to a small serving of rice and vegetable soup twice a day. The starving soldiers searched the dirt for snails, bugs, flies, anything to keep them alive.
In this fetid, miserable heat Jimmy prayed for strength for each day. He began reciting the Scripture verses his mother had taught him at the breakfast table. The Japanese confiscated Jimmy's Bible as well as all the other Bibles belonging to the Allies.
Soon other soldiers around Jimmy began asking him to pray for them. He explained the plan of salvation and used appropriate Scripture verses. Called to sit beside one dying soldier, he talked to him about Jesus, and led him through a prayer of repentance and forgiveness and held his hand as the soldier went to meet his new-found Lord.
The Japanese forced prisoners to dig graves that would hold several bodies. When the hole was full, the soldiers were made to cover the bare bodies with dirt. No ceremony or eulogies were permitted.
Jimmy asked permission to say a few words and pray at the grave where the new convert was lying. He was denied and beaten for requesting it.
Jimmy began holding Bible studies late at night with a few soldiers gathered around his bunk. Bamboo shelves holding six men were stacked high to serve as beds for the prisoners. While the guards slept, Jimmy quietly quoted Scripture and talked about Jesus who loved them and who had suffered even worse than the soldiers were suffering. Dozens accepted Christ as Savior.
The number of soldiers around Jimmy's bamboo bed increased every night until a guard walked in, screamed at Jimmy and dragged him into the courtyard where he was severely beaten, with all the men in the barracks forced to watch.
Jimmy barely survived the atrocities at Cabanatuan prison. His mother had not heard from Jimmy since his captivity but constantly prayed for his safety.
When the war ended and Jimmy arrived back home to the waiting arms of his mother, his first words were, "The Scripture verses you planted bore tremendous fruit."
*Based on a true story from World War II
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