Friday, July 11, 2008

Through the Valley of the Kwai

From Death-camp Despair to Spiritual Triumph
by Ernest Gordon
Harper, 1962

The book's cover is uninspiring and belies the story within its pages. I hadn't thought I would be so captivated by a World War II account, but the subtitle intrigued me, and I was not disappointed. Indeed, I could hardly set the book down.

At one time, Ernest Gordon had considered being a missionary, but he had turned his back on his faith by the time of the war. Captured by the Japanese in 1942, he joined POWs in camps in Changi, Chungkai, Kanburi, and Nakawm Paton. There he experienced all that a POW could experience - starvation, disease, physical and verbal abuse. The Japanese were creative in the tortures they devised. Gordon was also involved in the building of the bridge over the River Kwai.

A resident of the Death House for a period, Gordon was not expected to live, but the kindness of Christian, "Dusty" Miller, and another friend, Catholic "Dinty" Moore, Gordon survived malaria, diphtheria, and a host of other ailments. When he was released to a small shack his friends had built him within the camp, Gordon was invited to teach other prisoners about God. He didn't know much himself, but armed with a Bible, Gordon read it cover to cover, and discovered that Jesus was a man the prisoners could relate to, believe in, and trust. As a result of what they learned, the camp was transformed. POWs who had treated each other in the manner of animals, now showed loving-kindness, compassion, and caring.

I won't spoil the story by going into any more detail. Read it for yourself; it's a fascinating story!

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