Grace Triumphant - Chapter 13 - War Clouds Gather

War Clouds Gather

“Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” (Psa. 27:3)

As mentioned in the last chapter, our second furlough was 1937 to 1938.  During this furlough we tried to manage that Leonard and Kenneth would have a year in public school.  In the Philippines we had been teaching them ourselves using the Calvert course.  Though this demanded a good bit of our time, we felt it was the best approach to their education at that time.  When we returned here they were able to enter Bordner High School as some previous regulations were relaxed.  That also made it possible for Rose to attend primary school.  One of the highlights of that furlough was witnessing Leonard and Kenneth being baptized at Elmwood Chapel in Buffalo, New York, on January 30, 1938.

Prior to our furlough, Miss Jeannette Lape from Glendale, California had joined us in the work.  She had had some health and temperamental problems and these were probably aggravated by our absence.  Early one Saturday morning we received a cable from a good friend in Manila, Miss Edna Hotchkiss of ABWE, that Jeannette had a nervous breakdown and should be accompanied home as soon as possible.  Miss Hotchkiss offered to accompany her but that would mean a return ticket for her.  The total cost would be around $1200.00.  I immediately phoned Mr. Richard Mac Lachlan, editor of “Voices From the Vineyard” in New York, and also Tom Millham of her commending assembly, suggesting that any available funds should be sent to the latter for transmittal to Manila.  Both of these brethren got in touch with others over that weekend.  In the goodness and grace of our Lord, and through the generosity of the Lord’s people, the needed funds were cabled to Manila on Monday.  It was a real boost to our faith to see how quickly God answered our prayers.  After she recuperated, Miss Lape was very anxious to return to the Philippines but the brethren in Los Angels did not feel it was wise to commend her.  She did return with another missionary group but after a few years had again to be invalided home.

On one of my itineraries on that furlough I arranged to visit Fort Dodge, Iowa.  My purpose was to talk with Brother Lloyd Walterick who was then publishing “Light and Liberty.”  Along with others I was concerned that Voices was appearing infrequently and irregularly.  It was feared this would mean a lessening of missionary interest.  To my delight I learned that Brother Walterick had just returned from a visit to New York where he met with several brethren who had a similar concern.  Among them were Harold Harper, a good friend and a frequent giver to missionaries, and also Charles Bellinger who had been one of our teachers in the missionary school in Brooklyn.  Although Brother Bellinger was a busy businessman on Wall Street, for several years he headed up this new ministry of serving as a liaison between missionaries and the home assemblies.  In later years, after the home call of Brother Bellinger, Christian Missions in Many Lands came into being and later on amalgamated with the group from the “Voices From the Vineyard” and the “Missionary Fund.”  Missionaries all over the world owe a deep debt of gratitude to the many brethren who have given of their time and energy in helping the Lord’s work in other lands.

War   clouds were gathering in Europe, and Hitler’s ruthless tactics were becoming evident as we returned from furlough in 1938.  On the cross-pacific voyage one war rumor made us wonder whether we would reach our destinations.  My nephew, Cyril Weller, had been accepted by the China Inland Mission for service in China.  However, he could not travel with us to Shanghai because a party of single ladies was booked on that ship.  CIM policy did not allow single men to be on the same ship with single ladies of their mission.  An older CIM missionary was booked, Mr. Henry Ford.  He once wrote, whimsically, to Henry Ford of motor fame, asking if it was true that Ford Company would provide a vehicle to a namesake of its founder.  He was told that rumor was not true.  Mr. Ford, who was of short stature, had been informed that two small boys would also occupy his cabin.  The two boys (Len and Ken) were both taller than he!

We were soon involved again in the work when in 1939 war broke out in Europe.  We were vacationing in Baguio in 1940 when the German armies overran Holland, Belgium, and France.  Henry de Vries, who had spent several years in missionary work in Mindanao, was in the opposite side of the duplex.  He came in to listen to the news broadcasts and was quite excited because, being from Holland, he knew many of the places mentioned and had relatives in some of them.

Just after the evacuation of the British from Dunkirk, in my visits to Santol Sanitarium, I was conversing with an American priest who was a patient there.  He expressed the opinion that Britain was doomed and that Hitler would be victorious.  I suggested that if he would consider the Bible and history he would find he was mistaken.  Even though in this present age Israel as a nation has been set aside by God, yet still they are His people, “for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8).  Any ruler or nation that has persecuted the Jews has eventually suffered for it.  Maybe if Hitler had been a better student of history, not to say the Bible, he would not have gone down in such an ignominious defeat.

In the second half of 1941 good numbers of servicemen were coming to our home.  Frequently there were fellows off cruisers that stopped in Manila for the weekend.  We learned that American ships crossing the Pacific were being convoyed because of the growing anti-American feeling in Japan.  Early in December 1941, we knew that it was becoming more difficult for the servicemen to get overnight passes.  There were three fine Christians on the USS Astoria that called here.  This cruiser was later sunk in the battle of Coral Sea and two of those men went down with the ship.  We didn’t realize then how poorly prepared for war in the Pacific America was at that time.

Tighter restrictions had hindered some men from coming to our house on the weekend of December 6 and 7.  One of the fellows, Ray Harper, worked at Cavite Navy Yard encoding messages.  He owned a car which he sometimes left with us.  That Sunday as he was leaving, he said, “I am taking the car to get it greased.  I’ll bring it back Monday.  If anything happens it will be better here.”  Then realizing he had perhaps said too much, he dashed off without answering our questions.  He never was able to return.

At breakfast Monday morning, December 8, we heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor earlier that morning (Manila time).  That meant war—how soon would it affect us?  Taking the children to school, I warned the boys that school would probably be dismissed and that they should get Rose at her school and come right home.  My schedule was to go to Taytay to work with some of the students on the grounds for the Philippine Keswick Conference.  With the outbreak of war, there would be no conference and so the work party was called off.  Soon we heard bombs had fallen on Baguio.  Just before noon flights of planes attacked Clark Field, just at a time when planes had returned form reconnaissance.  Planes were refueling and pilots eating lunch.  Few got off the ground before they were destroyed.  Bombers were still waiting orders to attack bases on Formosa.  We wondered what had happened to Jesse Miller who was then at Clark.  That night the Japanese bombed Nichols Field, and from our bedroom window we could see the explosions.

Having knocked out most of the U.S. planes, the Japanese would come in tight formations, usually about noon.  Coming in from the north they would turn west above our area and drop down to bomb shipping in Manila Bay and on across the Bay to Cavite Navy Yard.  Our anti-aircraft fire was quite ineffectual, as it didn’t have sufficient power or range.  As we watched one day we heard the whistle of a falling shell and flattened ourselves to the ground.  It apparently was an anti-aircraft dud that fell in an adjacent lot.  Every night there was a complete blackout.  Nobody seemed very sure what should be done, but American propaganda was that help was on the way.  So we foolishly thought that soon the tide of battle would turn against the enemy.

Towards the end of December I received a call from a former ABWE missionary, Capt. Skolfield.  He had gone back into the U. S. Navy and had been stationed at Cavite when it was bombed.  He had salvaged some of the supplies and taken them to an apartment in Manila.  He told me to take some of them and had given other supplies to ABWE missionaries.  Filling the car tow or three times we transferred some of these to our home.  One item was supposedly a 100-pound bag of sugar but when we opened it, it proved to be salt.

These supplies were very welcome because we had opened our home to several missionaries stranded in Manila.  Some were on their way out of China and only got this far.  Others were on ships going on to India but were caught here.  They were told to disembark, as the ships would proceed to an unknown destination.  They offered to sign releases if only they could stay aboard at their own risk.  They were refused and the ships sailed with their hold baggage.  After the war was over they learned their baggage arrived safely in Australia and was in storage there.  For a time there were 13 of us in our home; so in the place of servicemen there were these missionaries.

After Christmas the Filipino-American forces retreated to the Bataan peninsula. Avoiding main streets around Manila, some busloads passed near us. Oil storage tanks in Pandacan were set afire to prevent the Japanese getting them. U.S. military supplies that couldn’t be taken to Bataan were thrown open to the Filipinos. We heard that some men took a large crate thinking it must be something valuable, only to discover that it contained the remains of an American waiting to be shipped. President Quezon and some leading Philippine government personnel, along with Gen. MacArthur and his staff, went over to Corregidor Island and the entrance to Manila Bay. This fortress was built to resist and repel invaders from the China Sea but offered little resistance from the rear.

Manila was declared an open city on January 1, 1942, in order to spare the city from fighting and loss of civilian lives. The Japanese bombing had largely been of military targets. However, in bombing shipping on the Pasig River they had struck a large Roman Catholic church. This was put to good propaganda use—pagan Japan with no regard for Christian Filipinos! This propaganda may have had a bearing later on in the release of missionaries in Manila from internment. With the Japanese landings at Lingayen Bay, north of Manila, and Atimonan, south of Manila, some foreigners headed for what were supposed to be evacuation points. Some of the missionaries went to Baguio but we decided it was better to remain in our homes and leave the outcome with the Lord.

On January 2 we saw a truckload of Japanese troops pass on a nearby corner. We decided to sit tight and await developments. A former houseboy came with a sack of flour from a warehouse that the owner threw open to the Filipinos. Much time was spent in prayer together as a group these days. Psalm 46 was a source of comfort as we realized that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” One afternoon we saw a truckload of Japanese coming up our street. As it approached I started towards the door, thinking that as head of the house I should be the first to approach them. The truck drove on without stopping. One evening our Filipino neighbor from across the street came with the information that he had that day seen the Japanese who had been living next door and they told him they would be around to pick us up. He suggested I hide out with him or go to the provinces but these suggestions were impracticable. In my reading Jeremiah 15:21 proved to be a real cheer, “I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.”

The house next door had previously been occupied by a Japanese married to a Filipino.  They moved there when we did in 1937 and were very friendly.  Later they moved to another home and their place was taken by a group of young Japanese men who worked in Japanese bazaars in town.  Every morning they did their calisthenics before going to work.  Across from the San Juan Chapel a Japanese had rented a home.  He spent a lot of time going around, ostensibly going to play golf.  These were only two examples of how the Japanese and infiltrated military men and spies in strategic places.

Our former neighbor, Mr. Imamura, was appointed to act as liaison between the Filipino police and the Japanese military authorities.  At a later time during the occupation I went to see him to request his help in regard to Mrs. Bomm who had been picked up one night and taken to Fort Santiago.  As I waited in his outer office, I heard him giving a typical Japanese propaganda line and my heart sank.  Out came a number of Filipino police sergeants and the receptionist ushered me into his office.  He was most cordial, saying, “Our countries are at war but you and I are friends.”  I had occasion to seek his help at other times but went to his home.  I would go after dark to the back door.  He came out to the kitchen to speak to me one evening while in his sala; he was entertaining the top Japanese general!

Santo Tomas University has a longer history than either Yale or Harvard.  The grounds of this Roman Catholic university were taken over as an internment camp.  All enemy aliens were to report there by January 15, so we delayed to the last day.  We loaded up two or three “carretelas” (the typical Filipino horse rig) and set off, leaving behind a group of tearful believers.  In Santo Tomas, American committees had been set up to operate the camp under the supervision of the Japanese.  We lined up to fill in forms providing information about our homes, cars and finances.  Learning that we were missionaries, the American in charge said, “You missionaries are going to be moved somewhere else today—you may as well fill in the forms there.”  Actually we were about to be released as house prisoners so no forms were filled in.  In this way our car was one of the few that was not confiscated.  Later on, since we could not use it, we sold the battery and tires.  Then someone wanted to buy the car.  They brought tires and one evening we pushed it a couple of blocks to a neighboring house.  Just after we had it in the other garage a Japanese patrol car went by!

While waiting at Santo Tomas that day, I was called into an office where they asked me about some who had not yet surrendered.  It was a relief not to know their whereabouts.  It gave me an opportunity to glance over the listing of missionaries compiled by the Japanese.  It seemed to be quite complete and I was surprised that we were listed as “Plymouth Brethren,” since we don’t use that term ourselves.  I thought that it was rather strange that not once during the occupation did the Japanese ask to even see our passports.

The same afternoon all the missionaries, Roman Catholic and Protestant, were called together to listen to a propaganda speech.  We were told about the magnanimity of the Japanese, that they came to the Philippines with the same purpose as ours, to help the Filipino people.  We were to be released to go to our homes or institutions and would be given instructions.  We would only be allowed to go out for religious services, for medical attention and necessary shopping.  We would have to report to the “Religious Section” of the Japanese Army who would accept responsibility for us.  Later on we were given one red armband with a Japanese character indicating we were enemy aliens.  One to a family, to be worn when we went outside our homes.  Soon these proved to be a boon.  Filipinos now knew we were not Germans.  So there was no need to bargain in the market for we got the best price right away.  Extra things were put in our basket and on one occasion at least, money was quietly slipped into my hand by an unknown donor.

So that same evening we were back home again.  The believers at San Juan rejoiced at our immediate release.  They compared it to Peter’s released from prison!  We had been release without signing any statement or making any promises.  Some were not so fortunate.  Some denominational leaders were called in by the Religious Section and ordered to sign a prepared statement.  Some leaders, mostly of liberal theological view, did sign. However, a few, such as Mr. Fonger of the American Bible Society, Mr. Ed Bomm, and Dr. Santiago Cruspero (a Filipino) of ABWE refused to compromise their Christian witness.  Those Americans were imprisoned in Fort Santiago, which had a reputation for privation and torture.  Officials from the Religious Section visited some of the churches to listen to the sermons on Sundays.  Being a smaller group and also being out in the suburb in San Juan, we were spared such visits.

One of the Baptist missionaries died of illness in the Baguio Camp so the church of which he was pastor in Manila held a memorial service.  Up to the last minute he hoped Mr. Bomm would be released for that.  So when it was obvious that he would not be there, they asked me to substitute.  The Lord wonderfully helped in giving a suitable message at such short notice.  On another occasion there just as I stood up to preach some Japanese officers came in.  Shortly after, I was called to the Religious Section and the chief there asked if I would like to be repatriated.  I presumed it would have included the family but no mention was made of them.  This offer I declined on the grounds that there were others who had been stranded here on account of the war.  They should have the preference, and a few did manage to get away to Shanghai to sail on the evacuation vessel, S. S. Gripsholm.  Learning that I was from British Columbia, the chief told me he was raised in the Fraser River valley of that province.

Each week we had to send in a report of our activities—what services we attended and so forth.  If we had taught a class or had preached we had to give the topic of our message.  One week they sent me a letter, noting that I had preached on such a Sunday and asked for a copy of my sermon.  It is not my custom to write my sermons, simply an outline.  Since I had preached in Tagalog I typed out my message in Tagalog, being fairly sure they would not be able to understand it!  Shortly there was another request for a copy of my sermon and “if I had preached in Tagalog, please submit an English translation.”  Since they wanted so much to read my message, I decided they would have the way of salvation clearly presented.

They were at that time inviting various Filipino preachers to give a short message on the radio on Sunday mornings.  Of course, they demanded that they approve the message before it aired.  They asked Dr. Cruspero to give a message but rejected his first manuscript.  It rather amused me that Dr. Cruspero should ask my advice, an enemy alien.  He wanted to use the opportunity and yet not compromise his stand for Christ.  We went over the manuscript and made some changes.  In one place he had mentioned the Empire State Building in an illustration.  Instead we substituted a tall building in Manila.  His revised message was accepted.

Services continued in the San Juan Chapel on a regular basis, except that there were no evening services.  Of course, such things as open-air meetings or children’s classes outside were not allowed, nor any literature distribution.  There was a supply of literature on hand.  As there was a shortage of paper or any kind of supplies, we sold this as waste paper.  It was no doubt used for wrapping or making bags in the markets.  So with a dearth of reading material we hoped that people would even read such wrapping material.