William Wilberforce, Wow!

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A miracle, according to the New Oxford English Dictionary, is a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

With that definition, I’d have to say that William Wilberforce’s life was jam-packed with miracles. Left and right you can see divine influence, without too much assumption. The story of a man who had the guts to stand against all of the nastiest people in the country–in the world, really–wasn’t one of glamor, or glory. No, the hardships were extreme, and the consequences dear, but the results are still in effect.

In an attempt to tell of two main miracles in William Wilberforce’s life, I’d have to start at the beginning. He was born into a moderately well-off family, and didn’t want for food or shelter. That leads to the first miracle: Wilberforce was very spoiled, because of his “societal class,” and he grew into a charming party animal. Friends with all, and well-practiced in the art of public speaking, he was geared for success in a life of politics.

As he grew beyond childhood (making beyond ten being a miracle at that time in England) he was sent to his aunt and uncle’s home. They continued his upbringing, and he was converted, during his time with them, to a radical Methodist. At the time that was considered to be, well, radical. The “Methodists,” or “enthusiasts” as they were derisively dubbed, were scorned for their enthusiasm towards evangelical activities. They were considered uncouth by the elite of the culture and society. [Look up George Whitfield] This is miracle number two: Wilberforce, until this point, had lived rather frivolously, due to his significant monetary benefits. He was able to do anything he wanted, and he wanted to have a good time. He was smart but lacked direction. In this section of life God gave him direction. This helped Wilberforce realize the incredibly evil contrast between his life, and the lives of the slaves.

Further into his life, Wilberforce has gained a reputation. He is a witty, charming, and kind politician fighting for the rights of all men, because all are equal. He’s proposed and passed bills to stop public burning, and has reduced the laws punishable by public hanging by nearly half and half again! He’s becoming quite accomplished, but he knows his work is nowhere near finished. Slavery is still rampant at this time.

To properly frame the situation I have to explain a bit. When I say slavery, or racial injustice, you think of the Civil War maybe? The whites in the South? The Triple K? Or the Brown v. Board of Education case?

Take all of those horrendous things and defenestrate them. Now think of the very worst racial injustice you’ve heard of and double, if not triple it. The process is disgusting.

These slaves were stolen from their homeland of Africa and forced to lay horizontally stacked, one upon the other, until you couldn’t fit anymore because of the ceiling. Then, if they weren’t dead at the end of the trip, because of indescribable horrors, then they were taken to fields in America, or in any other colony that the British could use them at, to work until they broke, or died. It was a lucrative trade that many were loath to part with, but at it’s core it was evil, and many sensed that.

Wilberforce fought for years upon years, and slowly chipped away at the massive institutionally accepted evil, and eventually gained some credence. Many of his friends laid their professional lives on the line for his cause, and helped him fight the slave trade. Eventually, after endless trials and underhanded schemes being thrown at them by large corporations (such as the British East India Company, which essentially governed India) Wilberforce prevailed, derailing what at the time was probably the most integral trade in the British Empire.

To correlate everything, I’d like to point out that Wilberforce never would have been so empathetic with the slaves if he hadn’t become a radical Methodist when his mother sent him to his aunt’s. That event alone was life-changing, and -shaping. He was changed from the well-educated, charming ne’er-do-anything-of-import that he was, to a deep thinking and pious man.

He also wouldn’t have been so self-condemning, if he hadn’t had his previous life as a well-to-do British elite.

The implications are astounding, aren’t they? Let’s go step by step, taking a few liberties.

God places Wilberforce into a rich family, Wilberforce grows; he learns academically–earning degrees necessary for a career in parliament–and personally–he develops his personality: wit, charm, and eloquence. Then, Wilberforce throws everything for a loop. He doesn’t have any ambition. Everyone likes him, and he just wants to enjoy life. God says, “No, you’ve got bigger things to do,” and sends him on his way to his Aunt’s by manipulating extenuating circumstances. Wilberforce becomes a Methodist, this leads to the cure of the world’s most deadly disease: slavery.

It’s amazing to see that through one man, God changed the world, taking in stride Wilberforce’s own decisions, and using them for the benefit of the world.

That shows me, more than anything else, God will forgive any sin. Not only that, but he’ll use that sin to the benefit of you, your family, the world?

The possibilities are endless. Luke 1:37, Luke 18:27.

For anyone looking to read more on William Wilberforce, the book that I read is Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas (above). It was comprehensive, as far as I could tell, and well written. And if you don’t want to read a scholarly work such as that, then Wikipedia is open 24/7 🙂

Chariots for China

Eric Liddell. Oh, Eric Liddell. Let me count thy wonderful deeds!

Okay, enough of that.

Eric Liddell is known for his racing. Albeit strange, his running style won him many a race. His formula was simple: Run as fast as you can for the first part of the race, and ask God to help you run faster the second part.

Eric’s decision to forgo a race that was held on Sunday was quite shocking to his countrymen. He chose not to race in the event he was favored in, thus giving up a chance at a “sure” gold medal.

Eric ended up winning a gold in the event he was the given the least chance in. He was held in great regard by many who had disowned him after he had “dishonored his country”. And many of the others had stuck by Eric through the whole escapade.

After Eric’s success at the games in Paris, he decided to go back to China, where he had been born as a missionary child.

He returned to his birthplace, and started to help his parents do missionary stuff. One funny thing is that the head of the Anglo-Chinese School insisted that Eric and his family live in the French concession, in a huge house. Eric was, in fact, a British hero.

Eric begin his work as a teacher at a high end school. The founder of the school started it because he realized the need for mission work to the rich. He saw the poor being helped, but not the rich. I personally thought this was pretty ingenious. You don’t throw your net over someone else’s net. (See “I don’t understand fishing metaphors!” Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs)

Anyway, after a while Eric married a Canadian doctor, who wanted to be a missionary to China. Her name was Florence.

Then they had two girls in quick succession. Patricia and Maureen.

After five years or so, Eric was asked to help in a town that was in a war zone. China was still in the middle of the Sino-Japanese war. (If you say, “Huh?” you’re not alone. The Sino-Japanese war is also called the Forgotten War.)

He prayed about it and decided that he would go and help the town. He was quickly enrolled as a nurse’s assistant, and quickly became busy.

He became proficient in first aid, and was able to treat minor injuries, and the like. He would also travel to neighboring towns in order to help others have access to the hospital. (It was the only one for miles, and the Japanese had confiscated most vehicle, carts, etc.)

There was one time in which he was to retrieve a man who had been slashed across the face and neck, nearly decapitated, by a Japanese soldier. Eric and a man who had come along with him, rode the man back to the hospital on Eric’s bike. Along the way, Eric’s convoy was shot at by some Chinese men who thought they were Japanese.

Eric realized then that they were in a real war zone. Riding a bike could get you killed, albeit a case of mistaken identity.

After a bit of serving in the towns, Eric was granted permission to return to the English concession, and continue working at the school as a teacher. He lived there with his wife and daughters, and then they went back home on the basis that it was too dangerous for a wife and children in China. The Japanese had already regulated travel out side of the concessions, and Eric knew it was time for them to return.

It wasn’t quite time for his furlough, so he stayed it out, but then was restricted from returning by the Japanese. They said that the foreigners would be aloud to return to their homes, as soon as they were notified.

But the foreigners were soon notified otherwise. The Japanese had decided to put them in an interment camp.

It was run so as to keep the Europeans happy, but it wasn’t perfect. They had to fix the sewage system, and there wasn’t a lot of space. only about a football field’s worth for a few thousand people.

Through it all, Eric led the discombobulated upper class through the hardships. Many of the interns were not used to the hard living as Eric was. In many of the small towns in China, he had slept on wood floors. Hay was a luxury.

Eric was always smiling, and organizing games, classes, and youth group activities.

Eric died in the internment camp of a brain tumor. He was 43, and the only consolation for his wife, was that there was no cure for a brain tumor in 1945, and she knew it.

In all of the written accounts of the internment, there is a reference to Eric, or Uncle Eric, as many of Eric’s little friends called him.

Many remembered him as “constantly smiling”, or “The best christian man I knew.” There are countless other accounts with similar praise, as Eric was truly filled with God’s love, and he showed it in every action.

Eric Liddell was remembered in Scotland, his native land, by an award, that went to the first place racer in the top collegiate competition.

He is, and should be, remembered by all, as a man who truly loved God.

He gave his life to him, all 43 years of it. That’s pretty special 🙂