Published by Banner of Truth Trust (and others more recently)
This book is one that I have read many times over the years, the first time I consciously saw it was in a little bookcase at my grandmother’s house in Barnoldswick. I read it while still a child, and have been back to it quite a few times over the years. Bruce Hunt was an American Presbyterian (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) missionary that was the son of missionary parents to Korea. He was born in Korea, in Pyong Yang, and in this book (and the other that I intend to review this month) he charts his work and that of his parents generation (and his wife’s parents).
He was serving as a missionary, when Korea had been occupied by the Japanese, prior to World War 2. When the war was declared his persecution by the Japanese intensified, but his story and the faithfulness of his Korean converts is heart warming for his vibrant faith and its trust in the almighty.
Bruce Hunt was married to Kathy Blair, whose father William Blair had seen revival attending his work amongst the Koreans in 1907. This book was written in 1966, and is his personal testimony as to what happened just prior and during the 2nd World War. At the start he acknowledges the accidental discovery of the original manuscript of the book, in the attic of Calvary OPC in Wildwood, New Jersey. It was passed around by Danny Foster and eventually seen into print by Rev John J Mitchell and Dr E J Young.
The book begins 22nd October 1941, scarcely 45 days before Pearl Harbour. Bruce Hunt is in Harbin, a province of China that is directly above North Korea. He had been working amongst the Korean’s in that city for six years as a missionary from the OPC. The Japanese government was seeking to control the church and impose the worship of the emperor on Christians.
His account begins with his arrest by the Japanese Police, at the police station as he is arrested he sees a Korean Christian lady (Chang Sin Ai) who he knew had signed a statement saying it was permissible to participate in shrine worship as she was heavily pregnant and fearful of imprisonment, arriving to retract her statement as she felt the burden of having accepted idolatry. He was imprisoned in a cell with 24 others, awaiting trial and was only able to sleep sitting down next to the communal lavatory. In the next cell to him was a seventeen year old Korean Christian, Lee Jun Ho, who was winning over the most hardened criminals with his cheerful spirit. After about a week in this prison, he was transferred along with another missionary (Roy Byram and his wife) to another prison in Antung which was then the border town between Korea and China (Manchuria). In this prison he had his own cell, but was in solitary confinement. Here he took the steel tip of his shoelace and scratched in the plasterwork of the cell the text of John 3:16 and Romans 6:23. While this annoyed his guards, it gave him the chance to share with them the gospel. He saw his time in prison as an opportunity to share the saviour with the other detainees and his guards, and would see some brought to Christ.
Hunt would realise in the prison, that those Korean Christians who like himself were being detained for simply refusing to worship the emperor, were all give a 22 badge – this gave him courage and pride to be wearing a badge associated with those suffering for the redeemer in the midst of the cold and pain of a Korean prison.
In prison, he would fellow believers being interrogated and tortured while being asked, who made this country, Jehovah God or Amaterasu Omi Kami (the Japanese Sun Goddess)? What I find touching is when these Christians were being transferred in handcuffs from one prison to another, there was often a crowd of their wives and children gathered at the gates waiting to see if their loved ones were still alive. When these transfers happened they would cry out, ‘An young ha sim nee ka’ (Are you at peace), to which the prisoners would reply ‘Yes, are you at peace’. Quite often as they were being taken away, the children would cry out ‘Gut ga jee’ from the Bible verse in 1 Peter 1:13, encouraging them to remain faithful ‘to the end’.
At his own trial, the interrogator asked him whether he believed that the Japanese Emperor needed to believe in Jesus, he replied in the words of Acts 4:12. The interrogator pressed, ‘do you believe, according to the verse that you have just quoted, that the Japanese Emperor would be lost if he did not believe in Jesus?’ Hunt, replied ‘Yes – I believe the emperor is a mere man like any of us, and that unless he believes in Jesus, the Son of God, he will suffer eternal punishment’. He records the raised eyebrows and his own recognition that this would give him little to expect, other than death.
He would continue in his unheated cell, in sub-zero conditions, being fed a poor diet of corn with a range of infections. He saw fellow Christians die under the conditions and other go mad. He recounts that in his prayers and mediations, he was impressed with the words ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’ He says, he had been in the habit before his imprisonment of fasting every week on a Thursday, to remember in prayer the suffering Christians around him that were without food.
In prison, he would speak to the guards about the belief in the resurrection, and the inability of death to touch Him. He would point to a Korean believer on his 10th imprisonment and say, ‘he has a wife and two small children’, ‘he loves life as much as you do; yet he is here again. He could have stayed free by denying his Faith. But Jesus Christ means more to us than life itself.’ At this point, the Korean believer interjected, ‘When you believe in Jesus, it is cheap to die.’
Later Hunt, was taken and offered a return to the United States. He replied ‘I would like to return to the United States, but as a missionary, I believe that God sent me to this country and I want to be where I am supposed to be. So no, I will not go back to America.’
Eventually, he was released but reached home on 6th December, only a few hours before the Pearl Harbour attack. After hurried goodbyes to his wife and children he was once more imprisoned by the Japanese. After a period in prison he was transferred to a concentration camp, but in this camp they had Bible study classes and church services and life was better than the prison. On June 1, 1942 he was allowed to leave the concentration camp and started an ocean voyage back to America. He would return after the war and serve as a missionary in South Korea until his retirement.