Once, when I was a prisoner-of-war under the Japanese in Java, the Japanese transported us from one camp to another in a cattle truck. The journey lasted 38 hours. The shutters were closed, it was stiflingly hot. When people died from the heat, the train stopped and the corpses were buried along the railway track. I was very young and kept fainting and coming round again. I kept thinking that one does not have to wait for death to know what hell is: "Here on earth one can already experience the horrors of hell".
At last we arrived at our new camp - Kampong Makassar outside Batavia (now Djakarta). Exhausted, we were taken to our barracks, which were made of bamboo and were situated under coconut trees. We had no mattresses and slept on bamboo. During the night I woke up because I had to go to the toilet. I crawled, dead tired, out of my bamboo bed and made my way to the exit in search of the latrines. I remembered vaguely that they were on the right of the barracks in which we were sleeping, but it was a dark night with only a few stars shining in the sky. I had no shoes on and walked carefully on the slippery red clay, peering into the dark. Suddenly I slipped and fell into a slimey pond which stank dreadfully. Big "things" floated around my face, and it suddenly dawned on me that I had fallen into the cesspool next to the latrines. Absolute despair overcame me. This was the last straw; after all I had already gone through, I could take no more and was going to allow myself to drown. Suddenly I heard the voice of an angel speaking to me. As far as I can remember, I heard his voice with my physical ears, and although I could not see him with my physical eyes, I saw him in my mind somewhere in the air on my right and in front of me. "Do you believe in God?" he asked. In my heart (certainly not with my mouth), I answered: "I do". Then the angel proceeded to warn me in a very stern voice that I was not allowed to take my life, and that if I did so, worse would befall me "on the other side". Whatever I could not solve here on earth in time would not be solved by my suicide, but would rather be aggravated. I certainly would not "get out of it", which had been my motivation for allowing myself to drown.
Fear took hold of me - the fear of God. I waded with my arms through the slime to the edge of the cesspool and tried to clamber out. But to my dismay there was nothing firm like a shrub or a tree to which I could cling and haul myself out. Then I thought of trying to reach the bottom of the cesspool so as to use it as a springboard from which to try and jump onto the dry ground. However, as I sank deeper and deeper I could not find the bottom. Finally in utter despair I cried out with all my soul: "Please God, help me, you can see that I'm trying to get out, but it's impossible."
At that moment I felt two fingers under each of my elbows and I was lifted up and out of the pool like a feather. In my mind I saw two very great angels, much taller than men, each of whom put a finger under each of my elbows and laid me gently on the ground. I think I fainted. When I came round, I wondered what had happened to me. Then I remembered, and wept and wept. God had saved me by sending His angels to my rescue. How wonderful is our great God, Who visits us in the cesspool of this world. Who is so great a God as our God? He is the God that worketh wonders.
I was 100 days in a prison under the Japanese, and the Christmas we celebrated there was the most beautiful and unforgettable in my life. 33 people entered the cell, and 13 came out alive. 18 had died and 2 had gone mad during those 3 and a half months. The prison was a condemned building which should have been demolished. None of the plumbing worked, so every night we slept in one inch of water. Every morning we got up wet, and had to dry ourselves in the sunshine pouring in from outside. That was why so many of us fell ill and died.
One of the prisoners was a young woman about 30 years of age who had three young children with her. She was spitting up blood and dying of tuberculosis, which she had suffered from since her childhood. She was constantly worrying about what would happen to her children after her death. We could offer no comfort; all we could do was tell her to try not to worry.
On the morning of Christmas Eve we woke up to find her lying still and smiling at us. She asked us whether we were not surprised that she was so calm and was not worrying about her children. We admitted that we had noticed a change in her. She told us that during the night, while we were asleep, she had been looking at the millions of stars in the Milky Way which we could glimpse through the roof. (We had no ceiling above our heads, only a roof of tiles many of which were missing, so there were gaps through which we could see the sky.) While she was looking at these stars and worrying about her children, she heard the voice of an angel asking her whether she believed in God. When she said "yes", the angel told her not to worry about her three children because if God could take care of the galaxies He could certainly look after her three children. A great peace and joy, relief and gratitude entered her heart. She fell into a good, deep sleep which she had not had for many a day. When she woke up, the peace was still in her heart, and she was convinced that God would take care of her children. She died that night, and in the morning her three children were sobbing near her body because "Mummy is not waking up"...
It was Christmas Day, and we felt so sad. Then a Japanese officer came and stood in the doorway. He asked why the children were sobbing. Suddenly one of the women got up and screamed at him: "They are crying because their mother is dead and it is all your fault." The officer took out his whip and was about to beat her. But she was besides herself and shouted: "Whip me! But there is one of whom you ought to be afraid, and that is Allah!" Allah is the Malayan word for God. He dropped his arm, turned and walked away. The woman sat down and cried and cried. Indonesian wardens came to take the body away on a stretcher. Then a warden went up to the woman who had spoken up against the Japanese officer and asked her to follow him together with the three children of the dead woman. When they left we were all terribly depressed. We thought she was going to be beaten as a punishment, and we wondered what they were going to do with the children. About two hours later the woman returned alone. She told us that the Japanese officer whom she had shouted at had asked her whether the children had any relatives living outside the camps. Apparently their maternal grandmother was still living in her house and had not yet been put in camp. The officer then told the woman that he had decided that for the rest of the war the children should live with their grandmother. Then he handed her a big document written in Japanese with his signature and said: "I want you to take the children to their grandmother. You will be accompanied by a warden. Hand this document to the grandmother and tell her about the death of her daughter." So they went off to the address of the grandmother, who broke down on hearing of her daughter's death. However, she hugged the children, took the document, and the warden brought the woman back to the prison.
Our gloom turned to unspeakable awe and joy. God had truly taken care of the three children as the angel had told their mother. Within twelve hours of her death they were outside the prison and living with their grandmother. They survived the war, and were reunited with their father after it.
I had to think of the disciples who thought that all was lost when Christ died on the Cross. Their confusion and sorrow must have been indescribable. They had been with the God-Man for 3 and a half years, they had witnessed the miracles of healing and resurrection from the dead, they had listened to His holy voice. And then suddenly all seemed lost. In fact, Christ was at that very moment accomplishing His great victory over death.
It is like that so often in ordinary life. When we feel despair, help is at hand, a great surprise of joy is awaiting us. If only we could have more faith in our wonderful God, then all the days and hours of our life would be filled with a wonderful peace and joy.
[posted on facebook by Vladimir Moss]