While at Eltham, and later at Edinburgh University, where he went for a BSc in Pure Science, Eric became noted for his athletic skill and sportsmanship. People began to hale him as a potential Olympic winner.
Eric trained for Olympic running and chose to run the 100-meter dash in the Paris Olympics of 1924. When he found out they would be run on a Sunday, he chose to run the 400-meter dash instead, as he believed the Sunday was a day dedicated to his Lord. People didn't think he would win the 400-meter, but he pulled out at five meters ahead of the silver-medalist and beat the world record at 47.6 seconds. Eric was an Olympic hero.
After his Olympic victory, Eric surprised the world by going to China as a missionary in 1925. There he taught at the Anglo-Chinese college for wealthy Chinese students, using his athletic experience to train in sports. He was also Sunday School Superintendent at his father's church, Union Church, there in China. In 1934, Eric married Florence Mackenzie, the daughter of Canadian missionaries who were working in China. There they had two daughters, Patricia and Heather.
But things weren't going altogether smoothly. As World War II began to terrorize the Pacific Rim, Eric began to realize that his family would be safer back in Canada with Florence's relatives in Toronto. So Flo and the children sailed to Canada while Eric stayed behind, with hopes that they would be reunited after the war's end. Not long after they left, Eric received the news that his third daughter, Maureen, had been born.
In 1943, Eric and many other Americans and Brits were taken to Weihsien, a Japanese Interment Camp, or, prison camp. There he took up teaching and leading at the camp, and became a godly and revered example for many of the young people there. But soon people began to notice that he was getting more easily tired and was complaining of headaches. On February 22, 1945, Eric went home to be with the Lord as a result of a tumor that was killing his brain. At his funeral, the Salvation Army band played his favorite hymn, Finlandia (“Be Still My Soul”). The runner had finished his dash through life, and was at rest and at home with Lord.
Many people remember Eric for his athletic reputation. However, the young people that he taught and befriended at Weihsien remembered him for his deep love for the Lord and his godly influence. They remembered him not only teaching on the Sermon on the Mount and the Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13), but also living it out in his daily life. Eric ran his race through life well, and the message of his life still touches us today.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...” Hebrews 12:1,2
This article was originally featured in the March/April 2007 issue of the Tuckleberry Times.