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And To Die Is Gain

On a sizzling summer’s day in 1925, 17-year-old Bill Wallace sat in a garage working on a dismantled Ford, but his thoughts were on the future. Putting down his wrench, he reached for his New Testament and scrawled a decision on its grease-stained flyleaf. He would become a medical missionary.

Ten years later he arrived at Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow, South China. War was brewing between the warlords of Kwangsi Province and the government of Chiang Kai-shek, and many missionaries had fled. Wallace remained at the hospital, performing surgery, making rounds, and sharing Christ.

He survived the dangers only to face a greater one. It was Japan, intent on a conquest of the Chinese mainland. Still Wallace stayed, treating the wounded and performing surgery amid exploding bombs and flying bullets. Not until 1940 did he return to America on furlough.

When time came to return, his friends questioned him; but he said, “When I was trying to decide what I should do with my life, I became convinced God wanted me to be a medical missionary. That decision took me to China. And that, along with the fact that I was extremely happy there, will take me back.” He returned on August 14, 1942, and began dispensing medical and spiritual help during World War II.

Then an even greater threat emerged—the Communist takeover of China. Still Wallace stayed, performing duties with a hero’s valor. Finally, during predawn of December 19, 1950, Communist solders came to arrest the “best surgeon in China” on trumped-up espionage charges. He was placed in a small cell where he preached to passersby from a tiny window.

Brutal interrogations followed, and Wallace, wearing down, stuck verses of Scripture on the walls of his cell. When he died on February 10, 1951 from the ordeal, the Communists tried to say he had hanged himself; but his body showed no signs of suicide. He was buried in a cheap wooden coffin in a bamboo-shaded cemetery. The inscription on his grave simply said: For to Me to Live Is Christ.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

50 Years After: Bill Wallace and the Meaning of Heroism

Dr. Bill Wallace, medical missionary to Communist China

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