Thursday, May 14, 2009

Keeping Our Faith In Los Baño

We all face illnesses, financial hardship, family problems and just regular day to day stress of living in this modern world. How many times in our lifetimes do we think that life is just too difficult and wish we did not have go on? I have felt that way many times through out my life.....yet my problems did not seem to be that bad when I heard of other people's problems.

Just recently I read a book about people who had to face a severe hardship that looked like there was no end in sight. In 1941 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, American people in the Philippines, of whom most were missionaries, were put in prison camps. At first they were all in hiding, but soon the Japanese issued the order that if they did not turn themselves in they would be shot. The ones who did not, were indeed shot.

Our Aunt Lois Hess Lupole, was a prisoner in Los Baños Internment Camp, Laguna Province, on Luzon, in the Philippines at age five with her family. She gave me the book, Escape At Dawn written by Carol Terry to read. Carol Terry was a young missionary on her way to India. She told of the hardships that they had to physically endure. Many of the people were old and not in good health after a few months of starvation, living on slugs and weeds and much worse. There were families with children, as our aunt's. Can you imagine the feeling a mother or father would have knowing that your children were starving and there was absolutely nothing you could do? One father stopped eating and divided his share of what food they were given between his wife and child. They were there for three years which to all of them seemed like forever.

When they first came to Los Baños Internment Camp, the guards took all their books and writing materials away from them. Which included what? Their most important possession! Of course, all their Bibles! Finally they asked for the Bibles back and the guards had a meeting and decided they could have the Holy Bibles back but not the New Testaments. The guards did not know that the New Testament was in the Holy Bibles too!

The one thing that was constant in all the hardships they went though was their belief in the Word and their faith saw them through. Right up to the end with everyone suffering from Beriberi which is what you get from being malnourished and eventually you will die from it. Many people did give up hope. Carol Terry tells of going off by herself to be alone with God. To talk to him about the situation they were in and ask for his assistance. She kept her faith and never said or thought that God had abandoned them. As many of the others felt the same way even in a death camp being guarded by Japanese soldiers who hated Americans. One of them would put some food in front of a child's nose and then eat it in front of the child. They tortured these people, as well as others in unspeakable ways.

A Philippine man was sent into the American soldiers camp by the Philippine guerrillas to tell them that there were over 2000 people being held in the Los Banos prison camp that was many miles back into the Japanese territory. The message was then sent to General MacArthur. After that, it became General MacArthur's uttermost goal to free those people. I won't go into the behind the scenes details of what the American soldiers had to do.....but when the prisoners started seeing American planes dipping their wings to them........they had hope! God had answered their prayers. They were still starving and were scared that the soldiers wouldn't make it in time but they knew they were aware of them being there at last.....after 3 years.

One night, one of ladies said she saw a vision of angels coming from the sky. The next morning, February 23, 1945 at dawn, the United States Army's 11th Airborne Division, assisted by Philippine guerrilla forces, carried out a lightning-swift raid forty kilometers behind Japanese lines and rescued 2,147 American and Allied civilian prisoners of war, men, women, and children. Most of the Japanese garrison were killed; the rest scattered. The prisoners had to be taken out of there safely through enemy territory by the soldiers. Going across a lake on amphibian type vehicles.....we are talking about over 2147 people who were so starved they could barely stand let alone walk. It was found out later that the prisoners were scheduled to be executed that very morning at roll call. Did God send those American soldiers or what? Their prayers were answered!

Not one prisoner was killed or seriously wounded; all were transported safely behind American lines. Not one paratrooper of the battalion directly involved was killed. In a crucial blocking force to the west of the prison camp, four 11th Airborne troopers were killed. The Philippine guerrillas suffered two men killed. Tragically, shortly following this magnificent rescue, Japanese forces returned and wreaked vengeance on the town of Los Baños, massacring some 1500 helpless Filipino civilians.

Carol Terry prayed all through her ordeal and risked her life many times through out this ordeal. It never crossed her mind that God was not with them. In the end she felt that God gave her this burden to bear to make her strong for what she would have to do in her life. In her case it was being a missionary in India at a little girl's orphanage. Now I will look at my burdens to bear in a different manner. Keeping your faith in the Lord and knowing that he is with you no matter what. Even if it seems to you that he is not there, he is. Just have faith that you will get you through it with him.

Our Aunt Lois said that her grandmother always knew they would be rescued and come home because she prayed for it. And she had faith.

Copyright © 2009 Kathleen G. Lupole

All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole
Updated: August 2016

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