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Basically it's this amazing story of how despite brutal conditions, backbreaking work, constant debilitating sickness, and seemingly hopeless conditions, he and those around him were able to keep hope alive. And it came from a willingness to look beyond themselves and their current situation. Ernest is a Christian and was forced to come to terms with the evil surrounding him and his idea of a loving God. After reading the stories of Jesus in the Bible, he summed it up this way.
I see that the victory over the impersonal, destructive and enslaving forces at work in the world has been given to mankind because of what Jesus has done. This is the good news for man: God, in Christ, has shared his suffering; for that is what God is like. He has not shunned the responsibility of freedom. He shares in the saddest and most painful experiences of His children, even that experience which seems to defeat us all, namely, death. He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.To read the stories of the little acts of hope (making a special meal for a prison-mate by blending lime juice with their rice ration) becoming entire industries of hope (they created an entire factory to make prosthetic limbs from scavenged tin, leather and bamboo for amputees). He was moved to several camps. In each one, it would feel hopeless, despondent. He would begin with kind, encouraging words and regular contact with people in need. Other men began to see the joy of serving others. One man who was the most despondent Ernest had ever met, ended his time in the prison by making it his daily duty to clean and collect the pus-and-maggot-infested, putrid-smelling dressings of men with major infection. He'd be seen whistling the day away, carrying his bucket of putrid purpose.
Ernest ends his book with words that were particularly striking for me, living in a privileged easy life in Canada.
Being forced to face life in the raw may help one to understand the nature of the Debate (between good & evil, health and suffering etc), but that isn't necessary. Every person who uses the talents God gave him so that he is not afraid to live as a sensitive human being among the impersonal forces at work in society is participating and will be conscious of its only possible conclusion.
So what is that only possible conclusion? He goes on to write about Jesus in the paragraph I quoted earlier. And I would summarize it with Paul's words: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Faith and hope to you all.