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11: Last Day

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We had been 99 days in Bantjeuj. By now we were lift with 13 people: 6 children and 7 adults. We came in with 33 people: one person had gone mad and the three children of Mrs. O'Hara had been released, sixteen died.

We thought it was a day like other days, but suddenly at about midnight "Uncle" woke us up by speaking through the bars to us; "Tomorrow you are leaving, you are going to be transported. The Japanese officer has just told us that a truck is coming to fetch you." That was all; he was gone.

We all sat up and shivered. None of us could sleep anymore. How scared we were for the future. We were imagining all sorts of horrible things that could befall us. Really it was madness because conditions could not get much worse than what we were already experiencing. Sleeping on a soaked cold ground with rats moving around us at night, the toilet blocked and overflowing, swarms of flies and diseases, no water to wash ourselves, no change of clothing for 99 days, interrogation and little food ... that was our life in Bantjeuj.

So little hope and trust we have for "better things to come." We are quicker inclined to drop to gloominess than to hope for joy ahead. We had fleas in our hair, we smelt, and it was with shaky legs that we followed the warden the next morning to the awaiting truck. We said good-bye to the hollow faces behind the bars of the cells which we passed on our way to the inner courtyard. The voices whispered; "God bless you!" - "God protect you."

The gates opened with a loud runty screeching noise and off we went out of the jaws of the monster into the world "outside." How wonderful, how wonderful to see such an expansion of sky, to see trees and grass even flowers, to see people on cycles in cars and walking. Oh how wonderful the world is with all its vanities and colours. Then we saw a big notice up in the distance "Tjihajit" and we laughed from relief, as we had been brought to a camp.

When we clambered down from the truck, women came rushing up to us and it was like Paradise. First of all we were scrubbed and scrubbed and de-flead [sic]. Food was offered to us, rice with cabbage, and we talked and told them how lucky they were to be in Tjihajit-camp instead of Bantjeuj prison. One hundred days in Bantjeuj was like a life of its own. I always think of my life before Bantjeuj - then Bantjeuj as a life of its own, one hundred days in Bantjeuj - life after Bantjeuj. Towards the Japanese I do not feel a hatred or a need for revenge, because due to Bantjeuj I learned what the significance of life is, to prepare for death, which is the beginning of a real true full life of being instead of "existing in time." I know the Japanese did not set out purposely to teach me the meaning of life, but I am so grateful for what I received spiritually, I hope this may off set the darkness of their souls, their cruel inflicting of needless suffering.

I felt desperately lonely in the cell in spite of all the people, because everyone had become like an island trying to survive in terrible conditions. And in a lonely life one has the chance to seek communion with God, who is literally "at hand", whose Grace is within reach. I realized that I was being prepared in prison, later in the camps, for both life and death. To leave this earth and be with Christ is far better, but life with Him here on earth is also wonderful and a preparation for a greater communion with Him in His Kingdom. Ps.[Psalm] 32 "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go, I will guide thee with Mine Eye"

Memories are not the key to the past but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.

Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.

In Bantjeuj I kept my eyes all day fixed on that bit of heaven. At night looking at the stars, in day time sometimes clouds moved across, white or pink or edged with gold.

All this that seemed so wasteful and so needless - this war - this Bantjeuj prison, this very cell, none of it was unforeseen or accidental. There is a Mighty Plan, a Designer behind the Plan. It is not a matter of "punishment", it is a matter of "refining the silver" and all that is dross must be burned away. In days and hours, months like these, you discover yourself through God. He allows circumstances or people to affect us and gives us an opportunity to effect them. We discover our lack of faith our impatience, our fears, our despair in the face of defeats or personal comforts. We pray "God give me patience", but we are in a hurry to receive this virtue.

Who of us, when we come to "our senses" prefers to have a fur-coat or a Rolls-Royce in preference to our eye-sight, which is free? Imagine to live in darkness and miss out on the beauty of nature, of colours, of the expressions on the faces of people.

Who would prefer to become a champion in any field, sport, or art, or science than to have hearing for the sounds of voices, music, and to have to-live in absolute stillness?

We spend quite a lot of money on food, considerably less on water and nothing on air. But we can only live without air for a few minutes, a longer time without water and yet several weeks without food. So we do not pay any money for the air which is most essential for us, and therefore we take it for granted and think nothing of its value.

The fool says in his heart, "there is no God", but those of us who have come to our senses, re-think the priorities and values of our life and repent. We should in that case become like the man who has found the Priceless Pearl and for whom nothing else matters anymore than to sell everything so as to obtain this Priceless Pearl; God's grace.

We have to learn the example of Job, who praised God in all the circumstances of his life. Job praised God not only for all the blessings that came his way. When evil befell him he praised God too, who allowed these things to happen in his life and he said; "Should I receive only the good things from God and not the evil things if God so chooses to send them to me?"

It is no good then denying there is evil in the world and to be like an ostrich burying our heads in the sand in the hope that it will then "disappear". My mother taught me to say to myself; "The Devil is mighty but God is Almighty".

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