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 soldiers 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 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 honestly expect and hope that I will never do anything to be ashamed of. Whether I live or die, I always want to be as brave as I am now and bring honor to Christ. If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. (Philippians 1:20,21)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Under the title And to Die Is Gain, August 14.