Eric Liddell - Olympic Athlete and Christian Missionary
Born in China on January 16, 1902, to Scottish missionary parents, Eric Liddell is known to most of us for his unwavering Christian convictions during the Olympic games as portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire.
As a member of a close-knit Scottish protestant missionary family, Eric and his brother Rob grew up in boarding schools while his parents served in China. On his parents' and younger siblings' infrequent furloughs, the family would gather joyfully in Edinburgh.
In 1920, Eric Liddell entered the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a science degree after competing in the 1924 Olympic Games. During his college years, rugby was Eric's sport of choice, and he played with distinction both for the University and later on Scotland's national team.
However, his true athletic talent was running, so he set aside rugby to concentrate on preparing for the 1924 Paris Olympics, in which he won a gold medal for the 400-meter and a bronze medal for the 200-meter. His refusal to run on Sunday is detailed in Chariots of Fire.
After the Olympics, Eric Liddell began his life's work as a missionary to China, following in his parents footsteps. He served in North China from 1925 until his death in 1945.
When the Japanese invaded China, life became precarious for westerners - especially those like Eric Liddell who were working in Japanese-held territory. In 1941, the British government strongly urged its people to leave. Sending his wife, Florence (neé Mackenzie), and their three daughters to safety, Eric Liddell elected to stay.
Imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp in 1943, Eric Liddell developed a brain tumor under conditions where effective treatment was impossible. In spite of tremendous pain, Eric Liddell maintained his faith, courage and kindness towards others until the end - dying shortly after his 43rd birthday in January 1945.
Throughout the past several centuries, the strong and stalwart Scots Protestant tradition has produced great men and women of every profession and field of scholarship, but nowhere has Scotland been better served than by the Scottish missionaries who have given their lives for the sake of Christ and His message.
Eric Liddell chose to live a dangerous, materially unrewarding life in China, serving his God, when fame and riches were within his grasp. His greatness of heart and unwavering conviction are an inspiration to people of faith everywhere.
For more information about Eric Liddell's legacy, visit the Eric Liddell Centre's website. "The Centre was set up as a living memorial to Eric Liddell and has been serving the local and wider Edinburgh community for more than twenty years."
Read Eric Liddell's own recommendations for Christian growth through the devotional life: The Disciplines of the Christian Life.