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Comfort of Emmanuel

On October 1st, 1934, a group of people were taken captive by the Chinese Red Army. Among them were the missionaries Rudolf Bosshardt and his wife, as well as Arnolis Hayman, his wife and two of their children, and another missionary named Grace Emblen.

After the first eleven days, all of the prisoners had been released except for Mr. Hayman and Mr. Bosshardt, who were detained for a large ransom. Little did anyone know that they would each be held for more than a year, joining their captors as they fled on a 6,000 mile journey across China known as “The Long March.” Of the estimated 100,000 soldiers who started the march, more than half lost their lives in the fighting, bombing, mountains, rivers, hunger, illness, and extreme conditions they faced along the way.

Through this great trial, the captured missionaries never lost sight of the One who promised “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Even after hearing of the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam, missionaries who had been taken captive by other communist forces at the same time, they were content to say “Not my will, but Thine be done,” remembering the words of the Psalmist quoted by the apostle Paul: “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36).

In the middle of December, 1934, Hayman and Bosshardt decided to attempt an escape. For three days they tasted freedom, but were eventually recaptured. Bound and confined—each to a corner in the same small room with only straw for a bed and bricks for pillows, they were not even allowed to speak. On Christmas Eve they stood trial as spies and escapees. They would later be sentenced to death.

As Christmas morning dawned, a one-word message of hope and cheer came to Mr. Bosshardt’s mind—Emmanuel! In his own words, at the thought of that Name “the day brightened and the walls widened.” He longed to share this joy with his friend, but feared the guards, who were under strict orders not to let them communicate. Then an idea came to him. Using the straw, he formed each letter of his message until the whole Name was visible. Bosshardt writes, “Knowing we should be imprisoned no longer than He would allow, we rejoiced in tribulation. Joy broke over us and sweet relief. God was with us.”

Throughout the months that followed, until their release, that one word of Divine comfort never left them.