All posts filed under: Biography

Three Sadhus in Kathmandu, Nepal. The author notes they were not the strictist observers. Photo Markus Koljonen/Wikipedia

The Apostle of the bleeding feet

Sundar Singh (1889-1929?) was born into a Sikh family in Rampur, Ktaania, Ludhiana (Punjab state), Northern India. Common in this part of India, Sikhs differ from Hindus in that they believe there is only one God and they don’t accept Hindu’s caste system. The fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhs are often confused with Muslims because the men traditionally wear turbans. Though Sundar’s mother desired her son to be a Sadhu or Sikh holy man and sent her son to a guru to be trained as a Sadhu, she also wanted her son to learn English and sent him to a Christian school. After his mother died, Sundar, then 14, became very angry and began to take out his frustration on Christians. He not only mocked them but once in a fit of anger burnt a Bible page by page in front of his friends. His anger and frustration boiled over and he contemplated suicide by throwing himself in front of a train. After praying that the “true God” would reveal Himself, Jesus appeared …

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India Photo: Amit Gupta/Flickr

Christian Heroes – Dr. Paul Brand

Paul Brand was a Christian doctor who dedicated his life and his skills to the people of India. He was the son of missionaries to India and, from the age of nine, was schooled and trained in England while his parents remained. After Brand graduated as an orthopaedic surgeon, he was recruited to serve at the Christian Medical College in Vellore. However, history remembers him most for his work at a nearby sanatorium for victims of Hanson’s Disease – leprosy. Little was known or understood about the crippling effects of leprosy on its victims. Brand realized that some of the same techniques used to rehabilitate the motor functions of victims of diseases such as polio held promise for treating leprosy. After a year of research and study, Brand began a series of surgeries on Krishnamurthy, a young man whose hands were completely atrophied and useless, his fingers curled into a claw position. Patiently, over time, Brand split moved healthy muscles and tendons to serve in place of paralyzed muscle. The claw gradually was restored to …

Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, Wilcox, Saskatchewan: Google Street View

Christian Heroes 4 – Father Athol Murray

To those who met Athol Murray for the first time, it would have been easy to mistake him for a steelworker or a farmer. He was, instead, a priest, one of the most remarkable Canada has ever known. With the Catholic Church and other churches beset with the scandal that was the residential school system, it is good to remind ourselves that there were some who, given charge of young lives, emboldened and enriched them. It was said that Père Murray had “the mind of a Greek scholar, the vocabulary of a dock worker, and the soul of a saint.” Working with the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, he established Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan in 1927 as a place where young men and women, Catholic and non-Catholic, could come together for both learning and intensive training in competitive sports. Especially hockey, the priest’s favourite sport. The Notre Dame Hounds hockey team has a storied history, with at least 14 Hounds making it to the NHL. Other alumni included Olympic Gold Medallist Delaney …

Choosing people of character

[by Earl Blacklock] Richard Evelyn Byrd was a remarkable explorer and adventurer whose accomplishments made history. An officer in the U.S. Navy, he flew perilous journeys over Arctic regions, one of which won him the Medal of Honor. In 1927, he crossed the Atlantic with three others, and survived a crash landing at Normandy, France. And in 1929, he began a series of expeditions to Antarctica, his best known accomplishment. So what did Rear Admiral Byrd look for when choosing his crew for these quests? Before leaving on his first expedition to Antarctica, he set out the criteria he used to select his team from the thousands of applicants who wanted to serve. First, he sought men who knew what it was to face prolonged danger without fear. That ability, he felt, arose in large part from “good heart and digestion” and exercise. Those who were in good health, he observed, were often those best able to deal with extraordinary challenges.

The failure that helped make Lincoln president

[by Earl Blacklock] Robert Todd Lincoln was a witness to some of the most momentous moments of American history. As Secretary of War under President James A. Garfield, he witnessed Garfield’s assassination at the hands of Charles Guiteau. He was Minister to the Court of St. James (U.S. Ambassador to Britain) under President Benjamin Harrison. He succeeded George Pullman as the President of the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1898 and, at the invitation of President William McKinley, he was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo when McKinley was gunned down by Leon Czolgosz. Despite his lifetime of achievement, however, it was his record of failure which was, perhaps, his greatest contribution to history. Robert Todd Lincoln was the first son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, and the only one to reach adulthood.

A most remarkable man

[by Earl Blacklock] Eddie Rickenbacker. World War I fighter ace, race car driver, survivor. And devout Christian. What a life he led! Working from the time he was 13 after the death of his father, he suffered a severe injury that laid him up in the hospital for weeks. There he chose to devote the next stage of his life to the fledgling automobile industry. He had been smitten by a thrilling ride in a Ford runabout which traveled at more than ten miles per hour. By 1911 he was driving race cars at the Indianapolis Speedway. By 1915 he had a four car racing team, and he developed techniques to reduce time in the pits which saved 30 seconds at a time. In 1916, he won more than half of the major races he entered.

Christian Heroes III – Dr. William Osler

[by Earl Blacklock] Dr. William Osler was a Canadian doctor who profoundly influenced the practice of medicine. To be a doctor was not, however, his first career choice. William intended to follow his father into the ministry, even entering seminary with that intent. After a year, however, William decided to study at McGill Medical School. After graduating, Osler continued his studies in Europe. In London, he became the first to identify the clumps that form in blood after it is drawn from the body. He correctly concluded that the clumps, now known as blood platelets, had a role to play in clotting. The acclaim that accompanied his discovery prompted McGill to call its former student home as a professor of physiology.

Christian Heroes II — William Wilberforce

[by Earl Blacklock] The slave trade was a lucrative part of the British economy. British ships moved slaves from Africa to the West Indies to be bought and sold, then brought sugar and other goods produced with that labor back to Britain. William Wilberforce was a young man, born to privilege, who was a close personal friend of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. In 1780, while still a 21 year old student at Cambridge, he was elected the Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull, sitting as an independent. At 25, he was elected the Member of Parliament for Yorkshire. Shortly after, partly due to the influence of his aunt, he went through a conversion experience, becoming an ardent Christian. He fought for social reforms such as the improvement of British factory conditions, and against  child labor and animal cruelty.

The Crown Prince

[by Earl Blacklock] Elizabeth Gray Vining was an experienced American teacher who, in 1946, had the opportunity of a lifetime – to be the English tutor of the Crown Prince of Japan. Emperor Hirohito had specified the qualifications she was to meet. She was to be a Christian woman, “but not a fanatic”. Japan was recovering from a devastating military defeat; the Emperor had been permitted to remain as a figurehead ruler. Real power, however, rested with the Allied commander General Douglas MacArthur, and the Emperor wanted the Crown Prince readied for this new world. Elizabeth was told her purpose was to open windows to the world outside Prince Akihito’s household and culture. Elizabeth’s influence went beyond her lessons.

An Investment Well Made

[by Earl Blacklock] A.J. Cronin was a physician and one of England’s most successful novelists. His most famous work is the 1937 book The Citadel, which provides an insider’s view of the problems found in the hidebound British medical profession. Cronin regularly crossed the Atlantic by ocean liner. On one such voyage he began to notice a fellow passenger gazing at him intently. It was clear the man wanted to approach him, but he seemed too shy to do so.

Sir Arthur Pearson, GBE

Arthur Pearson was a man of accomplishment, but also a man of service despite a lifelong problem of fading eyesight and eventual blindness. He was born in 1866 to a father who was the Rector of a centuries-old Church of England parish church and a mother who was the granddaughter of hymn-writer and religious poet Henry Francis Lyte, the writer of the well-loved hymn “Abide With Me”. Pearson became a journalist at 18, and the publisher of a periodical journal with a quarter of a million subscribers at 24. He continued to establish and acquire newspapers and magazines, and his greatest accomplishment as a publisher was the founding of the Daily Express newspaper, which is still operating.