HERO: Herbert Lord
Years Fighting: (In Korea) 1910-1935 and 1948-1951
Hero ID: The Commissioner
Mission: Serve TSA as a pioneer Officer in Korea, Never Abandon your Post
Strength: Advocacy, Courage in the face of death, Sacrifice
Commissioner Lord is probably the least known of all our heroes we’ve profiled. If you Google his name, you’ll find very little information, if any. So, even with my research, most of the details of his life are a little fuzzy. But I think as you read the following account you’ll wonder, along with me, why this hero is not more well known and described in history books.
Herbert Lord was born in Britain and trained as a Salvation Army Officer as a teenager! (You’re never too young to serve God!) Upon training completion, while most others undoubtedly went to various small corps (churches) around England, Herbert Lord and one other young man named Charles Sylvester were sent to the very distant shores of South Korea where TSA was just starting to develop ministry! At the age of 21, filled with courage and leaving everything he knew and loved behind to do what God was asking of him he took a train across Russia and reached South Korea on February 5th, 1910.
Most of the Salvation Army officers in Korea relied heavily on interpreters when preaching and dealing with Korean people. With no classes or schools available that taught Korean to foreigners, many of them never really learned to communicate effectively in Korean. Herbert Lord was the exception. He spent an enormous amount of time with the Korean people and picked up the language and customs that way, becoming the most proficient speaker among the Salvation Army foreign officers.
Not long after he came to Korea he met and married another British Officer serving in Korea – Captain Margaret Newman. Together they had 5 sons who attended boarding schools in the UK while their parents served abroad. This was no small sacrifice, as you can imagine. SA missionaries were only allowed to return home every ten years! Imagine only getting to see your parents once or twice every decade! On one occasion the Commissioner visited his son who called him ‘sir’ rather than ‘father’, a heartbreaking moment he never forgot.
In 1935 Lord and his wife were sent to lead the Salvation Army’s work in Singapore and Malaysia (islands to the south and east of India). During his term, the Japanese invaded Singapore. Lord managed to get his wife out of the country, but he refused to leave the people he was working so desperately to bring to God, knowing this would most likely lead to his imprisonment. He stayed, was captured by the Japanese as they fought and gained control of the country and became a prisoner for three years in the Changi prison. This facility was meant to accommodate 600 men, but 3000 men (some who died from the conditions) were crammed in there! Whoa… can you say ‘tight quarters’ or ’3 years in a human sardine can’?!
In 1947, after World War 2, Lord was made the National leader of TSA back in Korea. Three years into his appointment, he was facing the same difficult life-altering decision as before. The North Korean Communist People’s Army invaded South Korea. He was able to get his wife and all foreign officers out of the country and out of danger as well as give every Korean officer 3 months allowance. You would think three years already spent in prison would have given him a clear conscience to seek safety for himself leaving his officers and the Korean people when they were in need was out of the question, even when it meant putting his entire life on hold and facing enormous danger and imprisonment. The North Koreans, as a communist party, were against religion in every form and indeed, this experience was to be quite unlike and much worse than what he had experienced under Japanese occupation in Singapore.
Lord found himself in a group of about 100 civilian prisoners, including Russians, Frenchmen, Korean politicians, and many missionaries, especially catholic priests and nuns. There was even a priest named Father William Booth From the beginning he emerged as the natural leader of the group, since he was the best Korean speaker among them. Over the next three years he would act as the main interpreter for both the civilians as well as a group of 700 Prisoners of War (mostly American soldiers that were captured by the North Korean Army).
In their first year as prisoners, the group was constantly on the move, from prison to drafty schoolhouse, to sleeping in the open in the cold Korean winter! Some days all they had to eat was one little rice ball. They wore their summer clothes (mostly what they had been arrested in, and many couldn’t sleep because of the cold. Keep in mind this was not a young and spry crew. Some of the nuns, priests, and Russians were in their 70s and 80s! Lord himself was in his 60s! The deplorable conditions they faced would become fairly typical. Fortunately, they had a good advocate in Herbert Lord. One day they had been packed on a train. When night came and the train stopped, they were told to sleep, but there was not enough room for everyone to sit, let alone lie down! Lord went to a guard and demanded that some be relocated to make room. The guard on duty shoved a gun in his face and challenged him to speak again. Lord stood his ground, and eventually the guard gave in!
As the winter set in that first year, a new commander oversaw the civilians and Prisoners of War. Up to that point their previous commanders had been demanding at times, but also showed they were reasonable and even compassionate. The nickname that quickly became popular for their new leader was ‘The Tiger’. When the civilians were asked again by this new commander to nominate a leader, the group suggested Lord, but the the Tiger said he already had a job for him. Lord became the Tiger’s personal interpreter, which was no small burden, since the next day the Tiger announced that everyone would be marching in military rank into the mountains. Lord argued “these people are not fit or able to march!”. The Tiger’s response? “Well let them march until they die!!!”… and that’s what many of them did.
Having been virtually starved up until this point, the POW’s and civilians formed ranks as well as they could, with weaker and older members in between the stronger. Even supporting each other this way, the grueling pace expected of them made progress impossible for many. The Tiger had a schedule in mind, and though they often would have been capable of walking the distance throughout a day, he and the officers would yell ‘Bali! Bali!’ (“Hurry! Hurry!”) and force them to cover the distance in 5 or 6 hours, with no breaks. Not surprisingly, with many of those marching already sick and starving, by the second day many were falling behind. When The Tiger noticed this, he demanded all the men who were in charge of ranks that were allowing people to fall behind to present themselves. He took out his gun and suggested killing all of them. Lord vehemently argued. Finally, he asked for the man who had let the most men die come forward. This person presented himself bravely and muttered to Lord, “Save me if you can, sir” but The Tiger shot him in cold blood.
It started to become obvious that, from that day on, all those who fell behind were dealt with the same way – a bullet. Lord was often the last to leave camp in the morning, translating for men. Many died in the night, sleeping out in the cold and exhausted. One morning he had to leave 15 men behind who couldn’t continue the march. He heard the locals saying how many men were to be buried – and the number included the 15 still living Lord had just left behind.
By the fourth day, the commissioner had finally convinced The Tiger to provide wagon transport for the older women, which included Mother Beatrix (a 76 year old nun) and Madame Funderat (a 70 year old French woman). The whole company departed and the women and Commissioner Lord stayed behind and waited for the transport… which never arrived. An hour later they were told no help was coming and they had to march on and catch up with the others – many of the women had only made it through so far being helped and carried by others! The commissioner, who had a serious heart condition, was the only man left to help! Though her sister nuns cried and wept and tried to drag her on, Mother Beatrix could not continue the march that day, and was presumably killed. The Commissioner helped Madame Funderat, until they were both completely exhausted. The guards yelled at him to continue and leave her behind, but he refused. Finally, they gave Lord a rope who tied it around Madame’s waist. He dragged her, through snow and uphill all morning until he caught up with the larger group. Sadly, though, despite all his bravery and effort, Madame Funderat died shortly afterwards.
For the 8 day- long death march, the main daily meal was whole corn. Early in his imprisonment, Commissioner had broken his dentures. Along with a few of the older priests, they were completely unable to eat whole corn because they had no teeth, so they continued to starve as they were worked to the bone! This civilian group that had become close as family saw many amongst them die during the march and many died afterwards, never fully recovering from the effects.
If this weren’t harsh enough, The Tiger suspected Lord of leading some kind of revolt. He locked him in solitary confinement and, each day, visited him numerous times, laying his loaded and cocked pistol on the table, pointed at the Commissioner, and demanding he confess to his crimes. Thankfully, he finally gave up on this conspiracy theory and allowed Lord to rejoin the rest of the group.
Shortly after the march, The Tiger was re-assigned and life improved for the group. Commissioner Lord continued to be their elected leader until they were released after their third winter in captivity.
TIME MARCHES ON
In 1959 Commissioner received the O.B.E award from the British government- Officer of the most Excellent Order of the British Empire. This was the only acknowledgment of his service I could find. The book “Three Winters Cold” describes the civilian’s experience imprisoned under the North Koreans, and testifies to the Commissioner’s bravery and courage. Other than that, the best testimony you can find for the selfless service he gave is written on the hearts of Korean Salvationists, some of whom, like Commissioner Chang, owe their faith to the Commissioner stopping on the road and sharing the gospel with their grandparents. The Korean Salvation Army is going strong with most corps (churches) meeting every morning before 6am for prayer with its soldiers. In recent years they have started and spread the Salvation Army to new corners of the world, in Mongolia and Cambodia, where the Salvation Army has never before existed.
The Commissioner demonstrates how very much was, and is, demanded of Officers and of our Lord Jesus when he says ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me”. The sacrifice he paid, as pampered as we are, will never fully understand. How someone could leave behind everything familiar, embrace a new language and culture, and twice give three years of their life willingly to be imprisoned is beyond me. But I hope we can appreciate the legacy he leaves us, and be determined to do all that’s in our power to love others and show Christ’s selflessness to everyone, no matter what language they speak or culture they know.
R-U a part of The Salvation Army? If so, this stuff is in your D.N.A- it’s part of your spiritual tree! Tap into it. Let it speak and breathe life into you. Wake up from your trance. Dust yourself off.
Do yourself a favour. Sit down for a minute. Turn off your cell phone and ipod and reflect for a couple minutes of ‘you’ time to do some soul searching. Answering these questions below will help give you a sense of purpose in your life.
- How are you being a missionary right where you are? The truth is that in our 21st century culture in North America, you’re a missionary daily at school and work. Whether you have a gun pointed at you or not, you need to pray for the same bravery and courage God gave the Commissioner to live and proclaim your faith.
- Is God calling you to join him in another country with another language and culture to share his life giving message? How will you make that happen? If you’re hesitating, what’s stopping you?
- Like Herbert standing up to The Tiger, what can you take a stand for that is morally right, even if it’s risky and will cost you something?
- Have you ever encouraged or shared appreciation for Salvation Army Officers who have sacrificed in many unnoticed ways and have influenced your life? If not, why not do that this week. Call, facebook, tweet or tell them face-to-face.
- Will you pray for our Korean brothers and sisters – for those still under the North Korean Communist regime who are unable to practice religion freely and for The Salvation Army in South Korea, that God will continue to bless them and use them for his purposes.
- Wars, casualties, imprisonment and suffering exists daily for many people. Will you lift them in prayer before God asking for freedom, hope, healing, encouragement, peace, rescue…?
Fight against injustice // Fight hard // Fight with love
:: by Heidi Adams of Triton, NL
I’m a Salvation Army youth pastor and enjoy unicycling, playing the ukulele and singing off-key, loving Jesus, making the world a better place, and refusing to grow up. Check out Just Youth.