Last week Barby and I tacked on a visit to Kanchanaburi after speaking at a conference in Thailand. This is 'Bridge over the River Kwai' territory and all those stories about the Japanese using 200,000 POWs in 50 different camps to build a 400km train track in just six months - before the Allies bombed the bridge. Something like 100,000 people died...
There is also the 'Miracle on the River Kwai' story that led to the movie To End All Wars (2000; directed by the son of the founder of YWAM) where the vibrant Christian faith of a Dusty Miller transforms a POW camp - even to the point where he is crucified by the Japanese as he offers to die in the place of one of the camp ratbags, played by Keifer Sutherland. The DVD was in our local video store.
The highlight of our visit was the Allied Cemetery. There is something about death that makes you think about life (cf Ecclesiastes 7:2). The final scenes of the movie are set in this cemetery.
The cemetery is immaculate. Grass kept trim. Big trees. Plants beside every gravestone. Mainly British, Australian, and Dutch soldiers.
On our second visit I found this compelling sight of an elderly women making her way along row after row, stooped over and dependent on her walking stick.
Then it occurred to me that if I went on Google at a local cafe I could find out the name of the man who was crucified and then locate the plaque for him (Dusty Miller). I did so and then on my third visit, after searching through hundreds of plaques, I found this one - which I hope is the right one! There was only one other "Miller (H.W.)"...
Each plaque has room for just two lines of writing. I was surprised to see so many Bible verses being used - the most common being "Greater love hath no man than to give his life for his friends". But there were other quotations that were memorable:
"Those who loved him most, miss him most."
"For love he lived, for peace he died.
I asked for his life - but this was denied."
"O for the touch of that vanished hand
And the sound of the voice that is still."
"Sleep on, Beloved. Take Thy rest.
We love thee well - but God loved thee best."
"Just when his life was brightest, he gave his best.
God grant him heavenly rest."
"Thy Word is true. Thy will is just.
To Thee we leave him, Lord, in trust."
Kanchanaburi is just 3hrs west of Bangkok's airport. If you ever have a day to fill in Thailand, hire a taxi ... visit the bridge, the cemetery, and the museum adjacent to the cemetery. A day to remember.