Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Miracle

Reports of miracles are often greeted with cynicism and disdain these days, particularly when reported in the media. A prime cause of this state of affairs has been the fake healings through the fake ministries of fake apostles and fake prophets which now blights the church worldwide. Sadly this has served to obscure the fact that the Living God still heals and acts miraculously today.

When he was a POW during World War 2, my late father proved many times that the Living God was his comforter, protector, defender and healer. On numerous occasions, although weak in faith, my father called on the Lord through prayer, and was always answered, sometimes in the most unusual and miraculous ways.

He survived the infamous ‘death march’ of late winter 1945 to tell the tale, preserved by the grace and the strong miraculous hand of the living God. Many years later, he recalled these experiences in his retrospective of World War 2: ‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’.    

“SIX DAYS before the end of our 700 kilometre hike, my own faith was to be put to the test. Apart from hunger, thirst, cold and exhaustion, I had till now had a comfortable ride compared to some. Whether the day that I carried Joe's luggage as well as my own had any effect on me, I cannot say. Certainly I would not blame him for what was to happen to me.

With over 600 kilometres behind us, I suddenly had problems with my left leg. Every step of the way, it was getting more painful until a point came when I could go no further. I stopped and sat down at the side of the road. Bob arrived and we had a “council of war” about my problem. We knew that Dr Rose, an Army doctor, was with us now, but, this day, he had gone on ahead. However, there was usually a horse and wagon at the end of the column and I told Bob and Joe to go on. I would see them when we bedded down at night. So, they two set off again, and I was left alone.

As I sat there, the endless stream of humanity kept passing me by. Nobody really cared. At last, the sick wagon appeared and my spirits rose. Alas, it was jam-packed with other men who had hitched a lift. Now I felt really alone. Eventually, the road became completely empty, except for a German guard, stupidly waving about his automatic Tommy-gun. The equiva­lent of the school attendance officer, he made himself quite clear, shouting “Get up and go!” After we had exchanged a few angry words and he had done his own version of a war dance, Tommy-gun and all, he decided he would leave me in the ditch to die. No Good Samaritan act with him, I'm afraid. He just turned on his heel and hurried away. What was I to do now? I had nearly forgotten. I could do nothing — that is, except pray. For maybe ten minutes, I went through the ritual, perhaps a waste of time to some folks, but I just prayed and prayed. Then, it dawned on me that I should expect an answer. After all, you don't pick up the phone at home and speak to yourself. You expect “Someone” at the other end to reply —and reply, He certainly did. In simple faith, I got up from that ditch and put my foot to the ground. The pain was gone! I picked up my kit-bag and set off, like a scalded cat. Soon, I saw the sick wagon. I overtook that, ignored it, caught the end of the column, thumbed my nose at my Tommy-gun school attendance officer, caught up with Joe and Bob, who stared open-mouthed at me and, at nightfall, was at the front of the column. Later, when my friends eventually trailed home, I had selected a place in the Dutch barn and was waiting for them at the door. Do you believe in miracles? I certainly do.

It will never cease to amaze me how feeble my faith was. Next morning, I gingerly put my foot to the ground. “Oh ye of little faith”. There was no pain. But then, doubts began to flood my mind. You see, as a boy, I had trouble with my left instep. This could have been the cause of my problem, or so I now thought. Perhaps, it would trouble me again and I would be stranded and next time, no help would come.

During the next few days, I had no problems with my leg, I must admit, but always some niggling little doubts kept passing through my mind. Eventually, however, unknown to us at the time, we reached the end of our long march at a village called Rastow. Next day, we were despatched by train to work at the neighbouring town of Ludwigslust on the main Berlin-Hamburg railway line. At once, we could see that the station had taken a good old hammering from the Allied bombers. Soon, I was on the prowl amongst the wreckage looking for food. Wandering into the remains of the station-master's house, guess what I found! I found an arch-support for a left foot, exactly the size I needed for that foot I feared might trouble me again. Yes! I do believe in miracles, to be sure. That day on which I sat in the ditch, unable to walk, I felt like a boxer down on the floor, nearly out but “saved by the bell”. In answer to my prayer for help at that time, I was saved by the bell all right — the telephone bell up there in Heaven.”

I recall that when my father prayed, he did so in a simple manner, using language which was clear, direct and to the point. I am sure that in many crisis situations during his captivity these prayers would have similar to those which are recorded in the Psalms:

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer” Psalm 4:1

“Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy”. Psalm 64:1

The great evangelist, C.H. Spurgeon said: ‘A true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty’.

Feeble though they often were, my father’s prayers during the years of his captivity were truly ‘a revelation of hidden poverty’ which the living God always answered in abundance.

We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by                                   Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5




Wednesday, 26 November 2014

At the Cross….Go Right!

The winter of 1944-45 was one of the coldest and most severe on record for eastern Europe. Yet it was on 16th February 1945 that my late father and his fellow prisoners were ordered to begin what became known as the ‘death march’. Forced onwards by their German captors, the inmates of the POW camp at Quadendorff joined the endless mass of humanity heading west to escape the clutches of the advancing Red Army.

 My father lived to tell the tale, preserved by the grace of the living God, he went on to write about his experiences in his retrospective of World War 2: ‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’.  

“ONE THING I was soon to learn during our 700 kilometre march from Danzig in Poland to Rastow in West Germany was that there is a world of difference between muscular strength and physical stamina. Big Joe had far greater strength than I had, but he was a bit short in stamina. For some reason the Lord endowed me with a lot of stamina and I was able to keep going when Joe was on his knees. In fact, later on, he was really ill and only the skill and good judgment of Bob McCallum, our R.A.M.C. pal, saved him. It was then I was able to carry Joe's kit-bag as well as my own for the most part of a day, while Bob encouraged Joe along. I felt Joe never quite recovered from that faint and while we were all struggling at times, he seemed to suffer more from fatigue and cold than some of us. I realised he was already in bad shape and, at times, I had to pray hard for us both. I knew he had learned to put a call up to Heaven as well, and he did, when things got rough.

The next entry on the fly-leaf of my old Bible says it all. It reads like this “Karthaus to Dubrowa — 30 kilometres”, and then only one word — icy. It always surprises me that certain incidents continually stick in the memory, while other events disappear and may only flash back when circumstances bring them from your less sensitive memory-store. That this day was yet another nightmare, I am absolutely sure. To be aroused from a faint in the morning, as Joe did and then walk that distance, would have been a pretty heroic effort in ordinary conditions. But these were no ordinary times. To cross the road on ice these days is a hazard, but imagine thirty kilometres of slipping and falling, dragging one another to our feet again, leg muscles taut, as they always are in such conditions, and you will get some idea what happened to us all that day. The schedule was to start at first light. Thankfully, for Joe and me it began with hot tea and was to end sixteen hours later, with again, no break for food, rest or drink. At the last climb up a steep hill, I can rememeber Joe saying as he began to lag behind, “I don't know where you are getting your strength from, Johnny”. (He called me Souter Johnny, thanks to Bob McCallum, a Rabbie Burns fan from Ayr). I said in all serious­ness, “Joe, I'm getting my strength from the Lord and that's for sure.”

Reflecting on that long march, I feel that there was another source of inspiration in the minds of most of us now. We were marching West after five long years and were, we knew, heading for home. That was the thought that kept some of us going. Otherwise, we might have packed in, as some tragically did on those first days of really tough going through the snow. In fact, out of our party of Quadendorf lads, we did lose one out of the sixteen. Sadly, we learned some time later that Ronald Gearing, affectionately known to us as the Doctor, after Dr Joseph Goebbels, did not make it, but died on the road before we reached home.

But here I am straying into side pastures again, when I should perhaps be ploughing straight on with my tale. How Joe and I and Bob McCallum, who joined us, got through that day, I will never know. We just kept coaxing one another on, either by threats or by jokes, the latter becoming less frequent while the former increased in power. I think Bob and I had the advantage over Joe because we were both thin as rakes and Joe, although thin, was by nature heavily built. I sometimes wondered if his body needed more fuel than ours.

Somewhere about supper time, sevenish perhaps at night, there was a jam-up of traffic and we had to stop. There is always a smart guy in a motley crowd of men as we were, and as we paused in our slippery journey, the wise fellow in our ranks noticed a little house with a garden on our left. In the garden, there stood an ancient water-pump, the hand-driven type. Here was a source of something to drink at least, if it was not frozen up. At once our entrepreneur unlatched the garden gate and had a look at the old pump. He tried the handle and it moved. Then, as he pushed it up and down with all his might, some precious water gushed out of the spout. Clearly, however, it was not a one-man job, because you could not work the handle and reach the water at the same time. Consequently, there was a rush of volunteers to help, mainly to catch the water, not to work the pump. Leaving Joe and Bob with the crowd, I made a dive in the direction of the water supply, but, of course, no-one wanted to give me any help. All at once, from the jostling crowd in the dark, a familiar voice rose above the clamour of noise, “You ca' the hannel, Charlie, and I'll ha'd yer jug”. I turned aghast and there was the grinning face of my old friend Percy McDonald, Captain Muirhead's batman, from Dufftown. Without further ado, we worked the oracle together. I pumped and Percy filled both our supply jugs, and we took up our positions again on the road. What a fuss about a drink of water on a freezing cold night, you may think. Believe me, to us, that spring water was as precious as gold.

Percy joined our trio for the next few miles and we tried to catch up with five years of news. Undoubtedly, this helped us on our way quite a bit. He amazed me by disclosing that he had been forced to walk more than twenty-four hours the previous day to catch up with the main body of marching men. I had known Percy from my teenage days when we had faced one another on the football pitch. We had both been midfield men. He played for Dufftown and I represented our Aberlour team. Many a fast, sometimes hot-tempered battle was fought between us in those days, with always a handshake when the final whistle was blown at the end. Percy got home with us at the last and was married, but died in his middle years. No doubt, those long years and the rigours of that winter march took its toll on him, as it did on many of the rest of us later on.

Hours and miles further on that night, we stopped in a village and were told to turn left at the cross-roads ahead. On the hill above us, there were farms with the usual Dutch barns and shelter could be found there for the night. I got the impression now, and rightly so, that the guards had taken as much of the cold as they could endure. Like us, they were fed up to the teeth. Indeed, it had now become every man for himself. I seem to have lost Joe going up the hillside in search of those inviting Dutch barns, because I was now struggling on with no-one except Bob McCallum. At the first farm we reached, we were bluntly told by our fellow prisoners to get lost. The place was full to overflowing already. A German guard at the door encouraged us to press on for another mile or so. The road would level out at the summit of the hill and we would come to the next house of refuge — i.e. another barn.

Bob and I put our heads down and set off again into the teeth of the now drifting snow. Eventually, we reached the top of the hill. It was devoid of shelter of any kind. There were no fences to mark the roadway, if roadway there was. By now, it was well into the night and terribly dark. I always remember the howls of a dog as we continued to struggle along. Perhaps that poor old hound was feeling as miserable as we were. Here and there, we could see bodies lying in the ditches, some trying to get shelter, some a little rest. We both knew that this was a fatal thing to do, so we kept pressing on. I remember seeing a German officer stretched out at the side of the road. Like the Priest and the Levite in the Good Samaritan story, we had a look at him and then, "passed by on the other side ", much to our shame. Further on, we spotted other two figures, seemingly ditched for the night. They were our cook Percy Pyke and my good friend with the wounded leg, Fred Goodchild. This was different. They were our friends. We did the Good Samaritan act this time and persuaded them to get up and struggle on. This they did. However, neither of them made the whole journey in the end, but they did both survive. Months later, we met them in England and had our legs pulled about the whole affair. While we had soldiered on all the way, they gave up at one point. Overtaken by the advancing Russian army — a dicey experience — they were quickly transferred to the seaport of Odessa on the Black Sea coast and shipped from there, through the Mediterranean and back home.

To continue, however, Bob and I set off again and by now, we were both at the end of our tether. It was at this point that a strange thing happened. Bob was slightly ahead of me. Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks. “Johnny” he said, “there's something big and black ahead.” I wondered if he was now hallucinating, but decided to join him. Sure enough, there the thing stood, apparently barring our way. Gingerly, we approached it and realised we had come to a fork in the road. There, before us, looming out of the dark, was a huge statue like a cross. Bob stared at it and said in seeming awe, “Johnny, we've come to Calvary.” Indeed, we had. I looked both right and left to the two roads ahead and asked the stupid question, “Which way will we go now, Bob?” His reply was swift and clear.  “Johnny, you told us many a time on a Sunday to do what is right. We are going to do it now. Turn right.” We did, and within a short time, were in the shelter of another Dutch barn.

You know, I will never forget the decision Bob made on that road. It could have meant life or death for us that night. (Many a time since, I have told of that vital choice, and applied it to one's journey through life. Any preacher can lead you to Calvary — to the Cross where Christ died for our sins[1] but, from there on, the great decision must be yours. To choose Christ is to choose life, to reject Him is to be lost.) Later that night, to our relief, we were joined by Big Joe, driven to his limit, but he made it. I salute the guy. He started that day on the floor in a dead faint, but had the drive and the will to grit his teeth and carry on to the finish.”

The cross of Calvary, and the need to put your trust in Christ were regular features of my father’s preaching throughout his life. As a result, many people came to know Christ as their Lord and Savior when they came to understand these simple truths.

My father’s philosophy, which he repeated often to me as a young man was, ‘never turn down an opportunity to preach the Gospel’. He was true to his word, for in his lifetime he preached the Gospel in churches, Mission Halls, schools and the open air

Conviction, repentance and salvation through the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary are the core elements of the Gospel. We should earnestly pray that Scotland’s evangelicals will return to the ‘Old, Old Story’ of the Gospel.


We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5


[1] 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15, verse 3

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Greatest Love

When I was a child my father used to recount numerous stories and adventures of his time as a POW in World War 2. My siblings and I were enthralled by these colourful reminiscences, because the main character and the hero was our Dad!

The tales which my father told did however have a much darker side which I came to understand more clearly in my later years. I vividly recall him having nightmares and shouting out, sometimes in German, Polish and even Russian. The nightmare was always the same. Our family was being pursued for our lives and shot at by Nazi soldiers along the banks of the River Spey near our home village of Aberlour. My father was doing his best to protect and save us. There was real terror in his voice as he shouted.

I have no doubt that the experiences of cruelty and brutality were permanently etched into his being.  Time had done little to erode some of these memories.

As a well known preacher my father often used his POW experiences of answered prayer and miraculous experiences as evidence for the reality of a living Saviour in Christ Jesus. One such instance is recalled in his retrospective of the war years: ‘We’ve Been a Long Time Coming Boys’:   

I FEEL it only right that I should give a mention to some of the gun-toting guards under whom we were to serve as prisoners­-of-war. In all, there were twenty-five of them and they were quite often assigned to us in pairs. I have a list of the names we gave them, as we were never able to find out what their real ‘handles’ were.

I suppose I could recall a few tales about each one of these twenty-five guards we had to endure in five years, but I will try to limit my memories to just one or two. First on my list is Big Jim. He was built like a battleship, as his name would suggest. Unfortunately for him, the main feature of his appearance was his prominent teeth. The middle front tooth had been crowded out by its fellows and protruded quite a bit farther than it should have. When he smiled, which was very seldom, he sucked this protruder like a wine gum. When he fumed, it stuck out like a rhino's tusk. He was a real loud-mouthed chappie and loved to hear his own voice. We were soon to learn, however, that he was all big mouth and no real guts.

My 1942 diary tells me that we were getting regular air-raids from what I recorded as “Arthur's pals”. These were allied aircraft, mostly British, but with the occasional Russian bomber thrown in. I called them by this name because I had a cousin, Arthur Clark, who was a fighter pilot and I had to be careful with those entries in my diary. Remember, I was suspected by the censor of being a spy already and I am a canny Scot. Reading from my records, we were under air attack at least three times a week and sometimes twice a night, the latter raids coming from both ends as it were, that is, from East and West. During one particular raid, we got a pretty good hammering and we knew the reason why. Dummy factory walls had been erected quite close to our billet, with huge bonfires set alight to show them up should an Allied air raid take place. Clearly these dummy walls were meant to be decoys to lead the attacking aircraft astray.

One night, this bright idea paid off and we became the centre of an attack by our own four-engined planes. Gradually the situation became more dangerous and finally, we were all flat out, lying down for cover on the floor. All at once, we heard a thousand-pound blockbuster coming screaming down out of the sky. It sounded like an old-fashioned railway engine letting off its spare steam. This one, we all knew, was going to be too near for comfort. When it landed, it blew one of our green-houses into pieces. Bill Brooks, our sergeant, asked me to check if anyone had been hurt. There were no lights to see with and it was one of those pitch-black nights. Nervously, I got off the floor and groped my way around, trying to find out if all was well. Suddenly, I blundered into the billet wall. Cautiously feeling my way along it, I made contact with a body standing upright like someone out of Madame Tussauds. “Are you all right?” I repeatedly asked but could get no reply. Surely the guy was either struck dumb or dead. Getting more annoyed by the split second, I ran my hands all over him but not a word was said. Then I exploded in exasperation, “I'll find out who you are!” I shouted and landed my fist on his head. On that head, there was a tin hat — a German one. The “dummy” was Big Jim, absolutely petrified with fear. Next morning, we learned from the Polish girls that Big Jim had told the farmer he had trouble with his prisoners. They had got into a panic and he had to stay with them to keep them in control. What a marvellous fairy tale! Yes, just a bag of wind was Big Jim.

I think his finest hour or his worst nightmare took place one Sunday afternoon. We were not working that day and I noticed two little smartly-dressed schoolgirls go through the gherkin beds, pick one of the miniature cucumbers and finding it pretty bitter, throw it away. Presently Farmer Burdin came down the same path on his usual tour of inspection. He saw the remains of the gherkin and hared off back to report the matter to Big Jim. Now, Big Jim had a particular hatred of a little Russian boy who had been taken prisoner with his mother and sent to join us on the market garden. The little lad's name was Lonya, at least that's how it sounded. He was the bane of the guard's life, as he was an expert work-dodger. Jim decided that Lonya was the culprit and would pay the price for his crime. Presently, we saw the guard appear dragging the Russian boy by the scruff of the neck (Lonya was only about nine years old). Big Jim was shouting that he had caught the thief and he would teach the little fellow a lesson. Lonya, it was clear, would have none of it and said so vehemently and repeatedly — in Russian. Deciding that he would have the last word in the matter, the guard picked up a heavy tree branch and beat the lad so fiercely that he broke the cudgel over the boy's back. Lonya was now screaming. Suddenly, round the building in full flight, came the figure of a woman. She ran straight to the scene. The guard saw her, dropped the boy and shouted “Halt!” Ignoring the command, the woman kept on towards him. “Halt!” came the shout again and to enforce his words, Big Jim drew his gun. Like a tigress, the woman sprang at him. His revolver flew through the air and before he could retrieve it from the grass, woman and boy had gone.

I've often described that scene to youth groups and asked them to guess who the woman was. Without hesitation, I always got the answer, “His Mum, of course”. Who else! Then I would go on to apply the lesson. This mother risked her life for her boy because she loved him. After all, he was her boy, and no doubt he would love her in return for her heroic deed that Sunday afternoon. Here was just a faint picture of the love which led Jesus to die for you and me on a Roman cross. Ought we not to love him in return?

One of my late father’s favourite hymns is ‘The Old rugged Cross’. Written by George Bennard in 1913, prior to World War 1, this hymn sums up the immeasurable love of Jesus that is freely available to every individual.

My father truly cherished the cross, and his life exemplified that fact in many different ways to the last.


On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suff’ring and shame;

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain.



So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it some day for a crown.


Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above

To bear it to dark Calvary.


In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see,

For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.


To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;

Its shame and reproach gladly bear;

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,

Where His glory forever I’ll share.


‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5



Monday, 24 November 2014

Carry on…..Preaching!

Loyalty is a commodity which seems to be in short supply these days, even in Christian circles. It’s such a pity because Christians are supposed to be marching to the same beat in ‘the Lords army’.

During World War 2 my father came to experience real loyalty from his fellow inmates in the POW camp outside the city of Danzig in Poland where he was held for five years. Although most of the prisoners had no Christian faith, many had a deep seated need for spiritual comfort in their adverse circumstances.

 Describing himself as ‘a nominal Christian’ at the outset of the war, the abnormal situation of captivity drove my father to take the advice of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him”.

 As he began to pray and read his Bible, the Lord answered his prayers in miraculous and practical ways. Eventually he began to preach, and from April 20th 1941 until February16th 1945, my father faithfully prepared and delivered a Gospel message in what became known as the ‘Sunday half hour’ to the men of his billet.

 In his retrospective, ‘We’ve Been a Long Time Coming Boys’, he relates two incidents of answered prayer and that vital commodity of comradely loyalty which enabled obstacles to the Sunday evening services to be overcome.   

 “Some days later, Alex Espie reminded me of the horrific experience we had outside St Valery the previous year and of how, behind the old stone dyke, he had crawled in my direction hoping for better cover from the enemy's fire. “I frankly admit I was terrified that day. I was sure we were going to be killed and I was not ready to die. Then I looked at you,” he went on “and you did not seem to be scared at all. Your seeming calm puzzled me. At the time I could not tell why. However, now I know the answer. It came from the Psalm you read to us on Sunday. Now I realise someone was with you that day all right, but I was there all alone.” He referred to Psalm 23.

There were two incidents which I feel worth recording, regarding those Sunday night efforts of mine. Both had a touch of the ridiculous and also of the wonderful, when you pause to consider how the Good Shepherd can look after his sheep.

The first hiccup arose when we were issued with postcards to send a weekly message to our friends at home. We were allowed three of these cards per month plus one single-sheet letter on which to write our correspondence. Without exception, all my mail was addressed to my parents in Aberlour Scotland. After I had preached my first sermon, I was so excited about it, I had to let off steam on one of these cards. Of course, I did not count on the German censor's office staff. Naturally, these cards were to pass through their hands. The first card went through all right although I had written on it, “Spoke to men for first time. Read Ps. 23 and Jn. 10”. No doubt this jargon must have seemed strange to the ignorant German mind, but I got away with it without comment the first time. But then, each week, there were more mysterious writings — Rom. 8 (Romans, Chapter 8) and Eph. 2 (Ephesians, Chapter 2) and so on.

Eventually, some keen mind in the censor's office decided that there was a spy in the Quadendorf Camp and these were secret messages in code. Such treachery must be nipped in the bud. Consequently, I was put on the carpet and asked to explain what was going on. I'm not exactly sure who grilled me about the matter. It was certainly a guy from the censor's brigade. After many tedious explanations, I was able to con­vince him that these secret codes were merely texts from the Bible. They were the references I used in our Sunday Half-hour each week. Can you imagine what a fool he must have felt when he made his report to his office on his spy-catching affair. I feel sure he must have decided he would wreak his revenge on me for this stupid mistake. Some days later I was summoned to our guards' office. There, I was handed an official-looking type-written letter in someone's best English. In it were laid out the Prison Camp Rules. All public meetings were strictly verboten  (forbidden) unless notice was given beforehand. Thereafter, an interpreter must attend at all times to hear what was likely to be said. After all, sedition, insurrections or even an escape might well be hatched up or planned.

Unfortunately at that time, we had a guard who revelled in causing trouble. We called him Chinny because he seemed to be born without a chin. I sometimes wondered if his ugly face may have prompted him to dish out the rotten tricks he got up to, whenever opportunity came his way. Now must have seemed to be a good chance for him to stamp out the first signs of rebellion in our ranks. Sunday Night Assemblies must cease forthwith. This, he made abundantly clear. Frankly, I did not know what to do. I retreated to our billet, tail between legs, and decided to consult the other men. Their decision was swift and completely unanimous. “Carry on, Schuster,” they said, “and we will all stand by you.” Mind you, I did not know what was to be involved in standing by me, but I did two things. I prepared as usual and then I prayed.

Sunday evening came and I had started my sermonette and was getting into top gear when the billet door was flung open. There, framed in the doorway, face livid, arms akimbo, stood Chinny. For a second, I hesitated. The atmosphere was electric. Suddenly, the silence was broken by big Joe Wathen. He said quietly but firmly, just the two vital words, “Carry on”. Staring the guard straight in the eye, by the grace of God, I did as Joe said. I carried on. Chinny tried to stare me out, then wheeled on his heel, and slammed the billet door. The victory was ours. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty”.[1] Chinny never interfered on a Sunday night again.

The second incident I want to record about our Sunday Church Services was a different kettle of fish, as we Scots would say. It really began with the arrival at our camp of another new boy, Tommy Danes, from Glasgow. Tommy claimed to be a welder, but I doubt if he knew much about the job. He also aspired to being a comedian, but his repertoire was pretty limited and his jokes soon began to wear a bit thin. As a matter of fact, Tommy never really fitted in with the rest of the boys. One day he decided he had had enough of our camp and disappeared during the morning stint of work. At midday soup time Tommy was missing and we were all locked in our hut while a search was quickly organised. Later that day, the fugitive returned under escort. I don't think the German High Command was much troubled by this escapade, if we might call it that. Tommy had lain in a ditch until a convoy of German trucks drew up on the main road. They were on their way to the Russian front and had stopped to get a meal. With all their men dispersed to their field kitchen, Tommy emerged from his hiding-place. With hands held high and “camarading” all the way, he approached the only soldier left with the wagons. The German looked him up and down with disdain and told him to come back when the Officers had finished their meal. Thus a heroic attempt at a Colditz-type adventure came to a halt and Tommy was returned to our headquarters camp.

Alas, we poor souls had to bear the brunt of our guard's wrath. After all, our Unteroffizier, Big Jim as we called him, decided that if he was in the black books with his superiors, he would take it out on all of us. Consequently, he decided on two strategies. The first was to burst into our billet in the middle of the night and shine his torch on our blissfully-sleeping faces. That could really make you jump. His second ploy, however, was the one which caused me not a little anxiety. He issued orders that when work was finished for the day, all trousers must be handed in to his office immediately. To my annoyance, this was also to include a Sunday. Here was a tricky situation for me. I could not imagine myself holding forth from the Bible in my shirt-tails. What to do? Clearly I must pray about this, and I did, several times a day.

 Saturday came and I felt like calling off my Sunday sermon. However, unknown to me, the Lord had other ideas. After work that evening, having collected, counted and stacked all our trousers, Big Jim wandered back into our billet and threw down a Red Cross clothing parcel. As it was not for me, I retired to my upstairs bunk and, as usual, lay down on my bed to read. Presently, the lad who had received his parcel pulled my elbow and held something up. Believe me, I had never seen in any P.O.W. Camp, what he held in his hand. It was a pair of brand-new pyjamas. “Would you wear these please,” he asked, “and have our Sunday Half-hour tomorrow night as planned?” Imagine my thoughts — surprise and shame. Here was I praying for help, hardly believing that I had been heard and in this dramatic way, help arrived. That Sunday evening, I read from my Bible and spoke to the men — I, wearing Stan's pyjama  trousers, and the congregation in their shirt-tails. I doubt if many preachers could claim to have had such a privilege as I had that Sunday night. Fortunately, by the next week-end Big Jim had cooled down somewhat and we were allowed to retain our trousers overnight again.”

Few preachers can have ministered in such circumstances. It speaks volumes for the loyalty of my father’s fellow prisoners that they stood up for him in the cause of Christ when needed, even although their faith was weak, or in some cases non-existent.

 We should pray that such courage and true loyalty once again becomes the hallmark of believers in our fellowships and churches.


‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5


[1] Zechariah, Chapter 4, verse 6

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Privilege of Prayer

Normal life came to an end for my father at the age of 21 on the morning of June 12 1940 in the French coastal town of St Valery-en-Caux.  Along with several thousand men of the 51st Highland Division of the British Expeditionary Force, he was marched off into captivity by the German army. 

Although he had been brought up in a Christian home and had committed his life to Christ while still at school, my father described himself at age 21 as ‘a nominal Christian’.

Liberated after five years of captivity on May 5th 1945 by an American army unit, he returned three days later on May 8th to his home in the village of Aberlour in Scotland; the experience of war and captivity had changed him in soul, spirit and character forever. His Christian experience, life and witness, now far from nominal!

The day before the surrender of his unit in 1940, my father prayed in desperation as he waited for the next German attack. He recalls the moment in his retrospective of the war years in his book, ‘We’ve Been a Long Time Coming Boys’:

“As I lay there, I kept wondering when our navy would come in. We would soon be on board ship with such a great story to relate. All the weeks now behind us would seem like a bad, nightmarish dream. Escape somehow we must — but how, I could not quite imagine or tell. It was then that I thought of my family and friends, of loved ones who doubtless would be worried, but I knew would be praying for me.[1] Yes, prayer was the answer, of this I was sure. And so, as we waited for the action to begin, I started to pray, something like this: ‘Dear Lord Jesus Christ, in your mercy please get us out of this mess. If you do, I promise most sincerely to serve you as never before.’ It was not a genuine prayer. It was only a desperate plea for help and I guess God in Heaven, who knows the thoughts of our hearts, could quite easily read my intentions that day. I often wondered later if He smiled and said “I will, sometime, but not now.”

However, within 36 hours my father experienced a real answer to prayer.

“WHEN THE GERMAN TANKS eventually appeared and rumbled down to surround us, we must have looked a pretty rag-bag dishevelled body of men. I was quite near our Brigadier as he turned to his driver, Ronnie Gordon, and throwing his steel helmet to the ground, said “Gordon, give me my red hat”. These were to be his “famous last words” as our commanding officer. Unfortunately for him, the red hat trick did not work. The German tank commander passed him by and by mistake, chose the brigade major, thinking him to be the officer in charge. He was ushered away for special privileges, while we, the brigadier included, were ordered to form up, or so we inferred, and move off towards the rising of the sun, that is, the East. Who would have dreamt that this eastward march would extend to 450 kilometres and take us through France, Belgium, Holland and on to Wesel on the borders of Germany. None of us imagined this would happen to us, but unfortunately it did.

We had no problem that first day — just a long hard foot-slog. For eleven hours we dragged ourselves along without one single break, no drink, no rest. Through ruined villages well-known to us earlier that year, we trudged relentlessly on. Sometimes a kindly face would appear at a door and someone would invitingly leave out a pail of tempting water on their step. Dixies in hand, we would join the rush for a drink. If a guard got there first, he would kick over the bucket, tumbling its contents to the ground.

About midnight, we reached their goal. It was a hurriedly-constructed make-shift camp in the form of a barbed-wire enclosure. In here we were packed like sheep in a pen with just enough room to lie down. That day, in the blazing hot sun, we had covered at least thirty miles.

Morning call came in a most unusual and dramatic fashion. Just after sunrise, around five I should guess, our prison gate was opened and a young bull was driven into our field. Goaded on by the guards, it began to charge through among the sleeping bodies. It was the most effective “alarm clock” I have ever seen in my life. We were all on our feet in a jiffy. Then, an S.S. type of guy, as ugly as the bull itself, came in with a group of his henchmen. He could speak a little English and made himself quite clear. We were a bunch of dirty, filthy Englanders. (That excluded me. I was a Scotsman). We would all shave at once and be ready for inspection when he returned for parade.

Meantime, he was on the hunt for machine-gunners. Obviously, they were to be the prime target for his wrath. Unfortunately for him, our machine-gun boys were not to be found. Evidently, they had given a good account of themselves in the recent action, but by now all their badges had disappeared. In his frustration and rage, he pounced on two young lads — French Moroccans they were — and led them away. Out of sight, behind some haystacks, several shots rang out in the clear morning air. We all knew what that meant. He had taken his revenge on two defenceless North African boys whom he had never seen before. So much for the rules of war!

I see from my diary that we were left in our enclosure that day. Two bits of information have been hurriedly scribbled down. One is that we were given neither food nor drink from our captors the whole of that Thursday. After all, it was the 13th of the month. What else could we expect!

The other entry reminds me that Alex produced a small tin of corned beef. What a God-send that little tin was, for he was good enough to share it with me. It had inadvertently been left in our radio truck the previous day. Spotting it as he passed by, Alex had the good sense to put it safely away in his gas-mask bag. Neither food nor drink was provided for us yet again. I shared my emergency chocolate ration with Alex that day. It was sewn into my battledress trouser pocket and preserved in a little brass-coloured tin. I wasn't what you would call a sweet tooth at any time, but never did plain chocolate taste so good as now.

Next morning, orders were issued to line up for food. This was it at last, we thought. After four days in German hands, they must have got themselves organised — that is, foodwise at least. Would it be a three course meal? My diary records it, “just half a ladle of watery soup”. Then, with shouts and shoves and kicks, it was impressed on us that we were on the march again. That day, we stumbled on for another thirty kilometres — still in the heat of the sun.

Thirst was my problem now. Hunger I could endure, but oh for a drink of water. I clearly remember making a vow that, if I ever got back home, I would invest all my savings in Hay's lemonade factory. In my imagination, I would sit down with a crate of their No. 1 and drink until I burst. What a fool I was to think like this. I had forgotten all the lessons I had been taught at Sunday School — that is, until now.

All at once I was reminded about the prophet Elijah. When there had been no rain in Israel for more than three years he sat down and prayed — and suddenly it rained. Taking off my cap as we were marching along, I lifted my eyes to the sky and prayed “Lord Jesus, you know all about thirst. You had to ask for a drink at Sychar's Well and at the last, on Calvary's Cross. How much I long for a drink. Please help!”

Honestly, I did not really expect a miracle to happen. The days of such things seemed to have gone long ago. Mile after mile we kept trudging along and then, all at once, my prayer was answered and in a most spectacular way. A sudden summer shower, literally from ‘out of the blue’ began to pour down from the heavens on our heads. That would not have helped my burning thirst very much had we not been passing an old farm-house just at that time. The heavy down-pour was too much for the old rhone pipes and water came gushing out on to the road. Two of us ran with a ground-sheet and catching as much as we could, we drank our fill of the stuff and shared the precious water around. Here was an answer to prayer, the first of so many I was to experience from the One who knew our needs. As we set off again, I just took off my cap once more, and said “Thank you Jesus, Lord.” I felt like the man who wrote the popular old hymn which runs like this:

What a Friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

What a Privilege to carry

Everything to Him in prayer.

You know, I had never thought of prayer as being a privilege before.”

Now I know why that great hymn, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus, written by Joseph M. Scriven in1855 was one of my father’s favourites. During his time as a POW he had experienced answers to prayer which confirmed what he had read in his Bible: ‘If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you’. (John 15v7)

Prayer is indeed a great privilege which should be exercised frequently by all believers. 

My late father’s book can still be obtained via Amazon.

‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5

"After I returned home in 1945, I learned that a local Church Minister - The Rev. Harry Stoddart - and my father met every morning at 7 a.m. to pray for me. In 1948, I met Rev. Stoddart's niece, and in 1949 we were married in Glasgow — by Uncle Harry Stoddart".

Taking a Stand……. for Jesus!

Unlike many preachers, my father had no formal theological training. As well as running a successful business in a small Scottish village, and playing his part in the raising of four children, he also preached twice a week, every week in the local Gospel Hall from 1948 until January 1969. Many came to know Christ through my parents’ ministry and personal witness.

My father’s undoubted gift and enthusiasm for preaching God’s word was developed in what he called, ‘the furnace of affliction’: the prisoner of war camp in Poland where he was incarcerated by the Wehrmacht from 1940 to his liberation in 1945.

In his book, ‘We’ve Been a Long Time Coming Boys’, he relates his ‘call’ to the ministry and his first service in 1941.

0N APRIL 19TH, 1941, a prisoner from the main camp joined us at Quadendorf. I doubt very much if he had any notion as to the influence he would have on our men in general, or on me in particular. The new arrival was Fred Goodchild, a middle-aged Englishman, small of build and with a slight limp. Fred had been hit by flying shrapnel in France and his wound always caused him pain.

Our new colleague had scarcely settled in when he asked if we had a Church Service on a Sunday evening. I did not hear him ask this question but I learned later on that the answer he got was a firm “no”. However, some more sympathetic or perhaps sarcastic gent added “We do have a Bible thumper in our ranks. You'll see him lying somewhere reading The Book.” Of course, I was the man they referred to and the book was my father's little Bible. So it was like Stanley meeting Livingstone in darkest Africa, Fred Goodchild met Charlie Morrison, better known as Schuster — at Quadendorf. At once, Fred suggested a camp service the next evening, which was a Sunday, and I was delighted to agree. But then, the bombshell was dropped. I said, “You will give the sermon, Fred.” He looked at me in absolute amazement and said “Me, Mate! I could not preach a sermon. It will have to be you.”

That was how I was ordained to the Ministry as they put it in churches nowadays. By the way, the word “ordained” merely means “put in position” as in the Psalm — “the moon and the stars which you have ordained”.[1] With a great deal of hesitation and also trepidation, I agreed to take on the job just for one Sunday. Little did I dream that the one Sunday would continue from April 20th, 1941 till the week we were evacuated from Danzig on February 16th, 1945 — nor could I have imagined we would not miss one Sunday service in all that time. How I managed to find a new subject each week with only a Bible and no fancy reference books, I say in all reverence, only God knows. But the God who knows also cares and was to provide me with all that I required in the thoughts He put in my mind through all these long years.

My immediate problem however, was to find something to say the next evening, for my newly-found friend Fred became my P.R. man. He went round everyone inviting them to hear my very first sermon. What was I to do? The only thing left to me as so often, was to ask for help, in other words to pray. I don't know what my urgent phone call to heaven was all about but, as always, it was a reverse-charge call and my Friend up there sent back the answer pretty soon.

Consequently, about seven o'clock on April 20th, with the men sitting round the room, I stood up and read without any singing or prayers. The only two parts of the Bible I knew anything about were Psalm 23 and The Gospel of John, Chapter 10. To my mind they seemed to fit together pretty well. I assumed that most of the lads would have a fair working knowledge of Psalm 23. It was written by David, the shepherd lad, and begins as we all know with the well-kent words “The Lord is my Shepherd...” Here was one of the great song-writers and musicians of his day. He played the harp in those times and not the guitar. He had told of his faith in God through this particular psalm. I tried to press the point about David's experiences in life. He had faced and killed both a lion and a bear. Then he tackled Goliath, the Philistine plus armour-bearer, and downed the giant pretty smartly with a stone — in the Name of the Lord.

This he did while his big brothers and the rest of the Israeli soldiers stood open-mouthed in terror. Yes, David was no slouch and could say from his own experience, “Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you (Lord) are with me”. How vital to realise, I said, that without Jesus Christ as my Lord, death can be a very lonely time. No friend can go with me here. But when my trust is in Christ, I will “never walk alone” as the football supporters love to sing, not even in the valley of death, for He has promised “I will be with you”.

But then I had also read from the Gospel of John, Chapter 10. These words were spoken by a greater Shepherd than David. They were the words of Jesus himself, the Son of God. What did He have to say to me? Verse eleven reads, “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep”. David risked his life for his sheep because he loved them and knew them well. Jesus did more than David. Jesus laid down his life for his sheep — on the Cross. The Bible says while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The Good Shepherd could say “No-one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again”.[2] Not only did Jesus speak here of his death, but he also promised he would return from the dead, as He did. Having tried to explain this to my audience, I then veered on to verses 27 and 28 of John, Chapter 10 and here, I quote these two verses to save time. Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand”.

Now my path seemed clear to press home my whole point. I recited the only verse which I could recite by heart: “All we like sheep have gone astray”. That was a good moment, I thought, at which to say that I was as big a sinner as any of them. “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way, and God has laid on Jesus the sins of us all.”[3] (What a subject it is, but I did not really do it justice at all. I was too scared.) There's another verse in the Bible which confirms this truth for, it says, “Christ died not only for our sins, (i.e. Christians’ sins) but for the sins of the whole world”. From that, I understood the only sin which would deprive me of eternal life and debar me from Heaven was the sin of unbelief: of refusing to receive Christ as my Saviour and Lord.

When I had finished this miniature sermon, I was absolutely shattered. I slipped off to the kitchen, most likely to get a drink of water. Immediately, I was followed and bombarded with questions from all sides. I don't remember much of what I was asked, but I do know that Joe Wathen was one of the lads who drew me aside. He told me he had been christened in Church as a child and confirmed at the age of twelve. He joined his Church later on, but never grasped the truth before that when Christ suffered on the Cross, he died for our sins.

One of my  favourite hymns is ‘Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus’, written by George Duffield on the tragic death of the hugely successful evangelist Dudley Atkins Tyng in 1858. While the military allusions in the hymn might not be too popular in present day evangelical culture, it is an encouragement to believers to continue to stand up for Christ by preaching the Gospel even in the most difficult of circumstances.

I am always reminded of God’s grace to my father in the circumstances surrounding his first sermon when I sing these precious words:


Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!

Stand in his strength alone;

The arm of flesh will fail you

Ye dare not trust your own

Put on the Gospel armour,

Each piece put on with prayer;

Where duty calls or danger

Be never wanting there!


My late father’s book can still be obtained via Amazon.

‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5



[2] John, Chapter 10, verse 18
[3] Isaiah, Chapter 53, verse 6