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Enduring Until the End

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Enduring Until the End

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On June 23, 1938, John Rynerson, joined the 29th Army Corps of Engineers topographical mapping unit. Little did John realize that he would find himself in a few years involved in World War II and fighting for his life on one of the most infamous and terrible marches of the war. After several transfers John was placed in the 93rd Bomber Squadron in the Philippines. As it turned out, this transfer saved his life. The plane that he had worked on as a radio operator crashed, and he would have been on that plane if he had not been transferred. John feels that God was already working in his life to preserve him.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, the garrison on Bataan was taken over by the Japanese and John's long and difficult struggle for survival began. Only one third of the soldiers taken captive at Bataan survived the Japanese imprisonment.

After the capture of Bataan, the Japanese marched the American prisoners over 70 miles. This became the infamous "Bataan Death March" in which more than 600 American soldiers died. They marched for a period of seven days after already being weakened because of the short rations they had to live on before they surrendered to the Japanese. The soldiers' captors allowed the prisoners to eat only once during the entire march. If any soldier slowed the march, he was killed.

John quickly realized he was in a struggle for survival. He began to make observations that led to actions that would save his life. The treatment of the prisoners by the Japanese was horrendous. As they marched, they would meet Japanese soldiers moving south. John noticed that the first group of American soldiers were treated better than the last group of soldiers. The Japanese were taught never to surrender, and they were so startled to see prisoners of war that they passed by the first group without harming the prisoners. As they came to the end of the line of prisoners, they would start beating and mistreating prisoners. Anyone who slowed down or was unable to walk was killed without hesitation. John made the important decision to be in that first group of prisoners who started out in the morning.

John was a prisoner of war for over three years. He was moved to a prison camp in Manchuria on the "death" ship, Tori Maru. The ships with prisoners were not marked, so American warplanes often attacked them, not knowing that their fellow soldiers were inside those ships. John was able to stay on deck during the voyage on the Tori Maru and avoided being put below where the conditions were terrible.

He was able to survive because of the mental attitude that he had as he determined that if one soldier was to survive this imprisonment, it was going to be him. He had been taught by his mother to be clean, so when he was given rice, he tried to get the bugs and other unclean material out of the bowl before he ate it. He also knew that he had to have good hygiene and made sure that he stayed as clean physically as possible. He knew that a key to his survival was to stay free from disease. He also had the attitude that he would never give up.

Finally on Aug. 15, 1945, John was released from the Japanese prison camp and returned to his family in the United States. John's family had not known if he was alive for those three long years.

When he returned home, he did not discuss in detail the conditions he endured during his imprisonment as he did not want to burden his family and cause them distress. What an amazing and wonderful example John set enduring the terrible suffering of World War II!

John and Sarah Rynerson were married in 1946 and have been members of God's Church since 1970. They have seen the difficulties and problems that the Church has gone through over the years and have remained faithful and true to God's Word and to the truths that they have been taught. John is now 81 years old and continues to work cleaning floors for grocery stores in the Ogden, Utah, area. What a wonderful example of perseverance and endurance in spite of difficulties and trials.

Christ told us that we must be prepared to "endure" until the end, and there is much we can learn from John Rynerson's example. One of the main reasons John endured has to do with his mental attitude. He determined that he was going to survive the terrible conditions of the Bataan Death March and the following imprisonment.

In Matthew 24:12-13, Christ said: "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." We have seen this lawlessness on the earth today and conditions will get worse in time. Many have fallen by the spiritual wayside and Satan the devil has completely destroyed their faith, just as the Japanese killed stragglers on the Bataan Death March.

Because of John's determination to survive, he took the steps physically that helped him survive. He ate only "clean" food, removing such contaminants as flies and dirt. He took two canteens of water with him at the start of the march and some food also. He made sure that he was in the front of the line of soldiers marching on the Bataan Death March, which protected him somewhat from the abuse that others later in line were receiving. He tried to do everything he could physically accomplish that would help him with his main goal—survival!

Spiritually, are we doing all that we can to achieve our goal, the Kingdom of God? John ate only clean rice and this helped him avoid deadly physical illness. Spiritually, are we feeding ourselves with a good spiritual diet? This means studying the Bible on a daily basis, attending Church every week possible, going to the Feast of Tabernacles, avoiding contaminating and dirty (unclean) movies, etc. We know the things that lead to a healthy spiritual lifestyle.

Just like John during World War II in a Japanese prison camp, we are in a foreign world. A world that does not know the true God or the purpose of life. This knowledge of God's truth should spur us on to take the measures to insure our success in the only goal worth anything in this life, attaining the Kingdom of God.

John Rynerson had a purpose that he never forgot during those terrible years of World War II—the goal of survival. He had a clearly defined goal that motivated him and a mental attitude that helped him endure.

Let's never forgot the spiritual purpose of our life, the goal that God has set before us and the glory and honor that await those who attain that goal! UN