Chaplain Chats – The Rice Cakes

I have met many influential men and women over my years that have left permanent and positive marks on my life journey. I was reminded of one of these people earlier this week when I was cooking pancakes for the Year 12’s and they each tried finding the biggest one to enjoy! A wonderful man called Geoff Bingham, whom I knew personally through the 1990’s and early 2000’s, was someone that lived a life that, even though he has now passed, still speaks truth in my heart.

Geoff was born in 1919 and passed away in 2009 at the age of 90. He was a survivor of the Second World War after being shot and captured in Singapore and spending the final years of the war in the Changi prisoner of war (POW) camp. Geoff spoke to me of his time there and painted a picture of humanity that was difficult to comprehend. He spoke of the POW camp that he was in as being a place where humanity was so clearly broken that selfish actions from some individuals created  life and death outcomes. Survival was not guaranteed and, in a bid to survive, some prisoners would commit inhumane acts, including taking food and medication from others.

In this devastating setting, Geoff spoke of finding the reality of God’s power to live a different way. One evening in the camp, Geoff and three other men were about to receive a plate of rice cakes, the nutrients of which were vital in an environment when starvation was so near. These rice cakes came in all different shapes and sizes. As the plate arrived, Geoff, in desperation to find hope in the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation, cried out to God. He needed to know if God was real. This wasn’t a selfish cry for bigger rice cakes. Instead, if there truly was a designer, Geoff believed he would be able to act as His designer intended, with pure love for his fellow prisoners. At that moment, Geoff’s heart became fully focused on the good of others and he received the power from God to take the smallest rice cake available.

Sin, or selfishness, is a terrible thing, and serving just our own self-interests can deeply wound others. I only know of one solution to this selfishness: Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The full story of the Rice Cakes was written in a book by Geoff Bingham and it can be found here.

Peter Chase
College Chaplain • Pastoral Care

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