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THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES: MOST FAVORED NATION

by Robert Betancourt

OF MIRACLES: MOST FAVORED NATION by Robert Betancourt livingbettertherapy@gmail.com He teaches my hands to war, so

livingbettertherapy@gmail.com

He teaches my hands to war,

so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

Psalm 18:34

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Until the East Sea goes dry and Paektu Mountain falls,

May our glorious nation last, and God preserve its walls.

Rose of Sharon, fairest blossom, flower of our land!

God preserve this folk as one, the people of Daehan.

National Anthem of the Republic of Korea

PROLOGUE

In a tent near the northern border of South Korea, a

Republic of Korea army captain was writing what was to be

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his final letter. The fountain pen he used, had been given

to him by his late father upon his graduation from the

military academy.

…our time of tribulation is here. I want you to be

prepared for the worst. Many of our border towns have been

overrun

by

the

Communists.

There

are

reports

of

missionaries, priests and nuns being executed. As you know,

I have been tasked, along with other squads, to defend the

border. We lack equipment, personnel, tanks and planes. We

have

just received your dispatch about the American’s

inability to come to our aid for several weeks.

Should I perish, know this, that I died fighting for

our dream. Our dreams of one nation under God, to be free

like America. We cannot see God’s purpose in all this but we

know he has a plan.

Captain Rhee

June 1950

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As Captain Rhee finished writing, a high wail could be

heard in the sky directly overhead.

The

twenty five

year old captain

took

his letter page,

turned it to the blank side and folded it three times, so that it

became its own envelope. He then stood up to exit the tent,

checking his uniform in a mirror. The tremendous sound of a

thunderclap filled the air. As lightning flashed outside, a tall

figure in medieval armor could be seen reflected in the mirror,

standing behind the captain.

Whirling around, while simultaneously reaching for the

pistol on his hip, the captain observed that there was no other

person in the tent. He knew that he had reacted too quickly for

anyone to flee.

An

intense

feeling

of

calm rushed

over him.

He

had

experienced this feeling many times throughout his life, in times

of trouble. He knelt down next to his cot and began to pray.

Earlier that evening, a lone Soviet Mig 15 fighter had risen

from a secret air base across the Yalu River, in the town of

Antung, in Manchuria. The plane was flown by a pilot major from

its country of manufacture. The pilot’s mission was a combination

reconnaissance and test run.

The Mig 15’s development had been spurred on as Russian

engineers studied advanced British and American designs. Captured

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5

German wartime research also served

to

enhance

the

Mig 15’s

aerodynamics, until the jet totally eclipsed any straight wing

jet fighter.

The RD-45F turbojet engines in the Russian jet were even

better than the Rolls Royce engines that had inspired them. They

made the plane agile enough to elude any pursuing jet fighter.

The Mig 15 was armed with one 37 mm and two 23 mm cannons,

capable of inflicting lethal damage on land and air targets.

South of Captain Rhee’s location, a stout man dressed in the

army fatigues

of

the

ROK

army stood

on

the

roof

of

the

presidential residence. Jagged veins of lightning flashed between

ominous black-gray clouds. The man aimed a pair of binoculars

toward the brilliant arc of light. He rapidly turned the battered

thumbscrew, focusing the field glasses on the rapidly approaching

storm.

Lt. John ‘Tiger’ Kim knew the rainy season had arrived. For

thousands of years of recorded history, the seasonal rains had

battered Korea from the end of June to the end of July. The

heaviest rainfall was always concentrated in the center of the

country along the 38 th parallel - the border that divided the

Communist North from the Democratic South in the year of 1950.

Half of all the rainfall in the country occurred during this

short annual time period. Dry valleys

and creek beds became

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6

rivers and lakes. The heavens dropped an ocean of water on the

Korean people. They called this phenomenon, monsoon.

Lt. Kim continued observing the advancing tempest when the

image of a colossal dragon, demonically swallowing every star in

its

path,

appeared

in

the clouds

for

a

split second.

An

overwhelming sensation of fear and hopelessness gripped him.

Every fiber of his body told him to run but he pushed the feeling

away with much effort.

Starting to disbelieve what he had seen, Kim lowered his

binoculars, wiped the lenses and peered through them again. The

lightning flashes continued but the image was now gone.

One hundred sixty five thousand North Korean soldiers had

entered South Korea and begun a relentless invasion. Utilizing

Russian T34 tanks and artillery, the communist juggernaut headed

south toward the Republic of Korea capital, the city of Seoul.

Inside a library, decorated in the English club style with

mahogany wood paneling and shelves filled with leather bound

volumes, in the presidential palace in Seoul, ROK General Wu

looked outside the picture windows, his uniform hat tucked under

his left arm. Large drops of rain began to race down the window

glass. General Wu

had received his

military education in a

special school for U.S. allies in the state of Georgia in the

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7

United States. He pondered over lessons that he had learned too

well. The number of raindrops began to multiply until they began

to beat the roof of the mansion like the staccato of automatic

weapons fire.

President Syngman Rhee chronologically had the age of a

senior citizen but like most of his robust ancestors, appeared to

be decades younger with energy to match. Rhee and his wife,

Francesca Donner Rhee, an attractive Austrian blonde with a

powerful gaze entered the library arm in arm.

An ancient German man wearing a Protestant minister’s collar

and holding a battered, well worn, brown leather bible followed

the presidential couple into the room. The minister had served

the president as mentor, advisor and friend for many years.

The German clergyman walked slowly, leaning on a rattan cane

for balance. He wearily sat in a Queen Ann chair in the corner.

The

general

turned

to

face

the

trio

and

saluted the

president who half-heartedly returned the salute.

“Sorry general, The Americans are not coming right now,”

said the president. “They won’t be here for awhile, until…”

“Until the monsoon is over!” cried Mrs. Rhee.

The general looked down, rubbing his weary eyes, remembering

the American’s broken promises of last year when they pulled out

of the country. At least, they were hearing the truth this time.

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8

“Then all is lost, the monsoon will not be

month,” said the dejected general.

over for a

The president collapsed into a leather winged back chair

remembering his campaign promises. “Our dream of one nation under

God is over. The mountain was too high to conquer.” His wife

placed an empathetic hand on his shoulder as her eyes welled with

emotion.

The venerable minister, silent until now, stood up from his

chair, dropped his cane and stepped forward with intensity and

spoke, “My children, so little faith,” holding up his bible,

“have you forgotten the power of prayer? Do you not remember how

we got here and how far we have come?”

The

general stared at the minister

incredulously as

he

continued. “There is a way to remove any mountain, if you have

the faith.”

The old German preacher placed a hand on the president’s

shoulder covering Mrs. Rhee’s hand, closed his eyes and began

praying fervently. He prayed first in German, then with more

vigor in Korean and finally in a language the highly educated,

world wise general had never heard before.

The president began to feel inexplicable warmth envelop his

body. He suddenly felt optimistic. He leapt to his feet, his face

glowing with an intensity that was visible to everyone in the

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9

room. He looked at his wife assuringly and then turned to the

minister saying, “Pastor, we have some calls to make!”

One hundred seventy of the formidable tanks that defeated

Hitler’s Panzerwaffe

in

World War

II

began attacking ROK

positions

along the

38 th parallel.

The

Soviet T34

tank was

redesigned in the spring of 1943 to counter the new German V

Panther and Tiger tanks. The 1943 version of the T34 was heavily

armored - up to 90 mm on the turret front. A combat weight of

32,000 kg, the tank was still able to reach maximum speed in

excess of 55 km/h due to its 12 cylinder, 500 horsepower engine.

The T34’s 85mm ZIS S-53 Model L/54.6 gun and 7.62 mm DTM

were controlled by a crew of five with the aid of the TSH-16

telescope and the MK-4 periscope. Each tank carried sixty 85mm

shells and 1,920 DTM rounds making it a dangerous threat to the

thick armor of the new German tanks.

The T34 was designed by the Russian engineers to be upgraded

and improved. The Soviet tanks that were invading South Korea had

increased firepower and were faster and more mobile than the

original design, benefiting from seven years of improvements.

The

Mig-15

pilot

major

had

radioed his base

giving the

coordinates of Captain Rhee’s unit. When asked how many tanks

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10

were present in the area, the major had to reply that there were

none. He had seen only soldiers on horseback.

The ROK army had lost its prime source of military supply

when the U.S. army had departed in 1949. They had been guaranteed

a number of tanks but were instead given light armored cars with

obsolete anti-tank guns.

Captain Rhee remembered how he had taken a former ceremonial

cavalry unit and turned it into mounted light infantry as he sat

atop

‘Archangel’,

his

horse,

a

tall

gray Arabian steed

more

suited for parading heads of state than for men of warfare.

The

thunder of

the invading T34 tanks

drew closer. The

captain and two-dozen of his horse soldiers were armed only with

satchel charges - twenty pounds of TNT.

A young foot soldier handed the captain a note as the tanks

approached. Some of the younger light cavalrymen seemed torn

between standing their ground and fleeing but they all began to

draw courage from the captain, as they observed him lift his eyes

heavenward in prayer, after reading the note.

Captain Rhee raised his right hand, keeping it raised for

agonizing seconds, as a trumpeter watched for his signal. He

finally

lowered

it,

signaling

the

command to

charge. The

trumpeter blew a deafening charge and the captain and two dozen

determined light cavalrymen advanced.

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11

The young captain fearlessly charged the lead tank, the

satchel charge set to detonate upon impact. The distance was

closed in the blink of an eye as the T34 lunged forward in excess

of 60 km/hour.

Captain Rhee and his horse were crushed under the tank’s

steel treads when the satchel charge detonated under the floor of

the tank. The T34 stopped for a moment but then lurched forward,

as fast as ever - for even the hull side of the tank had more

than 60mm of armor plate.

Captain Rhee felt no pain. He could see his broken body on

the ground, lifeless, yet he felt more alive than ever. He then

heard the most beautiful song he had ever heard. He recognized

its lyrics as the prayer he had prayed only moments before. The

sound of the song rose heavenward and so did the captain.

The earth became smaller and smaller as he drifted upward,

he was suddenly aware that he was now in heaven. He stood on top

of a hill and saw a valley below with beautiful roses in colors

he had never seen before. He thought it would be nice to walk

down to the roses and get a closer look. As soon as he thought

this, he appeared in the midst of them.

He knew that he was an immeasurable distance from earth but

yet he could somehow see everything there. He wondered if his

last prayer there would be answered. Instantly he heard a voice

like the sound of a hundred waterfalls.

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12

Several dozen T34 tanks adhered to an invasion route that

had been previously used by other armies for centuries. The tank

brigade began in the northeast, went south through Kapyong and

down through the Pukhan River Valley. They then followed west

along the Han River toward the bridge that would lead it into the

southern capital of Seoul.

Smith Worthwright II never knew his birth parents. Born out

of wedlock to the sixteen-year-old daughter of an upper crust

British family, his birth was a surprise to his mother and her

parents. The girl was so thin that no one even suspected that she

was pregnant for the previous nine months.

So, it was a great shock to all, when after calling the

doctor

for

a

possible case of appendicitis, a

baby

boy was

delivered. The scandal would never do in the exclusive London

cafe society of the twenties. The doctor was given a generous fee

for services rendered and for his future silence. Keeping similar

confidences had already made him wealthy.

The as yet unnamed baby boy was then left abandoned in the

entryway of an orphanage. A visiting evangelist from Germany,

George Muller, had started the orphanage in the 1830’s. Muller

had arrived in England as a traveling evangelist but stayed on

when he was touched by the plight of the many homeless orphans.

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13

The

day

this

newborn

arrived

at

the orphanage

-

the

cupboards were devoid of milk, meat and bread. The infant cried

with hunger when the young head nurse, Ruth Solomon, picked him

up

from

the

front

steps.

The young

nurse had

taken over

administration of the almost one-century-old institution, after

the death of its governor. He had passed away in his sleep a

fortnight ago, at the age of eighty-seven.

Ruth remembered a can of sweetened condensed milk she had

bought for her former boss buried at the bottom of her purse. The

former director had been in the habit of drinking hot tea with

the sweetened condensed milk. At that moment, the circumstance

provided the inspiration that determined the child’s name; she

decided to name the baby Smith Worthwright, in honor of the late

governor.

She took the baby to the kitchen where she poured the milk

into a small pot, heating it to the proper temperature. Pouring

it into a bottle, she fed it to the infant after it had cooled

properly. She smiled as the child drank the warm liquid, burping

him gently when he finished.

She placed the child in a makeshift crib made out of a

dresser drawer and sat down to weep. 1920 had been the year for

abandoned babies; the orphanage was filled beyond capacity.

Every time things seemed hopeless in the past, the director

had told her all needs would be met and not to worry. The old man

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14

was never proved wrong; donations of food and money had always

come in. He had told her time and time again that the important

thing was to build up her own faith. Every time she voiced a

doubt, his counter was an old scripture verse.

She was always too busy helping the other nurses bathe, feed

and clothe the youngest charges and new arrivals. Reading the old

book, as the governor called it, was a luxury of time she could

not afford.

At the age of twenty-seven, she had never even had time for

romance. What was wrong with that old man? Didn’t he know she had

no leisure time?

No one had made a contribution to the orphanage since he had

died - food or money. What was she going to do?

She took a lace handkerchief from her apron and wiped her

tears. She walked to the orphanage chapel and sat down in one of

the pews, remembering how the old man used to captivate the young

children with his exciting speeches. When the old man spoke,

something tangible seemed to fill the atmosphere. He seemed to be

transformed into someone else, having the energy of someone forty

years younger.

Some of the younger children would become so enthralled by

the message, that they would abandon their pews and sit on the

floor between the first row and the podium. Sometimes the old man

would get so excited, that he would jump off the stage with a

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15

shout to the thrill of the children. He never got injured and as

far as she knew, was never sick a day in his life.

She climbed the stairs up to the podium and stood behind it

looking out over the pews. She wished she could have just a small

portion of the childlike joy, the man who once stood there had.

She saw that the Bible was open to one of the gospels. She

began reading the part where the disciples asked Christ to teach

them how to pray. Her tears began to drench the page when she

finished reading the narration.

Ruth descended the stairs, collapsed in the first pew and

bowed her head in prayer, sobbing. She fell asleep shortly after,

exhausted from the day’s efforts.

Ruth awoke with a start as she heard the sound of the brass

front door knocker echoing, almost desperately. Had she left the

gas on in the kitchen? Was the orphanage on fire? She raced

toward the kitchen but slowed as she realized that there was no

smoke and no flames were visible.

The incessant knocking at the front door grew louder. She

looked at the hallway clock. Why, it was only four a.m. but she

felt so rested. She turned on the outside light, unlocked the

door and there stood a young man. The man looked at her face and

his jaw dropped open in wonder. Behind him on the street outside,

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16

she could see several vehicles with serious looking men in them.

Some of the vehicles had revolving blue lights on their rooftops.

She looked from the vehicles to the young man. He stood five

foot ten, had curly brown hair, penetrating brown eyes and a

contagious smile that made her forget her problems. He self-

consciously brushed white powder from his jacket sleeves.

“Miss,

may

I

come

in,

it’s in reference

to

an

urgent

matter.”

“Of

course,” she

found herself saying,

amazed

at

the

confidence she displayed, letting this stranger into the foyer

and closing the door behind him.

“Miss, I have been asked by my employer to speak with you on

a matter of the utmost importance.”

“Yes?”

“I went to sleep before nine last night. You see I am the

royal baker and have been working long hours to keep up with the

demands of Her majesty’s palace since half of the staff fell ill.

Well, I don’t think I had been asleep one hour when something

woke me. I thought I heard a voice telling me to bake bread… Well

what happened next is even more fantastic, I hope you won’t think

I’m daft…” He began to lose his nerve, staring into her eyes,

bewildered yet taken with her beauty.

Ruth’s curiosity was piqued and she urged him on, “Carry on,

please.”

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17

“I got up and looked all over my rooms for the source of the

mysterious voice, expecting to find the majordomo but I found no

one.”

He

paused

and looked

into

her eyes

again, gauging

her

reaction. She lost herself in his deep brown eyes, captivated by

every word.

“I fell asleep again and had a dream where I saw a large old

house. The front door of the house opened and I could see inside.

I

saw

a

woman who

looked remarkably like yourself,

crying,

standing in the middle of dozens of children holding empty bowls.

I heard the voice again, saying, ‘Feed my children.’ I woke up

again, went to the kitchen and started to make bread. As I was

working in the kitchen, one by one, my whole staff appeared. The

sick among them were all as right as rain and it happened that

none

of

them could sleep either.

We

began making bread and

pastry, more bread and pastry than had ever been made in the

palace. The clamor in the kitchen was so great that the majordomo

came to see what all the uproar was about.”

The young baker paused again wiping more powder from his

sleeves, feeling confident as he locked

sympathetic nurse.

eyes

again with the

“The majordomo was incensed. He put a stop to everything and

spoke of giving us all our walking papers. I was trying to tell

him about my dream, when the Queen walked into the kitchen. She

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18

had been standing in the doorway listening. Miss, I don’t believe

Her

Majesty

had ever

been

in

the

kitchen. She stopped the

majordomo, and then recounted a dream about this house, a house

full of hungry children, describing it perfectly. She too had

been

awakened

by

a

voice,

a

children,’ just like my dream.

the same dream I had dreamt.”

voice

that commanded, ‘Feed

my

It had kept her from sleeping,

Ruth began to feel weak and grabbed at the man’s arm now,

making sure that she was not dreaming, holding on to him for

support as he continued.

“Her Highness then spoke to us directly. She commanded us to

load all the meat, fowl and milk; fresh and tinned from the

palace pantry, along with all the bread and pastry we had baked

into her personal automobiles. She

had

the

majordomo call

Scotland Yard, describe this house and request that they locate

it. Well, Miss, that is why I’m here. If you would please step

outside for a moment to meet Her Royal Highness. She wants to

meet you, for you see, the Queen has brought you bread.”

Ruth

Solomon

grabbed

the

young man around

the

neck and

kissed him on the cheek. The young man blushed and his smile grew

broader.

So it was that Smith Worthwright II grew into a tall, strong

young man, in a house full of faith, love and joy. At the advent

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19

of World War II, Smith joined the British Army as a chaplain. He

found himself in France in May of 1940.

The British Expeditionary Force had supplied over 370,000

soldiers to help the French defend the Maginot Line from Hitler.

The German armies had conquered Poland in 1939 and swept through

Norway, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium in the first few

months of

1940. Hitler’s armies then

crossed into France to

complete his domination of Western Europe.

Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party rose to power in Germany in

1933. He painstakingly selected his leaders in order to build

Germany into a mighty military juggernaut.

Throughout the 1930’s, Hitler prepared in advance for war

that was years away in diabolically clever ways. During these

years, young German couples honeymooning all over Europe had the

curious habit of taking photographs of themselves, not in the

usual

tourist

spots

but

on bridges,

in

front

of munitions

factories, strategic fortifications and military bases. Anyone

who noticed, attributed it to the peculiar sensibility of art

that Germans possess.

Planes and submarines were built secretly

in

Spain and

Finland. Many a Luftwaffe pilot gained valuable experience

fighting against the Loyalists in Spain’s Civil War.

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20

In order to prepare for the war in Africa, Germany sent

millions of gallons of petrol and tons of spare tank parts to

Africa hiding them in secret bases all over the desert.

After defeating most of Western Europe in a space of a few

months, this demonically driven military genius would soon

consolidate his power after the fall of France and then across

the channel to England.

Hitler’s tanks had slashed through the Maginot Line as if it

was made of paper. Military experts of the day had thought it to

be impregnable.

Half a million French and English soldiers

were fleeing

across France in the face of the German onslaught. Smith II was

one of them. The troops had been told to make a tactical retreat

to the Northwest coastal town of Dunkirk, to be evacuated by

ship. Smith knew that even the great British navy did not have

enough ships to rescue half a million men in time. Unbeknownst to

him and the people of England, the British government had even

considered turning the navy fleet over to Hitler to placate him.

Smith

did

not share his grim conclusions

with his

two

companions, a Grenadier named Alfred and Brian, a soldier from

the Dorset Regiment with an injured right leg.

Brian had injured his leg earlier when Nazi planes were

flying overhead and German tanks were advancing. In keeping with

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

21

the Blitzkrieg or Lightning War philosophy, the Nazi military

bombed and fired indiscriminately at military and civilian

targets. While men all around him had fled for their lives, Brian

had hurried back in the face of relentless enemy tank fire to a

burning farm house, in which were trapped a mother and daughter.

He got them safely away but not without fracturing his ankle.

Smith and the Grenadier had each grabbed Brian under an arm

and had acted as human crutches for several miles until they were

picked up by the lorry truck ‘pig a back’ system. The lorries

would pick up soldiers, take them a few miles and then return to

pick up some more men.

Smith and Alfred helped the lame soldier into one of these

lorries. There was only room for one more. Smith asserted his

rank as a chaplain and ordered the Grenadier to go, assuring him

he’d get on the next lorry.

The next lorry never came, most of the half million soldiers

had by now made their way to the beaches of Dunkirk, so Smith set

off on his own. He encouraged himself, reciting the 91 st Psalm

over and over again, as he marched. He prayed it, sang it,

claimed it and preached it to an imagined church. Smith lost all

concept of time as he walked.

Occasionally, he would stop and eat some wild blueberries.

He finally reached the beach of Dunkirk days later.

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22

Upon his arrival, Smith was directed to one of the docks

where hundreds of French and British soldiers waited for a ship.

Squadrons of Luftwaffe bombers flew overhead in a swastika

formation. The planes began dropping bombs all over the docks.

Smith was thrown into the water by the concussion of a blast near

his dock.

Smith

began

to

swim, making

headway toward a British

freighter offshore. German bombs sank ten of twelve British ships

in the harbor. The remaining two ships began to leave.

Smith’s strength began to wane. He began to wonder if his

time had come. He could not turn back; the docks had become a

raging inferno. Smith swam and treaded water for hours, looking

for a ship, until he felt he could swim no more…

On May 26, 1940, King George VI and Parliament declared a

National

Day

of Prayer

in England.

Churches were filled

to

standing room only, as never before in the history of the British

Empire.

The

British Council of Churches had

wanted

to

issue

a

proclamation for national prayer in April but the Archbishop of

Canterbury, in a move of political correctness, vetoed the idea

so as not to offend Hitler.

The

British

Admiralty

became

rejuvenated

under

the

administration of the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill,

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

23

formulating a desperate plan Operation Dynamo. They searched

ports from Humber to Southampton for vessels of all types to

supplement the British

fleet.

The

Admiralty reported to

Churchill, however, that in the best-case scenario only 40,000 of

the half million soldiers trapped in Northwest France would be

rescued.

The orphanage chapel that Smith had attended as a boy was

filled to the brim. The governor of the orphanage, a middle aged

man with graying curly brown hair, and his wife, Ruth led the

congregation in prayer.

Hitler’s armies

were now fifteen miles

away from total

annihilation of the thousands of soldiers in the town of Dunkirk.

The United States government was attempting to persuade Churchill

to send the British fleet to the states, as defeat was now

inevitable.

Smith had not had a real meal in days. Cramps in his legs

and arms prevented him from swimming any further. He held his

breath and let his face fall down in the water, accepting the

inevitable. He mentally recited his

prepare for the end.

mainstay, Psalm 91,

to

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24

The words flowed through his mind until the verse, “…He

shall give His angels charge over thee…” and gaspingly swallowed

some water, unable now to even lift his head and clear his lungs.

That final verse reverberated peacefully through his mind and

spirit as he began to sink.

He felt a hand touch his head and wondered if it was an

angel. He then felt, the hand pull his hair violently, shocking

him back into consciousness. Strong hands grabbed him under the

arms, lifted him out of the water and pulled him into a rowboat.

Smith coughed seawater over the side of the tiny boat and

looked up to see his rescuer, a boy of not more than sixteen, who

had a face black as a chimney sweep. Joy rose up in Smith’s heart

at the sight of his dusty angel. The boy turned his back on

Smith, grabbed the oars and began to row away furiously. Four

other soldiers sat in the boat. One of them, a Frenchman began to

retch

violently. The boy turned and

said,“I’ll thank you to

direct that over the side, I’ll be using this boat again.” This

had been the boy’s third trip across the channel.

Two of the soldiers began to speak in hushed tones about the

situation. Smith heard snippets of the conversation - “…we’re

safe but what about our chums?…all the able-bodied men in my

family are back there…thousands of others…”

Smith’s joy turned to grief as he started remembering all of

his comrades, trapped in France at the mercy of the Nazis, most

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

25

of whom would never make it back to England alive. He stared at

the floor of the boat and could not hold back the tears as he

began to pray to himself.

After awhile, he raised his eyes. He could see some unusual

floating specks in

the distance, in

the direction they were

approaching, too far away to make out what they were. What could

buoy markers be doing out in the middle of the Channel?

They drew closer and the specks began to take shape. A lump

rose up in Smith’s throat as he began to make out what the

mysterious floating objects were. He began to see on the horizon,

cross channel steamers, coasting tramps, trawlers, sailboats,

motorboats and launches,

lifeboats.

motor

and

sailing barges, even

He heard music playing but could not make out its origin. A

few minutes later, the source of the music soon became apparent

as the leader of the flotilla suddenly appeared out of the fog.

It was a fellow in a trilby hat, smoking a pipe, piloting a

motorboat with a dozen rowing boats in tow. A portable phonograph

in his vessel played the booming notes of the British anthem. He

was leading the ragtag armada toward the French coast. He smartly

saluted

as

he

went past Smith’s boat. Smith instinctively

yelled,”Godspeed,” as he went past. The other British soldiers

with him took up the cry,”Godspeed, Godspeed…”

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

26

On May 27, 1940, Hitler inexplicably ordered his armies to

halt their forward progress to Dunkirk. This gave the British

flotilla, consisting of the Royal Navy and over 1,000 civilian

vessels the opportunity to evacuate most of the half million

British and French

troops

over

a period

of

a

few

days.

No

military expert would ever satisfactorily explain why the Nazi

leader stopped his army from what would have been a complete and

easy victory.

On June 18, 1940, Churchill spoke, “…the Battle of France is

over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin, upon this battle

depends the survival of Christian civilization, upon it depends

our own British life and the long, continuity of our institution

and our Empire.”

After

the

war, Smith had traveled

to

South Korea

as

a

missionary. One of his earliest converts was a young native woman

named Sarah, who had served as his translator. The young woman

spent many hours coaching Smith on the difficult language but

their mutual attraction made the hours seem like minutes.

One year later, Smith and Sarah were married. Nine months

later, their daughter Hannah was born.

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

27

In May of 1950, Hannah was now three years old. Sarah was

now pregnant with their second child. Like many residents of

South

Korea,

Smith had made preparations

approaching communist onslaught.

to

escape

the

Smith had placed his family’s most important belongings in

a pedicab, a large three wheeled bicycle with adjustable gears,

commonly used as a human powered taxi, with a bicycle seat out

front for the driver who sat over the front wheel. A large

compartment in the rear held passengers and their luggage. The

pedicab had been designed as an economical commuter vehicle,

serving Smith well in his missionary work in the surrounding

villages.

Hannah and her mother rode in the passenger seat of the

cycle, as Smith sat up front pedaling furiously, toward the Han

River Bridge.

Hannah played with a doll, unaware of the danger. She smiled

at Sarah, offering her the doll, as they drew closer to the Han

River Bridge, which connected the roadway to the capital city of

Seoul.

Sarah looked at her lovely little firstborn saying, “Hold

on baby, hold on tight,” and as an afterthought, “Hold your dolly

tight, you wouldn’t want your dolly to get hurt now, would you?”

Sweat poured off Smith’s neck and back as he stood up in the

pedals, pumping his legs furiously to gain more momentum. The

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

28

sound of the T34 tanks could be heard from the north, thundering

southward.

ROK

troops

could

be

heard

making

announcements

on

loudspeakers, as they drew closer to the bridge. They were close

enough now to hear what they were saying, the bridge was to be

blown up to prevent the Communists from crossing.

The army had blocked the bridge entrance as their sappers

prepared to detonate their charges.

Smith stopped the cycle and looked for a way to get through.

He knew that there was no way back for his little family. The

reports he’d heard of what the Communists had done to other

missionaries left him only one course of action - to go forward.

He stared at the bridge for several minutes, looking for an

opening.

A mob of dozens of citizens began a melee with the ROK

troops, trying

to enter

the bridge,

delaying

the explosion.

Someone threw a bottle and it shattered on one of the soldier’s

helmets.

Seizing the opportunity, Smith yelled back over his shoulder

to his wife and child,”Hold on tight!” He resumed his forward

motion with renewed energy, shifted gears and pedaled until his

legs felt like they were on fire.

Smith began slaloming the pedicab in between barricades and

tire shredding caltrops, leaning his weight from side to side,

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

29

lifting up one of the rear wheels from time to time to avoid

puncture.

Finally, Smith maneuvered the three-wheeled vehicle between

two blockading jeeps, with not an inch to spare, scraping paint

off the sides of the vehicles. Increasing speed even more, he

reached the halfway point of the bridge when the countdown began.

He continued pedaling as cramps gripped

his

thigh and calve

muscles like hundreds of needle pricks, not stopping until he was

well away from the bridge.

Smith stopped the pedicab behind a large hospital building.

He turned to look at his family and saw his wife but not his

daughter. The ground rippled and shook underneath them, windows

were shattered for several blocks, as the explosives detonated on

the Han River bridge.

Smith and Sarah looked at each other in despair. At the end

of June 1950, a total of 2,164 fleeing South Koreans were missing

and presumed dead, a little girl named Hannah was one of them.

THE ALCHEMY OF MIRACLES

30

NEW YORK CITY

TOMORROW

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Thanks, Robert Betancourt