It was 1939, the time of the Second Sino-Japanese war. Norwegian Peter Torjesen and his wife Valborg are sheltering up to 1,000 refugees. Norway was a neutral country, so a Norwegian flag was laid flat on the ground. But the Japanese treat missionaries like them as enemies, viewed as supporters of Chinese resistance. On December 14 Peter Torjesen was killed when Japanese aircraft dropped bombs on their mission station at Hequ in the Shanxi Province.
But, ironically, it was not on that date that Peter Torjesen gave his life. No! 30 years before that, in 1909, a 17-year old boy was moved by the urgings of Ludvig Hope as he spoke about the millions of Chinese in desperate need of hearing the gospel. Peter’s response? When the offering plate came round he emptied into it not only the contents of his wallet, but also a piece of paper on which he wrote the words Og mit liv – “And my life.”
From one perspective every committed Christian is “a dead man walking.” Jesus told his own followers what it means to be his true disciple: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Any person carrying a cross is headed for the place of certain execution. The point is that my life is not my own. I have given it to him. But we do so convinced of the truth of Jesus’ next explanatory words: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
Peter had been given a Chinese name which means “Leaf Evergreen.” Today, if you visit the headquarters of the mission agency Evergreen in Taiyuan, you will see a framed piece of paper hanging on the wall. A piece of paper that had been preserved by Peter’s Sunday School Teacher and later handed to his widow. It is the very piece of paper on which a 17-year old wrote those simple yet profound words – “And my life.”