By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The year was 1937. Mao Tse-tung and his soldiers were marching north as part of the Communist takeover of China, and nothing would stand in their way -- the least of whom would be 7-year-old Garland Bare, his missionary parents or the three other Bare children.
Chinese Communist troops had been commissioned to go over the high mountain ranges of Tibet, into a valley where the Bares were taking refuge. The troops’ orders were to execute all missionaries in their path.
Seventy-five years later, that horrifying memory still haunts Bare, who went on to become a medical missionary like his father. But despite all the childhood terror, what sticks with this Joplin man most is the example of faith and courage exhibited by his parents.
The latter is why he wrote his first book, “A Tibetan Childhood: No Shangri-La,” which details the first 11 years of his life in Tibet. However, the 150-page account holds a much greater purpose than accolades for himself.
“This is for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Bare, 82, who spent over half of his 43-year career as an M.D. on the missionary field. “I want them to know of the courage and love shown by my parents in the face of danger.”
Bare said his mother and father talked to him and his siblings about the threat on their lives but never showed signs of panic, giving their children a sense of courage by their own actions.
The official launch date of the softback book, being published by Lifechange Media in Kearney, Neb., and selling for $10, is Monday out of Lincoln, Neb. Garland and his wife, Dorothy, lived there after returning in 1974 from a 23-year mission trip of their own in Thailand.
The story of how the Bare family lived through that 1937 nightmare could be another book itself -- not much short of a miracle.
Bare, noting that the Communists had pinpointed Christianity as their No. 1 enemy, said the troops on the death march had been recruited from the peasant class with cloth shoes, cloth uniforms and no gloves, which worked in the missionaries’ favor.
Coming over a high mountain pass in a blizzard, some of the soldiers lost their lives en route, while the ones who did make it had severely frozen hands and feet. The result left no one’s lives being threatened but those of the soldiers.
Bare said his father, Dr. Norton Bare, then spent the entire winter taking care of the troops who had been commissioned to execute him.
“This was the perfect example of loving your enemies and I wanted my descendants to know about that,” he said.
In addition, Bare’s mother, Lois, proved to be a shining example of fortitude and strength. Once on a trip into China for supplies, she and her children were confronted by bandits. Bare said he wanted his descendants to know how courageous she was in standing up to them and how she was never intimidated by threats, no matter how dangerous the situation.
Dedicating the book to his parents, Bare said he had enough memories to easily have written 500 pages, but he deliberately kept it short and readable for his seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
If Bare should one day decide to write another book about his mission to Thailand, he’s sure to have no shortage of memories on which to base that either. Part of his time doing missionary work was during the Vietnam War, with the doctor spending three years as a combat zone surgeon on the border of Laos and Thailand.
“I was treating people from both sides -- the government and the terrorists -- and I did not always know which was which,” he said.
Bare uses as an example the time he was caring for six Thai soldiers in a hospital. He was told that terrorists were on their way to execute them. He said he made up his mind that the executioners would have to get by him before they ever reached the soldiers’ beds.
He decided to have the local military post a guard in the hospital. He said it was after midnight when the terrorists arrived at the front door and after chatting with the guard, they decided to leave without incident.
“I was praying real hard and they just kind of melted back into the darkness,” he said.
In addition to his parents, Bare said he gives much credit to his wife of 61 years, who he met while attending Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Ill., where she had already graduated. The couple married in January 1951 and headed to the mission field in Thailand later that fall.
“I told Dorothy when she married me that she would never be rich, but she would never be bored,” said Bare, who refers to his wife as his companion and chief encourager in the acknowledgment portion of his book.