A secretary for the tire rationing board on April29, 1944, young Lois Barden sat in Ithaca’s Courthouse basement, busy at her work. She looked up to see the face of the gentleman who ran the telegraph office in the train depot on Ithaca’s South Pine River Street. He held out a telegram: her husband of 6 months, John Barden, had been shot down over Germany.
Lois ran from the Courthouse to the furniture store in downtown Ithaca where John’s father worked. After sharing the news with her father-in-law, the young girl knew no other place to turn than God. Lois let herself in the Ithaca United Methodist Church and went straight to the altar.
For hours, the bride knelt in prayer. Finally, she tried to rise to return home, but her cramped muscles refused to cooperate. Seemingly out of nowhere, strong hands supported her and gently helped Lois stand and turn to the sanctuary. What she saw then left a powerful impression: in the time she was speaking only with her Lord, the entire sanctuary had filled. Friends, townsfolk, farmers from outlying areas – all had learned of her news and gathered with her in prayer for John’s safety. So many had come, that a number had to stand. This outpouring of love, support, and acknowledgment that God heard and answered prayer helped Lois when she needed it most.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Lieutenant John Barden’s ordeal had just begun. He’d been injured as he parachuted from his crashing plane, surrounded by country folk, and taken to the nearby town of Nordhausen, Germany. Put on display in a shop window, people came to stare at and insult “the enemy” until officials arrived to take him to a prison camp. John spent 8 months in Stalag Luft 3 in northern Poland. Then, on Christmas night, 1944, with the war turning against Germany, the prisoners were roused to begin a march of over 1,000 miles. Those who survived ended up in another camp just outside Munich, Germany. Finally, one of Patton’s tank corps liberated that prison camp. As soon as he could, John sent Lois a telegram: “All well and safe hope to see you soon all my love.”
Decades later, a group of POW’s from John’s camp visited Nordhausen. In the shop window where John had been displayed, this bullet sat. Inquiry revealed that the local folk had salvaged the engine from John’s burned plane. When they took it apart, this bullet – the one that brought the plane down – was lodged in the engine. They decided to place it in the store window in the hopes that someday it would be returned to the pilot.