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Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

 

 

From the time Darlene McIntosh was ten years old, she knew God wanted her serve him on the mission field.

By age twenty-two, Darlene was newly married to pioneer missionary Russell Deibler, and settled in the jungle of New Guinea where he had built a two-room home for her out of woven bamboo mats.

 

 

Russell and Darlene proceeded to build relationships with members of a nearby primitive tribe, the Kapauku, who had never heard of Jesus. She fell in love with the people, the work, and her surroundings.

On her twenty-third birthday in May of 1940, the couple heard that the Nazis had invaded Holland. It didn’t take long for the war to find them, even in their remote location. The Deiblers and other missionaries could have escaped to safety but chose to stay at their mission compound.

In January of 1942 the Japanese came and took the men captive. Russell’s last words to Darlene were: “Remember one thing, dear: God said that He would never leave us nor forsake us.” That was the last time she saw Russell; he would die in the prison camp.

 

 

For a short while, the women and one older man continued to live at the mission.

One night Darlene heard scuffling noises in the house. She got up from her bed and encountered a bandit armed with a knife.

Darlene surprised herself by rushing at him. Even more surprising, the bandit turned and fled; Darlene chased him out of the house. Suddenly a gang of bandits ran out of the jungle to join the first. She expected them to attack her. Instead the first bandit yelled to the others, and they all turned and ran.

From then on, the missionaries kept clubs at the feet of their beds, but they never had to use them.

Darlene always suspected the compound gardener had been the bandit, because he was familiar with the house. After the war, Darlene asked him why he had never tried to steal from the missionaries again.

“It was because of all those people you had there–” he replied.  “Those people in white who stood about the house!”

 

 

In May of 1943, Darlene and the other remaining missionaries were taken to a prison camp in Kampili. Commander Yamaji, a man with a mercurial temper, required strenuous work quotas of the six hundred women living there, including killing flies.

The flies bothered the pigs, raised at the camp to feed Japanese soldiers. Each prisoner was required to bring Commander Yamaji 100 dead flies every day (That’s 60,000 flies!)—even while completing numerous other tasks.

Darlene prayed for Commander Yamaji and was able to tell him about Jesus. “He died for you,” she told him. “Maybe that’s why God brought me here, to tell you he loves you.” The commander suddenly left his office with tears on his cheeks.

 

 

In May of 1944, the Japanese secret police came to escort Darlene to another prison. She was put in solitary confinement, falsely accused of espionage.

Darlene endured nightly mosquito swarms, near-starvation, malaria and other serious illnesses, inhumane conditions, brutal interrogations, and torture.

But only her Heavenly Father saw her tears, never the captors. She sustained herself by singing hymns, quoting scripture, and reciting Russell’s last words: God will never leave you nor forsake you.

 

 

One day Darlene pulled herself up to look out the small window of her cell. She saw a woman make her way to the fence, reach through the underbrush, and come away with a bunch of bananas, which she quickly concealed in the folds of her skirt.

Oh, to eat just one banana, Darlene thought. Lord, how I would love a banana! Darlene could not get the coveted fruit out of her mind. She talked to God about her craving, knowing that such a fantastical desire could not be fulfilled.

The next morning, Darlene had a surprise visitor, Commander Yamaji. Tears filled her eyes. “It’s like seeing an old friend,” she exclaimed.

“You are very ill, aren’t you,” he remarked.

“Yes, Mr. Yamaji, I am.”

When the commander left, Darlene watched him speak to the guards for a long time. Later she heard the familiar stomp of boots outside her cell. The door was unlocked and one of the guards threw a stalk of bananas onto the floor.

“From Mr. Yamaji,” he said.

With tears of praise to God, Darlene counted ninety-two bananas. God had provided—far above what she imagined. She savored them, one per day for three months.

 

 

Darlene would surely have been beheaded as a spy, but she was inexplicably returned to Kampili, the POW camp under Commander Yamaji’s leadership.

Soon nightly bombings began. The women hid as best they could in ditches. Every morning they would have to bury those who had not survived.

One night during the siege, Darlene felt compelled by God to leave her shelter in the dirt, go back to the barracks, and retrieve a Bible. By the time she returned to her ditch the bombing had subsided.

But during Darlene’s brief absence, her refuge had been hit directly and destroyed.

 

 

Finally, in the fall of 1945 the horrific ordeal ended. Darlene returned to her family in America to be nursed back to health. She weighed 80 pounds.

Four years later, Darlene was back in New Guinea. God had brought Gerald Rose into her life, another missionary who also carried a passion for indigenous people. They were married and together raised two sons. For forty years they served God, not only in New Guinea but also in the Outback of Australia.

In 1976, a friend told Darlene she had heard Mr. Yamaji sharing his story on Japanese radio. The angry and cruel prison camp commander had become a changed man because of Jesus.

 

 

No doubt God had used Darlene as an important influence in his life—and in the lives of countless others as well.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Almighty God, we exult in your sustaining power that carries us through even the most excruciating circumstances. You supply impossible strength, courage, and perseverance to endure. And just as Russell told Darlene, you never leave us nor forsake us. Hallelujah!

(Psalm 28:7; Philippians 4:13; Deuteronomy 31:6; James 1:2-4, Deuteronomy 31:8)

 

Sources:

1) http://reneeannsmith.com/a/tag/darlene-deibler-rose/

2) http://pursuedandconquered.blogspot.com/2012/08/bananas-in-prison.html

3) http://www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Psalm-27-The-Lord-Is-My-Light-and-My-Salvation…Darlene-Diebler-Rose-Convocation-Fall-2016-kh.pdf

4) http://www.scripturaltruths.org/Articles/Real%20Life%20Experiences/REAL%20LIFE%20STORIES%20-%20Darlene%20Deibler%20Rose%20-%20Prisoner%20of%20War%20-%20May%202017%20-%20PDF.pdf

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.darlenerose.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org;www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com.

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

(Mary McLeod Bethune)

 

Mary turned over in her bed for the umpteenth time seeking a restful position, even though she knew discomfort was not the cause of her sleeplessness–excitement was. Tomorrow morning, October 4, 1904, she would stand in front of her first class of children in her own school: The Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Negro Girls.

Mary smiled, remembering the miracle of learning to read for herself when she was a girl of ten—miraculous because: 1) the provision of education for African-American children was rare in 1885, and 2) out of the seventeen children in her family, she was the one chosen to attend.

 

(Cabin where Mary was born, the fifteenth child out of seventeen)

 

The school was five miles from home, and she had to endure harassment and assault from white children on her daily treks. But Mary knew: this opportunity meant God had purpose for her life.

In 1886 a Quaker missionary financed the continuation of her education at Scotia Seminary in North Carolina.

Seven years later she entered Moody Bible Institute in Chicago as the only African-American among hundreds of white students. Instead of harassment and assault, however, Mary encountered acceptance, proving that “blacks and whites could live and work together with equality” (1).

While at Moody, Mary sensed God leading her to Africa as a missionary. But when it came time to apply, her denomination’s mission board denied her request because she was black.

The disappointment was deeply painful, but Mary soon turned her attention to those of African descent in America, and became a teacher—first in Augusta, Georgia and then in Sumter, South Carolina. She worked tirelessly, not only for her students but also for the surrounding black communities.

Thank you, Lord, for those nine years of teaching experience, Mary prayed. You prepared me well to found this new school.

Granted, there would only be five little girls greeting her in the morning, but it was a beginning. And Mary was confident God would make her school grow.

She chucked to herself. Of course, Lord, you left an awful lot of work for ME to do!

First she found a community in need of a school: Daytona Beach, Florida. Numerous African-American families were moving there, in order to be employed by the newly formed Florida East Coast Railroad.

 

(Workers on the East Coast Railway Extension, 1906)

 

Next Mary found a run-down cottage to rent for eleven dollars per month.  She convinced the owner to accept $1.50 as a down payment.

To supply her school with furniture and other necessities, Mary foraged at the city dump and behind hotels for anything useful. Old peach crates became student desks and chairs, an old barrel became her teacher’s desk.

She retrieved discarded linens, kitchen ware, and cracked dishes for the homemaking and skilled trades she would teach. Everything was scoured, mended and repurposed. Even charred wood had value as substitute pencils.

To cover expenses, Mary sold sweet potato pies and fried fish to wealthy tourists. She canvassed neighborhoods, spoke to church groups and clubs, and distributed leaflets.

Now, opening day was hours away.  And as she finally drifted off to sleep Mary wondered, What might the future hold?

If God had told her, even Mary’s strong faith would have been stretched.

That tiny handful of students in 1904 would grow to almost 250 by 1906, requiring more teachers, an advisory board, and a bigger facility. Among the influential men (black and white) on the board was James M. Gamble of the Proctor and Gamble Company.

 

(Mary and her students, ca. 1905)

 

In 1923 her school would merge with the Cookman Institute, a co-educational school for African-American students in Jacksonville, Florida. Mary was chosen as the first president. Later the Bethune-Cookman Institute became a college and then a university. (Today, nearly 4,000 students attend the school.)

 

(Faith Hall, built in 1907 to accommodate Mary’s growing school;

now part of Bethune-Cookman University)

 

In 1935 Mary helped organize the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) “to connect African-American women across the country and establish a national voice for them” (2).   Mary served as the first president.

A White House Conference of the NCNW met in Washington, DC in 1938. Then president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, offered her the position of Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.

Mary met one-on-one with President Roosevelt several times a year and became good friends with Eleanor.

 

(Eleanor in the middle; Mary to her right)

 

Her participation on various government committees actually spanned the terms of four presidents, from Calvin Coolidge to Harry S. Truman.

 

(Mary’s home in Washington, DC)

 

Mary often said:

 

 

The impossible events of Mary’s life offer ample proof.

 

(Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955)

 

Notes:

(1) http://www.talbot.edu/ce20/educators/protestant/mary_bethune

(2) https://savingplaces.org/stories/mary-mcleod-bethune-bethune-cookman-university-hbcu-history#.WnzP3pM-e8U

 

Sources:

http://www.talbot.edu/ce20/educators/protestant/mary_bethune

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ969859.pdf

https://savingplaces.org/stories/mary-mcleod-bethune-bethune-cookman-university-hbcu-history#.WnzP3pM-e8U

http://www.wciujournal.org/journal/article/mary-mcleod-bethune-an-agent-of-change-and-leadership

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.nationalparkservice.org; http://www.wikimedia.org, http://www.canva.com

 

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In three short days 2017 will melt into memories, and we’ll greet a new year with all its potential for grand possibilities.

These last few days of December offer a time of optimism and expectancy within our spirits. We wonder if 2018 will be the year for:

  • The fulfillment of a long-held dream,
  • The answer to a frequent, heart-felt prayer, or
  • The accomplishment of a hard-won goal.

It’s also a time when our hearts become reflective:

 

 

  • What might God have in store for me in 2018?
  • What would he desire me to do over the next twelve months?
  • How would he have me grow in character and maturity?

And so I pray.  (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

Thank you, Father, for the demarcation between one year and the next, giving us pause to evaluate and encouraging us to:

  • Refocus our attention on priorities,
  • Recalibrate those attitudes that hold us back, and
  • Renew our resolve to live your way for your purpose (and experience your effervescent joy in the process).

 

 

To that end:

  • I pray for strength to accomplish what you have ordained for me.

Make clear your plan, Lord, and then help me tackle that plan boldly, mindful that you rarely give strength beforehand; most often you grant strength as we journey.

Remind me also: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). That sense of inadequacy in my spirit is actually a positive force. It compels me to rely on you more consistently.

 

 

  • I pray for wisdom to choose those areas where you want me to spend my time, energy, and resources.

Remind me my days on Planet Earth are growing short (Psalm 90:12). I need to remain focused.

 

 

Thank you, O God, for the delightful promise that the pursuit of wisdom results in joyful satisfaction in life. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding (Proverbs 3:13). May I be diligent to seek wisdom from your Word and then make choices based on that wisdom.

  • I pray for courage to speak of you everywhere, anytime.

As I pick up the phone or head out the door, may I affirm you are with me (Joshua 1:9). You will spread the knowledge of Christ through me, like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14)—if I am a willing participant.

 

 

With Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), I do not pray for my fears of rejection or conflict to be removed; I ask for courage equal to my fears.

  • I pray for faith to relish the adventure of a God-honoring life.

Keep me mindful of your promises, Father, that create a rock-solid foundation for my faith, including: 1) You are always working to accomplish your plan (John 5:17). 2) You are always working in me to mold my character into Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6). 3) Your incomparably great power is always available for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

 

 

And if I proceed into each day with a simple reliance upon your power, with a single eye to your glory, it is certain you will be with me…And if you are with me, then I must succeed (Charles Spurgeon). Thank you for such emboldening words!

  • Last, I pray for passion to experience even more of your abundant life.

I want to participate with you in what you are doing around me, Lord—in my family, church, neighborhood, community, even in the lives of those I meet in the blogosphere.

I want to live with spiritual intensity, acutely aware of your presence around me and your power within me.

I want to experience the abundant life you offer in John 10:10 until even simple moments sing with significance because they reveal your glory.

 

 

O God, as you fulfill these desires and increase these qualities in me–strength, wisdom, courage, faith, and passion–what a year 2018 promises to be!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

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“The whole meaning of history is in the proof

that there have lived people before the present time

whom it is important to meet.”

–Eugene Rosenstock Huessy

 

Betty Greene (1920-1997) is one of them.

 

Eight year-old Betty sat close to the radio, listening intently to the news all America wanted to hear on May 21, 1927: Charles Lindbergh had landed his tiny plane safely in Paris. He had flown nonstop for thirty-three hours and thirty minutes  to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He was the first person to do so. As a result, Charles Lindbergh became a hero to many Americans, including young Betty.

 

 

The next year, she followed the exploits of Amelia Earhart. In June of 1928, Ms. Earhart also flew nonstop across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Wales.

 

 

“That’s what I want to do someday—fly airplanes!” Betty asserted. And she began to dream of her own adventures in the sky.

By the time Betty was old enough for flying lessons, however, the Great Depression had settled over the country. Her mom and dad needed every dime to provide necessities for their family of six. Flying lessons were an unaffordable luxury.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Betty received an envelope from one of her uncles. Inside was one hundred dollars—a small fortune at that time. Betty immediately made arrangements for flying lessons.

Not that she could expect to become a commercial pilot. That career was reserved for men in the 1930s. Unless Betty took up stunt aviation, she would have to be content to fly as a hobby—if she could afford access to a plane.

An elderly family friend suggested a creative possibility. Betty might be able to serve as a missionary pilot. “Think of all the time—and sometimes lives—that could be saved if missionaries didn’t have to spend weeks hacking their way through jungles,” she said.

Immediately Betty knew. This is what God wanted her to do.

Before Betty had a chance to pursue such a radical idea, World War II began. Early in the conflict, it became apparent the number of Air Force pilots was inadequate. It was determined that women could be trained to handle some tasks, freeing up men for combat assignments.

Betty was perfectly suited to become a WASP in the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and she was readily accepted into the program.

 

 

Soon she was flying planes from the manufacturing site to military bases and departure points for overseas. She towed aerial targets for soldiers to gain artillery practice—with live ammunition (so say some sources).  And Betty flew missions at high-altitudes, to assist in the development of needed technology for such flights.

Betty’s dream to be a missionary pilot seemed to be on hold as the war continued, but God was about to do immeasurably more than all she could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

While serving as a WASP, Betty wrote two articles for two different Christian magazines about using planes to help missionaries. Three American pilots read the articles and wrote to Betty about their idea to start just such an organization, once the war ended.

On May 20, 1945, the Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship began operation in Los Angeles. Later the name was changed to Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF)—perhaps because their first pilot was not an airman at all. It was Betty.

 

(Preparing for the inaugural flight, February, 1946)

 

That first flight included two women missionaries in need of transportation from southern California to Mexico City, a three-day trip.

On the first leg Betty noticed something coming off the engine, so she made an unscheduled landing at Tuxpan, Mexico to have the plane inspected. The debris turned out to be just flaking paint. Meanwhile the two missionaries made their way to Mexico City on a commercial flight.

Betty and a new passenger, Cameron Townsend (founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators) left Tuxpan for Tuxla Gutierrez, near the Wycliffe Jungle Camp. Along the route Betty stopped in Minatitlan to refuel and then they were off again. However, a heavy storm developed, and they were forced to turn back.

As they headed toward Minatitlan, another setback occurred:  the engine died. Betty kept her head and switched gas tanks, then re-fired the engine. The tactic worked. She and Mr. Townsend safely returned to Minatitlan. Later she discovered that water in the fuel tank had caused the engine to fail.

The next morning, they finally reached Tuxtla. The three-day flight had taken one week. But the troublesome beginnings did not discourage Betty.

She went on to serve as an MAF pilot for sixteen years–in spite of more mishaps, emergency landings on rivers and at least one crash.  She completed 4,640 flights, served in twelve countries, and touched down in another twenty.

Her responsibilities included ferrying aircraft and delivering missionaries, dignitaries, and cargo to remote areas. She also saved lives by transporting ill or injured patients from inaccessible locations back to civilization and medical care.

 

(Betty, center left, in Papua, Indonesia)

 

In 1962 Betty transitioned from pilot-in-the-field to representative-and-recruiter for MAF, serving as an advocate for the organization until her death in 1997.

Today, MAF operates 132 aircraft in more than 25 countries worldwide.

 

(Sites of MAF Bases)

 

 

And it all began with a little girl who dreamed of flying.

 

Sources:  www.dianawaring.com; http://www.footprintsintoafrica.com; http://www.maf.org; http://www.maf-uk.org; http://www.mnnonline.org.

 

Photo credits:  www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.maf.org (3).

 

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

In the predawn hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls’ experienced hands gripped the ship’s wheel of the Planter, though his heart was pounding. Ahead were five checkpoints along the Charleston River, and then the open sea. Within a few hours he and the fifteen others onboard would be free from slavery.

Or, failing to succeed, they would be sinking the ship, jumping overboard and perishing together. They had already decided: being captured was not an option.

Smalls prayed aloud, for the benefit of his crew and passengers: “Lord, we entrust ourselves into thy hands. Like thou didst for the Israelites in Egypt, please stand over us to our promised land of freedom” (1).

The first checkpoint came into view, its lanterns gleaming gold against the dark night. Even though the sentries would not be able to see him clearly, Smalls had taken the precaution of wearing the captain’s coat and straw hat. He even assumed his captain’s posture. And when Smalls gave the correct whistle signal, they allowed him to pass without question.

Robert whispered another prayer, this time of gratitude and praise. He marveled how God had engineered events to bring him to this moment:

  • At age twelve, Smalls’ master, Mr. McKee of Beaufort, South Carolina, had rented him to an employer in Charleston. Smalls had worked in the city ever since, as waiter, lamplighter, and then wharf hand.
  • Currently he was employed as wheel hand aboard the Confederate supply ship, Planter, under command of Captain Ripley. His circumstances had allowed him to learn how to sail and how to make the correct whistle signals at checkpoints.
  • The captain and white crew members frequently spent their nights in Charleston, not on the ship. This night was one of them.

 

charleston_s-c-_-_street_scene_-_nara_-_525179

(Charleston street scene by Matthew Brady)

 

  • Smalls enjoyed good rapport with the other ship-hand slaves of the Planter. Without them, this daring getaway would have been impossible.
  • The opportunity for escape presented itself when a pre-dawn mission was scheduled for May 13. Smalls’ 3:30 a.m. departure, although earlier than actually scheduled, did not alert the harbor guards.
  • Smalls had time to notify his wife and children that he would pick them up at a prearranged wharf nearby, prior to the first checkpoint.

A small pinpoint of pale light appeared ahead. Checkpoint Two. Again, the Planter slid by without incident as Smalls signaled to those on shore. Three, four, and five also allowed them to pass.

By sunrise they were sailing into safe Union waters. Upon sighting the first vessel of the Union blockade, Smalls took down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white sheet—just in time before Onward sailors began to fire at the Confederate vessel.

His plan had worked; the little band onboard had escaped to freedom. No doubt their shouts of celebration included, “Thank you, Jesus!”

Smalls surprised the captain of Onward with his knowledge of Rebel fortifications and their locations. Also of value: a book of secret flag signals used by the Confederates, and a full cargo of armaments.

It wasn’t long before Smalls had joined the war effort for the Union, helping to enlist Black men to fight. Nearly 5,000 former slaves fought courageously for the North.

For his part, Smalls became the Union Navy captain for the CSS Planter, the ship he had sailed to freedom. He also captained the ironclad, USS Keokuk.

 

uss_keokuk_h59546

(The USS Keokuk)

 

Smalls led Union ships into waters the Confederacy had protected with mines—mines that Small had helped to plant while enslaved in Charleston. Soldiers deactivated the mines, opening those passageways to Union vessels.

Smalls courageously conducted seventeen missions in and around Charleston, which included assisting in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.

After the war, Smalls and his family returned to Beaufort, South Carolina. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the South Carolina Militia during Reconstruction, and turned his attention to business, education, and finally, politics.  He opened a general store and started a newspaper. He helped establish the first school built for African-American children in Beaufort County.

 

robert_smalls_-_brady-handy

 

From 1869 to 1889 Smalls served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and five terms in the U.S. Congress. Referring to his political service, one commentator said, “His record was brilliant, consistent, and indeed he led in all the most prominent measures” (2).

One story in particular highlights Smalls’ Christ-like attitude that impacted his entire life:

 

robert_smalls_house_beaufort_south_carolina

(The McKee/Smalls House in Beaufort, SC)

 

He eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase the house in Beaufort where he and his mother had been slaves of the McKee family. Sometime after Smalls and his family moved in, Mrs. McKee came to the door. By this time she was elderly and perhaps suffering from dementia. She thought the house still belonged to her.

The natural inclination would have been to send her away or have her delivered to her current home. But that was not Robert Smalls’ way. He invited Mrs. McKee inside, gave back to the woman her old bedroom, and then served her.

Robert Smalls died in 1915 at age 76, and was buried with great honors.

In 2001 a Logistics Support Vessel was launched with his name, the Major General Robert Smalls. It was the first ship named for an African-American.  A worthy honoree, indeed.

 

Notes:

(1) Boone, Bishop Wellington, Black Self-Genocide, p. 165.

(2) http://www.docsouth.umc.edu/neh/simmon/simmons.html

 

Sources:  Black Self-Genocide by Bishop Wellington Boone, APPTE Publishing, 2016; http://www.biography.com/people/robert-smalls; http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/138685.aspx; http://www.historynet.com/robertsmalls; http://www.robertsmalls.com; www.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ibiblio.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (4)

 

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Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer, a member of the famed Doolittle Raiders, was the bombardier of Crew No.16, the last of the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers to launch from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942, on the famous bombing run over Tokyo. Sergeant DeShazer, 95, died March 15. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Jake DeShazer sat on a narrow bench facing the back wall of his cell, a position he was forced to keep hour after hour, day after day, as his imprisonment dragged on.

The year was 1945. DeShazer had been a prisoner of war in Japan for forty long months, enduring suffocating heat in summer, bitter cold in winter, solitary confinement, near-starvation, cruel treatment, and torture.

As he sat, perhaps Jake thought of his comrades among the eighty flyers of Dolittle’s Raiders, the bombing run over Japan that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies in 1942.

DeShazerTakeOffFinal_md

But DeShazer’s plane was among those shot down, its crew members captured. How many of the original eighty had survived? Jake had no way of knowing, except for the few in his own cell block.

During those long, solitary hours, perhaps Jake reviewed the encouragements from scripture he had learned and the verses he’d memorized when–for three short weeks–he was allowed to have a Bible. What a change had taken place in his heart.

Prior to his captivity, Jake had no interest in Christianity. But the cruel treatment from his captors month after month nearly drove him crazy. Hatred consumed him. He remembered that Christianity supposedly changed hatred into brotherly love. Was that really possible?

He had begged for that Bible, but it was a long time coming. When the emperor of Japan told prison guards to treat their captives better, DeShazer’s request was finally honored. And as a result of studying the scriptures, he put his faith in Jesus. Bitter hatred for the Japanese transformed into loving pity.

As Jake’s thoughts focused on his captors, he may have prayed again the words from scripture that first melted his heart: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps DeShazer reaffirmed what God’s Spirit had revealed to him earlier: His captors knew nothing of a Savior.  Without Jesus it was only natural for them to be cruel.

And so, as he lifted up loved ones and fellow soldiers, as he expressed his longing for the war to end, Jake also prayed for his captors to know Christ.

Suddenly he heard the stomping of boots, the hum of multiple voices in the corridor, men crying, and the clanging of prison doors. Then he was able to make out words—in English! “The war is over!” “We’ve come to take you home!”

Within moments his own cell door was swung open by soldiers in American uniform, paratroopers who had landed directly on the prison compound.

The date: August 20, 1945 (seventy-one years ago this Saturday). Unbeknownst to the captives, the emperor of Japan had surrendered on August 10, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The horror was finally over; DeShazer and thousands of other soldiers returned home to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Jake chose to pursue a degree at Seattle Pacific University, which he accomplished in three years. By December of 1948, he and his wife, Florence, along with their first baby, were headed for the mission field, to—of all places—Japan.

Every time DeShazer met someone in his new home country and told his story, almost always the person would ask, “Why did you come back here?” And he would introduce them to Jesus.

DeShazer-with-kids-1952

(DeShazer with Japanese children, 1952)

It is estimated that some 30,000 people accepted Christ into their lives—just in the first year of Jake’s ministry in Japan. Among them, a number of former prison guards who had held Jake and his comrades captive.

Another surprising convert: Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. He “happened” to read a pamphlet Jake had written, “I Was A Prisoner of Japan.” Fuchida began to study the Bible, became a Christian, and served as a missionary himself in Asia. He and Jake eventually met and became friends.

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(DeShazer and Fuchida)

For nearly thirty years the DeShazers served God in Japan, helping to found sixteen churches throughout the country.

Someone has said:

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(“Forgiveness does not change the past,

but it does change the future.”)

DeShazer’s story proves just how mind-boggling and miraculous that future can be.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for DeShazer’s story, proving it is possible to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). By comparison to DeShazer’s horrific experiences, my hurts and resentments are embarrassingly puny. Yet I still need your Spirit to transform them into compassion and love. As a starting point, may I never lose sight of the totally underserved forgiveness you have lavished upon me.

You can access more of Jacob DeShazer’s story at:

(Art & photo credits:  www.verterantributes.org; http://www.worldevangelism.net; http://www.spu.edu; http://www.jacobdeshazer.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

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Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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