December 1941, Oregon country boy turned soldier, Private Jake DeShazer sat disgustedly peeling potatoes on KP wondering why he had joined the Army when the radio blared, “The Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor”. Private DeShazer threw the half peeled potato against the wall, “I’ll get those dirty Japs!”
A few months later the Private got his wish. A secret plan has being formulated to bomb Tokyo itself. Most considered it a suicide mission but America was now at war and losing on every front in the Pacific. This was a chance to show that America could strike back, at the very heart of Japan. Jake DeShazer wanted to be a part of it. He became one of the Doolittle’s Raiders.
The plan worked, Tokyo was bombed but unfortunately not all the Raiders made it to safety. Several were captured by the Japanese, Jake DeShazer was one. He was to spend over three years in solitary confinement as a POW.
Three years is a long time to spend alone. A long time to think…to think about life and death and God. Raised in church but as a boy he hadn’t paid much attention. Now he was thinking, watching life around him, trying to figure things out…why, what was it all about, did he really matter, did God even know he existed, here in this dirty cell?
Years into captivity the Japanese allowed several books into the prison, the Bible was one. Jake read the Bible through three times in two weeks. The other prisoners never heard from his cell during this time. Several were wondering if he was dead. Indeed Mr. DeShazer did die in that cell. And was born again into the kingdom of God. He had discovered his answers in the Person of Jesus Christ.
One of the first acts he knew he needed to do was be baptized as Jesus commanded. How was this to happen? Ask the prison guards for permission to be baptized? “Off with your head!” would be the answer. How? Jake prayed. God answered. In the form of a storm, wind and rain blowing through the cell window. He knew what he needed to do and moved to the window, opening his arms wide, he was “sprinkled” by God Himself. Jake knew in his heart God had answered his prayer.
But was he really changed? Jesus said to love your enemies. And he had plenty of enemies, all around him. He knew this was the next step in following Jesus. The most brutal guard came to his cell to throw in Jake’s next meal, “How is your family doing?” The guard stopped, looked at Mr. DeShazer wondering what this was all about. Seeing a sincere smile, the guard hesitantly answered. Jake answered in a friendly manner that it was good to hear. Every day the conversations became longer and deeper.
One day the war ended and the POW’s were all scheduled to be executed. Marines miraculously rained from the sky, Jake and his fellow POWs were rescued.
“Was this all God had for me?” Jake wondered. Returning to the United States he enrolled in Bible College, fell in love, and they made plans to go to Japan as missionaries. Six years after the war Mr. and Mrs. DeShazer went to Japan with world wide coverage: “Former POW, Missionary to Japan” the headlines read.
Mitsuo Fuchida hung his head as he stepped off the bus to his war crimes trial in Tokyo. As the leader of the attack on Pearl Harbor he knew his fate was not good. But worse for Mitsuo was that all his life had been wasted, his family disgraced, his hope and faith in his ancestral gods and teachings wrong, reduced from hero to failure.
“Jake DeShazer, POW and Missionary to speak tonight” cried the man handing out flyers. Mr. Mitsuo took one, “I’ve heard of this man, why did he come back?” After reading the flyer, he bought a Bible written in Japanese. Starting at Genesis he read until he came to where, on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.”
(Luke 23:34 KJV)
Who is this Jesus, so strong He can forgive His enemies?
Mr. Mitsuo, fallen warrior, met with Jake DeShazer, former POW, and was led to Jesus. Together they traveled as brothers in Christ and witnessed the love of God to Japan and the world. Thousands will greet them when they enter through those pearly gates.
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