One Who Went by Tony Cooke

One Who Went
Tony Cooke

One Who Went by Tony CookeThe eyes of the world have been on Japan for the last few weeks as it experienced a 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami that brought unimaginable devastation, and a nuclear incident that has been described as at least a partial meltdown. As these events unfolded, millions around the world have witnessed the pain and suffering of the Japanese people. As I observed these happenings, I also thought of how the relationship between the U.S.A. and Japan has changed over the past several decades, and how two nations have gone from being bitter enemies to friends and allies.

At the conclusion of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur recognized the spiritual vacuum that existed in the war-torn nation and asked evangelical leaders who were visiting Tokyo to send him 1,000 missionaries. MacArthur also requested U.S. missionary organizations to send “Bibles, Bibles, and more Bibles” to Japan. One of the missionaries who responded (not just to MacArthur’s request, but to the Lord’s call) was a man named Jacob Daniel “Jake” DeShazer.

Prior to becoming a missionary, Jake was one of the bombardiers of the famed “Doolittle Raiders.” After a bombing run on Tokyo, DeShazer and seven others on plane # 16 had to bail out, and were captured by the Japanese army. Jake ended up spending forty months in Japanese captivity which involved beatings, torture, and terrible deprivations. Twenty-four of these months were spent in solitary confinement. During this time as a POW, DeShazer was able to spend three weeks reading a Bible, and while doing so, he gave his life and his heart completely to Jesus Christ.

What followed in Jake DeShazer’s life is a most powerful testimony of forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation. Having been full of hatred and a desire for revenge, DeShazer’s heart was changed, and God filled him with love for the Japanese people. After the war, he returned to Japan where he spent thirty years as a missionary. One person whose Jake’s ministry impacted was Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead pilot and commander of the 360 Japanese planes that had dealt a devastating blow to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

After the war, this former Japanese warrior was handed a pamphlet entitled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” which shared DeShazer’s Christian testimony. Fuchida then purchased a Bible, read it, and was powerfully convicted of God’s love. With tears, he gave his heart entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the years that followed, these two men preached—together and separately—to thousands across Japan, leading many to the Lord.

Fuchida said, “As an evangelist, I have traveled across Japan and the Orient introducing others to the One Who changed my life. I believe with all my heart that those who will direct Japan—and all other nations—in the decades to come must not ignore the message of Jesus Christ. Youth must realize that He is the only hope for this troubled world. I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ.”

This is a miracle that only God’s grace can accomplish! Two men—bitter enemies, becoming brothers in Christ, friends, and co-workers in the Gospel. It is this God-kind of love that must be operative in the world today to demonstrate God’s power and glory.

The Great Reconciler
Lisa recently wrote something that came up in her heart during prayer and study. It was a question that she wanted to capture and she shared it with me. The note read, “If the Lord did not ordain it, does He redeem it?” I thought about that and I believe it is true that God does redeem and brings the best possible outcomes out of events and circumstances He did not ordain.

When tragedies and crises occur, our natural tendency is to ask, “Why?” It is understandable that such a question would arise, but perhaps the better question we can ask is, “What?” For example, “God, I know you did not ordain or cause all of this chaos and confusion, but what do you want me to do that will result in your glory and your plan being accomplished in the midst of all this?” Asking “why?” may lead to philosophical musings, but asking “what?” prepares us to take redemptive action. Jake DeShazer didn’t sit around asking why that terrible war happened, he asked God what he could do to express and reveal God’s love to a needy and hurting people.

I’m not going to try to answer the question of why the earthquake happened in Japan, but I do know that “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now,” and that “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:20, 22). This planet we are living on is reeling under the effects of the curse, and there is coming a day when there will be a new earth (Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

We await the One Who will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), but in the meantime, we are going to be busy as ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), doing as much good as we can possibly do. Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” That is why Jesus came, and that is the basis for both the mission and the message of the Church today!

May you never be paralyzed by the “why,” but may you be energized by the “what.”