For some, forgiveness is an act that most would deem unimaginable. The mentality of always holding a grudge or placing a never ending burden on the soul of another is by the world’s standard a understandable reaction. After having read a book a dear friend of mine from Hong Kong gave me this summer about a missionary named Gladys Aylward, I recently began to look for more books within the series about other missionaries. Since my 7th grade year in high school, my heart has been for the Asian people. It was a calling that seemed farfetched at the time because I had always been interested in Mexico until that given year. But when I discovered a book within this series about a POW during WWII, needless to say it sparked my interest. Being the history enthusiast I am, this book first caught my eye among the many other potential buys. Christian Hereos Then and Now: Jacob Deshazer- Forgiving Your Enemies is the second installment that I have read in the Christian Heroes Then and Now series. The read was quite easy, especially it took me about a day and a half of casual reading. I began reading it during the free time I had during my substitute teaching job and I became engrossed in the book.
The book Jacob Deshazer is about a man who joined the air force at an early age. During his training, he was asked to join a top secret mission to bomb the Japanese shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Jacob Deshazer was part of the Doolittle Raiders, who were renown for their brave attempt at first bombing a major Japanese island. Shortly after fulfilling his mission, his aircraft headed straight to supposed friendly territory in Mainland China. Except, it turns out that his aircraft landed in enemy occupied territory by the Japanese and was captured by the Japanese. Jacob Deshazer would then spend the next 4 years (give or take) as a prisoner of war to the torturous Japanese. During WWII, the Japanese were brutal to their POWs, completely disregarding the Geneva Convention. Deshazer watched over the years as the Japanese brutally abused both him and his companions. Several of his friends died throughout the years of mistreatment and understandable, Jacob’s heart grew even colder to the Japanese. The story continues like this until a close friend of Deshazer’s eventually had the opportunity to share the Gospel with him. After the death of this dear friend, Deshazer began to contemplate their conversation concerning salvation. About three years or so into captivity, Deshazer gave his heart to Christ.
Remarkably at one particular internment camp that Deshazer was transported to gave him a Bible. Throughout the remaining time at that internment camp, Deshazer and his companions would share their one copy of the Bible, memorizing Bible verses. The Japanese guards began to see a difference in his life and began to ask him about his sudden change of personality. Having been in captivity for three years prior to this prison, he was able to share the Gospel to them in his limited Japanese that he acquired over time.
After the war, Jacob along with a couple of his companions were released from captivity. God was calling Jacob back to Japan, to preach to the very people who had made his life a living hell for the previous four odd years of his life. Though at first many of his friends and family were against the idea, they could not deny the change that have overtaken Jacob’s life. Jacob along with his wife, spent the next forty years dedicating themselves to spreading the Gospel to the Japanese. Jacob at one point was even able to witness to a major military leader for the Japanese army during WWII and helped him give his life to Christ. These two individuals became great friends and even began to speak about the Gospel at major events in Japan! No more than five years before had they been enemies at every description of the word.
This story is definitely extraordinary, but something like this had already happened long before WWII. Jesus Christ was hung on the cross for our transgressions and was tormented in the most horrific ways. He bore our sins for all to see and despite his anguish, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (ESV Luke 23:34). He knew what was going to happen in the garden of Gethsemane, yet He continued on with the plan, so that you and me may have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. The fact of the matter is that we all have turned our backs on God, yet He forgave us and even died for each and every one of us. See this motion of love is extraordinary and unfathomable, but thats what our God is capable. The love that He first showed us is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jacob Deshazer’s love for the Japanese was a manifestation of Christ’s love for us and was a direct result of someone who gave his heart to Christ. Christ’s redemptive power is capable of greater things than we could ever obtain by our own means. I hope that you get the opportunity to read this powerful testimony in Jacob’s book, but more importantly, I hope that you personally will be able to experience the life changing moment of Christ coming into your life! God bless!