‘YOU KILLED MY PARENTS’
By DANNY MINTON
Our first teachers in life are our parents. They teach us right and wrong, good and bad and how to act. We don’t always listen, but in our learning, we can at times learn a lesson not by their words but by their actions. This is the story of a young woman who took a lesson from her parents and reached an unlikely man who would become a missionary.
Peggy Covell received the news while attending Keuka College in New York, working toward her sociology degree. It was heartbreaking news about her mom and dad, James and Charma Covell. They were dead. The circumstances would come later, and their announcement brought anger to tens of thousands of Americans. James and Charma along with nine other missionaries and one child faced the fate of being beheaded in Hopevale, Philippines.
It was December 1943 when the Japanese discovered the group hiding away and were ordered to execute them. James tried to convince them to let the women and child go. They had done nothing wrong, but to no avail. The soldiers denied the request. Historians report that James asked for a time of prayer which they received. Twenty-four hours later the group returned and one by one they were taken and beheaded. The child was stabbed to death.
Peggy received the heartbreaking news and wondered what her parents prayed for during their last hours of life. She was full of hate for the Japanese for what they had done. Slowly, however, she began to think about how her parents had selflessly worked with the people of Japan and the Philippines to bring them to Christ. Peace came to her heart as she believed that her mother and father’s dying prayers were not for themselves, but for the souls of their captors. Peggy then used her Japanese speaking skills to work with the prisoners at the Japanese Relocation Camp in Colorado.
One day a Japanese prisoner asked her why she was treating them so kindly. Peggy responded, “Because the Japanese killed my parents.” She went on to tell the story and said that if her parents were willing to forgive their executioners, she could do no less. Her attitude was astonishing to the Japanese, a culture that believed so heavily in revenge. They were impressed by her great love and faith.
Her story made it’s way over and over through the prisoners and then one day reached the ears of a man who had fought for the Japanese. Her story, the story of another prisoner, Jake DeShazer, and the prompting of a friend caused him to pick up a Bible and after months of study decided to give his life to Christ and himself become a missionary. He fought at Pearl Harbor. His name was Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on December 7, 1941. The Japanese headlines on many papers on April 14, 1950, read “Pearl Harbor Hero Converts to Christianity.”
Bitterness is one of those feelings that can eat at people for years, keeping them from forgiving others or even talking with those who they “hate.” It’s a feeling that destroys friendships and divides churches. It can eat away at someone so intensely that they can’t think rationally. It hardens hearts and destroys souls. When people allow bitterness, anger, hatred and the like to enter their hearts, it not only hurts the individual, but it also has a great effect on how the church functions. It has a major effect on how the world perceives the church. It can drive souls away.
So how do people deal with those who are bitter? How do we work with the discontented? How do we handle the backbiting and barbs that come our way? What do we do? What do we say? How do we respond? The answer is in the story of James, Charma and Peggy Covell. First, we pray for them and us as we deal with the issues at hand. Secondly, we keep on loving them in spite of their feelings. Being bitter with someone who loves you is hard. It’s difficult to hate someone who prays for you daily. Finally, it’s important that we not repay them in the same way, but shower them with the love of Christ.
The story of Peggy’s forgiveness, much like the story of Jesus, was told over and over in Japan. This story of replacing bitterness with love eventually led to scores of people coming to Christ.
“I would give anything to retract my actions at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking a 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.”
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ
Featured Photo By Imperial Japanese Navy – Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=223876