THE POWER OF THE STORY
By DANNY MINTON
Jake Deshazer walked through the door of the community center in Nagoya, Japan, in the spring of 1950. As he passed through the entrance, a young Japanese woman wearing a yellow kimono greeted him. Amayo bowed before Jake with a warm welcome and a smile. He was met by 50 or 60 more people who then wanted a group picture taken with Jake. He was handed a bouquet of local flora and took a seat next to Amayo with the others standing around, smiling as they looked at their friend as the camera flashed.
It was only eight years earlier that Amayo had been pledged to marry a young man named Kenji. On April 18, 1942, Kenji had gone to work at a plant in Nagoya. He was running for cover when plane #16, from Doolittle’s Raiders, unleashed its payload on the factory, killing Kenji in the explosion. Amayo, hearing the news, was devastated. The bombardier on the plane was Jake Deshazer.
On a spring morning in 1949, Amayo, still single, was having tea with a friend when the friend produced a newspaper with a picture of Jake Deshazer, prisoner of Japan turned missionary, who scheduled a time to speak in the city. Amayo went home in tears and anger, seeing the picture of the man who had killed Kenji she vowed revenge. Taking a knife and finding a seat near the speaker, Amayo planned to stab and kill Jake. As she sat quietly, she listened as Jake told how his hatred for the Japanese had turned to a desire to help them. He related the story of how, given a Bible, he was drawn to the story of Jesus, tortured for no fault of his own, but willing to love and forgive. The words softened Amayo, the knife remained in place, and she went on to become a friend to the man who had shattered her life years before.
The power of the story of Jesus and the word of God is the most powerful tool we have in fighting Satan in this world. I’ll admit that I get tired of dealing with issues. It’s draining. Hours are spent in people’s lives discussing things that are widely divided by opinions and personal bias. Churches have split over menial differences. People have gone from one congregation to another, looking for something they cannot find and, in many cases, cannot even identify. Members sit in the pew mad at a brother across the way for silly reasons. Anonymous letters are sent to church leaders complaining of things that are more often than not trivial.
But it never fails. When I hear the story of Jesus, it brings a different feeling to my heart. When I hear of men, women, and children who come back from mission trips sharing their stories, it’s warming to the soul. When I listen to what is happening with the church in Cuba, South America, Russia, Africa, Iran, and numerous other locals, it lifts my spirits. The Gospel of Jesus exits to do that. Its purpose is to bring people together and back to God.
But more important than hearing it is to live it. Churches grow when their members live like Jesus. People bond together, escaping the grip of Satan when they join together, following the example of being Christ-Like. When I hear the stories of people who have served, I want to be like them. I want to share Jesus. I want to know Jesus better. I want to be Jesus.
It’s not always easy. Events of the world, whether they be within the walls of the church building or outside its doors, can cloud the real purpose of who I am to be. It is when we take time to sit and listen, as Amayo did, that we can learn to see with our hearts.
To know God means to spend more time listening. We do this by closing our mouths and daily spending time listening to Him through His word. It is when we listen that we can truly hear the voice of God.
Note: I found Amayo’s story in T. Martin Bennett’s book, “Wounded Tiger.”
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ