Wednesday, April 18, will mark the 76th anniversary of the famed Doolittle raid over Japan. I love reading and learning about the Dolittle raiders. They faced impossible odds which became even more impossible as they were forced to launch their surprise raid hundreds of miles before the intended launch point.
The raiders each have their individual stories, and there’s one raider I learned about this week who had a unique and fruitful life after World War II. Staff sergeant Jacob Deshazer was the bombardier of the last Mitchell B-25 to lift off the carrier deck of the USS Hornet that Saturday morning. His plane was nicknamed “The Bat”, and after dropping their payload, “The Bat” ran out of fuel while attempting to reach China. Its crew was forced to ditch their plane and parachute over enemy territory. Dehsazer and crew were taken prisoner by the Japanese where he suffered severe treatment until being rescued by U.S. forces in 1945.
That’s a brief summary of Deshazer’s background. The rest of the story is amazing. While in captivity, Deshazer convinced a guard to bring him a Bible. While reading the Bible, Deshazer committed his life to Christ. He learned a few phrases of Japanese and upon returning to the united States, began training to become a missionary. In 1948, Deshazer and his wife traveled back to Japan as missionaries.
While preaching in Japan, Deshazer met and befriended former Japanese colonel Mistsuo Fuchida, one of the commanders of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Deshazer and Fuchida often preached together in Japan. Can you imagine a Japanese commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor and one of the Dolittle raiders sharing their faith together? God is amazing.
Deshazer spent 30 years as a missionary in Japan, coming back to the states in 1980 where he lived till his death in 2008 at the age of 96.
I used the story of Staff sergeant Deshazer in my sermon from Hebrews 11. There are many who belong in Hebrews 11, Deshazer being such a person. I do not know much about Deshazer’s theology. He was from the Free Methodist denomination, so he and I likely would have had theological differences, but I do know much about his faith. His faith, like those listed in Hebrews 11, glorified God and blessed others.
When we study Hebrews 11, and when we study the lives of faithful saints, we come to the realization that their faith glorified God and blessed others. Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac when he saw the ram caught in the thicket, and what did he do immediately after being told not to lay a hand on the boy? He sacrificed the ram to God and they worshiped.
Moses was a product of his parents’ faith. The Bible says in verse 23 of Hebrews, “By faith Moses, after he was born, was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they did not fear the king’s edict.” The faith of Moses’ parents blessed an entire nation.
We say we have faith in God, but does our faith glorify our Heavenly Father? Does our faith bless others? Are we demonstrating a faith to those we lead that glorifies God and blesses others?
How many people trusted Christ because of the faithfulness of Deshazer? How many people began a legacy of faith that was passed down from generation to generation because Staff Sergeant Deshazer had Hebrews 11 faith?
There were 80 men who participated in the Dolittle raid. Seventy-four of the participants eventually returned to The United States. there are some sad stories of former raiders who never recovered from the horrors they experienced in the Japanese POW camps. Staff Sargeant Deshazer could have been one of those casualties, but he gave his life to Christ and the rest is a beautiful story of mercy and forgiveness.
Deshazer may have been an American hero for his participation in the raid, but his most important contribution was his faith that followed the example set for us in Hebrews 11. Whether we’re pastors, deacons, or laypersons, we’re all called to have a faith that glorifies God and blesses others. If we do not have that kind of selfless faith, then we have no faith at all.
My prayer today is that God would lead me to a faith that glorifies Him and blesses everyone around me.