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A Light in Prison

Jacob DeShazer, a young American serviceman at the outbreak of World War II, heard the news of the surprise attack of Japan on Pearl Harbor at his army base in California where he was peeling potatoes in loathed but inescapable KP duty, and his first impulse was to fling a spud against the wall and shout for revenge. "Dirty Japs, I'll make you pay for this!"

The news hit him so hard in the gut he instantly and passionately hated the Japanese people for their treacherous, devastating attack that killed thousands of navymen and sent America's finest battleships up in flames. DeShazer gets his chance to wreak revenge. He volunteered and took part in Col. Jimmy Doolittle's surprise air raid on Tokyo as a bombadier. This mission is America's gamble to restore the confidence of the American people at the very time when her naval forces are all but destroyed. The war department in Washington also aims to puncture the balloon that the seagirt islands of Japan are immune to attack, being ringed by vast distances of the Pacific Ocean as well as by a radio-connected system of sentry ships that are stationed hundreds of miles out from the homeland. This attack, daring as it is, will send a clear, chilling message to Tojo and his imperial war cabinet in Tokyo--that they are going to suffer dearly for Pearl Harbor.

The weather is worsening, the waves are high, and they have been spotted by a Japanese fishing boat that is no doubt part of the sentry system. Their hand has been forced. It is now or never! The B-25 bombers, never designed to lift off carriers at sea, make it off the heaving deck of the carrier 600 miles offshore Japan and somehow struggle with their heavy bomb-loads up into the air.

They carry only enough fuel to get them to their targets. From there they will have to run on an hour or less of fuel and then fumes to the Chinese mainland and hope to parachute out into friendly Chinese hands.

Everyone already knows the mission is one-way and they may never survive, since the distance is too great for a return flight. The bomber DeShazer is in runs out of gas not long after a successful bombing drop over Tokyo's factories and oil depots and refineries. It is a beautiful, clear day--with high visibility. They fly in expecting a vigorous greeting from Zeroes and anti-aircraft guns. But there is nothing of the sort. It amazes them all that the Japanese planes they meet make no attempt to shoot them down, as if they had taken the Japanese Air Defenses completely off-guard and the crews of the Japanese planes have no idea what they should do, lacking any instructions on how to handle a surprise raid like this.

Cheering erupts on the B-25's, but the mood quickly sobers as each plane heads out over open water, hoping to reach China, not Japanese-occupied Korea and Manchuria where they will probably face firing squads if they survive the crash landings.

When the engines quit, Jacob DeShazer and the rest of the crew parachute down somewhere in northern China. Some of his buddies vanish forever in the mountains as MIA's and are marched into Siberia by the Russians, never to be seen again, but DeShazer is captured by the Japanese and shipped in a boxcar with other captives to Nanking in occupied China.

Nanking! A city of indescribable atrocities! Here the horses of war, pestilence, famine, and death have ridden up and down the avenues, reducing everyone to despair and hopelessness and total wretchedness. Formerly the capital of a free, democratic China, with a flourishing economy, a tradition of high Chinese culture, and many wealthy people and fine shops, the city has been been bombed and ravaged repeatedly by the Japanese--and tens of thousands of its citizens were executed when the city fell to the Japanese, the women and young girls first raped by the celebrating soldiers.

The American prisoners in Nanking receive no better treatment from the victors. Jacob DeShazer and other POWS were thrown into cells of unspeakable, stinking filth, overrun by rats and insect vermin, with torture added to the starvation. Formerly strong, muscled men are reduced to pitiful, living skeletons. DeShazer watches his room-mate die from the effects of starvation when he suffers a fatal heart attack. For weeks he rages against his captors and receives beatings and then solitary confinement in a cell that was no bigger than a crate--in fact, it is a crate, set in the burning sun so that he suffers the excruciating torment on thirst and heat on top of his other sufferings.

The prisoners are allowed some reading material. Somehow a Bible is given the officers, and DeShazer, being an enlistee, is one of the last to be given it to read. One day his guard throws the Bible into his cell, where he had been dragged half-dead from the crate in the courtyard.

He has no choice--there are no other books--so he begins to read it, to take his mind temporarily off the horrors around him.

Devouring the first book he has seen in many months, he reaches the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Here he comes face to face with divine love. Transformed by reading chapter 13, the Bible's Love Chapter, Jacob DeShazer's almost insane hate for the torturing Japanese prison guards suddenly melts away in his heart and is replaced with love when he surrenders to Jesus Christ, his knees down on the squalid floor.

He is very surprised when he finds he can even show love to his guard instead of hate and curses, a man who had particularly enjoyed beating him.

When the war is over, DeShazer returns to the States to go to school at Seattle Pacific College in Washington State. He spends a year there, but cannot stop thinking of the Japanese, his former enemies. He leaves school, and taking what money he has buys a ticket for Tokyo. All he has with him is a few changes of clothes and a printed account of his imprisonment in Nanking, China, which tells of his coming to end of his hatred and how he was released from it.

Victory in Shibuya

The man who led his nation's attack on Pearl Harbor from the air returned home too, but he cannot find any meaning in military service, even though heaped with honors and acclaim. After the war, Mitsuo Fuchida, bitter over Japan's humiliating defeat and unconditional surrender, leaves professional army life and goes back to the family farm and buries his life there for a time in menial drudgery, while his soul churns with misery and torment of a once highly successful life in the military gone nowhere.

Called by the Lord to go back to Japan with the Gospel, DeShazer drops his studies and obeys. One day he is sharing his life story in a pamphlet entitled, "I Was a Prisoner of War," at the busy Shibuya train station in Tokyo when Mitsuo Fuchida, the infamous commander of the Pearl Harbor attack squadron of fighter planes that took thousands of American lives and nearly wiped out America's Navy, passed by.

Fuchida, leaving his village and farm to return to Tokyo to testify at one of the hearings held by General MacArthur for dealing with Japanese war crimes, takes the pamphlet Jacob DeShazer (who does not know Mitsuo Fuchida by sight and has only heard of him) hands to him. When he later reads it, the irresistable power of love in Jacob DeShazer's story grips him. How could this former P.O.W. forgive his captors and later return after the war to Japan to offer them his story in the hopes of bring reconciliation? It seemed too incredible to be true, yet here was Jacob DeShazer in plain sight!

Unable to ignore this living proof that real forgiveness had taken place, Fuchida returned to his home--deeply disturbed about his own hatred and unforgiveness. How can he change? he wonders.

He re-reads the story DeShazer handed him with a smile. He realizes something in the second reading: Deshazer found the key to his own transformation in Jesus Christ. Was this it for him too? Could he call to him as DeShazer did and get the same result? He was sick of his hate-filled heart. It had poisoned his entire life. He had to find a way out of his own darkness. His wife too--she was most unhappy in their marriage.

One day, not long he had returned home, Fuchida fell to his knees and pleaded to DeShazer's Transformer, Jesus Christ, to forgive him and wipe away his crimes against his fellow men--crimes he had once thought his greatest honors in life. He felt a huge, dark weight immediately lift from his heart and from his whole being. It seemed he had been trying to live while crushed under a massive iron beam. He felt so light on his feet he could dance.

His face no longer resembling the old Mitsuo Fuchida, the bitterness gone, he found his wife at work in the kitchen and told her everything. She saw the change in him, and her eyes shone. She too wanted what her husband had just discovered. She too gave her heart and life to Jesus Christ as they knelt together.

Light flooded the Fuchida home.

Years later, in old age they liked to walk hand in hand into the nearby forest and gather wild ginger, a tangy root which they used to flavor a special dish his wife made for him.

How happy they were, it was marriage that people everywhere admired, the couple were so devoted to each other. But they took no credit to themselves. In evangelistic meetings held across Japan, the man who shouted "Tora! Tora!" over the radio to his squadron told the Japanese people, among whom his name was a household term, the key to unlocking their own prisons and finding peace and forgiveness and reconciliation. All this--a new heart, a new life, a restored marriage--he had received from his former enemy, now his friend, who joined him in the meetings.

It is a surprise to both DeShazer and Fuchida when they find themselves back in unform as soldiers and builders on a great blue stellar bridge strung across a gulf of the Great Nebula in the Arm of Orion. They are stationed with others like them on opposite ends of the bridge, which has a gap in the middle. In progress, it is their task to pull the separted ends together. The Crystal Bridge has been under construction for thousands of years. Recognizing each other across the gap, DeShazer and Fuchida, former arch-enemies, reach out to each other, just as the others are doing. The two long-separated halves shudder and move closer together. As the champions on the bridge reach toward each others' hands, the bridge continues to grow and converge.

What is this Crystal Bridge in Orion and the Cavern of the Great Nebula that shines in Orion's belt in his constellation? Attacked repeatedly by Atlantean warships and o ther hostile forces, the Bridge survived, in halves. Now it is being restored, span by span. Once it connected the Twin Worlds, and reconciliation and forgiveness will repair and complete the missing section--when the last victories of champions like DeShazer and Fuchida are added to the grand total.

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