The Donkey Spoke

In the year 2000, I filled in as interim pastor for a couple of months in a small New Mexico town while the leadership searched for a new pastor. Then in December, the elders surprised me by asking me to be their pastor. I said “No.”

The church had a history of ups-and-downs with a poor reputation, and it couldn’t afford to give me a salary. It was 200 miles from where I lived, and I was already working 60-hour-per week; so you might understand why I didn’t want to accept the call. Part time at that distance was okay, but I didn’t want to commit to full-time.

The elders and I discussed the logistics, and they eventually offered a parsonage we could use; agreeing that I would keep the current employment.

But a 400-mile round-trip every weekend? Huh-uh!

They asked me to pray about it. Now I was trapped. Christians, especially pastors, can’t refuse to pray – that’s against the rules.

I found out that God must have a sense of humor, because after praying about it, it seemed like the Lord was prompting me to accept. So on January 7, 2001, I hesitantly accepted the call.

Now my attitude was different. Why? Instead of merely filling the position while they were supposed to be looking elsewhere for a pastor, my new objective was to find out why the church was having ongoing problems. Maybe I should have already known, but I had decided to let the next pastor figure it out. Now I was that next pastor.

However, as I did my pastoral homework, it didn’t take long to discover the problems. To put it mildly: a lack of Christian love ruled the roost. The owner of the local grocery store told me the church was known as “the Fighting Church.” That didn’t make me feel any better.

Part of the problem was, as is common in many local churches, poor communications and unwillingness to compromise on small issues in order to make headway on larger concerns. How was I going to turn it around?

Did I mention that God has a sense of humor? Keep reading.

After the service one Sunday morning, two of the elders and I were discussing an idea that I thought would help the church. They didn’t agree, so I invited them outside the church building to look at the situation. I hoped that by looking at the problem, it might help them understand my point of view.

Reminding me that they disagreed, they politely listened anyway.

The church building was in the countryside, and a ranch was across the fence. Choosing my words carefully, I laid out my thoughts, and I was convinced I had won them over. But at the very moment I said my last word, the donkey in the adjacent field spoke!

I haven’t heard a donkey bray that loudly before in my life! Of course, the elders and I began to laugh at the timing of the interruption. But to make matters worse, my lead elder said as loudly as the donkey, “My Sympathies, Exactly!”

The three of us broke out in an uproarious laughter. We had been friends for over a year and disagreements never hurt us. But that event brought us even closer together.

When I muttered, “Dumb donkey!” the other elder said, “He’s not dumb. He spoke his mind quite clearly.” More laughter ensued, and we went back into the building to get some coffee—mine with cream and sugar.

Then Romans 12:3b came to mind. “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (NLT).

Over coffee, I asked them to state their opinion—again—and I would listen carefully. In the next half-hour, I realized they were right, and we worked out an alternate plan.

That incident did more than settle a disagreement. As word got around to the church members that they now had a pastor who was willing to listen, they began to trust me.

Still working on the other problems, I preached on forgiveness four times a year for three years—that’s what it took to settle the other personnel issues. And when I eventually resigned as pastor, that same groceryman told me, “Your church has a new name in town: the Loving Church.”

I thanked God for prompting the donkey to speak.

Commander Fuchida Led the Attack

“Sweetheart, my sister just called. She wants to take us four sisters on a sisters-trip. She wants us to go next month. What do you think?”

 “That’s wonderful, Precious! Where are you going?”

“HAWAII!”

“You have to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. That’s a must!”

“We have a month to plan our trip,” Carol responded, “but the USS Arizona will definitely be included.”

That was in June of 2003, and they had a marvelous time!

Years ago in New Mexico, three people who were protesting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki challenged me about my emphasis on remembering Pearl Harbor. They said, “Pearl Harbor was nothing compared to what the US did to Japan!”

I responded, “You have it backwards. The reason it’s important to remember December 7, 1941 this: If the Japanese hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbor, the US would not have dropped the bombs on them. Knowing history helps us to keep things in perspective.”

Believing their gods declared that Japan would control the world, Japan was eager to expand its empire. However, the United States stood in its way, so Japan decided to knock us out. Their initial targets were our three aircraft carriers they thought were anchored in the harbor. But Admiral Nimitz sent them out to sea, and the catastrophe Japan accomplished in Hawaii did not destroy our fleet – and didn’t knock us out! (I don’t have time in this article to discuss Japans’ previous brutal and bloody campaigns in China and elsewhere.)

Although the attempt might have been made, the Japanese did not inform us about their declaration of war prior to the attack, and an unprovoked attack on American soil is not something we solve by verbal negotiation! That’s why President Bush and the US Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) responded as they did after September 11, 2001.

Japan had a long tradition of opening hostilities by surprise attack. The problem in America was that, as US-Japanese relations worsened, we ignored Japanese tradition and her history. (We keep making the same type of mistakes in the Middle-east today.)

Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was selected to train the pilots and lead the air attack on Pearl Harbor. A great tactician with a brilliant mind, Fuchida did his job well and shouted into his microphone, “Torá! Torá! Torá!” (Torá means Tiger; but is also an acronym for “totsugeki raigek.” That means “lightning attack” which denoted a complete surprise attack.)

However, as mentioned, the aircraft carriers were not there. Even as Japan celebrated the great victory, Admiral Yamamoto became deeply concerned. Although it has never been verified that he said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,” (as stated in the movie Torá! Torá! Torá!), Admiral Yamamoto knew Japan would not be able to conduct a Pacific naval war with America for much longer than six months.

But Commander Fuchida was exhilarated! As Gordon W. Prange said on page 37 of GOD’S SAMURAI – Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor, “Years would pass before Fuchida understood that he had left behind more than smashed ships and aircraft and dead and wounded men. He also left behind a nation welded together by the fires he and his men had set—a United States that would not rest until the Japanese had paid in full for their mornings work.”

And the United States certainly did respond!

That devious and reprehensible act on December 7, 1941 forced the US populace to suddenly move from an isolation mentality to a war mentality, and that move sealed the doom for the Japanese aspirations for empire-expansion.

The focal point today for many of us regarding Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona which was sunk intact with up to 1,117 sailors on board.

But I have another point to make.

On April 14, 1950, Captain (promoted from Commander) Mitsuo Fuchida met his Maker.

No, Fuchida didn’t die then – he met Jesus Christ and became a Christian. (He died May 30, 1976.)

Fuchida, the fearless, outspoken warrior read a pamphlet by former prisoner-of-war SSgt. Jake DeShazer – one of Doolittle’s Raiders who bombed Japan on April 18, 1942. DeShazer was captured and treated cruelly by the Japanese for forty months. Fuchida also read about Peggy Covell’s missionary parents who were murdered by the Japanese. But DeShazer and Peggy had totally forgiven their former enemies.

Not understanding the difference between war and personal cruelty, these stories intrigued Fuchida. He then read the New Testament to see what changed DeShazer’s life from bitterness to forgiveness, and what helped Peggy to let go of her deep sorrow and forgive her enemy. As Fuchida read the Bible, he began to understand life more accurately. And that improved understanding included realizing his world view was totally wrong.

Asking Jesus to forgive him, Mitsuo Fuchida’s life was also changed, and he became life-long friends with his former enemy: Jake DeShazer. Dedicating the remainder of his life to Jesus Christ, he became an evangelist and introduced many others to our Lord.

It is Jesus Christ Who can turn bitterness to forgiveness, despair to hope, sorrow to joy, and hatred to love. God did it for the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, and He can do it for you.

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