Sweet Reunion

My daddy and Mr. Kojima sat eating watermelon together, laughing and enjoying stories about their grandkids and life in general.  They were both in their 60’s and it was in the early 80’s when this was happening.  My parents had come out to Japan to see their new grandson Nathan and spend some time with us in our new country, about 2 years after we’d arrived. We were industriously studying Japanese, living next door to Yokohama Baptist Church where Mr and Mrs Kojima lived and took care of the church and the grounds.  They had become like grandparents to my two boys and we were enjoying this special visit.

Suddenly the scene froze as Mr Kojima raised a piece of watermelon to his lips.

“You know”, he said, clearing his throat, “A few years ago you and I would have killed each other”…………Daddy’s face let on that he’d just thought of this about the same time.  You see they were BOTH WWII veterans, just on different sides.

Then Mr Kojima said, “Let me tell you a story” and we settled in.

“When WWII was well into it, I was drafted to go to service.  I would be leaving my wife, but I was honor bound to serve Emperor and country.  I don’t think she minded that I was leaving, we’d never enjoyed each other too much”.

Then Mrs Kojima interjected.  “It wasn’t that I didn’t like you, I HATED you!”  then turning to us, she continued, her head bowed and speaking in a confidential tone, “Ours was an arranged marriage as all marriages were those days.  He was a brute and beat me regularly, especially if his business wasn’t going well or he’d been drinking.  I had to live with his family as was the custom, so I was practically a slave and had no place to run.  It was easy to understand that I was definitely not happy.”

“Yes Yes, I remember” he leaned over and stroked her hand lovingly.

The story continued.

He went off to war and ended up on the island of Saipan where the Allies had been engaging the Japanese for about 16 months. There had been an estimate of 30,000 Japanese deaths to that time.   Finally the end was near and the Japanese were scared.  The propaganda that they’d been fed by the Japanese about the Americans led over 1500 people, mostly women and children, over a period of several days, to jump to their deaths off some very high cliffs.  What a tragedy, you say, but Japan was really under the sway of ‘Death without surrender” and this was the only honorable thing they knew to do.

Kojima, for whatever reason, was not in that area at the time, so he and several of his buddies took to the nearby jungle to hide out.  There they stayed for over 2 years, contacting no one, ignoring the leaflets dropped from helicopters explaining in Japanese that the war was over and they could come out.

“Why would we believe such a thing after all we’d heard about the demon Americans” he told us

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, so to speak, Mrs Kojima continued to live with her inlaws, unhappy as always, but praying dutifully at the family shrine every day.

“What they didn’t know, she chirped in”, was that my silent prayer every day to Buddha was that Mr Kojima would die as bad a death as he’d given me when he was living”.

But then one day she happened upon a church, and listening to the Good news of love and forgiveness, gradually her hard heart began to change.

Back in Saipan, it had been two years, and Mr Kojima and his friends were enjoying the nightly movies put on by the GI’s from their camp. They would broadcast the American musicals with Doris Day and other beautiful women onto a huge screen that was facing the jungle, most likely aware that while they were enjoying themselves, there were hundreds of little black eyes watching the movie right along with them.

Finally Mr Kojima had had enough. He told his friends, “These guys can’t be all that bad, I’m going to turn myself in,” and he marched into the camp.  GI’s ran to him and clasp his hand in greeting and took him off to the commander.

The propaganda wasn’t true. They did not eat him or beat him, but fed and clothed him and even went back with him to the jungle to tell his friends.  And even though they brought a message of Good News os to speak, no one would come out.  No one would believe or trust him.  Sound like a Bible story?

And so, Mr Kojima thrived.  It was far enough post war by now that he wasn’t considered a prisoner, and he was housed, taught English and more importantly, thru some of the men, told about the Love of a Savior.

He retuned home eventually.  There was Mrs Kojima waiting for him.  She might have had a conflicted look about her, but he was glad to be home at any rate.

Within months, he began to wonder what had happened.  She was not throwing his food at him or recoiling from his advances. she was almost, what’s the word, he tried to think………..nice?

Finally she shared with him how a man called Jesus had made her able to love him.

The rest is a love story that led them to us.  Mr Kojima, having been prepped by the Americans, was able to quickly ask forgiveness from God and his family and from that time on, the two of them really fell into a deep love for each other and others.  They even had children and added to their joy.

As they sat there with us, we all had tears in our eyes.  My Daddy spoke first, “Yes, we would have killed each other, but now, because of Christ’s love, we’re brothers.” ………and then that prompted us all us all to have a big american hug!

Christ the healer….

Now both my Daddy and Mr. and Mrs Kojima are sitting at the feet of Jesus, the one who brought them all together!

This week let’s think about the forgiveness God thru Jesus can give us all, forgiveness to put away the past and enjoy the future.

Happy trails, Marsha

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