If Just a Boiled Egg …

As we continue in the Christmas season, I’d like to tell you about a WWII gift from a Japanese prison guard that changed a man’s life.

We met the aging veteran several years ago in a large church in Louisiana. We had been invited to share about our work in Japan. After the morning service, we were invited to stay for lunch. As we stood and chatted with church folks, an approaching gentleman caught my attention. He was rather frail and his gait was unsteady, but the smile on his face broadcast the love of Christ throughout the room.

He introduced himself and startled me with this comment, “I was led to the Lord by a Japanese prison guard”.

That’s certainly not something I’d ever heard before or since. I asked him for details.

“Well, you see, I was in one of the more notorious prison camps in Western Japan, near Niigata” he said with a southern drawl.

I nodded in sympathetic agreement.  I’d heard of the place, and knew that it had been a bad one.  Not only were the guards sadistic and merciless, but the weather there was so treacherous that the death rate was particularly high.

The man continued, “I was almost dead of malnutrition and the cold.  But there was that one guard”.  He stopped, and a far away look came over his face, as if he were seeing the sight all over again.

“Whenever he could, the guard would hang back a bit from the others and then from beneath his coat  or inside his hat would come an egg……or a handful of rice or piece of beat up fruit or vegetable”.

“At first, I was afraid that this was some sort of cruel trick. If I took what was offered at all, it was like an animal, grabbing it and running away to eat it in secret.  But as I began to regain some strength, I could feel a sense of hope coming back from deep inside me.

“Finally one day, I was bold enough to take the food, give a small bow and smile in gratitude. We had no words between us to use, so I shrugged my shoulders as best I could with a look of ‘Why?” on my face.

“I’ll never forget what he did next, only after carefully looking around to be sure no one was watching. Very quietly he raised his finger to his chest and crossed himself.*  Then he hurried away.

“I was certainly not a Christian back then. I had even prided myself as needing neither God or anyone else, but on that day, I could do nothing but fall to my knees, crying tears of both grief and happiness. God was saving my life.”

He went on to explain that as the guard was highly secretive and since neither one could speak the other’s language, there was no way to learn any more about him. The war ended, he was released, and eventually found himself back home in Louisiana.

But when he did get home, one of his first actions was to find a church and learn more about the faith that Japanese prison guard obviously had. When we met him, he was a testimony to joy, and love and forgiveness.

Today I feel pretty certain both the guard and the Louisiana man have gone on to their eternal reward; and if that’s the case, then I’d love to be able to witness the reunion that’s going on between the two of them in Heaven.

And I can’t help but wonder: is there an egg or a piece of fruit that I’m holding onto? Who can I give it to in the Name of Jesus?

Especially during this Christmas season, may we look for opportunities to be salt and light, and if necessary, a boiled egg for someone whom God points out to us.

Feeling blessed, Marsha

*I must interject a note here that all kinds of Japanese Christians occasionally  ‘cross themselves’ to visibly note to onlookers that they’re Christian.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re Catholic; it’s just a symbol of Christianity that most people recognize.  We were told to ‘cross ourselves’ at Buddhist funerals to let others know that as Christians we wouldn’t be doing the ritualistic stuff out of conviction and we didn’t mean to be rude or disrespectful.

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