YWAM Publishing puts out a series of books called, Christian Heroes: Then & Now which tell inspiring true stories of men and women who have answered God’s call. This particular book tells of the life of Jacob DeShazer, one the famous Doolittle Raiders from World War II. I have to admit that I wasn’t quite up on my World War II history and had never heard of Mr. DeShazer or the Doolittle Raiders.
While in the military as a bombardier, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jacob was recruited for a top secret mission led by a man named Doolittle. He and dozens of other military personnel were trained extensively for this mission. Jacob and the others found themselves heading for Japan on an aircraft carrier. Their mission was to fly over strategic targets in Japan and be the first Americans to bomb there. Although they successfully completed this task, the plane Jacob was in didn’t have enough fuel to get to neutral territory and all the crewmen had to bail out of the plane. Within 24 hours, Jacob was captured by the Japanese and over the course of the next 4 years was sent to prison after prison. Inside each prison, he was starved and beaten and lived in unthinkable conditions. Jacob was eventually given a Bible and chose to give his life to Christ. While in prayer, God impressed on him that he would eventually return to Japan someday and share the Gospel with the people there. After the war, Jacob did return to Japan and began his ministry, which would last over 30 years.
What I love about this book is that it’s an adventure, a biography, a story that gives a glimpse into history and inspiring lesson in forgiveness. Jacob DeShazer may have just been an ordinary farm boy from Oregon, but he took the horrible things that happened to him and did extraordinary things for God’s glory. He went back to the country that had badly mistreated him, and with God’s love, shared the gospel story with them. Instead of becoming bitter and vengeful, he forgave those who had starved and beaten him and showed them the way to Jesus. Because of Jacob being willing to go where God directed, thousands of Japanese people became Christians. That’s a pretty powerful lesson! And Jacob didn’t just give a little bit of time to the Japanese people, he devoted most of the rest of his life to them. Wow!
Not only does this book have a spiritual lesson, I thought all the history was fascinating. I liked all the descriptions f World War II events from Jacob’s point of view. The book describes the recruitment of the special mission, the military training, the preparation and the mission itself in great detail. After reading about the different prisons and circumstances that Jacob had to endure, I learned about a very important event in U.S. History, one told in a much more compelling and personal way that in my high school history class. I’d even like to read more about the Doolittle Raiders!
Because of the adventurous storytelling, this is a great book to share with kids and even to use as a family devotional. I was kept on the edge of my seat, wondering what was to become of Jacob and his crewmates. I was moved when Jacob recognized a former prison guard at a meeting and offered forgiveness and love. I was amazed to find out that one of the key people who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, had become a Christian after the war. And that the Emperor of Japan, in whom the country had put their faith, had confessed that he was a mere mortal, leaving the country without spiritual direction. There are so many lessons to be learned from Jacob’s story. And I think the biggest lesson of all is that he sought out God in prayer, listened to Him and obeyed—obeyed in going and obeyed in forgiving.