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The Genesis of Post-war Christian Ministries in Japan

As I Saw and Heard It: "Present at the Creation "by Evangelist Kenny Joseph

Part Two - The Genesis of Post-war Christian Ministries in Japan. The war ended following the two atomic bombs that finally got the attention of Prime Minister Tojo and the Emperor. General Douglas Macarthur signed the unconditional peace treaty aboard the USS Missouri. Though it was an absolute defeat and unconditional surrender, the Japanese did not use the word haisen, or "defeat," but shusen. "completion of the var." Within a month of the emperor's August 15, 1945 ra?dio broadcast announcing Japan's surrender, Harry R. Fox, Sr., of the Church of Christ, became the first missionary to arrive back in Japan, serving as interpreter for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. Bobby Wright, of Ireland, a prisoner of war, was released. A Salvation Army missionary died in the prison camp. Some German missionaries and their children were allowed to stay as allies. Mabel Francis, Ann Dievendorf, Miss Parr and other lady missionaries were released from house arrest.

But Japan was so devastated that a survey group of 21 missionary leaders who came to look decided each missionary who would come must bring enough barrels and crates of food, clothes and equipment to be self?suf?ficient for 5 years. Some came in 1947, like the Owen Stills, the Harold Coles, Harold Sims, and a few others. Macarthur finally issued a call for 5,000 missionaries and 10 million Bibles through telegrams and letters in 1950. Here we begin with the coming of missionaries and their ministries and projects.

First was the Japan Bible Society, which was here, but laid low during the war. Since they had branches in every country, the "thought police" considered them spies for America.

To describe what Japan was like in MacArthur's 1950 sounds like describing another planet to a missionary in Japan 50 years later. There were no McDonalds, KFCs, Burger Kings or Dennys. There were no hamburgers! A single missionary's monthly support was 5125 per month, a couple's $250. That would buy a couple of days of goodies in Japan today, but the prices back then were also 100% cheaper. A postcard was 5 yen, letters were 10 yen, soba on the street, 30 yen, train or bus, 10 yen. And if you looked like an American, they'd sometimes put you on for free, thinking you were either with the military or CIA. We got 360 yen for the US dollar, and some even got 400 yen on the "gray market." A haircut was 70 yen, and a taxi 60 yen. A house helper cost 3000 yen a month plus a dress, and food if possible. A carpenter worked all day for 800 yen and built your house. Language students-(eat your hearts out) -the average teacher got 35 yen an hour. A good-profes?sional Japanese teacher got 50 yen an hour, and came t9 your house. I had 3 different teachers daily, sometimes studying 10 hours a day.

Anyway, I'd like to briefly trace life?from '47 to '51, and later continue with my bird's eye view, since I came in '51. It was in this dark period right after the war that General Macarthur made his stirring speech, sum?marized thus: "For the rehabilitation of Japan, there must be a revival of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."

I lament the fact that there was no General Macarthur to stand up for Russia after Communism was defeated and the Lenin and Stalin statues came down. There was no Christian leader to say "Come over and help us," so in Communist Russia we had a proliferation of lone rangers, one?night?standers, 90?day wonders and a Co?Mission which tried to coordinate mis?sions into the region.

In Japan, Macarthur was of such stature that he eclipsed even the Emperor, who came to his office with hat in hand and in essence said, "I am responsible for all the political and military decisions made. You do with me as justice in your country decides," which was offering up his head on a platter. But at the same time it was the well?worn Japanese amaeru?literally "to throw myself on your mercy, which having done, I know you'll be nice to me."

Macarthur did have mercy on the Emperor, whereas Hitler was killed and Mussolini was hanged upside down. The U.S. State Department and Macarthur felt they might end up with another revolt if they did otherwise.

The Emperor had to make his ningensengen (disclaimer of deity). So he asked a missionary, Vories (who was married to a dis?tant relative of the Emperor) to meet him at a certain spot in a garden for a walk. He then asked Vories, "What does the West think God is?" Vories answered, "Well, of course, the only true God of creation. He created the heavens and the earth." To this the Emperor said humbly, "Well, I didn't do that." And he could honestly say, according to that standard, that he was not that God.

The first group invited back in 1945 was the Japan Bible Society, and Macarthur called for 10 million Bibles. In his letter of March 1, 1950, to the American Bible Society's President Eric North, Macarthur wrote:

Dear Dr. North: I have read your report that the American Bible Society, working in conjunction with the Japan Bible Society, has made possible the distribution of more than 4,000,000 copies of the Scriptures since the beginning of the Occupation. My Chaplain.., tells me that people offifty?one denominations in forty?eight States have contributed to this project. That your expenditures have now passed the $1,000,000 mark is an indication of the great generosity of the American people and represents a very gratifying achieve?ment. You are well on the way to reaching the goal of 10,000,000 copies which I requested. I confidently believe you will succeed...

Sincerely yours, DOUGLAS Macarthur.

At the same time as he sent a telegram to the Pocket Testament League (PTL), and Glen Wagner, former football star, responded saying, "We can print a million Gospels of John' Macarthur answered, "Make it ten million!"

Thus began Japan's greatest postwar evangelistic crusades. The Pocket Testament League (PTL) had large meetings with dis?tributions of these red Gospels backed with the song, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Most of the meetings featured American evangelists, youth workers and ministers for short terms. None of them stayed and learned the language. Thank God for inter?preters. God bless them!

Another 1950 telegram from General Macarthur went to Chicago to the Gideon’s as follows:

"I have publicly stated my firm belief that Christianity offers to Japanese a sure and stable foundation on which to build a democratic nation. Japanese are becoming increasingly aware of fundamental values of Christian religion and appreciative of its spiritual and moral blessing. Your assistance will be of inestimable value.

Copies of Holy Scriptures, especially New Testaments, both English and Japanese, are essential for success of Christian movement as basis for study and acceptance of the faith. Japanese texts more in demand and can be read with fuller comprehension by more people. Your representatives are welcome to come to Japan as missionary to make firsthand survey of situation. Information being furnished you by airmail will be helpful for your planning. I assure you of my deep appreciation of your interest in spiritual rehabilitation of Japanese people."

Douglas Macarthur

SCAP Tokyo, Japan

The Gideon’s sent over a singing engineer, Dick Holzwarth. Some said he could have become the Cliff Barrows for the Billy Graham team. He came in 1950 and without the language, organized the first Gideon camp in Tokyo. Soon after, they printed the first of the 23 million New Testaments they have distributed since then to Japan's hotels, hospitals and schools. They have 263 camps with 1,520 men's and 798 women's auxilia?ries.

Now if you can multiply 23 million times 200 yen, the basic printing cost of a New Testament, you will get the amazing figure of 460 million yen, which comes out to $4,600,000. Even in America, that would be a lot of money raised for missions. But the fact is that 60% of it was raised right here in Japan by Japanese men who cleared the way from the average missionary dependency on the homeland and the "Home Mission Board." An amazing feat!

In the examples of these three men, Macarthur, Wagner, and Holzwarth, there is one common thread that would be repeated over and over in all of the ministries to come: that God looks from heaven to find one man?not a committee, but one man?as in Isaiah he sought for "a leader, a man, to stand in the gap." And he found his man: a leader among the people. And what is a leader A leader is a man who knows where he is going, causes others to follow, and stays ahead of the crowd. As it says in Isaiah 55:4: "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people."

Next issue: Little Ladies Lead the Lads

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