In most missionary work and reports, what you read in prayer letters and what re?ally goes on on the field, are sometimes very different. Japanese say "zenzen chigaimasu."
Most missionary prayer letters and maga?zine reports written by men usually tell of conquests, numbers, statistics, buildings and churches built. Women are more specific and personal, telling about the different interper?sonal activities of individuals. However, they tend to get bogged down in details so that we don't get the big picture.
So far we've heard about the great Macarthur giving great calls to great men overseas to come over with great amounts of Bibles and missionaries. But as I dig into the his?tory of what happened right after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atom?bombed (thus saving a million American and Japanese lives and preventing perhaps two million being injured), I find a story of two quiet little ladies who knew how to pray and move Heaven. These ladies were Mabel Francis and Ann Dievendorf. Mabel Francis wrote a book about her experiences. The reason Japan let them stay was that they probably figured these two little old ladies couldn't do any harm. Bless their hearts, they were later the ones who got the incoming Christian GIs and missionaries on their feet and set up!
Here I quote from Millie Moorehouse who wrote an "in-house" book, A Branch Made Strong, for the Far Eastern Gospel Crusade (FEGC), now SEND International. "Japan's Tokyo and Yokohama were in ruins in August of 1945. American bombers' fire and destruction to wooden houses and buildings left only a few skeletons of concrete structures to mark the once prosperous port city. Tokyo Bay was filled with American and allied battleships when formal surrender terms were signed on September 2 aboard the USS Missouri. As troop transports unloaded at Center Pier, GIs were cautious. Devastation and rubble spread all around them as they fanned out over the city in jeeps and trucks on their missions of occupation.
"But as they drove away from the pier area, some of them noticed a church, still intact, that had somehow miraculously survived the bombing. It was the Yokohama Kaigan Church, the first organized Protes?tant church in Japan. It marked the start of the Protestant movement in 1859 that even?tually covered all of Japan. Those GIs hur?rying by didn't realize that this same Kaigan Church was about to play an important role as the starting point for a new movement for the evangelization of postwar Japan.
"In the ensuing weeks and months of the occupation a unique drama began to unfold. Conqueror and conquered alike found them?selves drawn together in many new roles and relationships. For an active group of Christian GIs, thrilling spiritual adventures were about to alter their lives.
"Japan lay devastated and broken. Air raids destroyed nearly all major cities and the nation's industrial capacity. Transportation was crippled and equipment in precarious re?pair. Millions of city dwellers were evacuated to the countryside?Japanese colonists began to stream back from the broken, defeated remnants of the once far?flung empire of Japan. Military men came back to civilian life, but there were no jobs or homes to come back to. An estimated eight million people crowded back into economically crippled Japan in the three years following the defeat.
“After years of wartime propaganda, Japanese were afraid of what the occupation Army might do. But on the whole the, veterans who came in during the early days of the occupation were tired of war and didn’t want to cause much trouble.
In the first few days of the occupation, very few civilians were seen, and especially no children. But eventually a curious youngster would peek out from behind some rubble and a GI would smile and toss him a chocolate bar. These bars were lunch rations for GIs on the move, and little by little the chocolate bars won over their fears."
My wife Lila's oldest brother Clarence was a chaplain assigned to the 383rd Infantry Di?vision, which waded in from a landing ship and arrived in Aomori. They found the cities deserted as people were fearful for their lives with this incoming movement of foreign troops. He remembers reaching the top of a hill, and there on the other side was a Japa?nese woman standing with bowed head: She obviously "hadn't gotten the word." How relieved she must have been as the 5,000 uniformed men simply marched silently past her, with only the sounds 0f their boots hit?ting the road.
To prove that God has a sense of humor, he used Mabel and Ann to launch post?war missionaries to Japan. The little lads, led by the little ladies, were the occupation troops who landed in 1945, the week after the atom bomb fell and Japan surrendered. These born?again Christian young men, who on their leave (with no help, in fact hindrances sometimes from the powers that were), did the work of evangelism, because there were no bona fide, full?time foreign missionaries in Japan from Aug. 15, 1945 to at least 1947. The only ones here were some Japanese pas?tors, the ladies and GI lads.
These fellows scrounged empty buildings for GI Gospel Hours, inviting their buddies who were indulging in wine, women and song, being far away from home. They were held on Saturday nights and patterned after the American Youth for Christ rallies. Thou?sands of Japanese young people also were attracted to these English?only rallies.
Quoting again from A Branch Made Strong:
"Having been blessed by stirring G.I. Gospel Hour meetings in Manila, the chaplains and GIs prayed that they could hold similar meetings in Japan. The first GI Gospel Hour in Japan met on September 15, 1945, at the Sagamihara Arsenal near Fuchi?nobe, about twenty miles outside Yokohama. This was exactly one month after Japan's unconditional surrender.
"And now the Kaigan Church became the first Yokohama Chapel Center. On October 7, it held the first Yokohama GI Gospel Hour. Chaplains L.E. Sweet and D.D. Wil?son advised the GI group.
"The eves of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him (II Chronicles 16:9). God gave this promise to Miss Mabel Frances immediately after the war as an assurance of his care and leading in those difficult days. She and her sister, Mrs. Anne Dievendorf, had both been missionaries with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Japan for over 30 years. Along with Mrs. Laura Mauck, a Brethren missionary, they had chosen to stay in Japan during the war rather than accept repatriation. They wanted to be on hand to minister to Japanese as soon as hostilities ended.
"They were interned with other foreign women in a Franciscan hospital near Kuhon?butsu in Setagaya, Tokyo. As Tokyo slowly came back toward normal life, they were waiting on God for direction and provision. The Japanese were in desperate need. These ladies could communicate in Japanese. They had the gospel message. But they needed help. They, with three other missionaries, were only six people in a city of seven mil? ?lion. Where should they start?
Mabel Francis wrote in One Shall Chase a Thousand:
"They didn't have to wonder very long. An American soldier in the occupation forces and his Christian buddies were on a crowded train in Tokyo. They saw the American lady?but it wasn't until she smiled that the light dawned. 'She's got to be an American missionary,' the leader of the GI group said. So when Mrs. Dievendorf pushed her way out of the train, the four American solders were right with her.
"Are you a missionary?' they asked. And when she told them who she was, they were excited. 'We didn't know how to get hold of an American missionary, but we're looking for a place where we can meet and go right on with our gospel hour which we started in the Philippines,' they told her.
"She took the young men to the Japanese pastor of the first Methodist Church, located right on the Ginza, Tokyo's main street. He was delighted with the idea. The church had a big hole in the roof from a bomb, but those gospel groups were glad for that hole in the roof because the happy singing sounded out all over the center of that war?sick city."
In this way God brought together the three major elements in his plan for doing a new thing: war?weary and needy Japanese, GIs eager to serve God, and veteran mis?sionaries capable of directing the GI energies to meet the needs of the Japanese people. Each element alone was incomplete, but God brought this unusual combination together to accomplish his purpose. The Japanese were disillusioned and desperate for some soul?satisfying message. Among the GIs God was doing a work of awakening and reviving, and these young men and women needed channels of ministry both inside and outside the military community. As members of the occupation forces, Christian GIs had access to goods, time to serve, and hearts on fire with love for Christ. The missionary ladies were dedicated and capable workers, but without resources, energy or finances to meet the needs for which they were burdened. Until the Christian and Missionary Alliance decided to reenter Japan, Miss Francis and Mrs. Dievendorf were available. God worked all these factors together for mutual good. A new branch was being formed to carry the life of the True Vine out into new areas.
"As the occupation troops moved into the various cities of the Japanese empire, new GI Gospel Hour meetings sprang up. During 1946 there were 15 GI Gospel Hours in Japan. And most of them carried on despite the 100% turnover every six months.
'The Saturday night Gospel Hour may have been the most noticeable activity, but it was not the only one carried on by the GIs. The Yokohama group was the first one or?ganized, and being located in a busy central area, it had a full schedule of activities:
- Saturday night - GI Gospel Hour at Kaigan Church.
- Sunday - In addition to regular chapel services, "We prayed about Sunday night, for many of the chaplains felt that there should be a united evangelistic effort. It was not long before the GI Gospel Hour was invited to hold a Sunday evening meeting at the spa?cious Red Cross Canteen. We couldn't have wished for a better answer to our prayers, for more than 15,000 souls in Khaki and blue went in and out of that canteen every day. We had the whole fourth floor where several hundred crowded into each meeting. Our GI choir sang to the accompaniment of two Red Cross pianos. The songs of Zion filled the air, the saving Gospel was told, and heaven was brought to earth as the prayer room be?came filled with those who sought and found the Lord," by the Grace of God.
- Monday night was set apart for personal workers who gathered for prayer and study. Then they went out into the highways and byways to witness.
- Tuesday was prayer meeting night, with testimonies from many, including those saved during the previous nights of evange?lism.
- Wednesday was Bible study night, usually led by a chaplain.
- Thursday night the GI choir rehearsed, about 30-40 strong, and from about as many denominations.
- Friday night was Christian life classes.
Only young, fired?up Christians could maintain a schedule like that!
"Many GIs were in ministries to the Japanese. President Sakata of Kanto Gakuin in Yokohama agreed to let the school be used for Youth for Christ meetings three times a week to reach Japanese young people. Weekly meetings were held later at Honcho Primary School near Sakuragicho. Hundreds of Japanese teenagers heard the Gospel through these meetings. Another group met in Shinkovasu in northeast Yokohama. In the spring of 1946 a Youth For Christ meet?ing in a tsurumi primary school drew 400 young people, and was later divided into two meetings.