Title: Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Christian Heroes: Then and Now
Major Themes: Forgiveness, History, Prisoners of War, World War II
Synopsis: After Jacob DeShazer has been taken prisoner by the Japanese during the Second World War, can he learn to forgive despite all they’ve done to him?
Several years ago, Mom got a free book from Christian Audio called From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. My brothers enjoyed listening to the story, although half-way through or so I struggled to stay interested. However, if I remember correctly, there was a mention made of an American airman who was caught by the Japanese, became a Christian while a POW, and then became a missionary to the Japanese after the war. It sounded like a fascinating story, so when we came across Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies just recently, written by the well-known Benges, we were excited to try the story—and ended up finding it absolutely gripping! At its heart, this book is all about how Christ-like love—and only Christ-like love—can work miracles. Not only in the giver’s heart, but also in the receiver. That, to me, is a story worth my time!
As a young boy, Jake DeShazer went to church because he was told to go to church. After getting out from under his stepfather’s supervision, he threw off all forms of Christianity and declared himself an atheist. Several years later, Jake signed up for the air force near the onset of World War II. Then, when Pearl Harbour was bombed, he realized war had come to the US’s doorstep—and he hated the Japanese for it. Soon, he and a few others who had done well in their initial training were selected for a top-secret mission. They had to complete further rigorous training for the mission, and once out on the Pacific heading for their target, they were told what their job would be: To bomb Japan, using airplanes that had not yet been proven able to take off from an aircraft carrier.
Earlier than expected, a Japanese patrol boat spotted them. In order to preserve the secrecy of the mission, the men had to take off early. They managed to bomb the locations each plane was designated, but before Jake’s plane reached the free area of China—where a peace treaty reigned between the Chinese and Americans—they ran out of fuel and had to crash-land. The men were captured, one by one, by the Japanese, and for the next nineteen months, Jake lived what could only be deemed a life of horror. Although he may not have been treated as badly as some people, he really struggled with hatred against his captors. Then, after many months of confinement, something incredible happened: In the squalor of the Japanese prison, he was given a Bible. And, because there was nothing else to do, Jake read it with a hungry spirit. Would this Word of God give him the hope he needed to endure each day as it came? How could he ever forgive his enemies?
Although not necessarily extremely fast-paced, Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies was a book the whole family enjoyed. Some parts were tough, because of the things he had to face while in prison, but the overall theme of forgiveness in the face of brutality is amazing. It didn’t come easily for him, but when it came, it was a lifeline to hold onto. I loved hearing how he ended up being such a blessing to his enemies, and how the Lord was able to use him later on in life. Jacob’s story, while relatively unknown compared to other missionaries (unless, of course, you read From Pearl Harbor to Calvary!) is one that I found inspiring and convicting—would I do what he did, with what he faced?
WARNING: In chapter 5, a man’s arm is cut off in an accident when he backed into a plane propeller. Chapter 6 tells of them dropping bombs on Japan, as well as someone shooting at a fishing boat (he missed, but terrified the fisherman). Later, a man was threatened with his head being cut off. Chapter 8 mentioned a bad beating. In chapter 11, a man’s foot was crushed in the door by an angry guard. Chapter 12 mentioned a man in a straitjacket and other men hearing his screams.
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults