Travels with Karl: Part I – Aloha

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,
and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired
by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
– Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad 

Two vaccinations and I’m ready to start traveling again, as soon as the world is ready. Yes, I feel like I’ve been missing out in both ministry and “away” time, but mostly I’ve missed the growth which so frequently occurs with travel. So, for the next few months, I’d like to prime my travel engine and share a few travel stories, and how some special people I met have impacted my life and faith. 

. . . . .

While waiting to board the boat to the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, I walked over and said hello to a volunteer. His military-style cap had “Pearl Harbor Survivor” written in script along the side. The cap’s shiny gold cross pin prompted me to ask if he was a chaplain, and Richard Fiske began his story.

“No, I was the bugler on the USS West Virginia and an eye-witness to the Arizona explosion. I blew the call to battle stations, fired my gun, fought fires, and rescued sailors and bodies. But I wear the cross because most Japanese tourists have never heard the story of the surprise attack. They learn it here. They often look at me and just weep in shame. Even if they don’t speak English, I can point to the cross and embrace them, and they know that because of Jesus they are forgiven.”

I’ve known family and church members who said they’d never forgive our World War II enemies, and they meant it. So, when he finished, I said, “This story has got to be told! Wow! A Pearl Harbor survivor forgiving and loving the Japanese!” He laughed and shared about the dozens of times he’d been featured in Pearl Harbor documentaries. “They never show the part where I talk about this.”

But he was only warming up.

He then told me about Mitsuo Fuchida, the leader of the squadron which attacked Pearl Harbor, the pilot who infamously called out, “Tora, tora, tora!” signaling for the attack to begin. Richard said he and Mitsuo had become friends after the war.

Somehow, Fuchida survived the war, but he was not spared from disillusionment and survivor’s guilt until he paused to listen to an American missionary on a Tokyo street. The American missionary had flown in the Doolittle raid over Tokyo, parachuted out in Japanese-occupied China, been taken as a POW by the Japanese army, accepted Christ while reading the Bible in the POW camp, and was now a missionary to Japan. 

Wanting to know more, Fuchida got his own Bible. He read it, accepted Christ, and also became a missionary to the Japanese, including speaking at Billy Graham crusades.

Richard Fiske became part of a group of Pearl Harbor survivors who reached out to Fuchida, then to all the surviving Zero pilots who had attacked Pearl Harbor. Richard said they had all become friends. And when Fuchida passed away, the American veterans’ group pooled their money and sent Richard to Japan, to attend the funeral and lay a wreath. And when Richard died a few years after I met him, Japan sent the last surviving Zero pilot to lay a wreath on his.

I was overwhelmed anew with the truth—with Jesus Christ in our lives, there’s no sin too big to forgive! 

This last year has not only revealed the deep divisions in our country, but it has increased them, even in churches. Relationships have been cut off. Tensions still run high. So, maybe you need to forgive someone. Maybe you need to seek forgiveness. Think about those who disagreed with you about who to vote for, whether to wear a mask or meet in person at church, or about BLM or CRT

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.
[Mt. 6:14-15 NIV]

Hopefully, we are getting close to a time when travel becomes more normalized. But some travel needn’t wait. The forgiveness journey can start by simply walking over and saying “hello” to someone you’ve been avoiding. 


Published: May 13, 2021


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