The Birth of Lottie Moon, 1840

2019-12-10T16:26:38+00:00December 9, 2019|HH 2019|

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” —1 Corinthians 1:26

The Birth of Lottie Moon, December 12, 1840

Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon came into the world as the fourth daughter of a family that eventually produced eleven children on a 1,500 acre Virginia tobacco plantation. She left the world twelve days after her seventy-second birthday, having spent the previous thirty-nine years as a single Southern Baptist missionary in China. In an announcement last week, it was revealed that the current communist regime in that country, which has been closing Christian churches and cracking down on believers on a broad scale, has declared the church Lottie Moon helped found and attended in Shandong Province a historical and cultural protected site. It cannot be torn down, and the Baptists can continue meeting there. What did a 4’3” Southern girl accomplish in China that would resonate even today among a nation hostile to all she stood for two centuries ago?

Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (1840-1912)

The Cocke building of the former Roanoke Female Seminary (now Hollins University)

Lottie attended the “Roanoke Female Seminary” (later Hollins College) from the age of fourteen. She later admitted she was a girl careless of her spiritual condition and proud of her innate intellectual abilities. She was awarded the first Master’s degree earned by a woman, but stayed at home to help her mother hold things together during the Civil War, as her brothers fought in the army and her oldest sister served as a Confederate doctor. She made a profession of faith in Christ in 1858 after hearing a sermon by the greatest of Southern Baptist preachers of her day, John Broaddus. When the war ended, she began a teaching career which carried her first to Kentucky, then Georgia. Believing that God called her to China as a single female missionary, a possibility only recently permitted by her denomination, Lottie left America at the age of thirty-two.

Penglai City, China, where Lottie first served, joining her sister Edmonia

Lottie at first joined with her sister Edmonia in teaching at a boys’ school run by missionaries. She travelled with missionary wives to other parts of China and discovered her “real passion is evangelism.” Lottie had mastered four foreign languages in college and, with that facility for learning other tongues, she mastered Chinese quickly. Lottie disagreed with a number of policies of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, and she never tired of trying to change their minds through letters and on furloughs back to the United States. She constantly pleaded for more missionaries to come to bring the Gospel to the millions of people who would never otherwise hear the message.

Shandong, China street market, circa 1890

Lottie Moon realized quickly that women could best reach Chinese women with the Gospel message, and her witnessing to women bore great spiritual fruit. The last half of the 19th Century and first years of the 20th, were characterized in China by wars, massacres of Christians, famine, plague, and revolution, and Lottie persevered through all obstacles. On top of that, she had to grapple with the theological compromise of fellow missionaries and close friends in the United States. Her letters home were published in the denominational press and her inspiration brought about the founding of the Women’s Missionary Union, and the raising of funds to send more missionaries. She suggested that Christmastime would be a good opportunity to ask for contributions, and so it turned out. Since 1888 the Lottie Moon missionary offering has raised more than 1.5 billion dollars for foreign missions.

She addressed the problem of missionary burn-out by lobbying for furloughs home at ten year intervals. She herself made it back twice, which she believed extended her ability to persevere as long as she did. Today, such practices are standard operating procedure for most foreign missionaries. The geographical area of Lottie’s last service experienced widespread famine. She spent her mission money on food to help Chinese people survive, but her own weight fell to fifty pounds. Fellow missionaries insisted she return to the United States in 1912, but she died aboard ship in a Japanese harbor at the age of seventy-two. Her remains were shipped to her family and she is buried in the cemetery in Crewe, Virginia. She is certainly one of the most effective and renowned of the women God has used to expand his kingdom in the world.

Memorial to Lottie Moon in Cartersville, Georgia

The Birth of Mitsuo Fuchida, 1902

2019-12-05T14:35:29+00:00December 5, 2019|HH 2019|

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” —Titus 3:4-7

The Birth of Mitsuo Fuchida, December 3, 1902

“The sunrise in the east was magnificent above the white clouds as I led 360 planes towards Hawaii. I knew my objective: to surprise and cripple the American naval force in the Pacific . . . Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers, and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. . It was the most thrilling exploit of my career.”

And so the Second World War drew in the United States with the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, four days after Mituso Fuchida’s thirty-ninth birthday. On that occasion, he radioed back to the carrier the code that the attack was successful and the enemy caught unaware: “Tora Tora Tora!”

Mitsuo Fuchida (1902-1976) Japanese captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and lead airman for the attack on Pearl Harbor

Mitsuo Fuchida was three years old when the Russo-Japanese war came to an end. He grew up hearing the stories of how Japan had wiped out the Russian fleet and humbled a mighty European army and navy. The Land of the Rising Sun still received little respect or parity among the great nations of the world. In the 1920s and 30s Fuchida learned to fly fighter planes, and, by the time he received the orders to lead the attack on Pearl Harbor, had logged thousands of hours of preparation and developed the highest skill of any Japanese pilot in the Empire.

Siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

He participated in the rather inconclusive Battle of the Coral Sea and was picked to lead the air squadrons, in what Japan hoped would be the decisive blow against the Americans in the Pacific at Midway Island. He fell ill on the voyage to Midway and turned over command to another pilot. He was evacuated from his carrier during the Battle of Midway, the high water mark of the Japanese offensive in the Pacific War.

Explosion on board the USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942)

Through the rest of the Second World War, Fuchida trained airmen, especially instructing the teenaged suicide pilots of the Kamikaze squadrons, who crashed their planes into American ships, strapped into their seat with a non-releasable bomb underneath. His request to join them in a suicide attack was rejected by the high command. With the end of the war, Fuchida, Japan’s most famous combat pilot, bought a rice farm in which to make a living, though he knew nothing but flying planes.

With the capture and demotion of the Emperor of Japan, the religious devotion to Hirohito as the Sun God, the heart of the Japanese worldview, received a mortal blow. Fuchida himself had begun to reconsider his beliefs when studying the heavens on his rice farm. The testimony of an army friend, captured by the Americans, but presented with the Gospel in the POW camps in the United States, instead of torture or beheading, also impressed the hero. Finally, he was given a Gospel tract written by an American airman captured and tortured by the Japanese—Jacob DeShazer—in which he forgave his enemies and returned to Japan as a missionary.

Fuchida in training for the attack on Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona burns after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—December 7, 1941

Fuchida, Japan’s greatest living WWII hero, came to faith in Christ and sought out DeShazer, with whom he then travelled across Japan, drawing large crowds, and evangelizing for his new Faith. Mitsuo Fuchida traveled to Europe and the United States in the 1950s and 60s, lecturing to the Air Force high command in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, explaining the thrill and technique of leading the attack on Pearl Harbor, his providential survival of the war, and about how Jesus Christ changed his life: “I can see now that the Lord had laid His hand upon me so that I might serve Him.” His children married Americans and lived in the United States. An inscrutable Providence once more teaches us that no man or woman is too far from the reach of God’s saving Grace. Mitsuo Fuchida’s “flight to worlds unknown“ took place in Japan in 1976.

Jacob DeShazer (1912-2008) Doolittle Raider and Japanese POW

During a return visit in 1966, Fuchida points with his back to Pearl Harbor to where he led the Japanese planes through the mountains of Oahu Island and down on the the crowed Harbor

The in-depth story of Fuchida’s life is told in the book entitled God’s Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor, by Donald Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, and in several books about Jacob DeShazer, the Doolittle Raider who endured four years of captivity and returned to Japan after the war to preach the Gospel.

The Birth of C.S. Lewis, 1898

2019-12-05T14:21:39+00:00December 5, 2019|HH 2019|

“For by Grace are ye saved by faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” —Ephesians 2:8,9

The Birth of C.S. Lewis, November 29, 1898

Clive Staples Lewis entered the world in a family of the middling sort, in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1898. Nothing about his birth or his family’s standing could have indicated that before he finished his course on earth sixty-four years later, he would have become one of the most prolific and influential Christian writers of the 20th Century. The best of his thirty books were translated around the world in thirty different languages and his World War II era broadcasts on BBC radio inspired and delighted multiple thousands of his fellow Britons in their darkest hour. He formed a legendary friendship with the brilliant Anglo-Saxon expert and universally beloved author J.R.R. Tolkien, with whom he founded a literary society known as the Inklings. Loved and respected by Christians across the theological spectrum, the reply by Tolkien to an Oxford student who wondered if his course with Lewis would be difficult, was told what still seems apropos to most of his admirers today: “Well, you will never get to the bottom of him!”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

“Little Lea”, childhood home of C.S. Lewis in Belfast, Northern Ireland

While a student at Cherbourg House, Lewis abandoned Christianity at age fifteen, partly due to the influence of an atheist teacher. Although he received a scholarship to Oxford in 1916, he enlisted in the army to fight in the trenches in 1917. It was not long before he was wounded by friendly artillery fire in the Battle of Arras and invalided home. The two men beside him were killed by the shell; Providence is indeed mysterious. He received three “firsts” after his return to college and was appointed a Fellow and Tutor in English literature, a position he held until 1954. It was not as a college professor, however, that Lewis become known by millions around the world.

Lewis in 1919

Celtic mythology appealed greatly to Lewis, and his natal attachment to Northern Ireland never left him. The harder he tried to pretend God did not exist, the more he came into contact with Christian influences, beginning with the fictional writings of George MacDonald, and, after 1926, the friendship of Tolkien, his own brother Warnie, and several other colleagues, as well as the writings and influence of G.K. Chesterton. He claimed that his full conversion to Christianity took place in 1931 and he admitted to entering Christ’s kingdom kicking and screaming. He joined the Church of England, although he himself was highly ecumenical and his admirers come from all corners of the Christian Church. Lewis readily admitted he was no theologian though, and merely suffused his novels with a “culturally Christian” worldview, often veiled in metaphor and anthropomorphizing.

Lewis’s friend and Oxford colleague J.R.R. Tolkein in 1916

The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, meeting place of the Inklings

During the 1930s, he published his science fiction Out of the Silent Planet, as well as The Allegory of Love and The Pilgrims Regress. Lewis tried to enlist to fight in WWII, but the forty-year-old veteran was turned down as too old. He served in the home guard and, more importantly, began his weekly addresses on the BBC. Only one has survived (see below). From them came one of his most admired books entitled Mere Christianity. More books followed during the war, including the second and third books of his Space Trilogy and The Screwtape Letters. The Chronicles of Narnia series of dramatic heroic fictional stories made Lewis millions of fans covering the whole gamut of age groups.

Lewis’s philosophical writings are still widely cited by Christian apologists from many denominations. With a tender transparency that permeated his works, Lewis brought all his formidable literary genius to bear in an accessible and insightful manner to profoundly influence millions of readers, providing a solid framework to navigate life’s challenges and bask in its beauty.

William Tell and Swiss Independence, 1307

2019-11-18T15:33:22+00:00November 18, 2019|HH 2019|

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” —John 8:36

William Tell and Swiss Independence, November 18, 1307

We all recognize the finale of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture, but how many know what the Swiss patriot actually accomplished, or if he existed at all? When I was a youngster, William Tell was a hero to me, with a crossbow over his shoulder and evil soldiers at his heels. Tell was a local farmer and famous hunter, who was accosted in town one day in the Canton of Uri in Switzerland, by bailiff Gessler, an agent of the duke of Austria. Refusing to uncover his head when passing by a pole with a Habsburg hat on it, Tell was seized for disrespecting the monarch. An apple was placed on Tell’s son’s head, and, because he was a renowned marksman, the peasant was ordered to shoot it off with one shot of his crossbow at 120 paces. Tell drew two quarrels from his sheath. He fired once and split the apple in two without injuring his son. The bailiff asked why he drew two bolts and Tell replied, “if I had harmed my son, the second one was for you, and I would not have missed.”

Detail of memorial statue of William Tell and his son in Altdorf, Switzerland

William Tell takes aim at the apple placed atop his son’s head

The infuriated Gessler arrested Tell and set off across the treacherous Lake Lucerne to incarcerate him in a dungeon “where he never again would see the light of day or the moon and stars at night.” Just before reaching shore, in a storm, Tell leaped ashore, kicking the boat back into the waves, and made his way twenty miles through a narrow pass in the Alps, where he lay in wait for his pursuers. Right on cue, they arrived only to be felled by his crossbow shots. He was shortly joined by three other men from other cantons, and they swore an oath still memorized by Swiss lads to this day:

Uri arm of Lake Lucerne near Morschach, Switzerland

“To assist each other with aid and every counsel and every favor, with persons and goods, with might and main, against one and all, who may inflict on them any violence, molestation or injury, or may plot any evil against their persons or goods.”

William Tell leaps ashore and kicks the boat back into the waves

From that humble beginning in 1307, a successful national war of liberation was fought against the Austrian Habsburg dynasty throughout the cantons of Switzerland. The story is cherished by the Swiss and a crossbow adorns a stamp on every export that crosses Swiss borders.

Altdorf, Canton of Uri, Switzerland (circa 1890-1905)

Many historians today challenge the story and claim it pure myth, the main lineaments of it borrowed from an old Norse tale. The first written account of the William Tell story was printed two hundred fifty years after the event by a historian named Aegidius Tschudi. Prior to about 1570, the tale was derived from oral tradition, which of course, by itself, does not make it untrue. The dates for the story of William Tell do not match the historical context for 1307, but dating precision is often a problem for historians, especially when hundreds or thousands of years are involved. In the mid-eighteenth century, a scholar from Bern—Gottlieb de Haller—read old Viking stories from Denmark, one of which recounted the exact story of William Tell, except the tale involved King Harald Bluetooth and a chieftain named Toko.

The story revolves around a drunken feast in which Toko boasted of his prowess with a bow and arrow, a typical Viking thing to do. The King challenged Toko and ordered him to shoot an apple off his son’s head, also a very Viking-like action at a drunken party. And the story plays out in similar fashion. Why can’t an identical story be true in two different places in history, and might the Swiss official have heard the story from a Danish source himself, and thought the contest worthy of a trial? Once the Swiss story was challenged, many other “historians” have gotten in on the revision over the centuries, including very recent histories of Switzerland.

Harald Bluetooth (c. 910 – c. 986/87) King of Denmark and Norway

Map showing the Old Swiss Confederacy from 1291 to the sixteenth century

The sturdy and highly armed peasants of the Swiss mountains and valleys did rise up against the Austrian Empire and did defeat the gaudy knights sent against them from time to time. A confederation was established, joined by other cantons. William Tell’s existence and story can neither be proven nor disproven by historians. His story has also inspired people of other countries in every century. Rossini’s William Tell Overture had to be changed to be about Scotland when it debuted in Milan, since that city was part of the Habsburg Empire at the time. But we know the real story. Listen to the finale and try to believe that the tale is not exactly as the Swiss have heard it for 700 years! I like the Tokyo Symphony’s rendition the best:

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

2019-11-11T22:12:50+00:00November 11, 2019|HH 2019|

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” —Hebrews 11:13

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620

2020 marks the Quadricentennial of the landing of the dissenting English Puritans known as Pilgrims, north of Cape Cod, where they established a colony they named Plymouth, after the port from which they sailed from England. Because their charter indicated they would join the Virginia colony along its projected northern boundary, no preparations had been made to create a new government, Virginia having established one in 1607. God controls his creation, including, and especially, the weather, the wind and the waves, which drove the little ship the Mayflower north of the Virginia boundaries into terrra incognita, as far as the Pilgrims were concerned. They recognized that the men would need to establish a civil government before settling the colony.

Though the original Mayflower Compact is lost to history, the text was transcribed in numerous places, including this hand-written copy included by William Bradford in his Of Plymouth Plantation

Of the 102 souls aboard the ship, 41 belonged to a Separatist congregation that worshipped in the Dutch Netherlands as ex-patriot Englishmen. They had fled to the continent with their pastor, John Robinson, to escape persecution from the Crown of England and the Anglican establishment. They were granted freedom of worship in Holland. It was not long before the local church leaders in the new host country grew to respect the character and scholarship of the pastor, and welcomed the hard working and godly Englishmen. After several years of sojourn, the congregation decided to sail for the New World, if God would so ordain. Pastor Robinson chose not to leave for the Virginia Colony on the first shipload of his emigrating parishioners, but the highly competent elder William Brewster joined the group. The rest of the passengers aboard were not members of the congregation and were known by the Pilgrims as “strangers.”

Ruins of the Vrouwekerk—a 14th-century church in Leiden where the Pilgrims attended during their time in Holland

The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

After a harrowing passage of more than two months, the Mayflower rode at anchor near Cape Cod. Preparing to land about two hundred fifty miles north of the planned settlement area, they were outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, the joint stock venture that had granted them the patent. Some of the strangers aboard did not like the idea of settling with the Pilgrims without some kind of legal boundaries. Historians have suggested that perhaps Stephen Hopkins or the “knave” John Billington instigated the grumblings of mutiny. The recorder of the voyage and settlement, William Bradford in his firsthand account entitled Of Plymouth Plantation never named the discontented but did say that some of the strangers made it known that no one would tell them what to do!

William Bradford (1590-1657), Mayflower passenger, Plymouth Colony Governor and author of Of Plymouth Plantation

The Pilgrims come ashore in the New World

The Pilgrims consulted together and wrote out a brief constitution to serve as the basis for civil government when they landed. It has become known as The Mayflower Compact, the original copy of which has been lost to history. The opening line stated “In the Name of God, Amen” declaring the ultimate source of authority in God Himself. They furthermore stated their obedience to King James who held his position “by the Grace of God.” The signers covenanted to combine into civil body politic and to “establish just and equal Laws . . . for the general good of the colony.” Their chief purpose of the colony was to promote “the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.” In so doing, they were following the counsel of their pastor and committing themselves to self-government for the “general Good of the Colony” to which they all would submit.

The signing of the Mayflower Compact

Forty-one men signed the Compact, including most of the strangers, and elected John Carver governor of the plantation. Carver was a devoted church deacon who had proved himself wise and devout, and had represented the Pilgrims before the merchant adventurers. The rest of the story is well known by those who study American history. They landed at a spot they called Plymouth, set up camp and suffered terrible privation through the first winter, many of them dying in the effort. In God’s good Providence, the colony survived. The descendants of the survivors of the Mayflower number an estimated thirty-eight million Americans today and the Compact they drew up symbolizes voluntary representative government which has inspired nations around the world, and is considered by many as the historic cornerstone of law and government in the United States.