[NOTE: What follows is a first hand account of an encounter during the heat of
battle on Okinawa over a half century ago. But truly the story is timeless and
powerful. I hope it blesses you. ]
It was early in 1945 when as a war correspondent on Okinawa I first came upon
Shimabuku the strangest and most inspiring community I ever saw. Huddled
beneath its groves of banyan and twisted pine trees this remote village of some
1000 souls was in the path of the "American" advance and so received a severe
shelling. But when an advance patrol swept up to the village compound the GI's
stopped dead in their tracks.
Barring their way were two little old men; they bowed low and began to speak.
The battle-hardened sergeant wary of tricks held up his hand summoned an
interpreter. The interpreter shook his head.
"I don't get it. Seems we're being welcomed as 'fellow Christians.' One
says he's the mayor of the village the other's the schoolmaster. That's a Bible
the older one has in his hand..."
Guided by the two old men - Mojun Nakamura the mayor and Shosei Kina the
schoolmaster -- we cautiously toured the compound. We'd seen other
Okinawan villages uniformly down-at-the-heels and despairing; by contrast this
one shone like a diamond in a dung heap. Everywhere we were greeted by
smiles and dignified bows. Proudly the two old men showed us their
spotless homes their terraced fields, fertile and neat, their storehouses and
granaries, and their prized sugar mill.
Gravely the old men talked on and the interpreter said "They've met only
one American before long ago. Because he was a Christian they assume we are too
- though they can't quite understand why we came in shooting."
Piecemeal the incredible story came out.
Thirty years before an American missionary on his way to Japan had paused at
Shimabuku. He'd stayed only long enough to make a pair of converts teach
them a couple of hymns leave them a Japanese translation of the Bible and exhort
them to live by it. They'd had no contact with any Christian since.
Yet during those 30 years guided by the Bible they had managed to create a
Christian democracy (Community) at its purest. How had it happened?
Picking their way through the Bible the two converts had found not only an
inspiring "Person" on whom to pattern a life but sound precepts on which to base
their society. They'd adopted the Ten Commandments as Shimabuku's legal
code; the Sermon on the Mount as their guide to social conduct. In
Kina's school the Bible was the chief literature; it was read daily by all
students and major passages were memorized. In Nakamura's village government the
precepts of the Bible were law. Nurtured on this Book a whole generation
of Shimabukans had drawn from it their ideas of human dignity and of the rights
and responsibilities of citizenship. The result was plain to see. Shimabuku for
years had had no jail, no brothel, no drunkenness, no divorce; there was a high
level of health and happiness.
Next day the tide of battle swept us on. But a few days later during a lull I
requisitioned a jeep and a Japanese-speaking driver and went back to Shimabuku.
Over the winding roads outside the village huge truck convoys and endless lines
of American troops moved dustily; behind them lumbered armored tanks heavy
artillery. But inside Shimabuku was an oasis of serenity.
Once again I strolled through the quiet village streets soaking up Shimabuku's
calm. There was a sound of singing. We followed it and came to Nakamura's
house where a curious religious service was under way.
Having no knowledge of churchly forms or ritual the Shimabukans had developed
their own. There was much Bible reading by Kina repeated in singsong fashion by
the worshipers. Then came hymn singing. The tunes of the two hymns the
missionary had taught -- "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "All Hail The Power of Jesus'
Name" -- had naturally suffered some changes but they were recognizable.
Swept up in the spirit of "All Hail the Power" we joined in. After many
prayers voiced spontaneously by people in the crowd there was a discussion of
community problems. With each question Kina turned quickly to some Bible
passage to find the answer. The book's imitation-leather cover was cracked
and worn its pages stained and dog-eared from 30 years' constant use. Kina
held it with the reverent care one would use in handling the original
The service over we waited as the crowd moved out and my driver whispered
hoarsely, "So this is what comes out of only a Bible and a couple of old guys
who wanted to live like Jesus!' Then with a glance at a shell-hole he
murmured "Maybe we're using the wrong kind of weapons."
Time had dimmed the Shimabukans' memory of the missionary; neither Kina nor
Nakamura could recall his name. They did remember his parting statement.
As expressed by Nakamura it was: "Study this Book well. It will give you strong
faith. And when faith is strong everything is strong."