A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dave's Deep Thoughts - "Sarah's Story: A Faith Not Confined by an Internment Camp"

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Her name is Sarah.
She is the mother of one of my best friends.

When I went to school on the west coast.
she became a second mom to me. 

For three years, her home became my home
as we shared holidays, family dinners, and special events.

I had the chance to visit Sarah and her family last summer 
for the first time in many years.

When I stepped into her home,
it was like I had never left.
Friendships deeply rooted in faith,
don’t seem to be affected by time and distance.

Greetings and hugs soon merged
into conversation & laughter around the dinner table.
We reclined there for hours,
sharing memories, stories, and the events of our lives.

Late into the evening, Sarah mentioned being taken away during her childhood.
I asked her what that meant.
This is what she told me………

She was six years old when the vehicle pulled into her family’s driveway.
The family was told that they had one hour to each pack a suitcase.

Sarah’s parents were of Japanese descent.
Her grandparents had immigrated to the US years ago.
Both Sarah and her parents spoke fluent English.
Sarah had never learned Japanese.

Months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
the President ordered that
people of Japanese ancestry living on the west coast were to be deported to internment camps.
While a six year old would have no comprehension of what that meant.
all she knew was that she wanted to take her red bicycle with her.
Her last memory of that home was seeing the bicycle lying in the driveway.
as the van took them into the unknown.

They were taken initially to a local race track
where for nine months they lodged in the horse stalls.
The following spring, they were moved to the deserts of Arizona
where internment camps had been built.

For four years, Sarah lived in the internment camp with hundreds of other Japanese-Americans.
Most of the time, except for meals, she was kept separated from her parents.
Like the others, she was forced to shower and use the facilities in non-private settings.

She remembered an elderly man one  day who wandered toward the exterior fencing.
The guards shouted for him to return.
He didn’t, so they shot him.
She later found out that the man didn’t speak English.

Teachers were brought in to teach the children.
Repeatedly, she would be asked what she was.
She would always say, “I am American.”
That answer was never received.

Once a week, pastors were brought in for religious services.
She would often be asked what religion she was.
She would always answer, “I am a Christian.”
She would be told that she wasn’t a ‘real Christian”
and that she would never go to heaven.

It’s one thing for a government to betray a child.
It’s quite another for a church to follow suit.

When she was ten, Sarah and her family were released from the camp 
and returned to Los Angeles to resume their lives.
Sarah grew up and became a  lawyer.
More importantly, she grew up to be one of the kindest, most loving persons that I have ever known.
Her faith in Christ is a deep well that has touched many, including me.

It would be easy to simply condemn and judge the government and the church.
But if we are honest, we must admit that we too, judge far too often, on outer appearances.
We might not be guilty of incarcerating them in physical camps,
but we incarcerate them in our minds.

The prophet Samuel was no different than us.
The Lord sent Samuel to reveal to him the new King of Israel.
Samuel went to Jesse of Bethlehem as directed.
Seven of Jesse’s sons passed before Samuel.
7 strong big men. 
Samuel’s human thinking said,
“Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.”  (1 Samuel 16:6b)

But none of them were God’s chosen.

It was the eight son, 
small of stature David, that the Lord chose to be the new King.

And God’s response to Samuel’s thinking……
for God sees not as man sees,
for man looks at  the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (I Samuel 16:7b)

On her 80th birthday
her family took Sarah back to the internment camp for the first time since her childhood.
Most of the buildings were gone.
Mostly monuments and plaques remained to remind  
of what can happen when we judge on outer appearances.

She could have been bitter.
She could have been angry.
But she returned with joy.

For she has lived a life, eighty years fold, 
knowing a God that has never betrayed her,
a God that has blessed her with three beautiful children,
and a life where she has blessed so many others,
no matter their outer appearance.

And this was her song as she once again looked off to the mountains of Arizona…..

“I will lift my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel, will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and coming in,
from this time forth and forever.”
                                             Psalm 121

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