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"Unlikely Hero's : Part 4"

Dear Church, We who love the Lord are those who do what our Lord commands regardless of what others think, regardless of the results. Whatever may come, we will serve the Lord. Chuine Sugihara understood this. A convert to the Russian Orthodox church, Sugihara was hired as deputy foreign minister in Manchuria (northeast China), which was occupied at the time by the Japanese. While there he saw the poor treatment of the Chinese and eventually he resigned in protest. Assigned in March of 1939 to the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas Lithuania, Sugihara and his wife became friends with Polish Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi's. One day Sugihara heard the story of Mr. Rosenblatt whose wife and children died during the Nazi invasion of Poland. The next day he began phoning the Russians asking for visas to allow the Jews to cross the border. As tensions in Europe rose and the Soviets took over Lithuania, the Jewish people were desperate to leave the country. Sugihara wired Japan asking permission to issue transit visas so that the Jews could travel though Japan on their way somewhere else. Each time he asked (three times) he was told not to. The only exception the Japanese government would make was if they had another visa to go to another country. Faced with a tough decision. Sugihara and his wife Yukiko decided to risk his job and reputation to issue the visas. July 31st 1940, Sugihara began writing visas by hand. He did not stop for meals. He ate sandwiches while he wrote. Some estimate he wrote 300 visas per day. Thousands of refugees began arriving at the consulate begging for visas, and Sugihara promised not to abandon them. When he was finally forced to leave Lithuania, Sugihara spent his last night writing visas, he wrote up until the last minutes as the train rolled away from the station. Historian Glenn Sunshine wrote, "No one knows exactly how many visas Sugihara wrote. Not all were used; some people waited until it was too late to leave. Others were for heads of households, so several people would travel under a single visa. The most commonly accepted number is that 6,000-10,000 Jews escaped the Holocaust because of Sugihara's actions. Today somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 people are descendants of the Jews saved by Sugihara." (Excerpt from "32 Christians who changed their world"). Sugihara served Japan at other diplomatic postings during the war until he and his family was captured and imprisoned by the Russians for 18 months. After the war, he was fired. The official reason given was post-war downsizing, but it is not hard to imagine the real reason was his defiance of the governments direct orders. Sugihara lived a rather inconsequential life after the war, providing for his family and making ends meet. But one day, years later, Sugihara was tracked down by the Jewish survivors who had been searching for their 'savior'. For his compassion and bravery the Israeli government named him one of the Righteous among the Nations (the highest honor that can be awarded a foreigner). But until that moment, Sugihara had had no idea if his actions had saved anyone. He had no way of knowing who might have made it out alive. Sugihara did what he did because of his faith in the Lord. He realized obeying God (and saving lives) was more important than obeying the government or having a successful career. His compassion, courage, and willingness to suffer is a remarkable example of faithful obedience to God. Helping others may not cost you your career, but every one of us can show compassion to the needy. Every one of us can resolve in our hearts to obey our Lord out of love for Him who gave Himself to save us, His enemies. Who knows what God has prepared beforehand for you. But I am sure of this, that (like Sugihara and Esther and the many thousands of the saints who have gone before us) God has placed you where you are for such a time as this. Let us be resolved then to serve God today speaking the truth and showing compassion at all times. Grace & Peace, Matt -- Matthew Deneault Pastor at Christ Community Fellowship"Making Christ known in our Community"
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