He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)
Over the years, Thanksgiving has meant many wonderful things to me; traditional gathering together of the family, great food, and praising God for all He has done for us, to name a few.
There is also an all-time favorite song I love to sing at Thanksgiving, titled, We gather together. It is an old traditional Thanksgiving hymn that expresses many great truths about God, including that He never forgets His own. There is a story of another who loved this hymn, perhaps even more than me. I would like to share this story with you, one you might want to read to your family before you sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
This story appeared some time ago in the Congressional Record. A nineteen-year-old G.I. who had been awarded a medal for single-handedly bringing in a large group of Japanese prisoners during World War II tells the following narrative.
“First of all, I want everyone to know that I don’t deserve this medal, for it happened in this way. I was captured by the Japanese with five of my pals. We were marched through the jungle with bayonets at our backs. I saw my friends and fellow soldiers killed and mutilated, one by one. Then I was alone with just one Japanese soldier who had just arrived to transfer me back to their prison camp. During that time, I recited the 23rd Psalm and prayed the Lord’s Prayer repeatedly. While trembling, I also began to whistle an old Thanksgiving hymn, We gather together.
Then suddenly, the Japanese soldier began to join me in my whistling. Soon I felt his gun fall from my back. He walked beside me and said in perfect English, ‘I never cease to wonder at the magnificence of Christian hymns.’ After talking with him for a few minutes, it was revealed that this Japanese soldier learned English in a mission school to which I had donated at Sunday School. The Japanese soldier spoke of war and how the Japanese Christians hated it. We both agreed on the power of Christianity and what would happen if people dared to live it, and then began to talk of our families and our homes. Finally, at the suggestion of this Japanese soldier, we knelt in the mud and prayed for suffering humanity around the world and peace among all men.
When we arose, he asked me to take him back as a prisoner to the American headquarters. He said that it was the only way for him to live his Christian life, along with helping his nation become Christian after the war. During our walk back, he found other Japanese Christians in various fox-holes along the way who joined us. I shall never forget the hope and joy that came into their eyes as my friend unfolded to them, one by one, how we found each other and why and where they were being taken. As we continued our walk, we talked of the Christian religion. Finally, when we neared the camp, by mutual agreement, we put on poker faces and somber looks, and I, with a rifle in hand, marched them into camp.”
“So you see, I don’t deserve a medal for this wonderful experience God created.” (St. Stephen’s Church Bulletin)
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may God guide and protect you the way He did with this young G.I. so many years ago.
The hymn- We Gather Together
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning of the fight, we were winning;
Thou, the Lord, wast at our side; all glory be Thine!