I have recently returned from holding an evangelistic Crusade in El Paso, Texas, and as I write, I am preparing for a Crusade in Sapporo, Japan. Sapporo is in the most northern part of the country, a city where the 1972 Winter Olympics were held. Not long after those Olympics, a surprising news report captivated Japan and the world when the last World War II Japanese soldier finally surrendered—30 years after the war.
Hiroo Onoda’s fascinating story came back into the headlines this January when he died at age 91 in a Tokyo hospital. As an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army, he had been stationed on the island of Lubang in the Philippines and given strict orders to stay there and carry out reconnaissance and guerrilla warfare. Lieutenant Onoda was directed not to leave the island or to surrender. His commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, ordered: “You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.” He was told to carry out his duties until his commanding officer returned.
In the confusion that followed defeat, the Japanese army lost track of Onoda. For 30 years, this dedicated soldier evaded capture and continued to fight a war he didn’t know had ended. He didn’t compromise. He followed his orders without interruption until he was found in the jungle and his commanding officer, long since retired, returned in person to the island to relieve him of his orders.
This one-time enemy soldier’s devotion to duty spoke to me about the commitment we are to have as followers of Christ. We too have been given orders. Our orders are from the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16, NKJV). He is clear about them in His Word, and we are not to compromise. I’ve been shocked in recent months to hear about organizations who say they accept the authority of God’s Word but support same-sex marriage. I’ve heard of a Christian publisher planning to print a book that says actively practicing homosexuals can continue in their lifestyle and live as Christians. Not only is this compromising, it is heresy. What God calls sin is sin—we cannot call it something else. The penalty for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 6:23). It is through the cross that God, in His love, provides forgiveness for those who repent. This is the Good News we must proclaim.
The last order our Lord gave us before returning to Heaven was to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth—“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20). He will return one day soon, and will He find us faithful? Will He find us carrying out what He has asked us to do? Will He find us using our energy, our time, and our resources to share the Gospel message with a lost and hurting world that He loved enough to die for?
In April I led a Crusade in El Paso, Texas, and we saw God work in amazing ways. El Paso is one of the 25 largest cities in our country. It sits on the border with Juarez, Mexico, and as a result it is a bilingual city. I preached through an interpreter so the message was given in English and Spanish.
The meetings were scheduled a year ago, and a contract was signed for us to use the Don Haskins Center, the basketball arena on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Everything was set to go, but in the week leading up to the Crusade, the UTEP women’s basketball team, known as the Lady Miners, surprised and delighted the city by reaching the finals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
The championship game was scheduled on the same day our Crusade was to open. Big problem—the ladies were going to have to move the game to another stadium, most likely out of state. When I heard this, I promptly offered to move our event to an outdoor ball field nearby so that the women’s basketball team could have their court. Though the last-minute switch required a lot of extra effort and expense, God used it for good. My wife, Jane, and my son Will joined me in going to the game and cheering the team on that afternoon, and I was given the opportunity to speak to the packed crowd at halftime.
Afterward, many who were at the game came over to the field and settled on the grass in the late afternoon to hear the music and Gospel message. Hundreds responded by giving their lives to Jesus Christ in repentance and newfound faith. We were back in the arena for Sunday’s event, and hundreds more responded. We give God the glory and the thanks for working in this mighty way.
182 Countries at the same time
The El Paso Crusade literally reached around the world. On Sunday afternoon it was live streamed on the Internet through our global SearchforJesus.net ministry, and people from 182 countries and territories logged on with their computers, tablets, and even smartphones to watch and listen to the music and message. Hundreds of them—some from places in the world where we could never go in person and preach the Gospel—contacted us to say they had made a decision for Christ. We provided online follow-up for those with more questions, offered discipleship resources for new believers, and encouraged those who responded to find, where possible, a local body of believers for fellowship and spiritual growth. We thank God for this incredible opportunity.
Pray for those who respond to Christ at the Crusade in Sapporo, Japan, on the weekend of May 9–11. Less than 2 percent of Japan’s people are followers of Jesus Christ. That same weekend, my son Will is leading an evangelistic event in Broken Hill, Australia. The area around Broken Hill, in New South Wales, has few churches or active believers, and people there who give their hearts and lives to the Savior will need our prayers.
Continue to pray for the churches and believers in Ukraine—people there and throughout the surrounding region are living through a time of great uncertainty. In June, I will travel to the area to lead Crusades in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Warsaw, Poland. We can do this work only because friends like you support it by your prayers and gifts. Thank you for all you do and your heart for the Gospel.
When the Lord Jesus left orders for us to carry out until His return, He also set a personal example of faithful obedience and explained its deepest motivation—love. He said, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31, ESV). And He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
May God bless you,