January 2021

Recently my daughter sent me, as a birthday gift, the book, “Fields of Battle” by NY Times best-selling author, Brian Curtis. The book is about the 1942 Rose Bowl which was played in Durham, NC between Oregon State College and Duke University. This was the only Rose Bowl game not played in Pasadena as the game was moved to the east coast over fear following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The book chronicles the events leading up to and following the attack and the impact upon the football players in that year’s Rose Bowl.
One player on the Oregon team was Japanese American, Jack Yoshihara. In the frenzied aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Yoshihara was designated an enemy of the state. He was not allowed to travel with the Oregon team to North Carolina for the Rose Bowl game and, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, was placed in an Idaho Internment Camp for the duration of the war. The chaos of the times made for many unfortunate decisions that impacted innocent lives. After the war Jack went on to receive his degree from Oregon State and run a successful heating and air conditioning business. Like many Japanese that I have met who endured the camps, he was not bitter though he regretted the lost years. In one of the book’s chapters, the Japanese phrase, SHIKATA GA NAI, is introduced. The phrase, writes Curtis, means “It can’t be helped” or “No control over events,” and characterized the outlook of Yoshihara and his countrymen who were placed in internment camps.
As I reflect upon this past year and the unfortunate hardships the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought, that Japanese phrase comes to mind. We have little control over this viral attack. However, we can take responsibility for our response. Rather than fight, we adapt. Rather than be bitter, we can become better. The year 2021 is going to be a year, at least for me, in which I will not complain about bad decisions, or fault find with national and state leaders. But I will work at being patient and encouraging to my family and friends, and above all believe that God will help us win this war. For my part, I will remain positive, patient, and persistent in wearing my mask, washing my hands, and respectfully maintain as much social distancing as possible.
I have known many Japanese who lived through WWII and the camps. To a one, as far as I have known them, they allowed the times to strengthen them and they became some of very best citizens this country has ever known. Grace, faith, and courage are the values that weathered those times and they are the values that will help each of us weather the times of a new year.
“We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Philippians 4:13
Pastor Mike