Somewhere In God’s World

 

Recently we celebrated Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a time when we honor those who have served our country in the Armed Forces. My Uncle Joe Winn is someone our family honors and respects greatly for his service to our country, his selfless life as a family man, and for the legacy he has left us in his children and grandchildren. Joe D. Winn made an impression on all of us in our family but I wanted to tell you about a time in 1945 when the events of Joe’s life impacted one little girl who was only 4 years old. You see after completing flight school in the Army Air Force, Second Lieutenant Joseph Daniel Winn was assigned to the island of Iwo Jima as a bomber escort flying the famed North American P-51D. On 28 July 1945 Joe was shot down during a strafing run over an airfield on the Japanese mainland. He was taken prisoner and (as were all allied flyers) classified by the Japanese as a war criminal.  One evening my Aunt Beth could hear her parents and grandmother talking about Joe. She was only 4 at the time but she recounts the story in this way. Joe Winn

 “Mama, where’s Joe?” No answer. “I heard you say Joe’s gone to ‘War’. Mama, where’s ‘War’?” “Honey, there are some things children shouldn’t hear. Please don’t ask any more questions.” Later, I heard Mama and Daddy talking about Joe again. They used words like “Japan” and “missing” and that enormous word, “War.” Mama was crying.  Young as I was, I knew where to get an answer. “Grandma, please tell me, where’s Joe?” Grandmother put her arms around me and held tight, so I wouldn’t see her tears, but I knew. “We don’t know exactly,” she said, “but wherever Joe is, that place is somewhere in God’s world.” Fear slipped away, just like that, as Grandmother’s words drew a picture in my mind: a circle of light surrounding and shrinking the dark place called “War.” Then Grandmother said, “Let’s say a prayer for Joe.” 

Being sent to Omori civilian prison in Tokyo, Joe and the rest of the boys in his cell block endured conditions too horrible to mention. One ray of hope came from their guard who had gone to school in the USA. As Japan’s surrender grew near the guards could be heard going from block to block executing the Allied P.O.W.s. Joe’s sympathetic guard locked the large steel door to their cell block and slid the only key under the door with instructions not to open it for any reason. Moments later Joe and his comrades heard the other prison guards shoot their friend who had just saved all of their lives. Joe made it home after the war, raised a wonderful family, and lived the rest of his life in peace. He is one of our family’s greatest heroes, though I doubt he ever thought of himself as such. 

So this Christmas if you find yourself unsure of where a loved one may be or if there is some reason you and a loved one are apart remember: Jesus is the Light of the Cosmos! (Jn.8:12) Jesus called his Father the Lord of Heaven and Earth. And Jesus himself declares that we are in him and he is in us. (Jn 14:20) This is indeed Triune God’s world and whether we know exactly where someone is at any given time, whether we worry about loved ones serving in the military, a son or daughter that we have not heard from in a while, whether we are estranged from family because of brokenness or divisions we must remember that where ever that person is they are in Jesus and in God’s world. It is no small comfort to know that we are all in Jesus and we are all ultimately safe as long as Jesus is safe. Just ask my Aunt Beth.

~Bill Winn

2 comments so far

  1. Nan Kuhlman on

    Bill,

    I love how you tell this story. I read the book “Unbroken” about Louis Zamperini and his survival during WWII, and I remember author Lauren Hillebrand mentioning the Omori POW camp and detailing the atrocities those POWs endured. Remembering that the light of Jesus encompasses our loved ones, near or far, is a great comfort to all.

  2. Jeannine on

    What amazing insight, wisdom and truth passed on by a grandmother – love it.


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