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Remembering the Missionaries

Book documents stories of personnel detained as prisoners of war in Japanese camps during World War II.

An Assemblies of God pastor has penned a book documenting the experiences of AG missionaries held by the Japanese military in South Pacific prisoner of war camps during World War II.

Darren Micah Lewis, lead pastor of Calvary Christian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, has published Captured By the Rising Sun: Missionary Experiences Under Japanese Occupation, 1941-45.

The heavily referenced concise work provides an overview of the war from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the liberation of internees from camps. The 70th anniversary of the surrender of the Japanese is Saturday.

Japanese occupation had the effect of halting missionary activity for the duration of the war in various Asian nations. A few missionaries fled the region; more became prisoners of war, identifying with the inhabitants of their adopted lands.

Lewis, 37, recounts the common occurrence of captured U.S. missionaries in the Philippines, Japan, and China: lack of adequate food and water; filthy living conditions; illnesses and disease; and an inability to communicate with the outside world. Occasionally some missionaries were subject to incessant questioning, marches from one camp to another, and beatings. Typically they endured hardships with their faith strengthened for further service after the war.

Combining an interest in missions and World War II, Lewis embarked on research while obtaining a master's degree in history from Southwestern Assemblies of God University. He spent a year researching and writing, combing over files from AG World Missions archives.

Lewis, who is an adjunct history professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, says it's important to preserve missionary reports for future generations.

"Their lives stand as a testament of the human will to survive," Lewis writes in the introduction. "Their stories remind us of the hardship they lived through."

In all, Lewis found that 23 AG missionaries had been held in Japanese POW camps during the war.

"A lot of them were sick and dealt with health conditions the rest of their lives, but miraculously none of them passed away during their time in captivity," Lewis says.

According to Lewis, 10 percent of the proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to Assemblies of God World Missions or affiliated ministries. The book is available through a variety of conventional online outlets as well as directly from the publisher.

"The history of our Movement is very important," says Gloria Robinett, AG World Missions research specialist since 1988. "We don't want to forget those who were captured, enduring great sacrifice, in an effort to further the kingdom of God."

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.