Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I caught the shine from my POW Dad #Shine

Candie and Shelley
Happy New Year!

I am thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Candie Blankman. I met Candie through our mutual friend, Ken Davis, who just happens to also be Candie's brother. Candie was my small group leader/coach at the SCORRE Conference in Vail, CO this past October. I knew right away that I liked her! You'll be touched, inspired, challenged, and moved by this tender post. And I know you'll want to read the whole story for yourself, so we've teamed up to include a giveaway of Candie's new book to a few fortunate readers! Yay!!  (Details below.)

I Caught the Shine from my POW Dad

      We were poor. We lived 50 miles from nowhere. I was small and a late developer. I had big teeth and board straight hair. I wasn’t much to look at. I was the fourth of five children. It would be another 13 years before the fifth one arrived so I was, for all practical purposes, the runt of the litter.  I think my mom was pretty tired by the time I came around.  We moved when I was 11. It was a small town really—population 8,000—but for me it was a big city. We went from dirt poor to marginally lower middle class somehow. And somehow, in spite of all the circumstantial barriers, I learned to shine.  How did this happen? I caught the shine.

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My father was a survivor. He enlisted in the Army when he was nineteen years old and deployed to the Philippine Islands. Fifteen months later Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States was plunged into WWII. In the Japanese effort to have hegemony over the Pacific they launched a full scale assault on the Philippine Islands.

On April 9, 1942, when my father was just sixteen days past his 21st birthday, he became a prisoner of war.  For the next three and a half years, every moment of every day, my father along with thousands of others fought for their lives. They endured deprivation and brutality beyond description. My father survived the Bataan Death March, two death camps, a prison death ward, a death ship (called Hell Ships), and a death mine.  My father survived all of this. But he more than survived. He thrived. My father was a person of faith whose light shown wherever he went. He lit up faces, he lit up rooms, he lit up lives.

My father, who suffered so much taught me what it means to let your light shine. He was not an educated man but he was an intelligent man and a jack-of-all-trades handyman. He could fix anything. And he used his ability to fix anything, not to make money, but to help others. Family, friends, neighbors, strangers could call on him and he would arrive with a smile on his face and go to work. The light shown through his helpful hands, but my father also used every opportunity to share the good news of God’s love with everyone. A simple verse of scripture, a short prayer, a word of testimony from his own life, somehow, dad would find a way to shine the light.

When we were teenagers and brought friends home we knew two things. First, we knew Dad would make them feel very much at home. He was Mr. Hospitality.  Second,  we knew there was a better than even chance that they would go fishing with dad—in the summer on the pontoon and in the winter in  the ice house. There they were captive audiences. They would get a decent lesson in fishing (though rarely catch any fish) but they would also hear about how very much God loved them. Dad let his light shine no matter the season.
At work he was mocked for his testimony and resented for his hard work ethic. Some co-workers would spread their arms out wide making a cross when they passed my father. They did it in derision. My father saw it as a compliment. And they would complain that he made them look bad because he found things to do while monitoring the dials for heating and cooling instead of just sitting all day.

One of the times I witnessed my father’s light shine most brightly was when I was about twelve years old. He brought a young Japanese couple home for dinner. Tommy and Joyce Tanamori shared a meal with us. Then my father and Tommy sat in our living room and shared their mutual faith in Christ and prayed together. At the time I did not realize what a bright light this was. It would be almost 20 years later when I would learn about what my father suffered at the hands of the Japanese. Yet, he extended hospitality and love to this Japanese couple. I learned to let my light shine from the best.

My father was diagnosed with Alzhiemers disease in 1999. It progressed rapidly. In 2001 Dad and Mom visited us. We were living in Chicago at the time. Dad and I worked on a project together refinishing an old trunk but in the middle of our work he forgot who I was. It was painful.  He also was no longer able to judge his surroundings well.  This fact became clear when  we took him to see the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism on the Wheat College Campus.  As we were coming out after touring the center, we realized Dad was not with us.  We turned around to go back and find him and as we did he was coming out of the building with the biggest grin on his face.  He commenced to tell us that he had just witnessed to the two women at the front reception desk.  .  . of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism! His mind was not fully engaged but his light was still shining very brightly!

In deed as well as word the light of Christ shined even through the pain and suffering he experienced. I was an average little girl who grew up poor and plain. But, as a result of my father’s example I learned to let my light shine, too.  

In 2010 I traveled to the Philippine Islands and Japan to retrace my father’s footsteps as a prisoner of war. I began painting, drawing and writing about this experience. Through this journey I expected to learn much about my father’s life. What I did not expect was to learn so much about myself. The light of Christ shining through him left a huge imprint on me. The person and pastor that I am today was significantly shaped by what he experienced and how he lived out his faith.  Forged By War: A daughter shaped by a WWII POW Story is a testament to this light.

Candie has shared some really powerful, yet tender, stories about her amazing father. What part of her story most resonated with your heart and why?

Candie's father allowed the light of Christ to shine with him in the good times and in the times that were so horrible, most of us could not imagine. His story reveals that he allowed the light of Christ to have its way in his life. How can you, taking this example, allow Jesus more freedom to allow His light to shine through you in your present circumstances?

Candie Blankman: Born and raised in Minnesota now gratefully settled in Southern California. Wife, mom, restaurant manager, public school teacher, bible teacher, speaker, now pastor and beginning writer and painter. Candie has been married 35 years and together, she and her husband have three great children. She is also a Presbyterian Pastor in Downey, CA.                                                                                                                   In her own words, "I am pastor/head of staff for a wonderful multicultural congregation in Downey. I was a pastor in Chicago for seven years before that. I love helping people and assisting them in connecting with their Creator."       
Don't miss Candie's book: 
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Forged by War: A Daughter Shaped by a WWII POW Story

Author Candie Blankman is offering the FIRST 10 readers who share this post a free, autographed copy of her book!! **UPDATE** ALL 10 FREEBIES HAVE BEEN AWARDED! Thank you for posting the link!**

You can still purchase your copy at a great price on Amazon and Kindle!

Thank you for spreading the word about our "SHINE" Series by posting the links to your blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, Google+, etc. 

* Also available for Kindle readers here

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