Robert Gilmour LeTourneau Moves Men and Mountains

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau was born in Richford, Vermont, USA, on November 30, 1888, into a deeply religious Plymouth Brethren family. His two sisters became missionaries to China.

Not a preacher, not a reformer, not a gospel singer, not a hymn-writer, but a businessman who learned to give Christ first place in his industrial life. Remember that the Lord does not call every believer to stand behind a pulpit, or sing like a nightingale!

Robert was the fourth of eight children, ran away from home at the age of 13, and gave up school at 14 in favour of working in an iron foundry! He continued his education by correspondence. In his late teens he was living in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake. He made money selling pictures of the earthquake and during the rebuilding he was introduced to the welding torch, which became his favourite tool.

Godly parents, Caleb and Elizabeth LeTourneau, were praying for this rebellious son, and at 17 he made a commitment to Christ. By the time he was 28 he was working as a mechanic – and had eloped with his 16 year-old bride.

Robert and wife, Evelyn, became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Matthew 6:33 – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you” became his life motto.

In 1909, at age twenty-one, LeTourneau moved to Stockton, California, and began a dirt-moving business. There he built his own scrapers, exploiting the welding skills he had previously learned. At that time scrapers were pulled behind Caterpillar tractors.

LeTourneau had borrowed $4,500 to start his business and he put himself into it with zeal and willingness to innovate.

A significant change came in 1931 when he “made a deal with God”. That year he had lost $32,000. He felt challenged to make God a major partner in his business so he transferred 90% of the shares into a charitable trust and declared “God owns my business”.

The next year he switched to making scrapers, bulldozers, cranes, etc. His 1932 net income was a positive $52,000. He built the first all-welded scraper with electric motors to adjust the blade, and he invented the bulldozer blade that attached to the front of a caterpillar tractor. In 1932 he used rubber tires instead of steel wheels for the first time on heavy equipment when a customer complained that the steel wheels sank in the sand.

In 1937 LeTourneau came up with the idea of a self-propelled scraper, rather than one that is pulled. When Caterpillar refused to make the components he needed, Le Tourneau built it himself. This put him in direct competition to Caterpillar. Development of the self-propelled, scraper-earthmover in the late 1930s placed R. G. LeTourneau Inc. in the forefront of the earth-moving and heavy equipment industry just as World War II was beginning. “Seventy percent of earth moving machinery used by the Allies in World War II was supplied by his company!”

LeTourneau brought dozens of innovations to the industry he helped to create … and millions of dollars have been channelled into evangelical Christian work as a result.

He once said, “If you’re not serving the Lord, it proves you don’t love Him: if you don’t love Him, it proves you don’t know Him. Because to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to serve Him.”

He was known as “God’s Businessman” because 90 percent of his company stock was given to the LeTourneau Foundation, which sponsored Christian missions in South America and Africa and financed educational projects. He pioneered industrial chaplaincy for his employees and travelled each weekend to tell large audiences how to apply Christian principles in everyday life. Thus be became a mover of both men and mountains.

Robert G. LeTourneau died in Longview on 1 June, 1969.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Jacob DeShazer Bombs Japan then Evangelises Japan

Jacob Daniel DeShazer was born in West Stayton, Oregon on November 15 in 1912, not long before World War One. He was to become a famous name in the next World War.

The son of a Free Methodist preacher, Jacob was raised in church but strayed from the faith in his high school years. In 1940 he enlisted in the US air force and trained as a bombardier.

April 18, 1942 DeShazer flew as a bombardier on a B-25 bomber with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s “Doolittle Raiders”, in the first air attack on Japan in World War II.

On the way back from that raid the B-25, on which he was bombardier, ran out of fuel and was one of two planes that did not make it home. The crew bailed out over enemy occupied territory, and were taken prisoners.

As DeShazer was parachuting from his plane his mother woke with a sense of falling and prayed earnestly, not knowing anything of the raid, or of her son’s danger. When she felt at peace, she went back to sleep. Meanwhile, as the young airman plunged toward the ground, DeShazer thought it would be “dishonest” to pray. So he didn’t. He had not kept up a walk with God and didn’t think he had the right to call on God’s help.

Regarded as “war criminals”, rather than POW’s, the men were harshly treated and beaten. Three of DeShazer’s buddies were shot before a firing squad. Of DeShazer’s 40 months as a prisoner, he spent 36 in solitary confinement. Another member of crew starved to death, but not before witnessing to DeShazer.

In May, 1944, after two years’ imprisonment, some small concessions were given to the men and so DeShazer asked a guard for a Bible. He devoured the Bible, reading it through multiple times and searching out the fulfilment of every prophecy that he found. He was determined to find out it the Bible was what it was claimed to be.

He not only found the Bible to be all he hoped it could be, but he also found salvation through Christ, reading Romans 10:9 on 8 June, 1944. Then, as he made his solitary journey into faith, based only on the Word of God, he was challenged to live out Christ’s teachings, starting with the command to “love your enemies”. He began being friendly to the cruellest guard. Within days the man’s attitude toward him changed.

Tutored only by the Word and the Spirit, harvesting the godly training of his childhood, DeShazer grew in faith and accepted God’s call to reach out to the Japanese. He recalls, “When I was a prisoner, I was afraid I was going to die and I told God ‘I don’t want to go up there with empty hands; I want to do something for Jesus.”

On 20 August, 1945, the war ended. Before long, DeShazer was re-united with his family and then, at the age of 34, he entered Seattle Pacific (Bible) College to train for missionary service. And the field? Japan.

DeShazer married Florence, a fellow Bible College student, and headed to Japan for 30 years of effective ministry. Before arriving in Japan DeShazer wrote a tract titled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”, which told his story. It was translated into Japanese and widely distributed.

General MacArthur had told the Japanese that they ought to be Christians. This opened the door for Christian preaching. When the Japanese Emperor told the Japanese that he was not divine, in 1946, this lead to tremendous instability in many Japanese lives (and suicide as well), which, compounded by their defeat, gave great opportunity for the gospel. It is estimated there were 30,000 conversions during DeShazer’s first year in Japan.

The most notary convert to come from DeShazer’s testimony was Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941. After reading “I Was a Prisoner of Japan” Fuchida studied the Bible, became a Christian and spent the rest of his life as a missionary.

The 1972 edition of DeShazer’s biography contains a photo of DeShazer and his wife, just before their third furlough. “I love these beautiful Japanese people so much” he is quoted as saying. “They all look beautiful to me. They need Jesus.”

DeShazer passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 15, 2008, at the age of 95.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Sir William Dobbie Glorifies God Defending Malta

Lieut. General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie, GCMG, KCB, DSO, was converted on November 1, 1893.

“It was the first Sunday in November, 1893”, he writes, “when I was spending a half term holiday at Blackheath (England). I realized for the first time, although I had often heard it before, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had come to this earth for the express purpose of laying down His life as the atonement for my sin, in order to deliver me from its penalty and power, so that I might go free! I then and there accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, on the grounds that by His death He had settled my debt once for all…”

Dobbie was born in Madras, India on July 12, 1879. When he was only nine months old he was left in England to receive a proper education, which he achieved with success being a top-ranking classical scholar and a keen student of ancient military campaigns. He went on to graduate from the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.

He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers at the age of 20 and then served with distinction in the South African Boer War, winning the rare honour of the Queen’s Medal with five clasps, indicating further awards.

In 1904 he married Sybil Orde-Browne and in time that union provided them one daughter and two sons.

In World War I Dobbie not only won the D.S.O. but has the unique honour to have been the officer who issued the order to the British armies to “Cease Fire on Armistice Day, November 11th, 1918.

In 1940 Dobbie was called out of retirement to take on the role of Governor of Malta, which role called heavily on his military skills and his faith in God during World War II.

In his book, A Very Present Help, Dobbie gives gratitude to God for the deliverance He wrought during those incredibly dark days (1940-1942). In 1945 he toured the USA speaking to large audiences about the battle for Malta and always giving high praise to God.

His second order to the people and forces on the tiny island of Malta said, “I call upon all officers and other ranks humbly to seek God’s help, and then in reliance upon Him to do their duty unflinchingly.”

Dobbie was not alone in his strong faith in God. He received a telegram form the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Edmund Ironside, as the siege of Malta began and the wording was: “Personal from the C.I.G.S., Deuteronomy Chapter Three, Verse Twenty-Two”. Dobbie looked up the verse in his Bible and found: “Ye shall not fear them; for the Lord your God, He shall fight for you”.

Malta endured more than 2,300 air raids and was so vulnerable that its ability to remain in British hands is truly amazing.

Dobbie summarised it: “The whole thing is a miracle–a long drawn out miracle. The siege lasted for two and a half years, and the odds against us, especially in the early days, were enormous. In the latter days the dangers were equally great but of a different kind. Our food supplies very nearly ran out and it was desperately difficult to get the food through the Mediterranean to Malta, but we just got enough through to enable Malta to turn the corner.”

Dobbie received many honours during World War II, including from the French and Belgiums. However his eldest son, a Major in the Royal Engineers, was killed in Italy in the latter stages of the war.

Lieut. General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie died in 1964.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.