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Instruments of Death Become Symbols of Eternal Life

During World War II General Douglas MacArthur wanted an island airfield from which to launch his forces and so he invaded the Indonesian island of Biak. Six months after they secured the island, in June 1944, a chaplain named Leon Maltby arrived on the island to minister to the troops. He had a 20x60 canvas structure to serve as his chapel but nothing in it except for a floor made out of packed coral and a roof made from a yellow parachute. So with the help of some carpenters he built pews, a platform, and an altar.

He wanted to serve communion but had nothing to serve it with. He found some unused 50 caliber bullets. He used new shells because he didn’t want to use any that had been used to kill. He pulled out the lead, gunpowder, and firing caps. He welded them, pressed them into the right shape, and shined them. Each took about two-hours to complete and he made enough for 80 communion cups which he used to serve his men.

In 1945 Chaplain Maltby sailed into Japan and was actually the first Protestant chaplain to enter Japan. He became good friends with a local Japanese pastor and used that same communion set to serve the Lord’s Supper with him, which moved the Japanese pastor deeply. The set is now on display at the Veterans Museum in Daytona Beach where a sign reads, “The pastor clearly understood the significance of ‘Instruments of death becoming a symbol of eternal life.’”

Stephen Dempster, Micah: Two Horizons OT Commentary (Eerdmans, 2017), p. 131.

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