How People Can See God!


August, 2003

Dear Ministry Partner,

Could a Christian missionary to the American Navajo Indians be responsible for rescuing our nation from defeat in World War Two? Philip Johnston's parents dedicated their lives in missionary service to the Navajo Indians. The Johnstons built the Navajos houses to live in and provided them with food, medicine, and other care in addition to ministering to them spiritually. Their son, Philip, was raised on the reservation. Philip was fluent enough in the Navajo language to be a Navajo translator in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt by the time he was 9 years old when his father, W.R. Johnston, took two Indians with him to Washington D.C. to get more help for the Navajos. Philip lived on the reservation for over 22 years, and was one of only 28 non-Navajos (mostly missionaries) able to speak the Navajo language during the WWII years.

At the onset of WWII, both the Japanese and the Germans were able to quickly break the American military coded communications. As a result, the enemy was waiting for the American troops wherever they went, and even worse, the enemy would sometimes intercept and alter the transmissions to confuse or lure the Americans to great harm. This was a tightly held secret for fear of demoralizing the troops. And it was a grave threat to the outcome of the war.

Philip had served in WWI, and knew the need for fast, securely coded communications. Philip knew the Navajo language was perfect for the task, since the Navajos had no written language and the dialect was very difficult for foreigners. In the fall of 1942, Philip took several Navajos with him and demonstrated how the Navajos could "talk code". The Marine Corp was impressed, and agreed to try it with 30 recruits. But the real challenge was how to get the Navajos to want to help the U.S. government. It had only been 78 years since the "Long March" at gun point to their current reservation, and many Navajos had starved to death depending on the government to meet their needs. In addition, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had just removed the sheep from the Navajo reservation (because of environmental concerns of over-grazing and erosion) even though the Navajos relied on sheep herds for sustenance. The Navajos had been mistreated continually by the U.S. government, encouraged to abandon their native language, and were not even allowed to vote in the 1940's. Now they were being asked to not only serve in the U.S. military overseas, but even give their lives if they were captured. What could make them agree to this?

The Christian character of Philip Johnston was the answer. What they might not do for the U.S. government, they would do for Philip Johnston — a man who had demonstrated through his life and family true Christian character: appreciation, caring, commitment, compassion, courage, dependability, friendship, honesty, humility, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, respect, service, and trust. With Philip Johnston inducted into the Marine Corps as the first Navajo recruiter and instructor, 29 Navajo men began their training and service. Within a short time, about 400 or more Navajos were "code talkers" in both the Pacific and European theaters of the war.

This was a major reason for the change in direction of the war. In the Pacific, Navajo code talkers were secretly instrumental in major battles such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. On Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division Signal officer, declared, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima." Major Connor had six Navajo Code Talkers who worked around the clock during the first two days of the battle sending and receiving over 800 messages — all without error. The code talkers on the island did things like radio the coordinates for artillery strikes from Navy ships offshore against Japanese positions that were slaughtering the Marines trying to get off the beaches (23,000 casualties). The Japanese couldn't stop these messages. A captured Japanese officer declared the Japanese code breakers on the island had broken all the other codes — but not the Marines! The Japanese Chief of Intelligence, Lieutenant General Seizo Arisue, said they were able to break the Army and Air Force codes, but not the "Marines" (the Navajos). I understand that Hollywood (usually inaccurate) made a movie about the Navajo code talkers, and while I have not seen it, I would be surprised if it brought out the key role a Christian missionary played in saving our nation.

Everyone wants to see God. Most people's lives would be radically changed if they could see God. Many would willingly serve and even risk their lives for God if they had seen Him. Philip Johnston proved people can see God — by Philip's demonstration of God's character attributes through a human vessel. Philip Johnston and his family demonstrated the reality and nature of God by their selfless Christian ministry. God only knows that it may have taken two generations of Johnstons demonstrating God's character to win the trust of the Navajos — and just in time for the survival of the United States, too. The Navajos saw forgiveness in the lives of the Johnstons, and therefore were able to forgive the wrongs done to them by the U.S. government.

Concerning "seeing" God, Hebrews 1:2-3 says that Jesus was "the express image of His person." The NAS translation says Jesus was "the exact representation of His nature." Along these lines, Colossians 1:15 says Jesus "is the image of the invisible God." And 2nd Corinthians 4:4 says Christ "is the image of God". In John 14:9, Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." This is obviously not referring to His height, weight, eyes, and nose. What is meant by these scriptures is people had seen the nature of the Father — the character of God, when they saw how Jesus lived and acted. It is important to note that Jesus performed no miracles for His first 30 years — He just demonstrated what God was like each and every day. It is solid Christian character that sways the masses toward God. I am all for miracles and supernatural ministry, but if such a miracle-working minister has a major moral failure — the masses no longer are able to receive ministry from such a person. And the New Testament even teaches that such a minister is disqualified from public ministry leadership (1st Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-11). Certainly God can forgive, and He can use people in marvelous ways, but usually many years of living right needs to be demonstrated before a fallen minister can resume position. Public ministry leadership is scrutinized by the unbelieving masses who do not understand forgiveness and restoration.

There is a historic, classic difference between "image management" (what many politicians do) and "authentic Christian character". Even some ministers and priests have engaged in image management for the hour or two they are in the pulpit. It is easy to show your best side for two hours. The harder part is the other 166 hours in every week. When the Johnstons lived with the Navajos for decades, the Navajos knew their character thoroughly. They had "seen" Jesus. And it changed their lives. While I am an advocate of supernatural ministry, let me point out that the Johnstons were Presbyterians and probably never worked a miracle or healing in all those decades among the Navajos. They probably could have had an even greater effect on that reservation if supernatural ministry had been added, but the power of just their Christian character was enough to win the battle for their souls.

We need to keep striving to develop and manifest the character of God to those around us. If people really get to know us, they should be able to say, "He is a man of God" or "She is a woman of God." No human is perfect, but our overall Christian character should easily overshadow our various faults. And focusing on Christian character does not mean abandoning the gifts of the Spirit and Charismatic ministry, but Christian character will make the positive effects of Charismatic ministry much more permanent. Charismatic ministry's greatest criticism has been the lack of character in some who have performed supernatural results for a time. Of course, Charismatic history is littered with names of men and women who did remarkable ministry for a time, but moral failure removed their influence and demand in the society in which they lived. Keep remembering Galatians 6:9-10, "Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."

Endeavoring to live the Word,

Dale & Judi Leander


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