Ryugo Fujita was the owner of the Japanese salvage company employed to clear the wrecks of Allied ships from Darwin Harbour in 1959.
His story is an uplifting story of reconciliation.
Seventeen years earlier on 19 February 1942, the Japanese Imperial Force sent eight ships including the destroyer USS Peary and the US Army Transport Meigs to the bottom of Darwin Harbour.
At least 243 people lost their lives and many more were wounded.
That deadly air raid remains the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia, and in the late 1950s anti-Japanese sentiment was still high.
However Mr Fujita won over the people of Darwin with his humility and generosity, and at the opening of Darwin Memorial Church in 1960 he gave a gift of 77 bronze crosses, built from one of the ships he salvaged.
When Mr Fujita passed away a propeller blade from the Meigs was fashioned into his headstone.
(For a longer explanation of the relationship between the Fujitas and Darwin Memorial Church read this article on the Northern Synod’s website.)
Last Sunday in Darwin, the Fujita family gifted that propeller/headstone to Darwin Memorial Uniting Church.
I was humbled to join Ryugo Fujita’s son Senichiro and members of his family in the pews that are still adorned by his fathers’ crosses.
It was inspiring to see again the prophetic work of a great peacemaker enduring through generations.
I give thanks to God for Ryugo Fujita and his family.
His story is a timely reminder in this season of rebirth of the eternal nature of the peace Jesus left with us.
And let us continue to pray and work together in these nervous times we live in, for the peace foreseen by Isaiah when men beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks; and, in our times. their battleships into crosses.