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  • Writer's pictureBurton W. Cole

The Reverend Spy combines faith, danger and intrigue

I love spy stories. The danger, the intrigue, the fate of the world hanging in the balance…

In this case, it was real.

The Reverend Spy is the true story of a young man from Tennessee who foils sabotage plots and recovers stolen secrets while traveling the eastern United States in the best disguise ever—as himself, a preacher.

The date is Dec. 8, 1941. The day before, Japanese planes dropped bombs on U.S. warships in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, an attack that propelled the United States into World War II.

Like thousands of other American men, the Rev. Dan Phillips volunteers for the Army. He is rejected. Why? Hadn’t he spent the night in prayer? Hadn’t God called him to service?

Then a mysterious man whispers to him on the sidewalk. Quickly, a secret meeting is set. A man from The Agency has a different assignment for Dan—as a spy.

Federal operatives had been looking for a trustworthy person with a strong sense of patriotism who could travel the country without arousing suspicion to ferret out enemy agents. A pastor who could change churches often and preach special services anywhere he was needed fit the bill.

That’s how Dan Phillips would soon find himself facing down an enemy agent intent on killing him in the restroom of a bus terminal in Buffalo, N.Y.

That’s how he would end up renting a room in his own house to two spies bent on stealing the secrets of a war-changing bomb being built in an Army explosives plant in Kingsport, Tenn. (only identified in the book as K).

That’s how he would land in a tavern undercover eavesdropping on men plotting to land enemy agents on the Atlantic coast by submarine.

It’s also how Dan Phillips, the Reverend Spy—code name Agent Twenty-One-Plus—would expose U.S. citizens, federal officials and even other pastors working against America during the war.

I first read The Reverend Spy as a teen shortly after it was published in 1972. The cover proclaims it is A true story from the Second World War as told to David P. Denton.

However, evidence exists that Denton WAS the Reverend Spy, and that he was writing about just a few of his own adventures.

Denton, now deceased, never admitted to being “Dan Phillips.” But he was full of patriotism and faith. It’s his—or the Reverend Spy’s—reliance on God that sets the tone for these exciting dramas of courage.

Perhaps the Reverend Spy’s greatest mission was inspiring other agents to turn to Christ, not by preaching alone, but by the example he set in serving and saving his country against all dangers and odds, and leaving all credit to God’s love and protection.

The Reverend Spy, 104 pages in paperback, is difficult to find in bookstores and libraries, but you can track it down online. Originally published by Denton Publications of Concord, Tenn., the ninth edition of this book was published by Bible Missionary Church Bookstore in Rock Island, Ill. I heartily recommend it.

This post originally was published Oct. 25, 2019, on the Storyteller Squad as a Friday Fun Reads review:

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