Sisters in the Faith

Last week I told you about a girl that got ‘adopted’ by missionary Dorothy Carver.  Her name was Akiko, and she had quite a story, but there are so many others similar to this that I thought I’d tell you of a couple more that I know of.

Today I want to talk about a young girl named Hiroko Nomura.

Her story starts with her conversion, thanks to the witness and direction of a man named Bob Sherer.  Bob and his wife Helen had gone to Japan as missionaries in 1948. They brought with them a baby boy, Bob junior, who is still on the field as we speak. I believe Nomura san, as everyone has always called her, came to know Christ as her Savior sometime in the early 1950s.

Again, like Akiko before her, Nomura san’s conversion was not met with welcome arms back home.  In fact, her entire family were strict followers of a militant arm of Buddhism, a sect known as “Sokka Gakkai”. Unlike most Buddhists, who are very open-minded when it comes to other faiths, Sokka Gakkai insists upon strict adherence to its beliefs, which span every aspect of life, including one’s finances, family ties and political persuasion. So Nomura san kept her Christianity secret for many years. Then, in a bold decision, she asked Bob to baptize her in their city of Kobe at midnight on Christmas Eve.  That must have been chilly!

Nomura san continued working faithfully for her aunt during the daytime and secretly studying the Bible with the missionaries at night.  After a few years of this, Nomura san had made friends with several missionaries, including some in the mission office up in Tokyo.  One day, she was asked by the mission if she would consider moving to the far northern island of Hokkaido in order to live in and care for a mission house whose occupants were leaving soon for a one-year furlough in the United States.  She did.

About that time, a young lady from Arkansas by the name of Miss Annie Hoover appeared on the scene. Annie had also come to Japan about the same time as Bob and Helen Sherer, in the late 1940’s. From the outset, Annie felt called to Hokkaido but being a single young woman, the mission deemed it to be too “remote”, and assigned her instead to work in the Tokyo mission office. Annie never gave up her calling, however, and when a new missionary family moved to Hokkaido, Annie was finally given permission to move as well, provided she lived within shouting distance of the new family.

It wasn’t long before Annie had started a church plant for Sapporo Baptist Church (which is still thriving) in her living room.  When the missionary couple on furlough returned, the church plant was going so well that Nomura san, instead of returning south to her Buddhist family, moved into Annie’s house to be an ‘aide’ in her work.

These two adapted to life together as sort of ‘big sister and little sister’.  It was such a good fit that they ended up working closely together in ministry for the next 40 years. We visited in their home back in the early 80’s, and I observed that Annie always spoke English to Nomura san. She said this was done initially to help her learn the language, but eventually became the norm. Nomura san, in turn, always answered Annie in Japanese…. unless of course there was a difference of opinion, in which case Annie would speak in Japanese “so that you are sure to get my meaning”, and Nomura san would reply in English “since you obviously have missed a few of your Japanese lessons.”  How funny the adjustments we all make to stay happy under one roof!

As time went on, each lady did her own thing. Annie excelled at preaching and doing evangelism; Nomura san, being the faithful side kick, was great at writing hymns (more than 16, I believe) and doing pastoral care.

They did corroborate in creating the first Bible correspondence course using the radio.  Annie printed all the materials for it in her garage workshop, and even later produced the Masterlife course in Japanese as well.

Both ladies were instrumental in getting 5 or 6 churches up and going, including what is certainly the ‘mother church’, Sapporo Baptist.  Nomura san would teach someone to play the small organ or piano that Annie would have provided to the new churches.  They together supplied many other things out of their personal funds to keep the churches going.

If you stay tuned I’ll finish this story next week!!  Or maybe it’s not even finished yet?

Marsha

A Wedding Surprise

As you know if you’re following our God’s Faithfulness in Japan series, I’ve been talking about the Garrotts and their contribution to the Gospel there.  Thank you son Jack, for the interesting insights into the lives of your mother and father.

But wait: there’s more.

The “girl” that Max married was a Miss Dorothy Carver.  She was the daughter of the acclaimed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. W.O. Carver.  Word has it that Max had asked Dorothy’s sister to marry him while still studying at the same seminary years before, but she had rebuffed him, probably sensing already his call to foreign missions, which she didn’t share.   I guess we’ll never know, but his choice of Dorothy many years later was a good one.

It seems that while Dorothy was just a new missionary studying the language up in Tokyo a few years before, she’d made friends with a young student named Akiko.  There are countless stories of the same thing happening all over Japan, and this was but one more example. Akiko began coming to Dorothy’s for afternoon tea and language exchange. As you might expect, a lasting friendship soon developed, and before long Akiko was asking Jesus into her heart.

That should have been reason for rejoicing, but remember the times in which they lived. Nationalistic fervor was on the rise and would soon culminate in World War II. It comes as no surprise then, that Japan was developing a growing hatred for all things foreign, including foreigners.

When Akiko announced her newly-adopted Good News to her parents, she was promptly beaten and thrown out of the house with nothing but the clothes on her back.

“Oh!” you may gasp in surprise. But I have to tell you that this happened time and time again throughout the country. Even in recent years, among our own “Jet Age” missionaries, such occurrences were not uncommon. There seems to be a double-edged sword at work among unbelievers, directed at the Gospel message that threatens “traditional” religions.

In Dorothy’s case, there was nothing to do but take Akiko in to live with her. And she did. Not long after, Dorothy finished language school with flying colors, probably in part due to having the help of a live-in Japanese speaker, as Max had done. Dorothy moved south to the city of Kokura on the southern island of Japan to teach at Seinan Jo Gakkuin, the Baptist girls school I mentioned last week.

An interesting side note: One of the buildings of the school had a huge cross painted on the roof that did not go unnoticed by Allied observer planes during the War. It would make an excellent bomb sight for the plane sent to drop the second atomic bomb on Japan following Hiroshima. It was only by God’s grace that on that fateful morning, smoke from nearby fire bombings and cloudy weather obscured the roof top cross, and the bombing run was switched to target number two: Nagasaki.

A Methodist Women’s school in Nagasaki had survived, and Dorothy was able to get Akiko registered and settled in there, so they were able to remain in contact.

Then Dorothy in 1938, married Max.It was a lovely wedding, especially because Dorothy’s brother George was able to be there to walk her down the aisle. He was a professor at the Baptist seminary in Shanghai, China and it was deemed to be much closer than America.

At the wedding, in the reception line, Akiko met Max again. This time Dorothy said confidently to Max, “This is my daughter.”
Max took her hand, and beaming down at her, said, “And now you are my daughter too.”

Shortly after their marriage, the war broke out and the newlywed Garrotts were separated, then reunited two or three years later. They returned to Japan with several children, but they never lost track of Akiko.

In fact, they were able to arrange for her to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where Dorothy’s father was still teaching. And then, just on the verge of perpetual spinsterhood, she married Shuichi Matsumura, a widowed pastor who later went on to become one of the Vice Presidents of Baptist World Alliance.

When Max died in 1974, he and Akiko had been working on a new Japanese translation of the New Testament, with Akiko doing the fundamental translation, Max checking it for accuracy and another Japanese checking it for readability. Finally, Max checked again to make sure that nothing had been lost in translation.  They had only completed half of it when Max died, but several years later, even after Akiko’s death, it was finally published by Kadokawa Books.

When Dorothy passed away, Akiko was at the burial to represent the family. Today Dorothy’s ashes, as well as Max’s, are in the little cemetery at Seinan Gakkuin, just below the chapel where they’d been married 38 years before.

These are the kind of bonds God has given his people.  Isn’t He wonderful?

Boat Missionaries

And before you know it another week has flown by. It’s still cold, we’re still busy and apart from killing a snake in the garden (a very cold sleepy snake) and almost hitting a kangaroo on the way home from church, life is going on as normal.

When we were missionaries in Japan, we often referred to various co-workers as “Boat Missionaries” or “Jet Missionaries”.

We were some of the first “Jet Missionaries”, arriving exhausted with a three year old who’d somehow not been given a visa. I remember we didn’t even know enough Japanese to find a toilet or a phone and thinking to myself, “What have we done?”  Fortunately God intervened and the visa got sorted out and our friends materialized to pick us up and take us to the mission.

Most of the older folk at the mission when we arrived in the spring of 1978 were classified as “Boat Missionaries”.  They’d had two to three long weeks at sea to ‘getting ready’ for the shock of arriving in Japan. I heard that some of them even started language study before arriving.

In our series, “God’s Faithfulness in Japan”, you’ll remember that we were talking about Max Garrott last week.  He was perhaps the first (at least recorded) guy to ‘break the rules’ and leave the Mission compound to live with a Japanese pastor and his family.

To finish that thought, I’d like to continue the story by telling you one of the last things first.

When Max died at a ripe old age, his ashes, along with those of his wife, were taken back to the land he loved.  At one of his many funerals, his friend Koga, who was the pastor’s son in last week’s story, had his spot in the program to eulogize him.  There were so many things he had to say about Max, and he felt that he had been so influenced by this true friend, that he had to be dragged from the podium because he couldn’t stop talking in the time allotted him.

So, let’s go back to young Max and his being allowed to stay in Japan.  Fast forward to many years in Japan.  By now he has acquired a wife, who herself came out to Japan as a young missionary, applying before Max, but for whatever reason, arriving later than he did. We don’t seem to have any anecdotal evidence as to how they became a couple, but she often pointed out that by applying for Missionary service before him, it clearly proved that she hadn’t been ‘chasing’ him.

They got married in Japan and soon took a furlough to the states, whereupon they had a baby daughter.  Then the returned to Japan as per schedule.  But then sometime within just months of coming back, wife Dorothy and baby were sent back to the US because of the threat of encroaching war.  This evacuation of missionaries and (I’m assuming) Max’s reluctance to put safety before the call, left Max to be the only Southern Baptist missionary left in Japan when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was immediately interned at Sumire Jo Gakuin, a Catholic girls school that conveniently had a high brick wall and had been appropriated by the military police.

After 6 months of this, he was repatriated in a prisoner exchange.  His return to the States took him on the Asama Maru (a Japanese ship, thereby being a fairly dangerous ride I’m guessing), thru Mozambique, then transferring to the English built Gripsholm for his transport to New York by way of Rio.  As a bit of trivia, the Gripsholm was the first transatlantic ship to run on diesel, thus eliminating the need for constantly calling into ports for coal..  It operated during the war under the auspices of the Red Cross. I’m still guessing this trip would have taken endless months.

When we mention ‘Boat Missionaries” this couple should have taken the cake, 2 or 3 trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic passages in as many years.

Thankfully Max was finally reunited with wife and daughter, and within just a short time had a new little boy.  Because of his unusual love for the Japanese, the US government suspected him of being on the side of the Japanese, and the FBI followed him around for over a year, all the while he was getting permission for himself and young family to be allowed to live in a ‘relocation center’ in Arkansas with imprisoned Japanese.

Permission was granted (I suppose if you don’t trust someone to be completely American, locking him up with the assumed enemy seemed like a good idea).  There another child was born and they were able to minister very effectively to a lot of innocent and confused Japanese who had the bad luck to be living in enemy territory.

Eventually the war ended and Max and family moved to Hawaii in order to continue working with Japanese and to be ready to get back to Japan when they were allowed. This ‘posting’ lasted 18 months.

Permission to return in November of 1947 and with great relief the Garrotts were reunited with their original calling of a life in Japan.  Several months later, their last boy Jack (who has provided most of this information) was born in a hospital that was at that time being run by the US occupation forces.

But that’s not all.  There was work to be done. I’ll be telling you about another name and legacy soon, but the Baptist school, Seinan Gakuin,  that was founded by C.K. Dozier, in 1916, was needing a Chancellor.  Originally, before the war it had been a school that went up to “Middle school” which by the old system was about the 11th grade.  Now, post war, with all the boom in building and recovering, the mission as well as the government, wanted to make it much larger and include more.

Max Garrot was the obvious choice for this honor of being Chancellor, and as we know from history to this point, he knew how to get a thing done.

Within no time Seinan Gakuin school grew to become a fully accredited school  including all levels of education as well as a university.  Today, more than 100 years old, it is highly respected throughout Japan and boasts of everything from pre-kindergarten to many post graduate schools, including a seminary.

For all of his contributions to Japan, Max was given the “Order of the Imperial Treasury of the Third Degree” upon his death.

Many people in the world have had remarkable lives, including Jesus. Some of these people never have any affirmation, except perhaps from the Father Himself.

I am proud of this man we never met.  And I’m proud of Japan for understanding what he did for Japan and giving him such a highly acclaimed honor.

Next week before we leave Max’s story completely, I’ll tell you about a surprise he got at his wedding.

Stay tuned, Marsha

Breaking the Rules

Good Morning all my Faithful Friends out there,

Thank you for allowing me a diversion last week to tell about our trip to the great Outback of Australia.  I tried to think why I was so very impressed with the Qantas museum, and this is what I came up with.

Tony and I have always had a “pioneer spirit” running thru us.  I’m sure that’s at least partly why we enjoyed our mission career so much (besides the obvious Call, of course!)….. the idea of “going where no man has gone before” sort of thing. But in all fairness, I’ll have to say we were a bit pampered in Japan.  Anyway, the story I shared with you of two soldiers from WWI building an aviation empire starting in the middle of nowhere really caught our fancy.

And so today I want to continue thinking about those great visionaries who went to the mission field years and years ago to proclaim Christ.

Today’s excerpt is from Jack Garrott, who is STILL on the mission field today. I believe he was born in Japan to missionary parents Max and Dorothy.  We have several of these people in our mission, who just literally have always called Japan their home.  I think I can say my children would still be there if they had had their way. After all, Japan is such a wonderful country.

So Max Garrott’s initial time in Japan started in 1934 as a young single missionary. At that time it was mission policy (as it was in most of the world) for missionaries to live together on a compound.  Part of the idea was so that everyone could help support everyone else in difficult situations. There was also the “safety in numbers” approach, since many of those first missions were located in areas that were not exactly “foreigner friendly” (and that’s still true today). Traditional mission compounds were often designed with a fortress mentality, with houses actually forming exterior walls, many of which included broken glass and barbed wire along the tops. From the relative safety of a compound, children could play freely, and housewives could maintain their homes while their husbands ventured out on evangelistic sorties. This was definitely not the case in Japan, but out of necessity in some countries the practice still remains.

Shortly after Max’s began his work in Japan, the mission chairman left for a year’s furlough and Max made the decision, knowing all the while that he was violating strict policy, to move out of the compound and into the home of a local pastor.  This pastor just happened to have a son Max’s age, so that may have served as an encouragement.

Well, you can imagine what happened when the chairman returned. Remember in 1934 there was almost no communication, so this was news to the chairman, coming well after the fact.  Max, as he had anticipated, was called before a tribunal to decide what to do with this upstart young reprobate.  He had turned 25 by that time, and was seemingly doing quite well, but that didn’t release him from judgment.   Apparently the meeting was heated, with much discussion about young people and their ways.  The vote was a draw as to whether they’d send him packing back to the US on the first boat.
Let me interrupt here and remind you that these were, after all, the days of ‘respect’ for those in authority, coupled with the obvious dangers on any mission field.  Blatant disregard for rules had to be dealt with harshly for the benefit of others.

Thankfully, after some tense moments on Max’s part, they looked at what he had accomplished “outside the gate” and decided that a tie vote wasn’t enough to send him home.

He was to tell his son years later, “I figured if I was called to work with the Japanese, I didn’t know how that could happen clustered behind a wall with foreigners!”  Wouldn’t he be happy to know that now, almost 100 years later our missionaries are encouraged to live, if not with, at least next door to the Japanese?  “Clustering” with fellow foreigners these days is not encouraged and often not even possible.

Around the time Max finished language school, a leader in the Japan Baptist Convention (who by the way was NOT the pastor he was living with) commented, “That Garrott Sensei has the best Japanese of any of the other missionaries”.  He had been in Japan only 3 years.

That’s what I mean when I just know you’ll be impressed with our missionaries, especially those who came long ago with a clear understanding of who they were, Who God was and the ‘pioneer spirit’ (some might call it Apostolic calling) to get out there and get it done!

I’ll tell you some more about this amazing upstart next week, and maybe even some more stories about his time in Japan!

Sayonara,
Marsha

A Really Long Reach

Hello all,

While I want to continue with my telling of the story of God’s faithfulness in Japan over the last century, I’d like to take you ‘walkabout’ on a little surprise adventure we’ve stumbled onto this weekend.

As you may know, I turned 68 last Wednesday.  That’s no big deal really. Sort of one of those ‘yawn’ birthdays.  We had a lovely lunch on the beach with both kids and their spouses. We love the grand boys to death, but having this time just with our grown up kids, where we could actually finish sentences, was precious. I felt very blessed to have such a great family.

But the real surprise was that Tony and daughter Nicki secretly arranged a trip to the far northwest of Queensland, to the town of Longreach.

Since Nicki’s a ‘hostie’ as stewardesses are casually referred to, she was able to conjure up some cheap tickets and so we packed some favorite nibbly food, winter clothes and our laptops and were on our way!  The dream was to write a lot, enjoy the ‘town’ on foot and take in the Qantas Museum.

We did exactly that.  The tour of the birthplace of Qantas was inspiring. Two World War I aces started with a dream to help connect the folks isolated in the outback with an air service. The rest is history.  Queensland And Northern Territories Aerial Service……. or  “QANTAS” was born.

To better understand the scope of things, we are located here in Longreach now, 1200 kms from home, or a 19-hour drive on a two-lane road.  Then, from here, it’s another 2200 km to Darwin (where our missionary died last week). That jaunt, which he haven’t taken yet, is only 24 hours of non-stop driving, dodging kangaroos and road trains on a two, or sometimes one lane ’strip’ road. And keeping in mind that this is an unsealed road, a good part of it is closed completely in the wet season.

And so now, 98 years after the airline was launched, there are 2900 souls living here, and a daily air service (on Qantas of course) for people needing to go to Brisbane for everything from re-outfitting to Doctor’s appointments.

To add some sparkle to the 3-hour flight, Nicki was able to arrange her roster and she was our very own stewardess. Well, almost. So fun!!

And then this morning we thought we’d join the service at the “Longreach Baptist Church”. It’s always interesting to us to visit churches when we travel, maybe just to add to our perspective about how others do worship. We were not disappointed. After a bit of a walk, because we got lost, we arrived to find the church packed out.  It’s becoming a theory I have that the smaller the town the bigger the turnout!  Anyway, we met a bunch of very interesting folks, heard a great testimony, had Lords Supper and also a good sermon.  Afterward we made friends with a couple who live “just down the road” (turned out that meant 65 kilometers). They own a “modest” (in his words) property of 18,000 acres where they raise beef cattle, a few vegetables, five boys and one girl. When I invited them to come to the Gold Coast and see us sometime, he gave a shudder and said, thanks, but it’s waaay too crazy down there!”

Another lady took pity on us and drove us back to the museum where we enjoyed a delicious $15 Roast Lamb Dinner on specially created “Qantas” (who else in this town?) Noritake china.  We’ve had a good weekend.

But back to Japan.  I’ve been getting a few stories from missionaries and they’re quite interesting.  I’m excited to be sharing them.  We’ve also got some funny ones too.  Here’s something written by a missionary by the name of Mike Simoneaux.  He was one of our peers, but lived pretty far south so we didn’t get to see them much. And then unfortunately, they had to return to the states because of a child’s health.  Here’s what he wrote:

(Oh by the way, his name in Japanese would be “Shimono Sensei”.  The Amagi Sanso that he refers to is the Baptist Conference center that we frequented a lot over the years.)
“I was asked to do a communion service for one of the churches I worked with in Osaka. The pastor and I spoke and I explained to him that I had attended a communion service where they used French bread instead of normal bread. He thought that sounded interesting, and agreed to give it a try. I arrived at the church just in time for the service and he told me that the French bread was under the linen cloth on the pulpit. I stood up to read the appropriate scripture… “This is my body that was broken for you”…

I lifted the cloth and saw that the bread was still wrapped up in cellophane. I unwrapped it, repeated the scripture, and held the bread up to break it. It bent. I tried to break it again and must have used too much strength because it broke into three pieces, the middle part flying through the air and into the congregation. A church member “fielded” the piece, bowed deeply and brought it back to the communion table. No one said a word, except my son Stephen, age 10, who was almost on the floor laughing. We finished the service as low key as possible…no one said a thing about the incident including the pastor. Years later, I was at Amagi Sanso for a meeting, and happened to meet a pastor I did not know. We introduced ourselves, he paused, then said almost to himself, “Shimono Sensei…. Are, are you the French bread Shimono?” Apparently, I had become famous.”

As I mentioned last week, the Japanese may not be an expressive people, but they never forget…..

We’ll be back in civilization next week!! (or as the rancher referred to it, “The Crazy Place”)

Marsha

Sacrifices Remembered

Last year we were sitting in the lobby of a Japanese inn, waiting to take a train that would go under the ocean and onto the island of Hokkaido.  We’d stopped over there the night before, and were to continue another 5 hours north to be able to see one of our ‘boys’ and his family who live in Sapporo.  He’s the one I mentioned before who does church music throughout the island.

Behind us a large family was gathering to wait for the shuttle bus with us.  The older gentleman was talking,

“You know,” he said to his family that included several young people,  ”this morning we will be crossing the Tsugaru Straits to Hokkaido.  It will take us only 20 minutes by Bullet Train, but until several years ago, the only way to cross was by 4 or 5 hours on a ferry.  About 60 years ago, a ferry sank in a storm and about 1200 people were drowned.”

The family murmured in dismay, possibly saying something like “Why would Grandpa want to choose this moment to share this with us?”  I’m good at eavesdropping but sometimes I miss the finer details when it’s in Japanese.

Then he sucked in his breath and continued.  “But it was the two Christian missionaries who were aboard that we’ll never forget. You see, they, in true Japanese ‘Bushido’ honor, took off their lifejackets and gave them to some younger students”.

What he didn’t mention was that several surviving witnesses reported that the men shouted, “Live for Jesus!” as they sunk into the waves, never to be found again.

As I researched this story, I heard from a missionary who has lived her whole life in Japan. She was only 4 at the time, but according to her memory, four missionaries sat in her living room one night. She remembered that two of the men were needing to get back to the mainland. One of them had just deemed it ‘safe enough’ to bring his family back to Japan after the war, and the other one had an important church meeting.  They swapped tickets with the other two, who decided that could wait another day.  The men who left on the first ferry were Alfred Stone and Dean Leeper.

We will never know why this happened, but God does. The ferry was not supposed to sail at all because of the storm…. but it did. God knows what happened there as well.

As we worked in the tsunami disaster the last few years of our career, from 2011 till 2015, we found ourselves at times discouraged with the ‘response’ of the Japanese to the Gospel. One would think that after such a major trauma people would rush to the Savior, and many of them did, but it also seemed that many others hardened up and returned to their immutable stoic ways before we knew it.

Then a wise Japanese pastor observed,  “Yes, the Japanese seem hard. But they NEVER forget either. Satan has a hold on them, but he can’t reach their hearts.”

An unprecedented number of people DID accept Christ in the time following the tsunami but a great number of them just watched and filed it all away in their hearts as the Christians rushed to help them.  But when they remember the kindness and hope of missionaries like those two men in Hokkaido, they’ll remember every ‘Christian’ act thru the centuries.  Their hearts are being changed toward God every day, and we would do well to remember to pray constantly for their revival.

There is an interesting video that we’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from.  If you have a few minutes, you might want to watch it! Be sure to watch both parts 1 and 2. Here’s a couple of links that will take you to them:

https://vimeo.com/15496127

https://vimeo.com/16351232

There is HOPE for Japan! I have to believe that.

Have a great week,

Marsha

PS….. On a personal note, one of our better missionaries here in Australia, John Baynes, has just died after a very short bout with cancer.  He and his wife worked tirelessly with the Aboriginals in Northern Australia.  They were pure and simple people who hardly ever came out of the great Outback where they were at home with their ‘people group’. He will be missed.

Lives Poured Out

A couple of years ago I told you about our Japanese pastor, Noguchi Sensei

The post was December 6th 2010, I think. That seems like ages ago, but here’s how it went:

I was a young missionary in Japan, there to save the world, and okay… maybe just a tad filled with myself. One night I went alone to the evening service at church. Tony must have had a meeting somewhere, I don’t remember.

I sat there, the only foreigner in the service. The text for the message was from Matthew 26, where the woman is pouring perfume on the Master’s feet. Pastor Noguchi read the passage and then talked a few minutes about the woman, the cost of the perfume, etc.

Then he took an interesting turn when he said, “Look at our missionaries”.

I was glad I’d been paying attention as all eyes were suddenly focused on me.

He went on, “I know they all must have been leaders back home where they come from. They are talented and intelligent. They would have to have drive and ambition or they wouldn’t have made it this far.”  I sat up a little and beamed, basking in the praise.  Then Noguchi threw me a curve…

“And they get here, and what? They study the language for a very long time, and they still talk like 6 yr olds. They never really understand us, and they bumble around lost and confused most of the time.” (I shrank in my seat, even though all eyes were now politely turned aside. I knew he was right.).

There was some murmuring and nodding in agreement as Noguchi went on,  “Sometimes we might be tempted to just say thank you to these folks, and kindly suggest that they go back home where they can do some real work; where they will be comfortable and can actually use their skills.”

After a brief pause, but before everyone started voting us off the island, he picked up his Bible and read the words of Jesus, this time in ENGLISH, perhaps wanting to add a little flair, or for my sake so that I’d be sure to understand;  “Forbid her not, for what she does is a fine and beautiful thing”.

“Don’t you see?” he said to the congregation. “Missionaries all over the world are pouring out their LIVES at the feet of Jesus… for whatever it’s worth, what they are doing is a Fine and Beautiful thing!”

That was a turning point in my life when I realized, I’ll never be Japanese (or Thai, or even possibly Aussie). I will never speak any language like a native, including American English, which seems like such a long time ago, nor will I ever learn Australian, which my Aussie brothers and sisters insist IS English. But like it or not, my life IS being poured out, as the wrinkles on my face confirm.

But what a comfort to think that Jesus might someday give me a squeeze and say, “Good on ya, Marsha!” In all truth, it’s not much of a sacrifice to love these people, and if that’s part of what “pouring out” means, then I can’t complain. I guess the bottom line is simply this: our lives are running out, at least the part associated with our mortal bodies. The question is not, “How can I plug the leak?” but, “How can my pouring out make a difference to the Kingdom?”

May your pouring be a good one, and may it be said that it was indeed a “fine and beautiful thing”.

And now, here we are in 2018, and as I embark on this ‘journey’ of reminiscing about God’s work in and around us, I will be talking at length about the missionaries’ influence on Japan as well as their sacrifice.  But there’s one more thing about their sacrifice that I want to mention.

You remember the story of King David, as he set out to stop a plague by building an altar and offering a sacrifice to God. He found a threshing floor, neatly leveled and ready for building. Approaching the owner, a man named Araunah, David explained his plan and offered to buy it. Araunah, while lying flat on his face in front of the king answered, “Take it Your Majesty,… I’ll give you the land, along with the oxen for the sacrifice and the equipment for the fire.”  But here’s what I find interesting, maybe because it speaks straight to my own heart:  David replied, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to          the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. So David          bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver          for them” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Whatever we may sacrifice to the Lord, it’s not meant to be free.   For Tony and me, I can’t say that our missionary “sacrifice” has been all that costly. We didn’t suffer much, not really. But then, it wasn’t exactly free either.  Looking back now, we sometimes think of the “might have beens” and can’t help but wonder, “Was it worth it?”  Our children hardly knew their grandparents, or their aunts and uncles. As “Third Culture Kids”, they were often different from other kids their age wherever we were, and this sometimes resulted in some painful experiences. Then there was Trevor, our first-born. A lot of evidence is pointing to the fact that his type of leukemia was somehow related to our being in Zambia on a mission assignment when he was conceived. At any rate, the enemy of this world is quick to point the finger of blame at us for our children’s suffering.

But then I think, “There is so much more in all this than I’ll ever understand this side of Heaven. It might be better to reserve my own judgments for the time when I have all the facts.”

In the meantime, all of our kids, including Trevor, were blessed beyond measure, growing up in a world of assurance that they loved and were loved. They were given a sense of purpose that carried them into adulthood where they continue to make us smile at the love they have for God and all of us.

These wonderful things could have happened anywhere, I know. But the fact is, they happened while our family was being “poured out” at the Feet of Jesus. Whatever sacrifices there were are overshadowed by the blessings, heaped up and overflowing.

I hope to share with you some of those “pouring out stories” stories in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading. Please keep sharing your own journey with me and don’t forget to comment to us at marsha@mywoods.net as well!

Marsha

Stand By Me

I’m guessing a lot of you caught the Royal Wedding last week.  We had company so I just turned the TV on mute to see the dress.  Then we all sorta got sucked in and then we thought, “might as well listen to the sermon for just a minute”……well, after that we were mesmerized, both by the ‘deviation from British stodgy protocol’ evident in the most unusual sermon, to the point that before we knew it we were watching a black choir sing “Stand By Me”!

Today my vignette about “God’s Faithfulness in Japan” is about that song, oddly enough.  I certainly never expected it to show up in a royal wedding!

Most of you who are reading this know that our oldest son Trevor died of leukemia when he was 16 yrs old. You may also know that he had 3 very best Japanese friends, who had virtually grown up with him, spending most weekends at our house from about 6 or 7 years old.

Trevor, Jun, Katsuya and Makoto were inseparable mates.  Although they went to different schools during the week they all came to the same church. They were in the children’s choir, went to children’s camp; all the things kids do when they’re at church together for years on end.

Because Japan is Japan and in the 80’s at least, it was perfectly safe for these kids to walk (or should I say ‘wander) the mile or so to church every Sunday morning, and then back to our house, dawdling along at their leisure.

When the boys were about 12 or 13 they discovered skateboards.  One Sunday on the way home, Trevor was showing off in the parking lot and lost his skateboard, which unfortunately rolled at a pretty good clip right into a plate glass shop window, shattering it.  When we returned from our church later in the afternoon, there sat all 4 boys in a row with very solemn faces.

They told us what had happened and Tony and Trevor immediately went back to the shop to make it right. On the drive over, all Trevor could say was “They stayed with me when I had to face the shop owner, they stayed with me!”

When Trevor died in the States at 16, he held on for days, in a coma, near death.  Finally I asked the doctor “why?” and she said, “He seems to be waiting for something.”

I knew exactly what that was, and called the boys back in Japan and arranged to call back in 30 minutes as soon as they could get together in one place.

As I held the phone to his ear, they called out to him in his coma.

“Trevor!”  They sang out in boyish Japanese, “Man, it’s been fun, we’ll miss you so much but we know we’ll see ya in Heaven!”

…….and within just a few minutes his body seemed to relax and he passed on.

As we made our way back to Japan, those boys worked non stop preparing, and at his funeral they played their guitars and sang with some degree of English, the song that summed up their existence, “Stand By Me’.

For me at least, it was the most poignant part of the service.  It reminded me of the old favorite verse in Proverbs 18:24, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

As we were packing up after the funeral, Makoto came up to me and said,  ”So what time do you want us next weekend?”

I disguised my shock and wondered if they’d missed the obvious, but I smiled and said,  “Oh, just whenever you get done with school.”

You see, they hadn’t missed the obvious.  They were “family” and coming to our house was just what they did.  They continued to come every weekend till they all left for college and their adult lives.

What an incredible blessing they were for us as we searched for our ‘new normal’ without Trevor.  First Nathan,who was just 11, and then we adopted Nicki, they kept appearing and together continued to be the brothers that made all of our lives richer.

Today those three boys love the Lord and are serving Him.  Makoto went on to become the pastor of the church where Trevor’s ashes are, Katsuya is a leading musician in the Baptist churches in far northern Japan and Jun, the one who never uttered a word of English, is now a PHD professor of…….English.

I was just reading today in Psalms 146:9, “The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.”  God gave these “Stand by Me” boys to help make us well again.  How can we even comprehend his faithfulness?

Hope you have a great weekend.  Marsha

And I just remembered that this is “Memorial Day” in the States. More reason to be thankful for boys who made the sacrifice, eh?

…and your household

Good Morning,

Today is May 20th and it’s the first blog of the ‘Memories of God’s Hand in Japan” that I mentioned starting last week.  I’m excited about hearing from all of you who have a story to share about when God moved among the Japanese to bring them to Him.  If you don’t send me some stuff, this may be a short campaign, but I’m confident in your abilities!

So…….today’s story is about our pastor’s wife, Kazuko.  She and her husband Naoki Noguchi (who we wrote about in Sacrificed, Given to an Empire, Saved by God ) were our pastors for many years while we lived in Sendai, Japan.  They deeply influenced us.

Have you read that Bible story about Paul in Prison? Big earthquake. Prison opened. Jailor about to kill himself. Paul stops him, he asks about salvation, to which Paul replies in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”

That’s a verse that’s raised a lot of questions with many folks wondering how it worked out that “he and his family were all saved”? Was it an instant thing, or was there some “working out” in the family that we don’t know about yet? I don’t know the answer to that one, but I have seen whole families come to the Lord through one family member, especially in Japan.

Back to Kazuko… she was a strong young girl living in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. After the war, somehow she found Christ and the strength that had held her up until then was now directed to her new life as a child of God.

She needed it. When she made her profession of faith known to her parents, they threw her out of the house, as was common in the early 1950’s.  Having nowhere to go, she took up residence in the church that had brought her the “Good News”. Living there, she trained as a preschool teacher.  It wasn’t long before she met Naoki, also finishing his education as a pastor, and soon they were married.

After several years word came that her mother was very ill and she rushed back to the family home to help.  There was some degree of reconciliation, and in the process, Kazuko was able to share her faith with her mother so that she was able to believe in Jesus before she died.

With the death of the mother, the Dad went off the rails with grief.  He continued to berate Kazuko, even suggesting that her ‘wayward’ religion had been the reason for the mother’s death.  Kazuko left him there, moving back to her new home and husband and together they rejoiced to learn that a baby was on the way.

Time passed, and the father found that he couldn’t cope without anyone to boss around.  Finally he determined to himself that he was crazy, and subsequently managed to get himself admitted into an insane asylum.

But now we may have to chuckle a little when we hear ‘the rest of the story’.

You guessed it, by the time that he’d made the rounds with the schedule, the gruel, the fire hose showers and the incessant howl of the people that actually belonged there, he decided that he was indeed sane and needed to be let out!  Preferably ASAP.  He went to the warden and announced that he’d be leaving now.

Again, you guessed it.  As is true in any such facility, you don’t self admit for the weekend and then ‘decide’ you’re fine.  He was told in no uncertain terms that he would need a legal document from a relative who was prepared to take custody of him, just in case he wasn’t as fit as he thought.

The only relative left after the war was………Kazuko.  A young happy newlywed who’d found not only Christ but the love of her life.  Word came to her with the request.

She took some time to think and pray about it, looking to others and the Bible as she worked thru the hurts he’d inflicted on her, both mentally and physically.  She pondered about how this would affect her new family, having ‘crazy Grandpa’ joining them, but in her heart of hearts she knew what was the right thing to do.

Finally the day came when she was ready to go.

The asylum had a long bridge leading to it, spanning over an old unused depression of some sort that reminded one of a moat.  She checked in at the gate and they brought him out to the other side of the bridge. She called out to him and he yelled back that he was ready to leave and she better hurry up and sign whatever was needed because he needed out NOW.

Her answer, shouted back across the gap, embodied the inborn strength that she’d always had as well as the new courage she found in Christ.

“I’ll sign you out on two conditions.  First of all, where you are right now, you will apologize for all the grief you’ve given me. Then, you are going to understand that you will be in church, by my side, sitting respectfully, every Sunday for the rest of your life.”

He turned to look back at the asylum and then agreed without a second thought.  Anything was better than this.

And he kept his promise.  He soon understood the words he heard from the pulpit and gave his heart to the Lord, and in the newfound forgiveness, learned not only to love, but to be loved as well..  He lived to a ripe old age, and joined his wife in Heaven, leaving a little loving family of Kazuko, Naoki and two fine boys to mourn his passing.

God does save families. ………in his time.

Writing to Remember

Happy Mothers Day all!

I hope you all woke up to a great day wherever you are.  For us, it’s moving towards winter so it was nice to stay in bed just a few extra minutes, cherishing the warm blanket and trying not to think about the shock that was coming when our feet hit the floor. Up at at ‘em, we headed for our once-a-month service where Tony would be preaching to a group of lovely folks, mostly around our age. They still love to sing the old hymns, so worshiping with them is a real breath of fresh air.

This day was no exception, followed by a ‘surprise’ visit from my daughter Nicki. They live in Brisbane and are both working so we don’t see them as often as we’d like.   She and her husband were booked in for later tonight, as he’s working here on the coast for a couple of weeks.  Somehow, though,  she got some time off from her stewardessing around and managed to come early, leaving him behind to play the drums for the night service and join us later.  I felt very pampered with that and all the little presents and hugs from the grandboys and their mother (Nathan was working).

From Today on, maybe for quite awhile, I want to write you some stories of God’s faithfulness.  I’m thinking it’ll be largely from Japan, but who knows what will land in my inbox?

The reason for this?  A couple of reasons:  it’s been 30 or 40 years since anyone I know has written a compilation of all God has been doing in Japan, and it’s about time to update the record.

Also, Tony and I commented to each other as we were writing our story last month during our time away. We said, “With all that’s happening in the world, and especially at our age, we need to REMEMBER what God has done and IS doing.

Apparently King David felt the same way. Look what he has to say in Psalms 44: 1-8:

We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us
what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. You are my King and my God, who decrees. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.

And so this is what I’ll do:  Write HIS story of what He’s doing around the world. Japan will be my first focus, but I’m also looking at anywhere His work is showing itself. This may be something that you’d like to contribute to as well. Send me your stories! My email is marsha@mywoods.net .

Onward, Forward, for His Story,

Marsha

PS  Happy Mother’s Day!