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A Turbulent Baptism

This weekend we’ve had our daughter Nicki and husband down from Brisbane to celebrate her birthday.  We had a lot of good food and accommodating weather, which let us eat out on the balcony, much as if were in Summer.

Later, we were playing the “Un Game”, something that was created by a lady who wasn’t allowed to talk for several months after a throat operation.  What she created was a set of questions, all different and of different levels, so that even our grand boys, 6 and 8 could enter in.

Some of the questions are fun, “What’s your favorite food”, or introspective, “What do you see when you look in the mirror”.  The 6 yr old got “What’s your favorite childhood memory”, which we all found amusing, but he came up with a good answer.

When it was my turn, the question I got was “Who was your greatest mentor?”  I had to think for a moment till I remembered Noguchi Sensei and how much he influenced both Tony and my lives.

You remember from last week that Noguchi Sensei the told young Christian Yukiko to pray and wait till the Lord told her to go on and be baptized.

After several months, the call came one evening.

“Marsha” she said, “I just feel that it’s time for me to be baptized.  I need to follow and obey”

“Do your parents know?” I asked

“No, there’s just no interest there.  Besides I’m of age and so I want to be baptized.  But just to be sure, can we keep it a secret?”

I told her I’d talk to Noguchi Sensei and get back to her, and the next week Tony baptized her in the little church near our house. We all rejoiced.  It was the right thing to do and the church was excited.

In Japan, once you’re baptized, you automatically become a church member, and your details are printed in the church directory.

Now this was not a huge directory, just 50 or 60 names, alphabetically (in the Japanese alphabet).  Her last name, Tanaka, meant that ’ta’ was her first letter, tucked pretty far back in the directory.

Unfortunately the day came when she needed to make a quick call to another person with a name starting with “Ta”.  She made the call but in her hurry she left the directory open by the phone.  Then Daddy walked by.

Well…….the response was not good.  Tanaka san showed up at church, his fist curled, shouting his way through the door as he confronted Noguchi Sensei.

This is where the ‘mentoring’ part comes in.  We happened to be there as well and Noguchi Sensei invited him in with all the cordiality he would give a dignitary.  He motioned for us to join them and nodded to the women in the kitchen to get the tea happening as Tanaka san blustered around and finally allowed himself to be directed to the best seat in the room.  He looked around and with a loud ‘Harrumph” sat down.

“What has happened to your daughter is a wonderful thing, you must be so proud and happy” the pastor began. (I’m guessing Noguchi sensei knew full well that this was not the case, but it’s always good to lead with the positive!).

“NO!”  Tanaka san shouted and stood to leave, shaking his fist in the pastor’s face,  “You’ve brainwashed my daughter and stolen her and I’m going to ……..”

The tea arrived, and there were some nice sweets on a side dish as well.  Tanaka San looked at such a fine offering and sat back down, still grumbling.

We all let him go on until he took a breath. We honestly didn’t know how to respond or what to say, but finally Noguchi Sensei raised his hand and said quietly,

“No one has ever coerced your daughter to do anything.  She initiated each move toward Christianity because God led her to do so.  She clearly loves you both very much, but sadly, YOU, as her father, were not there to answer her questions.  In fact, you so intimidated her that she chose to keep this all from you, so actually it’s YOU you should be shouting at!”   He smiled, dropping his gaze to the teapot as he refilled Tanaka san’s cup.

Tanaka san’s jaw dropped as he continued.

“Now Yukiko, being 20 years old, has the right to make her own decisions, and she’s chosen Christ.  You would be wise to do likewise.  She will be welcome to continue to attend this church as long as she believes God wants and we will not stop her.  Neither will you.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the tea and Good day”.

I wish I could end on a happier note, but you’ll have to wait just one more week to find out what happens………..

Just a hint.  Yukiko did find it to her advantage to find other accommodations.

Baby Steps

So here we are back again after our humorous note about the missionary lady on the train last week.

Since the last blog went out, we did enjoy a long road trip up the coast to a place called “Emu Park”. The 10-hour drive (each way) gave us a lot of time to visit and enjoy some warmer weather, which is nice in winter.  It also reminded us a little of the long hours we spent on the road a few years ago when we were traveling back and forth to the tsunami disaster in Japan.

On Wednesday we had a nice, rather quiet 49th anniversary.  We tried out a new Japanese Sushi cafe, and were delighted to find some things we love, and equally alarmed to see some concoctions that no Japanese would recognize as Sushi.  I guess it’s like ‘Tex-Mex’ to a Mexican.

So, today I’d like to begin a story you may have heard before……from us perhaps, but one that bears repeating: yet another reminder about God’s Faithfulness in Japan.

The year was 1981 and we’d just finished language school in Tokyo and moved up north to Sendai where we were assigned the task of beginning a student ministry.  We had often fantasized about what it would be like to be no longer driven by schedule and tests, but just to follow the Lord’s leading and get started.  I’ll have to admit, we weren’t nearly as fluent as I thought we’d be after two long years of language study, but by now we could at least make rudimentary conversations and bumble around successfully most of the time.

Our work began even sooner than we dreamed. Two teaching opportunities dropped into our laps almost as soon as we arrived, teaching English at some large Christian universities in town. Our 5-year old, Trevor was settled into pre-school without incident, and we were off and running.

Tony walked around the campus of Miyagi Gakuin University, wondering how to turn a teaching role into a Christian ministry. Stopping at a campus coffee shop, he ordered up, laid his Bible on a table and sat down.

Within minutes a young student walked by, stopped, did a double take, and made a cautious approach.

“Are you Woods sensei?” she asked.

“Why, yes I am,” he answered, a little surprised. “How did you know my name?”

“Well, our teacher said a foreigner would be coming. I saw your beard and your Bible, and I just guessed it was you!”

She bowed politely and introduced herself as Yukiko Tanaka. Then she went on…

“You are a missionary, right?”

“Yes, I am, but,”

“So when and where is your Bible study?”

This was no time to hesitate. He gave her a look of confidence and said, “Next Thursday night at our house.” And being a Southern boy, he had to add, “And we’ll serve dinner!”

She took down the details and off she went.

And so began what is even now, almost 40 years later, called “Searchlight Club”.  Sometime when I’m talking about some of the more funny things in the language, I’ll fill you in on how that name came to be. But it got started that next Thursday with a bowl of chili and two students. Yukiko wasn’t there, but she had spread the word

Within months we had 20-30 kids each week.

First they would eat (in typical college student fashion, devouring everything that wasn’t nailed down); our little boys entertaining them with their antics and baby Japanese.

Then while Tony taught the Bible in simple English with as much Japanese explanation as he could manage, I’d put the boys to bed and lay out a snack for the “post study”.

Finally, I would happily shove everyone out the door at 9:10 to catch the last bus at 9:15. I was so thankful for the fact that it was the LAST bus because by then we were exhausted. One of the guys nicknamed me “The Pumpkin queen”.

We didn’t loose track of Yukiko however.  She never took a class from us, never even came to dinner, but she became what we call in the mission, a “Person of Peace” or a person who introduces and leads others to us.  She was interested in Christianity and began coming to our church, which we felt was much better than coming to an English class anyway.  She spoke some English but was a Japanese Literature major, so it wasn’t English she was after, it was God.

A few weeks after meeting her and getting her introduced into church, we decided mutually that she would ride the bus to my house every Tuesday afternoon, and while our baby slept, we would “discuss” Christianity.  This benefitted both of our language quests, me trying my best in Japanese and she in her fledgling English.  Fortunately we had bi-lingual Bibles that could fill in the gaps.

Every week was a debate.  “Why this?”, and “How about that?” sort of repartee. She was a tough nut to crack.

And then after a few months, she came in one day and settled down at our low “kotatsu” table, arranging the warm comforter around her waist.  This is how we managed to get thru the winters with little or no heat. The kotatsu had a heat lamp under the table with a quilt between the frame and the table top.  Magnificent idea.  We still have that original table and have used it a time or two here.

But I digress.  On this particular day we opened our Bibles and I began by asking,  “So, what do you want to discuss today?”

She said nothing, and looking down for a moment, she finally whispered.  “Nothing.  I just want to ask Jesus into my heart.”

I guess you can call me a person with low expectations, but I was really surprised!  I thought for a minute and then jumped to my feet and grabbed the phone, calling our pastor, Noguchi Sensei.  You may remember him from previous blogs. He was an ex-kamikaze pilot who pastored his church just the way he would have piloted his plane: straight for the target.

“Can you get over here right NOW!” I practically shouted,  ”Yukiko wants to pray for salvation.”

Within minutes I heard the door open down the hall and the call came out, “Gomen Kudasai!” as he was taking off his shoes.  That phrase literally means “I’m coming in!” and it’s how Japanese always arrive, sometime much to my surprise, but this time I was very relieved.

He talked with Yukiko, prayed with her, and we rejoiced and took a few minutes to discuss where we would be headed from here.

I knew she was the firstborn daughter with only a little sister.  If there had been a son, no matter in which order, he would have been the heir, but in this case, she would have to be the heir, with all the responsibility for the family, the graves and the ancestor worship.  It would not be easy for her family to accept that she’d seemingly relinquished her duty to become a Christian.

Noguchi Sensei and I agreed that prayer was the only tool she needed.  God would tell her when to let her parents know; meanwhile she could continue to read her Bible and grow.  I added that God would also tell her when to get baptized, which is very important to Japanese.

And pray she did.  Within a few weeks she said something I’ll never forget.

“Marsha, when I used to come here, my goal was to know EVERYTHING and also to prove you wrong.  The Bible is hard to understand, but with your patience, you showed me that I just need to TRUST God and let go.  Now that I’ve done that, I realize that I either don’t care about what I can’t understand, but more importantly, a lot of things have become crystal clear!  I know now it is the Holy Spirit that led me and now is telling me about Himself.”

Thru the years, I’ve remembered often that I don’t need to know or understand everything…….because HE does.

Next week I’ll tell you what happened next…..stay tuned.

Rash Words and Sweet Oranges

Good Morning Everyone,

We are enjoying some beautiful winter weather here in far north Queensland.  We came here with a friend to visit some other friends, and are having a good time.  It’s been lovely.

So for a bit of a break, this morning I’d like to share a missionary story of one of our greats, but maybe a little bit more humorous.

Last week I talked about the arduous life in the north of Japan, both with the isolation and the weather. For obvious reasons, this missionary may want to remain anonymous, but I suspect that maybe some of you out there reading this will remember the story.

She was a rather largish woman, especially by Japanese standards.  I have never forgotten a cute rhyme she gave me during one of our visits, referring to herself:

Some men like their women thin and willowy, but my guy prefers me ‘soft and billowy’.

I’ve held this to my heart as I get softer and billowy-er over the years.  Anyway, one day she was making the long trip to Tokyo on one of those crowded trains I mentioned. After awhile she too, made her way to the dining car.

She was able to find an empty table next to 4 business men.  She sat with her back to them and opened her “obento” or special box lunch that she’d purchased on the way in. If it’s a train box lunch, it’s especially nice and referred to as an “Eki-Ben” (“eki” meaning train station, and “ben” short for bento, or box lunch).   Japanese food is easy to like and we always try to pick especially nice ones when we ride the trains in Japan.

She was enjoying her meal when she began to notice that the talking behind her was getting louder and more animated, so she cocked an ear and listened. Very soon she began to realize that they were talking about her!

“Look at her, would you?”  They guffawed in Japanese. “Can you believe it, look how BIG she is, and what about those… (and they used the more colloquial word) ……..well, have you ever seen such a sight?”

They went from that to a few more rude observations, all while she sat and ate silently.

Then a family came in.

There were no more tables, so catching their attention, she said in her smooth and fluent Japanese, “Hello, what beautiful children you have, would you care to share the table with me, I’m about to leave just now.”

Without turning to the men, she stood, and as she headed away from the table she noticed the entire car had gone eerily silent. With an inside chuckle, she returned to her seat without comment.
But wait, there’s more.
She told me that throughout the next several hours, every one of those men came by her seat, and without a word, but with bowed heads, making no eye contact, each one offered a canned drink or an orange or some other delicacy. One even gave her a whole box of cookies.
I think the take away this week will be, “Be careful what you do when you think no one is watching………or listening!”
We’ll be back in the saddle next week, having celebrated our 49th anniversary on August 1st!
Hoping to keep my words honorable at all times, Marsha
Proverbs 12:18, “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Running in Snow

So here we are this week, back to Annie and Nomura san.  They were in full swing when we arrived on the field in 1979. We didn’t know it then, but Annie would have 30+ more years of faithful service and how about Nomura san??

The first time we visited Hokkaido, they invited us for a meal. After that, we made it a point to be invited to their house whenever we were on the island, and especially if we were bringing friends with us! I remember Nomura san would always be in a full kimono, looking beautiful, turning special attention to all of our children, who in turn adored her.  I also remember being impressed that finally I understood the phrase sometimes used of a table ‘groaning’ with food. Both were excellent cooks, and it seemed each time that they outdid themselves; Annie especially, whenever she could show off her ‘Southern cooking’ for appreciative Americans. She even passed on some clever ‘hacks’ (before they were called that) for making ingredients that couldn’t be found in Japan.

There are so many things I remember about these two.  Life in Hokkaido was (and still is) hard.  Not far from Siberia, there is nothing to stop the wind and the cold, and the winters are long and dark.

One time we were sitting at this ‘groaning’ table, reveling in the taste of forgotten favorites like bacon and grits, when something felt like a freight train hit the house.  Suddenly we were sitting there in the dark.

Annie pushed back her chair with resignation and headed for the light switch, sighing and saying,

“Well, that’s it till spring.”  The snow on the roof had slid off with a thunderous crash, completely eclipsing all the windows on the north side of the house.

Don’t get me wrong; Annie and Nomura san loved their lives and their challenges.  She laughed about the tram drivers repeatedly scolding her for shoveling snow onto their tracks.  She leaned back in her chair with a triumphant sigh and reported that after several of these reprimands she told them, “After all I do for this city, you tell this old lady where I’m supposed to put all that snow you keep pushing into my yard!”  They shot to attention and stopped complaining.

As much as these two loved the Japanese, they also knew how to play the game.  Annie told me of riding a very crowded train from the capital city of Tokyo, almost 800 miles away, down on the main island of Honshu.  Back then it was at least a 2 day ride, and with smoking allowed in every car, accompanied with either coal or diesel smoke pouring thru every crack, it could be quite laborious.

One time she said, “I was riding with Blake (a bachelor missionary who lived a few cities away from Annie)  “We had to give up our seats because there were so many families that needed them, but after awhile I got so tired standing that we made our way to the dining car. It also was crowded but we found two seats and I ordered an apple for us to share.”  She paused and thought back wistfully, as if remembering the good old days.

“We sat there for over an hour” she continued her story.  ”Finally Blake got embarrassed and went to stand out on the freezing platform between the cars to wait, but I figured that was his decision so I just sat there……for another hour or so….” She chuckled to herself and then added, “It’s amazing how long you can peel an apple!”

Finally in May of 2005, after all the church starts; the Japanese people that she had mentored into the second and third generations, the programs she had started, the other missionaries she had loved, winter came in and this time broke her down with pneumonia.

She lay in the hospital as people began to gather and they heard her murmuring in a satisfied whisper. Moving closer, they realized that she was paraphrasing Hebrews 12:1, “I’ve run with perseverance the race that was set before me.”
Nomura san arrived, bustling around to encourage her and begging her to stay just a little longer, talking about the flowers she was planting in their garden that would need her attention.

But finally she too realized that her “Big sister” needed some rest.  She leaned down to Annie’s ear and said, “Sensei, you go on home now, I’ll be all right……”

Observers said that at that moment Annie’s heart rate slowly dropped to 0 and then bounced up to 100 just for a second.  They figure she had seen Jesus!

And Nomura san, you ask??  At the writing of this, she is alive and in a nursing home. I’m guessing she’s in her late 80s but I’m not sure anyone ever really knew her age.  She has good days and bad days, as do we all.

Sometimes she seems to ‘rally’, especially when spoken to in English, as if her dear Sensei were back, but mostly she just keeps on keeping on.

My ‘almost son’ Katsuya, that I write about often and lives nearby, told me that she was sick during this last winter, and in fact was hospitalized for a time. However, true to her nature, from her bed she kept saying to everyone as they passed by, “Mada iketeru, mada iketura ”  (I’m still alive…..I’m still alive).

And she is.  Pray for these amazing warriors who bested the best by choosing to work in some of the toughest country in Japan.  Several generations of pastors, missionaries and laymen exist today because of these two.

Next week I’ll tell you about another, more modern-day girl that we know.

Unless, of course, we’re too far into the Outback. We’re planning to accompany a friend 9 hours north to see some other friends, and the area is not known for its stellar internet and telephone service. If I can’t get anything to send on Sunday, I’ll do it as soon as we home on Tuesday.

Cheerio, Marsha

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?


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!


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”)


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:

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

Have a great week,


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.