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

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