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

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