Real Treasures

After my grandson’s comment last week about not wanting to be rich, since that would mean “too much stuff to put away”, I decided to look into the lives of a few folks who have typified that attitude by the way they lived. The first name that comes to mind is Rennie Sanderson Otani. She just passed away this last Valentines Day, so she’s been in my thoughts lately.

When we went to Japan in 1978, she’d already been there 18 years and was making a tremendous impression on Japanese mission work. Let me tell you about her.

She was born into a Mississippi minister’s little gaggle of girls in 1927, surrounded by music, church and the love of the Lord, all wrapped up in southern happiness.  But it wasn’t long before she left all that behind, headed first for Southwestern Seminary in Texas and then from there to Japan as an appointed missionary by the Southern Baptist Convention.  She arrived in Yokohama in the spring of 1961 and immersed herself into language school.  As soon as she graduated, she moved to the far south of Japan where she taught for several years in our Baptist School there.

Then she came back north to be the minister of music at Oi Baptist Church in Tokyo, a responsibility she kept faithfully for the next 27 years.  Oh, but wait, there’s more.  Living a simple life, she never accumulated much, but in 1969 she found and married a real treasure. He was the assistant pastor of the church, Keigo Otani. That was in 1969, coincidentally just a few months before Tony and I were married.

Rennie and Keigo planted their lives in Japan. While we Baptist missionaries were enjoying retreats and seminars and all things American, she served as the music professor at Tokyo Seminary and taught students who serve in churches all across Japan. She directed the choir for the Baptist 100 year celebration in Fukuoka in 1989, and served as editor for the New Baptist Hymnal. She wrote countless hymns, sometimes music only but often music and lyrics together. Besides all that, Rennie taught and mentored many Japanese in church music, directing music, playing the piano, etc. She also wrote “Rennie’s notes” which was shared with our mission family for years and encouraged many women as she served. She was always close to us missionaries, and just about all of us knew her well, even though most of her daily life was spent in direct ministry with the Japanese Convention, where her heart and soul would always remain.

After their retirement, Rennie and her husband continued to work as usual, even pastoring a Japanese church in Singapore and other mission points.  They never accumulated a lot of “stuff” over the years, but never lacked for anything. They were a real tribute to us all; a perfect example of a life given completely to God, and in their case, given through their work with the Japanese.

Talk again next week, okay? This blog is going out late because we’re finally getting around to celebrating son Nathan’s 40th birthday!  It’s hotter than usual today, but the pool was wet, so a good time was had by all.

Marsha

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