Heroes at the Sushi Shop

Hello from Rainy Sydney!

Today I want to tell you about a couple of heroes that are actually alive.

The first one is our friend, more like a brother since we go way back to college days.  His name is Bob Gierhart.  We met him over 50 years ago right after we were married in Colorado, where we both grew up.

Soon we were off to see the world together, in a group called “Journeymen” which is a short-term branch of our mission with the Southern Baptists.  He went to Japan and we were sent (where we hadn’t asked, but were thankful in the end) to Africa.

Three years later, while attending the same seminary, Tony was Bob’s best man in his wedding.  Several decades later our son was their son’s groomsman.  As you can see, we’re related.

But Bob has a vastly different personality to us.  He has principals that he is willing to fight for.  He is steady and faithful.  Dare we call him a ‘prudent non-adventurer”? He is happy to stay at home and think lofty thoughts, work incessantly without a thought of personal needs, and never forget (with the help of his wife) the least of all of God’s creatures.

By what some would call a ‘twist of fate’ but we prefer ‘God’s call”, we both landed in Sydney Australia in 1998, tasked with establishing a ministry with the Japanese living here.  By now, we’d both been in Japan for 20+ years and had fallen in love with the people.

Getting here was a story in itself, and they’ll be happy to tell you, but we both went to work in a struggling little Japanese church. We settled in and made friends, did our bit to attract people to church, helped with the preaching and teaching……… all the stuff most missionaries do.

Bob and Gail settled down and didn’t swerve.  He didn’t take days off.  They were not tempted by ‘days out’ even when we tried to lure them into irresponsible behavior. If no one showed up to a meeting, Tony and I packed up and hit the road.  Bob and Gail stayed for another hour.

Then came along a Christian Korean wife with a Japanese husband who lived way out in the western suburbs of the city.  The husband somehow indicated that he would consider a Bible study but it had to be tailored to his needs because he owned a sushi shop and it didn’t close till 10PM…….. every night.

Of course, I’m guessing if we’d been asked to do this, we’d have stopped listening when we heard the address, much less the hour, but Bob took the bait.

Off he went.  FAITHFULLY for weeks……..then months, and before anyone knew it, it was a year……  once a week, every week, arriving at closing time and coming home in the wee hours.

Gradually, the world of salvation opened up and this man became genuinely interested in what was being said.

Finally the day came when he opened his heart to the reason he was created and became a Christian.  It wasn’t long before he exchanged the sushi shop for Bible school. Today, he’s the pastor of the very church where the Gierharts and we had invested some of our lives.

And largely the reason we came down to Sydney this weekend was to visit this church, and what a visit it was!  The church was FULL, the people were engaged, the singing was wonderful.

Really a huge blessing to us, but most of all to see it so capably led by someone we might have looked over if it hadn’t been for a true hero of the faith who was willing to do whatever it took to bring this man to salvation.

God uses us all according to his purposes, and we’re glad for our peer-heroes, Bob and Gail Gierhart.

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