On Sept. 24, 2003 my father quite unexpected passed away while he & my Mom were traveling in Brazil. I spoke at his funeral:
Eulogy for my Dad
I am so glad to be able to tell you about my Dad!
At 13, Dad made a decision to everyday read from the Bible 5 chapters and to pray 3 times. And at 14 at a Bible Camp he decided to be a missionary.
Dad finished high school at Prairie in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada and then Bible School at Prairie Bible Institute. At 24 he started a church in Deadwood, Alberta and contnued there until leaving for Japan. He went as a single 27 yr old with the Japan Evangelical Mission (JEM). Most of JEM's work was on the back side of Japan, on the side of the island away from from Tokyo.
The following summer he was at a conference and was asked to sing at one of the meetings, He had seen a beautiful music teacher from the missionary kids' school in Tokyo and thought to use this as an opportunity to get to know her. He asked a mutual friend to introduce them.
After introductions, she agreed to accompany Dad and asked him when he would like to practice. But Dad was non-committal. They parted with her thinking he was a bit arrogant. However Dad went away thinking, "I met her, I met her!". Of course he realized very soon that a practice time would be a good idea. In fact they spent time together every day. And thirteen days later when he asked her to marry him, she agreed.
However, Mom had her teaching contract to complete, so they were married a year later in 1959. I came soon after and then Marilyn a bit later. So on our first return back to North America, the single man returned with a family and 2 children. On our next term in Japan, Lisa joined us.
Dad ministered in several ways. He planted churches in Gosen, Naoetsu, Toyama & Itoigawa. For most of these he also built the church building. JEM had a five acre campus near the Japan Sea. He built the school for missionary kids there and participated in construction of the Bible School building.
Dad distributed sets of Bible story books to many rural schools. Since we lived in a mountainous area sometimes called the Japan Alps, some of these villages were very isolated. Sometimes he had to hike in through deep snow.
For three years, Dad & Mom were dorm parents for kids at our missionary kids' school. Responsibility for 20 kids was a big job and one they did well. I didn't mind "sharing" my parents because my Dad was fair and cared for us all.
Mom continued her work as a music missionary with Dad's generous support. He placed importance on my Mom's work and integrated hers with his in many cases. My sisters and I formed a family string trio under direction of my Mom from the keyboard. He served us in ways such as washing dishes so we could practice. Together our family had a significant music ministry: Dad sang, Mom accompanied and our trio performed in many places.
The pattern for home assignments and field assignments was five years in Japan, alternated with one year in North America. Summers on home assignment were spent traveling the whole west coast visiting churches and supporters. To me it seemed my Dad had an uncanny abilility to find places he had not seen in half a decade. Days of travel in a car can be stressful, but Dad set the tone with a positive attitude.
In the 70s JEM started started working in Brazil with the large number of Japanese who had emmigrated there. So in 1975, our next field assignment was to Brazil.
In Brazil he worked with another couple to start a Japanese/Brazilian church. Since he had seen the effectiveness of camp ministry early in his own life, he started a camp facility and ministry. It was during this time that their sending organization, JEM, merged with TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission).
Another aspect of his work that became prominent in Brazil was seeking effective alliances and partnering in work with them. TEAM Brazil recognized that Brazilians were very effective in starting churches. Ultimately they changed their mission statement to one of equipping Brazilians for ministry. So TEAM's involvement today is at a seminary near the Brazilian capital city.
Dad recognized this change early. He coordinated work with existing Japanese churches. He facilitated partnership with a Brazilian church denomination. He started working with an organization called White Fields that sponsors national pastors to start new churches. White Fields became very important to him later because he was able to be active in ministry through it, even after he had retired from Brazil.
Another aspect of Dad's life was leadership. Certainly church planting requires leadership. In Japan, Dad spent four summers leading the Nojiri Lake Association, where we went for vacations. It seemed to me that he was practicing for a larger scale. And it seemed to me that one summer in particular, he didn't get much vacation! In Brazil, he was field chairman for six years.
Dad & Mom retired in 1995. They started an amazing new pattern of ministry where they traveled to Japan and Brazil in alternating years for about 6 months at a time. They were very conscious of being a help and not a hinderance. However beyond the tasks they did, they were greatly valued as encouragers and parents to the people they worked with.
Dad continued very active with White Fields. In fact a large part of his last trip in Brazil was facilitating a survey trip to Brazil of the new White Fields director. When God took Dad home, Dad & Mom were visiting White Fields churches and young pastors starting the churches.
Dad died doing what he most loved to do. What a great blessing from God! Dad's life was a blessing to the people around him. He has been remembered as a servant, an encourager and a most gentle man.