The Story of Larry: Toyama


About the middle of August we were getting ready for very special visitors. Nahnee had not yet met her youngest granddaughter, who was born on her 70th birthday. She decided to take a trip on that big ship to come and meet Lisa and spend time with the family for a whole school year. Cousin Christy was a teenager, and she came with Nahnee and would go to the Christian Academy in Tokyo for 9th Grade. This was the same school where I taught music before GGpa and I were married.

Nahnee’s sister with her husband came a couple of weeks later. They came separately because they flew. Nahnee was afraid to fly, so she and Christy came by ship. Aunt Grace and Uncle Oscar Hawkinson came to be dorm parents for the little girls at CAJ, the same school that Christy would be attending.

All of us were so excited, waiting for their arrival!

GGpa’s eyes healed, and so he went back to working on building a new house where we would live in Toyama. Once we moved there we planned to get acquainted with people in the area and ‘plant' a new church.

Leslie digging a septic tank hole for church

Here he is digging a hole for the septic tank.

Leslie sawing lumber

The Japanese saw GGpa is using is a little different than the ones we use here. To cut with it you pull it instead of pushing it.




Grampie was 6 years old when we moved to the big new house in Toyama that would later become a church. This was the second church that GGpa helped build in Japan.

Two days before Christmas on December 23, 1966, our family and Nahnee moved into the new building that GGpa had been working on. The next day was Christmas Eve, and our guests arrived from Tokyo. Christy, Aunt Grace and Uncle Oscar came to spend their Christmas vacation with us. Christy prayed for snow!

Toyama church building with snow

God said, “Okay” to Christy’s prayer. Christmas morning when we woke up there was a LOT of snow outside. We looked out the window for our car, but there was so much snow on it we could hardly find it! It was cold outside and inside too! God gave Christy what she wanted, but I told her to please stop praying for snow!

When we moved to Toyama, Grampie was going to school in Kujiranami. He was in grade one along with his best friend Bobby.

He had to board, that is, he stayed with another family in the hostel. He could come home only once a month. He rode one train together with some of the other school kids going home for the weekend, and then changed to another train that he rode by himself. GGpa taught him to do that four hour train trip by himself when he was only 7 years old.

We were all very happy when Grampie came home for the weekend, and our whole family could be together.

While we were still in Kujiranami, Nahnee had come to spend almost a year with us. It was a treat to have her there with us in Toyama too.

But one day while Nahnee was home by herself, she opened the pressure cooker before the pressure went down, and it burned her hand very badly. We had to take her to the hospital. It was very painful for her.

Kerosene space heater

Not too long after that, Grampie’s little sister Lisa put her hand on the kerosene heater we were using to keep warm, and her hand was badly burned. So off to the hospital we went again. Lisa still has a scar on her hand from that burn.



It’s a lot like planting a garden. When you plant a garden, you go out and get the seeds you want, then bring them home and plant them. They need water and sunshine for them to grow.

When you ‘plant’ a church, you have to plant seeds too. You have to go out and meet people. That is what GGpa and Bob and Betty Carlson did. Their two children, Robin and Debbie were just a little older than Lisa. When Betty and I went out with our children, people were interested to see these children with blue eyes and blond hair. We then invited people that we met to come to our place to sing and learn about the Bible. We were all planting Seeds of God’s Word!

Robin, Debbie and Marilyn

A lady from a church in another town came on Saturdays to help start a Bible Club for children and to teach them about Jesus, planting more Seeds. Just a few children came at first, but as more came, everyone just moved a little closer together so there was room for everyone to sit on the floor.

Marilyn in Sunday School at Toyama

Can you find Marilyn among the children?


Nahnee and Christy left to go back to California in the summer of 1967.

Our family went to Lake Nojiri for rest and summer fun. We hiked, swam, and read books there where it was a lot cooler. The little cabin that GGpa had built for us was a perfect place to stay.

Ask Grampie to tell you about the time he burned his hand when a fire cracker exploded in his hand while we were at Nojiri.

After summer we went back to Toyama. Grampie was still boarding in Kujiranami to go to school.

Being away from our family was hard for Grampie. His school work suffered. After Christmas vacation in 1967, we decided he should just stay home. At home in the morning Grampie and Marilyn worked on Grade One learning, and in the afternoon Marilyn went to the Japanese kindergarten across the street from us.

Her kindergarten teacher enjoyed singing and came to our place on Sunday evenings. Before Christmas we sang a lot of Christmas carols. After Christmas we sang hymns about Jesus and how he died on the cross and rose again. More good seeds of Jesus' love were being planted.

For our Christmas program in 1968 we had a small choir with the children who loved to sing. Around one hundred people squeezed in to hear the Christmas program.

Carolyn leading choir at Christmas

Every year our mission family had a Christmas program in Kujiranami. The preschool kids enacted the 'Manger Scene'. Lisa's doll Gregory, was the baby Jesus every year, and when Lisa was 4 years old she played the part of Mary. Grampie, Marilyn and the other MKs sang.

Manger scene in Christmas program

Our Missionary Kids also had a sports day every year, at the end of the school year.

Kids lined up with sports robbons

At the right, Grampie is proudly showing off his ribbons at the sports day. At the other end of the picture you can see that Marilyn is pretty proud of her prize ribbons too!


Before taking off on our next travel adventure, we spent a little time at Nojiri.

Family around tree


Five years had flown by, and at the age of 8, Grampie had lived in three different places, had lived through a strong earthquake, got a new baby sister, learned to ride the train by himself, learned to swim at Nojiri, and helped his parents plant a new church in Toyama.

It was time for another jet plane ride to California to see Nahnee, and a car ride to Canada. GGpa’s mother, Grandma Bernice and his brother Chester had passed away, so we would not get to see them. But we would visit step-grandpa Philip Johnson and the Aunties, Uncles and cousins. We would also see Grandma Carlson, GGpa’s “other mother down the road,” and learn a lot about farming.

We would visit churches and friends who had been praying for us while we were in Japan. Grampie and his sisters were part of the ministry with their string trio.

Early Grove string trio



2020-11-21 updated 2022-12-27   © 2023 Larry Grove