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Japan: An Odyssey of Faith

The Remarkable Story of Ryohachi Shigekuni

 

By Lindy Adams

Pioneering missionary J.M. McCaleb first went to Japan before the dawning of the 20th century. His work in evangelizing a non-western culture encouraged others to leave home and move to Asian countries. The names Sarah Andrews, Hettie Lee Ewing, the Foxes, the Rhodes, the Bixlers and the Moreheads have come down to us as the great missionary leaders of Japan before World War II.


Another figure, hardly known except in Japan and among the early missionaries, is Ryohachi Shigekuni. His story is an integral part of that history of north central Japan, the area often called the Japanese "Bible belt."


He traveled to the United States, looking for his fortune, but instead, he found Jesus Christ. The church became a sanctuary, a place where he would not be viewed as an American spy throughout World War II. When the war ended, ground zero became the place where the church had begun a major revival.


The Shigekuni family is as important in the history of the church in Japan as are the Hardemans, Baxters and Youngs for the United States.


The power of the Shigekuni story touched Harris Ives, an American who has taught on the faculty of Ibaraki Christian University for more than 20 years. He has worked with the Yoshiaki and Nobuyuki Shigekuni, the son and grandson of this patriarch of Christian faith in Ibaraki Prefecture. In this article, Ives shares their journey to faith.

— BAILEY McBRIDE, Editor