ANDERSON — Surrounded by the close friends of a regular small group Bible study, Ann Smith told the tale of “a trip of a lifetime.” She animatedly conveyed the message of her month-long stay in Japan: God can use anybody.
“The thing that most blew me off of the map was realizing what an incredible God we serve that can do such amazing things through imperfect missionaries like us and the ripple effect of it all,” said Smith. She and her husband, Nathan, had planted five churches in Japan in their youth and she was invited to speak at the 50th anniversary celebration of one of them last month. “We didn’t always do the right thing,” she said. We made mistakes, but we were always trying to share the love of God in any way we could.”
Nathan, now deceased, and Ann left Anderson in 1951 — only one year after their marriage. They traveled to Tachikawa, where they helped a captain’s Bible study with young Japanese men form a church. Five years later they moved to the island of Kyushu, where they planted two churches and worked with two others.
“Offering a kindergarten program was often part of a new church plant,” said Smith. “It was a good way to get involved with the community. Christian kindergartens had good reputations in Japan and it was a way to get to know people.”
She and Nathan made many friends over their 26-year missionary experience. Thrilled to touch base with so many of them, her visit was one delightful reunion after another.
“One man rode a train three hours to have lunch with me,” she said with wonder in her eyes. “It was incredible.”
She tried to find her former home, an old farmhouse in the middle of a rice paddy. What was a village of 5,000 is now a metropolis with an elevated train. Certain she had found the correct street, she started asking strangers if they knew where her house was. One startled her by knowing her name. He called his sister, who pulled out old pictures of Nathan. He had graduated from one of their kindergarten classes.