"I Married the Pope"

Larger than life, missionary pioneers, heroes of faith, humble servants, faithful disciples – these phrases have all been used to describe George and Irene Gurganus. George has gone to be with the Lord, while Irene, who resides in San Diego, USA continues to inspire and impact innumerable disciples through her radiant faith. They were highly esteemed in the traditional church of Christ for their successful missionary work in a razed, post World War II Japan. Although forced by Irene's illness to return to the US after nine years, their dream to evangelize the world and especially Japan was not extinguished. George earned a Ph.D. at Penn State University, then established Missions Departments at both Harding and Abilene Christian Universities. After many years of teaching and training missionaries, the Lord directed George and Irene to the Boston Church of Christ in 1984. George could not contain his excitement at finally finding in the Boston church, a living example of what he had been preaching for decades.  Despite the skepticism of many, George and Irene, once again confirming their initial decisions to follow Christ faithfully until the end, gave up their short-lived retirement in the Ozark Mountains and purposefully moved to Boston. Two years later, they returned to their beloved Japan to rekindle the dying embers of the church they had planted forty years earlier. That church was transformed into the Tokyo Church of Christ, which is today the fastest growing church in all of Japan and has a Sunday attendance of 1,100.

Those of us fortunate enough to know George and Irene have been blessed to see genuine examples of lives lived faithfully, humbly and with zeal for Jesusf mission over an entire lifetime. Disciples of five, ten, or twenty years who have grown weary will be spurred on by this couple who show us how to strongly finish the race, prepared to receive our crowns. The Gurganusf have shown that it is possible to maintain pure childlike hearts and continue to passionately serve God regardless of onefs age or duration as a Christian.

Frank Kim, World Sector Leader for the Pacific Rim, is a true son to the Gurganusf. When they moved to Boston in 1984, this 23-year-old evangelist became Georgefs discipler and best friend. This began a unique relationship that is only possible in the Kingdom of God. George, the 67-year-old professor, humbled himself to learn from one much younger and with limited experience. Frank, always respectful yet bold, grew to love and admire George and Irene as true parents in the Lord. Before George passed away, he not only entrusted Frank with the evangelization of Japan through the leadership of the Tokyo church, but also with the care of Irenefs soul until she joins him in heaven. Frank asked Irene to record their lives as an encouragement and inspiration for all who share their faith in Jesus. We will present their story here in installments over the next several months. We hope you enjoy it!


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Revised: November 20, 2002 .