Tokyo still devastated by World War II, George and I were saddened when
the Korean War broke out.
Having just started our new church six months previously, we
urgently sought God's help for lives to be saved spiritually as well as
physically. As it states in
"For our struggle is not against
flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Working with General
One day, while reading a
newspaper loaded with updates on the conflict, I noticed an ad for an
American typist. At that
time, the U.S. Army's general headquarters desperately needed secretarial
help. As raising support
money from the States was difficult, George and I decided that I should
interview for the position.
If hired, my salary would bring in much needed income to further
God's work in Japan.
Not knowing what to expect
at the interview, I traveled by train to central Tokyo. The U.S. Army's general
headquarters, which used a large insurance building, stood across the
street from the moat surrounding the Emperor's magnificent palace. Each of the colonel, a captain,
and a sergeant had separate offices.
As I settled down to fill
out an employment application, I chuckled quietly to myself. God had blessed me with many
secretarial skills, such as typing, filing, and cataloguing books, but
these were developed while supporting George in our efforts for God's
kingdom. I had no official
work experience! If
hired, certainly God would deserve all the glory.
The colonel read my
completed application with raised eyebrows, obviously wondering why I was
never paid. However, as he
was desperate for help, and God was powerfully working, he said, "I'll
tell you what. If you type
this citation without any mistakes, I'll give you a job." Not having typed in a very long
time, I prayed for a miracle.
I took a deep breath and began to type from a citation. For the
first time, God enabled me to type a perfect page! Delighted, the colonel hired me
and I became an official civilian employee of the U.S. Army.
My first task was to
design charts to keep track of the number of purple hearts to be awarded
to soldiers wounded in Korea.
I gave my whole heart to the task, having a lot of fun in the
process. I loved using the
talents God had given me to help others. With the war moving fast, officers
on the field were promoted quickly from sergeant to lieutenant, to
captain, to major, to colonel.
Likewise, God blessed me to receive rapid promotions. Though initially a lowest-ranked
civilian employee, God allowed me in time to obtain an officer's rating, a
Top Secret security clearance, and a Certificate of Meritorious
My last promotion was as
head of the Decorations and Awards Unit. When a soldier was recommended for
a medal, our office would receive an official recommendation for the
soldier, maps of where he fought, and supporting testimonies. Based on these documents, I would
decide which type of medal the soldier deserved, whether a Medal of Honor,
a Legion of Merit, or a Distinguished Service Cross, etc. The wounded always received Purple
Hearts. For those recommended
for the most distinguished medals, such as the Medal of Honor, I hand
delivered the paperwork to six of the top officers including General
Douglas MacArthur. The
officers would then take a vote on the recommendations. Finally, our office contacted the
award recipients (or their families) of the date when the President of the
United States would present the awards.
From the window in my
office, I enjoyed watching General MacArthur arrive for work each
morning. Traffic would be
stopped on the road near the moat and the color guard would form on each
side of the steps to the front door.
General MacArthur always bounded out of his car smiling and then
would run up the stairs.
Though always in a hurry, his cheerful demeanor was a joy to be
around. Very organized and a
great leader, his officers spoke highly of him. He also was very expressive and
shared his deep emotions when one of his top officers was killed in
Korea. I am still amazed how
God placed me in the path of such a powerful and influential
The May Day Riot
One of the most intense
days at work was the day of the May Day riot. May 1, Japan's Labor Day, was
usually celebrated with a parade and various fun activities. Unfortunately, that year, an angry
mob of communist Japanese wearing red armbands began turning the cars of
American soldiers parked along the moat upside down and setting them on
fire. In their rage, they
attacked the soldiers as well, throwing them into the moat. Sympathetic Japanese onlookers
helped to rescue the soldiers from the moat but were helpless to stop the
In response to the
pandemonium outside, our office building was quickly barricaded. While the soldiers guarded the
doors, the rest of us scurried up to the roof of the building. I watched
the madness of the riot from the roof, amazed at what was happening. Then, my heart quickened when I
heard via radio that groups of angry communists were setting fire to the
homes of Americans living in Tokyo.
At this time, since George was 100 miles north for a speaking
engagement at a college in Ibaraki, Lynette and Janetkay were left at home
with just our Japanese nanny.
I was desperate to get home and check on them.
I prayed silently for my
girls' safety and was so grateful when the husband of one of my coworkers
called to take both of us home.
After receiving approval from the Colonel to leave work early due
to the urgent circumstances, we huddled by the back door of the
building. Finally, my
coworker's husband drove their small Volkswagen alongside the back
door. Grateful for the
soldiers standing guard, we bolted out the door and into the car, our
hearts beating with fear.
Our driver pulled away
from the building and headed directly towards the street filled with
rioting that we had seen from the roof. Panicked, we urged him to turn
around. He ignored our pleas,
convinced that we would be fine.
As we passed by Hibiya Park, a gang of angry Japanese men came out
of the park armed with baseball bats and sticks. Seeing us, they dashed towards us
and began beating on our little Volkswagen and lifted up one side to turn
us over. Our driver ordered
us to get on the floor, which was rather difficult in a car so small. He gunned the motor with all his
might and zipped through the mob surrounding us. To this day, I never found out how
we made it through that crowd.
I have a sick feeling, however, that some of the men may have been
hit as we sped away.
Prayerfully, no one was seriously hurt.
After traveling three or
so blocks from that intense scene, the streets were quiet. I could not wait to reach the
street where I lived. Once
dropped off, I ran inside the house to find Lynette and Janetkay perfectly
safe. I was so happy and
grateful to God for protecting my family in such a great way.
Our Home -
Meanwhile, George, having
received news of the uproar, jumped on the next train back to Tokyo from
Ibaraki. He arrived at the
station greatly distressed to see the rioting all around. He dashed through the tumult
quickly and was grateful to find everything calm on the street towards our
home. As he bounded through
the door, we all huddled together.
God had truly been good to us on that most exciting day!
The Living Room
Bidding Farewell to the
Seeing General Douglas
MacArthur leave Tokyo left us in the office feeling a bit sad. After he left, I worked for two
other generals but neither stayed long. Three times I resigned from my
position to focus on the ministry and my girls, and three times George
decided we needed more money and I stayed on. I thoroughly enjoyed that job and
the great friendships developed through so many shared experiences.
Having been exposed to so
much that went on during the Korean War, I always enjoy watching reruns of
M.A.S.H. on television. So
many memories are stirred and so many times I burst out laughing, able to
relate to the comments and jokes made on the show. I especially love hearing talk
about Pork Chop Hill as I actually know where it is and many events that
took place there.
The Motosu Lake Camp
While I was busy working
for the army to provide support for the church, George diligently focused
on preaching and teaching God's word. As he focused on meeting the needs
of the disciples and those seeking to know God, a desire to build a camp
in Japan, as in America, grew in George's heart. George felt deeply that the
Japanese needed a place to be in God's creation, far from the hustle and
bustle of worldly influences, to meditate, hear God's word without
distraction, and have a lot of fun.
After much prayer and
searching, God opened up undeveloped land along Motosu Lake, one of five
or so lakes at the foot of majestic Mount Fuji. As the water of Lake Motosu was
extremely pure, the beach spacious, and the woods lovely, the property
seemed ideal. Through
multiple negotiations with government officials, we leased the land for 99
years at a cost of $100 per year.
As the land had no facilities, I was grateful that George could use
my salary to build a couple of cabins on the beach.
Going to and staying at
our campsite at Lake Motosu was always an adventure. As we neared the camp by car, we
would be jostled up and down as we made our way over the rut-like
roads. Upon arrival, we would
be greeted by very primitive conditions. In that rugged environment,
George's experience as a Boy Scout was invaluable. When cooking, for example, George
would dig a hole in the sand by the beach, fill it with charcoal, and cook
our food when the charcoal was burning hot. With no running water on the
property, we developed strong muscles in our arms as we filled buckets
with the pure water from the lake and stored it outside our cabins. We ate outside in the open and sat
on blankets. Splashing in the
fresh, cold water of the lake, we bathed both ourselves and our
In time, the Girl Scouts
and other groups began to use the beaches around the lake and we decided
to build our cabins further toward the woods. Our carpenter constructed a set of
wood cabins with bunk beds and futons for our single campers and a larger
U-shaped cabin with a porch for two resident missionary couples and their
families. I loved spending
time in our missionary cabin, especially when I could enjoy the company of
Colis and Dolores Campbell who lived in the other side of the cabin with
us. In an open space between
the two bedrooms of our cabin, Dolores and I would set down our little
clay one-burner stove called shitsurin. Our fuel consisted of little
pieces of wood and charcoal.
One shitsurin heated up our coffee and the other cooked our
breakfast, whether eggs, french toast, or hot cereal. I have great memories of mornings
spent eating breakfast and drinking coffee on the porch.
Together with the Campbells and G.I. families at Lake
Each year, God blessed us
financially, allowing us to make improvements to the camp. For example, after we discovered a
spring in the hills above the camp, we had a great time constructing a
"pipeline" of bamboo poles to transport the fresh water down to the
camp. Later, we built a large
water reservoir. In time, we
were able to install plumbing in the missionary cabin. The construction of a large wooden
lodge with a kitchen, gas and a fireplace allowed us to have indoor
worship services and devotionals as well as great times of dining and
fellowship even during cold or rainy days.
God greatly blessed the
summer camps at Lake Motosu.
It was such a joy to see the lives of so many young Japanese men
and women impacted from the experience of time away from the city focused
on God. During the month-long
summer camps, we participated in classes each morning and played softball
or went swimming in Lake Motosu in the afternoon. In the pitch-black evenings, we
gathered around a campfire and enjoyed entertainment such as skits or
listened to a heart-changing Bible lesson. The camp grew in popularity and
soon missionaries traveled from all over Japan to serve as teachers and
counselors for the college-age or young single campers. George and I were so encouraged
and moved by all those who became Christians during those summer camp
Back in Tokyo, when it was
time to relax, George and I loved to play the card game "Rook" with the
Campbells. George loved to
tell the story about one card game in particular. George and Colis always played
against Dolores and me. One
day, sick and tired of our husbands always winning the game, Dolores and I
devised a system to give us a major advantage. We bought some jellybeans and set
them on the table to nibble on while playing Rook that night. If Dolores' strong suit was red,
she would pick up a red jellybean.
I did the same according to the strong suit in my hand of
cards. We won the game using
this method, but afterwards, guilt-stricken, we confessed our crime to our
husbands. George never let us
live that card game down!
In Tokyo, small
earthquakes tended to shake us weekly. Occasionally, we also experienced
major tremors. We had one
such large quake on a Sunday while Janetkay, then 12 years old, was
teaching the children's Bible class.
George and I were so proud of how she quickly gathered the seven
children in her class in the doorway and stood above them to protect
Our most terrifying
earthquake hit during our second Christmas in Tokyo. As the quake rocked us, we watched
the bamboo tree in the island of the driveway sway back and forth all the
way to the ground. During
such tremors, the greatest danger resulted from fires started by
knocked-over kerosene heaters.
One such fire blazed through the post office burning everyone's
mail. We were sad at the loss
of the Christmas presents sent to us from America, but very grateful to
have each other.
In an effort to save as
many as possible, we started a weekly radio program. Judge Inomata preached the Word
and his musically talented son Yoshio gathered five men together to sing
hymns on the program. God
used this excellent radio program to inspire many interested Japanese to
As George felt strongly
that Japanese disciples, rather than Americans, should be the main
preachers in Japan, he started a preacher training program. Once a week, young Japanese
disciples from outlying areas traveled to Tokyo to learn from George. Then these newly trained and
inspired preachers went back to their hometowns to start churches. Unfortunately, with little
ongoing discipling, these churches quickly lost their evangelistic zeal
and eventually shrank in size or completely died out.
So eager to see God's Word
spread throughout Tokyo, George and I filled up our schedules with
activities. Besides striving
to excel as a wife for George and help Lynette and Janetkay with their
homework from the international school they attended, I often taught Bible
classes for the military wives on the bases. As a result, I often rode a series
of trains back and forth.
Changing between trains at certain stations could be quite
challenging. I still laugh
when I think of one soldier whom I discovered was getting off of one
train, racing down a series of steps, scrambling up the stairs on the
other side, and jumping on the very same train. He had been doing this for over a
year without realizing it.
Once his soldier buddies learned what he had been doing, they
enjoyed teasing him for quite some time!
Furlough to America
By the end of
our third year, God had blessed our Yoyogi
Hachiman church to grow to nearly 100 members. We were so grateful to watch God
work so powerfully. At the
same time, George felt a deep need for the Japanese disciples to take on
more of the church leadership.
In addition, George desired to receive a Master's degree in the
Bible from Harding University.
After a lot of thought and prayer, in the summer of 1953, four
years after we planted the church, we decided to return to America for a
year. We were confident that
the Campbells would lovingly watch over the flock while we were
While I took Lynette and
Janetkay back to America to spend some time with my sister and then enroll
the girls in first and fourth grades in Harding, George sailed to Africa
and South America to encourage and exchange ideas with several of our
missionary friends working there.
One missionary had just finished reading a book on a Nevius Method
used in Korea. Colis had some time before giving him a book by
Roland Allen on "Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours." George, greatly impacted by
discussing these works, shared what he learned with fellow students and
professors while at Harding. George became deeply convicted that each
church should be completely self-supporting, choose their own preacher and
support him, and appoint elders to shepherd the disciples. As a result, we put those
convictions into practice during our second four years in
While George worked on his
Master's Degree at Harding University, we both enrolled in a graduate
Greek class at Lipscomb University.
As I was the only woman in the class I was teased incessantly. Comforted by George's presence,
God allowed me to receive a 97 on the final exam, which was the highest
score in the class. Then,
while I took an additional semester of Greek, George took a class on
Having received little
discipling while on the mission field for the last four years, I really
wanted to grow as a mother.
With this in mind, I enrolled in an undergraduate class on Child
Psychology. In addition, I
took an undergraduate class on shorthand, which I had always wanted to
I thoroughly enjoyed those
days of being back in college.
As I still looked quite young for my age and because medication for
a rash on my hands prevented me from wearing my wedding ring, I was
mistaken as a typical student in my early twenties. In addition, as most of the female
students including myself wore cotton dresses with full skirts to keep
cool in the warm weather, we all looked very young. Unlike a young girl,
however, I would often get tired running up the three flights of stairs to
my shorthand class. When my
classmates would exclaim, "What's the matter with you?" I would respond,
"What do you mean? I'm old
enough to be your mother!" (I
was about 35 years old at the time.)
My classmates couldn't believe it. The teacher also assumed that I
was about 15 years younger and called me Irene in class. Since this teacher also had a
child in the fourth grade, he discovered his mistake when he saw me at a
parent meeting and realized that I was a mother. A bit embarrassed, he said,
"I had no idea you were married and that you were this old. From now on I'll call you Mrs.
During those university
days, George, Lynette, Janetkay and I lived in graduate housing near the
campus. Our small apartment
was sparsely furnished and filled with the bustle of every family member
busy with studies. Since
Harding had Mondays off at that time, on that day of the week we scrubbed
down the apartment, made menus, grocery shopped, did the laundry, and took
care of any other household affairs to completely free up the rest of the
week for our schoolwork.
Everyone pitched in.
For example, each day, whoever returned home for lunch first would
prepare sandwiches for all to munch down quickly.
On weekends, George Pope
would preach at various small churches in Arkansas, Texas, and
Oklahoma. Thus, on Sundays,
we would typically rise quite early and be on the road for several hours
before arriving at the church for that weekend. Lynette and Janetkay loved
listening to his sermons all the way and the silly songs he would
sing; Lynette used some of his ideas while taking a preaching course
at Harding Academy.) George
always spoke about the work in Japan to interest the various small
churches in mission work. He
did his best to convince these congregations that saving lost souls
worldwide was important to Jesus and should be to them as well.
That year at Harding flew
by quickly. During our
Christmas holiday, we spent time with family. By the time of Spring break,
George was busy writing his Master's thesis on Christian camps. Though George had a great deal of
personal experience to share in his thesis, he read numerous books to
strengthen his work academically.
His thesis was so well received that most of the Christian colleges
supported by the traditional church still use his text.
Back on the Mission
After visiting the church
in Chicago, which had been supporting our work in Tokyo, George, Lynette,
Janetkay and I returned to Tokyo.
In an effort to force the Japanese disciples to take on more
leadership of the church and to be self-supporting, George started work
with the Fifth Air Force as the Education Director at Haneda Air
Base. He enjoyed planning the
curriculum and teaching the GIs who needed to earn their high school
diplomas. George also hired
adjunct lecturers to teach courses at the base branch of the University of
Maryland. This job was ideal
for George as it provided plenty of free time for him to spend time
discipling and raising up Japanese disciples.
One great benefit of
George's position was that Lynette and Janetkay could go to the military
school just five minutes from our house. The school emphasized Japanese
culture, including flower arranging and origami as well as the Japanese
language. In addition, since
George worked at the Air Base, we could watch movies at the on-base
theatre and buy American products at the PX and the grocery
During those years, I
often felt that George and I were drifting apart. Both so busy, we seldom spent time
just talking and loving each other.
I began to get bitter and critical, not trusting his heart. Those times were so difficult,
especially without mature godly couples surrounding us to disciple our
hearts. Thanks to God and His
Word, my heart softened. In
time, George and I had great times of confession, forgiveness, and a
rekindling of closeness between us.
After that, we only grew closer and closer to each other, for which
I am very grateful to God.
In an effort to be closer
to George and earn additional income, I took a job as secretary to the
comptroller of the Haneda Air Base, using my newly acquired shorthand to
take dictation. Although I
enjoyed my new position and being on the same base as George, one day a
sudden pain shot through my right arm. The pain elevated to the point
where I had to be rushed home in an ambulance. After considerable testing, the
doctors at the Air Force Hospital decided that I had suffered an injury in
the cervical spine. The next
thing I knew, I was in traction in the hospital. Nearly six weeks later, I finally
was allowed to return home, but even then I had to lie in traction on our
studio couch with a 25-pound bag of sugar over my head. I was so happy when I finally
could walk around freely.
Having health and a body free to move seemed like such incredible
blessings of God. I still had to go back to the hospital
occasionally and finally had to go back to the States for more
I busied myself serving
the many missionaries traveling to Tokyo to shop, visit a doctor, or
simply spend time with us. We
had so much company that I would often prepare three different meals one
right after another. On one
late evening with 27 people spending the night, George returned from a
trip out of town and began searching through all the sleeping bodies for
me. When he finally found my
spot on the floor, he snuggled under the blanket with me. That night is one of my treasured