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History Matters

2023 Annual Meeting to Celebrate Seventy Years of the Brethren in Christ in Japan

The Brethren in Christ Church in Japan celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1959. Missionaries Doyle and Thelma Book are on the left and Pete and Mary Willms and their daughters Margie and Bonnie are on the right.

The 2023 Annual Meeting will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2023, at the Grantham Brethren in Christ Church, 421 Grantham Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055. Dinner will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall, with the program following at 6:45 in the sanctuary.

The focus of the meeting will be the Brethren in Christ Church in Japan which celebrates its seventieth anniversary this year. Joining us will be former missionaries to Japan who will be part of a panel discussion. We also look forward to hearing greetings by video from the church in Japan. In addition, John Yeatts, Historical Society president, will present his annual report.

The cost for the dinner is $22.00 per person. Please fill out the registration form below and send it with your payment to Ken Hoke, 101 Clarindon Place, Carlisle, PA 17013. Deadline for registration is September 22, 2023. Note: if you served in Japan with the Board for World Missions, you will be our guest for the meal. When you fill out the registration form, write BICWM in the space for the amount included.

Registration form (print, fill out, and mail)

Bloom Where You Are Planted

By Ruth Mann Zook*
Marlin and Ruth Zook with their family in 1973.

I was born May 9, 1937 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), to missionary parents Roy and Esther Mann. My first vivid memory was the birth of my brother Robert at Sikalongo Mission in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). After this, I have many happy memories of growing up together at Sikalongo and being a part of the busy mission compound. I also have memories of my father preaching, supervising the mission station work, doing carpentry, farming, butchering, etc., and of my mother baking bread, making butter and soap, and serving as the nurse in caring for many patients at the dispensary. While most of my memories are good, one bad memory that is forever etched in my mind is the near death of my father from malaria. It was a very frightening time for all of us, but I also clearly remember the fervent prayer of an African brother and the miracke of my father’s recovery. As a very young child I saw the power of prayer in action.

My parents and fellow missionaries taught me about Christ and I believed in him as a very young child. I made a public confession for salvation at the Ohio campmeeting while on furlough when I was nine years old. Later, in my early teens in Africa, I came to understand the teaching of sanctification and experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I was baptized at Matopo Mission when I was fourteen.

In retrospect, I feel that being raised as an MK (missionary kid) has been a positive influence for me. As I was growing up, my parents stressed the positive things in our lives and thus I came to look upon being an MK in a positive light. . . .

A new chapter in my life came when I entered nursing school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. After three years there, I graduated with a B.S. in nursing. While I was studying there I met Marlin Zook who was doing his two years of 1-W service at the hospital. Folllowing my graduation, we were married on July 18, 1959. In 1960 we moved to Goshen, Indiana, and he graduated from Goshen College and then attended seminary. I worked as college nurse at Goshen. Following his graduation from seminary, we left for mission work in Japan in July 1963.

As a foreigner in Japan, I could not legally work as a nurse, so my ministry there became mainly teaching Western cooking classes to Japanese housewives and teaching English as a second language to children and to junior and senior high school students, as well as to a variety of adult groups. During the early years, however, my main task centered on raising our family [of three children]. . . .

Missionaries are often forced to use gifts they did not know they had or would not have developed otherwise. In my case, I always felt comfortable as a nurse but I never thought of myself as a teacher. But when I went to Japan, teaching was the main avenue of service for missionary women. I started teaching without training. I read manuals and became largely self-taught and, except for instructing my own three children, I enjoyed teaching. Getting my master’s degree gave me added expertise and confirmed my gift in this area.

Marlin Zook accepting a gift from Pastor Tojo at the Zooks’ farewell celebration in Shimonoseki, 1986.

My experience with learning to teach reminds me of the old saying I learned as a child: “Bloom where you are planted.” I tried to do this in Japan. . . . I learned to garden so I could have contact with our rural neighbors; the added benefit was extra food that I could not buy at the local market. My upbringing in Africa helped me to adjust to cooking from scratch, to baking brown bread, to making sauerkraut and pickles, etc., if we wanted to eat them. This philosophy also helped to stimulate growth in unexpected areas, which then opened doors to further ministry.

*Ruth Mann Zook now lives at Messiah Lifeways where, among other things, she volunteers as a nurse and uses the Japanese art of arranging flowers called “ikebana” to offer beauty to her surroundings. She attends the Dillsburg Brethren in Christ Church. This story is condensed/adapted from My Story, My Song: Life Stories by Brethren in Christ Missionaries, edited by E. Morris Sider and published by Brethren in Christ World Missions in 1989.

News and Notes

From the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives
By Glen Pierce, assistant archivist

The Brethren in Christ Archives regularly receives a variety of research requests. Some are as simple as asking for a copy of an obituary or an article published in the Evangelical Visitor. Others are more complicated, requiring staff or volunteers to do hours (and sometimes days) of research in one or more of the collections.

Three requests received in May and June illustrate the value of preserving historical records as well as some of the limitations that face the Archives.

Request #1

Copy of part of the deed for the Ringgold Meeting House.

In May, the Archives received the following email request from John Walker, one of the trustees of the historic Ringgold Meeting House:

I was wondering if somewhere in the archives there might be a deed or other information for Ringgold Meeting House. We have been trying to do a stake survey and have come up with nothing in terms of a deed that describes boundaries. If you have something, we’d love to have a copy.

Very few congregations have placed copies of the deeds to their church properties in their congregation’s papers held for them in the Archives. In fact, some congregations have very little of their congregational history preserved in the Archives: a few years’ worth of congregational council minutes, a few photographs—and that’s it. Other congregations are much more proactive, sending council minutes and church board minutes on a regular schedule, plus photos and other information about key congregational events.

Fortunately, the Archives records of the Ringgold Meeting House include a photostatic copy of the deed recorded in the Land Records of the Circuit Court of Washington County, Maryland. A PDF scan of the photostatic deed was sent by email to the Ringgold Meeting House trustee, who was able to use the legal description in the deed to locate the property’s boundaries.

Status: Research Completed Satisfactorily

Request #2

Miriam (Mim) Stern reading to a group of Youngways MKs, 1967.

Also in May, Peter Guinther, from the World Missions offices, asked for a listing of all the missionary children who stayed at the Youngways Hostel in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, during the years of its operation, from 1960 to 1976.

One of the volunteers in the Archives used issues of the hostel newsletter, Youngways Chatter, and group photographs in annual Youngways Christmas cards to compile the initial list of names. Because the Youngways files did not have the names of the initial group of eight children, our volunteer contacted one MK who came to the hostel in the second year of its operation to verify the names of the first group of children.

Based on identifying persons in the various group photographs, coupled with articles in Youngways Chatter and the information provided by one of the first children to live at the hostel, the Archives provided a list of ninety-one names of Brethren in Christ MKs who lived at Youngways Hostel at some point during its operation.

Status:  Research Completed Satisfactorily

Request #3

A small portion of archival items in storage.

In late June a person contacted the Archives through the “Contact Us” link on the denomination’s website. She was hoping to get a confirmation of her baptism performed by Pastor Fred Carter in the mid-1980s in Glendora, CA. Fred was the founding pastor of Sonrise Fellowship, a church-plant which soon changed its name to Glendora Brethren in Christ Church before closing by 1988. Unfortunately, as is too frequently the case for congregations that have been closed, none of the Sonrise/Glendora records were transferred to the Archives, nor do we have a current address for Fred Carter.

Status:  Request could not be fulfilled.


Images from the Past

From the photograph collection of the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives

A highly anticipated activity of each graduating class at the Messiah Academy was the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. The class members visited various government buildings, monuments, and museums. This photo was taken during the trip of the class of 1958. The class advisor was George Lenhert, Superintendent for Buildings and Grounds, and for whom the maintenance building at Messiah University is named.

Arrangements were made for a photographer to take a panoramic photo of the class standing in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. It was the photographer’s suggestion to have a person, the class president, begin by standing at one end of the group wearing his cap. When the photographer gave a signal, that person would run behind the group to the other end, where he would take his place with his cap removed. That’s why Bob Hamilton is seen two times on the photograph—hatless on the left of the photo and with a hat on the right side.

Note: the date of the photo is shown at the bottom. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Lenhert and the bus driver are included in the photo.

Photograph and explanation courtesy of Bob and Judy Hamilton.