One of the things that is often talked about is being “Home Sick.” We’re hitting the almost 6month mark here in Japan, but reality is that we’ve officially been on the missionary calling for a year now.
A year ago, we sat down with A2 President Joe Handley and VP of Missions Mary Jo Wilson, and over a meal at Green Street Café, figured out this calling. Thank you to all our loyal family and supporters, we are super excited and privileged to have your prayers, financial blessings, and friendships.
However, one of the hard parts for me (Sterling) is not just missing family traditions,food,or holidays (I could really go for a legit WI bratwurst!) – it’s also missing saying Good-Bye’s.
Recently we sat down for a lunch with Paul & Carol Suzuki. Carol’s father, Rev. Ken Murakami, passed away recently in Chicago. As we won’t be able to travel to Chicago for his memorial and life celebration, it is hard to miss those moments. Indulge me for a moment as I process his passing aloud, please.
P. Ken Murakami was a gentle pastoral presence who was one of the first pastors I can remember having big conversations with. He was the pastor at Lakeside Church of Chicago, and thus was one of the leaders at the church camp Emi and I attended as kids in Lake Geneva, WI every summer. He also knew my grandfather, Rev. Andrew Oyama, and many of my cousins, aunts, uncles and extended family. Even though my family was a so called DCJC family (my grandfather's church), he always spoke to me as if I was part of his flock.
When I got baptized in the waters of Lake Geneva, he was the pastor who “dunked me”. (sidenote: most people were intimidated by Rev. Hibino dunking them, as he was “all-business” with a fast whirlwind dunk motion! “NEXT!”) In my 1:1 time with him, he didn’t talk to me about my grandfather, as he understood that submission to God is a personal thing, and not a family legacy.
That time as young disciple showed me a pastor who stopped and listened, and then shared his wisdom. Really a pastor who listens first? Imagine that! What a confidence in calling to have a teacher who didn’t need to talk down to me, or anyone. I think that’s the type of faith we need expressed more often. A friend said “we need leaders who want to be shepherds and not people looking to steal sheep.” P. Ken Murakami was definitely a good shepherd, and I would not be here in Japan without his speaking into my life at that time in my faith journey.
The old Lakeside Church of Chicago was built basically under the L-tracks. It wasn’t on the good side of the tracks or the bad side. It was under the tracks! So when Rev. Murakami was giving a Sunday Sermon, he’d have to stop mid-sentence sometimes until the train passed. Granted sometimes he’d talk too soon, and we couldn’t hear what he was saying. Sometimes his pulpit joke may get lost by the disrupted timing. But the truth is that Jesus stopped, Jesus listened, and Jesus served. Those trains may have taught P. Ken to stop, and listen more often, before speaking.
(Later in life, I realized, there a many preachers who could use an L-Train to drown out some of what they are saying.)
In his retirement, P. Murakami stayed faithful in serving. He was a good friend to many people who mean a lot to me. Some friends in particular went through a falling out with a church leader,that ultimately caused a rift in the church. P. Murakami was a good friend and a good pastor through that hard time. He didn’t need to be, he was retired...but pastors never really retire do they? Isn’t it amazing to hear how people who know a true calling never stop trying to be peacemakers?
So, I will miss saying good-bye to P. Ken Murakami and joining the Lakeside Family, and Camp Lake Chi-KO family in honoring his warmth, his leadership, and his heart to serve. Many thanks to the Murakami Family and the extended Lakeside Family for sharing your dear Pastor with us. We mourn his passing, but we are ever grateful to have had him as a shepherd.
|Camp Lake Chi-KO composite (thanks Wally Osakada for not sending me home!) P. Ken Murakami is in the upper right corner. Emi is third row on the right. I'm behind the SNOOPY sign)|