LINKS WITH JAPAN
Many years ago in the 1930's a lady by the name of Miss Edmeades, a former missionary to Japan worked as a missionary to the Japanese seamen whose ships docked in Birkenhead and Liverpool. She also held a prayer meeting for the Japanese in Birkenhead and one day an officer with the Merchant Navy Mr J Arthur Holme was invited by his Aunt to attend this meeting with her. This he did and so began a desire in his own life to witness to the Japanese people and in particular the sailors who came into the ports at Liverpool and Birkenhead.
Prayer Group for Japan. Miss Edmeades is on the front row third from left and Mr Holme rear second from left
In 1964 when I became a Christian I started attending the Assembly of God in Birkenhead and it was there that I came into contact with Mr Holme who was a member of that church. At that time he lived in a large house in Birkenhead and he had a housekeeper by the name of Miss Violet Johnstone. I remember a young man by the name of Eiji Yonemura staying with him for a period of several months as I recall in the late 1960's or early 1970's. One day Eiji preached in the church and I remember that he spoke from Psalm 104.. He doesn't remember me from those days but I do clearly remember him.
Eiji Yonemura with Violet Johnstone
Mr Holme was active in visiting any Japanese ships that came into port at Liverpool or Birkenhead until his eyesight started deteriorating, and he then had to rely on others to take him to the ships. I was one of those who he asked to take him in his car. It was quite an experience and one I shall never forget. Although he had never been to Japan he spoke the language fluently and the sailors on board were especially impressed at his fluency in their language. Sometimes, however, they didn't want to speak in Japanese but wanted to try out their 'English' on him. It was a difficult work and they were not easily won for Christ, although during all the years of visiting he did manage to lead about 40 sailors to Christ, many of whom corresponded with him and visited him for many years afterwards. Another occasion that I remember well was a young lady by the name of Itsuko, an English graduate from Tokyo University, who came to visit Mr Holme but he was unable to accommodate her at that time so we volunteered to have her stay with us. Ever since then we have remained friends and many years later when she was married we stayed with her and her husband Nao in Paris where her husband was working for one year. The under- mentioned photo is of her with Mr Holme and Miss Johnstone outside his house in Birkenhead.
Mr Holme's gift for languages was very impressive, I think that he could speak about twelve languages, five of them fluently. I remember in 1982 we had a visiting singing group from America to our church who sang partly in English and partly in Hebrew. We purchased one of their tapes and about a week or two later we heard him singing away in Hebrew one of the songs on the tape. We had moved to the Wirral Christian Centre at this time where I became involved full-time as the administrator. The church had purchased a former hospital and one of the uses for this was to be a home for the elderly. I arranged for Mr Holme and Miss Johnstone to be accommodated there but sadly just before that was to happen he died, and whilst he was on his deathbed he asked me to look after Miss Johnstone which I endeavoured to do. Accordingly Miss Johnstone became one of the first residents of the home, and she was well looked after there, her financial affairs being looked after by myself. Miss Johnstone died in 1991 as I recall (aged 96 years), but in 1989 she had a visit from Eiji Yonemura and his wife Sachiko who wanted to see her before she died. Dorothy and myself thereafter got to know Eiji and Sachiko quite well and we have kept in touch ever since.
Eiji and Sachiko with Violet Johnstone Eiji and Sachiko with Dorothy and myself at our house group
(with Anna Powell, a nurse, in the middle)
Before she died Miss Johnstone asked my advice as to what she should do with the money she had in her savings, so I suggested to her that she might like to pay for Paul Epton (the pastor of Wirral Christian Centre, and also a powerful evangelist) to go to Japan to minister there, and she was very pleased with my suggestion. When she died she left the money to myself and I honoured her wishes by paying for Paul and his wife to go to Japan which they did in 1992 and they had a very fruitful visit there, firstly in Tokyo and then to Kumamoto in Kyushu Island, where Eiji Yonemura was pastoring a church. The pastors of both churches in Tokyo and Kumamoto were eager for a return visit of Paul and Evelyn and this was planned for 1994. However Evelyn was unable to go, which as I recall was something to do with one their children taking exams at the time, so Paul asked me to go with him. I was rather nervous about the idea partly because I had never flown so far before (only short flights in the UK), and secondly because I didn't know how I was going to get on with Japanese food. However I plucked up the courage to go and in 1994 we set off for about 12 days, and I'm glad that I did.
My trip to Japan
Our first visit was to Hino in Tokyo to an independent Pentecostal Church where a Pastor Cato was the pastor. We were there for about a week and Paul spoke during a 3 day convention held in the church (plus myself in one meeting), during a special national holiday period in Japan. Although his wife couldn't speak any English Pastor Cato could speak it well and interpreted part of the time. The meetings were fairly well attended and for a Japanese church it was quite large. The food situation wasn't too bad although when we first arrived we were first of all taken to a traditional Japanese restaurant at Paul's request as he thought that it would be good to 'break me in.' This wasn't really an enjoyable experience for me but I was glad to discover that there were plenty of McDonald's Restaurants there, even though I never go to them in my own country.
Outside the Hino Church in Tokyo At a local restaurant with Pastor & Mrs Cato (Western style!) A local town, and typically Japanese
Whilst we were there we were entertained one day by one of the families in the church, which I really enjoyed. Paul, wishing me to have a look around Tokyo and also to be able to have some quiet time in order to prepare for the meetings, asked their son Naoto if he would escort me around Tokyo the following day, which he readily agreed to. From that time on we became friendly with Naoto and he came to stay with us for 2 weeks a couple of years later. As it was a national holiday there were a lot of people in Tokyo centre, and coming back on the railway was something to experience! The thing that sticks out in my mind was being among lots and lots of people. Amazingly amongst all those hundreds of thousands of people we bumped into Eiji Yonemura's son, Koichi and his wife to be (Na-ohl Lee). This was such an amazing experience that Naoto just kept on saying 'I can't believe it' 'I can't believe it' Here are a few of the photos taken on that day.
The famous crossing in Tokyo City Centre A popular busy shopping area
Outside the Emperor's Palace Our meeting with Koichi Yonemura and Na-ohl Lee
(second and third from left)
The second part of our trip was to Eiji Yonemura's church in Ozu Machi, Kikuchi-gun, near Kumamoto in Kyushu Island. As this is much further south it is a warmer climate and is in fact sub-tropical. Our stay here was, sadly, only for a couple of days, but still it was very enjoyable, and we were made most welcome. There were only two meetings arranged, one on Saturday evening and the other on Sunday morning. I was invited to speak in the Sunday morning meeting. Eiji and Sachiko were great hosts and really looked after us. They both speak very good English so it made communication very easy. As with the church in Tokyo it was quite a large church by Japanese standards. Here are a few photos from our time there.
At a traditional Japanese restaurant (my only experience of eating Octopus) The view from Kumamoto Castle
Outside the church in Ozu Machi Some of the church members At Mount Aso - Japan's largest active volcano
Post Japan visit
Over the years following my trip to Japan we have had several visitors from Japan, and it has always been a pleasure to have them. We have also made contact with an English-Japanese service which is held in Stockport once a month, which we attended regularly for a few years. Here are some further photos to finish with.
Visitors in our Dining Room At Bi-Lingual Service in Stockport At Woodside Ferry, Birkenhead .
Outside our front door Japanese service in Paris Prayer Board at our church