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Interviewee: Marsha Sherouse
Interviewer: Diane Nelson
UF 152


N: This is Diane Nelson interviewing Marsha Sherouse in her home at 4744
N.W. 35th Street, Gainesville, Florida. This is March 19, and this interview is for
the Oral History Seminar class at the University of Florida. First off, for the
record, could you spell your complete name? I believe Marsha is s-h-a, right?

S: Right.

N: And your middle name is Mathews?

S: Yes. With one "T": M-A-T-H-E-W-S.

N: One? I did not know that. And Sherouse: S-H-E-R-O-U-S-E?

S: Right.

N: Would you mind sharing a little bit of your first experiences as you remember?

S: I suppose that I grew up in what you might call the "all-American family."My
dad was in business from the time I was about five years old. My mother worked
in the family business from time to time; she was not as active as she was other
times, depending on how many children she had at the time and what ages they
were. They were in the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning business, and still
are today. I grew up in Gainesville. Really, I suppose the things in my life that
prepared me for the type of experience that I applied for and did in Japan was the
fact that, as I grew up I was taught to be inquisitive about the things around me
and to be very open to everything and everybody. Also, my experience in my
church kind of broadened my horizons about people all over the world, I guess
you would say. And having grown up as a Southern Baptist, which is a particular
faith that a lot of people see as a very narrow religion,that has not been my
experience at all. But then, I realize that maybe others have had that experience.
We are taught in our church about people in other countries more or less from
the standpoint of sharing with them the faith that we have. But it is not an
approach that just deals with people on a religious basis; it deals with the whole
person, meaning the whole culture. Many times we have agricultural
missionaries, and in my case, I was a music missionary. In other words, it was to
share Western music with people from a different culture, but also to learn from
them. That was my experience. When I applied to go on a two-year assignment
to Japan, I guess that it was just a culmination of having grown up in an
atmosphere that led me to want to learn as much as I could about the world
around me. Then, maybe in a more specialized area, in the area of music,









because that was my background at that point. I had grown up with music being
part of my life and then majored in music in college. The Foreign Mission Board
of the Southern Baptist Convention brought about the Journeyman program
because we had missionaries all over the world, but oftentimes they are there for
as many as forty years, only having time in the States maybe every five years;
they are not necessarily up to date on every skill. Many times the area of music
is an area that is not innovative on mission field. So you are not just there in the
religious sense, but you are there in the cultural sense also: to trade ideas
between cultures, to learn at the same time that you are teaching someone else,
to make an impression in a social sense rather than just the religious and
philosophical sense, I guess you would say. It is a sharing of ideas. They have
college graduates come in specific areas to meet the needs that maybe the
missionary that is there cannot meet because they do not have training in music
or agriculture or business, whatever the need is. A lot of times, it is a librarian
type of position, or teaching children of missionaries in a remote area. It is just a
real specialized thing, but they feel like that for two years, you can really do a
service to them. In a lot of ways, it is the Peace Corps concept put into a
denomination, a religion.

N: You mentioned your training as a musician, that you are a music missionary.
What was your training up until the time that you left?

S: Well, I studied piano for years as a child and then on into my teen-age
years, and when I was a junior in high school my major instrument became the
organ. So I went to the University of Florida for two and a half years, majoring in
music education with organ as my primary instrument. After two and a half years,
I transferred to Sanford University in Birmingham, Alabama, which is a Baptist
school that has a very reputable music department. There, I continued to major
in music education and graduated from there in December of 1973. I needed a
break from school and I did not particularly want to go on and get a master's at
that point. Therefore, I applied for the Journeyman program to use and gain some
experience in the area before deciding what further education to get. I also
minored in voice and choral conducting just to be a better-rounded musician. All
of those areas served me very well in Japan, and probably anywhere I would
have been.

N: How did you arrive at your decision to pull up roots and go live in Japan for
two years?

S: One of the experiences that I had in college that especially drew me to the
country of Japan was a fellow organ major. We were very close friends while
students at Sanford, and she was just an unbelievably talented musician. I
helped her, I guess you would say, in the area of surviving in a foreign culture.
Because we became close and I saw so many good things in her from her
culture, it made me interested. The particular country of Japan was attractive to









me. I guess that, after finishing school--like I said before--I just was not ready to
really go on to more education, and yet I felt that at some time I would. If I was
ever going to do something like this--pull up roots and just go somewhere--that
this was the only time in my life that I would probably be able to do that. Even
though I was married, we had no children, we did not have job commitments yet
in any particular place, and I really did not want to go onto teaching because,
again, that was school--from a different aspect, but I was just tired of the regimen
and I thought that it would be better to have some experience. At one time I felt
like I might even apply as a career missionary at some point, but I did not feel like
I was ready to make that type of commitment, either. So I guess you would say
that it was just a time that I was very open to something different--something that
I really felt would be a growing experience for me. As a child and as a young
person I had been very attached to my family, and we have very good
relationships and we are very, very close. However, I felt that it would be a
growing experience for me as an individual to be on my own--really on my own,
you know, for a couple of years. There just comes a time when you feel like you
need some very.. .it is an experience you go into not knowing, but maybe at that
age you are living dangerously. I was 23, and I thought this is just really
something that I want to do, and there will not be a better time in my life to do
it. That is why I did it,and I was very excited about it, and I am glad that I did it.
Looking back, it was two of the most valuable years, I think, that I have ever
spent. And it was not for any particular reason, but for a lot of reasons. It was a
growing experience for me as an individual to live in another culture, and
also--from the standpoint of the philosophical and religious aspect--it was a
growing experience because however you approach life, or what is important to
you, is challenged when you go into another culture. You are challenged to really
look at it and examine it. I think at that time in your life--in your mid-twenties--you
are sure of a lot of things, but you are also examining a lot of things. It proved a
very valuable backdrop for me to examine my life and what was important, what I
wanted to do career-wise and that type of thing. So it was just a growing
experience for a lot of reasons.

N: Once you made your decision, what were the application procedures like to
get into the Journeyman program?

S: The Foreign Mission Board has a very stringent application procedure, and by
the time you go through it you have a feeling that you are making your
commitment for a hundred years rather than just two. But I understand this side
of the experience more so than I did then. You do not make a lot of money at this
job, but they do support you and give you your needs and everything for two
years. That is a great financial commitment, especially in a country like Japan. It
cost them a great deal of money and financial backing, because at that time, as
may be true now, Japan had the highest inflation rate in the world and was one of
the most expensive places to live. Because they are making a financial
commitment and a commitment to expose people in another culture to you as a









Christian, as an American, as someone that they are holding up--this person will
teach you, this person will be a part of your life for two years--they want to make
sure of who they are sending. Every year in January, applications are due.
Through the Journeyman program, about 100 or 115 people are appointed every
year by the Foreign Mission Board. As I stated, it is for college graduates under
the age of 26. Most of the Journeyman appointees are single; however, out of
one class you will have maybe five married couples (meaning 10 married people).
So we were one of the married couples. It is a requirement that you must be
married a year before they will appoint you, and we celebrated our first
anniversary in Japan the day we arrived. So you might say we got right under the
wire. (laughter) We had jointly made the decision to apply. We got our
applications, which are very extensive. They include a biographical sketch that is
several pages long. It includes a psychological test and the N.N.P.I. It includes a
biographical sketch of your spiritual pilgrimage as well as your educational and
mental. In every way it is a very thorough examination. They check into your
educational credentials--your transcripts, all that kind of thing--because, since you
are doing a particular task, they want to make sure you are qualified to do that.
Anyway, in February they invite those that get through the first part of the
application process to come to Richmond, Virginia, where their office is, and you
go through a three-day process of interviews. They give you a lot of information,
and you give them more information about yourself. You also take another test or
exam. At that point you are advised of the locations in the world that they have
assignments, what the assignments are, and you choose five, ranking them in
preference. Even at that time, they are not certain where they are going to send
people.

N: What were your other choices?

S: Well, Japan was our first choice. Our second choice, I believe, was Austria,
and the third was another place in Europe--I think it was maybe Norway. There
were two others in South America I do not remember, I think one was Brazil and
maybe one was Columbia. It was so long ago that I do not remember exactly
what those choices were. What stands out to you are those first three choices,
because you really hope to get those. Sincethe assignment was in music, there
were not quite as many things available, but the places where they did need
people, it was a desperate type of need--there was just no one who could teach
music in even the most rudimentary fashion. You knew that you were going to
have a challenge wherever it was. At that point, even though I had had this really
close relationship with a friend from Japan, I really would have been happy
wherever they sent me. I had no particular feeling that if I did not get to go to
Japan that it was going to be wrong. So I was pretty open at that point--my
husband and I both were. Anyway, you go through these three days of
interviews, and they are very intensive, they ask you many, many
questions--questions you have never even thought of answering. In March they
mail out the assignments. This is like the second stage, and only a certain









number of people make it through that. You are invited to accept. One thing
about the Foreign Mission Board, they do not try to convince you to sign up for
this program if at any point they sense that you are hesitant, because they realize
that it can be very costly if they get you there and then you come back. It is really
stressed that they expect you to make a two-year commitment and that it would
be very unacceptable if you were not sure enough, if you even entertained the
idea that you might not make it through the two years. I can understand that. At
first, I thought it was maybe a little harsh, because how do we know what is going
to happen? But I understand more now the necessity of that. It is a very intense
experience, and two years really is not that long. I did not want to come home
when it was over because I felt like I had just gotten there. It was such a good
experience, such a positive experience, that I could have stayed longer. In fact,
we asked if we could, but they will not let you.
N: I can relate to not wanting to come back.

S: (Laughs) Right.

N: Once you had received your assignment, what kind of training program did
you have to go through before you left?

S: We actually were through with college in December of 1973, but I had to do
my organ recital the next semester because I had broken my finger. So I finished
in June, technically, and we went for six weeks of training.

N: What year was this?


S: That started in June of 1974 and lasted through August. Then you have two
weeks in order to go home, be with your family, and say goodbye to everybody.
We arrived in Japan on August 19. The training is one of the most valuable
experiences I have ever had, even if I never had completed and gone to Japan
because it is so intense; you have classes everyday from 8:00 in the morning
until 10:00 at night. You even have classes on Saturday morning, and when you
are not in class you have research to do in the library. We had the training at
Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is a Baptist girl's school. In
the summer there just are not many students there, so that is why they chose to
have the training there. There were 85 Journeyman that completed the training
and went the year that we went. Even at training you are given the privilege to
say this does not feel right and, I am not going to go through with the process.
We were required to run a mile every morning before breakfast. You are trained
intensively--physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The first week they
spent in small group type of experiences--they had psychologists come in and
facilitate the dynamics. Also, the entire experience is based on keeping you on a
very stringent psychological pattern, I guess you would say--I do not know exactly
how to describe it. We came to call the college "Meredith Island" rather than









Meredith College because we were never allowed to leave the campus. You are
talking about people who have graduated from college, some even are married,
who are under the age of 26. Not an easy group of people to keep in one place
all the time with that much time in class. The idea was that when you go to a
foreign country, you are isolated from your culture. So what they were trying to
do was to kind of set up an example. They did not always tell us what the rules
were, and sometimes we broke them. But you see, that is what you do in a
foreign culture--you do something that isO.K. in your culture, but maybe it is not in
their's. You find out by committing an infraction of the rule. I will just give you
one kind of silly example of what they were trying to do. For instance, we were
required to dress for dinner. Now, I do not mean coat and tie, but we did not
wear grubby clothes, in other words. Well, one night my husband wore a very
nice pair of jeans to supper. One of the people came up to him and said, "You
need to go back and change your jeans into slacks." Now you see, they had
never told us you cannot wear jeans, and of course in 1974 it was just like it is
now--jeans are the All-American uniform. So he did that. It sounded like a little
silly thing, but what they were trying to communicate is that you have to really be
sensitive sometimes to pick up in a culture things that you have to learn in order
not to offend people in the culture. It is not the point to go over there and stay an
American all the time. You are to learn from their culture. It is not that you adopt
their culture, either. The whole six weeks you dealt with things like this, which
could become very irritating at some points. Yet later you were very thankful that
they were that strict. We would learn to play volleyball and soccer and things like
that, only international rules to make sure everybody knew the international rules
because recreation might be something we would be involved in. So that was a
big part of our training, which they did in the afternoon to kind of break up the
study business. They had people who would come in and teach us, for instance,
how to learn a language. Now, we were mostly put in what they called "English
language assignments," meaning that you could function with English. That did
not mean that they did not want you to attempt to learn the language, and in most
assignments they would pay for you to have tutoring in the language. However,
our career missionaries spend two years in language study. Obviously, for a
two-year assignment you cannot spend two years in language study. Therefore,
what they would suggest is that you get a private tutor and learn enough of the
language in order to survive and to make the people feel that you were trying to
work their direction. It was not a requirement that you learned the language,
however. They would teach you how to learn a language. They would also teach
us how to teach English as a second language to people over there. The reason
the classes had to be so long is many times they were cramming in a year's worth
of study in one week, on one subject. We learned about all types of religions in
countries all over the world. That was a very big part of our training, because
Japan is 1% Christian. The other faiths are Buddhist and Shinto. You have to
learn to understand what those are--how it relates to the culture and everything.
And Japan being such an ancient civilization, so much older than ours, its
traditions are much deeper than we have as Americans. So you really have to be









sensitive to those things or you will not know how to develop relationships with
the people that you are going to work with. We would spend time in learning how
to develop personally in an isolated situation, especially if you were the only
person going. Now in our case we were a couple, we were married, we would
have each other in the sense of relating psychologically in a place where you
might feel very much alone in a foreign culture. They spend a lot of time helping
you as an individual to know how to cope with culture shock, that type of thing.
The feeling of not having anyone around that looks like you. Or, what is it like to
be a foreigner? Most of us had not had that experience, even though we have
many foreigners in America. There was a lot of time spent on that. So you might
say the six weeks is just very comprehensive. They take every area of an
individual's development, and they work on it very intensely with the idea that
they are preparing you to live in another culture. Therefore, they have to break
down some of the things that we hold onto and make you a more open person,
make you a person that learns to see value in other cultures and break down
some of your Westernization, your Americanism. Not saying it is bad, but just
saying you have to be open to another culture. You get to know the people
around you very well. It is such an intense experience when you spend that
many hours a day in class with people, you really become close. Then you are
all going to go out all over the world to all different places. At the completion of
the Journeyman experience, we all arrived back in the States in June of 1976,
and in August they bring you back together again for what they call a "debriefing."
So you know you will see each other again, but it is just a very emotional time to
be involved with people that intensely for six weeks and then you go all over the
world to your assignments. It is real exciting. The momentum builds toward the
end and everybody knows, "Gee, it is only ten more days until we leave," and it is
very intense. I would say the training was very well done. It was done through
years of studying and knowing how to prepare people to work in another country.
A lot of people say, six weeks? Well, I am glad they spent six weeks training us,
because that made the experience so much easier to adjust to and it made you
ready to embrace another culture. Like I said, the training would have been
valuable to me even if I had never followed through and gone to the country,
because it was such a valuable learning and growth experience for me as a
person.

N: As it got time for you to leave and it got closer, what were some of your
anxieties?


S: One anxiety in thinking about the end of the experience is that I think that
when you are a teen-ager and when you are in your early twenties, you have the
feeling that a year seems like such a long time. Well, by the time that we had
been there--I guess you would say 22 months because you come home just two
months shy of 24--you feel like you have just arrived. First of all, it is like starting
life all over again, except at this point you are not a baby. In a new culture, it is









like everything is new, and it is an adventure. Every day is an adventure, going to
the grocery store is an adventure; I mean, every little thing is an adventure.That
becomes a way of life, and in 22 months you cannot discover everything, so you
are very much caught up in the experience and all of a sudden, you have to gear
down to come home. Even though you are coming home and you have not seen
people in your family for two years and that type of thing, you are so intensely
involved in this new culture and this new experience that it just seems to be a
premature thing. So you start trying to gear down to come home. Also, you have
been out of the country for this long--you do not have a job! Are you going back
to school? That type of thing. In the last year that we were there, we made the
decision to go on to seminary, which we did. We did not apply in the area of
music, but in the area of theology, feeling like both of us were going to go into the
ministry and that we needed more preparation in the area of theology. We
already had a lot of music training--more than oftentimes you use in a church
setting. So we had applied and had been accepted, and we knew we were going
to do that. So you have that on your mind. You do not have jobs and you cannot
act on that until you get back into your own country. So that is a little bit of an
anxiety. It is starting over again, and it is starting over completely from scratch.
You know, what is going to happen next? I have to go back, I have been out of
circulation for this long, I have to get a job. I will not say that it is a point of
extreme anxiety, because at that age you are very idealistic and you know
something will work out. That is just kind of the way it is, it is anadventure. You
think about leaving the people that you have come to know. In our particular
situation, we worked not only with the Japanese, but we worked with American
military. Now that trains you to make relationships and to learn to lose them
because the military changed--you lost a third of the people every six months. So
you kind of learn that. I loved the Japanese people, just as a people. So you
come to love these people and when you think of leaving the country, you do not
know whether you will ever return again. People who are Americans, you think
well, we will crosspaths somewhere in the States, or you have the option of doing
that. When you think about the expense of travel and know it is only going to
become more expensive, you realize that you may never see the people in this
country again. The relationships that you have had, the closeness that you
developed--and you have a great sense of loss. You have come to love that
culture, to appreciate it, and you really are not ready to turn loose of that
experience, but you have to. So you kind of start psychologically preparing
yourself--you have got to really switch gears. One of the interesting things that I
experienced when I went to Japan was culture shock in the sense that they had
prepared us for. Therefore, I thought, that is great; they did not say everybody
would, but they said most people would. But I very easily embraced the other
culture and learned. I was so excited about it that I did not have that problem.
However, when I came home I had what they call reverse culture shock. I did not
know what was happening to me really, because I had not been forewarned and I
did not even know there was such a thing. I did not realize it was a syndrome
with a name (laughs). What happened is, when I came back I just went through a









period of depression of about six months that was extremely severe. I missed the
culture that I had left. I missed the experience of being a foreigner. When you
are a foreigner in another country, like I said, everything is an adventure. Also
you are so different from the people around you that often you are the center of
attention. You do not realize that you are getting used to perfect strangers
coming up to you and asking you questions and being excited to even meet an
American or something like that. You begin to just get used to being an
exception. When you come back to your culture, you are just a regular, ordinary
American; nobody really pays any attention to you. You think, this is kind of a
drag. Here you are back in your culture and there is nothing adventuresome
about it--there is nothing exciting about it. Also, when you are a Journeyman they
always have more than you can do. You are so busy all of the time and, if you
love what you are doing--assuming that things work out and it is a good
assignment and everything--it is a very exciting lifestyle. You just go from one
thing to another, and you never have time to really stop and analyze anything.
You go from that back to school, and you sit in class all day, and you look at
books and you do research. It is just a lifestyle change that is very dramatic. I
guess it is really getting back to reality. Sometimes if you are in a foreign culture,
I think, for a short length of time it is almost like a fantasy type of experience. It is
like your life is suspended for two years. When you come back, you expect
everyone to be the same as they were when you left. There are just so many
emotions that you go through, realizing that you are leaving friends behind and
yet wanting very much to see people that you have not seen for two years. It is
one of those bittersweet experiences and it is full of emotional trauma. It is an
exercise in mental stability because you have so many mixed emotions. It can be
very traumatic. Because I was not prepared for that, I could not understand what
was going on with me when I came back. Finally, I realized that I was not
adapting back to my own culture. There is something about living in a foreign
country that you become more a citizen of the world than a citizen of your own
country. I will say one thing, 1976 was a very exciting year for America. When I
came back into America we were experiencing the Bicentennial, and everything
was really a great experience. You feel all those feelings of patriotism that
maybe in recent years we kind of.... I mean I was in high school in the late 1960s
and that was a very almost anti-American feeling. It is a very patriotic type of
experience to come back to your culture when everything is in red, white and
blue. We came back in June, and whereas it was hard to leave the other culture,
it was a very exciting time to be back in America. You learn to appreciate the
things in your culture that you do not find elsewhere.

N: When you first arrived in Japan, what were your first immediate impressions?

S: I remember as we drove from the airport, which was two and a half hours from
where we were going to live, that everything was concrete. There was concrete
everywhere; I mean that is all you could see. There were no countryside from
the airport in Tokyo all the way to where we would live, which was the community









of Fussa.


N: How do you spell that?
S: Well, if you Romanize it, it is F-U-S-S-A. Tokyo is such a large place, and this
was in the Tokyo area--I guess you would say a little hamlet on the outside. It
was near Yakoda Air Base. We, however, did not live in the American part, we
lived on the Japanese economy in a rental house. I was amazed at how
Westernized Japan was. I knew it was, but to see it. In some areas it even
seemed to be more Westernized than we are. In other words, it just looked like
concrete and development everywhere, whereas I guess I expected to see
something more rural. We did see that part of Japan, but my initial impression
was there is nothing here but concrete cities. The people! There are so many
people in Tokyo. I mean it is--or used to be--the largest city in the world. I am
not sure if it is now; it is either number one or number two in population in the
world. It is not something you can imagine without seeing. I kept thinking, look at
all of these people in one place. That was one of my first impressions. When we
arrived in August, that is typhoon season. It rained for 27 days after we arrived
there and I remember getting a little disturbed. I was thinking is it going to rain
the whole two years? Because even though we have hurricanes in Florida and
you can have some rainy days, it is nothing like what this was. I remember
feeling a little let-down because of the dreariness. Those are some initial
impressions. The Japanese people are so polite, and they want you to learn
about their culture and they want to learn about yours. The people were very
receptive, very gracious, and I remember that that was a good feeling because
you do begin to feel like, "O.K., here I am--there are not many Americans around
and here I am." How do I function? How do I go to the grocery store? How do I
do the things that are so ordinary? I remember the first time we went to a gas
station to fill up our car--which of course, we were driving on the other side of the
road and all of that was new--and about six men rushed out to the car. I
immediately thought, what are they going to do? Well, they not only fill up the car
with fuel but they dust it, they take your ashtray out and make sure that there is
not anything in it, they kind of just converge on it and do all of these things to
make sure that you are served very well. I was not used to that. I mean, they
check the oil, they wipe off all the windows, they wipe the hubcaps off, and you
are thinking, "What is this?" (Laughs) It was such a surprise to me. That is one
characteristic of the Japanese people is their commitment to excellence, whether
it is in the craft that they do or the skill that they do or the service that they
perform. They just take a lot of pride in everything that they do, and it is
something that I think makes them successful on the world market--something we
have lost maybe here a little bit of in America. You just have an excitement about
everything you are doing. I was impressed by their productivity, I guess, in
everything they did. They are so productive. I guess those were my first
impressions. They tell you that when you go to a foreign country, that after you
are there 18 months you do not see things the way that you did when you first
came. So they suggest that you take pictures of everything that you can your first









month in the country because you see things differently, and after 18 months
those things are not novel anymore. Therefore, you would not take a picture of
the same things. So I guess those were the first things that I noticed in being in
the country.

N: You mentioned that you lived in Fussa.

S: Right.

N: Was it as industrialized as Tokyo?

S: Not really. They have a few small factories, but many of the people who lived
there worked in Tokyo. Also, a lot of the business in Fussa surrounded the needs
of the military people. For instance, there was one street that they called "The
Strip." On it were all the little stores that sell things that Americans like to buy
when they go to Japan: photography equipment, stereo equipment, brass from
Korea--all kinds of things that people could just walk off base and go and buy
those things even if they were just flying through Japan. They could get them at
very reasonable prices. China shops--all of the things that you think about buying
there. So a lot of the shopkeepers catered to that market. Therefore, in some
ways it was a little more Americanized than others. You could go out of Fussa
even 15 miles and be in a very rural section of Japan. Therefore, it was kind of
nice because it was not so rural that you could not find things of convenience, but
at the same time you were notin the city. Of course, Japan has the most
advanced train network of any country in the world. Therefore, you could get on
the train and ride an hour and a half and be in downtown Tokyo. It seemed as if
the city never ended, Tokyo just went into Fussa and all of those things. The
further out you went the more rural things were. So in other words, you had the
best of both worlds. You were not in the downtown hecticness of the city, but at
the same time you were not so remote that you could not find a department store
or a large grocery store, that type of thing. You had all of the conveniences. Of
course, you could not read the labels of what you were buying, but after a while
you learned about that! (laughs) It was a very easy culture to learn to live in,
really.

N: What was your lifestyle like?
S: Well, we lived probably a lifestyle that you might say was above the
average Japanese in this way. Like I said, there was very little salary involved in
our commitment what they did was pay for your living needs, you had an
allowance for food and that type of thing. Because real estate is so expensive in
Japan, the mission had rented a house near the church that we worked with. It
was a four-bedroom house because they had rented it for a professor from one of
our seminaries that had been there for a year while he was on sabbatical. He
had five children. Therefore, they needed a house that large. But it would have
cost the mission more to find a smaller place. What this was was a little









community that had what you would call "Americanized" houses. They were built
by Japanese and

everything, but for instance, they had Westernized appliances and things like
that. So it was really not your typical Japanese house that we lived in. At the
same time, it was not a typical American house, either--it was kind of in between.
We had plenty of room and that was nice, but our houses were very, very close
together. Where we lived was very convenient to where we worked and also to
the shopping areas and that type of thing. Everything is close together in Japan.
One thing you have to learn, for instance, is a tolerance for a car coming within
five inches going 35 miles per hour down a little street! First you think, oh they
aregoing to run over me, then you realize everything is closer here andeverything
has to be in a smaller space. We lived in a lot of ways like Americans, but at the
same time, we did not eat beef unless we went out every now and then, but that
was so expensive that you usually did not--youlearned to eat things that the
Japanese eat. Everything is on the metric system; your oven is in Centigrade.
There are little things that you take for granted that you learn to adjust to or you
burn a lot of things! (laughs) In Japan, everything seems to be built more
economically. For instance, washing machines and things like that are different.
In Japan, we had someone, in America you would say a maid or a housekeeper,
who came in twice a week. Well, I could not afford that even now with both of us
working a full-time job in America; whereas in Japan where we made almost
nothing, we had a housekeeper. That is just something that people do in Japan.
I paid her more than what she charged because what they charged was such a
little amount. That is one thing that is different. I felt like she was worth much
more to me, and yet it was still very inexpensive because she charged maybe the
equivalent of ten dollars a day. But because we both worked so much, it really
was almost essential in order to be able to keep up. We entertained a lot in our
home, mostly Japanese people, because we had enough room to do that and it
was a real good setting for exchange of ideas and getting to know people.

N: What were your duties while you were in Japan? You mentioned you were a
music missionary, what did you do?

S: We were assigned to a particular place, and that was our primary
responsibility. At the same time, we were at the disposal of the entire mission. In
Japan, the organized group was called the Japan Baptist Mission. I guess you
might call it a group of cooperating Baptist churches in Japan. They had a
separate identity from Southern Baptists in America; however, they work in
cooperation with one another. We were assigned to the Konto (sp?) Plains
Baptist Church and, as I said, it was a church that had an American church and a
Japanese church. We worked as ministers of music and youth at Konto Plains
Baptist Church. One of our primary duties was to direct the program for
teen-agers in the church. Plus we did the music, also. I taught piano to American
military children because there are very few people over there who can do that.









That was kind of above and beyond my duties, but that was part of it. We led all
of the choirs graded from children in pre-school all the way through adult. Also,
our church had a kindergarten for Japanese children (four- and five-year olds)
and we were involved in teaching music in that setting (in kind of a classroom
type of setting) and that was another responsibility. The other thing we did was,
when we could be away from these regular responsibilities and the programming
of that, we would do concerts--vocal concerts--all over Japan for missionaries in
other areas. We did everything from classical music to contemporary gospel
music. Japanese people like to hear Western music, and therefore what we did
was use music as a tool to acquaint them with our culture and with our faith.
Many times the things we did were not--you would not come into it and say, well
this is a religious service. What it would be would be more of a musical concert.
The Japanese love classical music and they were very well-trained in the
appreciation of classical Western music. This was surprising to me--it should not
have been, their educational system is so sophisticated that this is a part of it.
Therefore they love to learn that kind of music; they love to listen to it. A lot of
times, we would do concerts in that way. So that was part of our ministry, just
doing that all over Japan. We could not give many organ concerts because there
are only two pipe organs in Japan! (laughs) Therefore, we did not do much of
that but we have a university in Japan and we traveled there and did some P.R.
work--a lot of it is P.R. work--acquainting people with our denomination through
the medium of music.

N: How were you received by the Japanese people when you arrived?


S: Well, I felt like we were very well received. They are very warm. You have to
also understand, though, at the same time, it would be incorrect to just look at the
culture and say all Japanese are friendly and warm and all that kind of thing.
Because the other side of it is that that is true for the most part, but you have to
understand where they are coming from. In other words, one of the philosophical
contexts out of which they come is the feeling that they do not want to be under
obligation to anyone. This goes back to their very most ancient culture, which we
do not have time to go into, but there is a certain feeling that they do not want to
be obligated to you in any way. It is a very hard thing to understand--it does not
they are just being nice because they do not want to, but they are very eager for
you to be--for your approval, and for you to embrace things that are important to
them. So, whereas they seem to be very gracious, many times they are doing it
out of obligation because that is part of their culture--that is the least that they can
do. That is what is expected of them as just people is to be polite, to be gracious
and to put forward almost a perfect image of honor--you know, it is a thing of
honor. It is very complicated to explain and I guess you would say there are
some things that do not even exist in our culture. There is not even anything that
I could say was a parallel. Every culture has certain standards that represent
honor (in Japan they say "saving face") or whatever and that is why in Japan--I









am sure that you are aware of some of the things that have been popularized--the
Samurai in ancient Japan, if they brought dishonor on their family the honorable
thing to do was to take their own life. That was just an accepted thing and when
you look back and read the literature it looks like they were cutting off their heads
all the time and in fact that was the case. Because to them, to bring dishonor on
the individual was to bring dishonor on the whole family and that was not
tolerated. You have to realize that sometimes their graciousness is not their
reaction to you as much as the way that they are supposed to act and expected
to act. Yet I think as a general rule, they are a very pleasant society. Whereas I
think they are very emotional people underneath, you would never see that very
often. You see a smiling face or something like that--you do not find too many
willing to relate to you on a very personal level or an intimate level of
conversation or anything. It is more of a--you just do not get that deep with them.
However, when we left Japan, I remember when several of the people we had
become close to were crying and exhibiting emotion, I really knew how close our
relationships were because that was not an easy thing for them. When they
become angry--you see so many different sides but I do not know whether you
have seen the riots on T.V.--when they become committed to an issue like
nuclear power--they are very much against that--and while we were there, if we
would even have a submarine in port anywhere in Japan that was a nuclear
submarine, you might have riots all over the country because they would just go
crazy over that. Well that is not the typical Japanese you see in the day-to-day;
they spend hours on trains, they spend hours in these kind of zombie-like trances
going from one thing to another like I guess maybe we do in Chicago, in New
York--you know, the commuter life if you live in the city. But if you meet them on
a person-to-person basis, that is not the way they are at all. They are very
personable--they want to make a good impression on you. From what I
understand, since the time when the Olympics were in Japan (I do not remember
when that was, it is maybe 20 years ago), the country made an asserted effort to
appear to be Westernized. And they really Westernized themselves--I mean it
was just like a huge campaign to do that. And they were very effective in doing it.
The Japanese are interested in you as an American--they ask you lots of
questions. And it is always a good feeling for somebody to be interested in you
and want to know about you. So, I felt very well-received. The Japanese people,
they would give us gifts and they are very expressive in that way--they are very
appreciative. Many times we would do things at the kindergarten that I felt were
just in the line of duty--that was our job--that they considered it above what was
required and they would respond by giving gifts. They say you cannot out-give a
Japanese and I believe that. (laughs) Many times, we as Americans grow up
and we are on the giving end, we are not on the receiving end. In Japan it was
different. I felt like I was always on the receiving end, that I could not out-give
them. And that was a learning experience because I learned that I had to be
gracious in learning how to receive because it was important for them to give. It
was very much an important part of their society. One thing that I learned, when
you talk about embracing another culture, one of the things they do in Japan is









when you go to someone's house for the first time, you take a gift. Now it may
be--a lot of times it is a food item or flowers, or something like that--a bottle of
wine, many times they take. In Japan certain food items, say melons,
watermelons at that time may be seven- to twelve-dollars in Japan. They would
buy a melon and they would wrap it up in this beautiful box and they would bring
it to you--you know, that was considered a very nice gift. So the first time you
went to someone's house you would bring them a gift. Well, we have tried since
we have been back in America to do that when we go to an American's house for
the first time. I think that is a really special expression of good will that I learned
from the Japanese and I try to do that. Not that I am always able to do it, but I
think that was something worth incorporating into my lifestyle. Because I think
that we live such busy lives that we do not often express good will toward each
other in a tangible way. It never had to be something expensive--sometimes it
was, but it did not have to be. The idea was that these people had invited you to
their home and that you were grateful and appreciative and so you would give a
gift. What Americans did a lot of times is we baked things from American recipes
because they do not have the same background of baking. They think that
American bakery types of things and sweets are just the ultimate food. They just
love that type of thing--their baking is not in the same way ours is, it is a relatively
new thing for them. They do not even use the same flours and things we do. So
that would be what I would try to fix because it was unique and I felt like
something that would be different.

N: You mentioned that the Japanese people try to appear gracious as a matter of
culture. Did you ever have to wonder if maybe you were not--because they did
not tell you how they felt--that you were stepping on their toes?

S: There are times that you feel that way. It is something that you kind of learn
to--say, after you are there a while--sense. It is just like in your own culture you
can when a person is being sincere and when they are doing something because
they feel they have to. In Japan it is much more difficult because it is a way of life
to smile and bow and be gracious. But for instance, maybe in a setting where
you were relating to someone, say, maybe a shopkeeper. You go in and you do
not find a certain item so you ask for it. Instead of telling you, no we do not carry
that, they would say, maybe tomorrow--not today, maybe tomorrow. So you
would go back the next day and--no, not today, maybe tomorrow. In other words,
they could not say "no" often because they did not want to disappoint you or to
not be adequate to your requests. You would learn after a while that when a
shopkeeper said "maybe tomorrow," that that probably meant that they would
never have it. They were incapable of saying, no, we do not carry that item. So
after you go back a few times in your ignorance, I suppose that you would
decide--well, you would get a little irritated and they would try not to be irritated
with you for asking.

N: I know one of the things that is a big issue in this other Baptist









convention--and you know this--is the role of women in ministry. How are you
perceived as a women in the ministry in Japan?

S: Well, first of all I guess you might say that the Japanese do not really know
that much about our culture in the sense of how women can be ministry.
Because ministry to them is a Buddhist priest, O.K.? Women are not higher
echelon in Japanese society, just as they are not in American society. But, by
tradition, even the women could be Samurais and by tradition women really have
the control of the household--money and everything, in Japan. There is still that
feeling that there are certain roles that women do not take. In Japan it is very
typical for a woman to receive a very good education--college degree--and then
get married and have children and not work. That is just the way it goes. You
might say that much of their education is--that is just what they do, they do not
ever put their education into practice in the sense of a career. However, I have to
say that there are some very outstanding Japanese women who have been
decorated by their government, and who are in government, and in the Japan
Baptist Mission, a couple of the most outstanding Christians were women. They
had very responsible positions in either government or industry. So, it is being
more accepted. I do not know--it seemed to me that they would--that most of
them did not really put me in the same category as they did my husband, in the
same position. It is expected that you are somewhat of a failure if you do not have
a child the first year you are married in Japan. Therefore, here we were having
been married a year when we got there and being a young couple--it was like,
why do not you have any children? My response would be part of the
commitment of this job is that you do not have children; they will not appoint
people in the two-year position who have children. Some of them thought that
was very strange. One of their responses would be to give me stuffed animals
and things that children like that indicate children. Do you know what I mean?
They would give me gifts and say, for when you have a baby, you know, for when
you have a baby. That was very at the forefront of concern, you know, for me. I
didn't realize it at first but that was very important to them. So they had a little bit
of difficulty with that. I am not sure they would have been able to verbalize it. As
we were leaving Japan, many of them said, we hope you have a baby very soon
(laughs) and things like that. They really had that on their minds because they
would look at it from the standpoint of what is normal in their culture. I felt as
accepted by the Japanese people in ministry as I did by the American people. I
think this is the kind of a thing that goes beyond cultures. In our world, now, we
are examining the role of women and it is something that is in limbo. I did not feel
it was a disadvantage at all. At the same time, I am not sure that it was--I will not
say it was ever negative, maybe it was just something that made people--that
was different for people; that took a little bit of adjusting for them.

N: Were there any particular religious conflicts that you had, you being a
Southern Baptist and them being Buddhist or Shinto?









S: Well, of course when you put the Christian faith up next to either Buddhism
or Shinto, you have something very different first of all. Because Buddhism,
Shinto do not recognize Christ as the central figure in the religion. What they say
about the Japanese is that they have Buddhist weddings and Shinto funerals.
What it is, they can be both at the same time because Shinto is basically ancestor
worship. They have what we might call idols or little god-like figures that are in
different places--in gardens--they have in their homes what they call a
"god-shelf"--they leave gifts of food, flowers, things like that on them. Buddhism,
on the other hand, is more the "way of life" type of religion. I think people usually
seem to be more committed to one than the other or whatever. Buddhism has
some very worthy beliefs in the sense of discipline. You have heard--Zen has
been popularized--and a lot of this is borrowed from the Chinese culture. Then
they have taken it from those ancient times when China and Japan were in war
all of the time. Japan has borrowed from the Chinese culture this ancient set of
rules and orders and they have customized it to their situation. The development
of the inner life is very, very important. It is a very character-building religion.
The difficulty is that it is really separated from their lives. They make
contributions to the temple--you know, that type of thing. So, from my perception,
it was hard to really say they are a religious people. I think you would say they
are a people who stuck to their religious traditions. How much of a difference it
made in their spiritual lives is up for debate. It also was not unusual for a person
who was Buddhist to say, oh yes, I am a Christian, I believe that Jesus lived and
all of that, he was a great prophet--they do not see any conflict in being all three;
meaning that they do not understand what we mean when we talk about
Christianity and what its beliefs are. I think there is a lot we can learn from the
Buddhist faith in the sense of looking at the things that they are committed to.
That is truth, and the search for truth. It is a lifelong search for truth and in that
way coming to the end of life knowing that you have lived in a way that was
harmless to your fellow man, that made you spiritually one with Buddha--this
presence that you are to become one with. One area also that I think is very
worthy of study is how they are committed to meditation. This has been kind of
popularized in just the last few years with the movies about "The Karate Kid" and
things like that. A lot of that is showing us that you can become strong within
yourself by committing yourself to being--committing yourself to a higher power.
It is a disciplined thing, much more disciplined than, say, Americans live out their
Christianity. What I found was that a Japanese that wanted to embrace
Christianity did not necessarily feel like that they had to reject these other things.
And to reject them was often rejection of family; they would be disowned if they
became a Christian. Often, they would make a commitment to become a
Christian, but they would not want to be baptized because the Japanese consider
baptism as a total commitment, as an act, a ritual that was not the same as when
you said as a spiritual decision, I want to do this. But, oftentimes you would find
that they had the disciplined life; they had the ability to commit to something and
to be faithful to it. And yet, they were empty. There was an emptiness that it was
just because of tradition and not because of any present spiritual presence in









their lives. So, they are very open to Christianity and a personal experience with
a higher power--they are very much attracted by that. At the same time, that is
not what we believe--what ministers and people--that is not what Southern
Baptists believe--but you have to be very sensitive to say you can embrace
Christianity and not reject your culture, if you know what I mean. And that takes a
great deal of time answering many questions. We have to make sure that we do
not cloak Christianity in Westernization and Americanization to the point that we
expect them to accept an American form of Christianity. Do you understand what
I mean?

N: Yes.

S: That the pure sense of faith and spiritual sense of oneness with God is
something that you have to do. So many times you have to leave behind some of
the traditions that are an American expression of Christianity. They are very
curious about Christianity because they have heard a lot of snatches of
information but they have never really met a Christian--met someone who was a
minister. I know one time we showed a film about a Japanese Christian who
became a very famous general during the war who became a Christian and
embraced Christianity. We showed it in a Buddhist temple because we rented it
for the evening. So, I would not say there is an antagonism even from the
religious people in Japan. It is just that they have more of an idea that you can
embrace several things at the same time whereas we believe, not that you reject
everything, but at the same time there has to be one commitment that is the
priority, I guess you would say. So, I felt like there are some conflicts but there is
much to build on that they already understand from the discipline that they have
grown up with. When you find a Japanese that becomes a committed Christian,
they are by far more committed than the average American Christian is.

N: Let's talk a little bit about when you were coming home. You say you worked
at Kanto Plains Baptist Church. Is that C-A-N-T-O?

S: K-A-N-T-O is the Romanized version.

N: What about Plains, then? (laughs)

S: P-L-A-1-N-S.

N: O.K. Do you still keep in contact with that church?

S: We do and we keep in contact with our friends from Japan. A lot of times
the way that we do, the particular missionary--American missionary who has
been there I do not know how many years has come home several times on
furlough (which is kind of like a sabbatical) and he lives in Orlando when they are
on sabbatical. Therefore, we always see them when they are here. He works









with the Japanese church. He is American. He probably has more command of
the Japanese language than any American in Japan. He has been there since
right after the war and has just a phenomenal gift for language and speaks
Japanese fluently. He carries messages back and forth--we still stay in
correspondence. He always brings us up on how everyone is and then
communicates back to them when he goes back. They are usually home maybe
six months out of the year. Now that their children are older and gone they come
home more often and for a shorter length of time. So we still communicate and
we have some American friends still in Japan and we have, of course, our
Japanese friends. So we keep up on everything and we still... One of the
Japanese kindergarten teachers who was probably the closest relationship we
had with the Japanese, has come to visit us in America since we have been here.
Her niece is a designer in New York and so she came to visit her. During that
time, we were in Kentucky in seminary and she came and stayed with us for
about a week.

N: Have I worn her dresses?

S: No, I don't think so. (laughs) She brought me a scarf--I cannot remember the
name now but I think it is probably out of our price range! (laughs) I think her
designs are a little bit out of our price range. She must be very good at what she
does and well up on the ladder of that particular industry.

N: I have one more question for you. If someone told you you could go back
to Japan next week, would you go?

S: Yes. I would. I have even thought at times that I could be satisfied to live in
Japan for the rest of my life--if my family were there! (laughs) In other words, as
far as the culture is concerned and my ability to develop a comfortable feeling
about functioning in that society, next to my own culture, I think I could live in
Japanese culture for the rest of my life and be very happy. Because I was that
taken with it or enchanted by it. You know, to live there for a lifetime would be
different than living there for two years. I very much came to love and appreciate
the culture and the society and the people. So, I would love to go back to Japan.
From time-to-time we talk about that going back for a visit; seeing some people
we would like to see and taking our little girl to see those things, to experience
them because we feel like that would be a very good experience for her at the
time. We think it would mean more to her when she was older. I thought, too,
about the advantages of her being exposed to that culture, say, for maybe a year.
Many times they have missionaries who come home for a year; meaning that
someone has to replace them. A lot of our seminary professors will do that type
of thing because they get a sabbatical. However, in our churches--if you were in
a church situation in ministry--the trend has not been to offer sabbaticals.
Therefore, there does not seem to be the time; we would have to end a job, go,
and then we would have the anxiety of trying to find one when you came back.









However, I think that we are going to see in the next probably ten years that even
churches will see the advantage of sabbaticals for ministers who have been there
a certain length of time. Because it is a refreshing experience, it is a growing
experience, plus I have proposed for a long time a good idea would be for the
missionary who was home--who wanted to come back to the States for year--to
take the place of the minister there and then the minister go over for a year. It's
like almost trading ministers for a year. Therefore, there would be no vacancies
that a congregation would have to deal with. At the same time, I think the
different congregations would grow because the ministers would return to their
flock refreshed and having had a very refreshing experience. So, I have thought
of a lot of contexts in which I would return to that society for a visit, for maybe a
year, for some particular purpose. I have even thought of it from the standpoint of
a career. But probably made a decision four or five years ago that at least for
now that does not seem to be what we should do. I have not ever totally put it out
of my mind that we might not at some time go back and maybe do two terms for
ten years or something. I am still very open to that because I really never--I was
not able to be there as long as I would have like to. One problem we have is that
I am an ordained minister and in our denomination right now with the controversy,
there is some doubt whether our Foreign Mission Board would appoint me. Not
because the people who are at the Foreign Mission Board would not, but
because of the conservative element in our denomination that might have control
by that time. So that is why a visit might be the only way that I could go back.

N: Teaching music?

S: I think that would be good, too. So, I would love to go back.

N: O.K. Well thank you very much and you should be receiving a transcript of
this at some point after they transcribe all these.




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