The taxi pulled up to Hampden Dubose Academy in Mount Dora, Florida. George was nervous as he jumped out and prepared to execute his surprise visit on Frances. He hoped to lie low and not create a big stir among the tight knit staff and students as he called on her.
It wasn’t that he needed to be nervous exactly…since their chance meeting during his first furlough back to the states, they had been writing.
Frances had been teaching at Hampden Dubose Academy for seven years; and while the ministry to Christian children of missionaries had its joys (including time teaching students such as Elizabeth Elliott); her family said (perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek) that the long hours and no pay had turned into borderline slave labor and nunnery. Her family encouraged George to “get her out of there;” and George’s sister (who had been roommates with Frances at Wheaton) offered helpful hints along the way. The families seemed to be all for the union.
In addition, not being big on suspense he had written her before leaving on this second furlough and asked her to marry him and she has said yes. So this surprise was just…well…the fact that he was there. And the ring, of course.
But it turned out to be George that got the surprise at Hampden Dubose. Or rather, he learned there is no such thing as surprises at Hampden Dubose. The first girl he saw offered to help George find Frances. But, unbeknownst to him, she was the headmasters’ daughter and tipped off both Frances and her parents that he was there before he even found her. And while his reception by Frances was warm, his overall reception at Hampden Dubose was quite cool. They didn’t want him to take her away.
[I tell more of my grandma’s story including in this blog.]
Five months later, June 5, 1948, George and Francis were kneeling side by side in Canadensis Moravian Church. Her in her wedding dress, and him with a gaping hole in the bottom of his shoe. The depression years had been good preparation for mission life; he was (and still is) that tight.
[If you missed it, read more about their nearly 70-year marriage in this blog.]
George’s second tour in Japan had only served to convince him even more of the unique need and opportunity for the gospel. George had been assigned to a chapel in Hamadera (Osaka). Whole families from the US moved there as part of the occupation and the two groups were integrating as Japanese often worked for them as household help. His new chapel soon became a mix of American and Japanese. It was the first time in their lives that these Japanese had the freedom to read or even own a Bible.
And while most Allies were struggling with a hatred for the Japanese after the brutalities of the war, George had an unusual love for them. Perhaps his lack of racial prejudice traced back to the way he saw his mother eat with, pray with, and celebrate with Maddie, their black housekeeper in his early years.
During the war, he had not had much direct interaction with Japanese since he saw only one Japanese surrender…an old blind man who came out of the jungle with a rice sack tied to his sword. Even then, George had done his best to protect him and even get treatment for his medical needs. The old gentlemen was in such poor shape, he had maggots even in his eyes. The old man didn’t understand his kindness and neither did the other soldiers. It was all he could do to keep him alive long enough to reach the aide station.
And George had seen enough of the Japanese cruelty to understand the animosity. His responsibilities had included not only spending final moments with dying soldiers, but also writing to their families afterwards. Even worse, during his time in Manilla, he saw the aftermath of the atrocities committed to women and children.
Maybe that was why the Japanese were so surprised by the civility of the American occupation forces. Despite the bitter traces of the atomic bombs, the Japanese were anxious to learn English and learn from the tall, white Americans busy releasing the grip of the Emperor who, until now, had been not only their dictator, but their god.
Ministry in Japan took off immediately with receipt of a telegram. Another missionary named Esther Bower who worked near the Mikimoto Pearl farm (on the East Coast of Honshu) needed help restoring their bombed out mission. Together, they were able to start a church and a kindergarten.
So after kneeling at the altar holding hands with a man with holes in his shoes, Frances stood up to a new adventure as wife of a missionary headed to the war torn nation of Japan. There was no candidate school, language school, or transition time. She and George would visit churches, start a new “Mino” mission, share about the opportunity to minister in Japan, begin a family, take a long boat ride across the Pacific, and begin a new diet of fish and rice.
George’s brief time in reserves came to an end when he found out he had been given orders to Korea. The orders had been sent to Philadelphia by mail and then, slowly, by boat to eventually catch up with him in Japan. By the time he received them, he was already considered AWOL. There was nothing to do but write back and let them know that his service in the US Army was over. He was fulfilling a different set of orders: that of “bringing the blessing of the gospel.”
(Stay tuned for Part III…because stories worth telling just can’t be rushed.)