The Life of Paul F. Rusch: The Road I Walked with Him (3) To Japanese

Tsuru Hiroshima


In the 1960s, we often accompanied Paul Rusch on his fund-raising tours of the US and Canada. Ryozo was in charge of operating the 16-mm movie camera and taking snapshots. I wore kimono and introduced our traditions and culture to our audiences. These fund-raising trips were a tremendous challenge for Paul, as he was required to speak to strangers in unfamiliar places about KEEP and the situation in Japan.

One day we arrived at a small dairy-farming village in rural Iowa. There, boys and girls from the 4-H Club were riding all over the village, announcing from trucks and John Deere tractors, gPlease come to Trinity Church this evening at 7:00. Itfs movie night and Paul Rusch is going to speak on Japan.h At that time, I hadnft the faintest idea how many of the villagers knew where in the Far East Japan was located. Maybe their knowledge of Japan didnft extend beyond Fujiyama and geisha. But Paulfs powerful speech captivated the villagers, as they listened to him speak about KEEP, gDemocracy in Rural Japan,h and view the 16-mm KEEP film. They devoured every word that came out of his mouth. gWe learned a lot tonight.h gA wonderful speech!h All of them had words of praise for Paul as they shook his hand. They looked happy and content. The good rector told me to stand at the entrance with a basket in my hand. The villagers emerged from the church, reaching into their wallets, purses and pockets for donation money, which they dropped into the basket I held. Every one of them headed for home feeling fulfilled.

I was once told by an American KEEP supporter that gPaulfs hands are like magnets,h and they were! One more thing happened that evening. A cute little girl about five or six years old came up to me and whispered, gI like you because you have hooves just like my beloved Daisy.h (I was wearing tabi that evening.) I was once asked to speak to a womenfs club in Minnesota about the KEEP Nursery School. I told them that one dollar had enough purchasing power to provide 30 children with a glass of warm milk. A dollar was worth 360 yen in those days. Early the next morning, a little angel came to the motel where Ryozo and I were staying. gMama told me about the children at your school. I have three dollars that the lady next door gave me for Christmas because I did an errand for her. Please give my friends milk when you get home.h That angel continued sending donations to KEEP year after year, around Christmas time, so the children could have warm milk. I wonder where he is now and what he is doing. Ifm almost sure that he must be offering his services somewhere as a volunteer..

My first son was born on a day that was also the birthday of one of KEEPfs strongest American supporters. At that time Paul was having some difficulty raising enough money to start the Kiyosato Farm School. So, when my son was born, Paul put in an overseas call to Mrs. Sarah Darnall in North Carolina. I learned later that he called Mrs. Darnall to collect a bet he had made with her about the day when I would give birth. I received a card together with a note informing me that a substantial amount had been remitted to KEEPfs bank account. In 1963 (Showa 38), the school opened its doors for the first time to a group of students from rural areas of Japan. Since I was 31 years old then, Mrs. Darnall sent me 310 dogwood seedlings by ship. As I mentioned before, Paulfs hands were like magnets, as far as fund-raising was concerned. He appointed none other than Mrs. Darnall assistant principal of the Farm School. She continued to support the school until she passed away. Two years later, after studying and working hard on the dairy farm at Kiyosato, in the rain and in the sunshine, in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, the students returned to their home towns filled with dreams of the dairy farms they would someday own. As graduation presents, each student received a Jersey calf, together with a pink-and-white dogwood sapling from Headmaster Paul. Tapping them on the shoulder, Paul encouraged them: gDo your best!h

Mrs. Darnallfs last gift was Paulfs residence. It was built using drawings of her house in North Carolina. From the living room, Paul could see Mt. Fuji and surrounding mountain ranges. Paul loved that house. In his later years, when he had visitors, he would show them around the house, pointing to memorabilia and pictures of old friends and supporters on the wall with his cane. During those moments, he was a happy, contented old man.

Paul experienced many ordeals (the war, fire and the Ise Bay Typhoon -hurricane), all of which wrought havoc on his work. When faced with such hardships, the villagers and the nursery school children were the first to help Paul rebuild. Paul Rusch would say, gThe village people have an inner strength that helps them maintain their equilibrium in the face of earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and other adversities. They are my friends, and they have taught me that forward is the only direction to take. The children pooled their 5- and 10-yen coins and presented me with 6,000 yen. As long as I have friends who will donate funds originally set aside for funeral expenses, wedding or birthday presents for the reconstruction of the hospital, the school and Seisen Ryo, I must keep going!h Then he would fly to America and Canada in search of new funds. Paul never forgot the teaching of his mentor, Dr. R. Teusler of St. Lukefs International Hospital: gDo your best. Anything done in the name of Jesus Christ must be first-class.h Paul took this motto to heart as he continued his work for the Kingdom of God. As Paul experienced not only aging but also the apparent waning of the energy that had sustained him in the past, he began losing friends and long-time supporters. The worst loss and the hardest one to bear came when Ryozo Natori, my husband and partner, died unexpectedly in 1976. Paul trusted Ryozo more than anyone else, and looked to him as his successor as shepherd of the Kiyosato Project. We wept together. We prayed together. gI lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence does my help come (Psalms 121).h We chanted together.

It has been a half century since I met Paul. Our children grew up together with other KEEP children. Paul loved them so dearly and the children loved him back, calling him gGrandpa Paul.h On Sundays, Paul loved to watch them serve as acolytes at St. Andrewfs church. Now those children are well into adulthood; wherever they are, Ifm sure they have found success in their chosen vocations. That small rural church gave rise to three Nippon Sei Ko Kai bishops. Makoto Uematsu, recently elected Presiding Bishop of Japan, is the son of Bishop Juji Uematsu and Dr. Kikue Uematsu. He was born and raised at KEEP with the other children. Bishop Mutsuji Muto, who was with us last year for the MJM Easter service, is also a native of Kiyosato. The youngest, Kenfichi Muto, currently rector of St. Andrewfs Church, is his nephew. Last but certainly not least, the late Rev. Mitsuo Akiyoshi, who founded MJM, was also one of our childhood friends. Paulfs dream flourishes as the second generation continues his service to the Kingdom of God. I can still hear Paulfs proud, resonant voice very clearly, calling gYo,h then gDo your best!h

gOne brings another to Christ.h Like the fisherman Andrew, who brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, Paul Rusch was a shy man who preferred a supporting role to being in the spotlight. He often said that KEEP is a democratic organization built by the Japanese themselves. He did not like being addressed as gDoctorh or gProfessor.h Disregarding his physicianfs advice, he continued to smoke and drink, and referred to himself as a ggreat sinner.h He was an ordinary mortal, just like all of us. From the common people, God chose Paul Rusch as a vehicle for His power and love. I am fortunate to have worked with him and been close to him during his last 22 years in Japan. If I hadnft studied in Michigan, if the newspaper hadnft carried the article about me, if I hadnft been fortunate enough to meet Paul ... there are so many gifs.h But I truly believe that everything was guided by the hand of Almighty God. In his will, Paul left all his personal effects to me. In December 1979, I received exactly two items ? Paulfs well-worn pajamas and an old radio scarred with cigarette burns. But God has given me innumerable blessings through Paul, so many that I feel overwhelmed, and so grateful.

Summer, 2006

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