BELLEVILLE - For years Lee H. Kanagy and his wife Adella brought a message of salvation to the people of Japan. Now Kanagy is sharing his family's journey and mission with others through his new book.
"A Pilgrim's Journey II: Following God's Call to Japan," chronicles the Kanagy family's life as missionaries in Japan for over 12 years.
Kanagy, 93, was born in Allensville to Amish parents, but when he turned 21 he decided to leave the Amish life and ventured out west to Iowa. It was there that he joined the Mennonite church and began his formal schooling. After finishing high school he moved to Indiana to attend Goshen College. There he met his future wife, Adella.
Several year later, he decided to pack up his family and move to Japan to live as missionaries.
Kanagy said his decision to go to Japan as a missionary was due in part to a Japanese man he met in the United States. While Kanagy and his wife lived in Fairfax, Va., they had the opportunity to meet with another Japanese man named Matsumoto who had been a principal of a girls school in Hiroshima.
"He told us his story of how he suffered," Kanagy said, adding that many of his family and friends had died when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Kanagy said that Matsumoto's story fueled his desire to travel to Japan.
Kanagy said there was a call for missionaries in his church, also citing Gen. Douglas MacArthur's call for missionaries after the end of WWII, as the doorway through which it was possible for his family to travel to Japan to do missions work.
"We started for Japan in 1951. The first thing we had to do was learn the language. We only knew a few words when we got off the boat - it took us two weeks to travel to Japan," Kanagy said, adding that his family first lived in Tokyo for two year while learning Japanese.
After getting a grasp on the language and culture, the Kanagy family ventured to Hokkaido to really being their mission work. Their first move was to establish a Sunday school for the children and to teach English to the locals.
Kanagy said he made contact with a man who owned a creamery in Hokkaido, which enabled his family to be more readily accepted. After his family had established a church in Hokkaido, they moved on to Nakashibetsu and began the process of witnessing and teaching all over again, he said.
Kanagy said his family moved back to the United States in 1963 when his children were old enough to attend college and he was reaching retirement age.
Kanagy's book may be purchased at Friendship Book Store in Burnham or at the Thrift and Gift Shop in Belleville. Kanagy's first book which focuses on his Amish life titled, "A Pilgrim's Journey: Remembering My Amish Roots," also may be purchased at both locations.