Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cornelia Judson; a missionary to Japan who devoted her life for helping poor children (1860-1939)

hoketsu-toge, Ehime, Japan
The hymn lyrics, which the co-worker of Cornelia Judson wrote,
are inscribed on this stone monument. 

This morning, through my friend Sanae, I've come to know the life and service of the late missionary Cornelia Judson (1860-1939). Despite her devout and sacrificial life, she is almost unknown to us.
By reading her biography, my heart's got filled with joy and appreciation that He's sent such a godly servant to the land of Japan, where most of them are living and dying without Christ. I want to thank Him for His work through His faithful servants through the centuries. They have left their comfort life, family, friends and everything, in order that even one soul would be saved through their life-long service. And in fact, many of them have become sacrificial "soils" in the land of pagan. So, I'd like to introduce you the life and service of this amazing woman of God today.


                                                                   Hokkaido, Japan
Cornelia Judson, a missionary to Japan

The people of Matsuyama call herJudson Sensei (teacher),” with affection. Cornelia Judson was born in Stratford, Connecticut, on Oct. 20, 1860. The following year, she was baptized at the First Congregational Church of Stratford. She was brought up in a pious Christian home and later became the first missionary sent by that church.

Judson experienced a turning point in her life at the age of 13, when she came down with a severe case of pneumonia and was cared for by her parents day and night. Facing death, she asked God to forgive her sins and vowed to work for God and for many people. Her prayer was heard,and she miraculously recovered from her illness. She studied hard to go to college. While at college, she learned about missionary work and especially about the need for missionaries in Asian countries.

The prayer she had offered to God at the age of 13 came to mind, and she decided to dedicate herself to a career as a missionary. After her graduation from college, Judson applied to the Women’s Foreign Mission Society (WFMS) and was sent to Japan in 1887.

Her first posting was to Niigata Girls’ School in Niigata. She began to have doubts about her ability to survive Niigata’s severe winters, especially after her colleague got sick and died. At that time, she found out that Matsuyama Girls’ School (currently Matsuyama

Junior and Senior High School) was looking for a woman missionary, so she ended up going to Matsuyama in July 1890.
After arriving in Matsuyama in Shikoku, she attended Matsuyama Congregational Church of Christ (currently the Kyodan’s Matsuyama Church).

Judson walked from her house to work at Matsuyama Girls’ School. She noticed, however, children playing in the street or caring for infants, in spite of it being time to go to school. She learned that it was because of poverty that they couldn’t go to school, and so she prayed for a place where such children could learn and decided to establish a place where they could study at night. She talked about her plan with Ninomiya Ikujiro, who was the pastor of Matsuyama Church as well as being headmaster of Matsuyama Girls’ School.
He understood the need and promised to cooperate. He was a very busy man, so he introduced her to three youths from his church. One of them was Nishimura Sugao, who later wrote a well-known Japanese hymn.

None of the youth had a teaching license, so in lieu of receiving a salary, they asked Judson to give them English lessons. She was more than happy to accept their plan and started to prepare for the school to open. Her two-story house was to be used as the school building: the second floor for English lessons as well as for her living space and the first floor for school classrooms, so some old chairs, desks, and a blackboard were brought in from the girls’ school.

The school was opened on January 14, 1891 at 7 p.m., with 25 children attending the opening ceremony. This became the first Christian night school in Shikoku. Although the three youths taught without any salary, school finances were still a problem. There were several discussions about closing the school, but Judson was able to hire paid teachers and begin preparations to purchase a new school building.

In the autumn of the same year, she was able to buy a new building, and about 100 children attended. Through this process, she felt her life’s calling was to work for the education of children who would otherwise not be able to attend school.

The next year, Nishimura Sugao, one of the three helpers, became the first headmaster of the school. To establish it as a qualified school, construction of a new building was required without delay. Judson had very simple lifestyle of eating only vegetables and eggs with bread, and she did not order new clothes in order to save money for land and a building.

Even after the school was opened, she continued to help the school financially by giving from her own funds for its development. She indeed gave much money to help the school financially.

After Judson returned to the U.S. upon reaching retirement age, her rheumatism worsened, and she developed a heart condition due to stress and exhaustion. So her doctor recommended that she convalesce. However, when she got better, she visited her friends and churches that had supported her night school and asked them to increase their financial support.

She wrote a long letter to the people of Matsuyama, some of which is as follows: “If God gave me wings, I would wish to fly to you. However, I am now disabled and cannot even walk to Japan. Within a few years, I will be free from this disabled body, and I shall put on a body that can freely come to you.”

Later, at the age of 80, Judson developed breast cancer that then spread to her stomach, for which she received an operation. At that time, she told one of her former school students, who was visiting the US, “If you pray for me, do not pray that I will live long. If I leave this world, my house could be sold and the proceeds sent to Matsuyama Night School for their new buildings.”

She was called to heaven on Sept. 17, 1939 while wearing her favorite kimono, Tomesode. She entrusted all her estate to the American Board and left a will, asking that it be used as a fund for the Matsuyama Night School (currently Matsuyama Jonan Senior High School). To this day, the interest on the fund is sent to the school every year.

All through her life, Judson gave many things and devoted her life to the night school’s education. One of her favorite Bible verse is said to be “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

We can see that Judson herself lived that verse. The way she lived her life taught us that the words from the Bible are not just what we read or listen to,but are living words. (Tr. GK)

Aizawa Hironori, chaplain
 Matsuyama Jonan High School (source)

*This Japanese hymn (yamaji-koete) was written by her co-worker Nishimura Sugao, when (after service in the church) he had to stay overnight at the mountain pass all alone due to train problems.In the midst of his utmost loneliness, God reminded him of the story of Jacob in Genesis 28 and he composed the lyrics.

(lyrics in English)
In lonely mountain ways
of this world's trial and care,
my heart knows naught of fear-scarred days;
the Master's hand is there!
My journey may be long,
the pathway rough and steep.
Sufficient for each day my song;
my way the Lord does keep.
And though when evening falls,
a stone my pillow shapes,
the vision of our kingdom calls
and here a Bethel makes.
Tune: Aaron Chapin, 1816, Kentucky Harmony
Words: Sugao Nishimura, 1903
Translation: Paul R. Gregory, 1983


Anonymous said...

How soon you found her biography! I knew her only by name articles telling episode of the song lylic author.To know her life detail amazed me.So many missionaries left their footsteps in Japan.They did a lot for Japanese.It was so moving to read their stories.


Kinuko H said...

Dearest Sanae,
Thank you so much for telling me all these stories. When I listened to the hymn, I just could not hold my tears. Thank you for the English lyrics. Now, I added it at the end of this post! Arigato. Kinuko

Anonymous said...

Dear Kinuko, What an amazing woman with a desire to serve! An excellent example of what one person can do for the Lord and an encouragement to us, as Christians, to continue serving wherever God places us. I really enjoyed this and the picture of the young girls with the babies on their backs. So sweet:-) love, Ruthie

Kinuko H said...

Dear Ruthie, oh, I am so glad that you enjoyed this post and the picture above. Through her sacrificial love, the divine seeds were sown in the hearts of many children. She might be unknown in the world history but I am sure that she is so known and loved in the Kingdom of God! Amen. Kinuko