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This transcription was completed in March 2008 by Bob Shuster and Kirk Haywood.
Collection 122, T2. Interview of Gladys Fleckles by John Svadbik, May 5, 1980.
SVADBIK: What I would like to do, is I’ll just repeat this again, and then if you want to just go into it.
SVADBIK: Okay. This is an interview with Gladys Fleckles by John Svadbik for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at Wheaton College on Monday, May 5th, 1980 at 8:00 p.m.
FLECKLES: Realizing that I had to be involved in missions right where I was, I...I got involved in a foreign missions fellowship, and I read more missionary biographies, and that increased my awareness of what God was doing in the world, and I prayed for missionaries. Then a turning point, I guess, where I really got “into” missions came when the OMF [Overseas Missionary Fellowship] representative on our campus. I worked in an office on campus where the missionaries and mission reps checked in on campus, so, a lot came through and would say “We need you in ‘Bonga-Bonga,’” or wherever it was they seemed to need me, but I was used to hearing that, and yet I had never interviewed with one. Well, this one, because he was a friend and a member of the mission to which my boss hoped to apply, [pauses] my boss asked if I wanted to talk to him, he’d give me an hour off work. He didn’t push or anything, even though it was his mission. And I thought “What the heck, I could talk to him and find out what’s going on.” So I went over to the coffee shop and talked to him, and what impressed me about the man and the mission, I later found out, was that, they were more interested in who I was and determining God’s will for me, rather than going with them, and that relationship continued to develop until I went overseas with them.
SVADBIK: Why did you go to Japan? Why did you choose Japan?
FLECKLES: Well, I didn’t really choose Japan. The mission did. [laughs] I had always wanted to go to South America, but I had built up a relationship with OMF, and [clears throat] I was willing to go wherever they wanted to send me. Their primary area is Southeast Asia, and at one point, I was going to Bangkok, another point, the Philippines, and finally, I got a letter that said “What do you think about Japan?” And it was during the ‘72 Olympics, and I loved to ski, and so I said “Is that where I’m going?” and it was. And I was excited about it then, but I had never thought of going to Japan. In fact, in the process of going overseas, I thought maybe I should explore my desire to go to South America, because that’s where I’d always wanted to go, so I applied to another mission, with the idea that God would shut the door, and then I would know that I was supposed to go with OMF. Well, He didn’t shut the door, I was acceptable to both missions, so I came down to a choice on my part, and I chose OMF because of their [pauses] agreement...well, I was in agreement with their goals and their basic way they ran their mission, and that’s how I ended up in Japan. [laughs]
SVADBIK: What was the strategy Overseas Missionary Fellowship used for reaching people?
FLECKLES: Ah, well, I don’t know if you’re acquainted with the mission work in Japan at all, but it’s primarily pioneer evangelism. It’s not like Korea, a neighboring country, where it’s more a discipling, building up the church already established. In Japan, it’s more “Who is God anyway?” And “Who is Jesus Christ?” They have no idea. And so it’s pioneering in awareness and OMF’s key nature of work there is church planters, who begin small groups and gradually build into a body of believers who can purchase a plot of land, if there’s any left, and build a church building.
SVADBIK: How many people are involved in OMF, and where are they located in Japan?
FLECKLES: Oh, I’m trying to remember how many are in Japan. Sixty, I believe, I’m not...I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. Most of the missionaries are in the north part, the Hokkaido island of Japan. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but Japan is shaped like a “J” and the top of the dot is the northernmost island, and that’s where I was located. Most of the missionaries in Japan are in the south, but OMF is primarily in the north, and in the northern part of the southern island. Around the large cities.
SVADBIK: What type of preparation did you do, maybe subjects that you studied, or any special training to prepare to go to Japan?
FLECKLES: I was a short term missionary, not a career missionary, so I was not required to go to orientation, formal orientation. The mission said that I would get orientation at their west coast representatives center...house, when I went there. But when I went there, they didn’t know what to do with me in orientation, we mainly talked about struggles that missionaries have, and some basics on getting along with people, and what missionaries can expect. The mission did put me in contact with some American missionaries in Japan. I corresponded with them and actually spent some time in Seattle with one who was going to be living where I was living. So I...I was able to learn a little of what life in Japan would be like. Well, when I left the ci...when I left the mission, I did a write up evaluating my time, and in that, there are some books, and helpful things, I think, that would help anyone that wanted to go to Japan short...short term, in terms of learning about the country and so on.
SVADBIK: When you traveled to Japan, what form of transportation did you use, and did you go straight there, or did you stop anyplace on the way?
FLECKLES: You mean straight there from Chicago? No, I didn’t go straight from Chicago, I...I went from Chicago to Seattle, and then I spent two weeks seeing people on the west coast, and in the west coast of Canada too, and then I came back to Seattle, and flew out with a charter flight of missionaries to Japan, and arrived in Tokyo and flew straight up to the north.
SVADBIK: When you arrived in Tokyo, and in your early times of being in Japan, what were your first impressions?
FLECKLES: Well, I didn’t have many first impressions when I landed in Tokyo, because it was the middle of the night, and it was dark, and it just looked like lots of lights, and all I remember of that was being rushed from one airplane to the next, and I went from a jumbo 747 to a....I don’t know what size plane it was, it was a jet, but it was a much smaller plane, and once I sat down and looked around, I realized at that moment, I was in a country and I didn’t know the language, and I couldn’t even ask for a glass of water, and everybody...I was the only foreigner on the whole plane, and I remember thinking “What have you got yourself into?” [laughs] A little excited, but also realizing the foreignness of my situation. I love to talk, and I couldn’t talk to anybody. [laughs]
SVADBIK: During your first...your two years in Japan, did you experience any culture shock?
FLECKLES: No, I didn’t. I...I kept waiting for it to hit, but I really didn’t have the kind of cultural shock and psychological withdrawal symptoms that some of the other missionaries who came out when I did had. I was really prepared to go and excited about learning new things, so even the adjustments to different cultural things were exciting to me, and did not cause me to lose my identity and withdraw. I missed my family, and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t re...I didn’t go into culture shock. I did when I got back, but not when I went.
SVADBIK: How did you have culture shock when you got back?
FLECKLES: Well, culture shock stems from a loss of identity, and your security bases are...are stripped away, so you feel like you don’t fit, and you...I don’t know, when you feel like...like when a new person comes to grad school, they kind of withdraw a little at first, and wonder what’s going on. Well, I came back home expecting to fit, I mean, this was home. But when I got here, I didn’t fit, I spoke funny, I’d had two years of experience in another land that nobody around me had really had, except my father when he was in the Navy...ah, Coast Guard, but that wasn’t quite the same, and so I.... Everything was big, and I was used to everything small. I remember walking into a... into the grocery store and just saying, “This is strange.” And that’s when I started to withdraw, and pull in and I didn’t feel secure in what was supposed to be secure, and it took me a good nine months to work through the emotional trauma of being home, and adjusting back to home, which didn’t feel like home anymore.
SVADBIK: In Japan, what type of work were you doing?
FLECKLES: I was primarily responsible for office type things. When I first went, I was secretarial receptionist, reorganized the office and so on, and then the bookkeeper got pregnant, and so I took over the bookkeeping responsibilities for the whole mission in Japan, and worked with the business manager, setting budgets, and money, and planning and so on. That’s what I did from 9-5. I did other things outside the office. I was free to get involved in other things.
SVADBIK: What type of things did you get involved in?
FLECKLES: I knew that was coming. [laughs] Well, I had...I had have, and still hope to have a continuing interest in work with students, and so I did make contact with other missionaries in the area who worked a lot with students, and I would go to their youth meetings and sing, or give my testimony, or on their outings, I’d go and rub shoulders with them. I was also involved in a Japanese church. It was only six to eight members when I started, and after two years, we had forty, which is a phenomenal growth. And I worked with junior high kids there, I taught them English songs and contributed in English some insights into the Scripture they were studying when I had a translator. I taught English to some Japanese housewives, and then I helped them teach English to large groups in the city, of kids from four to twelve. I traveled to mission stations and learned about missionary life, I was also responsible for the garden. Gardening is a big thing in Japan, and the mission felt that we should not be an eyesore to the community either, and so those who lived in the headquarters building each had a garden plot that they were responsible [for]. And I never gardened particularly in my life, you know, planting flowers and stuff, so that was a new experience. I also was an officer in the mission fellowship, Hokkaido Island Missionary Fellowship, which involved all the mission boards and their missionaries in that island...on that island. And we planned retreats and church services in English for the missionaries.
SVADBIK: You worked in northern Japan. Did you get any opportunities to visit or work in any other part of Japan?
FLECKLES: Right after I finished my brief time in language school, I went to the southern part of that island, and worked at the mission school for awhile, I think it was three weeks, helping them pick rotten apples off the trees [chuckles] there was a disease on the trees, and they needed someone to do that, and so I got sent there to do it. I also had opportunities on my vacations and holidays, I traveled to the southern island, and saw some of the historical parts, and stayed with missionaries and Japanese throughout my time, in brief trips and long ones too. And that’s where I got my fun [chuckles] hours.
SVADBIK: You worked primarily in the city, were there any problems or opportunities for evangelism that were an outcome of working in the city rather than a rural area?
FLECKLES: Well, like here, the rural area’s more slow, and more simple lifestyle, and the same is in Japan, the cities are hectic and busy, and people are rushing, it’s like Christmas shopping everyday in Japan, that’s how you get pushed along in the crowds, and so, in the cities, there’s a lot more competition, and strive for success, and materialism, which made evangelism there a little different from the rural areas. You had...to meet the fluent Japanese, you had to be educated, and meet them on their level, which is...they’re a very literate society.
SVADBIK: What type of classes of people in the city...you mentioned “educated,” what other type of classes did you primarily work with?
FLECKLES: Well, I guess when I think of “educated,” I worked with students who were educating themselves, I.... My Japanese friends were housewives, and their husbands were businessmen, but I also worked with the children around the city who wanted to learn English. The mission itself worked with a variety of people. We had some nurses there, who were beginning Nurses’ Christian Fellowship in the hospitals, we had workers at the university working with the Japanese InterVarsity groups, we had people who working in the suburb part, suburbs of the large city we were with, and they worked with more blue collar workers, kind of people. We had one young missionary...well, now they’ve been there eight years. When I was there...he came with me, actually, and he got married overseas, and they have begun an alcoholics rehabilitation center, and so, that strata of society is also being reached with the gospel.
SVADBIK: Not having any training in the Japanese language before going, did you have any problems with the language?
FLECKLES: Everybody does. [laughs] Japanese is very difficult. I...I do pick up languages pretty easily by ear, and also studying them, but for the short term missionary, this is a perennial problem, in any culture, and where there’s a foreign language. I had six weeks of full-time study, and then twice a week for three months, but I could still only carry on a basic conversation about the weather, my family, how old are you type things, for about ten minutes and then I was gone. So the language barrier was a difficulty. I learned to get around, I mean, I could ask directions, and I could travel and navigate by myself a bit, and I drove a car, but as far as communicating abstract concepts, especially relating to my faith, I couldn’t do that in Japanese.
SVADBIK: When communicating the gospel, or Christian values to Japanese, was there any problems with nationalistic attitudes?
FLECKLES: Not in the larger cities, I experienced more opposition as a foreigner and a stronger nationalistic attitude in the...in the rural areas, where they didn’t have much exposure to western culture or foreigners. And, you know, you’d walk down the street, and some children would be afraid, they’d never seen a blue-eyed, fair-haired person before, and in the...in the older generation of Japanese, they still remembered the Shinto nationalism that spurred them on in World War II and had them worship the Emperor. That’s all...done, was done away with in the reconstruction, but the feelings are still there. The Japanese are very, very proud of their country and their heritage, but I did not sense a...an antagonism to the quote “white man” or “American” culture.
SVADBIK: Did you notice any cultural influences on the presentation of the gospel?
FLECKLES: What do you mean “cultural influences”?
SVADBIK: Maybe some....
FLECKLES: The way....
SVADBIK: The way that the Japanese would interpret, or maybe when you looked around at Japanese churches, maybe you might have seen [pauses] a different expression of Christianity than here.
FLECKLES: Well, the...I saw a lot of American stereotypes, unfortunately. The first missionaries to Japan after the War, at least the OMF ones, were in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s, and the Japanese did not have any other model to follow, so the churches would have the pastor with his white shirt, and black suit, and never did he ever wear any thing else, and he was the one leader in the church. Culturally, they sang hymns that were translated from the American, or Western or European hymns, predominately, however, the young people were composing things on the guitar, and they did...were getting into some of their own music. The churches, you know, had the steeple with the cross on, similar to ours, there wasn’t any unusual architecture that was culturally predominant, other than the...the styles that are... that differentiate the north from the south of Japan, that was evident, but that’s about all, culturally, I can think of.
SVADBIK: What do you feel the...the best method of presenting the gospel...what way would be most effective to Japanese?
FLECKLES: That’s a very personal question, I couldn’t answer, generalizing for everybody, I can answer for myself, which is my own view of evangelism, wherever I am. I think the one-to-one relationship building type of evangelism, and sharing the truth as it relates to that person’s needs and lifestyle is what is most effective wherever you are, and that is the way that I communicated the truth of God’s word, and my way...my life there in my friendships with the Japanese. Now, the mission and other missions did hand out tracts, did have mass rallies, did have book tables, and bookstores, and cooking classes and English classes, and [pauses] summer camps, and things like that too. And those were all vehicles for meeting people, as well.
SVADBIK: I understand OMF is involved with teaching English in Japan, are they involved with any other type of education or possibly medical work?
FLECKLES: Not in Japan, because Japan has a...it’s pretty advanced in terms of its own culture and technology, [pauses] as far as medicine goes. Educationally, our mission had a Bible institute in the north, which was small (I’d say twenty-five to thirty-five students) as I remember, maybe even less than that, but it was not like a university or college degree. It was training pastors, and lay leaders in the church. In the south, other missions had established Tokyo Christian College, which was...gave a degree. Otherwise, educationally, we didn’t contribute formally. The English classes and the...and the schooling that way was supplementing what the Japanese were already getting through their educational system.
SVADBIK: When you would have opportunities to share your faith, or when you would observe...observed other missionaries presenting the gospel to Japanese, what were their...what were the Japanese typical reactions?
FLECKLES: Well, the Japanese had trouble grasping who God is, first, because they have one word for God, “Kami,” and it means any god, and so when you talk about God, it’s just another god, and so the reaction is, “Well, what kind of god is yours, you know, we’ll just add it to our gods.” And that was one reaction. The concepts of love and sin...unconditional love and sin are difficult for Japanese to grasp, and so their response to that was usually questioning or just not understanding what it meant. And you had to kind of understand that they weren’t going to understand that, and try and anticipate explaining it. In terms of [pauses] response to the core of the gospel in the sense that some organizations use a formula leading to a decision within a short period of time, the Japanese response to that would usually be an assent to it, consent to it, mainly because the Japanese do not like to say “no,” because it would be disappointing you, and causing you to be embarrassed or lose face, and so they would say, “Yes, I’ll pray to receive Jesus.” But they don’t really mean the commitment and sacrifice part of it. In the same way, if we had a typewriter repair, we could call up the man three days in a row and ask him if he’s coming today, and he’d say yes. Well, he may or may not come, but he doesn’t want to say no, because the integrity of his business is at stake, and he doesn’t want to lose face, and he doesn’t want us to be disappointed. It’s very interesting.
SVADBIK: You mentioned earlier that the Japanese pastor is looked upon by the Japanese as very...with very much authority. When you visit some of the Japanese churches, what was a typical church service like?
FLECKLES: It was very traditional, evangelical, conservative type of church service, usually starting out with a hymn or two, announcements, offering, a sermon, and a closing prayer, and that’s pretty much what the standard service was like. Now, in our...in the little church that I went to, in the group of believers that started there, the missionary who was kind of coordinating that group was the one that I had met in Seattle, and we had talked about church building and planting, and she had learned a lot on her furlough, and wanted to implement some body life type of activities, and the Japanese aren’t particularly that open, but our church didn’t have as much structure as the next one, until we got larger, and then they...they reserved to more structured services.
SVADBIK: What kind of influence did the office in the [United] States, the OMF office and the supporters, have on the...on the missionary efforts in Japan?
FLECKLES: I’m not sure what...what you mean. The relationship between the country and our office, or the city of...?
SVADBIK: Well, was there ever any type of conflict, possibly, with what the missionaries would want to do, in Japan, say, and what the home office in the [United] States would want to do?
FLECKLES: Oh. No. OMF is a...is a international, interdenominational mission, and so the home offices are scattered over quite a few countries, and the actual headquarters is in Singapore, and so, if you tried to do what everybody wanted to do, you wouldn’t be doing anything, and so the headquarters had certain guidelines and priorities which were set each year, at central consult, but then the directors would go back to their various countries, and implement it within the culture. There’s certain...with any mission organization, there’s certain rules and priorities, but we didn’t have trouble with conflicts.
SVADBIK: With your work in Japan, and OMF’s work, did your mission promote any social or economic advancement opportunities for the Japanese? [pauses] You mentioned teaching English.
FLECKLES: Well, we taught English, and that certainly helped the Japanese, educationally, to learn English conversationally, rather than just in a book. But economically or socially, economically, I can’t...the mission was not what you would call a real affluent mission, so we...I think one of my friends once said, “I think you live at the poverty level.” She couldn’t believe how much money I didn’t have. But socially, I think the mission made more contribution there. I mentioned earlier the missionaries that started an alcoholics rehabilitation center, and that was a unique contribution, because one of the biggest problems in Japan, if not the biggest social problem, is drinking. And so we were the first mission to enter that specific kind of service. And when I left, there were also some missionaries beginning kindergartens, which are big in Japan, and so that was another social outreach.
SVADBIK: Did you notice any racial or ethnic problems that your mission was trying to work with?
FLECKLES: No, I don’t recall any, other than “you’re a foreigner.” No matter where you go in Japan, you’re still a foreigner, but no big problems that way.
SVADBIK: What did the Japanese government think about mission work in Japan?
FLECKLES: Well, they didn’t discourage it, they are pro-Japanese, and anything that increases the awareness and the education, and the...can make Japan better, they would encourage. Our director in Japan was a good businessman who was respected by the city officials, and...and then when this missionary began the alcoholics thing, there was a city...it had to go before the city council and so on, and there was cooperation and encouragement for them.
SVADBIK: And did the average Japanese agree with the government policy, or how did they feel about it?
FLECKLES: Well, Japan is pretty pro-foreign trade and so on, in terms of relationships, so they’d...I really didn’t question anybody on it, but I would assume they didn’t have any trouble with us being there. They weren’t threatened, or anything like that.
SVADBIK: What type of anti-foreignism, or anti-Westernism did you experience from the Japanese people?
FLECKLES: I didn’t really experience a lot of anti-Westernism or foreign...foreigners. [pauses] Among the older Japanese, they remember the war, and all the Japanese remember [the dropping of the atom bomb on] Hiroshima [in 1945], and those days were hard for foreigners in the country, because you saw what devastation it did to the cities. And the people still mourn as if it happened yesterday, on those days, and that’s where you’re aware of some feeling still there, but Japan doesn’t have a military, doesn’t have a lot of natural resources, such as oil, depends a lot on imports, and the foreign trade for their economy, and therefore, they can’t afford to hate foreigners. [chuckles]
SVADBIK: They depend on ex...imports, as you say, and they don’t have a military, how do they view their neighboring countries?
FLECKLES: I...I don’t know if I’m in a position to answer that, I....
SVADBIK: Well, what you experienced.
FLECKLES: I didn’t experience any antagonism towards Korea or China, or...the...the only thing I recall is some trouble in Thailand, where Japanese were demonstrating in Bangkok, but as much as I knew, they were not antagonistic towards their neighbors.
SVADBIK: Japan and Russia have a land dispute on northern Japan, where Russia had taken over some Japanese soil [over the Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan islands, and the Habomai group islands], did you get any attitudes from the Japanese about that?
FLECKLES: Yes, I remember talking about it sometimes, and they felt that it was theirs and not Russia’s. I mean, you can see Siberia from the northern tip of Japan, but they didn’t want to get Russia any closer than it already is.
SVADBIK: In OMF’s work, you mentioned they have a school, or they’re involved with a school, tell us about...about what the school was like.
FLECKLES: I only had contact with the school in terms of the students that would have been at my church as interns. There’s a close knit, small school, in terms of numbers, it’s the only Bible institute in the north, it was respected among the Christian churches, OMF and non-OMF, in the north, I knew that. I toured the facilities once, it was a live-in dormitory type school, that’s about all I knew about it really, I didn’t get that involved with it.
SVADBIK: What type of economy does Japan have?
FLECKLES: A very affluent economy. You mean in terms of stability, or...? Money seems to flow in Japan. They don’t buy used things. You know, if a TV’s broken, they throw it out and buy another one. Electronically, they have every kind of gadget you can imagine, the people like to dress...in the large cities, like to dress nice and imitate the Western and European cultures in that way. They are very industrious people, and hard workers, which reflects [pauses] in their competitiveness and ambition to do things well, and the economy itself is very inflationary, I mean, inflation was rampant, almost, although now we’re getting to be that way, but at the time I...I was amazed how the cost of living went up so much within a year.
SVADBIK: The progress of industrialization within Japan, did you ex...how did you [pauses] view that?
FLECKLES: I’m not sure what you’re...what you’re asking. The industrial progress was phenomenal.
SVADBIK: Was there...did you see problems, or...?
FLECKLES: Well, yes, I did, I mean Japan had to be rebuilt pretty much after the war [World War II] from zero, and the fast growth of their electronic technology, their foreign trade, and their businesses, I think had its effect on the culture, that they became so successful, fast, within the fifteen to twenty year period, and in doing that and in copying a lot of the Western and European industrial advances, although “copying” is not a good word. The Japanese would probably not like that, but that is one of the ways that they...they do, they just make things better or smaller, or faster than other people do, and that’s how their economy has been...their foreign trade has increased. And cheaper. [chuckles] I think the culture itself wasn’t ready for Westernization so fast, and so young people, specifically World War II babies, when I was there, were having like an identity crisis between old culture, and the new, materialistic Westernized culture of Japan, and they weren’t sure where their identity should be. Should they listen to (I can’t remember who was singing in the seventies) Peter, Paul & Mary, or whoever, or should they listen to their...their own music, which was their Japan identity. That was the problem. Most of the suicides in Japan are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two.
SVADBIK: Why is that?
FLECKLES: Well, one is just what I...one reason I learned of was just what I just said, that the crunch of cultural change and not knowing their identity. The other is that the intense competition and strive for success and to be...to not cause your family to lose face, which is tied up in getting a good education. In Japan, not like in the States, you just can’t say, “Well, I’m going to go to college, and I’ll go anywhere.” I mean, somebody in America can find a college to get into. In Japan, it’s not quite that way. You go to what’s called “pre-college,” maybe a year or two years studying to take the entrance exams to maybe get into college, and so under that kind of pressure to study, to perform, to make your family proud of you.... If you fail, I mean, you really fail. And so some young people just commit suicide.
SVADBIK: Were the Christian college...colleges hard to get into also?
FLECKLES: No, not as...no, you didn’t have to go to, that I’m aware of, prep school and that.
SVADBIK: Did that have any effect on the Japanese viewpoint toward the college?
FLECKLES: I didn’t have occasion to...to hear of it.
SVADBIK: What was the impact of foreign investment and foreigners getting involved in Japan, that you noticed?
FLECKLES: Well, anything that helped the Japanese economy was pretty encouraged, and Tokyo was the center where most of the foreign industries, businesses, have their offices. And there’s like a whole English community there. It seemed like foreign investments and businesses were encouraged to come to Japan and start franchises or branch offices. Of course, the electronics companies and...trying to think of some of the other companies that have...big companies that have branches in Tokyo, I just can’t remember them right now, but those would of course, benefit from Japan’s technology, also. I mean, parts were made in Japan for certain commodities in other countries. It seemed to be encouraged.
SVADBIK: As the cities are growing larger and larger, what effects did you notice that the increased populations had on the cities?
FLECKLES: Well, I wasn’t there long enough to see what cities were like before people started moving to them, but things just seemed to be more crowded and more congested, the [pauses] people moving to the cities tended to move faster, I noticed, than in the rural areas. Be more private, because it was more crowded, that’s about it.
SVADBIK: What was the relationship between the various mission boards in Japan? Did they cooperate, or was there conflict?
FLECKLES: They cooperated, pretty much. In terms of the cooperative efforts, like [on] evangelistic meetings. Janet Lynn was popular in Japan when I was there, because the Olympics were in ‘72. She was a popular ice skating star in ‘72, so the...the missions cooperated in planning summer camps, and the large rallies, and supported radio ministry, and TV spots. I did not notice a lot of competition between the missions, there’s so many people in Japan, then the comparative number of missionaries is so few, that you’re really not stepping on each others shoes. The missions tried to not put two missionaries from different missions within a certain radius of each other, because that would be not competing, but you don’t want to confuse the Japanese. Now, when you think of the types of people who are in Japan, they’re not all conservative evangelical missionaries either. There’s liberals, there’s the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopals, Anglicans, I mean there are many denominations represented too.
SVADBIK: How did...how were the Catholics getting involved?
FLECKLES: Well, I didn’t...I didn’t run into any Catholic missionaries in...in the north, but historically, in the south, one of the first influences in Japan were Catholic missionaries. The...when Japan was closed for a period of time in its history, before [Commodore Matthew] Perry came through [in 1853-1854], there were wooden...not wooden, stone lanterns outside the homes and they’d put a candle in that to show they were home or not, and in the south they were called Mary lanterns. And during the...when Japan was closed [ca. 1587], the Christians who were a result of Catholic missionaries carved the Madonna in the bottom of their lanterns, and that’s how they knew each other. The Japanese didn’t know what it meant, but they knew each other that way. So the influence of the Catholic stays [goes] back a long way.
SVADBIK: Did you notice any cultural issues that seemed to divide the missionaries from the Japanese church?
FLECKLES: [pauses] I have to think about that one a little bit. See, I was with an international, interdenominational mission, and so there wasn’t a quote “American” identity or “British” identity, or whatever, it was a mission identity, and the Japanese pretty much adapted their church and style of Christianity from the missionaries, so there wasn’t...I didn’t see a lot of conflict in terms of structure or doing things other than the Japanese are less direct than Americans, and less direct, more indirect, rather, than British people. And so their business meetings with...with the churches was.... We would take a business meeting, and say, “This is the agenda, and now we’re going to do it.” Well, they always work towards compromise, and not disagreeing, so, you know, they could go on for hours reaching a...a common ground, and that would...that was what drove a lot of missionaries buggy. Or, you know, made them impatient in those business meetings. But other cultural things, songs, and order of service, and church structure, and so on, there didn’t seem to be a lot of conflict.
SVADBIK: OMF was started by...one of the founders was Hudson Taylor, from the China Inland Mission, and he had some principles of presenting the gospel in a way that the people could understand within their culture. How does OMF still stick with Hudson Taylor’s strategy?
FLECKLES: Well, they still emphasize language studies strongly, and that you’re not just a...a wife of a missionary, you’re a missionary wife, so that the wife is as much a missionary as the husband. You’re both living in the culture, and you both learn the language, which is different from the other missions in Japan. The man is predominately the missionary, the wife takes care of the home, but in Japan it’s not that...in OMF, it’s not that way. And also, in some missions represented in Japan, you would find a home built like a mini-America. You’d go in and there’d be Western furniture and architecture, and everything, washing machines and so on imported. But OMF rented homes like the Japanese lived in, and out mission headquarters were built on Japanese blueprints, and we had straw floors in our...in our homes, and that was in keeping with the philosophy of Hudson Taylor.
SVADBIK: How does the national church perceive the missionaries’ contributions?
FLECKLES: Well, there isn’t...there isn’t a strong opposition to the missionary influence in Japan as there may be in other countries of the world. As a mission, OMF feels as soon as a congregation or a group of believers is financially able to support a Japanese pastor or a Bible school graduate, they encourage them to do that. And the Japanese themselves obviously relate better to a Japanese than a foreigner in terms of their own beliefs. They know the Japanese pastor has been through the same cultural problems and family problems that they have, and so the...the mission aims toward that kind of thing, making the Japanese church Japanese.
SVADBIK: How much training do you feel a missionary would need in order to relate to the Japanese better?
FLECKLES: You mean in terms of education prior to going, or living in the country?
FLECKLES: Well, there’s various education levels of missionaries coming. Whatever educational background the missionary has, the Japanese tend to call them “teacher,”so I was addressed the same way as a veteran missionary would be addressed, because they feel anyone coming in and sharing with them is a teacher, no matter what their education or whatever. So a missionary in terms of relating to the Japanese education may or may not be a factor. We had people working with university students, who had gone to university, I think that helps. Nurses working with nurses, that kind of thing. In terms of relating to the culture, it’s more something...you can read about the philosophies and understand the basic attitudes through your reading, but it takes living there to educate yourself, and become as much a part of the culture as you can. Eating the food they eat as much as you can, buying the things they buy as much as you can, and just talking as much as you can to the people. The OMF is noted in Japan as well as other countries, for Hudson Taylor’s philosophy of identifying with the people, and walking where they walk, and things like that. And so the OMF missionaries tend to play down Western clothes and looking too foreign, especially in the rural areas. So that’s the kind of things that help a person in some areas in Japan. Now, in the cities where everyone dresses in jeans or...or less national wear, then the missionaries would look strange wearing national wear too. So getting to know the culture is really understanding where you’re living, and the longer a missionary lives there, the longer they understand the culture...or, the better they understand the culture, the more they can identify the needs of the people. But even missionaries I talked to who were in their fourth term said, “There’s just never a time when you feel like you understand the Japanese.” You always are aware that you’re foreign, but you do grow and learn to see where the felt needs are.
SVADBIK: As your two years were drawing to a close, and it became time that you were going to leave Japan, what were your feelings?
FLECKLES: Well, the Japanese culture kind of grows on you, there’s a lot of beautiful things about it. They are a very polite people, and a generous people, at least my friends were. And I knew that I may never see some of those missionaries again, because they were from other countries, and so I was reluctant to say farewell. It was very difficult, knowing that you’re never going to see another person again, perhaps. I also was not sure of my own commitment to overseas work at the time, whether I would return, or what God had for me in terms of overseas service. I wanted to continue education and so it was kind of a pulling out and a pushing out, you know, “Your time’s up.” And I knew I had reached my limit in terms of language communication, and that was getting to me, that I couldn’t go any further in the language, and so my feelings were mixed.
SVADBIK: Since you’ve been in the States, have you studied anything about Japan, or have you been involved with the Japanese in the United States?
FLECKLES: Yes. I read just about every article in National Geographic or the mission magazines, and so on, about Japan, so I...I keep up with the news, I watch the yen rate to the dollar, and those kinds of things. Anyone mentioning Japan, my ears perk up and I listen or I contribute. Before I came to Wheaton, I was...I had some...some people in my church introduced me to a Japanese family that the man’s business had transferred him here, and they weren’t Christians, and I got to know them, and was able to talk to them about the Lord some, and get to know their family. I still correspond with missionaries and send out prayer letters for missionaries in Japan. And so my contacts have not...have diminished, obviously, I’m not living there, but have continued in terms of prayer interest and interest in the country.
SVADBIK: After you came to the States, after leaving Japan, what did you get involved with?
FLECKLES: Well I...I came back to my parents home, and where I grew up, and lived with them for a year, and in that year, I spoke at some prayer meetings, and was involved in my home church. I had a whole evening service on Japan once, and then I also worked in Pioneer Girls and.... What else did I do? Sang in the choir, I believe. I got an interim job, until I found out what God wanted me to do next, at a manufacturing company in their purchasing department.
SVADBIK: I understand, later, that you became involved with the Billy Graham Center. What did you do?
SVADBIK: And maybe, how did you get involved with the Billy Graham Center?
FLECKLES: [chuckles] Well, why don’t we ask how I got there first. When I was in Japan, one of the things I had a burden for was the lay training of the laymen in the church. And I really believe, biblically, that the pastor is not to do all the evangelism and preaching, that the...we’re all priests, the priesthood of believers, and this is not an accepted part of Christianity in Japan. And I spent a lot of time talking with missionaries and gathering a kind of a history of what they’d tried to do to motivate the believers to reach other Japanese. And I had got to the point of thinking, “Someone needs to research this and come up with some ideas, and test them, on how to reach the Japanese layperson, to motivate them, to share the Gospel.” So when I came back I was interested in furthering my own education, in trying to develop some skills in that area in missions and discipleship. So I was looking into grad schools, and in missions. And Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield had one, and Wheaton had a program in Christian Ed. I was thinking [that for] working in the churches, Christian Ed would be good. And I was trying to decide which school to go to, when a friend of mine [John Robinson] from my home church was hired by the Billy Graham Center to help develop lay training programs for national leaders, and the Institute of Evangelism. That was part of the Graham Center ministry plan at that time, in ‘75. And they needed someone to work with him, and so he called me. They wanted someone who had overseas experience, a bachelor’s degree, office experience, and those were the three qualifications, and I fit them. So that helped me decide where I was going to grad school as well, and I joined the Graham Center, because I could agree with their...the goals of outreach for the Graham Center, and the opportunity to actually do what I wanted to do while I was going to school was very attractive. So what did I actually do at the Graham Center? I worked with this man and I helped put together...well, there were two things, primarily in the nine months I was with the Graham Center, that stick out, besides organizing the office, or helped to organize our office end of it. I helped coordinate and administer...administrate a singles conference [in April 1976]. One of the ministries of the Graham Center was conferences. And so the man who was doing that, I helped him some on that, and then the man who I was directly responsible to, we put together a training workshop for Mexican leaders for two weeks [in August 1976], in evangelism methods, and things that would relate to their culture, reaching people.
SVADBIK: After working at the Graham Center, you got involved with the Graduate School.
SVADBIK: Why did you choose this grad...the Wheaton Graduate School, rather than maybe another one?
FLECKLES: You mean to work at, or to go to school? [chuckles]
FLECKLES: Well, as I said just a minute ago, I was trying to decide between Trinity and Wheaton, and since the Lord opened up a job at Wheaton, I felt that was a good indication to come to Wheaton, and then when I looked into the program at that time, I realized that the cross cultural communications program was...had tools which would help me to know a market, know a people, and how to communicate my message to them. Discipleship was also a part of my desire, and so the...at that time the communications department also had interpersonal communication, so I was going to combine interpersonal and cross cultural strategy in my masters program, and that’s why I came, I enrolled in this school. Now, why I went to work at the Grad School, was that there was a shift in focus at the Graham Center, from program to building, and so, my responsibilities were eliminated, and I was given the opportunity to come work for the Graduate School, and decided to stay at Wheaton College, and help start the Graduate Admissions office.
SVADBIK: Did you begin as assistant to the director of Graduate Admissions?
FLECKLES: Well, I didn’t have a title, particularly. It was just, I suppose, you would call me a secretary, or...I don’t know. I didn’t do...I did secretarial work, but there’s just the two of us, and here’s the job to do, so I did everything from setup all the procedures, and order supplies, and interview people, you know, plus all the folding things and putting them in envelopes, kind of thing. That was the beginnings. When you’re starting something now, the college was experimenting with admissions. “Should we have a graduate admissions office?” and so we were hired to see if that would be something the College wanted to develop and continue. So when you say was I hired as assistant to the director, no, I wasn’t but it developed as we grew, as we developed the office.
SVADBIK: You worked at the Graduate School, and you also were a student of the Graduate School. Where there any benefits or problems that arised [sic] because of this?
FLECKLES: Yes. I’d say one of the benefits was being a student, I was certainly aware of the student’s problems, and...and the perspective of the graduate school from...from the student’s viewpoint, so that when I walked into the administrative side, and the office side, I was more sensitive to what we were doing and how it affected the student. Also, my...my studies coincided with what I was doing in the office. For example, I was in communications to begin with, and we had to do surveys, and I did a survey on the student body, to see why they came to Wheaton. So, the benefits, the Lord seemed to intertwine the two, all the way through, really. One of the drawbacks was I...I was quite involved in studies, and full-time plus work, I often worked overtime because of the volume of work and so on, so one of the drawbacks was exhaustion, [laughs] but....
SVADBIK: What kind of activities were you involved in as a student?
FLECKLES: Let me see. As a student, I studied, I did my homework, I helped plan a retreat one year, served on the retreat committee, I was a member of the choir, I...what else did I do? I contributed ideas to the Student Council in terms of themes for banquets, and chapel ideas, but predominately, I didn’t really have time to be socially active in the graduate school, in terms...as a student, as I normally would, like I was in college.
SVADBIK: Were there any teachers or classmates of yours that made an impression on you?
FLECKLES: I was in the grad school for five years, and I would say I couldn’t rate my professors as to who influenced me the most, because each had their field of expertise, and I felt privileged to be under each one, each one was special, and having the dual role of student and administration, I also knew them as people and professors too, so I’m hard pressed to say who influenced me the most. I think one of the things that influenced me was about...was unique about being at Wheaton, besides the curriculum in the grad school, was the opportunity to hear special speakers and lectures on specific topics. I look back on those.
SVADBIK: Many students when they come to the Wheaton Graduate School, they want to make their program as short as possible, and get their degree, and get into their career. Was there any benefit, or would you recommend anyone lengthening their...their time at Wheaton?
FLECKLES: I think that depends on the individual. I do feel, and my own history and life bear this out, that experience thrown in with education is...promotes more growth than strict education by itself. I find people who have come to the graduate school, and have gone high school, college, graduate school, they may get their MA and not know what to do with their life, whereas you...you have a break in there, with some experience, some work background, will make your graduate school work perhaps more beneficial, or you’re more definitive on your goal, and how it will fit with life. I think the opportunity to work in your field while you’re in grad school certainly makes your course work more relevant and challenging, I know numbers of students who...who integrate their course work with their job, so that they’re...they’re feeding one with the other, as a...as a learning experience. I wouldn’t...you know, I’m not too keen on taking five years to your masters [degree], I don’t think that I just had a job to get my masters, it was a career cho...it was a choice I made, which developed into a career type of job, it wasn’t just to pay for my schooling. And so I was able to get my masters and also grow, in terms of my career objectives.
SVADBIK: What are your career objectives?
FLECKLES: Well, I’ve completed my masters in counseling psychology, so I would like to use the counseling, interpersonal and organizational skills that I’ve developed over the years, in a counseling relationship, which would be in a clinic or a counseling center. I’m not opposed either to remaining in an educational institution in a position such as a dean of women, where I would be promoting growth in individuals and people, so they can better serve the Lord. My life verse, if I can throw that in here, is Colossians 1:28-29, which talks about bringing every person up to maturity in Christ. This is what I’m working at with all the strength that God gives me, is what Paul [the Apostle] states, and that’s what my overall goal and theme of my life is.
SVADBIK: How has your classes you’ve taken at the Graduate School, and the homework assignments, and the tests, how have they contributed towards your goal?
FLECKLES: Well, my...my transcript at Wheaton looks like a jigsaw puzzle in some ways, because I started out in communications, and ended up in psychology. Yet, the communication courses I took were related to...to people also. Counseling is a communicative field, communicating with people, so in the communications courses, I learned some basics of just communications theory, and my job was recruitment, also in admissions, and so the marketing principles and the research and communication strategy courses were certainly contributing to my job and what I was doing. The...the shift to counseling psychology supported my desire to be in a healing-type work, with people as individuals, and help them become more whole, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. And some of the courses that I took directly related to my job. For example, I do a lot of interviewing, and I took a course in interviewing as part of my...so I’d ...as part of my program. So I’d walk out of my class into an interview, which was obviously contributing and blending in with what I wanted to do.
SVADBIK: What suggestions would you have for new students coming to the Graduate School, to make their studies more meaningful, and to get the most...most out of their program?
FLECKLES: I think one of the first things that I counsel the students on is, God is more interested in who you are than what you do.. And when a prospective student comes in, at least in our office, we’re more concerned that they know that what they’re...if they’re to come to Wheaton, that’s what God wants for them, and they have an idea, and a vision and a goal, that they’re not just coming to school because it’s their only option. I mean, or it’s their, “Why don’t I go to school, I don’t have anything better to do.” Because graduate school is expensive. And so one...the first piece of advice would be have an idea of who you are, and what you would want, and the second would be to be flexible, in terms of your program, for God to work through your courses, and cause growth in you as a person, not just an accumulation of knowledge. And that gets...leads to the idea that getting through school in the shortest period of time is not necessarily the most beneficial. There’s a lot of opportunities for growth within the Graduate School, in terms of community, and worship and social activities and the cultural benefits of being in the Wheaton area, which I think some students cut themselves off from growth as human beings, because they focus so intently on studies, and they’re not living a balanced type of life.
SVADBIK: With the courses you took at Wheaton, and the basic graduate program, do you have any suggestions of maybe how it would have been more effective or more...better to meet your needs?
FLECKLES: You mean how to improve the Graduate School, if that’s what you’re asking? I’m hard pressed to answer that question. I have...I have ideas on...on how the students could be better served by the faculty and the administration. One would be a willingness on the part of faculty and administration to take more time personally with a student, in helping them. On the other hand, I think Graduate School can be more benefit to a person if they’re not expecting everything to be fed to them. As an undergrad they may find that their curriculum and everything is set for them, their life is pretty well structured. Whereas in the Graduate School, it’s not as structured, and the person is...is given the...the opportunity to choose. And I think that that’s one thing that I would encourage be done. It was done for me. I was able to pretty much write my own program, so to speak, within the contst...constraints of the program requirements and...and catalogue requirements. My situation is quite unique, because I only took one course a quarter, and to fit a program over five years takes quite a lot of planning and coordination. It just happened that I was able to do that. Other students don’t have that easy of a time. Even the ones who are going full-time, scheduling is a problem.
SVADBIK: With your experience in Japan, in mission work, is there anything that you can apply that you learned in Japan as an American Christian in Wheaton?
FLECKLES: Well, there are a number of things that I remember writing down when I got back from Japan, or even before I left, that I didn’t want to forget. Some of the things, I’ve already mentioned in the course of this interview, one of the main ones being, I realized overseas that God was more interested in who I am than what I do. You kind of major on the majors overseas, and minor on the minors, and I real...realized some of the important things of my faith. Being in an interdenominational mission, the quibblings about...the tit-for-tat type detail controversies that we may get into in the States were somewhat irrelevant when you saw the masses without knowledge of Jesus Christ. And consequently, coming back to the States, some things just didn’t bother me. I knew there were more important things to focus on. My attitude towards things was affected, being overseas. I saw how God provided not only needs, but wants too, and I could trust Him to bring me things that may seem selfish, but yet because He loves me, He gave them to me overseas, in terms of material things. And so coming back, although this is a more materialistic culture, and, say, “easier” to get things, I saw that God, just because I was a missionary and could trust Him there, I could trust Him here too, not to go overboard in that area, but that He...He would provide for wants and needs within this culture too. Of course, I will always have a world perspective in thinking about what God’s doing, and a very soft spot for Japan, for the rest of my life. And I’m not opposed to returning overseas. Probably not in a career missionary capacity, most likely in a short term discipleship training seminars and self-awareness type capacity. I hope someday to do that. I...I realized an appreciation for my own culture and what I was privileged to be as an American, and I’m more grateful for that, here in the States, than I was prior to going over, grateful for the freedoms, and the way that God allowed me to be aware of His Son, and Him as a personal God, that we have that deistic base within our culture, Japan does not. It’s quite different to be in a country where it was a whole different religious tradition, a non-deistic one, in terms of Jehovah God. So my perspective on my own faith was changed, and my perspective on the privilege of being American was increased. I think that I’m more aware of world economy now, than I was before I went. For example, if the yen devalues, or the dollar devalues in Japan, I know that that means the missionaries don’t have as much money to buy what they need, and we need to give more when that happens in a country, because it affects the transition of funds, and things like that, so it affects my financial perspective in giving too. I’m more aware of how missionaries may be suffering by the politics and the trade agreements between countries. I thing more than ever, being in Japan increased...or not increased, it strengthened my philosophy of evangelism, even though there’s masses in Japan, and millions of people who don’t know the Lord, I still have found that God works through individuals to reach individuals for him. And that has remained, even here in the States when I see the, “The boat is...you know, the sea is so big and my boat is so small,” God does not require any more of me than the people He has placed, the lives He brings into my circumstances to touch. I received also a perspective on missionary life that living there more than just a few months, you realize that missionaries are human too, so I’m sensitive to write to them as human beings, rather than as spiritual giants, who always want to hear the latest sermon notes. They’re also concerned about human...human concerns, and they cry an weep and get insecure too.
SVADBIK: One of the purposes of this interview is to help others to learn by your experiences, and thank you, Gladys Fleckles, for your cooperation and contri...contributions.
FLECKLES: You’re welcome.
END OF TAPE