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Faces ‘Our Father’ binds his/the world together T

he Japanese had been the enemy. That was the general thinking in 1948 while Luther Kistler and other sol-

diers occupied Tokyo. So it seemed unusual for Kistler when his father—a Lutheran pastor—asked a former seminary classmate who was Japanese to take his son to Sun- day worship at Koiwa Lutheran Church in Tokyo. “It was the first time that I was with an

only-Japanese group, and I wondered what I was doing there,” said Kistler, a retired ELCA pastor from Celebration, Fla. Then he heard the words “Ten ni mashi-

masu warera no chichi ya,” which translates loosely to “Our Father which art in heaven.” “I thought if the Japanese are saying

‘Our Father’ and I am saying ‘Our Father,’ we must be children of the same heavenly Father,” Kistler recalled. “I said to myself that if I could do one thing I would like to help as many people as possible to say ‘Our Father.’ ” That thought remained in the back of

people were understanding and patient with him. Also, he had a good relation- ship with his neighbors, whom he said were mostly Buddhist. “They accepted us and we accepted

them,” he said. “We had no doubt that God is one, and we just wanted them to know the true God fully through Jesus.” Kistler said one of his most memo-

rable parishioners was Adm. Sueo Obayashi, who was in command of sui- cide pilots and later became a Christian. “He sat in the front row of church

every Sunday,” Kistler said. “I visited his home many times, and he told me the story of his life. We said the Lord’s Prayer together, and the word our tied us together in a very spiritual way.” His call to Japan was unexpected,

Luther Kistler, a retired ELCA pastor, says a visit to a Lutheran church in Japan when he was 18 was a gift.

Kistler’s mind after he returned home, went to college and seminary, and got a call in Florida. “I just thought we’d stay there for who knows how long,” he said. “All of a sud- den a call came from the Board of Missions (of the former American Lutheran Church). My wife and I said, ‘Can this be true?’ We knew there was no doubt that God was calling us to go.” Kistler went to Musashino Lutheran Church in Shi-

moigusa, Tokyo, where he served for 19 years, a time he calls “marvelous.” Learning the language was a challenge, he said, but the

100 + birthdays

and so was Kistler’s call home. In 1988 he helped lead the first ELCA mission start, Immanuel in Palm City, Fla. (The Lutheran; Jan. 27, 1988, and August 2013). Musashino Lutheran wanted to

be a mission partner, Kistler said, and the Japanese con- gregation donated $25,000. Kistler’s spreading of “Our Father” to as many people

as possible had come full circle, as those he sought to help in Japan had now helped American Lutherans. “The Lord’s Prayer is one

of Jesus’ greatest gifts to the whole world,” he said. “It is prayed in many languages and binds us all together.” 

106: Hilma Bennett, Salem, Rockford, Ill. 104: Luella Foss, Our Sav- ior, Hillsboro, N.D.; Astrid Sebens, Milnor, Milnor, N.D. 103: Borghild Hovland, First, Harvey, N.D.; Margaret Kennerly, St. Mark, Moores- ville, N.C.; Catherine Scott, Tonseth, Erhard, Minn. 102: Marie Hatha- way, Trinity, Ottawa, Ill.; Faye Hunt, Redeemer, Brook Park, Ohio; Mary Elizabeth Schultz, Christ, Columbus, Ohio; Maxine Turner, Hope,

Author bio: Favre is an assistant professor at Pierce College in Los Ange- les and a freelance theater critic.

By Jeff Favre

Walnut Creek, Calif. 101: Lucille Aasmundstad, United, Bella Vista, Ark.; Ethel Ambrose, Dr. Martin Luther, Brooklyn, Ohio; Martha Evans, Abiding Presence, Ewing, N.J.; Helen Karjala, Hope, Walnut Creek, Calif.; Beulah Koering, Our Savior, Hillsboro, N.D.; Paul Null & Jeannette Taylor, Sheridan, Lincoln, Neb.; Olga Rieber, St. John, Owatonna, Minn.; Ethel Smith, Christ, Loganville, Pa.; Ursala Stewart, Living God, Honey Brook, Pa.

Send stories Share your stories of ELCA Lutherans and your 100+ members in “Faces.” Send to or “Faces,” The Lutheran, 8765 W. Hig gins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631.

February 2016 43

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