Sarah Andrews - A Woman with a Dream
The contribution of women has been a neglected area in Restoration Movement studies. But their stories are just as inspiring as the stories of men in the movement. This article will acquaint readers with a young girl who dreamed of going as a missionary to Japan and through many hardships, fulfilled that dream.
Sarah Andrews was born in Dickson, Tennessee. Her mother, a devout Christian, had often told her daughter of the work of J. M. McCaleb, pioneer missionary to Japan. The young girl would dream of that far away land and dream of sharing the story of Jesus to the Japanese people.
Sarah was baptized at age 14 by I. B. Bradley in 1906. She wrote to J. M. McCaleb sharing her dream of coming to Japan and helping in the work. McCaleb, perhaps not realizing the seriousness of her desire to fulfill her dream, encouraged the young girl to attend school and receive training that would help her to come to Japan. Sarah graduated from Dickson College with a certificate in teaching. She also took additional classes at the state college in Memphis and David Lipscomb College in Nashville. At the age of 22, feeling prepared, she wrote to McCaleb: “I am ready for you to announce in the papers that I wish to go to Japan this fall” (McCaleb, 4). McCaleb endorsed her to the Christian Leader readers: “It seems to me that the arrangement indicated . . . is just as the Lord would have it in every respect: our sister commended, sent forward to the foreign field and supported by the church where she has been born and brought up.” (McCaleb, 4). Along with McCaleb’s endorsement, the Leader also carried a recommendation by her preacher, I. B. Bradley.
She is enthusiastic over the prospects of going to Japan and to the work. I think she is dependable and will make an earnest, zealous worker. I have been interested in her for ten years- ever since I’ve been with the church at Dickson. I baptized her and have watched her development and noted with delight her zeal and earnestness, as well as her loyalty to the Lord’s revealed will and way. (McCaleb, 4).
Sarah realized that some might question what type of work a single woman could accomplish in Japan. She wrote in the Leader: “Will say at the outset that I expect, with God’s help, to continue to remain within the bounds of woman’s realm as clearly taught in the New Testament.”(Andrews, 4). She continued, describing the work she envisioned among Japanese women and children:
If God permit, I expect to care for the sick, give to the poor, help the heavy ladened, weary and oppressed, teach in the school if Bro. McCaleb desires - in fact, do anything by which some may come to the knowledge of the truth. Is there a better way of teaching humanity than by becoming a servant to all? True happiness comes through helping others. In Japan alone there are forty millions who have never heard of Christ as the Savior of mankind. Hence, there is plenty of work to be accomplished. In many respects woman’s place in the church can not be filled by a man. (Andrews, 4).
Though funds for her support were slow in coming, on Christmas day 1915 Sarah began to realize her dream as her ship set sail from the United States. She arrived in Tokyo in January 1916.
It’s one thing to dream a dream. It can be altogether different to live it. Sarah’s first years on the mission field were spent in Tokyo learning Japanese and teaching English Bible classes. She also learned about the religious practices of the Japanese people. One practice especially saddened her.
The Buddhists believe that children who die have to expiate their sins in the nether world by heaping up stones; and sometimes in graveyards women may be seen piling up stones with feverish energy, very often crying the while. These are mothers who have lost children, and who fancy that they are lightening the burdens of their departed little ones. This is, indeed, a piteous and touching sight.” (Practices, 1).
Sarah’s first years in Japan were also hard as she suffered from many health problems. Some of these were due to difficulty in acclimatizing to the Japanese weather. Others may have come as a result of her intense pursuit of language skills to the degree that she neglected to get proper rest and nutrition. On furlough trips home, she required weeks of complete rest to restore her health. One visit included a rest in the mountains of Colorado. Another included a complete physical at the Mayo Clinic. Because of Sarah’s health problems, David Lipscomb’s wife, Margaret, gave Sarah a hot water bottle and later helped to raise funds so that Sarah could live in a Western style house in Japan. Margaret Lipscomb maintained a life-long interest in Sarah’s work in Japan.
Sarah Andrews, “Sister Andrews’ Future Work,” Christian Leader 6-29-1915: 4.
Sarah Andrews, “Some Religious Practices of the Japanese, Christian Leader 12-11-1917: 1.
J. M. McCaleb, “Another Worker For Japan,” Christian Leader 6-8-1915: 4.
Sarah Andrews - Making Her Dream a Reality
Despite her health problems and the difficulty of learning the Japanese language, Sarah Andrews was instrumental in leading several people to Christ. Among those baptized her first year in Japan was a young girl named O Iki san. Iki became a life long friend and a fellow worker for the cause of Christ in Japan. Sarah gave Iki the title “Bible woman” because of her devotion in the work.
In 1919, Sarah, along with Iki and her mother who had also been baptized, decided to begin work in Okitsu. Here they opened a kindergarten from which a large Bible school developed. After a time they solicited the help of Oto Fujimori, a native Japanese preacher who had been converted in the states in Detroit, Michigan and then had returned to his native Japan to preach. Fujimori held a meeting at Okitsu and a church was planted. (Reports and Plans, 950).
After the work in Okitsu had stabilized, Sarah moved to another location to open a children’s school, a Bible school and to help plant a new congregation. Eventually Sarah and Iki helped to establish works in Shizuoka, Shemedza, and Numadzu in addition to the work in Okitsu.
The late 1930's brought another problem to Sarah. War clouds loomed on the horizon in Europe and Asia. The American Consulate advised all American citizens to return home. J. M. McCaleb, who had been in Japan since 1892, returned home in the fall of 1941. Despite the advice of McCaleb and pleadings from family, Sarah stayed in Japan. She said, “I’m just as near heaven in Japan as in the United States.” As the war grew closer, American assets were frozen and foreign postal service stopped. How did she get by? After the war Sarah wrote:
I sold my furniture piece by piece in order to buy food. All enemy property was held by the Finance Department as confiscable; hence, to obtain permission to use any of it required excessive official routine or red tapery. I was required to get permission to sell each piece of furniture, then permission again to use the money. Although the amount I was permitted each month was only a pittance, it was sufficient to pay for my rations because food and all commodities were scarce. (My Maintenance, 919).
At one point in the war, Sarah was interned in a concentration camp because of her refusal to turn over the titles to church property to the Japanese government. Later she was released, but confined to her home in Shizuoka. Starvation became a reality. Sarah wrote:
I have never experienced hunger until I was caught in the throes of war and famine as an enemy national during this war. My weight reached the low ebb of seventy-five pounds, and my body became very edematous from malnutrition. In desperation I boiled leaves from the trees for food, boiled and used water from cornstalks for sugar, used sea water for salt, and after months of meatless days I relished grasshoppers for meat, wishing I could have the same dish often. (My Maintenance, 919).
Surviving the starvation, Sarah also had to face the threat of bombings. In an air raid in July 1945, the little chapel at Shizuoka was destroyed. Incredibly, Sarah, sleeping in her house across from the chapel, didn’t know anything of the destruction until she awoke the next morning. Then, one day the bombings stopped. A neighbor lady told Sarah that the war was over. Weeks passed until the day three American soldiers arrived in a jeep. One of them asked if she was Sarah Andrews. He explained that he was from Tyler, Texas where Sarah’s sister, Mrs. T. B. Thompson lived. Not knowing if Sarah had survived the war, her sister had requested that this soldier look for Sarah Andrews if he ever got to Japan. Sarah’s condition must have made an impression on the soldiers as they immediately gave her all their rations. They left but soon returned with blankets and a jeep loaded with food.
Sarah returned to the states in 1946 for convalescence, but she was determined to return to Japan. She shared why she wanted to return:
For a century Japan has been the foremost nation in the Orient. The aspiration that led to the war was to form a “Greater East Asia,” it being the big brother; but it failed. This dream was worldly, without God. Defeated Japan still has the talent of leadership, however, and we should help it to the point where it can use it for the good to its neighbors. To give Japan the gospel is the answer to its greatest need and service to others. (Reports and Plans, 950).
After a year’s recovery in the States, Sarah returned to Japan. In addition to her work with the churches, Sarah opened a rest home for Japanese women whose sons and husbands had been killed in the war. The minister for the Welfare department in Shizuoka Prefecture gave his assistance to help make the home a reality. Sarah also invited American Christians to support the home.
Sarah Andrews continued teaching Jesus to the Japanese for another fifteen years after the war. She died on September 17, 1962. She was buried in Japan and her fellow Christians placed a large marble marker at her tomb which told of the woman who went to Japan with a dream for sharing the gospel and despite the hardships, she trusted in God to make her dream a reality.
Sarah Andrews, “My Maintenance During the War,” Gospel Advocate 11-13-1947: 919.
Sarah Andrews, “Reports and Plans of Work in Japan,” Gospel Advocate 11-20-1947: 950.