A boy in Japan switched on his shortwave radio and let the sounds of foreign languages flood the room. Korean, Chinese, Russian – to him, it was all music. He loved thinking about the people and cultures behind words he couldn’t understand.
In high school Takashi visited a Christian fellowship group, and the word of God took root. He bought a Bible and began to read the Gospel of Matthew. ‘I came to 23:27, which says “You are like a [tomb] painted white. The outside is fine, but inside is full of bones.” I thought, “This is me!”... I read how Jesus died on the cross and rose again. It was clear that He died for me... That was June 4, 1962.’
A few years later, leafing through a three-year-old copy of the Japanese edition of Reader’s Digest, Takashi noticed an article called ‘Two Thousand Tongues to Go,’ a story about American missionaries living in the Amazon rainforest.
‘Language, education and evangelism – “Wow!” I said, “Those three!” The three things I had most interest in were in this job. I was so thrilled that I wrote to Wycliffe USA.’
When he received a response, he wanted to share what he learned. He translated everything into Japanese. Then he and his friend, Aiko, who would later become his wife, printed and distributed more than 300 copies of an informational sheet about Bible translation.
One copy made its way across the country to Sueyoshi ‘Tim’ Toba, a young man who had dreamed of becoming a Bible translator. Tim wrote to Takashi and together, in 1966, they formed the Japan Bible Translation Fellowship – a group that would later become Wycliffe Japan. In 1970, Tim Toba and his wife, Ingrid, were the first missionaries sent out by Wycliffe Japan.
Takashi and Aiko married in 1971 and took their honeymoon trip to Papua New Guinea. They wanted to see if they’d be comfortable together in a different culture. After a successful trip, the Fukudas joined Wycliffe.
By 1976, they had two daughters, Tomoko and Keiko, and an assignment: joining the Eastern Bontoc project in the Philippines, and helping to develop a Scripture translation for three related dialects, Barlig, Lias and Kadaclan. The Fukudas would live among the Kadaclan.
Takashi, who is now called Fukuda-san, took his first trip to Kadaclan with Dave Ohlson, an American who was also working with the Eastern Bontoc project. After a helicopter flight and a day’s hike into the mountains, they came to the area where the Fukudas would live.
On the third day of their visit, village leaders gathered to discuss whether or not they would allow the Fukudas to live among them. Fukuda-san was the first Japanese person they had seen since World War II.
‘Even though I went to do Bible translation, I could not separate my Japanese-ness,’ reflects Fukuda-san
The partnership between Fukuda-san and Dave had a powerful effect.
‘They asked, “Why an American and a Japanese together? They were enemies!”’ Fukuda-san says. ‘Working together with people who come from various backgrounds...we embody the essence of the message.’
The Fukuda family lived and worked for twelve years among the Kadaclan and Barlig people. The team completed translations of Genesis, Luke, and numerous Gospel and Old Testament stories. They produced Christian songbooks, health booklets and completed a dictionary. They even helped to establish a Kadaclan high school.
The Fukudas eventually returned to Japan, and from 1994 to 2002, Fukuda-san served as the director of Wycliffe Japan. His role involved connecting with hundreds of churches every year. He went on to serve as the Director of the Asia-Pacific area for the Wycliffe Global Alliance from 2004 to 2012.
Today, he serves as a spiritual ambassador to the Wycliffe Global Alliance’s leadership team. He also serves and speaks in churches across Japan. Fukuda-san’s desire, he says, is to grow into the image of Jesus and to guide others toward intentional dependence on God.
In their early days in the Philippines, the Fukudas were some of the first non-Westerners in a majority-Western missionary culture. Fukuda-san anticipated the day when the Bible translation movement would be truly multicultural. Now, there are more than a dozen Asian Wycliffe organizations, and more than 120 Wycliffe Organizations around the world, most of which are not Western.
Looking back on his own life, tracing God’s hand through the years, Fukuda-san’s delight is clear. ‘The leading of the Lord,’ he says, ‘is so beautiful.’
If you are considering your legacy, and would like to find out about leaving a gift to Wycliffe in your Will, click the link below, or click here to read more of the Fukudas’ story.