By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (June 28, 2014) — When asked about their 32 years of ministry in Japan, retiring Covenant missionaries Jay and Ellen Haworth prefer to talk about the 30 churches that have supported their work.
They will spend their final year before retirement itinerating among the congregations. “We just really want to thank them for what they have done for us,” said Jay during an interview today prior to being honored during the business session of the 129th Annual Meeting.
“People think of (the missionaries) and the work we do,” he said. “They don’t think of the faithful people who support the ones who are sent.”
For the Haworths, that has meant more than just financial support. Jay and Ellen were living in Japan when their daughter Amy was seriously injured in an accident in the United States.
“They were there with her in the hospital night and day until we could get back,” Jay said. “The church stood in the gap.”
The Haworths were called to missionary service in 1983. They worked in Japan in church planting and evangelism until returning to the United States this past February.
The couple helped plant the Kuki Grace Church. In addition to Sunday worship, Jay led a midweek Bible study at Takagi Hospital, taught English classes for children, and did discipleship training.
Ellen taught English classes and Bible studies for women in Kuki and volunteered at a local orphanage.
Ronna Husby, a longtime friend and former co-regional coordinator for the Department of World Mission, said, “They are servants who respond to any need with wholehearted love and availability. Jay and Ellen are greatly loved in Japan and will be greatly missed by all who know them.”
She said that Jay’s eagerness to use his handyman skills were a testimony to his servant heart. “He built several sets for drama productions at Christian Academy, the school that Covenant missionary kids attend. I also can still picture him on his hands and knees under some non-functioning appliance shining a flashlight and asking for tools to do a little repair job. He kept many washers and ovens going for missionary families.”
Husby cited Ellen’s reputation for compassion and prayer. “Whenever someone had a family crisis she would call—or come—and offer prayer. She would also follow up with loving support.”
Jay, who is in the middle of training to be a spiritual director, said he hoped to return to pastoring a local church in the United States. He added, “I would love to connect young people in our churches with churches in Japan.”
Ellen doesn’t see her ministry service changing much. “I plan to keep evangelizing and sharing Jesus with people. It’s just a different location.”