Pioneers to Partners: The Reformed Church in America and Christian Mission with the Japanese

Article excerpt

Pioneers to Partners: The Reformed Church in America and Christian Mission with the Japanese. By Gordon D. Laman. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013. Pp. xxvii, 681. $60.

Gordon Laman's overview of one of the earliest Protestant denominations to send missionaries to Japan - the Reformed Church in America (RCA) - is a welcome addition to the historical literature on missions. If anyone is qualified to write such a history, it is Laman, a veteran RCAmissionary retired after forty-three years of service. Throughout the work, Laman discusses the challenges facing the missionaries, which included hostility to Christianity, tensions from nationalism and militarism, disagreements on priorities over education and evangelism, shortages of funds and personnel, and, in particular, the hurdles to true partnership between the RCA and the Japanese church.

Few works on Protestant missions to Japan provide a continuous account of missions both before and after World War II. Laman does this with relative ease, at one point highlighting Sara Couch, a single woman missionary and the only RC Amissionary to remain in Japan during the war. The brief treatment of missions since the 1960s could have been expanded, particularly since the author was in Japan during that period. Though Laman keeps the narrative in the third-person throughout the book, perhaps more insight into the author's life and work - particularly with his acknowledged study of Japan's historical "resistance to Christianity" (630) - would have been instructive. …