South Africa for one year. And, when she first returned to living in Florida, she and her husband conducted weddings – in Japanese – at Disney for 10 years.
This mother of four, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of four, has lived a life of service and spiritual ministry. She was only 20 when she made her first trip to Japan in 1951. She and her new husband traveled on a 12-passenger freighter from Portland, OR, to Tokyo.
“That’s how missionaries traveled. It was really rough but we made do. After we got there, I remember writing my first letter home and I said it was like living on Mars, because of the craters where bombs had hit. We actually drove on streetcar tracks a lot of the time because it was the only smooth place. But, we were received very well in Tokyo,” she said.
One unique thing they did to promote their ministry was a weekly 30-minute radio drama during which there was no sermon, just simply entertainment. “That’s what really got us going there. We didn’t do sermons because they weren’t really interested in hearing that. We just did drama and it went over really well and we were on many stations. My husband and a Japanese man worked together and did it,” she said.
That first trip to Japan lasted five-and-a-half years before they returned to the U.S. for a while. When they returned to Japan they again went to Tokyo and then Okinawa where they developed a church.
Although she only lived in Korea for three years, she has the distinction of having starred, at age 49, as a 29-year-old American doctor in a soap opera for Korean television. The name of the show was “Endurance.”
Born on April 11, 1931, she lived on Amelia Island through high school and then went to business college in Jacksonville, where she met her husband. He was already a vicar in the Lutheran Church and had already done a stint as a missionary. She had long been interested in missionary work and was eager for them to do it together.
One recent challenge of her life was caring for her husband before he died four years ago.
“He was really ill for 12 years and I took care of him. He had a five-bypass heart surgery, cancer and a stroke, so I was his nursemaid for all that time. I have been very blessed to be able to adjust to everything. God is great! God is good!”
She lost her first child, Nathan, one day after his birth about 62 years ago. The loss still feels very fresh, she said. “But, I have been very blessed to have four other children – two girls and two boys.”
Remembered pain is once again fresh, however, as one of her sons faces a serious illness. She spoke of him with admiration for the spirit he exhibits and is determined to spend as much time with him as she can.
When Jessie and her husband Delmar returned to Florida to stay, they chose Daytona Beach.
“Any place in Florida is better than any other place. I just love Florida and I love Daytona Beach for the year-round climate, and the ocean and the river. We had a church in Daytona for 17 years. We were married 58 years so there is a lot you can do in that time,” she chuckled. “We did a lot of things…we’ve really been blessed.”
Now, as a resident of The Fountains at Orlando Lutheran Towers, she remembers the days when she and Delmar sometimes attended church services in the Towers’ 18th Floor chapel.
“It’s beautiful up there. We knew about this place for quite a while. I made my decision to come here because I didn’t want to wait until it got to the point of my children having to make decisions for me,” she said. “I find it very comfortable. You can actually do a whole lot or, if you want to, relax and do nothing. That’s your privilege.”