Jeff Johnston

LIFE spring retreat 1988

Bob & Beth Fuhriman, David and SheriBob, a graduate of Cal-Berkeley, worked as a researcher in our leader development ministry (then “Japan Church Growth Institute” or JCGI). He was an invaluable member of a small core group of talented missionaries helping to pioneer this pastoral training ministry which started with 1 Japanese pastor in 1979. Small beginnings in those years, but it steadily grew to train the top tier of leaders across Japan through the 1980s and ‘90s. But it formed the core program that has now grown to serve nearly 20 countries across Asia and has blessed thousands of leaders across that great continent.

Bob would be the very first to point out that, obviously, there were many others who pioneered JCGI. Bob was a quiet and steadying influence, always contributing behind the scenes as a researcher, a deep thinker, and a sounding board. He was a great collaborator who always pointed to and credited others. That’s one of the many lessons of Bob’s well-lived life.

Bob & Beth Fuhriman were among many career missionaries whose lives mentored our short-termers over a crucial decade in our mission’s development. He and Beth, along with a handful of other career missionary couples, answered my question:

“Was this the community I wanted to join as a missionary?”

Absolutely yes! And all of these people are a big part of why I have stayed for 34 years and counting.

The Fuhrimans relocated to Southern California in the mid-90s to care for their aging parents, They worked for several years alongside me and the HR team at Asian Access, making significant contributions. Both possessed tremendous skills and knowledge in missionary screening, training and assessment, among other strengths. Their skills complemented one another.

HR staff at LIFE (A2)Being quite a bit younger than them, I found it quite ironic to be assigned to them as their supervisor. At first, I struggled with supervising my elders whose very lives had mentored me just a few short years earlier. But they didn’t struggle with the age difference. Their humility was an obvious badge of their maturity in Christ. This time they mentored their supervisor as a newlywed husband and then as a new father. Their support and love gave me much encouragement, and I counted it a privilege to work closely with them. Our friendship brought many blessings to my life.

I fondly remember Bob and his mechanical pencil produced pages and pages of handwritten notes on recycled paper discarded by others about books he had read, charts he had made, ideas he had formed, next steps to pursue, strategies he developed... all which stewarded and maximized his God-given gifts in order to advance the Kingdom.

Bob was so mild-mannered, but with a great sense of humor. I absolutely loved his wry smile. He could be serious much of the time, but then crack a pun with a slight smile while subvocalizing a laugh, ever so faintly. These moments were precious to me, and I can still picture his wry smile twenty years later. It always makes me smile.

That’s the kind of impression this man made on me. The three of us worked together for close to a decade, spending a couple hours each week meeting, planning, dreaming... and praying together. I could catch Bob’s (and Beth’s) heart for God, for His Church, for holiness, for reconciliation, for the Japanese, for people without Christ or a church near them, for their kids, David and Sheri... and for my family... and for countless others. Bob was a very thoughtful man, a pensive man, a compassionate man, an encouraging man, and a high character man.

Again, why wouldn’t I want to join a community with a man like that?

Bob & Beth FuhrimanThe Fuhrimans moved up to the Seattle area in the early 2000s to be closer to their son David and Beth's dad. Not surprisingly, they quickly found international students at local universities to pour their lives into. It was just so emblematic of who God made them to be.

All of us in Asian Access owe a huge debt to Bob and Beth, as well as their contemporaries in the first 3+ decades of our history as a movement. Indeed, as it is often said, we stand upon the shoulders of giants.

We celebrate the life of Bob Fuhriman. We are thankful for him and the ways he blessed us. And we pay it forward to the next generation in his honor and to the glory of God.

Jeff Johnston


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