From her soft-spoken demeanor, 84-year-old Grace Matthews offers no sign of the adventurous life she has lived. In fact, she’s quite content to enjoy the quiet rhythms of daily life in her retirement community in Florida. But the way she found Christ in war-torn Japan was nothing short of miraculous.
Born in Tokyo, Grace, pictured on the right with her older sister, was brought up as a Buddhist. “I remember they would take me to the temples. It didn’t make any sense to me, but we worshipped the Buddha.”
She was only 12 during World War II when she began having to work in a factory several days a week. “It was very difficult. Every morning I left, I thought, maybe I’ll never see my mother again. And I’m sure my mother felt the same way—my daughter will never come home.”
Once there was a bomb threat while she was on one of the trains she had to take to the factory. The train stopped, and she had to get off, alone and terribly frightened. “I didn’t know where to go, so I ran to a Buddhist temple.”
As a teenager, she excelled at English, and a teacher asked if she would like to study it in depth. She agreed, so the teacher directed her to a church near her home that offered English classes as an outreach ministry. One night a born-again GI came to teach the class. “I couldn’t believe the American GI was a ’Nisei’—second generation Japanese,” she said. After the class, he invited her and a friend to come to a GI Gospel Hour in downtown Tokyo.
She recalls, “This was February 26, a cold, cold night, and we went, my girlfriend and I.” That night they heard the beautiful old hymns of the church for the first time, songs she loves to this day. Then American missionary Mabel Francis spoke.
“There were about 700 people—GIs, missionaries, Japanese people young and old,” says Grace. “She spoke in Japanese and gave us the invitation to accept Jesus. My friend and I thought, ‘If we don’t take this chance, we’ll never have another.’ We gave our hearts to the Lord.”
She met her husband, Clayton Matthews, an American GI from Detroit, while working at an ordinance factory in Japan. They married in 1956 and then came to America. Sadly, Clayton passed away at age 38, but Grace remained in the States, working for 27 years for the Massey Ferguson company. She moved to Lakeland, Florida, in 1992.
Now in retirement, Grace still desires to share her resources to help others find the hope she has in Christ. Her Gift Annuity with AG Financial will help her do that, while providing for her current needs. “Missionaries are very, very important to me,” she said. “If they hadn’t come to Japan, I wonder where I would be. So when God takes me home, I want money to be spent for missionaries to preach the gospel.”
Hers is a life lived well and fully in Christ and a legacy that will continue for many years to come. “I’m 84 years old, and someday, how soon I don’t know, God is going to use this money to build His kingdom.”
Listen to her inspiring story and learn why she has chosen to share that hope with others through a Charitable Gift Annuity.