Lutheran missionary to Japan to speak in Redfield and Doland
By Shiloh Appel
The Reverand Dr. Daniel Jastram, a full-time missionary in Japan serving through the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod will be giving a presentation in Redfield at the Messiah Lutheran Church for the 9a.m. service and in Doland for the 11a.m. service on January 28th, 2018.
Born in Shibata, Japan, Dr. Jastram is a second-generation missionary to the country and currently serves out of Tokyo with his wife, Joan Jastram. His work in Japan includes supervising and coordinating theological education opportunities and teaching courses at Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary when needed, according to the Jastram's missionary information letter.
"Growing up, whenever we came back to the states for furlough, we came to South Dakota because my parents were born and raised in the Sioux Falls South Dakota area near Hartford," said Jastram. "Once my older sister, Anita, married Ronald Frankenstein, we would very often visit her home in Redfield and that became a second contact for us in South Dakota as missionaries in Japan."
Jastram's parents, Robert and Phyllis Jastram, served in Japan from 1953-1976 and had five children, Jonathan, Anita, David, Daniel and Nathan. Only Jonathan and Anita were born in the United States.
"My earliest memory was walking to church about a mile away and having all of the neighborhood look at us as foreigners," said Dr. Daniel Jastram. "Back then, it was so unusual to see foreigners that the children would naturally point and call out the word for foreigner in Japanese, which was 'gaijin.' All of us in our family knew that we were out of the ordinary as missionaries in our town. Other than one Catholic priest, we were the only foreigners in our town of 90,000 Japanese people."
Jastram said that although they were foreigners, Japan was home. Even though Jastram attended an English parochial school throughout his elementary years, he regulary spoke in Japanese when conversing with his friends. Going to the United States for furlough was like an exotic vacation.
"It was a culture-shock experience, especially when we got off of the plane in California. The dry air. The clear skies. The sun beaming down. The broad sidewalks. The smell of asphalt pavement. The big cars. It is just a totally different proportion, I guess," said Jastram. According to Jastram, Japan has 40 percent the population of the United States in a land mass the size of Montana.
"Some of that is rice patties and mountains, so it is even more crowded because you have to congregate along the urban centers," said Jastram. "So, coming to the United States and realizing that it is 3,000 miles across and you can travel three or four days straight in order to get from one end to the other…it is just mind boggling to think of a continent so huge when you grow up on an island. Then, to see the natural wonders of a huge continent like that… The Grand Canyon, the Glacier National Park, Rocky Mountains, the plains of the midwest. All of those things were almost out of National Geographic. We came to enjoy the United States for its peculiar and unusual features compared to our life in Japan."
Jastram said he grew up on both cultural and South Dakota-style food. Rice, meat dishes, vegetables and desserts were the normal diet. One thing that was a change when coming to the states, however, was milk.
"In America, we could actually buy milk, but in Japan we used powdered milk.
It was more economical," said Jastram. "In the United States, to drink whole milk, boy, that is a real difference when you have been drinking powdered milk all of your life."
Jastram said that fast food restaurants were also few and far between in Japan during his growing-up years. It was a treat for the family as they traveled in the U.S. during furlough to stop at fast-food places and enjoy everything from ice cream and french fries to burgers, pizza and pop.
"Sometimes, my mother, just as a treat, would buy a whole gallon of root beer that we would share as a family," said Jastram. "That is the taste and smell of the United States that we didn't have back in Japan."
Meanwhile, after elementary school, Jastram attended high school in Tokyo at an American English medium school that was not church-related. Afterwards, he went on to college in the United States. He attended USD in Vermillion and majored in the classic ancient languages of Greek and Latin. He then received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He also earned a masters and doctorate degree in classical languages from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He served for a time as a professor of theology at Concordia Univeristy in St. Paul, Minnesota and Wisconsin and as a pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, Minnesota. It was in his early days in college that Jastram felt the call to ministry.
"I had moved away from Japan, the country of my birth. Away from my parents, who were still in Japan at that time…so the one thing that really gave me personal stability and continuity of identity was my faith and having a Bible, appreciating the Bible, reading the Bible and studying it, learning more deeply the theology of scripture," said Jastram. "Contrary to what it is like in Japan, there are lots of Christians in the United States and there are a lot college students that are Christians. I started to interact more and more deeply with other Christians on campus and I found out that I really enjoyed working with Christians and studying together and increasing my understanding and exploring with them too."
Currently on furlough in the United States, Jastram said he is looking forward to speaking in Redfield and Doland again this weekend. To support their efforts by mail, send donations to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. PO Box 66861. St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
Questions can be directed to (phone) 888-930-4438 or sent via email to [email protected]