Chikako Onishi came to the United States in the late 80’s as an undergraduate in order to receive her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP). She left her home in Chiba, Japan, venturing out into an unfamiliar world. Her arrival at the university was like traveling to a new country. When she had only been at the University for a short time, she realized that assistance with English would be critical to the pursuit of her degree. A friend told her that prospective conversation partners meeting at Peace Lutheran Campus Center were willing to help international students improve their English skills. Bob Krueger, a retired UWSP basketball coach, was there to meet with Chikako each Wednesday afternoon. They grew to appreciate each other so much that even difficult topics became comfortable in their conversation.
One day, Bob stopped at Pastor Carl’s (Selle) office with a concern. “Would it be appropriate if Chikako and I were to speak about spiritual and religious topics?” You see, Bob had come from the university culture where it was not always appropriate to speak about religious matters. Assured that it was fine, Bob began to talk about God’s love for all people.
About the same time, Chikako was intrigued by a Christmas break visit from Ruby, a Christian woman who loved to bake cookies. A gift of cookies during the Christmas season spoke clearly to Chikako in her loneliness since she had been unable to travel home for the winter vacation. She had spent much of the time in the residence hall during the holiday season apart from her family. Ruby’s witness was simply another evidence of God’s love.
Shortly after that Christmas break, Chikako began to sit in the back row for Sunday worship Sunday after Sunday; singing, learning, and listening to what was happening in that morning hour.
An American Christian, Tim Drawbaugh, had by now come to know Chikako as a very special friend. They dated and learned much from each other. At graduation time, both chose to go separate ways: Tim to complete his ROTC training in Oklahoma, and Chikako, back to Japan for a job. But this really is just the beginning of their story.
Their correspondence brought them to the realization that changes needed to be made. Chikako returned to the States so that she could be touched by the water and the Word in the sacrament of holy baptism. What a wonderful celebration! Several weeks following the baptism, Tim and Chikako were united in marriage.
God’s Spirit moves quietly, quickly, and often in unpredictable ways. Tim was soon led to accept a position in Japan with the Lutheran Church̶ Missouri Synod’s Overseas ”Volunteers in Youth Ministry” (OVYM), a two and a half year English teaching stint for Lutheran college graduates. Chikako stood by his side as both traveled to Japan. But for Chikako, the Spirit had a unique and special place as she became the administrative secretary to the Japan director of OVYM. Here Chikako had opportunity to interact meaningfully with the American teaching volunteers (V’ers) both as a friend, a sister, and a “mom.” Chikako’s knowledge of the Japanese language and culture was God’s way of using her as a profound blessing to the work of the Japan Lutheran Church and to the support of the V’ers.
The Drawbaugh family returned stateside in late spring 1998 when Tim began four years of study at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. During that same timeframe, Chikako had an opportunity to pursue an M.A. degree at the Seminary. Tim and Chikako served the Lord in New Jersey for a time (campus outreach worker at New York University and also among members of families of the Japanese business community). After serving there for several years, God called Tim and Chikako to return to Japan to serve at Seibo Gakuen, a Lutheran Christian high school in Hanno. Their son, Joshua, recently graduated from Keimei Gakuen, another Christian school in Tokyo, and will soon become a college student studying in the U.S.
And the Spirit is still moving.
Chikako continues sharing faith as a wife, mother, neighbor, friend, and teacher.
It all began when a campus center offered English conversation opportunities and God led Chikako to come for those conversation groups. The story continues to evolve and while it is not nearly complete, many have already come to see the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ through the witness of Chikako.