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Richard Barker

Missionary to Japan
"We were really thrilled to just be answering God’s call!"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, adapted by Connor Owen, Project Manager, March 2021

Richard “Dick” and Barbara Barker practiced what they preached during their 15 years in Japan as missionaries with World Gospel Mission, and later for eight years with Global Partners. Their primary ministry focus was Immanuel Bible Training College, which trains leaders of Immanuel General Mission, the national church in Japan.

Dick grew up in Detroit, Michigan. “When I was very young, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I told my dad I wanted to be a missionary,” Dick said. During a revival service in high school, he felt a definite call to the ministry. He attended Kentucky Mountain Bible College and completed his degree at Indiana Wesleyan University. Dick then earned his MDiv from Asbury Seminary (Kentucky). “God used that relationship [with my Japanese roommate in seminary] to confirm my call to Japan,” he said.

Barbara and Dick had started dating by then and joyfully discovered that they shared a call to Japan. They were married in 1957 after completing their education.

After pastoring churches in Michigan for seven years, they finally arrived in Japan in 1964. “We were really thrilled to just be answering God’s call!” Dick said. “It’s never been a question in my mind that that’s what God wanted us to do.” At that time, they had three small children: Lester, Martin, and Norman. They would later add Cheryl and Keith to their family.

Dick immediately dove into language study and soon was teaching at IBTC. Barbara’s main role in those early years was raising their children, and she was also active in building relationships with ladies in their neighborhood.

At that time, it was difficult to obtain books on holiness doctrines in Japanese. Dick helped start the Wesley Book Club, which translated theological books into Japanese, specifically material that dealt with the theme of Christian holiness. Working together with other missionary co-workers and Japanese pastors, numerous holiness classics were translated.

In 1979, Dick and Barbara took a leave of absence to pastor a church in Michigan for three years. They then served as Student Involvement directors at Asbury University until 1993. They enjoyed working with college students, encouraging them to serve the Lord in missions and organizing work teams.

Still, Japan was never far from their hearts and minds. Just days after officially retiring from WGM in 1993, they returned to Japan with Wesleyan World Missions (now Global Partners). During that time, they worked with both organizations through the Immanuel Wesleyan Federation, always with the goal of strengthening the national church. They returned to the U.S. in 2001, settling in Wilmore, Kentucky.

On March 3, 2021, Richard entered the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He’s now experiencing the full reality of the glory of God.

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