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Kevin and Becky Zirkle

Retired missionaries and support staff
"God is not constrained by culture."
By Jace Martin, Staff Writer, September 2022

When Kevin Zirkle was a senior at Purdue University, he and his wife Becky heard that WGM was looking for a young couple to go to Japan to work with university students. “I had a call to the ministry and was interested in student work,” Kevin said. “We prayed about it and felt that this was what God wanted us to do.”

So, in the summer of 1973, the Zirkles took a six-week trip to Tokyo with the WGM Summer Career Corps program (now the Mid-Termer program). The couple led Bible studies for university students with full-time missionaries David and Edna Kuba.

That trip kicked off a thirty-nine-year career for the Zirkles in Japan. “It was through the experiences of that summer that God later spoke to us about returning to Japan as missionaries,” Kevin said.

Leading those Bible studies for students at Rikkyo University, Tokyo University, and Keio University turned out to be Kevin’s favorite part of the ministry. “Studying the Bible with university students was very rewarding,” he said. “Many had little to no exposure to the Scriptures, but they wanted to know what the Bible said. Answering questions was a highlight of working with these students.”

Through the process of answering students’ questions, Kevin learned to trust the Spirit’s impact more than his own expertise. “I learned that the less I relied on my own ability and the more I relied on God, the more effective the ministry was,” he said. “God has to be the one to enlighten a person’s heart. I can explain and answer questions, but unless the Holy Spirit is working in the person’s heart, they won’t see the truth.”

And that Spirit, Becky said, can overcome any obstacle. “I had to examine what I believed and why I believed it—whether it was Biblical or just cultural,” she said. “I learned that God is not constrained by culture and that He works in ways I could never imagine.”

In 1984, Kevin oversaw the construction of a building named after his mentors: the Kuba Student Center. The funds for that project were one example of many answers to prayers. “For years we had few missionaries in Japan and no applications from people wanting to come to Japan as missionaries,” Becky said. “Then after years of praying, God sent us several young people interested in coming.”

Becky enjoyed working at a school for missionary kids. In addition to leading Bible studies, Kevin preached and taught at Immanuel Church’s Bible College. In 2003, the Zirkles were named regional directors of Asia, Europe, and the Pacific Rim (now called WGM East) where they enjoyed helping missionaries accomplish long-term dreams.

In 2016 Kevin and Becky finished their ministry in Japan and joined the International Ministries Department at WGM headquarters; Kevin as the assistant vice president and Becky as an administrative assistant.

In retirement, Kevin will oversee the WGM Emeritus program, helping retirees stay active in ministry. Becky will continue to serve on their church’s board and volunteer in various ministries.

And in everything they do, they will live by the advice Kevin would give to a young missionary: “Work hard, but the results are up to God. You cannot change a person’s heart.”

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