Gary L. Bennett, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumnus, passed away peacefully on June 4, 2023, at the age of 70, at his home in Russell, Iowa. Gary was the first born to Roy and Mary Bennett on June 16, 1952, in Centerville, Iowa.
From the time of Gary’s childhood, he attended church and believed that he must live the way God had planned for him. At the age of eight, while attending the New Providence Baptist Church in Confidence, Iowa, Gary responded to an invitation to accept Christ into his heart.
He was very active at church in the Baptist Youth Fellowship and at Forest Lake Baptist Camp near Ottumwa, Iowa during the summers. When he was in high school his church membership moved to the First Baptist Church in Corydon, Iowa.
From the time Gary was in fourth grade he wanted to be a veterinarian. While trying to pursue his goal of becoming a veterinarian, he attended Iowa State University, majoring in animal science. His purpose for living changed during those years and he began to strive for the direction God wanted him to follow. Following graduation from college, he was offered the opportunity to teach at the Vocational Agriculture High School in Wilton, Iowa. Following that year of teaching Gary returned home and was a farmer for the next two years alongside his father.
In late 1976 Rev. Bill Rathbun, Area III minister, asked Gary if he would like to go to Japan during the summer of 1977 with a team of young people to work with one of the American Baptist missionaries. Gary accepted the invitation and traveled with the group to Hime ji, Japan to work with Rev. Lyle Predmore.
Later Gary wrote: “Those five weeks changed my life’s direction in still another direction as I saw and experienced the great need for more Christian workers in Japan.” Several months after Gary returned to Iowa he knew what God wanted him to do. He decided to prepare for Christian work in Japan by entering Central Baptist Seminary in the spring semester of 1978.
Gary was able to attend another mission trip to Japan in the summer of 1978. His convictions were strengthened during that trip. Then from 1979-1980 Gary returned to Japan via a one-year internship through Central. He helped fill in for Rev. Karl Karpa whose family was in the USA on furlough. Gary was involved in teaching in Kanto Gakuin Miharudai schools in Yokohama with junior and senior high school students. He was also involved in Bible studies and worked with a Japanese pastor in a church.
In June of 1981 Gary graduated from Central Baptist Seminary and went on to earn an MA degree from the University of Kansas in Teaching English as a Second Language.
Gary was ordained in December 1981 at Judson Baptist Church, Kansas City where he served as youth minister during his seminary days.
On February 9, 1982, Gary was appointed as a missionary of the Board of International Ministries with designation to Japan. Upon arrival in Japan, Gary studied Japanese Language in Kobe and then went on to Himeji. Gary was involved in English teaching and student evangelism.
Gary met his wife, Yuki, and they were married in 1984. A high point was that he and Yuki saw young people become Christians and others become earnest seekers. Several students visited Gary and Yuki’s home to talk about becoming Christians.
Gary and Yuki served in Japan until 1991 when they were called back to Iowa. Gary then devoted his time to farming, bus driving, serving in church, and helping to raise their four children: Cynthia, Angela, Paul and Flora. Gary and Yuki remained committed to outreach of the Gospel and opened their home in Iowa to over a hundred Japanese adults and students.
God called Gary and Yuki back to Japan in 2008. There Gary served as an English teacher in numerous schools. He was also involved in a bridal ministry and officiated over 500 weddings. Gary was always eager to share the gospel through the relationships he developed in Japan.
Gary and Yuki returned to the Unites States in 2017. Gary stayed busy substitute teaching, bus driving, and remaining active in church and the community.
Gary had a mother, Mary; and five siblings: Vivian, Norma, Rody, Karen, and Ryan. His father, Roy, and step-father Charles, preceded him in glory.
Gary will be greatly missed by his wife, Yuki; children: Cynthia, Angela, Paul, and Flora; grandchildren: Aiden, Harrison, Judah, Kate, Levi, Brooks; along with his siblings, many nieces and nephews, relatives, and friends.
The funeral service for Gary was held on June 8, 2023 in Chariton, Iowa.