Adella Brunk Kanagy and her family served in Japan with from 1951-1973. Photo provided.

By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – Adella Brunk Kanagy read from both her English and her Japanese Bibles each morning. She and her family served in Japan for 22 years with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. Kanagy, 95, died in Belleville, Pennsylvania, July 8.

"We served by being learners of the Japanese language and customs," said Kanagy when she received one of the Alumni of the Year Awards from Goshen (Indiana) College in 1999.

Japanese Mennonite church leaders remembered the contributions of Kanagy and her husband, Lee, in letters of condolence.

"Adella San ["san" is a title of respect] and Lee San built the foundation of Bekkai Mennonite Church and kindergarten [using the memorial funds from their son John's death]. I am grateful," wrote Koji Seaki, leader of the Bekkai Mennonite Church and kindergarten principal.

Born Nov. 12, 1922, in Biglerville, Pennsylvania, to Alice (Yoder) and Joseph E. Brunk, Adella moved to Goshen with her family in 1934 so her father could manage the college's shirt factory. (During the Great Depression, Goshen College established the Maple City Shirt Factory in response to the need for student financial aid. Students could earn credit toward their tuition by sewing and distributing shirts.)

Kanagy pursued higher education to increase her ability to serve God and others. She graduated from Goshen College in 1944 and went on to La Junta Mennonite School of Nursing in Colorado to become a registered nurse. In 1948, she married Lee Hartzler Kanagy, and three years later, the couple began their ministry in northern Japan. They planted a church in Nakashibetsu and also served in Furano and Ashoro. 

Ruthy Kanagy, who taught Japanese at the University of Oregon, said her mother had extensive gifts and "was an inspiration to many." In addition to raising six children in a cross-cultural setting, she also engaged with the Japanese community.

When the Kanagys arrived in Japan, the nation was recovering from World War II. They first opened a church and kindergarten to reach the parents of the community with the message of Christ's salvation. To meet the practical needs of the time, Adella Kanagy also taught canning and food preservation. Later, she began leading women's Bible studies, taught English, and organized a girls' club that combined memorizing Bible passages with learning to cook, sew, and camp. The girls were also treated to some fun excursions.

Upon completion of their ministry in Japan, the Kanagys went to Fairfax, Virginia, in 1974 where they operated the Dutch Kettle restaurant. They continued their outreach to the Japanese community by providing leadership to the Washington (D.C.) Japanese Christian Church. Later, Adella Kanagy returned to practicing nursing. When she was 65 years old, she graduated with a master's degree from George Mason University in interdisciplinary studies with a certificate in gerontology. She was licensed as a chaplain by the Northern Virginia Mennonite Church.

In 1987, Adella and Lee Kanagy moved to Belleville, Pennsylvania. For five years, Adella served as a hospice chaplain, helped initiate a local "Nurse in the Congregation" program, and organized an Interchurch Health Group to promote healthy lifestyles.

Kanagy was a sought-after public speaker both in Japan and in the United States. She especially relished shedding light on the contributions of Anabaptist women throughout history. She also authored three books: Letters Across the Pacific, Dutch Kettle Cookbook, and Apple Dumpling: Diary of My Great Trip West in a Trotwood Trailer, 1937-38.

While in Japan, the Kanagys lost a son, John Ernest (14 months). Adella Kanagy was also preceded in death by her husband (2012); a sister, Dorothy; and two brothers, Ivan and Milton.

She is survived by her children: Dan of Tokyo, Japan; Ruthy of Eugene, Oregon; David (Miyako) of Panama; Tim (Donna) of Beckley, West Virginia; and Lois (Ron) Papetti of Fairfax, Virginia. She is also survived by seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; a sister, Mabel Brunk, and sister-in-law, Kathleen Brunk, both of Goshen.  

Michael Sherrill, Mennonite Mission Network's director for Asia and Middle East, said that the Kanagys served in Japan "through faith active in love. There is no doubt that countless [people] have been touched by their loving commitment in service. Both Adella and Lee are remembered with great admiration and fondness."

A memorial service was held July 14 at Maple Grove Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania where Adella Kanagy was a member. She is buried at Allensville Mennonite Cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to Mennonite Mission Network, PO Box 370, Elkhart, IN 46515-0370.




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