NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – C. Norman Kraus, who served as a long-term mission worker in Japan, died Apr. 6, 2018, at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He was 94.
Norman and his wife, Ruth, served in Japan for six years through Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency to Mennonite Mission Network. After moving to Japan in 1980, they spent 18 months studying language in Tokyo before moving to the island of Hokkaido, where Kraus lectured and taught at Eastern Hokkaido Bible School from 1981-1986. During this time, he led seminars across the island, engaging in conversations with Japanese Christians about Jesus' life, death, and role in Christianity. These conversations, specifically the question of why Jesus had to die, led Kraus to write a two-volume book series entitled Jesus Christ Our Lord and God Our Savior. The books were published first in Japanese, then later in English.
Kraus's teaching ability earned him the endearment, sensei, which means "master" in Japanese. Kraus taught others how to serve as Anabaptist Christians, and also how to live as disciples of Jesus, said Yoshihiro Kobayashi, who served as an interpreter for Kraus.
Born Feb. 20, 1924, Kraus was raised in the Warwick River Mennonite Colony in Denbigh, Virginia. Kraus married Ruth Smith in 1945, and together, they raised a family of five children. After graduating from Goshen (Indiana) College in 1946, Kraus returned in 1949 to pursue a seminary degree and teach in the Bible department, where he became known as an educator, reporter, protestor, and advocate for racial equality and social justice.
Kraus completed a master of theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1953, followed by a PhD in religion from Duke University in 1961. In 1971, he founded and directed the Center for Discipleship program at Goshen College, where he continued to teach before accepting his assignment with Mennonite Board of Missions in 1980.
"It was inspiring to see [Norman and Ruth] in their 50s leave the security of a tenured faculty position and accept the challenge of learning the culture and language of [Japan]," said Wilbert Shenk, who served as director of the Overseas Ministries division of Mennonite Board of Missions from 1965-1990. "Ruth and Norman were enriched even as they gave of themselves to the people of Japan."
In addition to Jesus Christ Our Lord and God Our Savior, Kraus wrote numerous books centered on Christianity and Mennonite theology, including Integration: Who's Prejudiced, one of the first public attempts by the Mennonite Church to address its own implicit biases, published in 1958.
After returning from Japan and retiring from Goshen College, Norman and Ruth moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he served as interim pastor at Community Mennonite Church from 1990-1991.
In 1997, Ruth died following a battle with leukemia. In 1998, Kraus married Rhonda Short Hess, who survives him. Kraus is also survived by his five children: Yvonne Forman of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Jo Anne Okamoto of Yonkers, New York; John Kraus of Greensboro, North Carolina; Bonnie Kraus-Connelly of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania; and Robert Kraus of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; as well as eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Apr. 28, 3 p.m., at Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia.