​Left to right: Barbara and Don Reber, Arletta Seltzer, Bob and Nancy Lee in Japan, August 1959. Photo by Charles Shenk.

by Travis Duerksen
Wednesday, October 16, 2019

NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – Donald Reber, who served as a mission worker in Japan, died Sept. 16, 2019. He was 93.

Reber was born Nov. 12, 1925, in Ruby, Nebraska, to Cora (Hershberger) and Noah Reber. While he was encouraged to explore ministry throughout his childhood, Don’s passion for evangelism developed during his time serving as a radioman in the Navy aboard the USS Virgo. Afterward, he attended Hesston (Kansas) College and Goshen (Indiana) College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Goshen Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary). In 1946, he married Barbara Bender. Early in their dating relationship, both Bender and Reber agreed that they wanted to pursue lives of ministry and mission work.

In 1952, the couple moved to Japan to serve with Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. After language school, they moved to Hombetsu, a small town in rural Hokkaido, to help with church-planting efforts in the area. In the mid-1950s, the Rebers moved to Hokkaido’s capital city of Sapporo to relate to fledgling church groups. While there, Don helped start the Japanese version of The Mennonite Hour, an audio outreach program broadcast across the island over radio and land lines.

In the early 1960s, the Reber family moved to Tokyo. There, Barbara and Don oversaw the Anabaptist Center, a meeting place and guest house for area church leaders and fellowship groups. Next door to the Anabaptist Center was the Honancho church, where Reber served as pastor.

The Rebers returned to the United States in 1966, where Don worked in marketing with multiple companies, including Mennonite Media Ministries. After retirement, Don returned to Japan for two years as a mission associate with Mennonite Mission Network and served as a wedding minister in Sapporo and Tokyo.

Yorifumi Yaguchi, a poet, professor and Mennonite leader in Japan, recalled asking Reber about the purpose of his wedding ministry. According to Yaguchi, Reber replied, “Most of [the couples] do not know Jesus Christ. When they start their new life together, don’t you think it is meaningful for them to know that it is God who leads them to their marriage and who blesses their new life?”

“We wanted [Reber] to return to Sapporo, but he went to Heaven instead,” Yaguchi wrote. “May he rest there where his beloved God is.”

Barbara preceded Don in death on Jan. 31, 2012. In 2014, Reber married Elizabeth (Glick) Granfield, who survives him. Other survivors include five children, Karen Sue Senft of Goshen, Indiana; Beth Ann Reber Wenger of Dayton, Virginia; Mary Kay (Dan) Hostetler of Rochester, Minnesota; Carol Jean (Larry) Brundege of Moneta, Virginia; and Jon (Kimberly) Reber of Columbia, New Jersey; 11 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren. Reber was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara (Bender); his brother, Kenneth Reber; and his sisters, Berniece (Paul) Yoder and Marguerite (Darold) Roth.






​Donald Reber served as a mission worker in Japan with Mennonite Board of Missions for 14 years.



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