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