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‘To Put Feet on Faith’

Stanley Murray Awarded EU Alumnus of the Year

“To be honored in this way…to be chosen among candidates who are equally qualified if not more, amazes me. But God’s been doing that since I was twelve years old.” Stanley Murray, EU’s 2016 Alumnus of the Year, dedicated his life to Christ at the young age of twelve, coming from a family of devoted Christians in Vermont. Since twelve, Murray has followed Christ’s call from Vermont, to Eastern University, and ultimately to Japan, where Murray and his wife served the Japanese people for twenty-two years.

Murray grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont, leaving home at the age of eighteen to go to junior college in Massachusetts. But after two years in Massachusetts, it was a hometown pastor that drew him to what was then called Eastern Baptist College. Unlike the wild atmosphere of junior college, Eastern quickly became a home for Murray, who graduated with a degree in sociology in ’71. “I felt like I fit right in, and people accepted me for who I was,” Murray says of his experience at Eastern, “I found a home there almost immediately.”

And after graduation, it seems as though Murray was once again drawn back to his new home, accepting a position with Eastern’s Admissions Office in ’72. Working there for five and a half years, Murray’s love for the school was apparent: “To me the job could not have been more ideal…I found it incredibly easy to “sell” Eastern. I knew what Eastern could do for [students] and what [students] could do for Eastern.” Moreover, Murray’s wife, Marty Bowman Murray, graduated from Eastern in ’73, the couple then marrying in August of 1973.

Yet, the small liberal arts college that Murray had come to love was not his final destination. It was merely a beautiful stepping-stone on his path to serving God in the international mission field. Murray says of his initial interest in missions, “I had always admired missionaries and their service overseas, but had never felt like that was something at all that I could do.” It was a World Mission Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin sponsored by American Baptist International Ministries that spurred his heart and changed his mind. Attending with his wife as Upper Merion Baptist Church’s delegates, Murray claims, “My life was changed that week…I began to see that missionaries are very ordinary types of people, but they just began to feel the call of God to do that work in another country.” Conferring with his wife, who had always harbored a desire to be a missionary, Murray entered Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in ’77, ultimately earning a Masters of Divinity in ’79.

Preparing for missionary work within Eastern’s community, both as an undergraduate and graduate. Murray benefited from a number of experiences. He tutored low-income students in Philly, sang with the choir on a music mission tour to Haiti and Puerto Rico, and saw the socioeconomic divide in New York City with Dr. Tony Campolo. These experiences, as Murray says, “helped everything fit together in my preparation stages…Faith took on legs for me. And I began to really understand what it means to walk in Christ, to put feet on my faith.” And in ’79, Murray and his wife pursued what they were meant to do, leaving to serve with American Baptist International Ministries in Japan after a small amount of preparation and hardly any real world experience. In hindsight, even though Murray understood they were entirely unprepared, he and his wife spent two years learning Japanese full-time – which amounted to about five and a half hours of Japanese per day. Yet, as Murray says, “By the grace of God, he gave me that tool and we had a very successful number of years of service in Japan.” While in Japan, Murray and his wife adopted four children born of underage, unmarried Japanese mothers, the youngest of which is now twenty-five and living with her husband in Cincinnati.

After twenty-two years of service in Japan, Murray and his family traveled back to the United States in 2001, which felt more like leaving than coming home. Upon his return, Murray had assumed that he would be taking a pastorate, the thing he had been trained to do and what he knew he was good at. But, God had other plans. The Executive Director of International Ministries asked Murray to take up the position of Area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan, a position that entailed frequent visits to ten different Asian countries and supervising a sizable number of missionaries. “God is amazing because after twenty-two years, I felt like I was beginning to understand Japan a little bit and then he wanted me to be Area Director for a part of the world that includes ten different countries,” Murray exclaims, “It was a job much bigger than who I am.”

What is our Alumnus of the Year up to now? After fourteen years of service as area director with International Ministries, Murray has retired with his wife and grandson Jacob and lives in Royersford, Pennsylvania. And the Lord still continues to challenge Murray, who has developed peripheral neuropathy in both legs over the past three to four years. Yet, the Eastern alumnus still praises God: “You can’t second guess God. God has been with me through every other situation, so why wouldn’t he be here now?” And it is at this new juncture in Murray’s life that he remembers Eastern with fondness, hoping to influence younger students on their journeys to serve the Lord. He says, “If I can provide influence on younger persons who are willing to serve Christ, that makes it all worthwhile and makes the honor meaningful to me.” Congratulations Stan!

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