By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Gadsden State Community College recognized Dr. Toshiko Abe as a distinguished alumna on Sept. 15, and a group of current and former members of Paden Baptist Church welcomed back an active church and choir member – one who helped strengthen a ministry to international students during her time in Gadsden.
Abe, who attended Gadsden State during 1988 and 1989 to study nursing, is now a member of the Japanese House of Representatives and a Deputy Foreign Minister.
She had a visit scheduled to the United States on government business – she was scheduled to go to the United Nations after her visit in Gadsden – and GSCC officials and the alumni association were able to schedule a reception to present her with the Outstanding Alumna of the Year award.
Abe expressed her gratitude for the honor, and she thanked the people of Gadsden State and of Gadsden for their hospitality and their Christianity in welcoming a young visitor from Japan.
“That is why I could survive in a foreign country,” Abe said at the reception.
Dr. Paula Ross Dedrick, director of the Alabama Language Institute at Gadsden State, was not able to attend but sent a message:
“We are delighted to count you as one of our distinguished graduates of the Alabama Language Institute. We are honored to be able to serve students like you all over the world.”
Prior to attending the reception, Abe was able to reunite with Charles and Sandy Smith, her host parents during her time at Gadsden State. Abe lived with the Smiths for two years, and during that time attended Paden Baptist Church with them.
At the time the Smiths, who have lived in Italy, Norway and United Arab Emirates while Charles pa-stored churches in those countries, hosted Bible studies for international students. A number of the students attended Paden, where Charles was pastor at the time.
During the church service at Paden, Charles praised Abe for being an active member of the church and that student ministry during her time in Gadsden, and he emphasized the need to continue to minister to international students attending the college now.
Abe went from Gadsden State to UAB and to the University of Chicago, continuing her nursing education. She became involved in politics, she has said, when she realized changes in policy were needed to help the people of her country. Abe is serving her third term in the Japanese House of Representatives.
After the church service there was lunch, provided by members of the church who attended Paden when Abe was a member.
Over plates of warm food, they shared warm memories and photographs of not only Abe but many of the international students who attended Paden – many of them former temporary residents at the Smiths’ home.
After the reception at Gadsden State, Abe had to leave quickly to make a flight out of Atlanta, but not before talking about trying to return again for another visit.