God has given us the gift of Edessa Yardley! Beth and Edessa are both doing well. Edessa was born at 10:54pm on Tuesday at 8lbs and 20.75in. long! We're tired, but ecstatic about our new little one. Above are some pictures (including Jethro meeting his baby sister). Below is the full explanation of her name!
Edessa, literally translated means “city on the water” (or “tower in the water”), is named after an ancient city in upper Mesopotamia (the chief city of the Persian province of Osrhoerne, now Şanlı Urfa in modern day Turkey) that played a prominent role in early Christianity. The Balih river and many natural springs flowing around Edessa provided it with abundant water making it an important station on the Silk Road (linking the Mediterranean with India and China) and, in combination with protective hills, a natural fortress strategically located between the rival Roman and Persian empires.
Before 190AD, the gospel was widely accepted throughout the city to eventually include the Syriac royal family. Eusebius writes that the city was reached by one of the disciples of the Apostle Thomas (informally “doubting Thomas”), who historically is thought to have brought the gospel east. The city had one of, if not the, earliest church building (destroyed in 201AD), was the site of a Christian council in 197AD, and was home to the School of Edessa which is famous for producing many disciples (including Bardaisan known for philosophy and writing Christian hymns).
Grace is a common name in Christian tradition in light of its scandalous nature in salvation often serving as a baptismal name throughout history.
The samurai woman Hosokawa Tama (細川玉) was no exception, taking the Portuguese variant "Gracia" from the Jesuits and typically pronounced "Garasha" in Japan (1563-1600).
Despite being a traitor's daughter (Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed and killed his lord Oda Nobunaga) and placed under strict surveillance by her "excessively" jealous and controlling husband, Grace was an autonomous learned woman who led a school of Kirishitan literature and inspired apostolic zeal among women catechists in addition to playing a key role a network of women against abuse.
Her learning so impressed the Jesuit padres that before she followed Christ one wrote, "I have never disputed with a woman...of such a clear judgment and such definite knowledge of all the sects [of the Japanese religions]" after she snuck out of her home and interrupted his Easter sermon with rapid questions in 1587. When she learned that the Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi had issued a proclamation against Christianity, she was determined to be baptized immediately. Since she could not leave the house, she was baptized by her maid and received the Christian name "Gracia".
Grace constantly requested books and texts from the padres in Latain, Portugese, and Japanese to understand Christianity better. Grace then applied her learning to her own school of Kirishitanban literature. It is recorded that "On Sundays and holy days, she gathered her Kirishitan women to her and she herself read some chapters of Gerson, or she exercised dome items of catechism having translated it" until her death in 1600.
The wife of an abusive husband, Grace and other Kirishitan women formed a council that helped battered women escape into hiding despite strict household codes that restricted women's freedom of movement and communication with each other. The council found creative and courageous ways around these codes arranging places of refuge and strategizing means to cover an em-battered spouses' absences by various means including false letters.
Grace was a political prisoner in the war raging during 1600, and accepted that she would die at the hands of the family retainer during a siege. Her favorite text Kontemutsusu munji (The Imitation of Christ) is said to have guided her during this period, such that sufferings are unavoidable in this life, but Christ's cross gives inner strength, fearlessness, ease, confidence, joy and patience in facing earthly sufferings because it promises everlasting life to com.
See Ward, Haruko Nawata. 2009. Women religious leaders in Japan's Christian century, 1549-1650. Farnham, England: Ashgate.
Reconciled by Christ, Brett & Beth recount their tales of service to God through their gifts of ministry & medicine with Jethro & Edessa in tow.