Backus family to serve Rockpoint Church in Japan

Photo by Jeff Baughan Bryan Backus was the Ritchie County sheriff from 2009-2016. Backus and his wife, Erica, are wrapping up fundraising, which will allow them, along with their son Larryn, to travel to Japan to be missionaries in Iwakuni, which is where Backus was stationed when he was in the Marines.

PARKERSBURG — Bryan Backus received his Ritchie County High School diploma in the spring of 1991. The Gulf War had been declared over a few months before.

While other classmates readied themselves to be fresh faces in college, Backus was busy being a fresh face at Parris Island, S.C., as a United States Marine recruit.

Backus expected to spend time in the Middle East. The Marines had other plans. His station was Iwakuni, Japan, at the Marine Corps Air Station. That was 1992. He was there through 1993.

His present was preparing him for his future. He just didn’t know it.

Today, more than 25 years later, Backus is in the final stages of preparing himself, his wife, Erica, and son Larryn to return to Iwakuni and the military base. He won’t be military but he will be serving at the Rockpoint Church, which is home to both military and Japanese families.

Photo Provided Bryan Backus, seated left, his wife, Erica, standing, and their son Larryn will journey to Japan in late June to become the interim pastor at Rockpoint Church in Iwakuni.

Backus is a licensed minister in the Assemblies of God Fellowship through the Appalachian District School of Ministry, which is located in Charleston at the Valley Christian Assembly. “It’s what God has called us to do in the next chapter of our lives,” he said. “I’ve been to Iwakuni serving in the military. Now I’m going back to serve the military and the Japanese families there. It’s just this time we’re doing the service as a family.”

Backus said the family had been to Japan in 2016 for two weeks of mission work and “we’ve done local mission work but always came home. This time, we’re going to be gone for two years.

“This mission is unique as it is unlike most other missions to plant a church for an indigenous people to learn about Christianity,” he continued. “This mission is actually a church plant from about 10 years ago when another military veteran felt the same call.”

He is to be the interim pastor at Rockpoint, which he says “is a very ecumenical church with many denominations under the Assemblies of God banner. The pastor there is Scott Schesser, who was the planter of the church. Schesser has to return home in July to raise more funds. His next mission is to plant churches in Asia.

“So it is important for us to wrap up fundraising and get there in June for the transition,” he said. “We want to be there in late June so the church will continue to have a pastor.”

Photo Provided Bryan Backus during his time as Ritchie County sheriff, with his son Larryn.

The family is months ahead in the raising of funds to be able to travel but still needs to secure another $800 in monthly support to finish.

“We will work for Assemblies of God World Missions, which is a non-profit entity,” he added. “The funds are sent to Springfield, Missouri, where the church will distribute the needed finances on a monthly basis, once we depart.”

Flashback to Parris Island. “I was in boot camp when I received my salvation,” Backus said. “When I got to Iwakuni there was no church here. It affected me as there was no one to disciple me. I want to be here now to help the military families because there was no one here then.”

Backus remained in the Marines through 1995, although he had returned to the United States in 1993, when he says he recommitted his life to Christian service. He spent two years, 1996-97, in the reserves as an engineer in Charleston.

It was also in 1997 when he began his law enforcement career as a Ritchie County deputy sheriff. That position eventually led to two terms as sheriff of Ritchie County. “Those two terms, 2009-2016, were just a season for me. The Iwakuni calling makes it a full circle.”

Photo Provided Bryan Backus, center, during his installation ceremony as he became the Ritchie County sheriff. To the left is the outgoing sheriff at the time, Ron Barniak, and to the right is his wife, Erica.

The calling to return to Iwakuni began in 2014 when Backus said the “thought dropped into my spirit. I shared it with my wife and I knew I was coming up on retirement soon.

“This would give me the opportunity to return to Iwakuni to be an encourager to men and women and families serving at the base,” he said.

Backus has been with the First Assembly of God in Harrisville since 1993. “The church was planted by Ron Blevins in 1991 and he is still the pastor,” he said. “The church started in a small building on Main Street and now we have about 150 people a Sunday.” The church’s attendance is approximately the same as the Rockpoint Church.

Iwakuni is approximately 40 minutes from Hiroshima and a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. It’s about 12 to 13 hours ahead of whatever time it is in Parkersburg. “So yes, we can get cyclones blowing through,” he said. “If you would draw a parallel line across the globe, Iwakuni would be along the line with the Carolinas and have pretty much the same weather.”

Backus then paused, looked down at the table he was sitting at, lifted his head and said, “We grew up here and have accepted responsibilities here but this is God’s perfect timing.

“Yes, there is a sense of sacrifice here to pick up our cross and follow Jesus across the world. Yes, we go with concerns but we would rather go with concerns rather than be disobedient and spend a lifetime of wondering ‘what ifs?’ had we not followed the calling.”

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If You Want to Help

* Donations can be mailed in support of the Backus family to:

Assemblies of God World Missions

1445 North Boonville Avenue

Springfield, MO 65802-1894

Missionary Account Number: 2977270

* Or donations may be made online at: agmd.org by clicking on search: Bryan Backus. Click on the name and click “give now.” The gift is tax deductible and provides recurring monthly support for the family.

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