About us

The Short Version:

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement of nearly 70 projects. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.

A Slightly Longer Version:

Profile Mark & Mary Esther Penner

· Missionaries to Japan since 1983.

· Grew up in Japan as missionary kids

Mark –Works with the Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project

The Need: As most Deaf have never heard Japanese, they learn it as a second language and many have difficulty reading their written Japanese Bibles.

The Response:

· Helped start ViBi (Video Bible), a Japanese Sign Language Bible Translation project, in 1993

· ViBi brings together a broad coalition of Japanese Deaf Christian organizations for the common goal of a Bible for the Deaf by the Deaf

· ViBi has transitioned to being completely run by Japanese Deaf leadership, and Mark serves as a consultant

· Currently published on DVD, smartphone app, and YouTube: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Jonah, Ruth, Esther, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians,  Colossians, I, II Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, James,  

· As one of the leading sign language Bible translation projects, ViBi plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement of nearly 70 projects.

Mary Esther—Founded a Japanese Christian non-profit refurbishing wheelchairs to send throughout Asia.

The Need: While old wheelchairs sit unused in Japan, there is a great need for wheelchairs in other countries throughout Asia.

The Response:

· Mary Esther founded Wheelchairs of Hope, a Japanese non-profit that partners with local churches and their surrounding communities to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs to those in Asia who need them.

· Over 2,000 wheelchairs have been distributed to countries throughout Asia including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

· Wheelchairs of Hope gives the Japanese church an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God both locally within Japan and globally in the receiving countries.

15 Responses to About us

  1. Edwin Marshall says:

    Mark, It’s Eddie Marshall. Send me your e-mail. Mine is: edwin@hlefilms.com


  2. I found your website because I was interested in websites on Japan by missionaries or with a missions-type focus. I just started a blog about Christianity and Japan at nihonkibou.wordpress.com. Sometime, I would love to interview you both about your ministry for my blog, or otherwise feature your blog and write about your ministry!

  3. Josh Reeve says:

    Hi Mark,
    My wife and I are about to head to Albania as missionaries with European Christian Mission to get involved in disability ministry there. I’ve enjoyed spending this evening on your blog. You guys are doing some amazing work, and I’ve bookmarked your blog for future inspiration in ministry. I wanted to get in touch to ask if you happen to be the same Mark Penner who wrote a thesis in 1982 on disability in the OT? I stumbled upon a reference to it recently in something I read. I’m currently doing a PhD looking at disability in Leviticus, and if you have an electronic version of your thesis, I sure would love to read it.

    • Thanks for your interest in our ministry. I obviously need to work harder at keeping up the blog. I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting our prayer updates regularly, so the last few years have been rather spotty.
      Yes, I am that same Mark Penner. The thesis was written back in the day when actual typewriter keys hit real paper and left a mark. I have been wanting to digitize it for well over a decade now, but so far only have chapter three (and an awful text file version of chapter one). Now that it can be done relatively easily with an iPhone app, I might be inspired to give it a go. How can I get in touch with you?

      • Josh Reeve says:

        Thanks, Mark. That’s really kind of you. I would be extremely grateful, but I know you’re busy so please don’t let this drown out other priorities. Our email address is ja.reeve@yahoo.co.uk and that’s probably the best way for us to keep in touch. I have to say, every time I read a thesis from the typewriter era, I’m in awe. Even in this age of easy editing/deletion I find it hard enough!

    • Essie says:

      That inisthg’s perfect for what I need. Thanks!

  4. Erica Baker says:

    My husband and I are writing a book about missionaries and their stories from the mission field. Our goal is to tell your specific moments of God’s interventions in daily situations, to inspire Christians to continue the journey, and to share the message of Jesus Christ to the world. We also want this book to give people the opportunity to learn about, pray for, and financially contribute to missionaries everywhere. My husband, Sean, grew up as the son of a missionary in Haiti and has his own stories to tell. We would love to be in contact with you if you would be willing to share specific stories that you have experienced or witnessed as a missionary about how you have seen God’s hand at work and even what led you to the mission field to begin with. We pray that God will use all of these “God moments” that we compile to allow His Holy Spirit to move in the lives of the readers to draw them closer to Him and to affect change in the global mission field. Thank you for any help you might be willing to provide!

  5. Davis Baer says:

    Hi Mark and Mary,

    My name is Davis Baer, and I am with an app/website that focuses on poverty alleviation called DonorSee.

    DonorSee is trying to change the entire charity industry by implementing complete transparency, through the use of real time updates, photos, and videos on the projects to which donors have given. Missionaries or aid workers just post a description of a need in their area, and how much they need to raise. Donors choose which specific projects they want to donate to, and get the gratification of seeing their dollars actually put to work in the form of building someone a house, providing mosquito nets, buying orphans shoes, paying for a major surgery, gifting someone a new school uniform, etc. Those donations go directly from the donors credit card into the missionary’s account, followed by the missionary directly paying for the needs, making it extremely efficient.

    Compare that to the typical charity donation, where you aren’t quite sure where your money is actually going, or how long it will take to be used for its intended purpose. DonorSee is trying to give the charitable giving industry a big face lift, and make donating fun. Check it out if you have a minute: donorsee.com

    Virtually all needs have been met so far, and we would love to see you use the app, and help someone in your area!

    Thanks for your time, and for your service!

    God Bless,

    Davis Baer

  6. Leaving out to Sendai tomorrow with a business partner. We are hoping to get a Business Manager visa then open an English school in Sendai. Praying God will open doors in Japan.

  7. Luis Guadalupe says:

    What a wonderful work you are doing for our Savior. I am very interested in learning what it takes to become a missionary in Japan. I lived in Aomori ken Misawa shi for 3 years while serving in the Air Force. I have had a several dreams about me serving as a missionary or pastor in Japan since then but unfortunately I do not know what is required to start serving over there. I was hoping you had insight or any information that would help. Thank you for taking the time to read and I prayerfully await your response.


    • Thanks for your interest. There is a great need and a wide range of opportunities here in Japan. On the bigger Japan team are people with a variety of gifts and talents, but our personal ministry focus is quite narrow. Probably the best first step would be to reach out to WorldVenture (https://www.worldventure.com/ways-to-go/ ). Poke around through the options until you find the possibilities that fit you, and then be sure to connect with a real live person. We don’t have the broader picture, but they do, and if you ask about what it would take, someone who is better informed than us will be able to help you with next steps.
      May God bless you as you seek to serve.

  8. Simon says:

    Hi Mary and Mary

    I came across your blog while looking for stories of Japanese locals accepting Jesus and their testimonies. I am putting together a simple booklet to encourage Christians considering missions to consider Japan. Would you have a story or two that you could share? Stories of local Japanese converting to Christianity.

    Thanks so much for your time.

  9. Michael Combs says:

    Hi Mark and Mary,

    How are you? It has been so long since we last connected.

    I don’t know if you are still maintaining or accessing this website, but thought I would try just in case.

    After all these years, I am hoping to make a trip to Japan this coming summer in July, August or September. It will only be me, as Mary will be staying home.

    I will be visiting Tokyo, Sendai and Sapporo and thought if there is any way, I would like to visit you as well.

    I would not want to be a burden and would understand if something can’t work out, but thought I would make contact with you anyway.

    I will try to contact you some other way as well, although I only know about your Facebook page and I am totally not on Facebook. I have no account and have never connected with anyone via Facebook before.

    Anyway, if you could share an email address with me that would be great. If we can at all connect on my brief trip to Japan this summer, that would be great, too!

    Hope to hear from you.


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