"And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.
And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the lord reigneth."
Mosiah 27: 36-37
Above: Sakurajima erupts in the harbor of Kagoshima in November of 1974 -- a 'one-line' drawing by Elder Jennings for which I paid the unheard of sum of six -- yes six! -- Tirol bars.
Translation of above:
Sakurajima -- 'Cherry blossom Island', which is a volcano -- beautiful, tropical, exotic-- that erupted regularly (every day) and spewed ash all over the unfortunate who happened to be in the 'fall-out' path. Pity the poor contact wearer! Missionary suits would sparkle with the ash and sometimes you would wake-up in the morning to a good dusting of the stuff all over the neighborhood. At night, the molten lake in the caldera would color the hanging clouds red -- a sinister, malevolent sight in the night sky and, I fear, an omen of the future for my friends there. People lived and worked on the island, though -- see the ferry plying the sparkling bay above? I rode that ferry many times -- gosh, I wish I could do it again!
Kagoshima -- a beautiful Japanese port city on the southern coast of the Kyushu , the most southern 'island' of Japan, one of the places I served as a missionary. Although we were usually the only 'Gaijins' (foreigners) in the areas we served, here we would sometimes meet Russian or Norwegian crewman near the harbor areas.
'One-line' drawing -- A drawing made by placing one's pen on the paper and never lifting it up again until the signature is complete. An eerie talent -- one I could never fathom. Jennings was a sign maker -- but his talent was much greater than that. I remember that he took only about 60 seconds to draw this as the volcano was erupting before our eyes.
Tirol bars -- Excellent 'Swiss' chocolate bars that could be purchased for around 100 yen at the local mise (store). I wish I had one even now. ;-)
I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons) from August of 1973 to August of 1975 in the Japan-West Mission, which later was divided in two, throwing me into the new Japan-Fukuoka Mission. My Mission President was Arthur K. Nishimoto, who with his lovely wife and family, managed to hold and keep safe hundreds of missionaries, and at the same time preside over, and nurture, the various wards and branches of his area -- a very great man teamed with an equally great helpmate. He was a retired army colonel, a decorated war veteran, of both Japanese and Hawaiian ancestry, who had a Hawaiian name that seemed to go on forever. God bless him and his family! President Nishmoto published a wonderful book -- 'Dear President' -- which is a compilation of excerpts from the missionaries weekly letters to the
Mission President. Please click on the title to read/download.
I served in the following cities:
- Nobeoka -- October 1973 to January 1974
- Kumamoto -- January 1974 to July 1974
- Kagoshima -- July 1974 to January 1975
- Futenma (on Okinawa) -- January 1975 to March 1975
- Naha (on Okinawa) -- March 1975 to May 1975
- Fukuoka -- May 1975 to August 1975
Kagoshima, 1974, on the bridge very near the branch, while Sakurajima erupts in the distant bay. More pictures can be found here.
I have contributed three short cameos of missionary life on the Japan-Fukuoka Home Page. I also have these experiences here too for you if you'd like to read them. Just click one of the cameo hyperlinks below:
Also, my Windows shareware game, GoMoku Narabe, was fashioned as instructed by the members in the Nobeoka branch.
And Yes! A mission for the LDS church is done in the native language and so I learned Japanese. I still speak at a very rusty level -- a mere shadow of my former abilities, but I could get it back if I had to . . . ;-)
I can only say of the Japanese people I met and worked with there that I will always remember their kindness, good humor, and patience.
OK, OK. I'll lighten-up a bit. Here's my best advice:
Get thee to the Web Resources for Japanese Food and make yourself the authentic thing! Mmmmmm . . .
The cameo stories of my mission:
You killed my brother!
It was a brilliant morning in Kagoshima, open sky, bright sun, Sakurajima topped with a whiff of volcanic smoke in the distance, the blue bay peeking between the houses, when Middaugh Choro and I approached the old obasan in her yard. "Hello! -- We're from the church of . . ." "Get out of here!," she hissed, "You killed by brother! Killed my BROTHER!!" Confused and sure I hadn't heard right, I turned to Middaugh Choro, the senior, "What'd she say?" "She said we killed her brother", Middaugh Choro said flatly and with a strange, sad look in his eyes. "You are mistaken", I explained to the grandma, "We've killed no one!, we are here representing the Church of Jesus . . .". "HIROSHIMA! The bomb! You dropped the bomb on my brother and he's dead, dead, DEAD! . . . now get out of here!", she snapped and cackled. "But, but I'm only 20 years old, I wasn't there, I didn't do it . . ." "GET OUT!", she screamed. We turned and left silently, sad, shaken. But what could we say; for we were marked by sandy hair, blue and green eyes, ungainly tallness, and in the old grandma's heart these were the marks of a race of murders and in her mind's eye shone another sun, an atomic sun of hate, born those many years ago when her brother died, vaporized, in the distant city of Hiroshima.
I was very young back then -- I shook it off and went on. But, now; now that I am older, I sometimes think of that old grandma. Would I have been any different had I been in her shoes? Could I have contained that atomic sun of hate, let time heal my wounds, and learned to forgive? I hope so, but I'm not so self-sure now. Life does that to you I guess.
I remember the faces sometimes . . .
I remember the faces sometimes . . . an old wizened face, broken by the biggest smile you've ever seen, and the loudest cackle of a laugh you can imagine, as I presented my shoes (size 12) to the local shoemaker for new soles . . "I doubt that even Tokyo has replacement soles as big as these," he laughed, apologized, and sent us on our way . . . I actually think he might be still laughing. I can still see the face of the of the young sailor, American -- Puerto Rican, actually, we found between the cars (the only place you could breath) of an oppressively crowded, standing-room only, train we rode back from the Sasebo Taikai. He was intent on telling us about the prostitutes in Manilla, and we just as stubbornly tried to present the Gospel over the sound of the clacking tracks and clanking car couplings -- I wonder if our efforts did any good? I can still see the look of utter disbelief on our investigator's faces as we showed up in the middle of a typhoon (in Kagoshima) for our appointment. "You came out in this!?," they said. Yup. And we just about got nailed by flying debris as we made our way to the bus stop afterwards . . . at least the bus driver was kind enough to drop us off, between stops, very near the branch. I remember the sorrowful faces at a Buddhist funeral -- I went to two during my mission -- and the eerie sound of the bells and also the chants and burning incense -- it still sends shivers up my spine. But there were happy faces too. The other Choros helped me squeeze my massive body into a Santa Claus suit , made for the occasion by the shimai's of the Nobeoka Branch one Christmas, applied cotton balls to my face, and we bounced off the children's ward at the Hospital (just up the street) to hand out candy. The look on those kids faces . . . I bet they still haven't figured out what was going on there, and why that big red guy kept saying Ho, Ho Ho! And, finally, not a New Year goes by without my mind's eye seeing the Nobeoka member's smiling, joyous, faces as we climbed the mountain (Hageyama I believe it was called) to greet the New Year's sun rising over the ocean. As it rose we all shouted Banzai! Banzai! happy to be alive, happy to greet the new year -- those were heady days . . . yes, I still remember the people's faces, and their reflected joys, sorrows, and challenges . . . the above are just a few, really; randomly chosen from my memories. How about you? Which faces do you remember most?
I remember ( food) . . .
I remember: takoyaki from the street vendors at the end of a hard night's tracting; the smell of hot champon next to a steaming bowl of rice at a local "greasy spoon" after a visit to the o-furo; a hot udon on a cold o-shogatsu night eaten with companions and friends among the flickering fires around the temples; a sukiyaki feast at a members house (how did they make that sauce . .Mmm . . .); bontan ame with the wrapper that actually *did* melt in your mouth; those yummy tirol bars from the corner mise and washed down with calypsu (Mmm . . how can sour milk be made to taste sooo good?!); bean-curd filled ice cream bars (Yuck! how can you eat those things?); tons of kare rice (curry rice) and I hope I never have any again; those huge bottles of soy sauce; those funny "quewpie" mayonnaise bottles; the fact that you couldn't get (or afford) tuna fish so you bought mackerel instead; a real Thanksgiving meal at a member's house 'on base' in Okinawa; o-bentos bought from the train window during a transfer; sashimi -- yes -- sashimi; and all those weird "old" foods everyone consumed at o-shogatsu (Did they really used to live on that stuff?); excellent, excellent okonomiyaki at Hasegawa's near the Kagoshima Daigaku and the times when he (Mr. Hasegawa) was kind enough to lend us his place and huge grills early in the morning to cook-up and eat a pancake feast ( we consumed literally hundreds . . .); a real Big-Mac at the only McDonald's in Kyushu near the Fukuoka Ecki (it did cost a lot!); mimi pan (the ears of the loaf) because the Japanese wouldn't eat them, but we would, and we got them real cheap; cookies from home, often mostly crumbs, but still good; eggs and rice every morning and miso shiro soup; tsuki mono so sour and salty that it would turn your face inside-out; gyoza's filled with all sorts of good things -- I still make a facsimile of these for myself once in a while. . . Mmm . . . Yes, I remember . . .
Don't leave though until you've seen my 'Memory Igniter' page . . . Here.