General Stories and Memories



This Story was Submitted by Jodie Ager ('98)

March 7, 2003


Blessed Not Cursed


I have always been a bit of a klutz and unfortunately this pathetic trait was not left behind when I arrived in Japan. I had a few unfortunate bike accidents, which ended up with me having a particularly ridiculous wreck. The result? A rather painful, broken collar bone. What started out as a traumatic experience ended up being one of the most profound experiences I was blessed with on my mission.


It was the love and simple gestures of the missionaries that I was serving with that made it wonderful. After returning from a day at the hospital and some time at the honbu, I was stunned to find a small stuffed koala stuffed under the front door handle of our apartment, the note that accompanied it was simple, "Sister Ager, we love you", that was from our DL and his companion. This beautiful gesture was followed by the amazing service of my companion Sister Gull. This incredible woman made me special breakfasts, rolled up my futon for me, helped me dress and never once complained when we had to walk everywhere for 5 weeks. She even maintained her patience when my fear of riding my bike meant that I walked up hills, walked down hills and started crying whenever I looked at the horrible piece of metal.


The primary point of this is that the worst experiences can become the best. I was blessed to serve with such amazing, loving people. May everyone who serves a mission, be blessed with companions and leaders who had the hearts that I saw. I will love these people always.




This Story was Submitted by Ken Richmond ('78-'80) may 3, 2001


The Eki


I'm sure, (I hope), that I'm not the only one this has happened to, but one of my first experiences "in country" was when the AP's, or as we used to call them, MA's, put me on the train at the Fukuoka Eki to go to my first area.  I was going to Yahata, which really isn't that far away, but they put me on a futsuu, so we stopped at every station, and it left at 6:30 in the morning, which is rush hour for students.  By the time my luggage and I got to the Yahata Eki, I had been pushed so far back, I could barely see the door, let alone get to it! And at that time of the morning, they didn't stay in the station for very long.  As the train started to pull out of the station, and I was wondering, what to do next, I looked out the window, and there on the platform, was my doryo, and everyone else in the district, including the ZL's, shrugging their shoulders, and laughing!  To top it all off, I couldn't get off at the next stop either! Thank goodness, the line I was on only went one more stop.  As everyone got off the train, a very kind conductor saw my confused look, and heard my very poor Japanese as I was trying to find out how to get back.  He very kindly told me which train was going back, and even helped me with my bags.  It was a terrifying, embarrassing, and wonderful experience.  When I finally got back to Yahata, everyone was scattered across the station trying to figure out how to find me.  When we all got together, everyone wanted to know how a "Green Bean" managed to get out of that mess so quickly.  It was an early testament of how wonderful and caring the Japanese people treated me the whole time I was there.




This Story was Submitted by Paul Bowler ('72-'74) May 2, 2001


Breakfast of Champions


     While serving in Nobeoka in the summer/fall of 1973, there were four of us, Elder Tippetts, my companion, Elder Konishi, the DL and Elder Neeley, we decided to make breakfast a little more exciting. The idea was quite simple, win you eat, lose you don't. Breakfast usually consisted of toast, hard boiled eggs and milk.  Once everything was prepared, placed on the table and prayer had been given, we proceeded to play Jung-ken-poi for each item on the table. There were mornings when some got very little to eat and some got more than they should be eating. It certainly made breakfast time more exciting and improved our jung-ken skills.



This Story was Submitted by Paul Bowler ('72-'74)


 Tokyo English Speaking Branch 1980-1983

     Upon graduation from BYU, my wife, Christyn and our 13 month old son Colin, took off to Japan. Since returning from my mission, I had always wanted to go back. The English teaching opportunity came along and we decided to take it. It was a way back. While living in Chofu-shi, suburb of Shinjuku, we attended church in the old church distribution center. In a short time I was called to served in the Branch Presidency with a counselor, an old friend from high school, Kent Holt, who had also served in Japan as a missionary. The Branch President was Ned Christensen. 

     Among the many who attended the Branch were President Roberts of the Tokyo North Mission, President Groberg,the Tokyo South Mission President and my old Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Nishimoto. He was serving as the Area Physical Facilities Director for the Far East. It was a great experiene to be in the same branch with them for several years. President Christensen, who worked with the FBI, went on to serve as a Mission President in Japan, I can't remember which mission. Also in the branch was Conan Graham, who is presently serving as mission president in Sendai, and Michael Young, who is currently serving in a key appointment in the government. An article was written about him in a previous Church News. His appointment was to a Religious Council.

     One of my most memorable experiences ocurred when, shortly after my call as the second counselor, both the Branch President and the First Counselor left the country on vacation. My first Sunday conducting, also happened to be the Sunday we were switching to the new three hour block. As I tried to explain the process in Priesthood meeting, both mission presidents began share opposing opinions on how the new program should be implemented. To say the least, I was ready to resign on the spot. I didn't know how to handle two mission presidents discussing opposing views on a new policy. 





This is a story from Steve Neeley, who served from 1973 to 1975...

     It was a brilliant morning in Kagoshima, open sky, bright sun, Sakurajima topped with a wif 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.





This is from Steve Neeley, who served from 1973 to 1975...

     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? 




This is from Steve Neeley, who served from 1973 to 1975...

     I remember: takoyaki from the street vendors at the end of a hard night's tracting; the smell of hot chanpon 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 it 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 . . .


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