Stories: Gary Ensign remembers Yamagata
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|I transferred to Yamagata from Nishinomiya in February of 1962 and my companion was Elder Kaneko. He was the branch president at the time and I became the branch clerk. Goro Suzuki Kyodai was the first counselor. There was an ordinance in the city at that time that a city employee could not serve as an officer in an outside organization. Suzuki Kyodai worked at the time for the Yamagata Police Department. There were two other Elders in the branch; Elder Gary Petersen and Elder Sidney Norman. In May of 1962, Elder Kaneko was transferred and was replaced by Elder Donald Osybye who became my companion. Elder Gary Petersen became the new branch president.
We did a lot of tracking and one of our major tracking methods was to go to the local high schools and pass out tracks. We had a lot of success with this method and one of the new investigators that came in from one of those was a 15 year old student named Shige Ohnuma. He was taught the lessons by Elders Gary Petersen and Sidney Norman. I was privileged to have helped teach and participate in several activities with Brother Ohnuma. We were able to baptize him and he became very active and grew from there. In later years Brother Ohnuma became President Ohnuma of the Sendai Stake. I read in the Church News two weeks ago that he was recently released.
I went back you Yamagata (business trip) in 2002 and was delighted to see President Ohnuma again. He was visiting the Yamagata Ward that day as the President of the Sendai Stake. What a wonder experience. Since that time President Ohnuma has visited me in my home twice and we had the opportunity to go to temple together. He is a great man and leader in the church. He also has a PhD and is a well known scientist in Japan. He comes to the United States often to lecture.
While in Yamagata during my visit Ohnuma Kyodai asked for me to make a home teaching visit to Goro Suzuki Kyodai and his family. Apparently he became inactive, but it was a great experience to see him and Suzuki Shimai again and talk about old times. I received an email from President Ohnuma a few years later that Suzuki Kyodai had passed away.
In July of 1962 Elder Gary Petersen was sent home for medical reasons and a missionary from Pleasant Grove Utah Elder Gordon Spotton became the new branch president. I think in August of that year Elder Spotton and his companion began to teach a Yamagata realtor. I cannot remember his name, but during the time of his discussions he began to show a property to Elder Spotton which was an old hospital that was abandoned. Elder Spotton contacted the Church Headquarters and for some reason the Church went into negotiation to purchase this property. We were able to baptize the realtor, but after the purchase of this property he went inactive. Before we moved into this property I was transferred to Kofu. Today there stands a beautiful chapel for the Yamagata ward.
I have had the privilege to go back to Yamagata and make several visits over the years. I want to pay tribute to a wonderful sister in that branch in the 1960s who was a great inspiration to both the branch members and also to the missionaries. Her name was Kiyono Numazawa. She was an indigent, never married and about 50 years old at that time and had many health problems. Every fast meeting, she would stand up and bear her testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel and she would always say how blessed she was to have a testimony. She was a spiritual giant.
During my first Christmas away from home in 1962 Elder Osybye and I discussed what shall we do for Christmas? We both decided to purchase a few things that we though Numazawa Shimai would need and surprise her on Christmas. I will never forget this wonder sister and this was a memorable Christmas I will never forget. She bore her testimony to us and praised the Lord for all the wonderful blessings she had received in her life. Numazawa Shimai was truly a great example. In June of 1969 I was able to visit the Yamagata Branch and at that time they were meeting in that old hospital. The Church had provided an apartment for Numazawa Shimai in the rear of the building. She was ill at that time, but her testimony was strong as ever.
I hope this was small help to add to the history of the Yamagata Ward
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