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Editor's Note: We are grateful that Norman Shumway who has written an autobiography has kindly agreed to share the chapter about his first mission along with pictures for a nine-part series which will run every other week. This is the second segment..

Since his first mission, Norman and wonderful wife, Luana, have served in Japan two more times. From 1996-99, Norman was president of the Okayama Mission for two years and the Hiroshima Mission for one when the Okayama Mission was closed. They have also served as the public affairs missionaries in Japan. Recently they completed another public affairs mission at the United Nations.  

Memories of my First Mission

Norman Shumway Part 2

NAGOYA

With our arrival, there were four elders in Nagoya. We lived in a two-room house, and an elderly woman named Noda san came each day to shop, cook, launder and clean for us. We slept on the tatami floor and ate entirely Japanese cuisine. Our evening baths were in an o-furo, and within just a few days we felt our first earthquake. In all, the experience was a genuine introduction to Japanese living as practiced by missionaries. I had no trouble adapting to it, although I was very bothered by Nagoyafs cold weather. To combat the freezing temperatures, all four missionaries acquired tanzen kimonos, specially made to fit our larger frames. Heavily padded and roomy, these kimonos provided warmth during our early morning study. (See picture above.)They were a welcome supplement to our only heating source, a charcoal-fired hibachi. I bought an umbrella and an old, well-used bicycle, got a rice ration card and began the labors of a missionary.

One aspect of acculturation had to be learned the hard way. Our cottage meetings were typically held in Japanese homes. We sat on the tatami floor (see picture to left), sometimes on a small (about 18"x18"x2")cushion called a zabuton, with our legs folded under us unless our host requested that we relax – in which case we could sit cross-legged, a much more comfortable position. In one of our first meetings, after sitting on my legs for about 40 minutes (our host did not give the informality signal), my legs became numb. When I tried to stand up, I promptly fell prostrate on the floor. The lady of the house, seeing a large foreigner lying helpless upon her floor (and not knowing the cause of my sudden fall), frantically brought cold towels, water, a fan and other potential helps to my side. Her anxiety had almost moved her to tears. After a few moments, I assured her I was all right and arose and departed. I was careful to pace myself thereafter. We did so much kneeling that my pants developed a stovepipe shape – angled at the knee.

One of our investigators was a young lady who was somewhat proficient in English. I taught her a few times, and when she was ready for baptism, she requested that I perform the ordinance. So my first convert baptism was Hideko Kanesaka who was baptized in a public bath house (ofuro) on 20 December 1954. (Before baptismal fonts were readily available, ofuros like the one pictured above were frequently used for baptisms in Japan, especially when it was cold.)

The Nagoya branch met in a sewing school where we rented space for Sunday meetings. Because the Christmas season was upon us, we desired to create a holiday environment for branch members. Christmas trees were not available, but we found a nursery which allowed us use a planted tree (with balled roots) for the occasion. It was located several miles from the school where we met, and Elder Telford and his companion got the assignment to pick it up. The only way it could be transported was in an upright position, carefully tied to the rack over the back wheel of Elder Telfordfs bicycle. The tree stood up almost seven feet high, and Elder Telford was unable to get under way without the steadying help and push of his companion. (Another adjustment for new missionaries in Japan was the Japanese style toilet like the one pictured above and which are still used today in Japan.)

After they began their journey with the tree, Elder Telford discovered that he could not keep up with his companion, and they became separated. He did not know his way around Nagoya, so quickly became lost. It was a windy day, and the force of the wind caught the tree like a sail and propelled Elder Telford in capricious directions. He did not dare stop to rest or ask for help, because he could not speak the language and he feared he could never get started again without the assistance of another. As one might expect, he attracted curious stares from people all over the city. After several hours of wandering, he found a familiar landmark and made his way to our little abode. My companion and I were there teaching an investigator when Elder Telford burst into the room, bathed in sweat and totally exasperated, demanding to know where his companion was. He was inconsolable for several hours, and I think he never did catch the Christmas spirit that year – or forgive his companion. The rest of us had to laugh when we envisioned the spectacle of a tall American, dressed in a suit, desperately riding his bike all over the city without being able to stop, with a towering conifer fastened behind him. However, we were careful to hide our amused reactions from the still-fuming Elder Telford. (Sister Shumway reports her husband loved Japanese gardens like the one pictured above.)

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