What of the
帰還宣教師よりーFrom Returned Missionaries
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 3
Our district president assigned me and a new companion to go to Narumi, a small (22,000 population) rural city located about 14 miles south of Nagoya. Little did I realize that this inconspicuous little city would be the site of a life-changing experience for me. That experience was my gaining a solid testimony of the Book of Mormon, about which I shall write more in the paragraphs which follow.
Surrounded by rice paddies and with several old temples within its boundaries, Narumi was the home of Tatsui Sato （pictured here)who was to retranslate the Book of Mormon. After he was baptized by U.S. servicemen in March 1948, Brother Sato held Sunday School classes at his home, attracting dozens of children and some adults. As a result, when missionaries arrived several months later, they set up a branch in Narumi. Brother Sato moved to Tokyo, and the branch barely survived during the next several years. The missionaries were removed and Sunday meetings were attended by elders from Nagoya. In April 1955 we were assigned to find new living quarters and begin the work there anew.
We rented a room with six tatami mats (slightly more than ten feet by ten feet in size) from a widow named Fumiko Tanjima. Her husband was a naval officer, killed by U.S. forces in the South Pacific. She supported two teenage children by doing shibori – a kind of tie-dyeing for which Narumi was renowned. She gave us the best room in her small house – a front room which opened onto a small, well-manicured garden. She cooked, cleaned and washed for us, entirely in the Japanese style. When we returned late, she always had a hot serving of habucha (senna tea) or some other treat ready for us. All of our water came from a well, drawn by a bucket. Tanjima san did not have a bathtub, so we bathed in the local public bath each afternoon. Since my companion was an isei from Hawaii, I was the only Caucasian in the city. It was while living in this unpretentious setting that I really came to love the Japanese style of life. (Picture shows our landlady and family)
For my sustenance as a missionary, I received $50 each month from my parents. While living at the Tanjima home, half of this sum was used to pay my room and board. The rate of exchange was 360 yen to one dollar.
Most noteworthy about my stay in Narumi was my completely reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. Each afternoon we came home an hour or so before dinner, and I sat on the floor and read that volume of scripture. Following the promise of Moroni 10:4, I prayed about what I had read and received an unshakable testimony of its veracity. I have never forgotten the feeling that came over me, and have always held warm memories of Narumi because of the profound conviction I gained while living there. (Picture shows street where we lived.)
In addition to shibori, Narumi’s major industry was a local china factory. My companion and I toured it, and I later bought two sets of the china (83 pieces in each set) for $55 and sent them home through the courtesy of an LDS serviceman.
I routinely arose at 5:00 a.m. to study Japanese, and my efforts began to pay off. In January I bore my testimony in that language. In February I was able to relate the Joseph Smith story without notes or memorizing. I was soon presenting the lessons in cottage meetings. My companion was somewhat of an introvert and gladly conceded to me the majority of our door approaches and teaching opportunities. We eventually tracted the entire city, but found another interesting way to meet local people. Because the weather was still bitterly cold, we sometimes spent an entire afternoon in the public bath. While immersed in the hot water, we could strike up conversations with the men who came in to bathe and relax. When we emerged after several hours, we had the shriveled appearance of prunes – but were warm and usually had made several contacts to follow up on. In the process, I had gained valuable conversational experience.
I learned that Japanese children have their own style of language. I learned much of this idiolect by often talking to two little neighbors – Mie chan (age 3) and her brother, Kotaro kun (age 5) through the fence. They were cute kids who always referred to me as o-jichan (uncle) and were probably too young to realize that I was a foreigner.
We saw progress in all areas of our activity. Our branch, which had an average attendance of less than five persons, by July was attracting 31 children for Sunday School and an average of 14 persons for sacrament meeting. My companion and I led the mission in tracting hours, and were close to the top in cottage meetings and other proselyting statistics. I enjoyed working hard and being among the leaders of the mission, and strove to maintain that status during the remainder of my time in Japan.
The weather warmed up with high levels of humidity during the early months of summer. Unworn shoes and other leather goods rapidly developed moldy spots. We slept each night under a mosquito net. I enjoyed watching fireflies in the evenings and listening to the incessant buzzing of cicadas in the deciduous trees. Men and women both wore cool, comfortable yukata kimonos, and Tanjima san made a blue-striped one for me. The clop-clop sound of geta (wooden clogs pictured) on sidewalks and streets added to the placid mood of the season.
I wrote of a tender experience in my journal on 7 June 1955. On our way home after a busy day, my companion and I stopped at a little neighborhood shop where I bought some senbei (rice crackers) to enjoy as a bedtime snack. A little girl was in the shop before us, and had bought five yen worth of ice. The shopkeeper, sensing that I was the more important customer, left her in order to wait on me. After I had made my purchase, she paid for her ice and left. I watched as she ran happily off into the night with her dog and a shopping bag full of ice. When I realized what had happened, I felt most guilty. Tears came to my eyes and I wanted to find that girl to apologize for the shopkeeper’s crude lack of respect for her. Sadly, I never saw her again.
During the month of July, a mission-wide conference was held in Karuizawa. The featured visitor was Elder Joseph Fielding Smith (pictured here), who came with his wife, Jessie Evans Smith. I played the piano for many of the sessions, and provided the accompaniment for Sister Smith as she sang solos during the conference. Elder Smith announced the division of the mission, with our mission’s name changed to “Northern Far East Mission.”
We traveled to Karuizawa by a train which was so crowded that we had to sit on our suitcases all night long. There was no air conditioning, of course, so all of the windows had been opened. Every time we went through a tunnel (which was often), the train filled with black smoke from the coal-burning locomotive. It was a long trip!
In September, a district conference was held in Osaka. I had been assigned to organize a choir for this occasion, so I wrote an arrangement of “Bless This House” for male voices and conducted the choir as it performed. During this conference, President Robertson made the public announcement that I was to be transferred to Sendai. This was a typical procedure for him, but left me stunned. I had just a couple of days to get my things together, arrange transportation and say sayonara to people I had come to love. I left Narumi on 12 September 1955.