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 4
The Church owned a building in Sendai. Four elders lived in its upstairs, and a chapel, kitchen and a couple of classrooms were on the ground floor. It had its own bathing facilities, and I noted that my stay there marked the first time that I had taken a bath inside a house since I arrived in Japan. As was the case in Nagoya, we employed a woman (Takahashi san) who acted as our maid. She cooked lunch and dinner for us each day. For breakfast, we took turns in the kitchen, but the fare was always the same - mugi (wheat, which in Japan was sold for chicken feed). While our existence in these circumstances was comfortable, we had the added responsibilities of caring for the building and its landscaping which used up several hours of our weekly day off. (Picture is a scene near Sendai.)
Within a couple of weeks after my arrival, the missionaries scheduled a day to work on the floor of the washroom. One of the elders, Richard Austin, did not feel good and went to bed with a high temperature. We administered to him, and I was appointed to seal the anointing. As we laid our hands upon his head, Elder Austin asked that we “cast out any evil spirits.” I was taken aback by this request, but blessed the ailing elder accordingly. I felt something go out of me as I did so, leaving me with an uneasiness I had never before experienced. Elder Austin then babbled incoherently for a few moments, saying to no one in particular, “Don’t you know what power you have?” He went to sleep, but tearfully testified the next day that the pain and “sickness” left him immediately after the blessing. It was a great manifestation to him of the power of the priesthood, and a spiritually enriching experience for me. (Picture is another scene near Sendai.)
Takahashi san was so motherly in her care for us that she often stayed until mid-evening before she returned to her home. Once each week she would “splurge” on the food budget, buying extravagant foodstuffs for dinner as the elders may have desired. This usually meant steaks for everyone but me. I preferred to have something Japanese - which usually was sashimi, available at a price similar to that of a steak. She regularly served us persimmons, mikan oranges, pears and other good foods.
Sendai’s branch president was Masao Watabe (pictured left when he served in the Taiwan Temple Presidency in the mid 1980's), a very humble and dedicated man. The typical Sunday attendance was in excess of 40 persons. Although the branch seemed to be fully staffed, I was immediately put to work playing the piano. The chapel was heated by two coal stoves, and I usually had the responsibility (because I was the first to arise) to stoke them early on Sunday mornings during the winter months.
During this era there was no standard proselyting plan for the mission. Each missionary was left to develop his or her own system for teaching the gospel. Furthermore, President Robertson wanted potential converts to have read the Book of Mormon and James E. Talmage’s Articles of Faith, as well as pay a full tithing in addition to all of the usual requirements such as keeping the Word of Wisdom, obeying the sabbath, etc., BEFORE being baptized. The conversion process was arduous, often requiring many months and consisting of 40 or 50 lessons (cottage meetings). As one might expect, baptisms were few. In the year 1955, for example, the mission recorded only 55 baptisms.
There were several investigators studying the gospel when I arrived in Sendai. Among those I inherited was a young man who had been meeting with the missionaries for almost one year. I taught him several lessons, and was elated when he paid his tithing and asked for baptism. On 4 December 1955, I recorded my second convert baptism - that of Toshio Hagisawa who was baptized in the Hirose River near Sendai. My next baptism did not occur until 3 May 1956. Takako Endo was a young lady who had been taught only by me. She was a friend of one of the members and wanted to join the Church when I first met her. (Modern-day Sendai is pictured above.)
Japanese non-members’ approaches to prayer were interesting. When we taught that subject in our cottage meetings and asked an investigator to pray, often he or she would turn to face us and bow in our direction, showing the kind of homage we reserve for God. One man’s prayer turned into a lengthy discourse, all the time with his eyes open and looking around. After several minutes of this, he realized that he had forgotten how to end his supplication. There was a long pause, and then he asked, “What do I do now?” We were grateful to be reminded that Heavenly Father is kind, loving and patient toward his children.