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First Fruits of Island Mission

[from a Church News Article (probably early 1956)]

KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA---The first three Okinawan converts to the Church  were baptized here in the East China Sea during the afternoon of Christmas Day, December 25, 1955, reports Elder Lyle S. Norris, president of the Kadena Group, Okinawa District.

First fruits of the Gospel on Ryukyuan Island are Mrs. Kumiko Tamanaha, Mrs. Nobu Asato Nakamura and her daughter Ayako Nakamura.

It was June last year that prayers of the Saints here were answered in the person of Elder Ralph W. Bird, Ogden, Utah, former missionary in Japan who speaks Japanese fluently. He was assigned to Kadena Air Base and volunteered his services to the LDS Servicemenfs group.

Sunday School Class

The first Sunday School class in the Japanese language was held here June 19 with two persons attending. The following wee with employees and friends invited, the class grew to nine.

The problem of Okinawans having access to the air base was met with assistance of a few military personnel obtained passes for those desiring to attend.. Elder W. Everett Aldridge, Burlington, N.C. used his car to furnish transportation.

Mrs. Nakamura for several months now has been acting as interpreter and class membership has increased to 12.

In November, Mrs. Tamanaha applied for baptism and a month later her sister, Mrs. Nakamura and daughter requested membership.

Elder Delles W. Manning, Farmington, Utah, former group leader, here was visiting from Japan and baptized Mrs. Tamanaha. He was instrumental in her conversion for she had been employed by him in his office and she first learned of the the Gospel from his way of life.

Influential Person

Mrs. Nakamura is a former president of the Okinawa Womenfs Organization and is a very influential person on the island, reports Elder Norris. She is now a member of the University of Ryukyus board of directors, president of Okinawa Womenfs Handicraft Association. Community Tuberculosis Committee and a member of the Prohibition of Alcoholism Committee. Elder Aldridge baptized her and her daughter.

The three sisters have forsaken the use of tea, pay their tithing and are setting a gfine example to all Latter-day Saints by their humble, prayerful attitude,h reports Elder Norris.

The light of the Gospel promises a bright future for these people among the isles of the sea, as plans for full-time missionaries are being made, and land has been purchased for the construction of a chapel on (the island).@End of Church News Article

THE FIRST CONVERT IN OKINAWA@iEditorfs Note: The above is based on an article in the August 2005 issue of the Japanese Liahona with some additions by Elder Ralph Bird.)

A few people were baptized in Okinawa by Latter-day Saint military personnel before missionary work started there. This is the story about the first encounter. Ralph Bird a missionary from Utah had finished his mission in Japan, entered the Army and was assigned to Guam. One day Bird was received orders from his superiors to go to Okinawa. Arriving in Okinawa, he was asked by his superior officer why he had come to Okinawa. He said he had orders to be there. The officer said, gOK, but I donft understand why this order was issued. We donft have any reason to ask you to be here.h Brother Bird presented his orders and he was told they would find a job for him, but for the time being he could do as he pleased.

He was very interested in the people of Okinawa. He took a walk to through a neighborhood. He saw a home that was relatively large well kept compared to others in the area. He wanted to take a picture of the house. He went to the door, opened it, stepped it as is customary in Japan and called out, gGomen kudasaih (Sorry to bother youc). This was house of Nobu Nakamura.

She was praying at her Shinto altar asking God to lead her to the right church. She came to the door. She was surprised to see an American there. She was more surprised when he spoke to her in good Japanese.. She asked how he had learned to speak Japanese so well. He explained that he had been a missionary in Japan for the Mormon Church.

She invited him in and asked him about the Church. She was very interested in what he told her and began to attend Church at the nearby military base. Brother Bird was transferred back to Guam after a short time in Okinawa. After attending Church with her sister and her daughter for several months, she was baptized by LDS Servicemen stationed in Okinawa.

As president of the Okinawa Womenfs Association, she had also be associating with the wives of US military personnel in Okinawa. Later after they arrived in Okinawa, the first two missionaries assigned to begin missionary work in Okinawa, Elders Shimabukuro and LeRoy Anderson lived in Sister Nakamurafs home for a while. She became a valiant member of the Church and assisted much in the spread of the work there.

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