What of the
Elder David & Sister Mary Lynn Robertson
Here's a very abbreviated look at some of the things that have occurred in the past year since we have been serving as Public Affairs Directors:
1) Wheelchair Donations are continuing throughout Japan. Not long after we first arrived a government organization received the first donation from the church the government has ever accepted. One of the members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ikuzo Sakurai, came with us to present the wheelchairs in behalf of the church. Since then, we have had other Diet members assisting us to present wheelchairs in their prefectures and many in Sapporo. Elder Kikuchi also attended. These have opened many doors. Nishinomiya is next. The recipients provide us with the REAL paycheck. They often accept with tears in their eyes.
2) English Speech Contests continue throughout Japan. These, too, are including more and more prominent members from the community. We were privileged to attend in 2007 the induction dinner for the head of the Osaka City Council, Mr. Masashi Ashitaka. He came to the church's Osaka Speech Contest. Before the event, we had lunch with him and asked him what the city does regarding the homeless in Tennoji (an area with a large homeless population). We had a good discussion and then jointly attended the contest. The next day we were involved in a wheelchair zoteishiki on the steps of City Hall in Osaka. The Mayor and others were in attendance. Before the event, Mr. Ashitaka asked the church delegation consisting of Brother Hotta, (Area 70), President and Sister Tucker (Kobe Mission), President Yokoo (Osaka Stake), Darwin Halvorson (Area Welfare Office), and ourselves, to join them in their City Council Chambers after the zoteishiki. The zoteishiki was a beautiful ceremony with Elder Hotta sharing how disciples of Jesus Christ try to serve. Afterwards we all met with them and shared ideas on how to help the Osaka homeless. This has led to an ongoing collaboration between the church and the city to help solve these kinds of social problems. The wards in the area, for example, are collecting usable suits for the men who are going to job interviews again after being homeless.
3) The YSA Conference that was held last year was truly amazing. There were almost 2000 young single adults from Japan who came to Tokyo for the 3-day conference that was a logistics miracle. During that time there were many workshops and activities for the young adults. One of the first things they did was to put on the yellow Helping Hands vests (wish we were there to show you our pictures on a screen) and assemble school kits (in individual back packs) for 5000 children in Micronesia who have been going to school with no books or supplies, often without even a pencil. This was accomplished in the space of little more than an hour. There were representatives from the Micronesian Embassy looking on with gratitude for this service to their country. While hosting the embassy people that day, the church was able to address some real estate issues for buildings in Micronesia and also arrange to begin some preventative medical measures to eradicate Scarlet Fever. The backpacks were on a ship headed to Micronesia that same day and we have since received many thank yous and reports of backpack-wearing children often stopping the missionaries there to thank them. There are water treatment projects that are also occurring thanks to help from Japan. The YSA members reported very positively on their experiences at this first all-country conference where Elder Bednar was the featured speaker and question answerer for these beloved young Japanese saints.
4) The 5 Browns (LDS sibling pianists) did a tour of Japan and played to sell-out audiences in each of the 5 venues where they performed. Before each concert there was a VIP reception and many government, business, and academic leaders attended and were impressed by the quality of the Mormon youth. The people attending their concerts lined up for hours to get autographs and to meet these wholesome and talented Mormon artists.
5) Elder Eyring, along with the area mission presidents and their wives who were attending a mission presidents' conference were guests at the Meiji Jingu shrine. Then Elders Bednar and Oaks and their wives were guests as well. When Elder Bednar met with Mr. Shigehiyo Miyazaki, Deputy Chief Priest at Meiji Jingu, there was a loving and warm exchange about the beauty of reverent sanctuaries. Elder Bednar explained that we, too, have those places called temples where we can commune with Deity in a very sacred environment. There was such a good feeling that Mr. Miyazaki invited us to stay for additional events beyond what had been scripted. It was concluded that we had so much in common with these dedicated Shinto Priests that we were "almost cousins".
6) Elder Bednar also visited with Mr. Sadakazu Tanigaki in his office at the Government Buildings. There is a lot of concern about low birth rate in Japan and its economic and social consequences. Among other things, Elder Bednar assured Mr. Tanigaki who is heading the policy committees for the Liberal Democratic Party that he would strongly encourage all 2000 of the YSA's he would address that evening to not put off marriage and families. Mr. Tanigaki thanked him profusely.
7) Thanks to Tom and Junko Shimizu we were able to return a Hinormaru (Japanese Flag) from WWII to the brother of a deceased soldier who had been killed in a battle in Guadalcanal. A church member soldier picked up the flag and kept it for years. After his passing, it was arranged to have it returned to the Japanese family. This was one of the most spiritual experiences we've had. The whole town government was involved in this return ceremony and there were 5 TV stations and 6 newspapers who covered this very tender event. We could feel a very thin veil with many spirits of Japanese and Americans on both sides as tears flowed freely.
8) We represented the church for its first time at the annual Tendai Shu (Buddhist) International Religious Conference in Kyoto. We met religious leaders from all around the world representing just about every major group. We participated in all the prayers for peace and the ringing of the peace bell and the preparation of origami cranes, etc. We were able to network with a number of religious leaders and are now preparing to help the church sponsor a Religious Conference on the Family in Tokyo in 2009.
9) On President Hinckley's passing we received some of the beautiful telegrams that are sent for condolences from various government and religious leaders in Japan. We forwarded them on to Salt Lake City. Many of them contained messages of respect and honor and friendship toward the church.
10) Recently, we have participated in some meetings on Work/Life Balance. This is a big issue in Japan and people are beginning to recognize how unhealthy the work/work ethic has been for people and their families. Booklets, speakers and symposia are beginning to emerge with church input about how to make happier families and a better balance in life.
Well, there is more. But, the church is coming out of obscurity. We're becoming the Ensign to the nations as we've been directed to be. The church members are doing much less of hiding their lights under bushels. We have had, this week, requests from newspapers asking us to tell them about the church. We have been invited to have a booth at the Yokohama Celebration of 150 years (next fall) of Japan opening to western influence. We'll be there!
You are all invited to come back and help. The fishing and hunting is great!
If you can't come right away, please do keep us all in your prayers. The vision is being realized!
Love, Elder David & Sister Mary Lynn Robertson