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Ralph and Rae Jones
Sister Rae Jones and I have been requested by Elder Wade W. Fillmore to briefly summarize our experiences as couple missionaries in Japan, with the intent to encourage other couples to consider the blessings that come from serving the Lord in missionary work. Rae and I have served two missions in Japan, the first being in the Japan Tokyo North Mission for 19 months (1998-2000) and our latest mission in the Japan Hiroshima Mission for 22 months (2005-2006). We were released just one year ago from the Hiroshima Mission on 23 November 2006. Both missions were the same in many ways but also different in many ways.
Both times we served as office missionaries, Rae as Mission Secretary and I as Mission Financial Secretary. I had the advantage of remembering some of the Japanese Language that I learned nearly 50 years ago as a young missionary while serving for 3 years in the Northern Far East Mission (1956-1959). However, even though Rae did not speak Japanese, our main responsibilities were serving the mission presidents in the office where we were not expected to know the language in the same manner as younger missionaries. Rae and I had a few teaching opportunities which added some excitement for the work and strengthened our testimonies of the gospel but, mainly, our work was to keep the young missionaries in operation, temporally.
In Tokyo, we served under President Tadashii Komatsu for the entire duration of our mission. He and Sister Aiko Komatsu spoke very good English which mainly helped Rae feel at home. They are wonderful people and we became very good friends as well as ejust a missionary couplef. President Komatsu included Rae and me in many activities which took us to various wards and branches for zone conferences and missionary interviews. Also, they often included us on P-Day excursions where we became very well acquainted with the culture and people of Japan. As an example, we visited the city of Nagano where the 1998 winter Olympics were held.
We served under two wonderful mission presidents and their wives while we were in Hiroshima. President Brad Banks and his wife Melanie threw out the welcome wagon when we first got off the train in Hiroshima. They were most gracious and helpful in every way. They had arranged a very nice apartment for us to live in which was only a couple of blocks from the mission office. They had furnished it for us in many ways. As with President and Sister Komatsu in Tokyo, we became very good friends during the short 5 months that we served under them.
In July 2005, President Banks was replaced by President Akira Yafuso. President and Sister Yafuso are from Okinawa. President Yafuso speaks pretty good English and was able to communicate with Rae fairly well. One interesting experience, though, he came to eSister Jonesfsf desk giving her some lengthy instructions. When he concluded his instructions, Rae said: gWhat you said must have been very important but I didnft understand a word you saidh. President Yafuso, taken back momentarily said: gBut I thought I was speaking in Englishh. We all had a good laugh. Both President and Sister Yafuso were a lot of fun to work with. They both have a great sense of humor but are also very spiritual as they do the work of the Lord. President Yafuso, from the very start of his assignment as mission president, makes sure that he visits every missionary at least on a 6 week rotation and is loved and respected by all. President Yafuso, as with President Komatsu in Tokyo, included Rae and me in many assignments away from the office. As there were several native Japanese couple missionaries in the mission, who did not serve in Hiroshima City, President Yafuso set up a gcouples conferenceh in a an interesting area where we were all able to get acquainted with one another. From a personal perspective, it assisted me in doing my financial secretary work to know from a first hand basis, the other couple missionaries in the mission.
I know that our greatest joy of serving both in Tokyo and Hiroshima was working with the young, enthusiastic missionaries. We assisted in orienting new missionaries as they came into the missions and felt the excitement that they all had in coming to Japan to serve. We were able to see them overcome home sickness and other trials inherent to missionary life. We were able to see them grow, both spiritually and physically as the time of their missions progressed. We saw young boys become super men in leadership positions, almost equivalent, in many cases, to bishops and stake presidents back home. We witnessed young sister missionaries becoming very mature and able to discuss gospel subjects equal to the young men.
During our tenure in both missions, there were occasions that sickness and accidents occurred. Rae and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the sick missionaries, accompany them to the hospital or to give them special counsel as to finding a solution to their problems. Some parents were somewhat eover protectivef of their sons and we tried to counsel the parents, as well as their young missionaries, that all was well and that they were in good hands. We tried to insure these parents that their missionaries were doing what the Lord had sent them to do and that the young men and women were under the Lordfs care and love. However, as in other missions, there were serious accidents or occasions where missionaries became seriously ill. Rae and I worked closely with both President Komatsu and President Yafuso in making important decisions for the welfare of these young men and women. Our love for these young missionaries paralleled the love that we have for our own children. As the mission president and his wife were considered the efather and motherf of the missionaries while they served, Rae and I were considered the ggrandfather and grandmotherh of them. Even after we have returned, there are many former missionaries who keep in touch with us. We dearly love them.
Now, finally, to our own personal situations as we anticipated going on each of our two missions. Prior to our call to go to the Japan Tokyo North Mission, Raefs parents had just previously passed away and we felt that it would help in adjusing to those events. However, my 95 year old father was in a care center, not in very good condition. His memory had gone where he hardly knew us. Both Rae and I had a strong impression, while serving in the Manti Temple, that gnow was the time to goh. We prayed about it and received the total support of our 4 grown children that they would take care of gGrandpah if he were to pass from this life. We knew that we would miss our children and grandchildren but knew that the Lord would bless them as well as us, if we would decide to serve. During the 19 months that we were in Tokyo, we received wonderful letters of testimony from our children and grandchildren that all was well at home. Our good neighbors took very good care of our home and yards while we were gone as none of our children lived near our home. We just locked the doors of our home, as if we were going to the store, and walked away. The Lord blessed us in that when we returned from our mission, we were greeted by loved ones as if we were angels reincarnate. My father, who was then 96 years old, had not changed a bit and lived another 4 years, passing on only 5 months shy of being 100 years old.
After being home from our mission in Tokyo for 5 years, we again, in the Manti Temple, were prompted to put in our papers to serve another mission. Neither time, when we put in our papers to our bishop, did we request a special kind of mission or special place. We felt that we could serve for another year and a half and did not have the family concerns that we did the first time. We thought that our children were through having babies and that our grandchildren were not yet ready to be married where we would have to miss their weddings. We considered it an opportune time to go. Our health was good and even though we were pressing being 70 years old, that was not a concern. We were blessed, again, to serve in Japan. We have a wonderful neighbor who looked after our home and we had no concerns there. However, soon after we arrived in Japan, our youngest daughter informed us that she was expecting another baby. She didnft want to tell us before we were to leave for our mission, even though she knew, because gMother might not get on the airplaneh. As that mission was extended for 22 months, we were surprised to find out that our oldest granddaughter was planning on a wedding. Although she was married prior to our release, we were gratified that the wedding took place in the Nauvoo Temple and that all of our children and their families were able to attend.
The Lord has certainly blessed Rae and me prior to, during, and after our missions. We often think about all we would have missed had we not been willing to serve. We went while our health was good, while we had the temporal ability to serve, and while we had the gSpirit of the Lordh on our side. We have strengthened our testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel as we have seen it in action. We have seen lives change, not only our own and that of our families at home, but of those who have come into the church and the young men and women who have set aside 1-1/2 or 2 years of their lives to be ambassadors for our Heavenly Father. We know the Gospel is true and that we are continually led by prophets of God. We would strongly encourage any couple who could possibly serve as missionaries, to do so. There is no way to adequately describe the blessings that come from this service. It must be realized by the people who are willing and able to go. This is our testimony: In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.