Former Missionaries Dick and Martha Lammers Return Trip to Japan
Our dream was to revisit family and friends in Japan one more time! Sixty years ago it took weeks on ships… now (not counting delays) less than one day by plane. What a joy to be met at Narita airport Sept. 10th by Kaori, Martha’s former student, now airport staff, and by son Ken arriving from business in London, and by Pastor and Mrs. Ota waiting to take us to their Shinjuku home.
2008: Our Dream Comes True!
The prophet Joel; ‘…your old men shall dream dreams…’
To dream is to be alive. When dreams cease, death is near. To act upon a dream can renew one’s life. Our dream was to revisit family and friends in Japan one more time! Sixty years ago it took weeks on ships… now (not counting delays) less than one day by plane. What a joy to be met at Narita airport Sept. 10th by Kaori, Martha’s former student, now airport staff, and by son Ken arriving from business in London, and by Pastor and Mrs. Ota waiting to take us to their Shinjuku home.
The Otas had been our young ‘family’ in Iwate churches, witnessing together to God’s love. A surprise bonus was meeting Rev. Shikama who, as a high school student, had been in Martha’s very first English Bible class. His father married us in Hiroshima, July 15, 1949! What joy to share early impressions, after 59 years! This was but the beginning of reconnectings… of dreams coming true…
Ken, Shuku and Kei, among other special treats, drove us to the harbor area where we landed 60 years ago,..unrecognizable is a vast understatement! Our most recent time with Kei: she brought three college friends to our home during spring break ‘07: now she’s a working woman in Tokyo! Shuku surprised us with ever more and more of our ‘favorite’ foods. Are we just dreaming? Is this real?
Sunday… Kei guided us through confusing connections back to the Ota’s church… to preach in Japanese, to worship, to fellowship, to share faith in the God of love who through Christ helps us see that “WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER” to problems faced by the world’s peoples.
After another day with Ken’s family… by bullet train north to Iwate, our home, 1969-1990. Oh… what welcomes from friends, former students and colleagues, and doctors we had helped prepare articles for medical journals, now retired, carrying on specialized interests.
Every day multiple reconnectings… Dreams really can come true! It’s impossible to name all the folks who welcomed us or gave us travel-appropriate gifts. Nobuko and the Zenrinkan Language staff had arranged for many who knew us to get together for pot-luck lunches or dessert. These times for sharing brought some who hadn’t seen each other for years. With ‘daughters’ Nobuko and Tanya we enjoyed a nostalgic overnight at a traditional inn at Tsunagi Hot Springs.
Yamazaki (co-worker at the Zenrinkan, on Neighbor-to-Neighbor Tours and with Joe O’Donnell’s photo exhibits) drove us everywhere and hosted us overnights with his family as in ‘the old days’. Pastor Odajima had hosted us repeatedly in Tsuchizawa, now welcomed us overnights in her Morioka parsonage and for weekly prayer meeting.
Sunday (Sept. 21)… What a joy to preach at Shimonohashi Church where many friends are members and through whom our gravesight is readied. Now they pray God is preparing a new pastor for them. Such an enriching time of sharing as we ate traditional box lunches together.
By train back to Ken’s in Yokohama where daughter June joined us from British Columbia (recruiting students for Canadian high schools). Ken, Kei and June were gone most daytimes so we met some Tokyo area friends at coffee shops: Chikako, Noriko, Nobuko, Teruki Takada, Hiroko Ueda, Junko Sasaki (so sorry we failed in contacting 0thers). Breakfasts and evenings were special in family sharing. Our dream becoming ever more real! Sept 25th… everyone freed up schedules… to celebrate together at a ‘viking’ (smorgasboard). Great food! Fun!
Sept. 26th, after lunching with Tomoko (June’s ‘sister’ from our years in Hokkaido) June left for Canada, and we headed north again (thanks to rail passes!) to Asian Rural Institute where we volunteered five months in ’95, Rural leaders from India, Africa, Myanmar, the Philipines, Pakistan, etc. etc. practice sustainable agriculture then return home to adapt/adopt what they’ve learned from each other.
A real joy to meet again Tom Takami, ARI founder… barely able to walk, but alert in conversation, recalling details of our years gone by. We were joined by Tanya (Zenrinkan teacher 30 years ago) and Tetsu Watanabe (married after courting via a Japanese-English translation of the New Testament!) As we chatted about people with Tom and wife, Shinko, Tetsu was startled by his unsuspected mutual connections!
Dr. Nagashima took us four around the farm to see the many changes. Rice left in local school lunch boxes is specially processed to use for pig feed… a new litter of 13 pigs… an integrated system raising rice and fish in rice paddies, growing soybeans around the edges, renewing ancient practices. Participants share work and ideas for grain and vegetable growing, raising chickens and ducks and rabbits, preserving food, etc. while practicing better community leadership. Martha’s (and the Watanabes’) Pastor Ushio in Morioka, now pastoring near ARI, squeezed in time for ‘a quickie’ with us.
The train to Kitakami took us through beautiful countryside of rice fields ready for harvest. A few farmers still cut the rice by hand, tying it into small bundles to hang on poles to sun- dry before threshing. But many use mechanical harvestors then take the grain in large trucks to drying silos. All prefer to eat rice locally grown but production is down as youth leave to get high tech jobs. Precious farmland is lost to ever-expanding cities/industrialization. Rice imports increase. Competing with newscasts of Japan’s political manueverings while we were there, was the announcement of findings of contaminated imported rice sold for school lunches.
“Soon we will be arriving in Kitakami”… a voice tells us. We’re eager to meet our friend Rev. Kobyashi, of Japan’s United Church of Christ in Kitakami. We’ve come to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church where Dick began to assist in 1970, teaching an English Bible class. What a day that was! About 30 people gathered to hear Dick preach. Some had brought lunches… sufficient to be shared with those who had not. After lunch, pews were moved forward and folding chairs put in the aisles and at the back. Over 100 from churches came from all around Oou Conference. It was a joyous time as the history of the Christ’s body among us was reviewed and affirmed.
From 2:00 to 4:30, one after another witnessed to their faith in God, looking forward to an ever-growing future. Many we had known over the years, we had time to say little more than ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. But how good to see them and know they carry on God’s work faithfully. The Takahashis took us to the station for our trip back ot Ken’s f amily for one last day. As we stood waiting for the train it was announced we’d be 15 minutes late in leaving– a Japanese train late??? Unheard of!!! But we were thankful for a bit more time to share with the Takahashis!
We eventually arrived in Tokyo an hour and 20 minutes late. Due to electrical failure of the signaling system earlier in the day,trains had been shut down for four hours… but we had made it back, unknowing.
There’d been ‘angels’ taking care of details all along our way. Sept. 30 Ken and Kei took us to Narita where Kaori saw us through the boarding hurdles. A young woman showed up at our reserved seats asking “Are you Kaori’s teacher?” With no further comment, she quietly informed the man next to us of a better seat available for him–leaving us all three seats for the 14-hr. flight to Chicago–so thoughtfully cared for ‘til the last minute, we were on our way… to the USA!
Why did we go to Japan this year? We celebrated 60 years of our first arrivals: Aug. 28 (Dick) and Nov.2 (Martha) as well as our 60 th year of marriage. However, it seems that GOD’s purpose… (why has it taken us so long to recognize this?) has always been for us to be catalysts for bringing people together… so they can create new and before unimagined relationships and understandings, as God’s family. What a privilege!