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Senior Missionaries

Memories of my Mission-Part 19

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I visited Wendell B. Mendenhallfs home on the Avenues in Salt Lake City when I was dating his niece during high school. His wife and my girl friendfs mother were two of the Spafford sisters. Brother Mendenhall was a large and impressive man and then the head of the Building Department of the Church. His leadership had significant impact on the growth of the Church while he served. (Picture:  Tokyo West Branch Building with members at a ward conference some time after it was completed)  

David O. McKay was president of the Church while I was on my mission. He had a profound effect upon me and upon the whole Church. Here is one example. When David O. McKay inaugurated the Church College of Hawaii in 1955, the idea of doing the work with supervised labor missionaries was adopted to save money and to give experience to young men in the Church. After successful use of labor missionaries throughout the Pacific Islands, the labor missionary program was brought to Japan in 1962-63 part of the time while I was in the mission home.  

The Church was growing rapidly at this time. This novel way of providing buildings for remote areas was considered almost miraculous. As I remember it local units in underdeveloped countries had to provide 10% of the cost of buildings with the Church providing the other 90%. Some of this could be provided by providing labor. Over many years, generous American servicemen stationed in Japan donated large amounts to the building fund. So it was not necessary to raise funds locally to move ahead with building projects. (Picture: Tokyo East Branch, a remodeled building)

Building supervisors were sent from the United States. President Andersen was responsible for providing labor missionaries. Several young men volunteered to serve including Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi, Elder Koichi Aoyagi who recently served as president of the Japan MTC and Elder Yasuo Niiyama. All three of them also served as full-time missionaries. Elder Kikuchi was called as a general authority in 1977. Elder Niiyama was just released as an Area Seventy and Elder Aoyama is currently serving as an Area Seventy. (Picture: An early picture of building missionaries. I remember many faces, but only a few names. Zenjiro Ishikawa was one of the first labor missionaries. A leader and enthusiastic worker, he is standing second from the left. He moved to Canada later. Standing at the far right is Brother Kudo, a faithful brother, whom I met again on our last mission in Japan in 2006. Seated at the right on the front row is Brother Fujiya Nara and his wife.)   

A crowded sleeping area and eating hall were quickly made from a building in the back yard of the West Branch building. A small Datsun truck was purchased and Brother and Sister Nara were called to act as cooks for the hungry young men. Brother Fujiya Nara was one of the few converts to remain faithful during the dark 24 years when the Japan Mission was closed. If I remember correctly, he later became a patriarch. By 1962, Brother Nara was feeling his age and his wifefs health was not so good. After some months of this difficult work, they were released and replaced by Brother and Sister Niita who were younger and relatively new converts. This assignment was also difficult for them. (Picture: Tokyo North Branch, a few years after it was completed)

Building chapels on land where there were older buildings already owned by the Church forced branches to rent and use other other buildings during the construction period. The building in this picture is the one used by the Gunma Branch in Takasaki where I once served for four months. The picture below is of the new chapel which was completed, probably in about 1966.

Until full-time Church accounting people arrived to take over, I had some responsibility to provide monies for purchasing food and other items to get things going. On at least two days, I went to the West Branch building to work. I think I chose that building because it was easier for me to find it on the complicated railway sytem.  

Brothers Hales, father and son, Brother Clarence Katwyck and Brother Johnson were building supervisors to arrive in Japan. Young Brother Hales had charge of the West Branch building and Brother Katwyck of the North Branch building. Brother Sam Kalama of Hawaii, the accountant, came about the same time.

The first two buildings started in Japan were the Tokyo North building located near Nishi Ochiai, the West Branch building located near Kichijoji. Brother Katwyk was supervisor of the North  Branch and young Brother Hales supervised the West Branch. There was some competition between them to see who could finish first. These two were followed by the East Branch building conversion and the addition and improvement of the Mission Home across from Arisugawa Park. 

Six months after I left Japan, in April 1964, on the same day, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the North and West Branch buildings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This was a day of rejoicing for the saints in Japan and a significant historical step showing the commitment of the Church's being in Japan permanently. (Picture: beginning at the right: Sam Kalama, the building program accountant from Hawaii, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, and Dwayne N. Andersen, President of the Northern Far East Mission)

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