Countdown 365: #234 – 40th Anniversary of LDS Mission

My passport photo for my LDS Mission, taken in February 1976

My passport photo for my LDS Mission, taken in February 1976

There are some events in one’s life that are turning points…big decisions that impact the remainder of one’s life.  Today I celebrate the 40th Anniversary of one of those events.  It was 40 years ago today that I entered the Language Training Mission (LTM) in Provo, Utah to learn Japanese and prepare to serve as an LDS Missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission. This singular event would literally have a myriad impacts on the direction of my life, the life of my wife and of my children.

Prior to this event only three real others were as momentous…my mother taking me away from my father and moving to New Mexico (something that I had no control over but had a massive impact on my life), my decision to convert to the LDS Church in 1975 (and thus be asked to leave the house at age 17 as a result) and then the actual decision to serve versus the decision to take what would have been a high paying job in 1975.

Speaking at my Missionary Farewell in Murray, UT - Feb. 8, 1976

Speaking at my Missionary Farewell in Murray, UT – Feb. 8, 1976

Pondering life's choices as a young missionary

Pondering life’s choices as a young missionary

With each decision made at a crossroads in life (or a fork in the road of life if you prefer), a whole string of consequences unseen is set in motion (until the next crossroad, which then again leads to another set of unforeseen life events). But this mission to serve the Lord in Japan (not to mention all of the service to the Japanese people) had a profound impact on my life, my testimony, friends I have made and, ultimately my career choices. And, as I approach my 60th of year of life, I can look back and consider all of the things that WOULD NOT have occurred in my life had I not made that one decision. Honestly, I am awestruck.

Over the course of my mission I wrote over 1000 pages of journal entries.

Over the course of my mission I wrote over 1000 pages of journal entries and dozens of letters home to family and friends.

So, on February 12, 1976 I was taken to Provo and it began.  I wrote on Page 1 of the first of my many journals about this event:

“Today was my first day.  It was really great. We had many inspiring talks and learned much about the mission and mission fields.  Elder Stewart Simons from Cyprus High and Elder Marc White from Murray were my fist companions. Elder Marc and I went to school together, so its a real blessing. Its been a tough, long, hot day, but a very meaningful one.I’m so grateful to serve the Lord.”

My two LTM Companions as they looked in 1976. This was scanned from my Missionary Journal.

My two LTM Companions as they looked in 1976. This was scanned from my Missionary Journal.

Hanging with Elder White and Elder Simons at the Provo Temple on Feb. 18, 1976

Hanging with Elder White and Elder Simons at the Provo Temple on Feb. 18, 1976

I learned from both Elder Simons and Elder White.  It was nice to have one of them as someone I knew.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  Later on in Japan, Elder White became my zone leader and we grew very close.  We have stayed in touch casually over the years.  He was a real blessing to me.

Our LTM Group in Provo, UT

Our LTM Group in Provo, UT (L-R: Sister ?, Elder Bartholomew, Elder Bateman, Elder White, Elder Call, Elder Hadley, Elder Simons, Sister Hawley and me)

I was one of many in the group to enter the LTM that day.  The LTM was in an old Catholic School in Provo that the Church had purchased.  This was before the days of the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and just shortly after the days of the Japanese LTM being in Hawaii.

In my District I had four other Elders including Elder Bartholomew from Rancho Palace Verdes, CA; Elder Bateman from Edmonton, AB; Elder Hadley from Sandy, UT (who I am still in contact with after all these years); and Elder Call from Heber City, UT. (see the photo above)

On February 14, 1976 I wrote: “I am so happy that I’m here at this time to be able to work together with other elders and learn Japanese and the Gospel of our loving Father. The LTM is really an experience with 20 elders to a room, two districts to a room. I am really learning to love other elders. Especially those in my district and especially Elder White and Elder Simons. I’ve learned many new phrases and words.  Today we learned our testimony and a simple prayer.  I’m trying to memorize it, but its hard. I do have my testimony memorized.  I am praying muchly now so that I may be closer to the Lord.”

Being welcomed at Nagoya Airport by the Mission President Satoru Sato and his wife, along with some other Nagoya Elders already serving. April 14, 1976

Being welcomed at Nagoya Airport by the Mission President Satoru Sato and his wife, along with some other Nagoya Elders already serving. April 14, 1976

Boarding a train in Nagoya to head to my first branch in Kanazawa

Boarding a train in Nagoya to head to my first branch in Kanazawa

I could go on and on about the experience in the LTM.  It was a learning experience in so many ways. But, eventually it was over and on April 13, 1976 we all left for Nagoya, Japan.  I had never been on a 747 and never flown overseas. (I’ll actually write more about this on my Countdown Day #173).

During my missionary days I served in the Japan Sea side towns of Kanazawa, Fukui and Takaoka, as well as in Ogaki (near Gifu – where my daughter Amaree served part of her mission in 2001 and 2002), Nagoya and the lovely town of Fuji City at the base of Mt. Fuji.

I met an extraordinary number of wonderful Japanese Latter-day Saints and myriads of other lovely Japanese people.  I learned about Buddhism and Shintoism.  I learned and excelled at the language.  It was a wonderful experience.

Accompanying a blind investigator on a train. Like today, I almost always had a camera with me.

Accompanying a blind investigator on a train. Like today, I almost always had a camera with me.

Following are a few more photos from my mission.  I have hundreds. My first “selfie” is also included. My mission was a blessing in my life in so many years.  I am humbled and grateful to be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of beginning this amazing adventure and am really touched by all of the sweet memories flowing through my mind as I reflect back.

A few years ago we had a Missionary Reunion in Salt Lake City and I was able to catch up with many of those with whom I served during my two years from 1976-78.  It was wonderful to catch up with them and see where their lives had taken them. Some have been very successful, others not so much.  Some of those with whom I served have gone inactive or even left the LDS Church.  These things happen.  But, I cherish the friendships and, even today, stay in touch with many of these former missionaries (Thank you Facebook!!), even those that are no longer associated with the church.  A mission does amazing things to one’s life.

Always writing and pondering.

Always writing and pondering. Ogaki, Japan 1977

My first companion in the field, Elder Fullmer from Utah. This was in Kanazawa in April 1976

My first companion in the field, Elder Fullmer from Utah. This was in Kanazawa in April 1976 (Dig those 70’s era neckties!!)

Riding a train - an almost daily occurrence in Japan

Riding a train – an almost daily occurrence in Japan

My fist selfie! Took this in the mirror at a barber shop after the bird landed on my shoulder.

My fist selfie! Took this in the mirror at a barber shop after the bird landed on my shoulder.

Fooling around with the Ogaki Elders in 1977

Fooling around with the Ogaki Elders in 1977

With Elders and some members in Takaoka, Japan in the winter of 1976

With Elders and some members in Takaoka, Japan in the winter of 1976

Lazing in bed on a cold morning (we had no heaters - just oil stoves that had to be turned off at night). This was in Fuji City in January 1978

Lazing in bed on a cold morning (we had no heaters – just oil stoves that had to be turned off at night). This was in Fuji City in January 1978

On top of Mt. Fuji, April 1978, just before I left for home.

On top of Mt. Fuji, April 1978, just before I left for home.

Street "Dendo" (Proselyting) in Ogaki, Japan in 1977. I wrote all of the Japanese on the poster while dressed in the Yukata

Street “Dendo” (Proselyting) in Ogaki, Japan in 1977. I wrote all of the Japanese on the poster while dressed in the Yukata

With companion Elder Lee Richan. We had become very close friends. He passed away a couple of years ago (2013)

With companion Elder Lee Richan. We had become very close friends over the years. He passed away a couple of years ago (2013)

The busy Mormon Missionary on a hot summer day in Japan in 1977

The busy Mormon Missionary on a hot summer day in Japan in 1977

 

David & Julianne: 30 Years of Wedded Bliss

David & Julianne: 30 years of wedded bliss

July 15, 1979 – July 15, 2009

 

July 15, 1979 – Jacob’s Lake, AZ near North Rim, Grand Canyon

Sometime in November 1978 – David, then 22, was on his way to work at J.C. Penney in Orem Mall in Orem, Utah.  His 1963 green VW bug would not start.  He had to take the bus.  Not knowing the schedule, he hurried to the bus stop.  Too late, he missed it.  At the same time, a young lady named Julianne, then 19, also missed the same bus.  David and Julianne met at this bus stop and found out we both worked at the same place — she in the cafeteria and he in the shoe department.  She let me know that her roommate was coming to pick her up and offered me a ride.  This was the first day of our relationship – we missed the bus to work, but, at that time, unbeknownst to us, we caught the bus that would take us to wedded bliss.

From that time through nearly Christmas, I would take a pilgrimage from the shoe department to the J.C. Penney cafeteria to order cherry cheesecake and to watch this new girl I had met.  At the bus stop I knew I had met someone special and found it interesting that she worked where I did.  But, I was shy and afraid of rejection, so I played it cool.  We both knew each other’s first names…mine David, hers Juli.  Our conversations were light and not in too much detail.  We were at the flirting stage.  I had even taken her home from work a couple of times, but that was about it.

Then, she was gone…I had lost my chance due to my own insecurities….or so I thought.

Journal entry, January 14, 1979 – “…this last week has been a most exciting time of my life. I have been very tired because a beautiful young lady has entered my life.  I knew Juli at work, but I never did too much because I was scared. — Oh, yes, her name is Juli Bateman.  She is 19 and is from Mesa, AZ.  She’s just my height and is a really pretty girl. The Lord couldn’t have blessed me any better.  Everyone even says that we look alike.”    She had been away and I thought I had lost her for good.  Then, on Thursday, January 4, I was walking through the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU she saw me, said “Hey” and went out of her way to come over and say hello.  “Right away I thought ‘How neat. She likes me and went out of her way to say hello.’ I was impressed.  She then told me that she had quit Penney’s.  So, I felt inside of me that I must her phone number.  I asked her and she gave it to me right away.”  I called her numerous times to invite her out, but she was never home.  When i finally did get hold of her, she didn’t know.  I was stupid, I had never told her my full name.  I reminded her of the JC Penney’s thing and sure enough, I had a date!!

Continued from January 14 – “The thing about Juli is — she is everything I want for a wife. She is pretty, she is loving, she is affectionate, she is spiritual. When I’m with her I’m proud to be with her….”

Journal entry, January 16, 1979 – “Yesterday, January 15, 1979 will be a day long remembered for me.  Last night at about 7:00 PM I asked Juli to marry me. She said yeas.  How wonderful it feels. This is how it went…I picked her up at 6:30 and we went up to Canyon Glen which is up in Provo Canyon.  It was snowing lightly but it was also very peaceful….”  “We talked of love and different kinds of it.  After we finished, we got out of the car and went for a walk.  The snow was about a foot deep and the stream could be heard loud and clear. We walked until we got to the edge of the stream.  I then had Juli sit down on the bench.  As she did, I got on my knees and told her of what love was…and that love had brought us together and that it was with love that I asked her to be my wife for time and all eternity,  I was shaking so much inside that it was hard to even talk.

This was the beginning of our wondrous and joyful experience of 30 years.

Our first “recorded” kiss – in front of the Provo, Utah LDS Temple

ca. March 1979

July 15, 1979 – Julianne were married in Mesa, Arizona and returned to Provo, Utah via Jacob’s Lake, AZ near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We then settled into our little apartment in Provo.  I started a new job making sandwiches at a shop near BYU campus. We both continued in school.

L-Our wedding photo.  R-Departing for Utah from Mesa.  Yes, we were tired and it was hot an we had the little VW

From that time forth, Julianne and I have traveled to diverse places, moved, gone to school in a few places, raised children…it has been a glorious life.

Soon after moving to Provo, there were some changes in the restaurant and by mid-October we made our way to Flagstaff, Arizona.  Nearly penniless, I finally found some employment.  We were living in the Alpine Motel, a dive of a place, but cheap.  We had no place to go, but we made it through.  I started a job as a busboy at the Little America Restaurant making $3.25/hr.  A few weeks later i was working 48 hours a week at a TG&Y Variety store for $3.75 and hour.  We also had insurance…and thank goodness.  our first child was on her way.  Throughout our days in Flagstaff we were blessed with friends, jobs and three lovely daughters.

Our 30 years of marriage are completely intertwined with with the lives of our children.  From the time Amaree was born in early 1980 to this day, we have taken our children all over the United States and even lived in Japan as a family.  Our youngest, Solomon was born in Oita, Japan.  It has been a blessed life.  Following are some of the photos of our lives through these 30 years…

   

L-R: Feb. 1980, Flagstaff, AZ with Amaree; late 1981, Mesa, AZ with Amaree & Marissa; early 1982, Sedona, AZ with Marissa &Amaree;

 

 late 1987, Kumamoto, Japan with 4 children (Seth on my back); March 1989, Oita, Japan with Seth & newborn Solomon

 

A couple of family photos while living in Oita, Japan ca. 1990 and 1991

 

L-Family with Oita Governor Hiramatsu & his wife, Jan. 1, 1991; Monument Valley, UT on our way to Kentucky in 1992

L-Green Gates Farm, Lexington, KY 1993; Family trip to Indiana ca 1996

Our family May 2009

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

Our extended family May 2009

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

But it has not just been family.  Julianne and I have been together for 30 years and are STILL on our honeymoon and more madly in love with each other than ever!!  Here are a few pictures of our adventures together over the years:

On a park bench in Seattle and a restaurant in Seattle

On a cruise ship in Seattle and at Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada

 

On the cruise to Alaska before dinner; Glacier Bay, Alaska

 

Hamming it up in Lexington, KY; Green Gates Farm in Lexington, KY

At a waterfall near Great Falls, MT with grandson Kade; at a waterfall near Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska

 

Enjoying time at a cabin in the mountains of Arizona; visiting Tulum Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico

At Seth’s high school graduation, Lexington, KY;  Yes, I Married Up and my license plate tells the story (as do the shirts)

I am honored and blessed to have had my wonderful Julianne at my side for 30 years.  She is the joy of my life and this page is dedicated to her for her love for me, for our children, for our grandchildren.  We have struggled together, had joy together, traveled together and look forward to an eternity together.  Julianne is truly the love of my life.

Julianne and David, May 2009

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

David & Julianne: 30 years of wedded bliss

July 15, 1979 – July 15, 2009