Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Tokyo Connection

Kazu and the Miracle of the Fish

The Katos are Word of Life missionaries, and Mr. Kato is the director of Word of Life Japan. As Word of Life Bible Institute (WOLBI) alumni, both Yuko and I have a long tradition of staying over at the Katos' house whenever we travel through Tokyo, since the Katos have always graciously kept their doors open to us. This past trip to Canada via Tokyo was no exception. During our stay I found this old picture of the Katos' eldest son, Kazu. Kazu and I were roommates during college, so I've heard (and participated in) plenty of Kazu stories, but this is one of my favourites. When Kazu was very young, his parents were penniless students at WOLBI. As married students, they occupied a waterfront apartment with a balcony overhanging Schroon Lake. One day, Mr. Kato, craving the flesh of fish, affixed a single spaghetti noodle to a fishing hook, prayed for a catch, and bade his son cast the line over the railing. Their prayer was answered in the form of the giant fish in the photo above. I am not sure if that is the truest version of the story ever told, but it is the version that has stuck in my mind. (Of course, if the tales are true, this was neither the first nor last time that Mr. Kato went fishing for supper off his balcony).

Kazu Being Forced to Wear my Festivity Cloak

I think it is safe to say that the main role I played in Kazu's life was to cause him embarrassment. On the occasion of his (nineteenth?) birthday party celebrated in WOLBI's dining room, I showed up late and forced him to wear my blue Japanese festivity cloak. Over the following several summers my festivity cloak found employment at Word of Life Canada where I (and other famous theatrical players, such as Dave Emery) used it as a Jack-of-all-costumes in camp skits. Apparently Dave pinched my festivity cloak from the Program Box at some point . . .

Dave and Emi Serving on the Staff of Living English Camp at the Aomori Christian Centre

. . . because it was his habit of wearing it around the campus of Davis College that eventually gave him occasion to make the acquaintance of Kazu's sister, Emi. At least, I think that's what Dave told me once, although I might be exaggerating the importance of the role played by my festivity cloak.

The View from SYME's Dining Hall in Karuizawa

One of my main objectives in visiting the Kato's this time was to check out Word of Life Japan's new SYME in Karuizawa. I can't remember what "SYME" stands for, but its slogan can be translated roughly as "Studying the Bible in English; Studying English through the Bible." One of its main purposes is to prepare Japanese students who want to study at Bible colleges or institutes in English speaking countries. Sadly, my spring break didn't overlap with the school's opening so I wasn't able to see it in action, but I'm excited about it and looking forward to visiting it many times in the future. The property used to be an NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) retreat centre, and its location is exquisite.

A Portrait of Mr. Kato as a Young Man
(I found this photo in an album presented to Mr. Kato some years ago on his 50th birthday . . . and snapped a photo of it)

Meeting Misa(e) at the Katos'
(centre, in light blue)

Back when she was studying in Vancouver, Misa came across my blog while researching something----something for which my blog proved to be utterly useless. However, since she was born and raised in Shimokita and had actually attended one of the elementary schools I teach at in Kazamaura, her curiosity was aroused and she emailed me. We chatted back and forth, and eventually I introduced her (via email and MSN Messenger) to my wife Yuko. The relationship continued and when Misa returned to Japan and moved to Tokyo, Yuko introduced her to a friend from the Kato's church. Some months ago we received the joyful news that Misa was baptized there. Since Yuko and I live so far from Tokyo, this trip was the first time we were able to actually meet Misa in person. If for no other reason, my three years of blog writing has been worthwhile for this alone.


And if for no other reason, my four troubled years in Toronto were worthwhile because of the role the Lord allowed me to have in Yuji's Christian faith. Yuji suddenly appeared one day at the language school I taught at in Toronto, bearing a scrap of paper with an address scribbled on it. It had been given to him by a youth pastor in Oklahoma who had been Yuji's homestay host half-a-year earlier. The address was for the church that I belonged to at the time. Of all the numerous language schools in Toronto, Yuji had ended up at the one that just happened to have two language instructors from Grace Toronto (Japanese) Church. Yuji didn't stay long at the school, but he started attending our church and eventually became housemates with me and the pastor's son. I hadn't seen Yuji in years but we were able to meet up with him and a couple of other friends during our stay in Tokyo, and I was moved when he shared with us that it was during one of our long midnight theological discussions back in Toronto that his heart and mind were opened to the gospel of Christ. I have often regretted my "lost" years in Toronto, fiddling around half-heartedly in graduate school and the army reserves, but I am reminded that in the family of God every sojourn has its purpose.

High Park, Toronto c. 2002: Where are Yuji and Luke?
(Hint: Yuji is blond and I am beardless)