News Release

Japan Okinawa Missionaries Recognize Tender Mercies 

© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Okinawa, the soon-to-be dedicated Okinawa Temple is literally a dream come true. Dayne Petersen, who served a 2-year mission on the island during the six-year period the Japan Okinawa Mission existed as an independent mission (1990-1996), shared the following story about the faithful members of the Church in Okinawa: 

“Thirty years ago, there was a spirit of optimism that the church growth would accelerate; there had been several baptisms during that period. The members began to talk about the day when they would have their own temple in Okinawa. A specific plan included each member sharing the gospel with two individuals, who would then each share with two more, and so on. 

We knew, as missionaries, that although work was going forward and many were accepting the gospel, it was nowhere close to the numbers required at that time to qualify for a temple, but we did not have the heart to tell the members that this goal would never happen. Oh, how insufficient was our faith, but not the faith of the members. They continued onward with faith and prayers for a temple, knowing the Lord would help them reach their goal. 

And now there is a temple in Okinawa. It didn’t happen the way they planned, but through their faith, the Lord magnified their efforts. We went to Okinawa to teach about faith in the Lord, but oh, how we were taught about faith by the members of the Church in Okinawa!” 

Brother Petersen, along with nearly thirty other Okinawa Japan missionaries and their families gathered recently to tour the temple and to enjoy a mission reunion. The former missionaries especially hoped to reconnect with those members and investigators whom they met and loved all those years ago but finding them was harder than they had hoped. 

Brian Hunsaker, who served in Okinawa from 1992-1994, was anxious to visit his “Okinawa mother,” Sister Tomoko Kishimoto. Brian’s senior companion, Elder Clayton Agate, taught Sister Kishimoto the gospel before her baptism. Later, after Elder Agate went home, Elder Hunsaker continued to teach the family, helping a daughter (Ayano) to be baptized. 

The Hunsakers and others spent time in Tokyo and Kyoto, before traveling to Okinawa. The whole time, Brother Hunsaker continued to reach out to find someone who could help him connect with Sister Kishimoto, as well as another family he had taught and baptized, the Ueharas. The morning of the temple open house and the reunion came, and he still had not been able to locate the families. As he went for a morning run along the beach, Brother Hunsaker fervently prayed for Heavenly Father’s help. His prayers were answered in a very tender way. 

As the Hunsaker’s tour group was entering the temple, another group was coming out. Brother Hunsaker looked at them as they passed, and saw Sister Kishimoto and her daughter, Ayano (Shioto), along with Ayano’s husband and son! The sweet and tearful reunion brought them so much joy. After a brief visit, they made plans to attend church together the following day. 

Although Brother Hunsaker was so happy to have found Sister Kishimoto’s family, he was still hoping to see Sister Reiko Uehara. After church, Brother Shioto, who had known Sister Uehara years ago when he was the bishop, looked and saw her sitting in the back of the chapel. Brother Hunsaker ran back to greet her with a hug. She tearfully explained that when she woke up that morning, she had a thought that she should go to church. She and Brother Hunsaker were both very grateful that the Spirit touched her heart, and that she listened. 

Several of the former missionaries had the opportunity to teach Sister Yoko Nakasone the gospel. Many had tried to locate her, without success. Brother Gary Davis, who baptized Yoko, had a special bond with her. As Gary, and others from the group were preparing to fly home, friends of Yoko contacted them to say that she would come to see former Elder Davis off on his flight. Sadly, when she arrived at the airport, Yoko was unable to find them before they were preparing to board. And then there was a tender mercy from the Lord, as Gary’s flight was delayed at the last minute, giving him just enough time to leave the security area and find Yoko. What a sweet reunion it was! 

Brother Petersen shared the story of visiting with another sister who joined the church during the time they were serving in Okinawa. Having heard about the reunion, Sister Kuba, who is the only member in her family, came with her husband to the temple tour, and to see the many former missionaries she had known and loved all those years ago. She and Brother Petersen found that their sons are the same age. His son had studied Japanese, and hoped to serve a mission in Japan, but was called to serve in Michigan (USA). The sister suggested that the boys could meet (remotely). Brother Petersen readily agreed. He later shared, “I realized that although my son was serving in Michigan, he would have the opportunity to make a new friend in Okinawa, and serve virtually as a missionary to this family in Japan. Through the miracle of technology, he could serve in Japan as he had so desired.” 

Elder Petersen, who is serving in Michigan, visiting virtually on his preparation day with Sister Kuba's son in Okinawa.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Okinawa Temple will be formally dedicated by Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Sunday, November 12, 2023. 

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