News Release

Reunited in Okinawa for the first time in 30 years

Missionaries who served in Japan Okinawa Mission return to meet at the time of the open house for Okinawa Japan Temple

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Many gathered in Okinawa at the time of the open house for the Japan Okinawa Temple which started on September 23, 2023. Among them are former missionaries who served in the “Japan Okinawa Mission”, which existed for only six years from 1990 to 1996. This was a very special occasion.

Many returned missionaries were worried about their no-longer-fluent Japanese, which they had had very few opportunities to use after their missions. Some came back to Okinawa to commemorate their 50th birthday, to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and so on while others came on their family trips in hopes to be reunited with their fellow missionaries who peached the gospel of Jesus Christ together in those days long ago.

While many things in Okinawa seemed to have changed since the days when they were young missionaries 30 years ago, including the airport, the streetscape and people’s lifestyle; the blue sky and ocean, hot sun, respect for ancestors and kind heart of the people were the same as before. Approximately 60 people (27 returned missionaries and their families) gathered in the Futenma Ward building in the afternoon of the 23rd, which was the first day of the general open house. The building still exists as it did 30 years ago. There were additionally eight more returned missionaries who could not come to Okinawa but joined them to mingle online.

At the reunion, many hugs were given to their old companions, participants were catching up with their old friends, old memories were revisited, feelings for Okinawa were shared and gratitude for the new temple was given. During the reunion, a video message from Carl Pope and his wife Connie was shown. The Popes served as mission leaders of the Okinawa Japan Mission from July 1993 to June 1996. They could not come to Okinawa this time due to their health condition.

In the video message, former Mission President Pope testified that “God, who is our Heavenly Father, exists and He truly lives. He knows each and every one of us and He hears our voices.” Brother Pope also encouraged former missionaries to “be true and faithful, stay in the church and keep the commandments,” as he often counseled back in their mission days.

At the conclusion of the special reunion, the group sang the hymn, “I Am a Child of God”. Everybody was still able to sing it in Japanese, and the song invited the Spirit to impress upon them the eternal testimony that they were truly children of God.

Now the returned missionaries hope that there will be countless saving ordinances performed in the Okinawa Temple, which will be dedicated soon. They returned home with the contact information of the old members and friends they were able to reconnect with during their stay. They hope to be reunited in Okinawa again sometime in the future. Next time they will go through the temple together.

Indeed, the missionary work to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ never ends. The reunion reminded the participants that it is their responsibility to continue to work to lead people to come unto Christ.

At the October 2023 Semi Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was announced by President Russell M. Nelson that a temple will be built in Osaka, which will be the fifth temple in Japan. It is a joy to think that former and current missionaries together with the local church members will be able to move the temple-centered work of the gathering of Israel further forward.

Japan Okinawa Mission (6 years)

Organized on July 1, 1990

July 1990 – June 1993: Mission President Evan A. Larsen

July 1993 – June 1996: Mission President Carl T. Pope

Closed on June 30, 1996

While Okinawa Mission used to have more than 100 missionaries, it is currently a part of Japan Fukuoka Mission. There are eight sister missionaries currently serving in Okinawa.

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