Friday, September 28, 2007

The Eternal Smile

I served briefly with a native Japanese missionary - 26 years old and always (I mean always) smiling. He woke up smiling; he walked and rode his bike with vigor, full speed and smiling; he smiled while he ate; he feel asleep with a smile etched on his face. You've heard of "The Never Ending Story"? His was the never-ending smile. When I first heard his story, I couldn't understand why.

He was the 14th or 16th generation (I forget) oldest son of the local Buddhist priestly line - his father’s only son - the only heir to a long heritage. After he met the missionaries, gained a testimony, then joined the Church, his father ceremonially acknowledged his dishonorable death, he was expelled from school and fired from his job, and he had to reconstruct an entirely new life from scratch. He worked and saved for years in order to pay for his own mission, then lived on 2/3 of the recommended minimum cost - because that's all he had been able to save.

I heard someone ask him, given what had happened to him, how he could be so happy all of the time. His response: “I have found the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How could I not be happy?” He said he wanted to be for someone else what those missionaries had been for him.

My mission ended in October, so I gave him my winter coat and boots (he had no boots of his own on the island of Hokkaido) a couple of months before I left. I found out a few days before I left that he had given the coat and boots to an investigator who “needed them more”. That was over 20 years ago, but I will never forget him - never.


Louann and Bari said...

Isn't amazing that even the little things we do in our own lives (smile) can have such a huge effect another person's life. You never know what we are doing that will impress another. I learned early in my 'church life' that example is everything.
Love ya !

Leslie said...

What a true example of Christianity! Thanks for sharing his inspirational story!

Mama D said...

I think this is one of the stories from your mission that I -- and our kids -- remember most. Knowing this missionary and admiring his faith and example have had a profound effect upon you and upon your attitude towards life. And you are passing that faith, perspective, and ability to smile on to the next generation. Thanks!

Steve and Jamie said...

I watched one of these changes first hand with a cousin of mine. He was an angry, troubled teenager and had a sudden turnabout. He is one of the happiest, most patient people that I know. He attributes this change to gaining a testimony. It was really neat to watch the light turn on.