The Words of the Yamayoshi Family
The scene of the sun burning in red and touching on the horizon is so beautiful that travelers of the desert forget its intensely severe heat.
While in the night time darkness of the desert wilderness we find no guide to help us fix or position in any direction. Only the gentleness of the moonlight and the variety of constellations become the handhold which keeps us in the world of life.
With the coming of the morning, when the world lies once more exposed under the overwhelming rule of the sun with its light and heat, which are the source of life for all beings in the universe, people are attacked as if the sun were the sword of a curse, and it captures them in its ceaseless endurance. Nature is far from a blessing then; rather it turns out to be a sphere of the intense heat of hell. Nearly 70 percent of the year forms the summer season, and during this season the highest temperature reaches up to more than 60 degrees Centigrade.
The two streams of the great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which flow assiduously, run through this wilderness under the blazing sun. These two rivers, which lie as if the Maker of the Universe dug out a gash with His fingers in the barren world, granting them a majestic flow of water as a blessing. They are reliable and dramatic works of nature which, like the Father and Mother of life, surpass death.
In the past, Greeks called my mission area "Mesopotamia" which means "between the two rivers," and others described this land which the two rivers created as the "Fertile Crescent."
The great rivers gave birth to and raised a civilization, but man could not meet God's purpose for civilization and they started the vicious circle of rise and fall. Some people even insist that the estrangement of humankind from the will of God was brought about in the beginning in this very land.
Among the ancient cities which are located in Mesopotamia, "Ur" is the homeland of Abraham, the Father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But another city, "Babylonia" became a synonym for hatred in the Judean and Christian world. What kind of wave of history did roll in and out? I'll leave that up to historians. I'm only describing my experience of God's grief, expressed in the great misery and suffering which is carved into the creation, society, and people of this country.
It was in June that my feet landed in Baghdad, the capital of the Republic of Iraq with the mission of evangelizing the "True Parents." The American missionary, who was also assigned to the Iraq mission, had already entered the country by the time I got there. But after two weeks, which is the limit of a general visa, he was urged to leave the country by government officials. As a consequence, he stayed most of his mission period in Turkey, and I met him several times there.
While I was in Turkey visiting him, I could perceive that making harmony with foreigners was not so easy as I had guessed. When I visited the apartment where he lived, the kitchen happened to be a mess. So I put it right. Also, since pictures were disorderly, I bought an album and put them in order. As for me, I wanted to do for him whatever I could, and such a motivation might be good. Yet, it was not welcomed open-heartedly; the pictures were taken away from the album. It deeply carved in my heart a lesson that complacent goodness is doubtful and I should have asked him before I did it.
Even in such a situation, what was welcomed open-heartedly was that 1 translated Father's speeches from Japanese into English and gave them to him whenever I received them. My high school was a mission school of the Catholic Church, and I was taught English class directly by a foreign teacher. Because of this I rarely felt difficulty in English even from the beginning of my mission. I could translate Father's speeches in quite a short time except that the details may not have been exact. At the same time, even though we were not so harmonious emotionally, since I am blessed with the ability to converse deeply, I felt he respected me. At the same time, I felt that Americans appreciate those who have real ability.
It was true that the American missionary had some kind of regard for Orientals, too. I heard from him that when he was still in the American family, he was very much moved by Sueo Watanabe's faith and character. And I learned through this fact that what makes us transcend the racial barrier is a concrete man-to-man relationship and I had to correct my attitude. He had a difficult time not being able to enter his assigned country for a long time and, because of it, was confronted with various trials in faith.
But the basis which allowed me to first trust him was that I saw his tears. It was when we were together listening to a tape of True Parents' speech which had been delivered in America to the foreign missionaries. When Mother said firmly at the end of the speech, "Wherever you may be, Parents are always with you," he was drowned in spontaneous tears. On the moment, my heart was made opened, touched by the anguish and sincerity of his heart. Since then it became the base for trust.
Now I feel the strongest ties with him, though now different in terms of mission country. And I believe that he feels the same. Whenever I remember him, my heart is moved and I can't help appreciating him.
As I here mentioned, since my partner could not manage to re-enter Iraq, naturally I had to fight with loneliness in my course. The confidence that God is with me filled my heart. But, on the other hand, once I looked back at myself, I would see myself standing in a mountain pass, between loneliness and uneasiness which were about to swallow me up into the bottom of the earth. Even to be myself was, in itself, a serious battle.
I call the struggle with loneliness an internal battle; I can say that accommodating myself to the circumstances was the external battle.
The king of loneliness -- it must be God. When I experienced, even a little, the grievous misery caused by not having any object to love, I could not help thinking how severe the pain which God received by the fall of man was.
In addition to having no one with whom I could discuss, centered on the mission, in Iraq the police watch the movements of the people closely, so I was forced to keep silent. So my sense of isolation became deepened more and more. Sometimes, I could hardly balance my mind and was swayed by misgivings that I might fall into mental derangement. Sometimes such feelings lasted day after day so that my eyes were filled with tears of loneliness when I had supper alone every evening.
In such circumstances, there were many opportunities to feel Father's heart. I felt the same state of mind as when Father was in prison, and he consoled himself by watching two fleas and feeding them with much care. Observing the insects or small animals, I mastered how to experience the mystery and humor of all living creatures. Also, I often amused myself by clowning around alone.
However, being in the situation that my mission did not progress at all, I could not see any hope for the future. Sometimes on the way back home, I felt totally exhausted physically and spiritually and had a sensation as if my knees wobbled and would collapse. Also, I experienced such a situation that when I got sick, laying myself down, I even did not have energy to eat food and I felt my spirit was dying.
In such spiritually low occasions, the only thing that filled my heart with strength was to recall scenes when I met Father internally, in my mind. Like a cow ruminates, I recalled this and that, and the other, which lasted just a slight moment in physical time, and I would smile. And with the smile, I felt fresh strength flow into my heart, and a pleasant conversation would begin in my mind.
With the original idea of a stop-gap tactic to turn the police's eyes away from me, I changed my address more than ten times during the three and a half years in my country. And each time I found good neighbors and companions. Also, there were some Japanese who were in the same situation as mine, studying Arabic in the Baghdad University. They certainly encouraged me, one way or the other.
My circumstances were: Islam, religiously; practically one-party rule, politically; Arab, racially and culturally; the intense heat of dry desert, climatically. Japanese rarely have had opportunity to encounter any of these factors and as a result, I hardly could accommodate myself to such circumstances.
There was so much inefficiency and illogicality which should not be allowed in modern economical society at all. And sometimes I could see nothing but laziness and irresponsibility in the people.
In such a circumstance, I truly went to the edge that I almost lost my temper several times. Once I went to a telephone office to call a brother in a neighbor country, but an officer said, "Today the line is disconnected. Come back tomorrow." Every day they repeated this. After a week, what I found was that the line was cut off because of the political conflict between both nations.
Such cases were constantly repeated so I began to prepare my heart not to be surprised, not to get angry, not to be confused, no matter what situations might be brought up to me. Later, while I was reading a book, I happened to find that the Arabs, themselves, make special psychological compensations to keep their mind always calm against the flows of nature and life which they cannot anticipate. And I thought that this was very likely.
However, as we come to know more of the historical background of a country and also come to be familiar with her language, the degree of our understanding of her customs and culture progresses sharply. It can be said that the language is especially decisive. But the letters of Arabic seemed, to me, like earthworms creeping. Japanese characters are quite different. In the beginning, it seemed impossible to learn Arabic from the beginning and master it. I was seized with the feeling that I had to climb a rock wall.
Among those who attended the class which I took in Baghdad University, the ones who learned Arabic most quickly were not students who came to Iraq to learn but those foreign women who had married Iraqis. Whenever this fact came into my mind, I told myself repeatedly that I could never break through the wall of Arabic without making resolution to get married to Iraq after all!
It is a sad scene when trying to make conversation meant trying to fathom the unexpressed intention of the other person, thinking, "how much can I possibly open my heart to this person?" And every time someone knocked at my door or whenever I even sensed someone near my door, I could not help thinking that the police might have come. Such a life can be described as the hell of a mountain of needles. Whenever I heard reports that our missionaries were suffering from imprisonment and deportation, I had to prepare myself that next time might be my turn.
Looking closely at history beyond the suffering of an age, we reach the conclusion that, after all, the problem is the rule of man's blood lineage by evil. When we realize Satan's rule over the flow of life itself, which seems to be everlasting, is the real evil and our real enemy, we then become aware that those who rule, as well as those who are ruled, are in the misery of sinners and are to be sympathized.
After this viewpoint was firmly established in me, I came to entertain another kind of heart toward those of power whom I had looked at only with rage.
And I could think about the extraordinary difficulties in which Father had been placed in order to restore the world which was created by mankind whose nature has been twisted by sins.
To keep the position of parents, if that is the internal task of the missionaries, we have to struggle not to have a bad conscience in any aspect of our clothing, food, or lifestyle while in the developing countries, as long as the people who are in the position of our children are still in poverty. Whenever I saw a beggar on the road, I questioned my own standard of living. And I used to question if I had the internal confidence that even though I were given the same burden of poverty which they shoulder, would I be grateful for having God's words and the chance to convey them to others. Whenever Iraqis looked at me with sympathy for my standard of living, I felt such a struggling in my heart, I would be driven by the desire to shout with joy!
However, on the other hand, I some- times could not wipe away the feeling that I might be nothing but an outsider, after all, to the people of this country. For example, among Christians who are said to occupy almost ten percent of the whole population of Iraq, most of them are Assyrians. They suffer pressure and inconvenience under the political system, and so they harbor deep resentment against the government and against the Moslems who represent it. Those who are courageous among them criticize the government and blame the Moslems, and at the same time, speak out their pride, nay, their sense of superiority as Christians, whenever they have conversation. Being rather disgusted, I often tried to persuade them, asking why they could not forgive and love the Moslems, following the teachings of Jesus. As the conversation became heated they would give me a piece of their mind, saying, "After all, you can never understand our suffering. Foreigners will be foreigners." And I would feel totally helpless, being unable to share my heart.
In this sense, it is the matter of life for the missionaries to know how to touch the love of God. How can I keep the feelings of unity with God's heart which fill my heart? Especially in my case, because I was in a lonely situation, I was placed in the state of mind that I could not help seeking for the sense of the real existence of God and His heart.
On such occasions, I was so desperate.
Even in the meager (if it sounds like an exaggeration to say "barren") circumstance of nature that exists here, I tried my best to find some traces of the blessing of God. Feeling a sense of exhaustion of soul and body, I was encouraged by being aware of the unlimited energy of God in the strenuous and unchanging movement of the sun, and I was impressed by the beauty of creation in the glorious scene of the sunset and I was comforted.
The many constellations guided me in the world of dreams, and made me unconscious of the flight of time. The tranquil brightness of the moon engendered the tender love of the mother.
The date palm, which firmly takes root in the desert area where trees are rare, supporting its over-ten-meter-high trunk and overburdened with its sweet and nutritious fruits, was proof to assure me of the unfailing parental heart of God in the land which is seemingly abandoned on the whole by Him.
As a matter of course, the meetings with people, especially when centered on the Principle made me feel the presence of God more dramatically.
In June the second day after entering Baghdad, I met a young man, rather a boy, in a restaurant where I just dropped by on the way back from sightseeing in the city. He is an Assyrian and a Christian, and seventeen at the time. Since it was a summer vacation, he left his home in a city in the northern part of Iraq and was working in Baghdad. He said that, saving his money, he was planning to leave his country to take refuge in America or another country in the future, as many other Christians in Iraq did. Since that time, until the time I was assigned to another country, whenever he came up to Baghdad, I met him and he spoke of the hardships of Assyrian people and we talked of Christianity. Yet, at that time, probably being seized by excessive wariness and suspicion, I could hardly testify to the Principle and the church.
However, in the end of December 1979, when I was in Athens, Greece, to attend the missionary conference of the Middle East region, I met him. He had left his country to go to Athens and was waiting for a plane to America as a refugee. Furthermore, I could give him a lecture of the Principle in Arabic, which I had not dared to speak for four and a half years.
When I first met him in Baghdad, I introduced myself as "a businessman learning the language." However, he said, he had had a hunch that it was not true. Also, he was sometimes admonished by his relatives and acquaintances, not to have close relationships with foreigners and also he seemed to sometimes feel eyes kept on him. Still he used to visit me. I can't help being grateful for the spiritual protection. At the same time, I deeply realized the tenacity and perseverance of God for the restoration.
In Athens he expressed his heart reflectively, saying, "Why didn't you tell me the Principle while I was in Iraq? If you had done so, it might have been able to teach my acquaintances and friends." And I felt that if I had had deeper faith in the Principle and God, it might have been the will of God that I teach him. I regret that I didn't teach him the Principle earlier.
Adding to this, while I was working in Iraq, he was the one who opened his heart most and became the object of my strongest love. Through such a relationship with him, I could taste how much God had loved Abel and had to give a blessing to him alone who had shown his faith in God in the world of faithlessness.
The meeting with Mursel, the Turkish student, was one of those which reminded me of the guidance of God. It was on the way to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, to meet the American missionary for the first time, at the end of my first year. On the way, the bus broke down and could no longer move so the passengers all had to solicit rides to their destinations. In such a situation, Mursel, who had been sitting in the seat just in front of me, said to me, "Let's go to Ankara together." Furthermore, after arriving in Ankara, since his house was very close to the American brother's apartment, we soon became very close. Since then, whenever the missionaries of the neighboring countries visited Ankara, they taught him the Principle and, though he was Moslem, eventually he came to have faith in the Unification Church.
In the first two or three years, I had few opportunities to teach the Principle to him directly. It is true that it was because the periods of my stays in Turkey were very short, but it was mainly because the wariness had influenced me so much, even there. I heard that he, himself, asked the other brothers "Why doesn't Mr. Yamayoshi teach me the Principle?"
I, as a missionary working in the Middle East, have to take the consideration seriously into account. What I deeply felt in meeting with him, was that the purification of one's own motivation makes the work of God possible. Since I was blessed with Miss Yukiyo Otake as one of the 1800 couples, I have experienced that my heart was more purified than it had ever been. And whenever I felt the sense of unity with my spouse, I would be seized with a strong sense of gratitude to God. Especially, since I perceived Him making strenuous efforts; thinking of His children with a sincerity which only parents have, and which Father showed in choosing my spouse. Such a desire that I wanted to bring accomplishments somehow to comfort and please Father had occupied my heart. And it was such an occasion that I met Mursel. I'm sure that God dwelled in such a heart and guided me to meet with Mursel.
The most impressive meeting was with a certain brother. It was June the day that three whole years had passed since I entered Iraq. He is an Iraqi, witnessed to in England, and after experiencing the life of faith for a year, he decided to devote himself. He attended the first International Training Session and after that he was assigned to work in Iraq. The previous day, the Japanese ambassador to Iraq had invited three Japanese students in Iraq for dinner for some reason or another. I was one of them. Then the next day I was able to meet him, so I felt particularly strong at the end of the three year period.
I received this message in silence on the day of this significant meeting, "The first stage of indemnity where I have to look for people while suffering because of the problems of visa, language and environment as a representative of God has ended. From now on, this native brother is going to stand as the object of God, and a more internal course of indemnity and restoration is beginning in Iraq."
I was steeping myself in such a deep emotion that all the bitter memories of hardship I had experienced until that time were re-compounded with this occasion into bittersweet memories that only God and I could share.
I would like to draw a conclusion to my testimony: I stayed in Iraq about four years and, in reflection, I believe this course consequently left me with the fundamental heart and attitude for my future missionary work. In short, it is to devote myself in the position, situation, and heart of a parent. By keeping myself in the position of a parent, I experienced that I could solve the Abel/Cain problem, and also the way to unity among different races could be opened.
I deepened my conviction that the spirit world is mobilized and minds of people are naturally drawn to me when I struggle desperately to keep my soul and body in the position of God and True Parents, who cannot stop loving all individuals and who are behind everyone of them. On the foundation of these experiences, wisdom and heart accumulated in me through being placed a rare situation. I furthermore want to strive for making the world the blessed land, thinking, throughout everything, about the immeasurable tears of God and True Parents.