Gunma in my blood

Post a Comment » Written on February 1st, 2010     
Filed under: missions
Gunma Prefecture is about 100km north of Tokyo and my roots go pretty deep there. Our family lived in Gunma from the time of my birth until my first trip to the U.S. at age 5. I still have lots and lots of vivid memories from those early years. We lived there again for a year when I was in the first grade (1968-69). Then I was gone for a very long time and didn’t return until 1995, but spent the next 10 years there, finally moving to Tokyo in 2004. After 2004 I continued to travel to Gunma at least once or twice a week for the next 4 years since I was pastoring a church there.

Gunma is a place where you are surrounded by mountains. I’ve always had an emotional need to be able to see mountains and perhaps it comes from my early years in Gunma. Seattle, Gunma, Colorado Springs, Nagano… these are the places where I’ve lived and been able to see mountains. Memories of those places are all positive. Chicago and Northern Wisconsin are the two places I’ve lived where I couldn’t see any mountains and my memories from those times are somewhat less favorable.

Recently, as I’ve been going thru my Dad’s old photos I’ve realized that he liked being in the mountains too. There are lots and lots of photos like mine… landscapes with mountains and valleys being the prominent feature. Hydi chides me for not taking more photos of people, and the kids often agree that my “mountain” shots are boring. But I still keep taking them just because I’m somehow drawn to them. It’s comforting to see that I’m like my Dad in that sense.

Some of the earliest “mountain” photos from my Dad’s collection are from Gunma, and Mt. Haruna in particular. Mt. Haruna sits on the west side of the valley where Shibukawa and Yoshioka lie. Across the valley to the east stands Mt. Akagi. And to the north its all mountains. The only flat land is to the south. My folks visited fellow Covenant missionaries in Gunma within a month of arriving in Japan and it looks like they spent most of their time hiking around Mt. Haruna… at least that’s the story the photos tell.

Last Sunday I preached at the Covenant Church in Shibukawa; the same church that those missionaries were planting when my folks visited them in the fall of 1955. As I drove up there my thoughts turned to the mountains, the past, my parents… And then I got to the point along the way where you get the first clear view of Mt. Haruna from the expressway and I felt it… I knew I was back home.
Dad’s Mountain Photos
And Some More

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