Solitary Mission in Iraq – Part 1
By Kamihiro Yamayoshi
(Written September 1982)
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, the Greeks called my mission area “Mesopotamia” which means “between the two rivers,” and others described this land that 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 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 has rolled in and out? I’ll leave that up to the 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.
Meeting my American brother
While I was in Turkey visiting him, I could perceive that making harmony with foreigners was not as easy as I had guessed. When I visited the apartment where he lived, the kitchen happened to be a mess. So I put it straight. Also, since his 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 motivation might be good. Yet, it was not welcomed open-heartedly; the pictures were taken out of the album. It deeply carved in my heart a lesson that complacent goodness is doubtful, and that I should have asked him before I did it.
Even in such a situation, what was welcomed open-heartedly was that I translated Father’s speeches from Japanese into English and gave them to him whenever I received them. My high school was a Catholic mission school, 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 while he was still in the American family, he was very much moved by Sue Watanabe’s faith and character. And I learned through this fact that what makes us transcend the racial barrier is a concrete person-to-person relationship and I had to correct my attitude. He had a difficult time due to 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. In the moment, my heart was opened, touched by the anguish and sincerity of his heart. Since then it became the basis 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 have mentioned, since my partner could not manage to re-enter Iraq, naturally I had to fight with loneliness on 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.
Struggles with loneliness
The king of loneliness—it must be God. When I experienced, even a little, the grievous misery caused by not having any object partner to love, I could not help thinking how severe was the pain God felt through the Fall of man.
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 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, feeding them with much care. Observing the insects or small animals, I mastered how to experience the mystery and humor of all living creatures.
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 that smile, I felt fresh strength flow into my heart, and a pleasant conversation would begin in my mind.
Struggles with circumstances
With the original idea of a stop-gap tactic to avert the eyes of the police 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 at Baghdad University. They certainly encouraged me, one way or another.
My circumstances were: Islam, religiously; practically one-party rule, politically; Arab, racially and culturally; the intense heat of the dry desert, climatically. Japanese rarely have had opportunity to encounter any of these factors and as a result, I could hardly 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 this was repeated. After a week, I found out that in fact the telephone line was cut off because of 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 compensation to keep their mind always calm against the flows of nature and life that they cannot anticipate.
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 classes that I took at 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 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 that 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 with.
Finding the parents’ position
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 struggle in my heart, yet I would be driven by the desire to shout with joy!
To be continued next week.