The main reason we decided to marry was that we had the same sense of mission and the same dream. My husband had finished his brain research at the University of Florida, followed by research on cranial neuropathology at Albert Einstein Hospital in New York. Meanwhile, I was at Seirei Hamamatsu Hospital preparing for a medical mission to Africa in the near future.
Montefiore Hospital & Researcher's Room.
One evening, my sister told me about the testimony of a doctor named Michio Ono. He had a plan to go back to Japan temporarily at the end of the year and wanted to meet me.
We were to meet at Fujimicho Church in Iidabashi on December 31.
You might think, “Why would a man and woman would meet at a church?"
I thought there would not be a marriage partner because I wanted to go to Africa as a doctor, and I had no longing for marriage. However, if I got a chance who might be a potential marriage partner, I thought Rev. Shimamura had an eye to know the partner, and he knew my strengths and weaknesses.
After the three of us had talked, I tugged on his sleeve and asked him about Dr. Ono’s impression in the other room. He replied, “Dr. Ono is smart. Even though he had studied in the U.S., he was very humble. Because I did not understand English, Dr. Ono never used a single word in English. However, he has only been in the faith for a short time, so he needs to grow. He needs to have good Christians around him.”
Some series of encounters and processes lead people to marriage. We confirmed that each of us had a dream to go to Africa as a medical missionary and we could achieve this dream by working together as a family.
He had one little boy (Tomoyuki) who was one year old. I believed God had given me another mission to raise his son as his mother. We had a simple but meaningful engagement ceremony in a room at Fujimi-cho Church, attended by Rev. Tsurukame Shimamura, his friend Rev. Yamada who had already retired as a pastor, and Mrs. Sumie Kikuta, whom I respected and admired. We exchanged Bibles with each other.
Three months later, we married in New York.
It was in the 11th year of our marriage that God answered us. Finally, we went to Zambia with our three sons. My husband worked as an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of Zambia.
However, the salary was $100 per month. We could not make a living on this salary. We would not be able to provide for our three son's education. Even so, we planned to go with the money we had saved. But God worked out a solution.
The Japanese embassy in Zambia did not have a medical officer, but we knew they were looking for a new medical officer. I needed to study tropical medicine at Nagasaki University. I interviewed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and they selected me as the first medical officer of the Japanese Embassy in Zambia.
At the time, Rev. Mineno was also active as the president of World Vision Japan, and we had the opportunity to be sent to Zambia as missionaries from this church. Rev. Mineno came to Zambia with funds from World Vision in Australia and Japan. We were able to build three clinics and a d
Zambian Areal Project Leader:
Zambian Flight Doctor service airplane which took us and landed on the field of this remote area:
Villagers joined and worked hard to build clinics amd houses for medical staffs.
We were also able to dig 36 wells with money from the Japanese Post Office volunteer fund.
Everyear there is severe drought in the southern Zambia. Peple gathers water after digging the river beds. Girls start carrying water everyday after they reach 8 years old. Indian well devices are set because they are cheap, durable and easy to repair. Villagers are trained to repair thier wells.
I got a new medical office at the embassy, but since they opened it for the first time, we did not have any equipment. It was too far to send from Japan, so my first task was to procure equipment in South Africa. Michio helped me to make a list of orders. I went on a business trip to South Africa. The embassy secretary in Pretoria in S.A. was helpful in providing backup for me.
I visited several hospitals to see what they do in case there are patients to be transported. In one of the ICUs, I saw a young lady in her 20s who had cerebral malaria and was unconscious and on artificial respiration. It made me frightened to see that.
In addition, my job was not only in Zambia, but I was also a medical officer in the neighboring countries of Zimbabwe and Botswana, so I had to travel away every few months from home for a week.
There were more than 20 embassy staff members, including their families.
I connected with doctors at local clinics to respond to health consultations and inquiries from Japanese citizens.
It was also my job to communicate information to the Ministry of Health in Zambia, so I had to call the Ministry from time to time to inquire about the status of AIDS, cholera, and malaria infections. I would then inform the findings to Japan.
On the other hand, Michio was performing neurosurgery at the University of Zambia, and even if the surgery itself was successful, the subsequent management was difficult. Even if a patient could be saved in Japan, it was difficult to achieve good results in Zambia, where antibiotics are in short supply. I could tell that he was very disappointed and conflicted.
University of Zambia with Jacaranda Trees.
Russian doctors were mainly treating pediatric neurosurgical cases. We donated many VP-shunt devices for Hydrocephalus treatment for them. We also donated full sets of Neurosurgeical equipments handed by my colleagues of University of Tokyo and other Device Companies in Japan.
However, it was a great joy to see the brain tumor of a 6-year-old girl at an orphanage in Kasisi, run by Polish sisters, make a successful recovery.
150 children are living and most of them lost parents by AIDS and they too are HIV positive.
Tomoyuki was in 6th grade, Yoshiyuki in 3rd grade, and Norimichi in 1st grade. There was also a Japanese class on Saturdays, and they quickly adapted to the environment without any problems, completely enjoying life in Zambia. I thought that they were real diplomats more than us. They ate "Shima," a staple food made from corn by the local workers and enjoyed playing soccer with the local children.
Saturday Japanese School and Teacher was Mr. Fukuda who was the staff of Japanese Embassy.
Our sons enjoyed learning Karate.
Zambia has tropical febrile malaria, which is a major cause of death among little children, so we had prepared preventive medicines, incense sticks and electric incense burners for sleeping. We also got a heavy electric generator purchased in Japan because we had heard that the power always goes out during the rainy season.
We could not drink the tap water as it was, so we boiled it and stored drinking water in a filter we had obtained in the UK. When I looked at the screen door, I found a big hole. We repaired it to prevent mosquitoes from entering.
Although Zambia was relatively safe, our house was burglarized the day before we returned to Zambia from Japan. The Land Cruiser of the counselor in the Japanese Embassy was also robbed with a pistol attached to it. The principal of a Japanese school in Kenya was killed with a pistol, so we had to have a strict system of self-defense, five guard dogs in the house, and a 24-hour security guard.
I had a hard time adjusting to the responsibilities of being a doctor and a diplomat. In addition, I had to come home for lunch and do the laundry by hand because the refrigerator, oven, and washing machine that we had sent from the U.S. did not arrive for three months. Usually, they would hire someone to clean the house, take care of the garden, and help with the cooking, but there was no one suitable. I had to do my part as a housewife as well.
Finally, I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I found myself becoming depressed. I began to lose my concentration, became irritable, had insomnia, lost my appetite, and have anxiety, and I knew I was suffering from depression.
I immediately requested antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and took them, but the side effects were more severe and I did not recover until six months had passed. Normally, I would not be allowed to return to Japan temporarily until a year had passed, but I was given special permission to visit the psychiatrist at Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo.
As soon as I arrived at Narita Airport, I felt as if I was completely free of depression, and when I went to see the psychiatrist, he told me that although I did not seem to be depressed, Dr. gave me an antidepressant just in case. At the time, there were no drugs with fewer side effects like today's antidepressants, so I took a classic tricyclic. I bought various books by Japanese psychiatrists and read them with Michio.
I wanted to continue to work after my temporary return to Japan, but Michio suggested I take care of myself and retire. I was very disappointed in myself, but it was also the fact that my burden was that I had to travel to other countries leaving my family. I decided to retire as a medical officer nine months later and Michio took over my job. He also adjusted to performing surgeries only on special occasions and lecturing to medical students. As such, he declined his salary.
There was another thing that shocked me. Zambia's Christian population was over 90% at the time. The imprisoned Christian, Mr. Chiluba, had become president, and churches were active with many Christians.
I should be happy because the gospel had spread to the country, but I believed this was not the purpose or meaning of me being in Zambia. I don't know if it would be appropriate to describe my faith at the time as "manual" when there was so much, but I believed that the only way I could do missions was to tell unbelievers about Christ, invite them to church, give them Bible studies, and lead them to baptism. It took me about 17 long years to realize that this was not the whole truth but a part of evangelization.
I finally arrived in Zambia, Africa, and my dream came true, but I despaired within a few months.
(To be continued)