Friday, May 22, 2009

Swine Flu in Kansai

Please don't worry, but the swine flu has infected our mission. The flu showed up in Kobe City a little over a week ago. Schools closed in an attempt to contain it, but it has found its way to several other parts of the mission including Osaka and Kyoto. The Japanese government is taking a very cautious approach to this even though it appears to not be much more dangerous than the seasonal flu. Missionaries have continued to proselyte with no real restrictions, but they have been instructed to be cautious, wash hands often (luckily the Japanese bow and do not normally shake hands) and avoid large crowds or people with symptoms. Ricky and James have been out of school all week, but have been told they can return to school next week. Other cities are closing their schools now though. Usually they close them for a week in hopes of allowing the virus to die out before it can spread further. No missionaries have contracted the flu, nor have any members to my knowledge.
I was in Tokyo for about three days this past week for a mission president's seminar. While I was gone, the assistants and Sister McIntyre picked up our new office couple, the Pypers, from the airport. The Japanese all wear masks to prevent "getting" sick. We have been assured this will have little affect, but the Japanese still wear them. When the Elders walked into the terminal, there were people, mainly high school students going on a school trip, packed into the terminal. For some reason when they saw the two American Elders they were surprised and started clapping. The Elders ate it up.
There has been no deadly cases of the flu, but the situation has began to have in impact on the work. The church policy is for us to strictly follow the government's directions and when a city closes its schools and asks that you not hold any big gatherings, church meetings are cancelled. As a result, we have had some baptisms postponed and this coming Sunday there are no meetings being held in several parts of Osaka and all of Kyoto. In fact, stake conference in the Kyoto Stake was completely cancelled. This month has turned out to be a challenge as we seem to have had a wave of bad luck and have lost many people scheduled for baptism for various reasons and now a flu epidemic. We have been seeing great success this year in the mission but it currently feels like the adversary has stepped up his activity to thwart our efforts from all directions. We can't baptize people unless we can get them to church! Nevertheless, we will move forward and establish and strengthen the church in Kansai.
On a related note - To our surprise the other day, while the elders were in the front of the church, a black car pulled up and a man got out and introduced himself as a member of the Yamaguchi Gumi (The Japanese Yakuza). That is one of the most famous crime groups in Japan. The Yamaguchi have their headquarters just a few blocks from the mission home. He handed the elders three boxes of surgical masks and said since the flu broke he thought we might need them. For those not familiar with the Japanese crime syndicate, these are the real thing. They have however, over the years been friendly to the church and can often be seen looking after the neighborhood. One year a couple of them showed up with bags of candy at a primary holloween party. At the time of the Kobe earthquake the church and the Yamaguchi Yakuza were the only groups to provide water and support to many people in the immediate area in the days following the disaster. Just an interesting side story about the mission. I would post a picture of their headquarters but they may see it and try and find me!


Kat said...

President McIntyre, my son Jared will be amongst your ranks soon. He heads to the MTC on July 29th. I have been reading your blog ever since he received his call. I googled everything I possibly could on Kobe.

I have enjoyed reading every entry and Jared and I smile every time we see the photos you share.

This latest entry was awesome! Jared and I cracked up reading about the elders in the Airport getting an applaus and then the bit about the Yakuza was so entertaining and even touching. I am impressed about their caring affection towards the church and our elders. You never know who's watching... it is wonderful that their hearts are softened somewhat enough to be friendly.

Thank you for sharing it all with us! I pray for you, your family and the sons and daughters of Helaman that are serving amongst you.

Ashley said...

Hahah! This is hilarious! By far my favorite picture of Rasmussen Choro yet! How funny! Thanks for blogging this!