Above the Clouds, Beyond the Moon, Eternal Blessings

Above the Clouds, Beyond the Moon, Eternal Blessings

From an interview with Joy Araki of the Surrey British Columbia Stake

From an interview with Joy Araki of the Surrey British Columbia Stake

“Joy is my nickname,” Sister Hisae Araki explained. The name suits her. She exudes that quality. 久恵 (Hisae), her given name, means “eternal blessings”. “I was born and raised in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan in 1948,” Joy says. “Into a good family, three generations in one house. My mother was a nice person, always smiling. My father taught me respect for everyone. I wasn’t old enough to wonder about the purpose of life exactly, but when I was a child my grandmother read me the fairy tale 'Non-chan Rides In the Clouds' every night. From a hammock attached to a tree in the garden, I looked up into the sky and wondered what is in or above the clouds.” At age 7, a friend invited Joy to attend a nearby Christian church. There Joy had her first exposure to the existence of God. After the first visit, Joy kept going by herself. “It put a good feeling into my heart,” she says.

In 1966, Joy studied graphic design in Tokyo, but near the end of the two-year program realized that what she really wanted to do was to help people, perhaps through social work. Her father denied her request to re-enter the university and so she worked for two years in Tokyo. “My landlords often invited me to dinner with them. I cannot forget one night after dinner watching TV with them as the US Apollo 11 landed on the moon! Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the first time in human history! I cannot forget it,” Joy says. Even with such broadened horizons, Joy often wondered if there is more beyond the moon.  “Why am I here, what is the purpose of life?”

Each day at the busy Kichijo-ji train station, Joy passed two clean-cut young men dressed in nice suits and ties. These young men talked to everyone that passed by. “One day I went with a young lady to the bullet train station where two of these young men stood beside me holding a book. ‘Who are they?’ I asked my friend. ‘Missionaries,’ the woman said.” Joy engaged the missionaries in conversation and they invited her to come to church with them.

The small congregation of 12 was not large enough at that time to even be a branch, so they met in a small house. “That Sunday, I walked to the Mormon Church. A smiling woman opened the sliding door and welcomed me,” Joy remembers. The missionaries taught Joy about the first vision. “I started out knowing nothing. They showed me a slide show about a 14-year-old boy that prayed to Heavenly Father and was visited by two persons, the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I was amazed by this. I asked the missionaries, ‘Is this true?’ They said, ‘Yes, it is true. Would you like to know more?’” Joy got a Book of Mormon and read Moroni 10:4 about how to receive an answer to prayer. “I felt the Spirit. I will follow this,” she said. “I truly believed in Jesus Christ.”

She put her heart into the scriptures, reading the testimony of the three witnesses, the eight witnesses and then read again Joseph Smith’s story. “Reading about Nephi, I told myself I want to live the way Nephi lived. I couldn’t stop reading and finished the book in three weeks.” She says. “I knew I had to pray. I prayed, ‘This is a good book and I believe it is correct.’ I got a warm feeling and knew this is a true book,” Joy says.

By the time the missionaries gave her lesson five, Joy knew she’d found the purpose of her life. She stopped drinking tea and embraced the law of tithing in preparation for baptism. “After lesson six when the missionaries said I could be baptized, I clapped my hands and jumped for joy. I was baptized September 6, 1970. I was a good person before, but I became a better person,” she says. “In the beginning I didn’t know lots of things, but my spirit absorbed the gospel like a dry sponge.”  With the story of Joseph Smith's first vision still in her heart, she committed herself to the Church. “I went with the missionaries and stood on the street handing out literature. Father didn’t approve. Six months after my baptism, I asked Father if I could go on a mission. He said ‘No’.”

“I realized I had not been a good example for my parents and repented. My mother's working day started at 5 a.m. She cleaned around the house and cooked breakfast by 7 a.m., so I got up early in the mornings and helped her do her daily routine. A year later, I wrote a seven-page letter to my father, testifying about family happiness, my testimony about the restored gospel and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I watched as he read it. While reading, he suddenly broke into tears. ’Father, can I go on a mission?’ I asked. He could only nod his approval.”

Joy served in the Japan Mission from June 1972 to December 31, 1973. “Now I had my own slide projector and film of the first vision,” she beams. “It was my mission to bear my testimony to as many people as I could, so even if they didn't accept our invitation to learn about our message, someday they might remember my testimony.” Thirty-eight people joined the Church in the 18 months Joy served her mission.
Above the Clouds

Joy came to Canada at the behest of a man who was a Church member she’d met only a few times in Japan. She wanted to live on the same continent as the prophet and the Nephites. Despite not knowing the man well, Joy married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1974. Following Joseph Fielding Smith’s admonishment to complete four generations of genealogy, Joy started her family genealogy in 1975 and completed four generations, then continued to find more names. She performed her first temple ordinance work in the Cardston Temple in 1976.

Through a difficult marriage and growing family, her testimony never diminished. In January 2011 while living in Surrey, British Columbia, Joy’s home teacher came to her home and asked if she could go on a mission. “It surprised me because of my marriage situation—my husband had no testimony. I felt like crying.” Two weeks later, Joy’s husband told her he was divorcing her and leaving for Japan. Not surprised, she realized, “Now I can go on a mission.”

In 2013, Joy Araki went to serve for 18 months in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library just one block from where the Prophet resides. There she helped people find their ancestry information from the Koseki, the official Japanese family register. Joy translated records for patrons and wrote letters of introduction to the Japanese government, so that Japanese descendants could gain access to their family information. “I loved my mission. The spirit was so strong and I got to speak Japanese all day,” she says. “I am the last generation that can read and write Japanese, so I must help. My joy comes when my guests are happy. I have been refined by pursuing excellence. I want to live a good life the rest of my life. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I have a hope of bright future.”
Above the Clouds

Joy’s plans to return and serve another mission became a reality in November 2015 when she received a new call to serve in the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, entering the Provo Utah MTC in May 2016. In the meantime, she takes classes in English Learning Studies at a local university in preparation for further studies. She helps people in the local wards with the translation of their family records. “Recently I have completed Koseki translation for a new member. He obtained this family record in 2003 and waited a long time for someone who could translate it. Then I came back from my mission.” She smiles. “Now he can go to the temple for his family. Heavenly Father wants to bless his children. I embraced the service to the dear Lord each day by helping American Japanese, Canadian Japanese and others. It was my honour to serve them in the uplifting environment of my mission.”

As her name suggests 久恵 (Hisae), is helping God extend “eternal blessings” to His children. Sister Araki finds no greater joy than serving the Lord—that’s her purpose in life.