40 Years in America

Blessed Life

Tony Aparo

In May 1979, I was returning from a trip to Atlantic City with Hank Lemmers. He and I had been working on a restaurant project for Col. Pak and had gone to New Jersey to purchase some furniture at auction. Some of the furniture was to be delivered to Mt. Kisco, one of our facilities. After driving all night long we pulled into the Mt. Kisco center at about 7:00 am, ready to rest for a few hours before returning to New York City. Just as we pulled into the drive, one young brother came out the door yelling that there was a matching taking place and that all eligible candidates should report to the New Yorker Hotel within the hour. One Japanese brother, Hiroshi Aono, and myself got into the van and took off down the Hudson River Parkway, arriving at the New Yorker just in time to participate in the song service in preparation for Fatherís arrival.

Father came and began to speak. I was wide awake but my mind was a blur. I couldnít believe that this was really happening. After a flurry of matchings, Father came our way, pointed to me and pointed to someone else. It happened so fast I couldnít even tell who it was that Father had pointed to. In any case, one sister stood up and we walked upstairs to talk. Somehow, even though I had tried to prepare for this moment and to accept whatever spouse Father gave me, I found myself quite unprepared and I told her so. I had believed for a long time that I would have an international marriage and that I imagined that she would probably be Oriental. Interestingly, this sister expressed the same thing to me, only she had imagined that her spouse would be European. We ended up expressing to each other that perhaps we should both go back downstairs and we politely parted.

This was an extreme trauma for me, and I began to repent and wonder if I was indeed ready for the Blessing. I decided that I wasnít and went downstairs to tell my spiritual father and Mr. Salonen, who was helping the Americans at the matching. Mr. Salonen really encouraged me to try again. At first I didnít think this was even an option, but I half-heartedly went to sit down in the group again, not really expecting Father to call on me again. After lunch, Father began again and within five minutes of sitting down, Father asked the brothers to raise their hands if they wanted an Oriental woman. I was surprised, because I thought that all the Japanese and Korean sisters had already been matched in the first round. But for some reason, this sister had not come until the second session, having been delayed. I raised my hand. I could not see who she was or what she looked like because Father was standing between us. He scanned the upraised hands and chose one brother. My heart sank. After looking him up and down Father told him to sit down because he was too tall. I was still in the running, but there were about 20 brothers around me with their hands up. At that moment, Father locked his eyes on mine and called to me to stand up. It was then that Father moved and I could see my future bride. Her name was Chiyo Suehiro. I had met her before while working in Gloucester in the tuna business. She was working in Gloucester at the old Magnolia house. Father had chosen some members to live in Gloucester as a pioneer effort. Our first meeting there was when I had stopped back at the house to pick up some equipment at the end of the 1977 season.

So I was quite surprised to see her standing there being matched to me. As Father stood us together he sent me off with a slap on the back and said, "Sheís good for you." I have never doubted those words since then for they have proved to be true over and over again.

Our life was a struggle at first. Her former husband had fallen while in his mission country and she had just learned of his infidelity shortly before the matching. I learned later that she had been willing to wait for seven years, but he had not. A few weeks after that meeting she was encouraged to be re-matched at this matching. It took me a long time to win her trust. Her faith was also tested when shortly after our matching I was asked to go to South America to a business mission. These were exactly the circumstances through which her former husband had left. So she was again asked to wait faithfully.

We separated until July 1982, occasionally being able to visit, always writing and making monthly telephone calls. I will never forget our telephone calls. We would wait with anticipation on that day and I would be so nervous, wondering if she would forget or not. We took turns making the calls and when the phone would ring at the appointed hour, it would be such a relief. Then it would be over and I would have so much energy for the next month, feeling secure that my spouse was spiritually supporting me. In that 3 1/2 year period we grew in love and prepared for the day we would be together.

During this period, we had the opportunity to also visit with her parents, once in Japan, once in New York after the matching and once in my hometown of Omaha. Chiyoís family is from a Buddhist background. In July 1982 we were Blessed. My mother, who had then recently also become my spiritual daughter, arranged to come to New York City to witness the Blessing. One of my other spiritual children was also being Blessed at the same time, so it was a real family affair. After 40 days my wife joined me in Kodiak. Even though we thought we knew each other from 3 1/2 years of correspondence and brief meetings, we were quite unprepared for all the differences we encountered culturally.

The hardest was communication on a heartistic level. The western concept is that whenever we have something on our mind, we let it out. But the Oriental mind is different. They keep it in, let it float around a little, then digest it. Then they work out a solution in their hearts that you may never hear about. For me it was maddening, because I thought I was being ignored and she probably thought I was losing my mind. If there was a problem, I wanted an immediate solution and resolution. Somewhere between the two worlds there is an answer, and over the years we have learned to appreciate one anotherís differences.

International marriages are probably the most difficult, especially those from completely different cultures. My wife and I consider ourselves fortunate to have had some preparation beforehand. She spent seven years with American brothers and sisters before the Blessing where she could at least learn the language and get acquainted with some of the culture. I also was able to spend a good deal of time with the Japanese members, even living with the Kamiyamas for a period of time.

One of the most memorable experiences for me was the birth of our fourth child, Daejo. He was our offering child to another couple. I would have to say that if there was one experience we shared that bonded us, aside from, of course, the birth of all our children, it was the experience of offering a child to another. This is a very personal experience that is difficult to explain in words. This experience led us to a place beyond culture. It was a glimpse into the realm of True Love.

My wife and I have come to a stage in life where we are interdependent. We rely on each other, support each other and complete each other. We are each otherís best friend.

I understand now why Father said that sometimes he wants to just follow Mother around. I feel like that sometimes. I canít wait to tell her about the dayís events. We know there is more growth for each of us, but we are confident that our love and love for God will serve us in all situations. We trust also that the love that we share can also be a source of hope for our children.

In our current mission, the unity and trust that we have built has helped us to adjust more easily to our new environment and to support our children who struggled at first in a new culture. This is by far the most difficult mission that we have had, and we thank God for all the struggles that we have faced as a couple over the years that have helped us in some way to prepare. Without this we could never have accepted this calling.

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