The taxi pulled up in front of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bunga and Toshiro got out. Last night, he decided that he would pay a visit to Ife’s church. He wanted to surprise her. His heart pounded as he stared at the building. He was nervous. After the taxi drove off, he walked slowly towards the first set of doors which were wide open. People were filing in. There were two men standing there talking. As he passed them, they warmly greeted him and he smiled.
There were a few people in the foyer, talking. One of the women standing there, greeted him and handed him a bulletin. He thanked her and went inside the sanctuary. He glanced around at the pews, searching for an empty seat when he spotted a Japanese woman who was sitting beside the aisle. There was an empty seat beside her. He made his way over to her. She glanced up when he said “Good morning” in Japanese and smiled.
“Good morning,” she replied
“May I sit beside you?”
“Thank you.” He bowed before he gingerly squeezed past her and sat down.
“You are a visitor,” she said as he sat down.
He nodded. “Yes.”
“I’m Ichika Sato. What’s your name?”
“Did you come far?”
“I came from the Kampala Serena Hotel.”
“Oh. My neighbor, Mrs. Basemara works at that hotel. She isn’t here today but that’s her daughter, Miremba over there. I will introduce you after the service.”
Toshiro followed her gaze and saw Miremba talking to a mature couple. She was quite tall for her age and very pretty. He turned his attention back to Mrs. Sato. “How long have you been living in Kampala.”
“For about fifteen years. My husband and I moved here after we retired.”
“He’s not here with you today?”
“No. He died five years ago. I flew back to Japan with the body for the funeral. He wanted to be buried there.”
“I’m sorry about your husband. Do you have any children?”
“Yes. Three. Two sons and a daughter and eight grandchildren. My youngest grandson is currently here in Kampala. He goes back to Kyoto at the end of the month. What about you? Are you from Tokyo?”
“No. I was born and raised in Yokohama but moved to Tokyo after I graduated from Tsurumi University. My sister moved to Tokyo last year but our parents are still living in Yokohama. When I’m not abroad on business, I visit them every other weekend.”
“I have a niece who lives in Yokohama. It’s a beautiful port city and is extremely close to Tokyo but you don’t get a lot of tourists.”
Toshiro smiled. “I think that’s why my parents prefer Yokohama to Tokyo–less tourists.”
“The service is about to start. I really would like to continue our conversation. If you’re not in a hurry to get back to Kampala, I was wondering if you would have lunch with me. I don’t live far from here. I will invite Mrs. Basemara and Miremba to join us.”
“I would like that very much, Mrs. Sato. Thank you.” The music began and the congregation stood. Mrs. Sato sang from a hymnal while he followed along on the screen in front.
It was a very good service. He especially enjoyed children’s story and the special music. The sermon, What’s So Amazing About Grace was powerful. The two statements which impacted him were: “Grace is anything that I need, but don’t deserve that I could never repay, but God gives to me anyway. Grace is the face that God puts on when He looks at my failures, my faults and my flaws.”
After the service, Mrs. Sato and he chatted for a while and then after the church sanctuary was almost empty, she signalled to Miremba to join them. She immediately went over, a bright smile on her face.
“Hello, Mrs. Sato,” Miremba greeted her with a hug and kiss. When she straightened, her eyes shifted to Toshiro. “Are you a relative?”
Toshiro shook his head. “No. I only had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Sato today.”
“Miremba, Mr. Kobayashi is here on business and he’s staying at the hotel where your mother works.”
Miremba’s face brightened and she held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Kobyashi.”
He smiled and shook her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miremba.”
“Mom isn’t here, unfortunately.”
“I have invited Mr. Kobayashi to have lunch with me. I would like your mother and you to join us.”
“Sure. I’ll tell Mom. Are you ready to leave now?”
“Mrs. Sato nodded.”
Merimba looked at Toshiro. “Do you mind walking?” she asked. “Mrs. Sato lives in the same apartment as Mom and me. It’s about ten minutes from here.”
Toshiro shook his head. “No, I don’t mind at all. It’s a beautiful day.”
“Let’s go, then,” Mrs. Sato said and stood up. She preceded Miremba and Toshiro out of the sanctuary. At the entrance, she introduced Toshiro to the pastor. He was very pleased when Toshiro told him how much he enjoyed the church service and he invited him to visit again soon.
They left and walked to the apartment building. When they got there, Miremba left them and went to get her mother. Ife was in the kitchen filling a vase of flowers with water. She turned off the tap and carefully arranged the flowers she had bought in the vase. “You’re home early,” she said. “Usually, you would stay for a while longer.”
“Mom, Mrs. Sato has invited us to have lunch with her.”
“That’s very nice of her.” Ife finished arranging the flowers.
“Guess who else is going to be there?”
“Her grandson, Kento?” Ife took up the vase to take it to the sitting area. With a smile, she walked past Miremba who followed her.
“No. It’s isn’t Kento. It’s Mr. Kobayashi.”
Ife almost dropped the vase. She swung around and stared at her daughter. “Mr. Kobayashi is at Mrs. Sato?” she exclaimed. “But what is he doing there?”
“Well, he was at church and–”
“He was at church?”
“Yes. He’s very handsome.”
“Why didn’t he tell me that he was going to be there?”
“Maybe he wanted to surprise you. Mom, let’s go. We don’t want to keep Mrs. Sato and him waiting.”
Ife turned and carried the vase over to the table. After she set it down, she rushed past Miremba. “I have to change,” she said.
Several minutes later, they were in Mrs. Sato’s apartment. Ife’s eyes immediately sought Toshiro who was staring at her. She walked over to him. “Mr. Kobayashi, I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said, feeling a bit flustered. He looked so handsome in his suit. And the way he was looking at her made her heart flutter. “Miremba told me that you were in church.”
He smiled. His fingers itched to touch her lovely face. “Since I’ve been in Kampala, I haven’t been to church. After you were kind enough to tell me about yours, I decided that I would come today. I hope you don’t mind, Mrs. Basemara.”
“No, no. I don’t mind at all. I’m sorry I wasn’t there. How-how did you find it?”
“I like your church. I may visit it again.”
Mrs. Sato observed them with a smile. It was obvious that there was something between them although they tried their best to make it appear otherwise. “Let’s have a word of prayer and then eat,” she said. She asked Miremba to pray and then they tucked into the tasty meal she had prepared the day before. They talked and Mrs. Sato shared stories of her mission trips with her husband. Soon it was time for Toshiro to head back the hotel.
He bowed to Mrs. Sato as was customary in the Japanese culture. It was a sign of respect and expression of thanks. “Thank you for inviting me to your home and for your hospitality.”
Mrs. Sato smiled. “It was a pleasure having you. I’m sure I will see you again.”
Toshiro smiled. Then, he turned to Miremba and held out his hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you,” he said as they shook hands.
Miremba smiled. “Anata ni mo aete yokatta.”
Toshiro’s eyebrows rose. “You speak Japanese?” he asked, sounding impressed.
Miremba looked pleased. “Mrs. Sato and her grandson, Kento have been teaching me.”
“Mzuri,” he replied and she laughed.
He turned to Ife who said to him, “I’ll come down to the lobby with you.”
He said his goodbyes to Mrs. Sato and Miremba before he followed Ife out of the apartment. They didn’t say anything to each other as they walked to the elevator. As they waited for it to arrive, he turned to Ife. “Miremba is a lovely girl. You must be very proud of her.”
“I am.” The elevator came and the doors opened. They stepped inside and she pressed the button for the ground floor. “What did she say to you in Japanese?
“She told me that it was a pleasure meeting me too.” He turned towards her and his eyes darkened as they searched her face. Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her against him. His lips found hers and plundered them. They kissed for several minutes before he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face. “I’ve been dying to kiss you all afternoon,” he muttered thickly. “I can’t wait to see you later.”
“I’ll be there at the usual time,” she promised, trying to catch her breath. The elevator stopped and he released her. They exited and she waited with him outside of the building until his taxi came.
Next up is Ife’s Loss.
Sources: Japan Guide; Bunga SDA Central Church; Edarabia; Sermon Search