The Life of Paul F. Rusch: The Road I Walked with Him (2) To Japanese

Tsuru Hiroshima


In the fall of 1954, there was an article in a local newspaper in Michigan about a Japanese Fulbright Exchange student who was studying Rural Sociology and Adult Education at Michigan State University. A KEEP supporter read the article and mailed it to Paul in Japan. Soon afterwards I started receiving letters and articles from Paul Rusch about the New Village Movement. At the end of each letter, he always wrote, gWhile you are in Michigan, visit dairy farmers and see the way they live. When you come back to Japan, come and see me at Kiyosato.h It was a sweet love call.

In the summer of 1957, I visited Kiyosato for the first time. In those days the trains on the Chuo Line still had steam locomotives. The trip from Shinjuku Station to Kiyosato by overnight train took seven hours. Since we traveled through many tunnels, my face got covered with soot. I still remember the stunning natural beauty that greeted me when I arrived at Kiyosato Station early in the morning. Surrounded by mountains, Mt. Fuji loomed splendid in the distance. I walked one mile up on the mountain trail, and found a red-roofed cabin. The Japanese flag and the Brotherhood of St. Andrewfs flag were fluttering on a flagpole in the front garden. Paul had prepared a hot bath and breakfast for me.

All day long, in his energetic way, Paul kept telling his first visitor about KEEP and his vision for the future. He had a warm smile on his face, and his charming, dreamlike narrative fascinated me. gJesus Christ fed people when they were hungry. He healed the sick. When people were in despair, He gave them faith and hope for the future. I am following what He taught me. When Jesus Christ told His disciples, eGo ye to the world,f I trust, both His arms were raised high, and His 10 fingers were pointing to the world. That is why I want to build 10 outreach stations in the villages. I want you to work there. Put to use what you have seen, heard, and experienced in America. Break out of the academic world of books and theories, convert your acquired knowledge to wisdom, and use it to help needy people.h

I stayed at Seisen Ryo Lodge for several days, helped at the Yatsugatake village festival, and participated in its events. I felt warm when Paul greeted village people, saying gYo!h which was fine for them. During my stay, whenever Paul found me among the villagers, he would say over and over again, gIf you can spare one year for KEEP, it would be superb.h Later, I discovered that gone yearh were the magic words that hooked Paul years ago. I was planning to teach at my alma mater, but very few schools hired female instructors in those days, and approval from the board of directors of the university was not forthcoming. So I thought that living in the village would be good for my research, and accepted Paulfs offer for just one year. Without knowing what kind of future lay ahead, I devoted myself to two projects: adult education, and the improvement of the living and working environment in the villages.

By the time I joined KEEP, the facilities that Paul had dreamed of: St. Andrewfs Church, St. Johnfs Nursery School, a rural library, St. Lukefs rural clinic, an Ohio-style dairy farm with 120 Jersey cows, and the Seisen Ryo Lodge, equipped with a hotel and assembly hall, were already in operation. The institution was established with the good will of and contributions from many people in America and Canada. It was time to make good use of them. My job was promoting educational awareness in the villages. I went to villages almost every day, staying overnight with the villagers. I visited dairy farmers with milking cows, farmers in the pastures, and young and old mothers at village meeting places, who were washing dishes and vegetables with water from the creek. I visited teachers at elementary schools and played with children. I tried to gain their acceptance and become their friend. Every day was like a surprise party for me, a woman from Tokyo who had just returned from America. To me, Tokyo then seemed 15 years behind America, and there was another 15-year gap between Tokyo and the Kiyosato villages. At first I could understand neither the Yamanashi dialect nor the Nagano provincial accent. In the villages that hadnft had access to a medical doctor for a long time, the villagers told me that gseeing the doctor here is like meeting the Grim Reaper.h A cow or horse was a precious asset, and lived under the same roof with the family that owned it. When they needed to have a doctor come from the town down below the mountain, they took an animal with them as transportation for the doctor. By the time they came home, the doctor would be tired from the trip on horseback, and the sick person would be dying. They told me another spine-chilling story: customarily, a womanfs first child was delivered by her mother-in-law. But the young mother was expected to deliver her second baby alone, in a storage shed with a straw mat on the floor.

Dr. Kikue Uematsu, the head of St. Lukefs rural clinic and wife of the rector of St. Andrewfs Church, visited the sick, treated them, examined pregnant women and coaxed them to have their babies at the clinic. She was really working hard for the villagers, while raising four children of her own. I too tried very hard to convince sick villagers to come to our clinic. It did not take long to realize that the best way to solve problems was to gain the consent of the clan elder. During winter, the only heat they had in their homes was an open hearth in the center of the room. I could see the stars through the reeds on their roofs. Most of them were suffering from trachoma. Convincing them to wash their hands more often and getting eye drops from the clinic were my responsibilities. For water, they relied on spring water from the mountains or their well. Every spring we had dysentery patients because families living higher up the mountain would wash diapers and underwear in the stream, while the families down below would use the same water for cooking rice and vegetables. I always suggested that they boil water first and let it cool off for drinking, and to have their water analyzed at the prefectural public health office. That was also my job.

When I had time with Paul, I told him about those new discoveries and experiences. There was shock and astonishment in his big blue eyes as he listened. Immediately he would go and sit in front of his old typewriter; with his two index fingers, he would type letters to his supporters in America and Canada. His knack for writing letters was remarkable. He knew exactly what to tell, and to whom to write to ask for help. Addressing the envelopes by hand was Paulfs job. He would ask us to use colorful commemorative postage stamps ? not one, but two or three ? to make the letters more attractive to recipients.

As Paul had hoped, 10 outreach stations were built. The first thing I did when I entered one was wash the black light bulbs hanging over the hearth, which were covered with soot and tar, with detergent. The women were amazed at how much brighter the light was. Later we made lamp shades from kerosene oil cans. We were overwhelmed with joy. The rectors began offering Saturday School in addition to Bible classes. Whenever they could spare some time, they helped the villagers, working in the fields and digging ditches for families who needed a helping hand. Some of the villagers believed that the rectorfs uniform was a black shirt with straw hat and high rubber boots. I helped them with their reading and writing skills, using newspapers and magazines as teaching materials. We knit socks and gloves with yarn donated by my friends. We even washed and shampooed our hair together at the outreach stations. Public health nurses from St. Lukefs Hospital in Tokyo held childcare classes and gave physical examinations. When a youth group wanted to learn to use knives and forks, I asked some American women who had come to KEEP on vacation to help. They demonstrated Western-style cooking at Seisen Ryo Lodge, and held classes in table manners for young adults. We learned how to make cottage cheese and named it gmilk tofu.h What a sweet memory that is! With the generous support of former classmates, I organized movie nights and mini-concerts at the outreach stations. When I started a Family Planning Program sponsored by the American firm Procter & Gamble, the gjust one yearh I had promised had already flown away somewhere. Paulfs skillful attack and clever strategy resulted in my marrying Ryozo Natori, executive director of KEEP in the spring of 1959. I became a permanent resident of Kiyosato and, from that time on, Paul was the center of our family life.


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