Lesotho [le-soo'too] is a small mountainous kingdom in southern Africa. There the Wresch family happily served as medical missionaries from 1980. But by 1989, it was clear that our children, Keith and Alysia, would outgrow the little seven-grade school on our campus. And we began to think it might be time for our kids to learn to be Americans.
We heard that in the western Pacific was an American island with a twelve-grade Adventist school. On this same island was an Adventist clinic, where a thriving eye department had for five years sought an ophthalmologist. Maybe there could be a fit.
We shared our thoughts with church leaders, who promptly responded. The clinic flew me from South Africa to Guam, where I spent two weeks seeing and being seen, meeting with the Guam Medical Board and the SDA Clinic Board. I was urged to take pictures, and to return to my family with good stories. To learn such stories, I was introduced to Tommy Cruz.
Why Tommy? To visitors, Tommy offered warm Christian friendship, plus his own impression of Guam history and culture. Tommy had married Violet Clark Cruz, the first nurse sent as a missionary to start the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic.
Tommy loved to provide tours of Guam's backcountry – locally referred to as the "boonies". During my 1989 visit, Tommy gave me the first of what became a series of memorable tours.
We drove the road that links Guam Adventist Academy with Talofofo village. From this ridge, Tommy turned steeply down, toward the broad valley below. We drove on private properties and stopped at several locked gates. In each case, Tommy produced keys, opened the gates, and locked them behind us.
Our tour stopped at an unmarked location in the jungle. There, almost hidden, was a fighter plane — the low-winged Japanese Zero. We were free to thoroughly study this plane, as we climbed all over it.
Tommy showed us some of Guam's badlands, areas free from jungle, free from grass, offering only bare red soil. Here we wandered among wrecked war machines – the "tank farm".
We obtained clear views of Fina Reservoir, where the U.S. Navy had dammed a stream to provide water for southern Guam.
Tommy thought we might be thirsty, so he paused next to small coconut trees. He picked and chopped open the green fruit. I learned that our delicious and refreshing drink was "coconut juice", not "coconut milk',' a different product altogether.
Our Jeep stopped on a hill above a small stream. Tommy led us down the hill, stopping just above the stream, at a clump of bamboo. In the ground next to the bamboo was a small dimple. Why this depression? Tommy explained that this was all that remained of what had been a vertical shaft leading down into the hill.
This place had been the personal dwelling of Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese soldier who survived World War 2 and here lived undetected for 26 years, until his discovery in 1972.
Tommy described the architecture of "Yokoi's cave". The shaft was concealed by a trap door woven of local materials. Of course, only Yokoi knew where to find and lift this door. There he would climb down a bamboo ladder to a cave he had excavated below. Part of his home boasted a ceiling high enough that he could comfortably sit to cook his food. And what did he cook? Just about anything — animal or vegetable — that that he could find or catch near his cave.
If you need a fire, how do you create a draft in the bottom of a shaft? And where would the smoke go? A very small vent brought air from stream-level up to a fireplace. Above the fire, Yokoi hung an upside-down basket, woven to filter soot from the smoke. Above the basket, a larger shaft channeled smoke gently to the surface. To where exactly? To this clump of bamboo, where the greatly thinned smoke would make no smoke signals.
The chosen stream was not the Talofofo River and the cave site was not at Talofofo Falls, where a beautiful tourist stop now stands. There, more than a mile away, artists have created a mock-up of Yokoi's cave. He himself guided its design. When the display was complete, Yokoi honored it with a personal visit.
Tommy told us that when Yokoi was finally captured by two Chamorro hunters, he was delighted to discover that he had nothing to fear. He became the sensational guest of the Government of Guam. Then he returned to Japan a hero. In time, he chose a wife, and for their honeymoon, brought his bride to visit Guam.
At the time of my visit, the Guam Museum offered a display of military hardware that Yokoi had converted into cooking utensils. Before he was a soldier, Yokoi was a tailor. Starting with hibiscus and pandanas fibers, for 26 years he had woven and sewn his somewhat coarse appearing, but functional clothing.
With his tours and his stories, Tommy gave me a very special introduction to Guam. And until his last illness, Tommy was the official greeter for our Agana Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church. Adventists now often welcome each other with the words, "Happy Sabbath!" But each week Tommy's personal greeting was "Happy Birthday!"
Some people were delighted when Tommy seemed to remember their own birthdays. But for Tommy, Sabbath was even more wonderful: Sabbath is the birthday of our world.
(Photos courtesy of Sharon Schmidt)