Swept Clean by Strong Winds


The dream was so real it awakened me. Trying not to disturb my sleeping missionary companion, I slipped from my futon (Japanese style bed roll) and groped through the predawn shadows for my journal—I wanted to record the dream before it was reduced to hazy impressions.

“You have been swept clean by strong winds,” said the man in the dream, as he studied my face intently. Then he smiled and stepped off the platform where I had stood, trembling. Who was he? Where had I been standing and why? What did the words mean, exactly? His brief, poetic assurance was branded on my heart as if by fire.

My mission in Japan was nearly over. I would be leaving the Tokyo South Mission in a matter of days and, like most missionaries nearing the end, I had been reviewing my accomplishments of the past year and a half with a critical eye. Had I done everything I could to be a successful missionary? Well, a good part of the time I had. Yes, I had tried: I had really worked hard, despite my imperfections. The last month or two had been particularly challenging, though. The heat had been terrible, and my companion had been the target of an exhausting virus. I had become disheartened and felt the need to evaluate my efforts in a more positive way, acknowledging the good I had accomplished on my mission with its attendant personal growth.

Street contacting in the bitter February chill, for example, had resulted in the baptism of Shizuoka Ward’s newest Young Adult representative. Abiding by our mission president’s “total dedication” plan, we had been blessed with the opportunity to meet and teach other spiritually strong members-to-be. Learning to live harmoniously with a variety of different personalities had taught me greater patience and love. Bearing frequent testimony to people thirsting for the truth had brought me closer to our Heavenly Father. And in experiencing a time when we had no baptisms, I had developed a greater dependence on him. Indeed, I had had a part in changing lives for the better, including my own.

The words rang again in my ears, “Swept clean by strong winds.” Yes, I was sure that the Spirit had communicated something important to me.

The comfort I received from the dream carried me through the remaining days of my mission with vigor and grace. Familiar sights, sounds, and smells planted themselves firmly in my memory. Seaweed-covered riceballs never tasted better; the crowded, rattling trains were actually fun to ride; and, of course, the smiles and handshakes from my Japanese friends were sweeter than ever.

Sadly, though, it appeared that I had had my last glimpse of Mount Fuji weeks earlier, before the summer haze settled in, obliterating my view. Only a few miles from the mountain for half of my mission, I had come to delight in her beauty and strength and, in fact, had penned these lines in her honor.

Lofty summit
Pristine mountain
Rising noble in the midst
of mediocrity—
Morning monarch
Evening guardian
Symbol of my own sky-reaching
possibility.

Grateful that I had been permitted to enjoy the inspiration of Fuji for so much of my mission, I determined to waste no time regretting that I would not see her again.

My renewed efforts and prayers of faith were rewarded by my Father in Heaven. New members, thrilled with the blessings of the gospel, brought their friends to us to learn how they, too, could find such joy. Contacts who had received the introductory lessons months earlier called, requesting that they be able to hear the remaining discussions. The proprietor of a noodle shop asked for help designing an advertising campaign to attract English-speaking foreigners and enthusiastically accepted the Joseph Smith story in the process. During the last week of my mission, six people were baptized. Packing my suitcases, I realized that the frustration and heartache of earlier weeks had evaporated, giving way to a feeling of profound peace and satisfaction.

The morning departure was a blur of bags and farewells. Too rushed for the typical mugi mikan (whole-wheat cereal tangerine) breakfast, we ran from the apartment to the van which would take us to the train station. Once outside, I felt a peculiar exhilaration, quite distinct from the natural anticipation of seeing home and loved ones. The breeze! Yes, it was the breeze we had missed for so long in the sultry summer heat. Brilliant sky replaced the dense gray mist which had enshrouded the area since the previous May. Wind-whipped waves pounded the coast with a vigor that replaced the stagnant air with a fresh sea mist.

My companion and I were exultant. Then, instinctively, I lifted my eyes—and there she was in all her splendor. Not a single cloud floated between Fuji and me to obstruct her clear, straight, imposing form. As my suitcases were being loaded onto the van, I stood alone for a moment, gazing upon one of God’s most magnificent creations, from which I had received the inspiration to “fight the good fight.”

Interrupting my reverie, a young native sister ran toward me, eyes wide with disbelief and pleasure. “Shimai, shimai” (Sister, sister) she cried, as she grasped my arm and gestured animatedly toward the mountain.

“Fuji-san!” She continued breathlessly, “You can see Mount Fuji so well today, shimai! Because the air has been swept clean by strong winds.”

[illustration] Illustrated by G. Allen Garns

Susan Chieko Eliason is area manager for a management training corporation, and a Primary teacher and organist in her Houston, Texas, ward.