My Best Birthday Present


I had been preparing to be a Buddhist nun. But everything changed in December 1985, when I was converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and was baptized a member of the Church.

I began working as a delivery driver for a catering company. Such a routine job may sound boring, but I enjoyed the opportunity it gave me to share the gospel and make new friends.

Strangely, it seemed that almost every customer had something to say about religion at one time or another. But I never told them I was a Latter-day Saint unless they asked about my church. Once in a while I made arrangements to visit with customers after work to tell them more about the Church.

Most of my customers were at home when I made my deliveries. But if no one was there, I left a note with the deliveries. One customer who was never home when I called was Mrs. Ueki. She began to respond to my notes, and I looked forward to receiving her heartwarming message every day. Although I had never seen her, I gave her the nickname of “Ducky.” She responded by nicknaming me “Rooster.”

About this time, I was preparing for my mission call to Hokkaido, Japan. In the middle of March, I wrote Ducky to tell her I was going out of town, but I didn’t tell her why. I didn’t want her to feel I had become her friend just to baptize her. I sincerely wished to continue our friendship.

But after many humble prayers, I finally decided to write Ducky and tell her I was a Latter-day Saint. I wanted her to know why I had joined the Church and why I was going to Hokkaido for eighteen months. The next day, I left her the letter along with two missionary brochures, The Purpose of Life and The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Two weeks after I arrived at Asahikawa, Hokkaido, I received a letter from Ducky. As soon as I opened it, I recognized the beautiful, familiar handwriting: “Dear Rooster, How have you been? How is life treating you? Are the people there nice to you? I hope you are not having any trouble. Do you eat well? I am concerned about your well being.”

My eyes filled with tears.

Following her opening greetings there was a space of a few lines, and then she began a new letter. This time she addressed me, surprisingly, as “Sister Iwasaki.”

“You left me the brochures on your last delivery. I had always told my friends that I was looking for the true church. After I finished your letter, I browsed through the brochures, and my heart became full. I asked myself, ‘Is this what I have been searching for?’

“I also wanted to know why you chose this church, so on the same day, I called the Osaka Mission Home in Hirakata. We set a date for my first appointment with the missionaries on April 9, which was followed by more visits on April 12 and 16 and on May 2.”

I was elated!

We corresponded with each other for six months, and I could sense her testimony growing over that time. On November 13, when I walked into the chapel, a member told me that there was a package for me. On the package was written “For Your Birthday.” It was from Ducky. Inside was a letter in which she wrote:

“Dear Rooster, I’m sorry I haven’t written to you earlier. Last Friday, my oldest son, Junya, who is eight years old, finished the last missionary discussion. Yesterday he was interviewed for baptism. Guess when the date of our baptismal service is? We could have set it earlier, but we planned it for November 27. Do you know why? Because it’s your birthday!”

That was the best birthday ever—knowing that Ducky and Junya were being baptized. My friends back home attended the baptismal service in my behalf.

I thank God for using me as his tool to help lead Sister Ueki and her family to the gospel.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Ron Peterson

[photo] Takami served as a missionary in Hokkaido, Japan.

After completing her mission, Takami married Kazuyoshi Masuko in the Tokyo Temple. They live in the Toyohira Ward, Sapporo Japan Stake.