by my dad, Les Grove
The Story of how Carolyn and I Met
I was getting bored with the physical inactivity of the schedule of Japanese language study as winter snow melted and spring came to Niigata in 1958. The JEM Mission Center was on Kitanakajima Street, in Nagaoka, and Cora Harris lived on the third floor, with the mission office in the front room up there. I had a room on the second floor. There were about four steps up from the street to the genkan, the front entrance, at the second floor level. Downstairs there was the kitchen, a dining area, two rooms for language classes, and some storage space. The ground level in the back yard was the same as the floor in the lowest level of the Center, and the storage building back there had a second floor apartment, where Jim and Blodwen Brisbin lived.
Aki Uchida had begun his ministry of starting a church in the town of Koide, and I went with him each Sunday, taking along my accordion to play for the singing. Aki was still taking Japanese language classes that winter, and he lived in a room in the second house down from the JEM Center. Each Sunday morning Aki and I caught a bus to the train station, where we boarded a train for the 50 minute trip to Koide. The meeting room in Koide was on the third floor of a small store building. Aki and the believers found a lot beside the river, which they bought for a church location. They made plans for the building, then started to make concrete blocks for the construction.
The blocks were made at the Bible School, in Kujiranami. This fact inspired a bright idea. I wanted to help with this job, so I persuaded the language committee that I could learn just as much while helping to make blocks as I could in Nagaoka. So I kept the textbook nearby as I worked with one or two other men to mix concrete, pack it in the block forms, then remove the forms and repeat the process. As we worked, I would repeat the basic sentences until I had memorized them well, which I then used with other words to make conversation. One sentence of the lesson stayed with me: "Me ga mawaru hodo isogashii desu" that is, "I am so busy that my eyes are going in circles (rotating)." We did a lot of blocks, I learned the whole lesson, and I felt a lot better.
While it was still winter I went up to Nojiri with Morris Jacobsen and Bob Spaulding. They knew about the Nojiri Lake Association, and that some lots were available. I went along when they went to look at the lots. Later, when the snow was gone at Nojiri, they went back to clear underbrush from the lots, and I went along to help. I didn't know the effect the sumac (urushi) bushes would have on me, but I soon found out as a rash broke out on the parts of my skin that had touched the branches.
At the beginning of July, 1958, I went to Karuizawa to help Mr. Tygert, the leader of the Karuizawa Bible Institute, with the construction work he was doing then. The previous year, shortly after my arrival in Japan, Mr. Tygert had been given five large buildings at a U.S. military base near Osaka. The land was scheduled to be returned to the Japanese government, and the buildings had to be removed. Four men from JEM went to help in dismantling those buildings at that time. The result was that Mr. Tygert had an enormous amount of building material to work with. I worked on the construction there at Karuizawa Bible Institute during July, but when the JEMA conference began all construction stopped.
Everyone was free to attend the meetings. Many who came to Karuizawa for the conferences stayed in the rooms that the Bible students vacated when they left to go to their homes or to work during the summer break. Most of the JEM missionaries came for the conference. This was also an opportunity to see friends from other missions who were working in other parts of Japan, and to meet new people.
I arrived early for the first meeting of the conference. Approaching the church building, I heard organ music. As I entered the door, I looked over to the organ and was struck with the young lady who was playing the organ so well, obviously an accomplished musician. Her beauty, together with the rich music she played, had a powerful effect on me. I felt that I wanted to marry her, to have the joy of her person with me always.
I had gone to Japan single because of a conviction that I would find the wife that God had chosen for me in the country where I would go as a missionary. So I was single and without any romantic attachments, and 28 years of age when I went to Karuizawa that summer. I was longing to find my wife. After I saw the organist she became the subject of my earnest prayers.
But I didn't know anything about her. I wanted to meet her, but I didn't know how to arrange an introduction, and was cautious about doing something that would spoil the possibilities of a relationship with her. She seemed so young that I thought it would be foolish for me to think seriously about her and marriage.
During the four days of the JEMA conference I looked for opportunities to meet her. No success. During the day off between the conferences there was a ball game, and I saw her there. But it started to rain, and she disappeared. However, that evening there was a practice for a volunteer choir that was to sing in the worship service the next morning, which was Sunday. There she was again.
About 12 of us had gone to the choir practice in a van from the Bible School. On the way back I asked Faith Tygert who some of the people were at the practice. My only interest was to know the name of The Girl . I asked, "Who was the girl that sat beside June?" She replied, "That is Carolyn Ahlstrand, my piano teacher."
I had been asked to sing a solo on Tuesday, and I saw my opportunity. After the morning service, I watched Carolyn and Faith as they went out, and I followed. They stopped to talk for a bit, so with boldness of desperation I came near, and said, "Faith, I would like to meet your piano teacher." She introduced us, and I went on to say, "I have an ulterior motive. I have been asked to sing a solo, and I wonder if you would accompany me?" And Carolyn said she would do it! She did not realize that my deepest motive was that I wanted her to "accompany" me for the rest of my life.
Carolyn asked me if I would like to practice the song, but I had not chosen a song and I didn't know what else to say so I said it was not necessary. I soon realized that I had missed another opportunity, so I chose a song, then asked Carolyn to play for a practice. After the practice I asked if I could walk with her to the place where she was staying.
I enjoyed walking home with Carolyn, but she had a tiny flashlight which was useful because the evening meetings lasted till well after dark. A couple of other ladies enjoyed walking in the light of the flashlight. Manley Chase noticed this, so he suggested that we "throw away the flashlight". Carolyn didn't bring the flashlight the next evening, and we walked back without company.