Claramae Akiyama


Good morning.  Those of you who know me are probably very surprised to see me up here – and frankly I’m more surprised!  I don’t normally do things like this and I’m really nervous so bear with me.  This did bring most of my family to church this morning which is nice and I want to thank them for their support.

I was born in a small southern Missouri town, the third of four daughters, to a staunch German Methodist mother and an equally staunch Brethren father.  My mother taught all 12 grades in a one-room rural school in Nebraska and my father was a farmer.  In their youth and early marriage in Nebraska, my parents attended the Methodist church faithfully, but some time for some reason, they quit attending any church.  I did not attend church or Sunday School as a child or in my teens except on Easter and Christmas.  These two times were mainly due to the invitation and urging of close family friends whom my parents had grown up with in Nebraska and were living in the same town in Idaho as us.

We moved west when I was about two years old and continued moving around a lot while I was growing up.  I don’t know if this was one reason my family did not attend church or establish a “church home.”  However, we did believe and were spiritual, but I wouldn’t say “religious.”  We faithfully said our prayers and tried to live the Golden Rule, of which, unfortunately, I was found guilty of not doing a few times!

When I was in the 8th grade we moved to Nampa, Idaho and finally settled and put down roots.  A week after graduating from high school, I started work in Boise, Idaho for Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co. which, after numerous mergers and name changes, is now CenturyLink.   Five years later I and my next older sister were transferred to Salt Lake because the department we worked in closed.  The “family friends” I mentioned earlier didn’t like the idea of us moving to Utah and warned us about the “big city” and especially to not let the “Mormons get us.”   We had not heard much about Mormons before this as they weren’t prevalent then in Idaho or Oregon and Washington where we had lived previously.   We really didn’t know what to expect and upon their advice immediately began looking for a Methodist church when we had gotten settled here.  We had an apartment close to First Church and began attending here, but we never did join as members.  My sister went on to marry a Catholic guy and joined the Catholic Church.  I continued attending here and had met Ken at work who just happened to be Methodist.  He started coming to church with me and when we married in this church two years later, I was then baptized and we both became members.

This was in 1966 and I think is really when my faith journey began.  FUMC was not only “church family” but also “family” as neither of us had family here other than a sister apiece.  I didn’t know or understand much of the Bible, but through good friends here at church and the ministers, especially two who still remain good friends, I have learned some but will never fully understand a lot.  However, I like to feel that I am still growing and learning.  Things have not always been easy because I believe, but I know I am not alone during difficult times as well as joyous times.

When doctors told Ken and me that we would probably never have biological children we were disappointed and saddened, but those same friends and God saw us through.  We decided to adopt but at that time mixed racial marriages were not looked upon favorably so we weren’t able to find an adoption agency willing to accept our application.   After months of being turned down by ones we approached, we were advised to try the Department of Welfare.   They did accept us as they were making placements through the Canadian welfare agency.  Less than a year later we were blessed with our first son who was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; coincidently, that is where we had spent our honeymoon.  A year later we again began the adoption process anticipating a year or more wait.  Shortly afterward, we found out we were indeed expecting so we cancelled the adoption.  Sadly, however, that baby was not to be and I miscarried.  After recovering from that set-back, we again applied with the Welfare Department only to get the news they were no longer adopting from Canada.   Not to be deterred we once again started looking for an agency that would accept us.   We were steered to the Catholic Charities and were immediately accepted.  By the time they informed us there was a baby about to become our second child, I found out I was again pregnant.  Soon after that we adopted that baby, our second son.  Six months later I gave birth to our third son and 18 months after that our fourth and final child, another son was born!!

These were the best of times and the worst of times.  Raising four boys within a four-year age span as toddlers and then teenagers was challenging, but also very rewarding.  Our dear church friends and God saw us through some trying times and some wonderful times.  We feel blessed to have experienced it all.  I think of our family as having been chosen by God to be “ours” and that Ken and I were “chosen” to be their parents.

All four of our sons were baptized at FUMC, but stopped attending church and activities in their teens.  Three of our six grandchildren have also been baptized here.  Even though our family doesn’t attend now, they along with Ken and I have some cherished memories of First United Methodist Church – my first and only “church home.”