The Yawata Shrine had been devastated by the tsunami with cars washed into the grounds, the shrine flooded, and sacred relics scattered and destroyed. Eighty missionaries from Tokyo spent the day clearing out the debris and salvaging the shrine's treasures.Their service did not go unnoticed by local religious leaders.
When Moriyasu Ito at Meiji Shrine saw the pictures of the service project in Tagajo he was overwhelmed and contacted the Church, which has had a long-standing relationship with the shrine. A priest who has responsibility for international affairs at the shrine, he has studied at BYU and lived with an LDS family in Provo, Utah.
At the invitation of leaders of the Mejia Shrine in Tokyo, missionaries and their leaders had an opportunity to explain why they render such service.He exclaimed, "Even we have not done anything to help the shrines in Tohoku. We want to know why the Mormons have done this."
President William S. Albrecht of the Japan Tokyo Mission introduced eight missionaries who had worked on the project. Each of the missionaries spoke before a group of around 50 priests and employees, describing the feelings they had while working at the Yawata Shrine. Warmth, gratitude and happiness were a consistent theme in their remarks. During a question-and-answer session, Meiji priests asked why the missionaries chose to go on a full-time mission. The missionaries discussed their personal motivation for taking time out of their lives to give service to Christ.
Sister Cindy Grames, a full-time missionary who directs Public Affairs in the Asia North Area with her husband, Elder Conan Grames, explained, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has great respect and appreciation for Meiji Shrine and its clergy. The Yawata project was an opportunity to strengthen the bonds between our two religions as well as lend a helping hand to a friend. The Shinto religion epitomizes the culture and beauty of this great nation. We were pleased to help."