Elder Seiya Tanaka, a regional representative in Japan, and his wife, Kiyo, had a longtime dream fulfilled last spring.
With the help of many friends and volunteers in the United States, they were able to take a group of hearing-impaired Japanese members on a general conference tour to Salt Lake City.Sister Tanaka does sign language during newscasts on a Japanese television station and she and her husband acted as interpreters on the trip.
The members who made the trip - 35 hearing-impaired and about the same number of interpreters - had been encouraged by Elder Tanaka beforehand to save money for the trip, and additional assistance made the trip a reality.
The highlight came when they attended the Sunday afternoon session and sat together as a group in the Tabernacle. For the other three general sessions, they went to a theater in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square where they viewed a broadcast and had sign-language interpreters.
"It was inspiring" to attend the conference sessions, the group agreed.
Since the journey to the United States was likely a once-in-a-lifetime event, arrangements were made for a stopover in California and a visit to Disneyland en route.
The group arrived in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 28. Before taking them to their hotels, the bus drivers circled Temple Square so the members could get their first glimpse of the temple and tabernacle.
A week full of activities included a temple session for those with recommends, a tour of Temple Square, viewing the film "Legacy," and a shopping trip to Park City. The tourists also learned Western line dancing from a group of students at Murray High School and spent time in the homes of host families who acquainted them with the typical LDS lifestyle in Utah.
Members of a ward for the deaf and a Japanese ward in the Salt Lake Valley provided welcoming programs and banquets. The Japanese visitors and hearing-impaired members from the Salt Lake area were able to communicate on a limited basis because some of the sign language of the two countries is similar.
When the time came to return home the day after conference, all the members of the group were happy to have shared in the dream that Elder and Sister Tanaka helped come true.