Trinity, Mt. Pocono
My name is Robert Joseph Butiste, but that is not the name I was given at birth. I was born in Sapporo, Hokkaido Japan. My mother, Tomiko Sasaki, is Japanese and I was given the name Sasaki Minoru. How I ended up in Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church is a story of pilgrimage and God’s love.
I was born in a Catholic baby home and the day I was born I was put up for adoption. My father was an American serviceman who had abandoned my Mom. I love my Mom who gave me the gift of life. I lived in the baby home for five years, along with 200 other orphan babies. Everyone one of us was Japanese-American.
When I turned five, I was transferred to a Boys Town run by Roman Catholic priests. The priests there were wonderful. They cared for us, taught us right from wrong, made sure we respected life and nature, and that we treated everyone the same. I was there two years learning about friendship, respect, and love. Then, on April 21, 1956, I was adopted by Herman Joseph Butiste and Joan Margaret Butiste.
My Dad was stationed at Misawa Air Force Base on the Island of Honshu as a radar technician and Mom was at home on B Battery Road. My Mom came to the airport at Sapporo to meet me. We boarded a plane, and I left behind my life at Boys Town and headed to my new home and parents. We landed at Misawa Air Force Base and I saw my new Dad for the first time, on crutches with a broken ankle. My new parents also adopted a girl two years old and named her Patricia Marie Butiste. My sister Patti was from the southern Tokyo area. Having been gifted with loving parents and a little sister, my whole new life and adventure began.
In September of 1956, my Dad was discharged from the Air Force and we left Japan and headed to my new home in America. We took a cruise liner for the two-week journey from Japan to Kodiak, Alaska, and then on to Seattle, Washington. My parents then drove us across America–the trip was unforgettable. My Dad drove through 26 states and I saw new, unbelievable sights: parks, cities, farmlands, mountain roads. I had endless questions and my Dad took time to explain everything. To this day, I still remember that trip across America with a sense of wonder.
We arrived in Oil City, Pennsylvania where my life got even better. All at once my family expanded. I met my new relatives: Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and the welcome we got was unbelievable.
At times growing up, I did experience cruel comments and racist remarks because I was Japanese-American. But my parents taught me about patience, understanding, and turning the other cheek. As a boy, I made every effort to learn about different countries and cultures. I also wanted to learn about other religions and their customs. In 1962 our family moved to Clearwater, Florida, and as we drove south I saw first-hand the effects of segregation and the civil rights movement. I have always believed we are all God’s children and we are all equal. The schools I went to were segregated till my senior year when we were integrated. As students, we had no issues or problems. The problems came from the parents. As young people, we all got along and worked together. This too, was part of my pilgrimage, my life journey, and the early lessons of love and respect helped me.
My pilgrimage eventually carried me back to Pennsylvania. As a young adult, I was active in the church, but then life events got in the way and for a long time I was without a church home. Then my wife had a heart attack and passed away in our home.
Six weeks after her death I went to Trinity Episcopal Church in Mt. Pocono, on September 19, 1999. The beautiful church with the stained glass windows filled my heart and I was back home. The 23 years I was away from the Episcopal Church were the lowest point in my life. I felt I had abandoned God and I was not myself. That first Sunday at Trinity was memorable. I sang in the choir for the first time since 1976. After the service I was introduced to the parish members and I met The Rev. Ginny Day. My outlook on life changed that day. I felt my life was going to improve drastically.
Another important event took place on my first Sunday at Trinity. I was introduced to Carol, who would become my wife two years later. For the first time in a long time, I was becoming myself again.
Through the years at Trinity I have become more involved in church because this beautiful church and community of people saved my life, renewed my faith, and made me a better servant of God. I owe my life to God and Trinity Church. My journey has been full of joy, happiness, and sadness. A few times, I almost hit rock bottom; but each time God lifted me up and said, “I am here for you always.”
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