Sasebo dons angel wings for kids
December 10, 2003
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — During the holiday season, Americans can be surprisingly generous and compassionate.
Just ask Sasebo Command Chaplain Cmdr. Harvey Ranard and his administrative assistant Mari Demoto. Their thumbs are calloused from nonstop scissor action. Their fingertips sticky with residual gumminess from strip-after-strip of Scotch tape.
Both of the chapel communities here — main base and Hario Housing Village — host activity-packed holiday visits at 1:30 p.m. Sunday for local orphans living at two nearby children’s homes.
During the visit, the children will receive gifts donated by Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations from each chapel community.
Demoto and Ranard spent Monday wrapping presents in conjunction with the Angel Tree program, which collects gifts each year for the Japanese orphans.
“Here at the main base, when we asked people to participate by selecting a child’s name — their age and gender was included — from the Angel Tree, it was just no time at all before all the presents were bought,” Ranard said Monday.
The combined total number of purchased presents: 144. Of those, 79 are for Omura Kodomo Children’s Home youngsters who will visit the main base congregation, and 65 for Seiko No Kishi children, who’ll attend Hario’s gift-giving party.
Gifts purchased had to be age and gender appropriate, and cost at least $15, officials said.
Ranard talked about the annual effort from his office, where resting against his bookcase was a shiny new purple bicycle for a child from an orphanage.
Across the room, on a loveseat where some sit and confide in the 52-year-old pastor, a hill of action figure sets, toys and batteries piled up. And behind a door, a box contained several versions of Barbie.
Ranard said a number of sailors volunteered to assist with the children’s events.
On Sunday, the gifts will be presented to each child, one-by-one.
Santa Claus will swoop into the main base event for a visit with Japanese children before zipping over to Hario’s party.
At both events, favorite holiday songs will be sung, other Christmas-related activities are scheduled and children will be served a traditional holiday meal, he said.
“Basically, the main base and Hario gatherings are ‘mirror’ events, just with a different local children’s home invited,” he said. “We feel like this time of year, events like this offer the command a great opportunity to have contact with our local community … our local hosts.
“We are the visitors here, you know, and it’s extra important for us to reach out to our neighbors.”
The command chaplain, a 30-year veteran of ministry — and a Navy chaplain since 1985 — said some of the best moments he recalls from service overseas involve interacting with foreign nationals.
“With events like these on Sunday, we can bring a little bit of Japan into our gates, and spend some quality time rubbings shoulders,” Ranard said, noting he also hopes children will learn to understand the religious foundation of the Christmas holiday.
He said he has no desire to turn the events into revivals, but wants to show it has a significance beyond retail sales.
“A good example of what Christmas means is contained within the very best gift you can give,” he said. “That gift, the best gift, is giving your time.”