A chat with a Mason: Local organization’s goal to give back

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Photos courtesy of Okinawa Military Lodge No. 68
Photos courtesy of Okinawa Military Lodge No. 68

A chat with a Mason: Local organization’s goal to give back

by: Shoji Kudaka | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: January 10, 2017

Do you know what masonry is or who masons are? I’ll admit that I am one of those people who have only a vague idea about the organization.

Here on Okinawa, the Okinawa Military Lodge No. 68 is a charitable organization that aims to raise money for local charities, as well as strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and Okinawans.

I sat down with Lodge No. 68’s President, Jarvis Johnson, to help get a better idea of just what the group is about.

Can you tell us what Okinawa Military Lodge No. 68 does?
Johnson: Our organization is all about contributing back to the community. In other words, we’ve done a lot of things here in Okinawa to try and strengthen our bonds on and off base. We had a few visits out to orphanages, to go out to feed the kids, as well as interact with locals here. And on base, we kind of hold parties to bring the community together a little bit. Halloween and other parties, just to get the community see who we are, what we are all about. Because a lot of people don’t know much about us.

Is the group part of the U.S. military? What is the motivation to do all the extra work outside of your duty?  
Johnson: The Okinawa Military Lodge No. 68 is not part of the military, not affiliated at all with the military. We are a non-profit organization. Everything we do is pretty much volunteer based. We have a lot of volunteers come out, or should I say masons within the organization, that come out and contribute their time and effort. Being a volunteer is the sacrifice, it also has to be something that you are willing to do or something that you have in your heart to want to do. We are all about it. I love it. I would not change it at all.

What sort of events have you hosted before?
Johnson: We’ve had a few car washes at Kadena where we raised money to give to the high schools - we offer scholarships to the high schools. We had a few bake sales on Camp Foster, Camp Courtney. We had flea market down in Camp Kinser - a few of those. All the events we put together, they are pretty much for raising money for us to give back.

Do you get help from local organizations?
Johnson: We do have a grand lodge in Washington, but as far as getting help here, we pretty much do things ourselves. We are a non-profit organization, but at the same time we have to raise money as well to pay bills. Actually, as for internal support, we really don’t receive much. It’s pretty much up to us to get everything organized and put everything together.

Tell us about the history of the lodge.
Johnson: We are a fairly new organization here. In the 80s, Okinawa Military Lodge was established here in Okinawa, and came to be reestablished in 1997. The reason why Okinawa Military Lodge, is because of the military here, and that was just a decent name to call the lodge at that particular time. We have a lot of military members - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps - that are part of the organization. Right now, we have approximately 25 to 30 members on the island.

How often do you organize events?
Johnson: We try and organize an event or fundraiser, something charitable, every quarter. Whether it be a bake sale, car wash, or any other type of event.

What is special about being a mason here in Okinawa?
Johnson: Being here in Okinawa, this is something that gives us the opportunity to interact with the Okinawans, and learn more about how their way of life. There are a lot of events where we have Okinawans come out, we have interactions, and it’s great time.

How can people contact you or the group if they are interested in joining?
Johnson: If anyone is interested in joining, they can start by contacting myself, Brother Jarvis T. Johnson at jarvisjohnson36@gmail.com. For more info, you can also check out the website of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington & Jurisdiction at www.mwphglwa.org (Launching soon).

Do you have any new projects coming up?
Johnson: I think we will continue to do what we are doing right now, and hopefully reach out to communities that are further out. The ultimate goal that we are trying to achieve is to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Okinawans.

What made you decide to be a mason?
Johnson: I had a couple of family members. My granddad in particular - he was a mason. He would always come around and take us to some of the events that they’d host within the community. And at the events, I felt comfortable. Everybody was really friendly, everybody was open to talk, and really help out.

How would you explain what masons are to someone outside the organization?
Johnson: In order for anybody to have a better understanding of what we do, they have to come and talk to us. That’s the only way you will find out. Anything that you read about, everything that you hear is hearsay. If I was to meet an individual that came to me and just asked me, ‘What is mason about?’ I would tell them that it’s a brotherhood. It’s an organization that is all about making good men better, contributing back to the community, and helping each other as a whole. What I mean by as a whole, help everybody - that’s our job.

Your lodge has people from all the branches of services. Does it mean a lot to have people with different backgrounds and expertise?
Johnson: That’s a great question. I can definitely say that we don’t focus on one particular branch, particular race, color - that’s not what we really focus on. We focus on individuals that are intrigued to what we do, and having different types of experience, of course that definitely contributes highly to what we try to organize. It gives us flexibility.