When I was baby, my father was in a traffic accident and was hospitalized for a long time. Since my mother needed to look after my father at the hospital and couldn't be home, my oldest sister ran a beauty shop in a room of our home and took care of us younger brothers and sister. Meanwhile, my father was released from the hospital, but he lost one of his legs. He started a business and most time he stayed at the shop. He rarely came back home.
Soon after my father came back home, my mother got uterine cancer and was hospitalized. Therefore I never saw my mother until I became a second grade student. One day my teacher told me, "Your mother came home from the hospital. You can go home now." I ran home from school across some lots. I saw my mother wiping the floor with a damp cloth.
My mother was with us a while, and she was hospitalized again. My father built a new home behind the shop. We could welcome our mother to our new home after she came back from the hospital again. Our whole family got together at our new home. The new room which still had the smell of the new tatami mat became her sick room. A doctor visited her everyday for a week. After that she passed away. I was ten years old at that time.
The death of my mother affected my mind and body. I became a devious boy at school. I did not like the songs, "Ame, Ame, Fure, Fure" ("When it is raining, my mother will come for me with an umbrella.") and "Yamada no naka no." ("Scarecrow standing with one foot in the field.") I had no mother to come for me when it was raining. I felt bad when someone sang the other song to make fun of my handicapped father.
I got pleurisy disease after my mother passed away. I was not hospitalized, but I had to stay home and missed one year of school. Even after I could go back to school, I could not participate in the P.E. class. Twice a week I had to leave school early and go to the hospital. I remember I had to keep going the hospital until I got into the eighth grade.
My oldest sister who took care of us got married. Since she had no children, she loved me like her own child. My brother-in-law also loved me. One day he was killed in a traffic accident. It happened a few years after my sister got married.
I became afraid of death because I experienced the deaths of some of my family members and I became sick. Even after I became a high school student, sometimes I had to stay in bed because of a high fever. In bed I was thinking where I would go when I die. I also questioned what was the meaning of life if all of us shall die sooner or later.
At that time I was interested in the Bible. I bought a copy of the Bible from a neighborhood bookstore. I recalled that there was an ad for a Bible correspondence course in a magazine for high school students. I was looking for the ad from the back issues of the magazine which I kept in my closet. That was the start of my Bible study which still continues up to now.
I also listened to a Christian radio program. The program said, "Now we can talk to anyone in the world through the telephone because of the development of technology, but we cannot have open communication with people around us." These words made hit me. I did not like to speak to the people whom I didn't like, and hated in my heart. I became aware of my sin as I was reading the Bible. As I was studying the Bible through the correspondence course it became clear to me that Jesus Christ died on the cross and resurrected from the dead on the third day for saving me from sin.
I had a desire to go to a church. I passed by a church on the way to my junior high school. I tried to get into the church. I found a sign which said, "You can see the pastor Thursday only." It was Friday when I visited the church. As I went back home, I saw a poster on a fence of a house which said, "On Friday and Saturday there are meetings which include hymns and a Bible message." It was posted by another church, I came into the church with some trepidation. After some songs by the choir a guest speaker began to speak. He was Rev. Yousuke Furuyama who passed away some years ago. His message was very harsh. He pointed out our sins by quoting Jeremiah 17:1. It said, "The sin (of Judah) is written with a pen of iron; With the point of a diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of your altars." He invited us to raise our hands if we wanted to accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior. I was able to raise my hand without any hesitation. One of the members of the church led me to confirm my faith in Christ. We had a private prayer time. I prayed to the true God and in the name of Jesus Christ for the very first time at that night. I found out later that he was one of the deacons and he was the one who put up the poster which I saw that afternoon.
On my way home I was singing a hymn which I had just learned at the meeting. "Since Jesus came into my heart..." The third stanza of this hymn says, "There's a light in the valley of death now for me, since Jesus came into my heart!" I was really released from the fear of death like this stanza said.
The Bible says, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Jesus Christ filled my empty heart. I received the love of God which is stronger than the love of my immediate family. I was sixteen years old at that time. The next Easter, I was baptized and grew up spiritually at the church. I really appreciate God's mercy. I have been able to work as a pastor only by the mercy of the Lord.