The Spiritual Journey of One Japanese Believer
by Fred Hersey
To read more about Free Will Baptist International Missions, visit www.fwbgo.com.
WATCHING CHRISTIAN HOMES COME INTO EXISTENCE on the mission field is always a blessing. However, the arduous process takes many years and much preparation.
In 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Hayashi, a newlywed couple, moved next door to us. He was a member of the Japanese military, and she was a piano teacher.
Mr. Hayashi spoke a little English. Although we didn’t interact often, they were good neighbors. Within a few years, they had two children: a daughter, Yoko, and a son, Hideki. Our fifth child, Paul, was born around the same time as Hideki. Although we invited our neighbors to church, they weren’t interested. Their children were not allowed to attend Sunday school or church with us.
This did not prevent the boys from forming a strong friendship as toddlers. Jabbering to each other in their native tongues, Japanese and English, they played together happily.
Hideki enjoyed the cookies, cakes, and other sweets Paul’s mother baked. Occasionally, he and Yoko came to the back door and asked if we had any cookies because they were hungry.
When the boys were in elementary school the Hayashi family moved about a half mile away. The friendship survived. When Paul was 12, Hideki asked him to make an audio tape recording of a book, ABC My English. Mimicking radio news commentators, the teens laughed their way through the project.
Hideki’s Mother wanted him to become a doctor. Toward the end of his high school years, intensive studies for the entrance exam to a prestigious university consumed Hideki’s time. Outside relationships, or anything distracting from study, were eliminated. He diligently prepared, but after several attempts, he was unable to pass the entrance test.* He switched to law and graduated from Hosei University.
Paul attended university in the U.S. During one summer break he returned to Japan and he and Hideki reconnected. However, Paul’s summer job took much of his time, and the boys’ time together was limited. Near the end of the summer, with only two weeks left in Japan, Paul invited Hideki to attend church with him. Hideki said neither yes nor no. Paul persisted, asking Hideki to attend services while he was there as a personal favor.
To our surprise, Hideki came and sat next to Paul during our morning worship service the next two Sundays. Since Paul played the organ for our services, he and Hideki sat on the front row.
Another surprise. The Sunday after Paul left, Hideki showed up for services. After a few weeks he told everyone, "I used to come because of obligation to Paul. Now I attend because I want to." Evelyn and I were reminded that the Bible says, “a little child shall lead them.”
Hideki said he wanted to believe, but didn’t make a definite decision while we were there. Paul’s mother, Evelyn, was diagnosed with cancer in 1988, and we returned to the U.S. for an operation and treatment.
The Ken Bailey family took over the work at the Iriso Free Will Baptist Church, and Hideki faithfully attended services. He eventually received assurance of salvation. When I returned to Japan Hideki was ready for baptism, and Ken Bailey invited me to baptize him. This was one of the highlights of my missionary career, but I wished Paul were present.
Hideki began thinking about marriage. Since it’s not unusual, even in modern Japan, to have someone help you find a mate, he contacted a Christian matchmaker who introduced him to a Christian lady named Chiyomi. The relationship soon became serious and before long, the couple was married.
Hideki and Chiyomi have been very active in the Iriso Free Will Baptist Church located in a suburb of Tokyo. Hideki often leads the services, and Chiyomi is one of the pianists. The two are an encouragement to the pastor and an integral part of the church. When June and I traveled to Japan for the 50-year anniversary celebration of Free Will Baptist missionary work in that country, it was a joy to see Hideki and Chiyomi in attendance.
We visited the Tokyo area the next week, and spent two nights in their home. Little did I realize when Paul and Hideki began playing together as toddlers that many years later I would be a guest in Hideki’s Christian home. What a blessing!
Establishing Christian homes on the mission field takes time, perseverance, and prayer. However, it is essential to building a church that impacts its society.
Fred Hersey spent more than four decades as a missionary to the Japanese people. He currently pastors First FWB Church in Blakely, GA.
*Westerners have a difficult time understanding the educational system of Japan. The entrance examination is more difficult than university studies. Once you pass the exam, you are assured you will graduate.