In 1970 I was an ordinary seventh grader in middle school in Japan. I had spent six years in Catholic mission school in Osaka since I was 12 years old. My school life was stressful, due to strict rules and a lot of homework. On the outside, I appeared to be an average, compliant student, but inside I felt great frustration and dissatisfaction. I did not like myself because I was shorter than average. I was not smart enough to get the teacher’s attention. I was not athletic enough to be popular in school. I was really sick and tired of being mediocre. Also, I was ashamed of my family because of our financial burden. Most of my classmates were children of rich families, such as owners of chain stores or resort hotels. My family was quite different from them. My mother worked at home as a dressmaker and my father worked for a small company that manufactured sunglasses and exported them to the United States. When the US government devalued the dollar by 17% against the yen in 1971, the company no longer made enough profit and went bankrupt in a short time. While my father got a new job with much less salary, my mother had to work harder. I should have been proud of them, but, instead, I despised them as losers, compared with other rich families. I was filled with envy at other people’s success and happiness. Even now, I don’t like to remember those days, and the hate and confusion that were in my heart, but perhaps God was preparing me to hear the gospel.
In 1972 I received an invitation to attend special gospel meetings. These three days of meetings were being held at the community hall in my town by the Izumi Fuchu assembly. It was the first time that I heard of God from the Bible. It was sensational for me to hear that God was the only One who created all. I went a week later to get to know more about God. After that, I attended the gospel meeting for two years. I had great joy and excitement just because I had found my Creator, but in fact I was not saved. At the meeting, I heard about sin many times, but I didn’t take it seriously. For me, sin was like an annoying cavity which was merely uncomfortable. However, I soon learned more about God’s holiness. I came to realize that my sin was not like a cavity but a cancer. My conscience became more sensitive every day and my sense of guilt grew bigger and stuck into my mind like a sharp knife. In 1974 I went to the Bible conference again, seeking peace with God. Everyone seemed to enjoy games, hymn singing, and the ministry teaching, except me. Avoiding other people, I found one empty meeting room to pray alone. I started confessing my sins, especially my selfishness and self-centeredness. I couldn’t ask for forgiveness but only for immediate punishment on me. I sat down on the floor, waiting for my execution, but nothing happened. Suddenly I identified myself with a hopeless leper who kneeled down at the feet of the Lord Jesus. Then the scriptures came to my mind: “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, ‘I will: be thou clean’” (Mark 1:41). I burst into tears. I had expected anger from God, but He showed me His mercy instead. With tears in my eyes I asked the Lord one question: “How? How can You cleanse my sin?” No audible answer came from heaven, but the next moment everything became clear to me. Jesus shed His blood to cleanse my sin. He prayed on the cross just for me, saying, “Father, forgive them,” and God answered His prayer by punishing Him in the darkness. I found my Savior Who died for me. Twenty-seven years have passed and even now I can sing with joy and gratitude, “This is my story, to God be the glory, I am only a sinner, saved by grace.”