Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Amazing Story of Tetsuya-san

My previous posting was about Will Campbell’s striking summary of the Christian message and the meaning of grace. Since making that post, I have written Tetsuya-san, a friend in Japan, quoting Campbell’s words (in a “dynamic equivalent” rather than literal translation). Tetsuya-san knows about God’s grace, so let me share some of his amazing story with you.
Tetsuya-san is a murderer, now serving eighteen years in the penitentiary. Ten years ago in the middle of the night, he broke into the home of a blind woman, who had been an acquaintance of his for many years, and slit her throat as she was asleep on her futon next to her young daughter. Shortly after that horrible crime, he was arrested and placed in the detention center in Saga City, Japan, where the murder occurred.
Sometime in 2001, I met Tetsuya-san through Mrs. M., a Japanese woman June and I had known for more than twenty years at the time. She went to see Tetsuya-san because she knew his father, a carpenter/gardener who had worked for her. She perceived that Tetsuya-san was “not a bad man,” so she decided to work to save him from receiving the death penalty, which was a distinct possibility.
Mrs. M. saw how Tetsuya-san was suffering great psychological pain because of his hideous crime, so she took him a Bible, although she was not a Christian at the time. The next time she saw Tetsuya-san, he told her how he went to bed the night he received the Bible, clutching it to his chest, and slept well for the first time since he committed the crime. Over the next few weeks he wrote a confession of faith in Christ.
In 2001, Mrs. M legally adopted Tetsuya-san as her son, even though his biological parents were living. She did that partially to be able to visit him more often and to fight for his life more aggressively. It was also at the end of 2001 that I baptized Mrs. M., who said she had become a Christian believer largely because of the change she saw in Tetsuya-san after he began reading the Bible and confessed faith in Jesus Christ.
When we were in Japan in May of this year, I went across the mountains in Kyushu to Oita Penitentiary with Mr. and Mrs. M and another friend to visit Tetsuya-san, as I had done several times before. I had a very good visit with him and was pleased to see that he seemed quite healthy and at peace.
Through his letters in recent years, I knew that Tetsuya-san was thinking about going to seminary when he is released from prison, which may be in only two or three more years. When I saw him in May, he said clearly that he now hopes to become a pastor upon completing study at the seminary.
God’s grace is truly amazing!


  1. Yesterday I received brief comments from three persons, all of whom had lived in Japan for a number of years. I was pleased to receive this morning the following comments from a pastor in south Missouri, one who has not lived in Japan.

    "Leroy, Thanks for the story. I needed to read that this morning. God spoke a clear word to me through the story. God is real and His grace is amazing!"

  2. My son Keith sent the story to his father-in-law, who is back in Japan after retiring as a career missionary there. Here are the comments he sent back to Keith:

    "I read the story of Tetsuya-san. Along with grace, I think we would have to include the power of the Word of God and the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. Just clutching the Bible next to his heart brought peace to his soul and he was able to sleep. Not knowing anything about the Bible, Tetsuya-san was able to understand grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit."