Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Weird Experience

Yesterday, August 9, was the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. I remember well being in Nagasaki and at the ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of that tragic event. That was just five days after I—and June and our two younger children—had been through a weird experience.
The Return Home to Japan
Our family’s third missionary furlough was in 1981-82. When we left Missouri to return to our home in Japan on July 17, we said goodbye to our two grown children and made the trip back to Fukuoka City with our daughter Karen (12) and son Ken (10).
Before having time to get settled back into our mission residence, we left for the annual meeting of the Japan Baptist Mission at the retreat center south of Mt. Fuji. We got back home on August 2 and were still trying to get our house back in order in the days following.
On August 4, I had a telephone call from a former student whom I knew fairly well. He had audited one of my classes at the seminary and had even been in our home for a Christmas party for students.
M.-san called because he wanted to come by for a visit. Even though we were not ready for visitors, he was rather insistent and I reluctantly agreed for him to come that evening.  
The Stabbing
When M.-san arrived, he was carrying a bag and a baseball bat. After just a few minutes, I realized that he was clearly mentally “off.” I soon told him I needed to end the visit and said I would drive him to the nearby train station so he could go home. Then I intended to contact his mother and urge her to get her son medical help.
M.-san then asked me to pray for him—as he had done the last time I had seen him. Just before we had left for the States in 1981, I happened to meet M.-san walking across the campus at Seinan Gakuin University, and he asked me to pray for him—which I did then and there.
This time, because of his mental state—and because of the baseball bat!—I prayed with my eyes open, focused on him.
After the prayer I went back to the bedroom to get some socks. When I came back, he was standing by the front door, but he didn’t have his bag or bat with him. I looked back and saw his bag in the room where we had talked. When I turned back toward him, he struck me on the chin with a long knife.
I quickly grabbed his wrist and took the knife from him—and he began to apologize repeatedly. I had felt little pain but the floor was sprinkled with blood, so I told M.-san to leave because I had to go to the emergency room. I didn’t know how badly I had been injured.
As it turned out, the knife blow, which had doubtlessly been intended for my throat, had glanced off the bottom of my chin and cut me there and on the top of my chest. A few stitches was all that was needed. June credited my beard with saving my life, as it largely concealed his target.  
The Aftermath
The next day, M.-san’s mother came to our home with a huge bouquet of flowers and apologized profusely for what her son had done. We felt so sorry for her.
Then on Aug. 7, as previously planned, we left for a short trip to Nagasaki, staying with missionary friends there. We went to the memorial ceremony on the morning of Aug. 9, mourning with the large crowd gathered in sadness because of the death and devastation caused by the atomic bombing of that city on that date in 1945.
In the meantime, M.-san had been found by the police and taken into custody. He was later incarcerated in a mental prison facility—and died there (probably at his own hand) the following year.
My experience is only one example of a huge problem: not being able to detect and to treat mental illness before weird, or truly tragic, events occur.


  1. We asked our next-door neighbor to drive me to Sada Hospital, which was only a few minutes’ away. At some point he remarked that it was a good thing that this wasn’t the United States, for there my attacker would likely have had a gun and I would likely have been shot and probably killed.

  2. Wow! As an instructor who has been threatened with his life, I understand how this can happen. What a story! And your neighbor was probably quite right. In the USA it could have been much more deadly.

    1. Thanks, Anton, for reading and commenting so early this morning!

  3. Appreciate the entire story that you had told me part of on your and June`s welcome visit to our Home this past Monday.
    God was obviously protecting you and had/has more for you to do.
    You&June are such a Wonderful example of the Ideal Christian couple, that we Thank our LORD for our long and Spiritual relationship.
    May our Gracious Heavenly Father Give you both many more years of Serving Him and your many followers.
    Bless you both,
    Donna Sue&John(Tim) Carr

    1. Thanks for your kind words, John Tim--and thanks for your hospitality on Monday.

  4. Mental issues are certainly a problem. My guess is that most families have skeletons somewhere. I have seen it several times, and I'm quite aware of the violent version. I don't have good answers. Medication seems to work at frequently - when it is taken. Violence needs to be handled as violence. (But what is violence?) Issues rip the seams of society.

  5. This was certainly a scary time for us all. We are so thankful that you were not more seriously injured. It is good you had your wits about you to pray with your eyes open!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kathy.

      Yes, in all likelihood, he w​ould​ have clobbered me on the head with the bat if I had closed my eyes (as usual).

      One thing that I didn't say in the article was that M.-san was thrusting the knife toward my middle when I grabbed his wrist and took the knife away from him (which wasn't hard). If I hadn't stopped that, it​ most likely​ would have been much worse than the cuts on my chin and chest.

    2. I was just thinking about this experience you had recently and trying to remember if you got cut. You had great intuition, guidance, to realize he was different or agitated. I am proud you pulled your karate move and grabbed his wrist. I have heard even police are afraid of knives. Where was your family?