Friday, May 25, 2018

The Inexplicable Case of Tetsuya-san

This past Sunday (May 20) was a very special day for Tetsuya Miyahara. He was baptized that morning at the Josei Baptist Church in Fukuoka City, Japan. What makes Tetsuya-san’s baptism especially meaningful is that he was a convicted murderer, released just six months ago after 18 years in prison.
Tetsuya-san’s Inexplicable Crime
In the wee hours of a March morning in 2000, Tetsuya-san made his way to the second-floor bedroom of an acquaintance and slit her throat as she lay sleeping on the futon next to her nine-year-old daughter.
The murdered woman was a widow who worked as an acupuncturist to support her daughter. And to make matters worse, she was blind. Tetsuya-san had often assisted the woman, shopping for her and providing transportation for her and her daughter.
Tetsuya-san had worked as an insurance salesman, and it seems he had used the woman’s ID and hanko (seal used in Japan on official papers) to borrow money from her insurance.
Apparently, the motive behind his inexplicable crime was the fear that his illegal actions were going to be exposed.
Tetsuya-san was subsequently arrested and first incarcerated in the detention center in Saga City, where the crime occurred. That is where I first met him sometime in 2001. (Saga is about 40 miles south of Fukuoka City where I lived.)
Tetsuya-san’s Inexplicable Conversion
Back on July 25, 2010, I posted (here) a blog article titled “The Amazing Story of Tetsuya-san”. As I wrote then, Mrs. M, a Japanese woman whom June and I had known for more than 20 years at the time, went to visit Tetsuya-san, mainly because she knew his parents.
Tetsuya-san asked Mrs. M. to bring him a Bible, which she did. Then she asked me to go with her to visit him, which I did. In just a few weeks he had written a confession of faith in Jesus. Part of what he wrote then, in 2001, was included in the confession of faith he read before the congregation at Josei Church last Sunday.
Through the years I visited Tetsuya-san many times—first in the Saga detention center (as mentioned), then in the detention center in Fukuoka, which was very near Seinan Gakuin University (SGU) where I taught. After his sentencing, I visited him repeatedly in the Oita Prison, just over 100 miles away.
Oita Prison
During each of the five times I have been back in Japan since retiring in 2004, I have gone to visit Tetsuya-san. The last two or three times he was in Saga Juvenile Prison, where he had been transferred to work using the barbering skills he had acquired as a prisoner in Oita.
During all of those years in prison, as was plain from my visits with him as well as from the many letters I have received from him, he was reading/studying the Bible and learning more and more about the meaning of the Christian faith.
Through the years, Tetsuya-san has especially studied the letters of the Apostle of Paul, who described himself as the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
Fukuoka Josei Church
Tetsuya-san was released from prison in December; soon afterward he attended a Christian church for the first time. Since January he has attended the Josei Church every Sunday—and has sent me emails each week reporting on his experiences there. 
The baptismal service Sunday was conducted by Dr. Yoshiki Terazono, my long-time friend, former colleague in the Dept. of Theology at SGU, and my successor as chancellor of Seinan Gakuin.
It was with great joy I read the email Tetsuya-san wrote Sunday evening telling about his baptism that morning, a public testimony to his inexplicable conversion.


  1. An amazing story of redemption.

  2. I appreciate all who read and especially those who read and responded this morning.

    The first comments received just after 7 a.m. by a local Thinking Friend. He wrote, "Good Morning, Leroy, made better by your inspiring story about a conversion and also the way you stayed with the humanity of this ‘prisoner.’"

    And then about 30 minutes later another local Thinking Friend wrote, "This is such a thrilling story! I am so happy that Tetsuya-san made it to this important milestone and was brave enough to make a public confession.This is sure a testimony to the power of God to change a life. May God richly bless his life and ministry. I hope you will keep us updated as God uses him in the coming years."

  3. About an hour ago, Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky sent this brief comment:

    "A touching story, Leroy. It shows the transformative power of the Gospel."

  4. Then, a Thinking Friend in Maryland wrote, "That’s quite a remarkable story! I’m glad the reality of being in a real life church didn’t undermine his faith!"

    1. Josei Church is a rather small congregation, and Tetsuya-san has written repeatedly concerning how he has appreciated various acts of kindness and acceptance he has experienced there.

  5. About an hour ago I was happy to receive the following comments from Thinking Friend Michael Olmsted in Springfield, Mo.:

    "In a world inundated with horrors and obscenities the story of Tetsuya-san reminds me that there are possibilities within the grace of God beyond my imagination. I am more and more captivated by the biblical idea of grace as I witness the futility of suffering caused by our selfishness and ego.

    "God shows us the possibilities he knew before our common ancestors ate of the fruit of the tree in Eden and discovered how little they (we) know about truth and life. With the spiritual ignorance that plagues our day tearing at my heart I pray for the hope of Christ to be discovered as it has been in this moving story from Japan."