It wasn’t a long conversation. Maybe 20, 30 minutes at the most. He’d only stopped by the church to greet the pastor. Curiosity, though, drew him into my hiragana lesson and allowed for us to share a few meaningful moments. After practicing my “a, i, u, e, o” words with him and adding a few new words to my vocab I asked about his background. We get a wide range of characters around GMC, so I didn’t want to make any assumptions.
Originally from Hokkaido, Takahashi was sent to Iwaki with his work. I gathered that he’s a medical technician, something about taking blood and diagnosing illness. His wife and two grown sons are in Sendai, where he last lived. The job requires that he moves every two years, and when the children were younger it was too much transition. He came to Iwaki on his own in order to let his wife care for his elderly mother. She’s since died of the same disease that took Takahashi’s father, Hepatitis C. It’s no wonder he went into blood work.
Through his warm smile and sincere small voice I gathered this man was a Christian. I asked and he confirmed with a deep nod of gratitude. It took three times to ask, but eventually I got the questions across, “how did you meet Jesus?” Maybe he was surprised at my language, maybe I was too upfront, but his delayed response had me wondering if he understood. He pulled out a pad of paper and started his story from the beginning.
Then I didn’t understand.
He emphasized it with two thick lines.
“Nine eleven”. His eyes got big and wet and his voice stronger. “I turned on the television. One, two towers. Two jet planes. Crash! Crash!” He raised his hands as he recounted his emotions that day. Shock.
“How can this happen God?! Who would do this?!” he said. “I never prayed to God, but for the first time… And then in the window I saw a man.” He hunched over the paper and with quick sharp lines he drew. “I saw a man in white. I was scared. Who is this man? ‘Who are you?’ I asked. The man said ‘I am Jesus'”.
The story ended there without much explanation. The next Sunday he went to church, heard about Jesus and surrendered his life to God. So simple.
Later I asked Mr. Takahashi about his favorite verse. He pulled up Isaiah 41:31 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” “Pretty popular verse,” I though. “Cool”. Of course, though, there was more.
When Saving Private Ryan came out in 1998 Takahashi-san had gone to the theaters like many others. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be Japanese and watch a movie about a war you’d lost. The movie takes place in Europe, I suppose, so maybe it was far enough removed to empathize with. Similar to his experience 3 years later over September 11th, Takahashi was moved to tears and brought low at the sight of war. “Omaha Beach”, he said, nodding with eyes nearly shut. Then he read Isaiah 40:31 in Japanese, followed by a bit of charades. Gun-fire, men running, dying, bullets flying.
I don’t know where it is in the movie, but some 20 second clip within that 3 hour-long film showed a priest, a single man going out among the bodies, dodging bullets and laying crosses over the wounded and dying. That scene struck something deep within Takahashi’s heart planted seeds of admiration towards Christians, men who would risk their lives to honor and respect their brothers.
Two stories. America under siege and America at war. A Japanese father touched by the bravery of soldiers who have now since died. The same working man brought to his knees at the sight of needless death in New York. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but somewhere in the story I felt the mystery of a miracle. Decades ago we were enemies, Japan and the US, but today this ordinary, middle-aged Japanese man has found the peace of God, the peace the transcends all knowledge. Jesus introduced himself and put his Spirit in Takahashi-san, so that he can be the eternal dwelling place of kindness, goodness and self-control. Out of so much loss, so much grief, out of war and violence one man found perfect harmony with God. Joy and life everlasting.
It took three times to ask, but eventually I got the questions across, “how did you meet Jesus?” Maybe he was surprised at my language, maybe I was too upfront, but his delayed response had me wondering if he understood. He pulled out a pad of paper and started his story from the beginning.
Takahashi had indeed met Jesus. I gather he’s never had anyone ask him his testimony using those words, but they were perfectly suitable to describe his 9.11 encounter.