Usagi the Yakuza Gangster

Discussion in 'Missions / Witnessing / eVangelism' started by John of Japan, Oct 17, 2012.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    I've been wanting to tell this story here for quite a while, so here it goes. In recent years a number of yakuza gangsters have been saved in Japan. Down in Kobe some years ago one was saved and became a pastor, and a member of the Barabbas Mission, which works to see other yakuza saved. Here is his story: http://www.worldmag.com/2001/04/barabbas_lives

    The yakuza are the traditional gangsters of Japan, the Japanese version of the mafia with some similarities in social structure and activities. The history of the yakuza goes back as much as 200 years, and the yakuza were originally a legit, small time business group.

    This story is about a man I'll call Usagi, which is similar to his real name, but means rabbit. God is gradually helping this man to grow into a gentle rabbit from the nasty wolf he was when I met him.

    I had met a yakuza once before, ironically when we visited Hokkaido years before ever being called up to this northern island of Japan. On our way to visit our friends in Asahikawa, we got on a train and saw room for all three of us to sit where there were seats facing each other. Patty and Paul sat together and I sat next to a mousy little man. I took the opportunity to witness to give him a tract and witness to him, but he said, "I can't read." I was amazed, because illiteracy is very rare in Japan! I asked him what his job was and he said, "I work in the water trade," a euphemism for some of the filthy things the yakuza do.

    Usagi was very different from this young man. Next time I'll tell how my co-worker and I met him.
     
  2. Gregory Perry Sr.

    Gregory Perry Sr.
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    Wonderful

    John, that link you posted was awesome...It is a blessing to know how the Lord works in different cultures with the unchanging message of salvation by grace through faith plus nothing!! Thanks for sharing....I look forward to reading more. I passed that one on to some others!

    Blessings,
    Bro.Greg:saint:
     
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Great, Greg. Stay tuned! :thumbs:
     
  4. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    In our city of 220,000 or more, Dean and I (and our wives of course) are the only missionaries, though there are a number of churches of various kinds with Japanese pastors. Add to that the fact that Dean and I are with the same mission board, and you come up with the fact that we cooperate a lot! One thing we do together is head to the Kaimono Koen ("Shopping Park") on Friday or Saturday night for street evangelism. The Kaimono Koen is an outdoor mall, with many stores on both sides of what used to be a street but is now a place to walk.

    Years ago in Japan before WW2 the Christians used to walk down the street with a little band, then lead people back to the church or tent for meetings. After the war, missionaries bought sound trucks, and drove around blasting out the Gospel. Our street evangelism is a little more low pressure. We simply walk and talk, give out tracts and look for someone to witness to. We've witnessed to families, school kids, drunks, prostitutes, young toughs, Chinese, Russians, a Middle Eastern Muslim, even sumo wrestlers in their yukata (lightweight kimono) once! And then there was Usagi.

    When we first met him he was sitting there, holding court on one of the stone benches strategically placed for tired shoppers. It would be much later before I learned what he was doing there. Dean began to talk to him, so I stopped where I was on the other side and continued to pass out tracts. After a while, Dean called me over. "John, can you help? I can't understand what this guy is saying." Me being the senior missionary with more years on the field and of course more years in Hokkaido, I ambled over. Sure enough, Usagi was speaking with very macho vocabulary in the Hokkaido dialect. I can't speak it, but I could pretty much understand it. And thus a strange and wonderful friendship began. :type:
     
    #4 John of Japan, Oct 18, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2012
  5. Bob Alkire

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    John, what a great story. It helps teach us why we need to be witnessing to the lost. God does the saving but he does use us to get the Gospel out to the lost person next door, at school, at work or where ever they are.
     
  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Amen Bob. Stay tuned! :type:
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    While I talked to Usagi, Dean took out a Japanese-English NT put out by the Gideons, and gave it to him. Usagi was delighted! He said, "Hey, you guys like the Bible, huh? I bought a Bible and I love it! You guys have my kind of church. I want to go there!"

    As we talked, we learned why Usagi had bought a Bible. He had come to the end of his rope, and had to tie a knot to hang on. His wife had divorced him for his infidelity. He had contracted hepatitis when a young man from the government's tainted blood supply, and so was about to go into the hospital to start interferon treatments. Because of his disease, he had to step down as shacho (president) of his little tofu (soy bean curd: yummy!) distribution company. Because there was no one to take over as shacho of the company, he had to shut it down. That was a shame since it was a family business, with Usagi being the third shacho after his grandfather and father.

    Thus, he had come from riches and prestige to the lowest point of his life. He remembered two things. First of all, his parents had sent the little Usagi to the prestigious Catholic kindergarten in town, where he had learned that there was one true God. Secondly, when he was a young man he had been in a car accident where his car had rolled down a hill. As the car rolled, he called out in his heart to the one true God to protect him. When he reached the bottom of the hill he was safe, and thus knew the power of the one true God.

    At this point, Usagi decided to seek the one true God, and did the only thing he knew to do. He went out and bought a Bible! It is possible to buy a Bible in any good sized secular Japanese bookstore, so he bought a copy of the Kohgoh Yaku (Colloquial Translation), which was the first complete Bible ever in modern Japanese (previous versions were in classical Japanese), translated in the 1950s. It was not the best version, but he began to read it voraciously, and that was when we met him.
     
  8. Tom Bryant

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    Love hearing stories of how God used missionaries to bring people to Christ! Thanks, John.
     
  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    This is the most unusual salvation I've seen in my 31 years in Japan! Stay tuned.
     
  10. Gregory Perry Sr.

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    Great!!


    MORE,MORE,MORE!!!!!:applause:

    Bro.Greg:thumbsup:
     
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Patience, Greg! All in good time. :type: And speaking of patients....

    It was just a few days before Usagi had to go into the hospital. He met Dean and me in an open conference type room most hospitals here have on each floor for guests to visit their sick friends. He proudly showed us his Bible, and we were amazed to see that he had marked hundreds and hundreds of verses that he liked!

    Unfortunately he didn't understand what he was reading, much like the Ethiopian eunuch who was asked, "Understandeth thou what thou readest?" But it was soon apparent that he loved the book of Acts for some reason. He told us that he had read it over and over. Later I learned why he loved Acts so much.

    Usagi was only in the hospital for a couple of days that time in order to get him started on his interferon regimen. This drug was developed to fight cancer, but is being used for hepatitis also, and has some tough side effects like other chemotherapy treatments. For the next two years Usagi would bravely suffer through these treatments, which were changed over and over to fit his personal physical profile.

    Dean and I had talked things over. Usagi lived in an apartment halfway between our two churches, which are 30 minutes apart, so he could have gone to either one. But we both agreed that I should pastor him since Dean had such trouble understanding the man! So Usagi and I talked it over and set a time for me to visit him in his little bachelor pad. From then on, every Wednesday afternoon I would teach him the Word of God, aiming towards his salvation.

    For those of you who like to witness and win someone to Christ in one visit, Japan is not that way, being a "Gospel-resistant" country. When you say the word "God" to a Japanese, he thinks of a little local Shinto deity, maybe living in a tree or mountain or shrine, which cannot answer prayers and knows nothing outside of his tree. When you say "sin," the typical Japanese thinks "crime"--though as we found out, that communicated well with Usagi!
     
  12. Mexdeaf

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    John, you should write a book! But make the chapters a little longer, please!
     
  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    :thumbs:
    Got it!
     
  14. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    The first time I visited Usagi began my education on the yakuza. He lived in a tiny one room apartment, paid for by his stipend from the Japanese government, whose fault it was that hepatitis had gotten into the blood supply. He had a futon bed up in a little cubbyhole, a little bathroom with a Japanese bath, and a television. We sat on the floor on zabuton mats at a little foot-high Japanese table and began to study the Bible.

    I soon learned that Usagi had come from a very troubled background. His father had been an officer in the Kenpeitai secret police during WW2, and was a very harsh and cruel man. Usagi never had encouragement or love from his father, only commands and violence. After his father died they found letters from Japanese people who had been abused by the Kenpeitai during the war who wrote that they wished they could kill him!

    Usagi been a real tough guy in high school, having the son of a yakuza as a close friend, and running around with a bosozoku ("wild running tribe") gang. The bosozoku gangs are a kind of minor league for the yakuza, young men who take wild rides on motorcycles and commit minor crimes. We can sometimes hear them revving their engines in the middle of the night. He got in fights with baseball bats (because people can get killed with knives!), and once he and his buddies poured sugar in the gas tank of a scooter owned by a teacher they didn't like.

    I also learned that after graduating from high school Usagi had joined the yakuza himself and began a life of crime. He eventually spent three terms in the penitentiary, two for drug offenses (he was both a pusher and an addict) and one for converting a metal "model gun" into a real gun (a real no-no in Japan).
     
  15. Bob Alkire

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    John, this is great! I'm on the edge of my seat to see what is coming next.
     
  16. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Stay tuned. It's been quite a ride for me.
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Please pray for Usagi right now, since he is facing a crisis in his life. I'll be counseling him this evening, which is Wednesday morning in the States.

    We began picking Usagi up for church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. (Our Sunday evening was Bible school, and he certainly wasn't ready for that!). Rather, we tried to pick him up, but because of the chemotherapy he was going through, often he couldn't even get up. He kept telling me, "Kowai," which down in Tokyo where I learned Japanese means "I'm scared," so I would say, "It's okay, God will protect you." Then I learned that in Hokkaido dialect it means "I'm tired," or "listless."

    I continued going every Wednesday afternoon to teach him the Bible and give him the Gospel, and thus continued my education in the subculture of the yakuza gangster. Though he said he had quit years ago, while in he had participated in numerous illegal activities. By the way, don't let anyone tell you how crime free Japan is, because that's a lie. Usagi's gang alone has 200 members in our city of 320,000, and there are several other gangs operating. I used to get the police reports, and there is always something going on here: drugs, robbery, etc.

    Usagi's main crime was what he went to prison for, drugs. The main drug of choice here is "speed," amphetamines, and it is more common than you would think: when I pastored in Yokohama we saw the Lord save Mr. Togo, a speed addict. To continue, Usagi rose to become what might be called a squad leader, with 5 young men under him who he had recruited. But in the yakuza, you are defined by the money you bring in, so besides drugs he participated in various scams and cons. I learned about these as we drove to and from church on those days he could rise up and come.

    One day we were going down a hill towards a main road when he told me this was just where he practiced one of his scams. He would park his car on a side street to wait, while one of his underlings would serve as lookout, then call him when a rich looking car would come down the road. Usagi would then pull out in front of the car and then hit the brakes. Upon being hit from behind (it's hard to stop on a hill), Usagi would get out and confront the offending driver. The driver, shocked that he had just hit a yakuza, would do anything to get out of trouble, including paying large sums of money!

    Once after being hit, Usagi faked an arm injury and was in the hospital for about six months, eventually getting the equivalent of about $50,000 out of the scam! When I asked him what they did with the money, he said, "We partied!" That's what the yakuza gangsters are all about, folks: partying! They are the ultimate epicureans, the final hedonists. Because of this, there is a much higher rate of diabetes and similar diseases among the yakuza than among the normal Japanese population.
     
    #17 John of Japan, Oct 23, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2012
  18. Bob Alkire

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    Praying for Usagi and your work, John.
    One can learn much from this. Thanks again for sharing.
     
  19. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Thanks, Bob. Usagi didn't show up tonight, but I'll probably get to talk to him in private on Sun. morning. He's come a long way, but still has some rough spots, naturally.
     
  20. Gregory Perry Sr.

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    Yes!!

    :type:
    Ditto THAT Mex!!!....and Bro.John...I want the #3 copy. The first one would,of course go to Bro. Usagi...Bro.Mex would get #2 (since it was his idea)...and I would be honored to get the #3 copy (or any one that followed AS LONG AS I GOT ONE)! I love missionary stories as well as the stories of unusual salvations such as this one. Either wat they all amount to Amazing Grace...how SWEET the sound!!!!! By the way...Bro.John...you need to put YOUR story in print too. I'm sure that would be an excellent read!!:thumbsup::applause:

    Bro.Greg
     

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