‘Sowing With Tears and Reaping With a Joyful Cry’
As told by Miyo Idei
“I’m dying! I’m dying! Help me!” My father was straining to shout. His voice filled the air as I rushed from the house. It was midnight, and my father was having a heart attack. I ran to my uncle, who lived nearby, but when we returned, Father’s pulse could no longer be felt.
THAT occurred on December 14, 1918. At the age of 13, I was left with no parents. My mother had died when I was seven years old. Losing both parents so early in my life, I began to wonder, ‘Why do people die? What happens after death?’
After I graduated from a school for teachers, I became a teacher in Tokyo and taught at the Shinagawa Elementary School. Later, an acquaintance introduced me to a young man, Motohiro, to whom I was married at the age of 22. For the past 64 years, we have shared both the sweet and the bitter experiences of life. Soon we moved to Taiwan, which was then under Japanese rule. At the time I had no idea that I would find cause for a joyful cry in that land.
Learning the Truth
In the spring of 1932, when we were living on the outskirts of Chiai in central Taiwan, a man named Saburo Ochiai visited us. He pointed out that Bible prophecies include the promise of a resurrection of the dead. (John 5:28, 29) What a wonderful prospect! I wanted so much to see my mother and father again. With its logical arguments, reasonable explanations, and solid Biblical evidence, his words had the ring of truth. The time flew by as we spent the whole day discussing the Bible. It suddenly became an attractive book to me.
Soon Mr. Ochiai left for another place, leaving with us books such as Creation, Harp of God, Government, Prophecy, Light, and Reconciliation, all published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. I became absorbed in reading them, and as I did, I felt the urge to tell others of what I was reading. If Jesus started his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, why should I not start where I lived? I called on my next-door neighbor. No one had taught me how to preach, so I went from house to house with my Bible and the books I had read, preaching as best I could. People reacted favorably and accepted magazines. I asked Todaisha, as the Watch Tower Society was called in Japan at that time, to send me 150 copies of the booklet entitled The Kingdom, the Hope of the World, and I distributed them.
One day a person who had accepted literature told me that the police came right after I left and confiscated the books. Soon after that, four detectives came to my house and confiscated all my books and magazines. They left only the Bible. For five years, I met none of Jehovah’s people, but the fire of truth kept burning in my heart.
Then came December 1937! Two colporteurs from Japan visited us. Astonished, I asked: “How did you find out about us?” They said: “We have your name right here.” Jehovah had remembered us! The two Witnesses, Yoriichi Oe and Yoshiuchi Kosaka, had pedaled some 150 miles [240 km] from Taipei to Chiai on old bicycles, with their belongings piled up high on the back. As they talked with us, I felt like the Ethiopian eunuch who said: “What prevents me from getting baptized?” (Acts 8:36) The night they arrived, both my husband and I got baptized.
Caring for Imprisoned Brothers
In 1939 arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses swept throughout Japan. The wave of persecution soon reached Taiwan. In April both Brothers Oe and Kosaka were arrested. Two months later we were too. Since I was a teacher, I was released the next day, but my husband was kept in custody for four months. After my husband was released, we moved to Taipei. As we were now nearer the prison where the two brothers were kept, this worked out very well.
The Taipei Prison was a prison with strict security. Taking clothing and food, I went to see the brothers. First, Brother Kosaka appeared with a guard and a detective behind a 12-inch-square [30 cm] wire-mesh window. He was pale and his lips as red as fresh strawberries. He had contracted tuberculosis.
Then Brother Oe came out with a smile on his face, happily repeating: “Great that you could come.” As his face was yellow and swollen, I asked him about his health. “I am perfectly all right!” he answered. “This is a very good place. No bedbugs or lice. I can even eat buckwheat noodles. It’s just like a villa,” he said. The police and the guard could not hold back their laughter and said: “Oh, we can’t beat this fellow Oe.”
About midnight on November 30, 1941, a few days after I returned home from visiting the brothers, there was a banging on the door. I saw mountainlike silhouettes of hats through the sliding glass door. I counted eight of them. They were policemen. They forced their way into our house and turned over every item in the house—but all in vain. After an hour of ransacking the place, they confiscated a few photo albums and told us to come with them. I recalled that Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night. (Matthew 26:31, 55-57; John 18:3-12) The thought of eight men making so much ado over the two of us amused me.
We were taken to an unfamiliar building that was huge and dark. We later discovered that it was the Taipei Hichisei Prison. We were seated in front of a large desk, and the interrogation began. Again and again they asked: “Who do you know?” and each of us replied: “I don’t know anybody.” How could we know the ones in mainland Japan? We only knew Brothers Oe and Kosaka, and we sealed our lips as to any other names that we may have heard indirectly.
Soon it was five o’clock in the morning, and two detectives took me to my cell. It was some time before I could get used to the new environment. For the first time in my life, I encountered bedbugs. These little insects, intent on feasting on newcomers, relentlessly pestered me, leaving the other two women in the cell alone—despite my flattening the ones that came my way. Finally I gave up and let them dine on me.
Our food was a cup of half-cooked rice gruel, but my mouth persisted in thinking of it as raw rice. To go with the gruel was a small amount of salted daikon (Japanese radish) leaves with a trace of sand still on them. At first, because the food smelled bad and was filthy, I could not stomach it, and the other inmates came and ate it. Of course, I gradually adjusted in order to survive.
Life in the prison was tragic. On one occasion, I heard a man, suspected of being a spy, screaming day after day from being tortured. I also saw a person in the next cell die in agony. With all of this taking place before my eyes, I keenly felt that this old system must end, and my hope in God’s promises became stronger than ever.
I was confined to prison for about a year and was subjected to interrogation five times. One day a prosecutor came for the first time, and I was led to a cramped interrogation room. The first thing he said was: “Who is greater, Amaterasu Omikami [the sun-goddess] or Jehovah? You tell me!” I thought for a while about how to answer.
“Tell me who is greater, or I am going to beat you!” He glowered at me.
I calmly answered: “At the very beginning of the Bible, it is written, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’” I felt no need to add anything. He just stared me in the face without a word and then changed the subject.
After all, for what reason was I being kept in custody? The examination record said: “It is feared that she may mislead the public by her speech and actions.” This was why I was confined without being tried.
Jehovah was always near me while I was going through all of this. By Jehovah’s kindness, I was provided with a pocket-size Christian Greek Scriptures. A detective threw it into my cell one day, saying: “I’ll let you have this.” I read it every day to the point of memorizing what I was reading. The bold examples of the first-century Christians in the book of Acts became a great source of encouragement. The 14 letters of Paul also strengthened me. Paul experienced excessive persecution, but the holy spirit always supported him. Such records fortified me.
I became very thin and frail, but Jehovah sustained me, often in unexpected ways. One Sunday a detective I had never met came with a parcel wrapped up in a kerchief. He opened the door of the cell and took me out to the courtyard. When we came to a big camphor tree, he opened the parcel. Lo and behold! Bananas and buns were inside. He told me to eat them there. The detective remarked: “All of you are very good people. Yet we have to treat you like this. I would like to get out of this work soon.” Thus guards and detectives began to treat me kindly. They trusted me and let me clean their rooms and gave me various other kinds of privileged work.
Late in 1942, I was summoned by one of the detectives who arrested us. “Although you deserve the death sentence, you will be released today,” he declared. My husband had returned home about a month before my release.
Renewing Association With the Witnesses
While we were in prison, Japan entered World War II. Then, in 1945, we heard that Japan had lost the war, and we read in newspapers that political prisoners would be released. We knew that Brother Kosaka had died of sickness in the prison, but I immediately sent letters to the prisons in Taipei, Hsinchu, and other cities and inquired as to the whereabouts of Brother Oe. However, I received no response. Later I found out that Brother Oe had been executed by a firing squad.
In 1948 we received an unexpected letter from Shanghai. It was from Brother Stanley Jones, who had been sent to China from Gilead, a newly founded missionary school of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah had remembered us again! I was overjoyed to have this contact with Jehovah’s organization. Seven years had passed since we had seen Brother Oe. Although completely isolated all that time, I had been telling others about the good news.
When Brother Jones visited us for the first time, it was a time of rejoicing. He was very friendly. Although we had never met him before, we felt as though we were welcoming a very close relative into our home. Shortly thereafter, Brother Jones left for T’ai-tung, across the mountains, with my husband as his interpreter. They returned after about a week, during which time they had held a one-day assembly and baptized some 300 of the east coast Amis tribe.
Brother Jones’ visit was meaningful in another way for me. I had been preaching alone until then. And now a couple, the husband being our landlord, were baptized during Brother Jones’ visit. Since then, I have many times experienced the joy of making disciples in addition to the joy of declaring the Kingdom. Later we moved to Hsinchu, where Brother Jones paid us three visits, each time for two weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed the beneficial association. On the last occasion, he said: “Next time, I will bring my partner, Harold King.” But that “next time” never came, for soon thereafter both of them were imprisoned in China.
In 1949, Joseph McGrath and Cyril Charles, missionaries from the 11th class of Gilead, arrived in Taiwan. They expanded the work in Taiwan, using our home as their base. Their examples really encouraged me. However, the political situation forced them to leave for Hong Kong. I could not hold back my tears as they departed with a policeman. “Don’t cry, Miyo,” Joe said. He added: “Thank you,” and handed me his well-used ballpoint pen as a memento.
Tackling Child Training
My husband and I did not have any children, so we adopted my husband’s niece when she was four months old. Her mother’s life was endangered by asthma.
In 1952, Brother Lloyd Barry, who was serving as a missionary in Japan, visited Taiwan to seek legal recognition of the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He stayed with us and encouraged us very much. By that time our daughter was 18 months old. He picked her up and asked her: “What is God’s name?” Surprised, I asked him: “You mean we should teach her when she is so young?” “Yes,” he answered firmly. He then talked to me about the importance of training a child from very tender years. His words: “She is a gift from Jehovah for your consolation,” stuck in my mind.
Immediately, I embarked on training my daughter, Akemi, to know and love Jehovah and to become his servant. I taught her phonetic symbols, starting with the three letters e, ho, and ba, which make up the word “Ehoba,” or Jehovah, in Japanese. On reaching the age of two, she was able to understand what I was telling her. So every night before she went to bed, I told her Bible stories. She listened with interest and remembered them.
When she was three and a half years old, Brother Barry visited again and gave Akemi a Bible written in colloquial Japanese. She walked around the room with the Bible, saying: “Akemi’s Bible! Akemi’s Bible!” Then a few minutes later, she blurted out: “Akemi’s Bible does not have Jehovah! I don’t want this!” She threw it down. Startled, I checked the content. First I opened to Isaiah chapter 42, verse 8. There the name Jehovah was replaced by the word “Lord.” I looked up other scriptures, but I could not find the divine name, Jehovah. Akemi was pacified when I again showed her Jehovah’s name in my old Bible, which was in archaic Japanese.
Returning to Japan
We returned to Japan in 1958 and associated with the Sannomiya Congregation in Kobe. Having so many reasons to be grateful to Jehovah, I wanted to express that gratitude by becoming a pioneer—a full-time minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I exerted myself in the pioneer service. As a result, I was able to conduct many home Bible studies and tasted the joy of helping some 70 to 80 people into the truth. For a time I was even privileged to serve as a special pioneer, working more than 150 hours every month in the field, while I also took care of my husband and daughter.
As we had lived in Taiwan for more than 30 years, life in Japan was a culture shock, and I went through several trying experiences. At such times Akemi became my consolation and support, just as Brother Barry had told me years before. When I was depressed, she would say to me: “Mom, take courage. Jehovah will make the way out.” “Yes, he will, won’t he?” I would answer and tightly embrace her. What a source of encouragement! How could I help but thank Jehovah!
Offering My Daughter to Jehovah
Akemi became a publisher when she was 7 and got baptized when she was 12, in the summer of 1963. I tried to spend as much time as possible with her. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) There were difficult times while she was in adolescence, but with the fine examples and encouragement from special pioneers who were sent to our congregation, Akemi eventually made it her goal to pioneer in new territories.
At the district convention in 1968, she played the role of Jephthah’s daughter in the Bible drama. As I watched the drama, I decided, as Jephthah had done, to offer my only daughter, whom I had cherished until then, to Jehovah for the full-time ministry. What would life be like without my daughter close by? It was a challenge, as I was already over 60.
In 1970 the time came for our daughter to leave us. She got permission from my husband and went to Kyoto to serve as a pioneer. Understanding our feelings, her heart seemed to be bleeding as she left us. I quoted Psalm 126:5, 6 as the parting scripture for her: “Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry. The one that without fail goes forth, even weeping, carrying along a bagful of seed, will without fail come in with a joyful cry, carrying along his sheaves.” These words proved to be heartening for me as well.
Later Akemi married and continued special pioneering with her husband. Since 1977, when her husband was appointed a circuit overseer, they have served in the traveling work. I regularly spread out a map and “travel” on the map with my daughter. It is my delight to hear their experiences and become acquainted with many sisters through my daughter.
I am already 86. The days that have passed by seem like only a watch during the night. I cannot work as much as before, but field service still brings me joy. When I meditate on the 60 years that have gone by since I learned the truth, God’s reassuring promise wells up in my heart. Yes, Jehovah who will act in loyalty with loyal ones is letting us reap bountiful joy.—Psalm 18:25.