One of my favorite stories that illustrates God’s power to change many lives through the life of one is that of Kazue.
Part of my master’s thesis was a leadership study on the life of an Irish missionary in Japan, Irene Webster-Smith. I learned soo much researching her life as a leader, her ministry, her methods of sharing about Jesus with the Japanese. I studied her life through old newsletters and pieces of biographies. I was particularly interested in the results of Irene’s influence on Kazue.
Kazue was nineteen years old when she met Irene, who was ministering not far from here before World War II. When Kazue came to Christ, Irene prayed that Acts 16 would be true- that God would save her and her household. Her governess was first- the next day! Over the next six months, all seven of her siblings came to know Jesus. And then her mother. And her dad, the President of the Osaka Stock Exchange. Her dad then confessed that he had had a geisha lover. Irene went and shared Jesus with her; she became a geisha missionary in Kyoto to other geisha women.
Kazue married a Christian, but moved in with his non-believing parents. While he was at work, his mother would lock Kazue in a closet all day because she refused to bow down to the family Buddhist altar. As a result of this abuse, Kazue got tuberculosis, and died at the age of 23. At her funeral, the mother-in-law came running up to her body, screaming, “I’m sorry I killed you!” Everyone was stunned. As she looked around the room, she realized that Kazue never told anyone about the abuse. She had even kept the fact hidden from her dear mentor, Irene. Kazue’s mother-in-law and father-in-law, too, became followers of Jesus. (Photo below was Kazue after she had passed away).
A small book was published in Japanese by Kazue’s dad about her life, based upon Kazue’s own journals the last few years. There are some neat stories that I found about that book that went out as far as to Korea. As I researched Kazue’s short life through limited English resources, I discovered over fifty people who came into God’s Kingdom as a result of one college student who chose to follow God with her whole heart.
I shared this story on the first morning with the class I am teaching. When we met again two weeks later, one of the students, Eiji-san, brought in the most amazing “show and tell” – a first edition copy of Kazue’s book. Inside, was a letter that Kazue had written to perhaps her pastor at the time…
I can’t describe the words I felt as I held the book and the letter in my hands. I have copied the photos that were in the book, and loved reading the forward from Irene Webster Smith.
We showed the book and letter to our close friend, Y. She couldn’t put the book down… she has been reading it the past week, and asked her mom to read and help understand the letter, which is somewhat antiquated Japanese. She translated one of the short “poems” that Kazue wrote during her time of suffering:
“Everything God does has meaning; He never fails.
When things seem to go wrong or to be fruitless, it is because our faith is not strong enough, not because of God’s failure.”
Truly – He makes all things beautiful… I marvel at how God is still using the life of a 23 year old who passed away without children more than seventy years ago. When we think about what kind of legacy we will live behind – I think of this young woman. She loved God with her whole heart; she couldn’t help but share about His goodness with all those around her. The rest – is history.