Note: This article has drawn some pretty big attention. It’s such an incredible story that some people aren’t entirely convinced it’s true. Many sources have told Mission Geek that it is, including Daniel himself who worked with us for a few days on this piece. Although it describes a dangerous situation, missionaries in Japan are historically extremely safe. This experience is very, very rare. Contact Daniel if you have any questions: here  What a miracle! Faith = Power

 

Daniel always dreamed about serving his mission in Japan. Fascinated by the place, he started learning about the Japanese culture and language from a young age. Gaining a Japanese scholarship to represent New Zealand, his Japanese speaking improved significantly. So, his call to the Japan Hiroshima Mission wasn’t surprising, but still “overwhelming and exciting”.

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Daniel back home before receiving his mission call 

He arrived in the heat of the summer. The sprawling mass of city* they lived in was completely different compared with the New Zealand beach town Daniel (now Elder Hart) grew up in, but he couldn’t have been happier.

Elder Hart had a deep respect for his mission trainer (his first companion) Elder Muraoka, who was native Japanese. The two missionaries worked in a fairly difficult area, where the church had only a hand full of members, and Christianity was still widely unaccepted.

Elder Hart was confident with conversational Japanese and was keen to work with the local members, so they went on ‘splits’ (where two members pair off with missionaries to work in different areas for a few hours) and they’d planned to meet back at the chapel for lunch.

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Photos of the mission area, Elder Hart with a former missionary companion. 

 

After a slow morning, Elder Hart returned to the chapel where they waited for Elder Muraoka and his companion. After several unanswered phone calls Elder Hart had a gut feeling that something was wrong. Thirty minutes later, Elder Muraoka’s member companion came rushing in and explained that his companion was in trouble. He told Elder Hart to follow him. They rushed off to an apartment building. Completely unaware of the specifics of the situation, Elder Hart imagined a whole range of precarious scenarios.

They arrived at a ground floor apartment, the door was open and Elder Muraoka was visible through the hallway, kneeling in the living room. Elder Hart was relieved that his companion wasn’t injured. “Elder Muraoka, you ok?” Elder Hart asked as he entered the apartment.

Elder Muraoka didn’t say anything; he didn’t even move his head. Seeing the frightened look on his companion’s face, Elder Hart knew that something was very wrong.

As he entered the room, a strong hand came out from his side, tightly grabbed his shoulder and forced him down next to his companion. “Sit there!” this deep voice insisted. Elder Hart knelt down and looked to the ground. Everything had become very serious, very quickly. This man then went to the door and the missionaries heard him verbally and physically force their member friend to leave.

This man returned to the kneeling Elders, stood in from of them and pulled off his shirt. Elder Hart said, “He was intimidatingly large. He looked like a fighter or a body builder, he was ripped with Japanese symbols and dragon tattoos, which covered his whole body up to his wrists and neckline. He wanted to intimidate us, and it was working”. He asked “Do you know who I am, I’m Takashi?”

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The two missionaries with Takashi, drawing by Ambroise Catherine.

Who is Takashi**?

Takashi then pulled up a stool and sat in front of them. Elder Hart had seen that he was missing the top third of his little fingers on both hands. This struck him with even more fear as he realised that Takashi had been initiated into the Yakuza Mafia. Elder Hart knew that this group was powerful.

Having a large presence in the Japanese media and operating internationally with over 100,000 gang members, Elder Hart knew that it was unlikely that even the police would be able to help them now.  This wasn’t a movie, this was real and they were caught right up in the middle of it. “I’d heard all about the mafia and it was likely that Takashi had done terrible things, maybe even killed people” said Elder Hart.

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Photo of a Yakuza member with the removed tip of his little finger 

Takashi sat down and leaned in towards them, his large, muscular shoulders and arms were bulging, a threatening reminder of his strength. “Why are you missionaries, why are you doing this?”

Elder Hart replied with hesitation, “We believe our message is important and can help people”. Elder Muraoka started to add his response, when, at once, Takashi shouted “SILENCE!”

Takashi then started laughing deeply, “You’re a fool, you’re both fools”. He continued, “People like you are weak, people who believe in God are weak. I don’t like weak people, they don’t deserve to be alive”.

Takashi took some nun chucks from off the wall and started skilfully swinging them around his head and body. “I have 800 people below me, I am a God to them”, his dark eyes piercing deep into Elder Hart as he spoke.

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Similar nunchucks he used 

He threw the nunchucks to the ground and kicked them away, pulling Elder Hart up by his shirt collar. He pushed him out onto the large, concrete patio. There, in pride-of-place, was a huge green motorbike. “Get on!” he insisted. Elder Hart hesitantly mounted the bike. “Rev it!” he said as he started the motor. Elder Hart cautiously turned the handle to hear the engine grumble. ”More, more”, he shouted whilst laughing and forcing Elder Hart’s hand even further forward, causing the bike to let out a deep throaty roar.

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Similar bike to the one Takashi owned

They returned to the living room and Elder Hart retook his position, kneeling next to his companion.   Takashi was in complete control, “You are weak, because you need God”, he said. “I don’t rely on anyone but myself, I am a God”. “Bring your God here, I will fight him! Where is your God now?”

The missionaries didn’t know what to say. Paralysed with fear, they kneeled submissively and silently prayed for help. Takashi then stood up and said, “If you don’t talk, I will do this to you”.

“He ran up to his ‘old school’ metal fridge and imploded his hand into the door, it was so powerful that it left a huge imprint. Just the sound of it ran chills through me, it felt inhuman like”.

“I could literally hear my own voice saying in my mind ‘this is it, this is the end for me and Elder Muraoka’, I prayed in my heart, hoping that I’d been a good missionary and I asked God to look after and bless my family”.

“Then Elder Muraoka looked over at me, he almost smiled as if to say ‘no matter what happens, we’re in this together, I’ve got your back”. recalled Elder Hart.

Teaching

The missionaries took a leap of faith and asked Takashi if they could teach him about the power of the Atonement. “Surprisingly he agreed, we taught him for hours” said Elder Hart, whose knees and back by now were pretty sore, but they couldn’t move from their position.

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Elder Hart and Muraoka at Zone Conference 

Takashi agreed they could teach him about they God. “Something changed when we talked about Jesus Christ, he still wouldn’t let us leave, but he was calmer than before, he went quiet and started listening”, said Elder Hart. The missionaries taught for hours, trying to keep their captor calm and prove to him that they had purpose, value and a strong message. They continued to teach about Jesus Christ’s life in an attempt to prove that reliance on God wasn’t weak, but enabling and integral as imperfect people.

“At the end we gave him a pamphlet, which he screwed up and threw away, but this time his laugh was forced, he was trying to stay in control, stay powerful, but we knew he’d been affected by our teachings, we had become more than just toys to him”.   

Takashi then told the missionaries that he’d be taking them out to dinner. He made a phone call, ordered a taxi and dressed to go outside. As the apartment door opened to the left, the taxi door opened to the right and created a tunnel into the cab. “There was just no way out, no way of escaping him and we knew that we just had to do what he told us”.

Elder Hart was skeptical of his forced invitation for dinner and hoped that they weren’t going somewhere more sinister. In the taxi, it was clear to the missionaries that the driver was a subordinate of Takashi, as he spoke a form of Japanese to him that was usually reserved for talking to dogs.

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“There was just no way out, no way of escaping him”.

They arrived at an expensive Japanese restaurant. Everyone at the restaurant were also controlled by Takashi, who ordered the staff as he entered, and a room was immediately cleared for him and his missionary guests. “I just wanted to get out of there and run, I wanted to get back to work and teach”, said Elder Hart.

The missionaries sat around a large table, and expensive meats were brought to them. “We can’t pay for this”, said Elder Hart. Takashi couldn’t resist showing the Elders his wallet, which must have contained a few thousand American dollars worth of Japanese Yen. “Eat”, he said.

Takashi was now drinking alcohol and his behaviour was reverting to aggressive. On leaving the restaurant Elder Hart asked to go to the bathroom, not that he needed it, it just seemed like a good moment to find a way out. Takashi agreed whilst he settled the bill. The Elders felt relieved to be out of sight for just a moment. Elder Hart whispered to Elder Muraoka, “Hey, lets go, now’s our chance. We could just escape out of the window”. For the first time, the Elders had an opportunity to leave Takashi, out of sight.

Elder Muraoka wasn’t keen, “If we leave now, he could find us, we won’t be safe, no missionary will ever be safe”. Elder Hart reluctantly agreed, but he trusted his companion, so they retuned to Takashi togther.

“I want to see your church, take me there”, said Takashi. The same taxi pulled up at the door of the restaurant and they exited immediately. The Elders didn’t know what to do. They couldn’t say no, but they didn’t want Takashi to know the location of the chapel. Elder Muraoka looked at Elder Hart and knew they didn’t have any choice.

They arrived at the church building, which was an old, traditional Japanese meeting house. They were surprised to see Takashi remove his shoes on the way in. They took him to the meeting room, which was raised and had a soft floor for sitting. Takashi used this opportunity to show off his exceptional karate moves, jumps and spins. “He was impressively good, but unnervingly strong and precise, we didn’t know what was next”.

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Traditional Japanese meeting room 

Then there was a glimmer of hope. Elder Muraoka remembered that English class started in just a few minutes. Members and investigators were on their way and the missionaries had no choice but to teach the class. “Takashi, we have English class now. We will be teaching, our students are arriving”.

Takashi insisted on staying, but on the condition that the missionaries would return to his apartment where he had women waiting for them. The missionaries refused, but he insisted and stayed for the class anyways. “Things had got crazy, we knew we couldn’t go there, but there didn’t seem to be a way out”.

The students who arrived were shocked to see a Yakuza mafia leader at church. “It was a bit scary, but I just taught the English class as normal. I hoped having other people there would make him feel less powerful and he might even leave”.

Unfortunately for the missionaries, the students at the English class all left very quickly afterwards, leaving them with Takashi who said, “I’ll be waiting by the door”.

The missionaries, now exhausted from the mental strain of the situation, wondered how they would ever escape this man’s grasp. They packed up the chairs, tidied the room and out of sight of Takashi, knelt down and prayed. Never had their relationship been stronger in their unity to evade this man. 

Elder Hart said, “I couldn’t believe it, as soon as we ended the prayer, embracing ourselves for the worst, Takashi walked over and hugged us both. He said, ‘Sensei (teacher) Hart, thank you, thank you’, and then he left”.

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Daniel in the Mission field 

“It really taught me the power of teaching and prayer. I had started my mission as a bit of a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to serve a mission, but in this moment, I had become a missionary. I learned a lesson, I felt it came from God just for me. I now understood my purpose better than ever and it sparked a trust in God that has never left me. If we hadn’t have taught for all those hours, who knows what could have happened.

I now know, no matter how difficult things might seem and no matter what mission in the world, missionaries are protected, their prayers are answered and God is looking out for them”.

Thankfully Elder Hart and Muraoka never heard from Takashi again, leaving only a fortified faith in God’s power that lasted a lifetime.

For another great story read: Miracle Book of Mormon spared from fire

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*Description changed to better fit environment

** Name changed

About The Author

7 Responses

  1. info@katiebard.com'
    Katherine

    Thanks for this. I remember hearing about this in the mission field. Finally a face to a story.

    Reply
  2. Troyb@finance.com'
    Troy B.

    This is great to finally read about this. I remember hearing about this in my ward when I lived in Japan.

    Reply
  3. Donluvsfam@gotmail.com'
    Donna Hampshire

    These articles are the best! It’s great to hear about experiences the world over that you otherwise might not be privy to.

    Reply
  4. alma48verse1717@yahoo.co.nz'
    Moroni Sunnex

    Hi there, great story. Just wondering if someone can tell me the name of the the Sister Missionary dressed in white on the couch? She just looks like someone from my mission?

    Reply

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