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They That Sat in Darkness
An Account of Rescue Work in Japan in the Words of the Rev. Yoshimichi Sugiura

New York: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, [1912]

Chapter X. A Visit to a Slum.

It was my long hope to become the friend of the wicked villains, with the hope to convert their hearts, and I wanted to pay my visit to the slums, where they specially lived. But it seemed very hard to make any successful visit to them without the help of my converted laborers.

Just after I had started the work of the Union the first villain to whom my eyes were directed was the jinrikisha-man, whose name was Hijikata. He was a fierce looking, wicked fellow, who was always intoxicated while he had money in his pockets. His wife had been taken away by a disease many years ago, leaving three children behind her. Though he might receive god wages for his daily work, he could not bring them to his house, spending all the money merely for drinking. He was not, however, without tears of pity for his children, and when he started from his house for his work in morning he [48/49] left many kind words of love to them, but he lost the sense to feel pity for those who are waiting for his return with hunger as soon as he began to drink. Some members of our Union, knowing it, had been accustomed to give food to them whenever they passed by the house on the way of their trade. At last two of the younger children became very weak and died, but the eldest girl was sent to be employed in the spinning house and fortunately survived them.

At the end of the summer, 1907, there was a flood, and all the people in his slum were moved to the school house near by. While he was staying there he became a friend with a woman, and after the flood he took her home as his second wife, who brought her two children with her. After a few months, however, she disappeared with her own children and brought away all her articles when he was abroad at his work.

He then learned that he had been deceived by her, who had her real husband and came only to stay in his house for a while, for her husband was a thief and had been in prison, but as he was released from it she returned to him.

[50] So he got very angry and determined to kill the faithless woman. Casting off his work and taking a dagger under his clothes he began to search for her with bloody eyes day after day. When we heard of it, and were wanting to meet him, Mr. Gonda saw him on a street and brought him to his house. He endeavored to quiet the rageful man, and succeeded to make him understand that it was too foolish to become such a dreadful sinner by her, and sent him to his home, plucking away the dagger from him.

Catching this good opportunity, I wanted to call on him at his house, and to hold a meeting for the people about there at once. But Mr. Gonda told me that it was yet dangerous, and wanted me to let him make the preparation for it. For there lived a band of gamblers in the neighborhood of the house of Bijikata, and they were so violent and ignorant that Mr. Gonda feared that they would attack us while we were holding the meeting there.

At that time Mr. Gonda's trade was to sell some articles of food going- round the streets. When he came to pass the gamblers' house one day one of them came out and, wanting to [50/51] buy his articles, higgled the price of them. Taking this opportunity, Mr. Gonda scoffed at him, saying, "It is not only impossible to lower the price for you, but I do not even like to sell my articles to such a person as yourself." This challenge of course provoked the gambler as he expected, and their discussion grew more and more harsh, and at last the gambler demanded that Mr. Gonda should come into his house to explain more about the matter, for he told him, "The Son of God would not like anything to do with such sin-fulness."

It was truly a dangerous risk. "Without entering into the tiger's den one can not catch the tiger's young," so says our proverb. And our brave and faithful soldier of the cross had entered into it. In the house he found the villains were just in the heat of their sinful business, and they were much surprised when he appeared suddenly before them, and encircled him ready to do violence at any moment.

He then prayed earnestly for our Lord's help, and began his eloquent speech calmly in the following words:

"Dear brethren! Why do you think it is [51/52] strange to hear that I called myself a son of God? I had not been a man so different from you all. I used to gamble; I used to drink; I used to do whatever you are doing to-day. I have had all the experience that you have now. But you must agree with me, such a licentious life never affords us true happiness.

"I could never send my children to school. I often left my family in hunger, without giving them anything to eat, and I quarreled day by day with my wife, when I led my life in your present way. I feel that my life was much inferior to that of the birds and beasts.

"But, dear brethren, when I became a member of my Union, and this beautiful badge on my breast began to shine, my heart was thoroughly changed by the miraculous power of God, and all such unhappy elements in my house were cleared off. I can not only have money enough for the livelihood of my family, but I am able to contribute some of it to charitable works at present.

"Compare this with my former condition, and if I was a son of devil, what do you say I am to-day? My sincere hope for you all is that you may become more happy men than I am now, by the merciful help of our God."

[53] Hearing this kind, fraternal advice, they were much surprised, and some of them were so much moved as to promise to come to our meeting. This is a good explanation of how much I owe to the earnest and faithful service of my officers in doing the work of the Union.

The way to the slum being thus open, I had visited the slum in the afternoon of the following Sunday, i6th February, 1908, and called on the jinriksha-man's house. There are many kinds of jinriksha-men in this city, and he belonged to the worst kind of them, which we call the "moro-shafu." They work only in night, and are very greedy for outrageous gain with slightest possible work, in the darkest side of our society. He was then sleeping, and by our invitation he came out with an astonished face, and was obliged to receive us into his house, which was only one room of intolerable dirt, with lousy mats, and a few simple articles and furniture on the floor.

He seemed to be much confused, and lost his head as to what to do. Then Mr. Gonda introduced me to him very solemnly and bade him to go round the neighborhood and gather the people for us. While he went out, we [53/54] took our seats in the room. In a short time he came home with his neighbors, and they sat around me. A very wry-faced working man, who was right next to my seat, was introduced to me by Mr. Gonda with such strange words: "Sir, this is a man who abhors Christianity so bitterly that he gave me a heavy blow with a club the other day when I met him on the street about here."

Being thrashed back with this unexpected introduction he was greatly ashamed, and nodded his head unhesitatingly before me. In answer to this I began my speech, which lasted for more than an hour. While I was speaking their heads were dropping lower and lower, and to my surprise I found that they were very weak in their hearts, and easily surrendered to us. I understood also that they are liable to become slave to sins easily by the same reason--a truly pitiable race, who want to be taken care of by us constantly! Vicious and pitiless as the master of this house was, he fast melted into a flood of tears, and twice he went away, while I was speaking, to soothe his troubled conscience. Among the crowding audience outside of the house were seen those gamblers to whom Mr. Gonda had given his [54/55] first instruction already. The meeting was closed with my prayer, and we came out of the house, and heard the voice from the people outside, which said, "Your teaching was very useful to us and gave us the good instruction." All the members of the Union were greatly encouraged by this triumph, and began to fight against the enemy with more vigor and confidence than ever. It has opened the way before us to push our steps into such slums in night to hold the open-air meeting with no obstruction.

September 2, 1910.

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