Mrs. Kamei’s Funeral
by Ralph and Miho Clatworthy, OMF missionaries to Japan
One of the hardest to reach “people groups” in any country is the elderly. This is especially true in Japan, a country influenced by the traditions of Buddhism and Shinto. However, some older Japanese are experiencing new life in Christ. Below is the story of an elderly Japanese woman who recently died – but is now in Heaven.
Mrs. Kamei grew up in a conservative farming village on the Pacific coast of Japan. The Buddhist temple was prominent in the life of the villagers. Mrs. Kamei’s granddaughter was the first one in the family to believe in Jesus. Initially, Mrs. Kamei and all the family were quite opposed. But the granddaughter was persistent in witnessing to the family and in praying for them. Eventually, however, the family’s opposition was so strong that they threw the granddaughter out of the house.
But the granddaughter continued to pray. She eventually was reconciled with the family, and most of the family became believers, including Mrs. Kamei. The decisions drew the ire of their fellow villagers, but the family continued in the faith.
Finally, when Mrs. Kamei’s son retired from work, the family looked for a place to live where there would be no opposition to their faith. They ended up moving to the Tokyo Bay area. By that time, Mrs. Kamei had already had a stroke, lost most of her speech and could only walk with difficulty. But she and the son commuted 30 minutes to church on Sundays. She always had a cute, peaceful smile on her face and nodded nicely whenever anyone said hello.
Towards the end of 2005, it became increasingly difficult for her to leave the house. She could not attend any Christmas activities, so a group from church went to her house and sang carols around her bed. She was delighted, and directed us with her hands quite vigorously as we sang.
Finally, in May 2006 Mrs. Kamei was called home by Jesus. The funeral was held in the family home, as is often the custom in Japan. The funeral was attended by quite a few non-Christians from the neighborhood. Mrs. Kamei’s unbelieving daughter seemed reluctant to have a Christian funeral for her mother, but the wishes of the rest of the family prevailed.
Mrs. Sudare, the non-Christian wife of a faithful believer from our church attended her first Christian funeral and was quite moved and impressed. One month later, when a second lady from the church died, Mrs. Sudare asked her employer for two days off so she could attend all the funeral arrangements. Since then, Mrs. Sudare has been talking more positively about getting baptized.