Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Life Story: Sumiko Hirano

Life Story of Sumiko Hirano (pgs 11-15 of the 8/1/06 Watchtower)

My husband and I were married in 1951, when I was 21 years old. Within four years, we had two sons, and my life seemed blessed in every way.
One day in 1957, my older sister told me that a missionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been visiting her. Although a Buddhist, my sister began studying the Bible with the missionary and encouraged me to study the Bible too. I agreed. I was attending a Protestant church, and I would be able to point out the errors of Jehovah’s Witnesses—or so I thought.
I soon found out how little I knew about the Bible. I had to ask the missionary, “Who is Jehovah?” I had never heard that name used in my church. The missionary, Daphne Cooke (later Pettitt), directed me to Isaiah 42:8, which plainly states that Jehovah is the name of Almighty God. Daphne answered all my questions by using the Bible.
I asked my minister those same questions. He told me: “Asking questions is a sin. Just believe what you are told.” Although I did not feel that asking questions was wrong, for six months I went to church every Sunday in the morning and attended the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the afternoon.

The Effect on My Marriage
What I was learning from the Bible thrilled me, and I shared it with my husband, Kazuhiko. After every study and meeting, I told him what I had learned. The result was that a “cold wind” began to blow between us. He did not want me to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, studying the Bible was so satisfying that I continued my studies and association with the Witnesses.
Before leaving the house on meeting nights, I prepared Kazuhiko’s favorite meals for him, but he began going out to eat. When I returned home after the meetings, he was in a bad mood and refused to talk. After two or three days, his mood improved, but then it was time for the next meeting.

About this time, I became ill with tuberculosis, a disease that had already caused several deaths in my husband’s family. Kazuhiko became very worried and told me that when I got better, I could do anything I liked. My only request was that he be gracious about my attending the weekly meetings. He agreed.
My recovery took six months, and during that time I made an intensive study of the Bible. I looked for discrepancies in the teachings of the Witnesses, figuring that I would stop my study if I found just one. I could find none. Instead, the errors of the Protestant Church became obvious. I came to know Jehovah’s love and justice and saw the benefit of living in harmony with his laws.
After I recovered, my husband kept his promise and did not oppose my going to the meetings. I kept growing spiritually, and in May 1958, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I longed to have my family join me in worshipping the true God.

Helping My Children Spiritually
My sons were always with me at the meetings and in the preaching work, but some things that happened made me see that they were growing in Bible knowledge. One day Masahiko, my six-year-old son, was playing outside the house. I heard a loud noise and someone shrieking. A neighbor burst into my house, screaming that my son had been hit by a car. Was he dead? I forced myself to be calm as I rushed outside. The sight of his mangled bicycle made me tremble, but then I saw him walking toward me, just slightly hurt. As he clung to me, he said, “Mummy, Jehovah helped me, didn’t he?” Seeing him alive and hearing those beautiful words made me cry.
Another day, in the ministry we met an old man who shouted: “What do you think you are doing dragging a young child around like that? I pity him.” Before I could reply, eight-year-old Tomoyoshi said: “Grandpa, my mother does not force me to preach. I preach because I want to serve Jehovah.” The old man just stared and could not say a thing.

Spiritually, my sons were fatherless boys. It was up to me to teach them Bible truths, though I had much to learn myself. I cultivated my own love, faith, and zeal and tried to set a good example. Daily I gave thanks to Jehovah in front of the children. I told them of my experiences in the preaching work. This encouraged them. When later asked why they had become pioneers, or full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they answered, “We saw that our mother was happy serving as a pioneer, and we wanted to be happy too.”
I took great care not to speak disparagingly of their father or of anyone in the congregation. I realized that negative talk could have a damaging effect on my children. They might lose respect not only for the one spoken against but also for the one speaking.

Overcoming Obstacles to Progress
In 1963 my husband’s work took our family to Taiwan. He told me that if I preached to the Japanese community there, I would cause bad feelings. We would be sent back to Japan, and that would create problems for his company. He wanted to distance us from the Witnesses.
In Taiwan, where all the meetings were held in Chinese, the Witnesses gave us a warm welcome. I decided to learn Chinese so that I could witness to the local people instead of to the Japanese. In that way, I could avoid the problems that my husband mentioned.
Our friendship with the Witnesses in Taiwan strengthened us. One missionary couple, Harvey and Kathy Logan, helped us immensely. Brother Logan became a spiritual father to my boys. He showed them that serving Jehovah is not a joyless, rigid life. I believe that it was while in Taiwan that my sons made their decision to serve Jehovah.

Tomoyoshi and Masahiko went to an American school, where they learned English as well as Chinese. That education equipped them for future service as ministers of the true God, Jehovah. I am deeply grateful to Jehovah for changing what could have been a difficult period for us to a time of lasting blessings. After three and a half memorable years in Taiwan, our family returned to Japan.
The boys were now teenagers and began pushing for independence. I spent many hours reasoning with them on Scriptural principles, and Jehovah helped them through that difficult time. On leaving high school, Tomoyoshi began to pioneer. He was able to help four people to dedication and baptism during his first few years of pioneering. Masahiko followed his brother’s example and started to pioneer right after secondary school. He helped four young people to become Witnesses in his first four years of pioneering.

Then Jehovah blessed the children even more. Tomoyoshi studied with the husband of a woman whom I had helped to learn Bible truths. Their two daughters also became Witnesses. Later, Tomoyoshi married the older girl, Nobuko, and Masahiko married the younger one, Masako. Tomoyoshi and Nobuko now serve at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. And Masahiko and Masako are missionaries in Paraguay.

Gradual Changes in My Husband
My husband seemed indifferent to our faith in those years, but we saw indications that he was changing. When others opposed me, he defended my beliefs and actually supported Bible truths without realizing it. He provided material help to Witnesses in need. In a short speech at the wedding of one of our sons, he said: “Teaching people the right way to live is the finest work there is, and it is the most difficult. My sons and their wives have chosen this most difficult path as their career. Please help them.” All of this made me think that surely he would join us in serving Jehovah.

I arranged for association with fellow Witnesses in our home. I invited Kazuhiko to Christian meetings and assemblies as well as to the Memorial of Christ’s death. When his work allowed, he attended these, though begrudgingly. Many times, I felt that he might accept a Bible study, so I invited Christian elders to the house. But he refused to study. I wondered what was wrong.
The apostle Peter’s words came to my mind: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) I realized that I had not always followed that counsel. To comply fully with it, I needed to improve my spirituality.

In 1970, I began to pioneer with the goal of becoming a more spiritual person. Ten years passed, then 20. Still, I saw no spiritual change in my husband. A Bible student once remarked: “It must be hard helping other people when you can’t even help your own husband.” That was discouraging, but I did not give up.
By the late 1980’s, our parents were reaching the end of their lives. Taking care of them and fulfilling my other duties was exhausting and stressful. For years, they had all opposed my faith in Jehovah, but I tried to show them as much love as I could. Just before her death, my 96-year-old mother said to me, “Sumiko, if I am resurrected, I will join your religion.” I realized that my efforts had not been in vain.

My husband took notice of all that I had done in behalf of our parents. To show his appreciation, he began attending meetings regularly. For years he did so but made no real spiritual progress. I continued trying to please him. I invited his friends and even his foreign business colleagues to our home for meals. I joined him in recreation. When the hour requirement for pioneer service was reduced to 70 hours a month, I spent more time with him.

Retirement Brings a Change
My husband retired in 1993. Now, I thought, at last he will have time to study the Bible. But he said that worshipping God just because he had time would be blasphemy. Rather, he said that he would worship God when his heart moved him to do so and that I was not to push him.
One day Kazuhiko asked me if I would now spend the rest of my life living for him. This hurt me, for I had been doing all I could for him ever since I married him. I had tried so hard to make him happy, but he felt that I had been living more for Jehovah than for him. After thinking about it for a while, I told him that I could do no more for him. But if he would join me in what I was doing, we could start a wonderful new life together that would last, not for a few more years, but for an eternity. For days, my husband had no reply. Finally he asked, “So will you study the Bible with me?” Every time I think of those words, my heart pounds.

At first, I arranged for a Christian elder to study with my husband, but he told me, “I will study with no one but you.” So we began a daily Bible study. Since I am in a Chinese congregation and my husband is fluent in that language, we studied in Chinese. We also read the entire Bible together in less than a year.
During this time, an elder in the Chinese congregation, along with his wife, took an interest in us as a couple. Although younger than our children, they became our true friends. Many other Witnesses also took a special interest in my husband. They showed us hospitality and conversed with Kazuhiko as if he were their father. That made him very happy.
One day an invitation to a wedding in the congregation arrived at the house, addressed to my husband. That recognition as head of the family deeply touched him, and he decided to attend. He soon opened up to the Witnesses and began to study the Bible with a Christian elder. His Bible study, meeting attendance, and the love of the congregation helped him make good spiritual progress.

A United Family at Last
In December 2000, my husband was baptized in symbol of his dedication to Jehovah. My sons and their wives came from far away to see this modern-day “miracle.” It took 42 years, but at last we are a united family.
Now each morning, the two of us discuss a scripture for the day and read the Bible together. Every day, we enjoy spiritual conversations and share in spiritual activities. My husband is now a ministerial servant in the congregation, and he recently gave a public Bible discourse in Chinese. I thank Jehovah for bringing us together. Along with all of those near and dear to me, I look forward to upholding his name and sovereignty for eternity.