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Tomi's Gods

by Margaret W. Eggleston

Just outside the gate of a little Japanese town stood the shrine of the goddess Kishibojin. Every morning for many months, a young girl came to the shrine and bowed before it in earnest prayer. Sometimes she poured cold water over her body as she prayed. At other times she cut off strands of her hair and offered them to the idol. Tomi Kagata was determined to have the answer to her prayer, and she tried in every way she knew to make Kishibojin hear her. Still her prayer was not answered.

Each day, after Tomi’s prayer was over, she worked hard at a factory. Then, in the evening, she went home to care for her ailing father and two small brothers. Tomi was always tired, even in the morning when she went to pray.

Things had not always been so hard. Although Tomi’s mother was dead, her kind father and loving elder brother had taken good care of the home. Then disaster struck. First, her father became ill. At about the same time, Tomi’s brother, Matsui, began to drink. One day he struck a policeman. To avoid paying a large fine, he ran away from home. Now it was up to Tomi to provide for the family.

And so Tomi prayed earnestly each day that her brother might become a good man again. How happy her father would be to have him home once more! How much the little family needed his help! Surely Kishibojin would grant this one request. But day after day nothing happened. At last, in desperation, Tomi fell down before the idol. “Make Matsui a good man!” she cried. “If you do, I will give you my body and my soul.”

But Matsui did not come home.

One night some friends invited Tomi to go to a meeting with them. She listened spellbound as Christian missionaries told of Jesus, the loving friend who cares for all our sorrows. The next night Tomi returned to the meeting to hear more of this wonderful Savior. I’ll ask them how I can be a Christian, she decided. Then she stopped short. No! I can’t! I’ve made a vow to Kishibojin. 

The missionaries finished their meetings, but Tomi did not forget Jesus. Finally, she paid a visit to a Christian pastor. “I have prayed very hard to Kishibojin,” she told him. “I have done all I can to please her. Still she does not answer my prayer.

“Now I want to follow Jesus,” she confessed. “But I have asked Kishibojin to bring my brother home. I promised Kishibojin my body and soul if she would answer my prayer. What will she do to me if I don’t fulfill my vow?”

The pastor smiled warmly. “Kishibojin is just an idol of stone. She cannot hear your prayer—so how can she answer it? But Jesus is a living God. He is a God that both hears and answers prayer. You can ask Him to reach your brother.”

Tomi thought the matter over. Finally she decided that she would give her life to Jesus instead of to Kishibojin. One happy day, she was baptized. Now her entire church family joined in praying for the lost brother.

Tomi’s neighbors began noticing that her character was becoming more and more beautiful. Little by little they learned of her change from the god by the gate to the Christian God. Such a thing had never before happened in the village! They watched with interest to see if the new God would bring her brother home.

Then one day Tomi received a letter from her brother. Dear sister, she read, I have been more wicked than you can ever imagine. Now I am alone, sick, and friendless.

Tomi’s eyes filled with tears of concern mixed with hope. I will get Matsui and bring him home. 

As Tomi nursed her brother back to health, she shared with him the beautiful plan of salvation. Matsui’s heart was broken. He stopped drinking. As soon as he could, he found a job and paid his debt to the police. Soon he began attending church with Tomi.

This was only the first miracle! Now, one by one, the neighbors began to visit Tomi. For they, too, wanted to learn about the God who hears and answers prayer.

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