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NEKATA Our Brother from Japan A story about a Japanese murderer on Death Row This was an experience from Japan, as told by a circuit overseer: (w81 5/15 3, yb73 244-245 and w59 637-639) Jehovah's Witnesses were doing street work and placed some magazines with a man. At first, the fellow decided he would discard them in the next trash-can. He just thought he was doing the Witnesses a favor by buying the magazines. As he walked along however, he thought of a man he knew in prison; he would send them to him instead! So these magazines got into the hands of a man named Nekata, serving time on death row. He was serving time for multiple murders, and considered incorrigible. He was so mean and ugly that he would spit on anyone that came near his cell and he would shout out the worst obscenities at people. He would often take his cup and bang it against the bars and shout, "kill me now, kill me now". Everyone hated this man, there were not very many that didn't want to hang him themselves I Nekata had been in and out of prison all his life, and he was only 29 years old. The only person that ever came to see him was his father, once a month, feeling it was an obligation. This was the man that got the Watchtower and Awake and read them. And something clicked. He noticed it could be obtained by subscription, so when his father came to visit him, he asked him for the money to get a subscription to the magazines. The father thought it couldn't hurt him, and gave him the money. Nekata read them regularly. Eventually, the local congregation received a follow-up notice for the expiring subscriptions. The slip was given to a special pioneer, who went out looking for the address on his bicycle. He didn't know Nekata was in prison. He went right past the prison, and couldn't find the address, so he went to a guard station and asked if they knew where this particular address was. They directed him to go past the bushes, and to the tower down the road. "But that's the prison" the brother says. The guards reply, "No, you don't say! By the way, who are you looking for?" He says a man named Nekata. They both replied, "NEKATA!II" "Are you sure you want to see HIM?, they ask. This doesn't dismay the brother, and off he goes up to the big gate, and asks to see the warden, and asks him to see Nekata. Even the warden says "What do you want with the man Nekata?" The pioneer explains and is allowed inside. He has to go through heavy steel doors and gates and comes to this very thick door, with a small window about two and a half inches in size with wire mesh, just big enough to see the person on the other side. The brother starts talking to Nekata, and can tell he has been reading the magazines and seems to have a great deal of interest in them, so he offers him a Bible study. Nekata readily accepts it. So the brother begins to have a study with him every week. They have to conduct it with that thick door between them, though. Very soon Nekata begins to change into a different kind of person. He even begins to apologize to people he had previously spit upon and screamed rebukes at. He tells them he is studying the Bible and learning a new way of life, and he asks them for forgiveness and he would tell them a little about the Kingdom. He would try to write to people he could not contact from his cell. He continued to make great progress each day, and this encouraged the brother studying with him, so much so, that he even kept the local congregation informed on Nekata's progress. How would you feel if you had a study like that and then were sent away? That was just what happened, the special pioneer was sent to another part of Japan on a new assignment. So he went to the Fukuoka missionary home, and asked Percy Islop if he would continue the study. Br. Islop was delighted and went right over and resumed the Bible study. Nekata continued to read everything he could get his hands on that would help him learn the Truth, and he was making application of what he was learning. Finally, Percy went to the warden, and asked if they could study face to face. The warden said that this sort of thing is unheard of, as this man is on death row. But, the warden says, even though it is against all regulations, I'm going to let you study in the recreation center, next to my office. The warden had noticed the changes in this man, and that was why he allowed it, however, they had to have an armed guard go along with them. The first time they met face to face. Nekata just grabbed and hugged Percy, considering him a real brother, and tears came to both of them. Every week they would study one hour, and during that time Brother Islop would also bring out a point from the Watchtower, Book Study, Service Meeting, Theocratic Ministry School, and the Public Talk. So that hour was always jam- packed! The guard couldn't believe his ears, he kept hearing Nekata make the heartfelt statements that a Christian would make. The guard became so impressed to see the changes in this man that he began to allow them an extra 15 minutes each week. He began to like Nekata and sometimes he would even allow them a little extra time. Percy began to look upon Nekata as a son, and a close bond developed between them. What did Nekata do with this new -found information? Well, he would watch the clock in his cell, and every time the hour came when the meeting would start in the local congregation, Nekata would stand at attention in his very best that he could get on death row, and would have his hair all combed back neatly. Then he would begin the meeting with the brothers, and he tried to imagine what songs they might sing, the prayers they might say, and all the different parts of the program. This was his pattern, and it didn't take long to realize that Nekata had dedicated his life to Jehovah. He was also preaching to everyone on every occasion he could. So Brother Islop went to see the warden and asked if he could baptize Nekata. The warden said he didn't see why not, they would just get some water and sprinkle it on his head. Then Br. Islop explained that was not the proper way to be baptized and explained that Nekata would have to be completely covered by the water, and then come up out of the water, symbolizing how he would in effect, die to his old way of life and come out of the water to a new way of life, like Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordan. The warden said that was a bit of a problem, but that they would have to find a way, because he had never seen anyone change so much as Nekata! So, they had the baptism on death row, and they were able to have a number of the brothers come in and witness it. There was this little ceremony and then they baptized him, and when he came up out of the water, he was so happy, he cried for joy. They didn't know if there was more water coming from the eyes of Nekata and the-brothers than the water he was baptized in. It was a touching moment, and he hugged all the brothers. Now he was a baptized Witness! And you might think that was the end. But it wasn't, because Nekata wanted to be much more. Now he was a full-fledged brother and he proceeded to thank Jehovah right there on that occasion. He wanted to do so much more but was limited in prison. So he wrote a poem, about the New Order, Jehovah God, and the Kingdom. He then entered it into a contest, and it won first prize. It was a beautiful poem. The winner was to go to the governor's mansion and accept the award from the governor himself. So they had to make a change in the arrangements; guess who went to death row? The governor! But this only made more publicity for the poem. It was published, and many more received a witness from death row by means of that beautiful poem. Nekata also began to study Braille and mastered it, then he took the Kingdom book and translated every bit of it into Braille. He worked night and day on it. And he made copies of it, which the brothers distributed, and people that were blind were able to learn of the Kingdom from death row. The books even went to Korea by means of a district overseer, and blind people in that land were able to learn as well. Nekata would write letters to the congregation, letters expressing his appreciation for the brotherhood, and he would ask the brothers not to take the Truth for granted. He said if you could see it from my situation, I would even crawl several miles to the meetings and crawl back if I could. He wrote also that they should never take the meeting for granted, and never miss one unless they had a scriptural reason. He said they would never know how much he wanted to be there with them. Then he would say he wondered what it would be like to preach regularly on the outside, to visit and associate with other families in the Truth. He said do not ever take the Truth for granted, and he encouraged them to endure. One night, they got a call at the missionary home while they were all sitting at the table. It was the warden and he told Brother Islop that Nekata would be put to death the following morning at 9am. He said there was no way they could stop the execution, because the government had set the date. Three witnesses hired by the government, three government officials, and a doctor pronounced him guilty for his crimes, so he had been tried and nothing could change the decision. What a night the missionaries had, tears in their eyes as they prayed for their brother. Nekata's father wasn't even informed until the day after the execution. But the warden had called Brother Islop because he knew of the bond that had developed between them. The warden had made another concession, and in the morning he arranged for a limousine to pick up Percy Islop, so that he could be with Nekata at death. They drove into the large complex with the guards and way down the field were the gallows. A group of officials were there along with the warden. They brought Percy in, and about 20 minutes later they brought Nekata out in chains. The news had spread all over the prison, about the study and about the changes, and they just hated to see this day coming down. Then everyone there saw Percy take Nekata by the hand and Nekata just hugged Percy. Here Percy had come to encourage Nekata, but Percy just broke down and cried, and the tears were flowing. Nekata said to Percy, "be strong, I'm going to be strong. Percy. I'm only going to sleep a little while, and then I'll be able to serve my God again. I believe in the resurrection. And I'm ready to pay the debt I owe to Jehovah God and the debt I owe to society for the crimes I have committed." Then he encouraged Br. Islop and told him to be strong. Then Nekata bowed to the warden in typical Japanese fashion and said, "I want to thank this man, I want to thank the warden of this prison for allowing me to study the Bible in the recreation hall. He will never know what that meant to me." Then he thanked the warden for allowing him to be baptized and for allowing his brothers to be there on that day. And for allowing Br. Islop to be there this day. "He made these concessions, and may he see that it has brought me such joy, the Truth of God's word." Then the warden jumped up and held his hand and said, “I, I want to thank you for being such a model prisoner, ever since your contact with Jehovah's Witnesses. We thank you!! And none of us want to see you die, this is the saddest day in our lives. You, Mr. Nekata, are a credit to your God, Jehovah." What a witness that was! Now it was time for them to go to the gallows, Percy in a car, Nekata in a truck. They go and pull up by the gallows and all the people come down, the officials, etc. The gallows had a rope with a noose on it and a long flight of stairs leading up to it, with ten armed guards along the way. Now the people are becoming emotional and some fainting, but Nekata is unusually calm. He gets off the truck and walks right up those stairs, and Percy is right behind him. Nobody had to push him along. Percy has his book-bag, because he is going to share the Bible with Nekata when they get up there. At the top there is a table and two chairs, with some cake and tea on the table. You may wonder what this is all for, it is the typical Last Meal. They sit down and Nekata offers Percy some, but he is so upset, he can't eat or drink. So Nekata has his portion also and says, "Percy, you will have a lot more time." Percy begins to talk to Nekata, and Nekata starts to talk about the high points of the magazines, from the first Watchtower he read down till the present time, and how the Truth has put his mind and heart on the way to life. They talk of a number of highlights and Percy has tears in his eyes. Then Nekata suddenly says "Percy, you know I've never heard a Kingdom Song." Percy says, "You don't want me to sing, do you?" Nekata says "Yes", so Percy gets out his songbook and tries singing, but he's crying all the way through. Soon Nekata says, "That's O.K., I'll hear you in the new order" and lets him off the hook. They talk a little more and Nekata says, ' I've often thought of being free like a little bird to go out and preach the good news. But if I had been free Percy, I may never have listened to the truth. And although I'm on my way to death, I'm on my way to life, because I know Jehovah and I wouldn't trade it for the world." He encourages the brotherhood and tells Percy what to tell the brothers. Then they have a prayer and say good-bye with a big bear hug. Percy then has to go down, Nekata takes his slippers off and starts walking right over to the trap door and then he turns around and says, "Percy, what's that verse, the one about the heart?, that is, the one they had been talking about. Percy replies that it is about the circumcision of the heart and he says, "You don't have to worry, your heart is circumcised, you can die clean." Nekata says, "I want to remember that when I die. Percy, just a few steps to the noose and I've fought the fine fight, I've run the race to the finish and soon it will all be over for me. My reward is ahead. Percy, you and my brothers are the ones that have the hard fight ahead of you, you're the ones that have to endure, you're the ones that will have to stay faithful, and not take the truth for granted. And, if you stay faithful I'll see you in a little while. Then I'll be resurrected and restored to life, and I'll see you there if you are faithful and my brothers if they are faithful. Sayonara!" Then he walked over to the trap door and they put the noose around his neck, and they dropped the trap door. And he was heard to say "Oh, Jehovah help." The rope came tight, and they pronounced him dead 11 minutes later. A further development in this story came to light a little while later. One of the government witnesses to the hanging worked in a government office with one of Jehovah's Witnesses and he revealed something to that Witness. Right away the Witness got in touch with Br. Islop and asked him, "Do you know what Nekata said at death?" Percy said yes, he was there. He said "Oh, Jehovah help." The Witness said that his final words were "Oh, Jehovah help Brother Islop!" Who was he thinking about when he drew his last breath? He was praying for Brother Islop, and if he had enough breath left he'd be praying for the other brothers too! He was a Christian. He really appreciated the brotherhood and unity; he loved the brothers. What a fabulous Witness he turned out to be. The warden told the father the next day about the execution, and the father went to the morgue. He had kept up to a degree on the progress that his son had been making in the Truth. At the morgue he demanded to see the face of his son as accorded by law. They took him in, along with Br. Islop, and he saw the face of his dead son. He saw the changes Nekata had made and what he stood for and he said he must have had the truth! The father came into the truth and became an elder in a congregation, and Nekata's invalid mother also came in the truth as well as many others. All because of this man and what he did. The circuit overseer closes these remarks to the congregation by saying, that before today you probably never heard of this brother, but Jehovah knew about him. In the new order we will meet brothers like that, but we have to endure and highly esteem the Truth as something wonderful in our lives and not let the Truth take a back seat to anything. Thank you for the wonderful experience Brother.