To accomplish anything great, it takes passion, drive, and commitment. For Territorial Commander Gunpei Yamamuro, these characteristics would fuel his mission to win souls for Christ. They took him from humble beginnings to becoming a driving force for The Salvation Army in Japan.
Before Yamamuro became so influential as an officer, dramatically helping transform Japanese society, and bringing people to Jesus—his life was on a different path. In fact, young Yamamuro did not even know Jesus in his early days. He originally followed Shintoism and Confucianism.
AN ADVENTURE BEGINS
Born in 1872 on the island of Honshu into an old family, Yamamuro soon was adopted by his uncle who owned a pawnshop. This lifestyle couldn’t hold his energetic soul for long, and Yamamuro ran away. He traveled to Kobe, boarded a ship for Yokohama, and eventually arrived penniless in Tokyo.
STRUGGLE AND REDEMPTION
All alone in Tokyo at age 15, Yamamuro became a printer’s apprentice. His daily wage was so low that he couldn’t even afford full meals or take a hot bath. His situation also found him having to stay—quite aware—in a house often used as a brothel. Surrounded by people following an immoral way of life, his spirit was thankfully not ruined by these experiences. Hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached on the street one day, was the joyous reason for this.
“If I had not been able to listen to the Gospel message for another few months or let matters take their course, I might have become a lad of bad character,” Yamamuro wrote. “It was only Jesus that saved me from that crisis. I often despaired from the yoke of old sins. But in the cross of Jesus I found deliverance from the power of sin.”
The Gospel so radically changed Yamamuro’s life, that he wanted those around him to be saved as well. He invited coworkers to church, but they wouldn’t take his offers. Moved with immense yearning, Yamamuro knelt down between the shelves at work, crying: “Lord, make me a messenger of the Gospel in the future to convey it to those operatives, laborers and masses in simple and understandable language.”
His prayer would be answered, and each of Yamamuro’s life experiences would help shape his future ministry…
MISSION IN ACTION
1. During college, Yamamuro couldn’t always afford his tuition. He once fasted for 11 days and lived on rice and salt for six months just to get by.
Through his own experience of hunger, Yamamuro made it his mission to feed the hungry, while also feeding their souls with the Word of God.
2. Yamamuro’s early years around people who followed a sinful way of life moved him to have compassion for the state of their souls.
Along with The Salvation Army, he did everything he could to bring these people to Christ by:
- Opening homes for ex-prisoners
- Creating hostels for working men
- Opening shelters for struggling women
- Helping to abolish licensed prostitution in Japan
- Creating nation-wide campaigns for abstinence from alcohol
- Improving social service
- Increasing the roles of women in public life
3. As a common laborer himself, Yamamuro wanted both educated and uneducated people to come to know Christ.
To help with this, Yamamuro translated the Gospel and wrote The Common People’s Bible. This simple explanation of God’s plan for salvation was immensely influential in bringing souls to Christ.
THE ESSENTIAL MESSAGE
Gunpei Yamamuro’s life was completely dedicated to Christ. Even on his deathbed, he was still preaching:
“The time when I must bid farewell to the world is nearing. Therefore, I am very anxious about your souls. You must promptly repent of your sins, believe in Jesus and enter the life of love. A human soul is more valuable than the whole world. You are given a valuable soul, you must respect it, appreciate and value it, love and protect it.”