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Mayumi Nagano speaking with children in her daycare in Tokyo, Japan. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Daycare Owner Leads 45 to Baptism in Japan

Mayumi Nagano overcomes traumatic past to thrive in Christ.

By Andrew McChesney,

Mayumi Nagano, 58, is one of the most influential Seventh-day Adventist women in Japan.

She nearly died twice before the first grade.

Mayumi grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who suffered mental illness. Neither kept an eye on the little girl, and she twice knocked a kettle filled with boiling water off the stove — first at the age of 3 and then again at age 5. Both times, hot water drenched her body, leaving her with permanent scars.

“God saved my life twice,” Mayumi said in an interview.

When she was 9, her mother disappeared, never to be seen again.

Mayumi’s first glimmer of hope came in the sixth grade. An American moved next door and taught her to speak English and read the Bible. She couldn’t believe her ears when she read the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, where Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (NKJV).

“When I heard that verse, I know that I had found a way forward,” Mayumi said. “I could not change my past, and my scarred skin would never be the same as before. But I realized that I could give to other children the love that I wanted from my parents.”

It was then that the idea began to form in her mind that she would take care of children.

Working With Children

But several difficult decades passed first. She married at the age of 21 and divorced 10 years later. She became an alcoholic and a heavy smoker. She tried to commit suicide. When she remarried at 38, she began to build a new life. She was horrified at what she saw when she began working at a daycare center. The daycare set strict rules, and desperate parents had to work around them.

A turning point came when the daycare rejected a one-year-old baby with a fever. The mother was desperate to return to work because she wasn’t allowed time off. The next morning, the mother returned and pronounced the baby well. Mayumi couldn’t understand how the child had recovered so quickly. She found the answer when she changed the baby’s diaper. The mother had inserted a suppository to keep the fever down.

“I thought, ‘No, it should not be this way,’” Mayumi said. “So, I started my own daycare business with a customer-first policy. I would take children without any conditions, even those with a fever.”

The daycare, located in Mayumi’s home, was open 24 hours a day, year-round. Five hundred families flooded her with applications for the 10 available spots. It was 50 times the number she could handle. She never rejected a sick child. If a child had a fever, she sent a babysitter to the child’s home so the other children wouldn’t be infected.

While Mayumi was taking care of other people’s children, she was having trouble with her own. She had two daughters, and the younger child refused to go to her fourth-grade classes. The daughter complained that the public school teachers called her “stupid” and punished her by hitting her on the shoulder or arm. The music teacher once struck her on the head with a tambourine.

Mayumi looked for other local school options and found an Adventist school nearby.

“The Adventist school was like paradise in comparison to the public school,” Mayumi said. “The teachers were very nice.”

A New Life

Her daughter quickly adapted to the new school and, several years later, was baptized. Soon Mayumi, her husband, and their other daughter were baptized as well.

After baptism, Mayumi began to change. Once overweight, she became trim and fit. She was smiling and happy all the time. Friends, parents, and even former daycare children asked her what had happened, and Mayumi boldly told them about her newfound love for Jesus. Because of her influence, about 30 of her former daycare children, now teens and young adults, are studying in Adventist schools today.

“I advised my former babies to go to Adventist schools long after they had left the daycare, and many agreed!” she said.

About 45 of her former daycare children and their parents have been baptized over the past four years. This dedicated daycare owner has led more people to Christ than any other Adventist in Japan, local church leaders said.

The Adventist Church has just 15,150 members in this country of 125 million people, according to the latest figures from the world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.

Today Mayumi and her staff run a large Tokyo daycare center with 50 children, mainly from non-Christian families. She is determined to reach more people for Christ. She is finalizing plans to open a lifestyle center for children with mental challenges such as ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Mayumi Nagano says, “I love Jesus. I want my children and their parents to love Jesus, too.” (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in third quarter 2018 will help Japan’s only youth church, Tokyo’s Setagaya Church, train young people to be gospel workers. Thank you for your mission offering.