HIRANO, TOSHIO CHARLES
Toshio Hirano was born on March 9, 1897, in Hiroshima-ken, Japan, the fifth of nine children born to Toyozo and Katsu Hirano. When he was ten, due to the dire circumstances of the family, he had to work to help out the family. His father decided to go to Hawaii where a son, Tetsuji, was living. Shortly thereafter, Toshio and another-brother, Satomi, joined them in Hawaii. Upon their arrival in April 1914, they headed for Hilo to work at the Waiakea Sugar Company, The work in the cane fields was not only difficult, but low in wages. After only a two month stay due to failing health, Toshio’s father returned to Japan and succumbed with a heart attack the following year.

In September 1914, Satomi and Toshio entered the Hilo Boy’s Boarding School, an institution founded by the early missionaries in Hawaii. The Bible teachings awakened deep internal conflicts beyond measure. He felt so stricken that he suffered a nervous breakdown. However through scripture verses like John 3:16 and Romans 6:23, his heart was uplifted with a great love of God as manifested through Jesus Christ.

Sensing his need for further Bible knowledge, Toshio decided to enter the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). There he met Ugo Nakada, who was a student from Japan and a minister of the Whittier Japanese Christian Church. Ugo took Toshio to meet the Rev. and Mrs. Charles Cowman, the founders of the OMS in Japan, who were in Los Angeles recuperating from an illness. One day Mrs. Cowman, who had no children, approached Toshio to ask him if he would mind being called Charles after her husband. “Would you mind if I call you Charles from now on?” Toshio answered. Ever since then, he was known as Charles T. Hirano.

After Ugo left for the East a year later, a group of young men and women, including Toshio who was attending the Whittier Japanese Christian Church, organized an independent church, the Oriental Missionary Church in 1921.

In January 1921, he entered the Bible School of California College and graduated in June 1923. While a student there, he began visitation work in the San Fernando Valley, which later became the foundation for the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church. In the fall of 1924, Hirano went to Turlock and served there for two years, until he decided to take a trip to Japan to visit his family and see the Christian work being done there. During a stopover in Honolulu while en route to Japan, he sensed the desire of many to become Christians. As a result, he decided to work in Honolulu instead of California upon his return.

On January 5, 1927, Hirano was ordained at the New Year’s Holiness Convention in Japan. On February 21, 1927, he was married to Tsugi Kimura at the Kakaako Mission in Honolulu where he served as the Japanese-speaking pastor. Benjamin Nobuki was born on November 7, 1928, but due to complications at birth, Tsugi passed away. Hirano soon resigned from the Kakaako Mission and started an independent work with some former members of the church. This new ministry later became the Honolulu Holiness Church.

On September 25, 1934, Hirano married Toshiko Goto at a wedding officiated by Sadaichi Kuzuhara in Los Angeles. The newlyweds soon went to Japan where he was appointed pastor of the Hamamatsu Sei-Kyokai. (The Holiness Church in the United States was still under the jurisdiction of the Japan Holiness Church at that time). Hirano and Toshiko had four children: Yoshito, Tsunako, Takako and Toyokazu.

Hirano resigned from the Japan Holiness Church in 1938 and returned to Hawaii to begin a pioneer work. Two years later, he joined the Southern Baptist Convention as a Japanese-speaking pastor at the Olivet Baptist Church.

With the outbreak of World War II, Hirano was sent to an internment camp. After his return to Honolulu, he continued his ministry at the Olivet Baptist Church. In February 1949, he began a radio ministry over KULA every Sunday afternoon, and wrote a book, Star of Hope, in Japanese. He served the Olivet Baptist Church until his death on October 25, 1975. Hirano’s ashes were scattered off Diamond Head in compliance with his final request.

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