Ernest Kilbourne’s grandfather, Ernest Albert Kilbourne, was the first convert of his close friend and colleague at the Western Union office in Chicago, Charles E. Cowman. As their spiritual births were only one day apart, together they studied the Word and shared their newfound faith with their colleagues. Upon meeting Juji Nakada, Ernest Albert Kilbourne and Charles E. Cowman received a call from God to reach the nations with the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The first leg of this world vision took them to Japan to join forces with their Japanese colleagues, Nakada and Sasao.

After receiving training in the United States, Ernest Albert Kilbourne’s son, and his bride, Hazel May, returned to Japan as missionaries. In 1917, Ernest Juji Kilbourne’s older brother Edwin was born in Tokyo, Japan. Ernest and his twin brother, James Elmer, were born m Karuizawa, Japan, on June 13, 1920. James received Cowman’s middle name, Elmer; while Ernest received Nakada’s name, Juji, for his middle name. Three months after the twins’ birth, the family moved to Seoul, where the father directed the work of the OMS. In 1926, the family moved to Shanghai where a new work was began for the OMS. In 1937, the Kilbourne family evacuated to Seoul as the Japanese Army moved to overtake Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War.

After graduating from the Seoul Foreign School in 1939, James and Ernest returned to the United States to attend Asbury College. There Ernest met and married Violet Denton, the daughter of Akron, Ohio’s pioneer radio preacher. Bill Denton. After graduation from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1946, Ernest pastored three United Methodist Churches in Ohio, simultaneously.

In December 1947, Ernest, his wife, and their baby daughter, set sail for Shanghai, then traveled to Peking to begin their missionary service. They expected to serve for a lifetime in China, but in October of 1948, they were forced to evacuate because of the Communist takeover.

The OMS had a rule that members of the same family could not serve on the same field. Consequently, Ernest and his family could not go to Japan because Ernest’s parents were once again serving there. Therefore, they expectantly waited upon the Lord for His guidance.

Providentially in the summer of 1950, Ernest accepted a call from Kichiro Fukuda of the OMS Honolulu Holiness Church to begin an English Department in the church. Together with Fusayo (Miyoshi) Wakatani, the Kilbournes began the work in the English Department. The members met in a building in the Moiliili district and on Alexander Street as well. Later, the members purchased a residence on Heulu Street in the Makiki district which was converted into a church and parsonage. The Lord was very gracious, for the congregation which began with eight high school students had now grown to approximately eighty young people and adults. Over a three year period, sixteen people went to the United States (Hawaii was still a territory) to attend Christian colleges. Among them were Kenneth Ashitomi, Lila (Nakamura) Ashitomi, Joseph Akahoshi and David Shitabata. Later on Isoroku Sekiguchi was to be another student, attending a Mainland university.

In 1953, feeling that a Japanese-American pastor should take over, Ernest returned to Japan as an OMS missionary. In 1973, while the Kilbournes were on furlough in the United States, Violet met an untimely death caused by a drunken driver.

After his marriage to Yoko Urano, they served as regional representatives in the Central Region and Western Canada. In 1979, upon the invitation of Stephen Haraguchi and the support of the Honolulu Christian Church, Ernest began a pioneer planting mission in Hilo, Hawaii.

In January 1984, they accepted a call to work in Taiwan with OMSI. In September 1986, Ernest retired from OMSI and returned to Hilo, Hawaii. However, even after retirement, Ernest and Yoko remained active through summer missionary involvement in Taiwan. Then in 1989, at the request of OMSI, he was appointed its California director and missionary-in-residence at Azusa Pacific University. He and his wife are presently residing in Fresno, California.