The Baldwin Park Church
The San Gabriel Valley Japanese Christian Church began on June 4, 1933, when fourteen adults and nineteen children gathered together for their first worship service in a home on Main Avenue in Baldwin Park. Initially a mission outreach of the Los Angeles Holiness Church, these first worship services became the Baldwin Park Holiness Church. They were led by Eiji Suehiro, pastor of the Los Angeles Church, who conducted a children’s Bible school in the afternoon and a Japanese language service in the evening. Instrumental in the growth of the new church was a former missionary couple, Frank and Gladys Heisdorf, who came to help in 1934. In the absence of the pastor, the Heisdorfs led the church until a pastor was appointed in 1939.

[The first official service of the Baldwin Park Holiness Church in 1935]

On February 24, 1935, the Baldwin Park Holiness Church became independent from the Los Angeles mother church. The church grew as a result of the diligent efforts and sacrifices of its members. In March 1939, Henry Sakuma was appointed to serve as part-time pastor while ministering at San Fernando Church as well. He was assisted by Yuki Otow who worked with the Nisei youth providing the first English language instruction. In July1940, Harry Hashimoto was appointed to serve as pastor, while Sakuma was transferred to the Seattle Holiness Church. Two years later, the church was closed due to the evacuation of its members to internment camps.

The Centerville Church
Around 1933 as an outreach of the San Lorenzo Church, George Yahiro began a Bible study meeting with a handful of young people at the Nemoto home in Centerville. On February 17, 1934, a dedication service of the Centerville Church was held at the Otojiro Mune residence, which had been offered for such purposes. Some of the Issei women who rendered their services to the church were Mrs. Kei Shimizu, Mrs. Hikido and Mrs. Nakamura. Now and then, Henry Sakuma also began assisting the church by visiting the members and extending his loving care. Since the members were farmers, the minister’s visits were often the occasion for joyous feasts of home-grown produce at the cottage meetings.

[The Centerville Church members: Mrs. Nemoto and Mrs. Mune]

In 1935, Kei Shimizu was baptized. The regular meeting attendance had grown, averaging about fifteen members, including Mrs. Yoshie Mitsuyoshi, Mrs. Sakauye, Mr. and Mrs. Manabu Nemoto, Mrs. Hikido, Mr. Kazuo Tate, Mrs. Asako Takeda, and Mr. Otojiro Mune. By this time, with the increase in the attendance of children, Henry Sakuma started Saturday morning classes for them. Home visits were held in the afternoon, while cottage meetings were held in the evening.

By this time many parents had decided to send their children to another area Japanese school. However, this school discouraged the children from attending Christian church. Fortunately, since Suye Toda, the mother of James and George Toda, had begun to teach at the Centerville Church School, the children eagerly returned. Also through the faithful ministry of Rev. Sakuma, Mr. Toda was miraculously saved. With worship attendance increasing and the Sunday school averaging twenty-five children, Centerville was becoming a joyful family church.

[The Centerville Church Sunday school children]

With the outbreak of the war, the church was disbanded when all the families were interned. Although family furnishings were stored at the church, members did not come back after the war. Also, the balance of the church treasury was given to the Conference.

The Hilo Mission
Around 1931 Stephen Haraguchi started mission work in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kichiro Fukuda would go to Hilo once a month to conduct meetings in the Haraguchi home; Sunday school was held as well.

(After Fukuda left Honolulu Holiness Church to return to the mainland in 1954, Joseph Akahoshi was sent to Hilo by the Honolulu Church to try to continue the work. However, after a period of time, the work was discontinued. Ernest Kilbourne began a Hilo Mission in 1980 at the Women's Club. It was primarily subsidized by the Honolulu Church with assistance from other churches as well. Kilbourne continued the work until late 1983, when he and his wife went to Taiwan as short-term missionaries with OMSI in January 1984).

The Honolulu Church
In July 1926, Toshio Hirano arrived in Hawaii and began assisting in the Japanese Department of the non-denominational Kakaako Mission Church. On December 3, 1927, a dedication ceremony was conducted to install him as pastor. Then in November 1929, Sadaichi Kuzuhara went to Hawaii to hold special evangelistic meetings. A month later, the Waialae Holiness Church was created. During this time, Hirano was ministering to three terminally ill patients at the Leahi Tuberculosis Sanitarium. The three young men—Sidney Hirao, David Nakada and Anthony Park—decided to leave the sanitarium, and go to the summit of nearby Tantalus Mountain. After three days and three nights of fervent prayer and fasting, they were miraculously healed. The impact of their testimonies brought revival to the Waialae and Kakaako Churches.

[Combined evangelistic meeting with Wahiawa at the Moiliili Mission; Evangelist Teikichi Kawabe in the front row with Takeo Shimotori, and Kichiro Fukuda]

In November 1929, Hideo Tanji began mission work in Wahiawa. The following year, the Waialae Holiness Church started meeting in a rented building on South King Street in the Moiliili District with Takeo Shimotori as one of the leaders. Then in 1931 Shimotori went to the Wahiawa Holiness Church which was under the leadership of Hideo Tanji. With the growth of the Waialae Holiness Church, Toshio Hirano resigned from the Kakaako Mission Church and became the first pastor of the Honolulu (Waialae) Holiness Church.

[Kakaako Mission Church congregation]

The Honolulu Holiness Church was duly incorporated on May 25, 1932, with dedication services held in July 1932. Takeo Shimotori, after serving as lay pastor at Wahiawa Holiness Church, subsequently went to the mainland, and returned to be assigned as the pastor of the church. In 1934, upon Hirano's resignation, Shimotori assisted monthly until Kichiro Fukuda was appointed to the Honolulu Holiness Church in 1936.

The Modesto (Turlock) Church
In October 1924, Toshio Hirano heard the Macedonian call, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And so he went to the area with Sadaichi Kuzuhara and Junro Kashitani. At first, a house near the Japanese Society Hall in Turlock was rented for church services, but the owner rescinded the contract, so another house was rented.

[The Turlock Holiness Church Sunday school children with Toshio Hirano]

Beginning in February 1925 Hirano began a Saturday school along with the Sunday school. At the Saturday school, Hirano taught the Japanese language and shared the Gospel as well. The school was very successful and much future growth was expected. However, due to opposition from both the Secretary of the Japanese Society and anti-Christian movements, the children began to attend another Japanese school on Sundays. Since his specific mission was to evangelize children, Hirano was deeply disappointed at the turn of events. One day, however, his heart was uplifted: fasting and praying because he was short of funds to pay for the monthly rent, he received from an anonymous Christian in San Diego the exact amount he needed.

[Baptismal service of Mrs. Kiyoi and Mrs. Fujita at the Modesto Church in August 1927]

In July 1926, Hirano was assigned to Hawaii and Goichi Okamoto took over for him. Okamoto labored diligently as he visited people in that area, yet the fruits of his labors were few. Finally Okamoto sensed that possibly it was not God’s will for him to be in Turlock, but rather to be in Modesto. Thus the Turlock Church was closed in February 1926 and moved to Modesto. In January 1929, Goichi Okamoto returned to Japan to serve under the OMS Holiness Church, so Henry Sakuma replaced him in Modesto.

[The Modesto Church congregation with Rev. Yahiro in 1940]

The Modesto Church bought four lots during March 1935, and two years later, on June 20, 1937, a dedication service was held with Sadaichi Kuzuhara as speaker. In May 1937, George Yahiro was assigned as pastor to both the Modesto and the San Lorenzo Churches. He continued to serve a dual role until the war began. During 1940 Toshiko Noguchi, a member of the Modesto Church, married Yasushi Hashimoto, pastor of the San Fernando and the Baldwin Park Churches. It was a time of blessing for the church as it became the second largest church of the OMS Holiness Churches.
[The Modesto Church's new building]

The San Fernando Church
The pioneer activities of the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church began around the same time as that of the Los Angeles Holiness Church. Aya Okuda, George Yahiro, Hatsu Yano, Hanako Yoneyama, and Henry Sakuma committed their lives and began evangelistic work among the Japanese in the Valley. A few days after Sadaichi Kuzuhara’s arrival in Los Angeles on June 25, 1921, he delivered the first message at Banichi Iguchi’s home. On Easter Sunday, April 16, 1922, Sadaichi Kuzuhara baptized Yukie Iguchi. She was saved through the efforts of Matsutaro Takada who was a minister at the Friends Church in Whittier. Thus she was the first person baptized at the San Fernando Church

The following year Tatsue Iwata was baptized. Later, a daughter, Asako, married Junro Kashitani, a founding worker of the Los Angeles Holiness Church. In the early thirties, there was a small revival during which time many brothers and sisters were saved and baptized. In 1933, nine young brothers and sisters were baptized.

Now the group was large enough to be organized as a church. Thus on May 9, 1936, it was officially recognized as the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church located at 1032 Hewitt Street. Frank and Gladys Heisdorf were the first pastors of the church. After a two year ministry, Henry Sakuma was assigned to succeed them. Then in 1940 as Sakuma was sent to the Seattle Church, Yasushi Hashimoto was called to pastor the church.

The San Lorenzo Church
The San Lorenzo Holiness Church traces its beginnings to a band of Issei including Tomitaka Shinoda and Toku Nishimura, who began meeting in homes in 1929. Their prayers were fulfilled when Kumaichiro Shinoda offered to the Lord a parcel of the family nursery property for church use. George Yahiro was assigned as the first pastor.

[The dedication service of the San Lorenzo Church by Juji Nakada in 1929]

On that property stood a two-story building, once a well-known roadside inn, which was to serve as the church and parsonage for over thirty years. Juji Nakada, Bishop of the Japan Holiness Church who was visiting America that year, was called to conduct the dedication service of the San Lorenzo Holiness Church on October 13, 1929 with about eighty people present. Although the church had only a few members, its evangelistic fervor assured its solid growth in the days ahead.

In January 1930, Sunday school classes were started in two places: one at the home of Manabu Nemoto in Mt. Eden, and the other at the home of Kei Shimizu’s uncle in Centerville. The first baptismal service was held on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930, for Hatsu Yamazaki. In July, a women's prayer group (later to become Fujinkai) was organized. In April 1931, Mary Shinoda was the first Nisei baptized by George Yahiro. After a four year ministry, in 1934 Yahiro was reassigned to Modesto, so Henry Sakuma replaced him. With Sakuma’s transfer to San Fernando in 1938, James Suehiro, who was bilingual, succeeded him. Throughout this time, a growing number of Nisei were brought to the Lord.

The San Diego Church
Although the official history of the San Diego Holiness Church begins in 1930, its roots extend back to 1923. A ministerial student from the Los Angeles Holiness Church, Junro Kashitani, while vacationing in the El Cajon Valley, visited some Japanese families and shared Christ with them. On December 18, 1923, the first of these families, Tasaburo Mukai and his wife, Fusae, became the first converts to the budding church

[San Diego evangelism in 1926. (L-R) Mr. Mita, Mr. & Mrs. Mukai, Mr. Shizume, Mr. Okamoto, Mrs. Shizume, Mr. Sakuma, Mr. Kaminaka and Mr. Kashitani]

Through the years that followed, Sadaichi Kuzuhara with ministerial students George Yahiro, Henry Sakuma, Paul Okamoto and Toshio Hirano traveled often from Los Angeles to minister to the new believers. The men took turns traveling the 120 miles to hold monthly services and cottage meetings. By 1930 with the growth of believers, the San Diego Church was officially founded. The new church met in a house on 30th and Newton Streets. During the inaugural service on February 9, 1930, Kichiro Fukuda was installed as the first pastor; the service included seven charter members.

[San Diego evangelism in 1925; Mr. & Mrs. Goto, Mr. Oku, Rev. Kashitani]
[Mr. & Mrs. Mukai in 1925]

With the vision of sharing the gospel with the Japanese community, the members conducted evangelistic street meetings each Saturday night on the corner of Fifth and Island Streets in downtown San Diego. The meetings included hymn singing, testimonies and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ by the lay members. One memorable aspect of those Saturday street meetings was the sound of a large bass drum which provided the tempo for the singing as well as informing the people of their presence. Several people received Christ and joined the church as a result of this ministry. After six years of ministry in San Diego, Kichiro Fukuda was transferred to the Honolulu Holiness Church. The Lord had guided him in establishing a growing body of believers in San Diego.

The Lord continued to provide for the needs of His church with the involvement of Sadaichi Kuzuhara, who pastored the church from Los Angeles. He was aided by a retired missionary from Japan, Mary Belle Griffith. Her background enabled her to minister in both Japanese and English. In 1937, Tameichi Okimoto was appointed pastor. He and his wife, Kirie, came from Japan to serve in San Diego. During his ministry, they acquired property at 3042 Webster Street which was dedicated as the San Diego Holiness Church in July 1940.

The Seattle Church
On February 7, 1934, Eiji Suehiro was assigned to Seattle, Washington, and the following month the Seattle Holiness Church was founded. In 1937 and 1938, Sadaichi Kuzuhara went to Seattle to assist him. With Eiji Suehiro’s transfer to San Lorenzo, Yasushi Hashimoto, who had just graduated from the Huntington Park Training School, was assigned that year to the church. In 1939, a Miss Hoeg began to work as a missionary and co-worker at the church. In April 1940, with ministers from sister churches in California involved, a five day evangelistic series (Shuchu Dendo) was conducted. As a result sixteen people were saved and baptized. On August 13, 1940, Henry Sakuma became the new pastor for Seattle.

The Wahiawa Church
Hideo Tanji started the mission work which was named the Wahiawa Holiness Church. Takeo Shimotori, one of the leaders of the Waialae Holiness Church, graduated from the Huntington Park Training School in June 1931. From September 1931 he served as lay pastor at the Wahiawa Holiness Church. After his ordination on the Mainland in January 1935, Shimotori was assigned as the pastor. When Toshio Hirano resigned from the Honolulu Holiness Church in 1934, Shimotori went monthly to minister in Honolulu, until Kichiro Fukuda was assigned there in 1936.

[Dedication service of the Wahiawa Holiness Church in 1939]

On April 9, 1939, Sadaichi Kuzuhara participated in the dedication service of the new Wahiawa Holiness Church facility. The financing of the five thousand dollar project was aided by the sale of a book, Sad Human Song by Shimotori, as well as the voluntary offerings of the people in Oahu. However, two years later, Shimotori resigned from the Holiness Church and changed the church's name to the Wahiawa Grace Church. At the end of the war, he sold the church property and returned to Japan. It was then that Stanley Kaneshiro, a graduate of Bob Jones College, took over Shimotori’s work and reestablished it as the King’s Bible Church which continues to this day.

Other Japanese Christian Churches
In 1929, the Southern California area celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of Christianity within the Japanese-American community in California. Church statistics for Southern California, compiled for the first time since 1915, are shown in Table 8.

The Los Angeles Union Church—comprised of three different denominational churches which had merged in 1918—was, with 295 members, the largest of the Japanese-American churches. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and the Hollywood Independent Church were the next largest. The San Pedro Japanese Baptist Church had the largest Sunday school with 367 children. That church no longer exists due to the relocation of Japanese-Americans during the war.

By the end of 1940 there were approximately thirty Japanese-American churches in Southern California. Of these, the Los Angeles Japanese Methodist Church was the largest. While there are no 1940 statistics for that church, in 1959 it had 160 Issei and 300 Nisei attending worship.

The next two largest churches were the Union Church of Los Angeles and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. There are no statistics for the exact 1940 worship attendance of the Union Church of Los Angeles; it had 436 church members in 1959. St. Mary's had 410 church members in 1940. Worship attendance statistics for 1940 for all but these three largest churches (for which this particular statistic is unknown) appear in Table 9.

The Los Angeles Holiness Church began its ministry in 1921. It was not the first Japanese-American church to be established in the Los Angeles area; rather, it ranked twelfth chronologically of the twenty-four churches listed in Table 9.

By 1940 the Los Angeles Holiness Church ranked third in documented size of combined Issei and Nisei worship attendance, after the San Pedro Japanese Baptist Church and the Westside Christian Church. Table 9 shows that San Pedro had 145 attendees, Westside Christian had 110, and Los Angeles Holiness had 102. It is clear that the Los Angeles Holiness Church was one of the most rapidly growing Japanese churches in Southern California during this period.