NISEI MINISTERS’ VISION
With the end of World War II, Japanese-Americans began to return to the West Coast. They were returning from camps which were being closed, from military service, or from mid-western and eastern cities where they had previously relocated for education and jobs. Many Japanese-American churches were primarily mission churches supported by their denominations. Denominational leaders remained skeptical about the formation of separate ethnic churches, when strong, established Caucasian churches were available. The Nisei churches were just beginning in the postwar era.

[Ministers at Mount Hermon in the early 1950's]

Nisei Christians were busy reconstructing and reestablishing their lives: continuing interrupted studies, starting careers and businesses to earn a living, and stabilizing families ties. Ministers, though still young and inexperienced, struggled to establish new ministries. There was a keen desire to establish the Japanese-American church anew—to reach out to fellow Nisei. With the end of hostilities with Japan, many Nisei Christians wanted to prepare for missionary work in the land of their forefathers. Yet major denominational mission boards were hesitant and could not visualize the Nisei as viable and potential missionary candidates to Japan.

In 1946, a small group of Nisei ministers began meeting in a weekly breakfast prayer fellowship. They prayed together and shared the burdens they felt for their pastorates and for the spiritual welfare of their congregations. As these Nisei groups met, they were challenged by the need for a missionary outreach to Japan. The seed planted at these meetings came to fruition in a joint—prayer fellowship retreat convened at Mount Hermon in May 1950 with the strategy to blend two important responsibilities: the evangelization of Japanese-Americans through local churches and the planning of a missionary outreach to the people of Japan. Under the constraining influence of the Holy Spirit and through intense prayer, the ministers agreed to conceive a movement which became known as the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS).

God was making things happen in spite of the bleak and dreary postwar years of the late 1940's. Twenty-one ministers of various Nisei churches had a vision of the possibilities, courage to meet the challenges, and perseverance to move with unswerving unity and sacrificial commitment. One of the twenty-one ministers, Daniel Shinoda, along with Akira Kuroda, said,

The thousands of Japanese-Americans and Japanese people who have been touched by the Gospel through this ministry will mark it as the most significant Christian phenomenon in the Japanese Christian community since World War II (JEMS 1985:5).

The Nikkei ministry saw tremendous growth in Nisei membership due, not only to its evangelical efforts, but also to a renewed interest in the church within the Nisei population. As the Nisei membership increased within the Japanese-American churches, both the Holiness Conference and the Nisei churches experienced a shift in power to a group which was just beginning to extend its influence. This was a time of transition for the OMS Church.

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