KIMURA, REN
First, we were sent to the Santa Anita Race Track, which had been converted into a series of barracks. After one year there, we were sent by train to Rohwer, Arkansas. The first thing Christian leaders (both Japanese and English-speaking) did there was to consolidate the Christians present into a federated church. In Santa Anita, the Holiness group had held its own church activities, and at Rohwer a small Holiness fellowship continued to meet. However, most of the Christians—Baptists, Methodists, etcetera—gathered together as a federated Christian church. And of course, the various ministers from each church cooperated together.

Looking back, it is my opinion that it was not a good idea for the Japanese-speaking evangelical groups, such as the Holiness and Free Methodist groups, to hold their own separate meetings. This separation created a division among the Christians who should have banded together during the war period. Some of the other denominational groups were very suspicious of what we were trying to do, although most of the other churches present were also very evangelical in their own way. The Holiness church has always been somewhat isolated by nature, and they didn't cooperate with the other Christian groups due to certain philosophical differences regarding evangelism. By contrast, the English-speaking division was always of one mind.

The camp housed a one-mile-square barracks area, so Sunday school was held in various corners of the camp. I remember there were three Sunday school programs. Some people had already been attending church prior to being interned in the camp; however, during the approximately three years we were in Arkansas, much evangelism took place. I am sure the churches received many new members. Harper Sakaue, the pastor of the English-speaking Division of the Federated Church (and the only English-speaking minister), baptized people all the time, which means there were many converts. The camp administration provided one barrack for Protestant Christians and another barrack for the Buddhist Church. I believe two or three hundred people attended the English worship service every Sunday, while a fewer number attended the Japanese service. But these were still small numbers compared to the entire population of the camp. We had a choir, board, and treasurer just as in a regular church. It was an anxious time, with the war going on and not knowing what was going to happen. However, it was a wonderful opportunity for Christian work to function. I would say that, in spite of the terrible situation, everybody worked very, very hard. There was no church program like today. Everything was planned on a day-to-day basis.

My parents were the ones who felt the impact of internment most deeply. As a child I observed my parents very closely; their attitude was one of shikataga nai—“there is no way we can get out,” and that we must obey the American government whatever they might ask us to do. Most of us, I think, felt that in the midst of this terrible tragedy, it was best to “follow the direction of the government.” Today the Sansei (the third generation Japanese-Americans), who were born during this period, are very angry because they cannot comprehend the atmosphere which prevailed at that time.

But in those war days, you dared not argue against the government because of the terrible prejudice against the Nikkei (Japanese-Americans). I think the Issei naturally felt overwhelmed. I also think this attitude was reflected in gaman—reference to patience—the mentality of the Issei and the Japanese psychology of “group,” within which they felt secure. As Christians, they also felt that everything would be all right; their thought was “God is with us.” In that sense, they felt very, very reassured, I think.

There may have been bitterness among the evacuees, for they lost a great deal of property. My parents lost their property—lost everything. They had owned a thriving business with big plans, but it was all lost. In spite of that, however, they were inwardly at peace. And since my parents were at peace, my brother and I felt secure as well.

At Rohwer, those who were from the Los Angeles Holiness Church included the Yakuras, the Iges, the Okubos, and my family. Mrs. Kabashima was later converted to Christianity through the Japanese-speaking Holiness group. Today I remember those people, as well as the Federation members, with great respect. It was during my time in the camp that Rev. Sakaue inspired me to go into the ministry. The camp experience for those dedicated people, and for myself, was a pivotal point in our lives. In fact, after I left the camp I went immediately to college in New York. After internment, the government provided transportation back to California. My parents arrived in Los Angeles and had no where to stay, so they went to the Los Angeles Holiness Church where George Yahiro was taking take care of returnees, Mr. Kuwahara was also there at that time.

Year of Birth: 1919
Place of Birth: Manhattan Beach, California
Major Occupation: Minister
Relocation Camp: Rohwer, Arkansas
Date of Interview: June 30, 1989

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