The 1962 Annual Meeting was held on Saturday November 17th, at Futenma Baptist Church. There were 40 people attending, including the Central Baptist Church members. A special prayer meeting for homemakers and Okinawan people will be held December 4th to the 20th at Central Baptist Church. The meeting will be in the Japanese language.
Kadena Baptist Church has conducted English Classes at night for eighteen months. Four couples from Central Baptist Church have taught about 50 junior and senior high school students. We (Kadena Baptist Church) appreciate their mission work. A lot of youth attend Sunday School through these classes, and now we are conducting an extra worship service and Sunday School class for 40 junior high school students. The teachers from Central donated Christian books as well as hymnals to our church. This encouraged us. Their names are Mr. and Mrs. Karous , Mr. and Mrs. Kabu, Mr. and Mrs. Ross, Brother Ross, and Mr. and Mrs. Tahan.
Pastor Dotson and his family left Okinawa suddenly on August 15th and returned to the States. They did a great work for missions during the 10 months they were here. May God bless them.
Central Baptist Church has been without a pastor for a while. Pastor Dudley arrived from the Aich prefecture October 24th. He and his family have been living in Japan for 3 years. The Pastor and his wife, two sons, and three daughters speak Japanese fluently. Central Baptist Church is a very large church and has a lot of Americans. More than 450 people attend worship services with more than 350 people in attendance at Sunday School. The church has many education facilities. The importance of Christian education is indicated by the second story of the building. Pastor Dudley and his family are now in Okinawa. The pastor who speaks fluent Japanese is the very gentleman needed for this work. Central is a very active church. OBC appreciates their strong support and desire to fellowship with Okinawan people. Though we have introduced Central’s activities, the paper space ran out. (Picture of Central and the pastor’s family)
Central Baptist Church donated a total $6,000 to the Miyako Mission Church. Central Baptist Church donated $3000 plus donated $3000 through Pastor Spencer.
HISTORY OF CENTRAL & OBC
(The following historical account was provided by Rev. Bud Spencer in a letter dated January 8, 1992)
In 1959-1960 God led a group of Americans to give $15,000 with which we bought the land where the Okinawa Baptist Building is now located. By the time the Foreign Mission Board, S.B.C. made their grant for land and building we had already paid for the land, so we were allowed to add the land and building grants together to help build the original building that was later torn down in 1983. Another grant was made by the Foreign Mission Board, S.B.C. , in 1962-1963 to build a second floor on the education wing of the church. The Foreign Mission Board records will show the amounts of the various grants made to the Central Baptist Church.
In 1983-84 the back portion of the land was sold for approximately $1,300,000 to the Okinawa Sogo Bank, and the City of Urasoe awarded Central approximately $268,000 for part of our land that they had confiscated for a road back in 1961. This road runs along the side of the church. These moneys were used to build the Okinawa Baptist Building and to do a major refurbishing job at the Reiho (Calvary) Baptist Church in Naha. There was a balance left over that I presume was used to remodel the Okinawa Baptist Building soon after I retired in November 1984. This remodeling was done while Don Reed was the pastor at Central. The financial records of these expenditures were left on the island, and none are in my possession.
Let me share with you a brief history of the “Chuo Baputesuto Kyokai” legal person matter. When Doris and I went to Okinawa in January of 1960 we were the first and only Southern Baptist missionaries on Okinawa. Mrs. Shirabe helped me as we applied to become a Shukyo Hojin. Mrs. Shirabe was my scribe, translator , and interpreter. As we were registered with the prefecture, I was the “representative officer” and five deacons served as “responsible officers”. We followed the example of the American Baptists who had started to register their properties under their first established church, Naha Baptist Church. As time went on we registered Koza Baptist Church, our house, and I believe the Naha Calvary Baptist Church under the Shukyo Hojin called “Chuo Baputesuto Kyokai.” Bill Medling with his knowledge of Japanese was active in this registration process. In other words the “Chuo Baputesto Kyokai”, became our “southern Baptist Mission”.
(The following letter dated May 26, 1989, was provided by Dr. Edward Bollinger)
The Okinawa Baptist Mission Fellowship was organized to promote and support missions. The Fellowship was a separate entity from the Okinawa Baptist Association, but from the beginning was obviously an organization to support the work of the Association. Pastors of the Association were free to attend and to make requests of the Fellowship. They were guests, along with the missionaries, of the Fellowship at the Thanksgiving banquets, which began in 1955.
The OBA was organized in January, 1955, and the Fellowship in February (my statement in the “history” article being in error, placing both organizations in January).
The amount of $15,000 paid for the Central Baptist Church land came from the church. I cannot remember whether any appreciable amount came through the OBA or not. It may be that funds remaining in the Fellowship at its termination were transferred to the OBA, which then contributed them to the purchase of the land.
The Baptist Mission Fellowship, as such, did not begin the work which led to the Central Baptist Church. I started English language services independent of the Fellowship at the suggestion of Pastor Knahan Teruya, who said that Americans were coming to the Naha Baptist Church asking for services in English. Pastor Teruya suggested that I conduct evening services for Americans and use the Naha Baptist Church building. This began in January of 1959. The Central Baptist Church was organized in August of that year at the Naha Baptist
The land for Central was found by Captain Strange, negotiated for by me and by the deacons of Central, with help from Pastor Teruya, and purchased with money raised by the congregation. As I said, there may have been included funds from the OBA and its churches. I have no clear record of this.
The Baptist Missions Fellowship continued for a time after the Central Baptist Church was organized, because there were some in the fellowship who did not want to belong to the Central Baptist Church. After Bud Spencer arrived in March 1960, however, it came to be felt that both should not continue – that is, both the Fellowship and the Central Baptist Church. And it became obvious that the day of the Baptist Mission Fellowship was over.
As I recall, the funds remaining in the fellowship were turned over to the Okinawa Baptist Association, although I have no record of this.
The main thrust of the fellowship, as you can see, was to provide a channel for Americans living on Okinawa to contribute support and pray for the work of the Okinawa Baptist Association, its pastors and people.
BEGINNING OF CENTRAL BAPTIST CHURCH
by Dr. Edward Bollinger, March 1999.
The stage was set for the organization and growth of the Central Baptist Church from the days of the Baptist Mission Fellowship begun in 1955. The Baptist chaplains in the Air Force and Army were particularly active in interesting Americans, both military and civilians, in joining with the Okinawan churches in promoting the work of Christ in Okinawa. This was following meetings with me on trips I made from Japan in 1953 and 1954 to help our two Baptist pastors and the four churches they were serving to develop their ministries.
The initial meeting of the Baptist Mission Fellowship in February 1955, developed the following statement: “The purpose of this organization shall be to enlist all individuals of the Baptist faith on Okinawa in a fellowship of effort to propagate the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by
whatever resources may now be, or may later become available.” The Fellowship met once a month for business, at which time the news of the development of mission work was shared and an offering was taken to help support the churches already in existence and the pastors who were serving them. At the same time there was great interest in developing new mission work.
When I arranged with my mission society to move from Osaka, Japan to Okinawa with my family in the summer of 1955, offerings from the Baptist Fellowship assisted me in purchasing a station wagon and outfitting a trailer to carry an evangelistic tent, seats, lighting system and gasoline generator for meetings in many well-selected spots all over the island. Mission points began to be established in many communities, and a program for training leaders began. The Baptist Hour on KSAR was begun that year and continues to the present. And our Baptist Book Store was started. When Margaret and I returned from our first msisionary furlough in 1958, a strong impetus was developing to have regular English-language services for Americans. An attenpt at such services had been made during our absence, but the attempt was not carried through. In January, 1959, our senior Baptist pastor, Kanhan Teruya, suggested that we use the new building of the Naha Baptist Church, dedicated in April 1957, to conduct evening services there. The suggestion was eagerly accepted, and very soon both evening services and BTU meetings were started. Royal Ambassadors were also added as a full evening program was projected. After preaching at Naha in English, I headed for Tomari and a well-attended service in Japanese for the country congregation.
The organization of the Central Baptist Church took place at the evening service at Naha on August 30, 1959. We toiled together on a church constitution through the summer months and organized officially on August 30, 1959, with fifty-three charter members. In November, 1959, morning services and Sunday School were started in the Okinawa Power Building, a four-story modern structure newly built about one block from the GRI complex and very close to Yodogawa. The building was promptly dubbed the “Baptist Power Building,” and many rededications of Christian life and service were made there as Baptist rejoiced in God’s wonderful blessings upon our evangelistic efforts. It was not long before we were not only filling the fourth floor for worship, but were using all four floors and the roof for Sunday School. There were several dvantages to this new building in the heart of Naha. The open roof, well fenced in, was used for primaries and afforded lots of elevator noise to accompany the lessons! There was perpetual bright tinsel decoration in the fourth floor sanctuary, since it was used in season for Christmas, New Years and other gala parties sponsored by various companies. It did have a beer hall atmosphere which was the hang-over from Saturday night festivities. But we were all grateful for its availability and used it with rejoicing hearts!
As we proceeded to seek land for the building of Central Baptist, we ran into some problems. We had almost decided to buy a piece of land going up the hill on the right through the village of Ojana a short distance off Highway One. After the initial payment was made, we discovered the land was an Okinawan UTAKI, or sacred area of the gods. Though it had been little used since the war, it was still an ancient sacred place. To build a Christian house of worship there would surely bring the TATARI (punishment of the gods) down upon the entire community. The man who sold us the land begged our forgiveness and asked that his money be returned. Realizing the predicament, we gladly returned the down payment.
God had something much better for us. There was not a piece of land on Highway One which could compare with the wonderful location God gave Central Baptist Church. We had to move a country road from the middle of Central’s new property to the side, where it is now. But as you can see today, God has done all things well for His children at Central Baptist Church! It was Air Force Captain Gene Strange who discovered this land.
The Spencer family arrived on Okinawa in February 1960, and Bud Spencer assumed the position of pastor of Central Baptist Church in March of that year. From beginning to our retirement in 1984-85 we had a marvelous time together working for our Lord and supporting the Christian labors of our Okinawan brothers and sisters. May the name of our Lord be praised!
History of Central Baptist Church on Okinawa by Rev. Bud Spencer, April 1999
Christian history shows us that in 1891, a Mrs. Robert Allen of Glascow, Scotland, made a trip visiting many countries for the cause of world missions. In Kobe, Japan she met Dr. Robert Thompson of the American Baptist Missionary Union. Dr. Thompson was also of Scottish ancestry. Mrs. Allen asked about the Ryukyu Islands, for she had given money as a girl in Sunday School for missionary work in the Ryukyu Islands where the largest island is Okinawa. Dr. Thompson had to report that nothing was being done to evangelize the people who lived in the Ryukyus. Mrs. Allen offered to support a worker if Dr. Thompson would send someone. A Japanese evangelist, a Mr. Hara, agreed to go. Thus, the first continuing evangelistic effort was begun by Pastor Hara in 1891. Dr. Thompson and other missionaries of the Baptist Union visited the Island of Okinawa from time to time, and with this assistance, the first kindergarten work in the Ryukyus was begun. However, the main burden of the work was carried by Japanese pastors and evangelists.
A Rev. Haraguchi led in the organization of the Naha Baptist Church in 1904, and the Baptist churches were established at Shuri (1908), Itoman (1911), and Kadena (1913). Just before World War II began there were four pastors caring for the these four congregations. There were several rural Sunday Schools also, and a small mission was started on the island of Kumi where a lay preacher was in charge.
The three month long “Battle of Okinawa,” the last great conflict of World War II, almost completely destroyed the property of all Christian groups in Okinawa. Also, soon before the outbreak of war, all Christian bodies in Japan and Okinawa were forced into a union of churches called the “kyodan.” After the war the union of churches was continued for convenience sake. During the regrouping and rebuilding of churches the assistance of U.S. military chaplains and other Americans was invaluable.
During the Battle of Okinawa, 12,281 Americans; 110,000 Japanese; and 150,000 noncombatant civilians died in this last great conflict of World War II.
The two remaining Baptist pastors were Rev. Kanhan Teruya and Rev. Seijiro Iha. They were unhappy trying to work in the “church union” that had been forced upon them before the war started. The autonomy of the local church, believer’s baptism, and the non-creedal stands of Baptists were points of issue. In 1953, these men and their congregations withdrew from the union and continued their work as Baptists. They requested assistance from the Japan Baptist Union and the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.
Missionary Edward E. Bollinger was serving in Osaka, Japan. He was sent in 1953 to Okinawa for the purpose of reporting on the condition of the churches and makig a recommendation concerning the work of Baptists in the islands. The report urged that help be extended to the churches on Okinawa, and as a result the Bollinger family moved from the Japan field to Okinawa in July 1955. Under the guidance of Rev. Bollinger and Baptist chaplains on the island, the “Baptist Missions Fellowship of Okinawa” was organized in the same year. The purpose of the Fellowship was to promote Baptist fellowship and support Baptist mission efforts. New advances were made; the first regular radio broadcast of the gospel began, a monthly newspaper in Japanese was published, a scholarship fund for ministerial students was established and help in many forms was extended to local churches. Then in February 1955, the Okinawa Baptist Association was officially organized.
In November of 1955, Pastor Bud Spencer came from Nagoya, Japan to be a special speaker at a banquet that was held on Naha Air Base at the N.C.O.Club called the Copacabana. The dinner was sponsored by the Baptist Missions Fellowship of Okinawa. After the dinner, Pastor Spencer told “church” jokes and brought a short gospel message. Pledge cards were passed out and an offering was taken to help build a new building for the Naha Baptist Church. This was when Mr. Spencer first fell in love with Okinawa and the sweet fellowship that many Americans and Okinawans share in Christ. Bud Spencer was later to become the first official pastor of the Central Baptist Church. Mr. Bollinger was busy in the Japanese language work and he needed help as the Fellowship grew. The Americans wanted to organize an off-base Baptist church.
The “fellowship” included people from various Baptist conventions. The Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and the American Baptist leaders, including Mr. BollLager on the field, discussed the situation with the Japan Baptist Convention (Southern Baptist related). The Japan Baptist Convention asked Southern Baptists not to send missionaries to Okinawa, but to give them this field as their first postwar foreign mission project. Their request was approved, and in the 1955 Annual Convention the assembled messengers were set on fire with missionary zeal by the appointment of the Masaji Shirabe family as their first missionary family in the postwar period. The Shirabe family arrived in Okinawa on Christmas Day, 1955, and joined with the Okinawa Baptist Association in evangelizing Okinawa.
The Southern Baptists in military service on Okinawa continued to urge Southern Baptists to enter into the work on Okinawa. Under the leadership of E.E. Bollinger, the Baptist Fellowship organized itself into Central Baptist Church and called Alvin E. (Bud) Spencer, a Southern Baptist missionary in Matsue, Japan, to come to Okinawa as their first pastor. Mr. Bollinger and the Okinawan pastors assured the Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary Board that Southern Baptists would be welcome as co-workers. The Bud Spencer family was transferred to Okinawa in 1959, arriving February 26, 1960. Thus began a wonderful relationship between Southern and American Baptists on Okinawa—perhaps the only field in the world where the two conventions truly work together.
Central Baptist Church really had its beginning in the home of Major Jack Smith on Kadena Air Base. Jack Smith and Velma, his wife, had two boys and a daughter. A Royal Ambassador group was meeting in their home long before the church was organized. (Years later Jack and Velma Smith became missionaries to Japan where Jack served as the Business Manager of the Japan Baptist Mission.)
A military man named Captain Strange found the land where Central Baptist Church was to be built. The Americans quickly raised the $15,000 amount required to buy one acre of land on the main highway. (No one realized that in twenty years the $15,000 acre of land would be worth well over two million dollars.) An old-fashioned tent revival was held on the land, and the new church began holding Sunday morning meetings in Naha in the Okinawa Power Distribution Building. (Isn’t that a good name for a new church!?) People came from all over the island. The church was organized in August 1959. The Spencers arrived in February 1960, and the beautiful new church was dedicated in July 1961. The night before the church was dedicated many members worked all night getting ready for Sunday. On Sunday, the church was full to capacity. The people had a mind to pray, work, give and witness. God worked in a marvelous way. To God be the glory.
(The Spencers went on their second furlough in 1962, and started the Koza Baptist Church when they returned in 1963.)
JIM RITCHEY, CBC 1960s.
Some of the fondest memories I have of Central Baptist Church are when we joined CBC Rev. Bud Spencer approached me and said I want you to be the minister of outreach for the church. I said, “I don’t even know how to spell the word yet I are one.” (bad grammar intended for emphasis). Any way I was soon the minister of outreach and I sure didn’t know what I was doing. I soon learned that if I was going to do a good job I had to do something in order to know who was coming to CBC. We had about thirty-five people coming at that time. So I set up a table out in front next to the parking lot so that everybody would have to pass by me. If I saw a face I didn’t recognize I immediately had them fill out a visitor card and would ensure that they be visited no later than Monday night of the coming week. I learned a lot in this position. Another fond memory is when Kimiko Seward approached Sandy, my wife, and told her of a concern about Okinawa high school girls that would patronize her little restaurant.. She wanted these girls to come to know her Savior. Sandy and Kimiko took the matter to the pastor and he suggested that they start a class for them and invite them to come. So an International Sunday School class was started and developed into a weekday English class. While there on Okinawa she saw twenty two of these precious Okinawa girls come to know the Lord. Then there was the CBC bus ministry. Sandy and I bought a fifteen passenger van in order to bring military dependents to church. This grew into the second van and from there Brother Ray Fritz wanted to get in on it also. So He purchased a twenty six passenger bus to bring military personnel to church. The bus ministry grew to several buses and two vans. The Lord blessed the efforts of this work and we were seeing military people come to know the Lord. There are many more but these three stand out most in my mind as fond memories of Okinawa and CBC. God bless you all in your work for the Lord and we will be remembering you in prayer.