OKINAWA BAPTIST BUILDING TO BE DEDICATED (1984)
On Sunday, June 24, 1984, at 3 p.m., the new Okinawa Baptist building will be dedicated. The public is invited to attend. Located on Hwy. 58 directly opposite the Wako Building and Hernando’s restaurant in the Makiminato area, it is 200 yards south of Ivano’s Market, but on the opposite side of the highway. The building will house the English-language Central Baptist Church whose pastor is the Rev. Bud Spencer, and the Japanese-language Makiminato Baptist Church whose pastor is the Rev. Dr. Ed. Bollinger. The first floor includes a parking deck, an enlarged Christian Book Store and offices for the Okinawa Baptist Convention which is comprised of 25 churches and missions in the Ryukyu islands. On the second floor are adjoining auditoriums. The south side, seating 300, will be used by the Central Baptist Church and the north side which seats 200 will be used by the Makiminato Baptist Church. A series of moveable sound proof doors will separate the auditoriums thus allowing simultaneous services.
The third floor houses the Sunday School areas. The roof is enclosedand can be used as a Japanese kindergarten play area or for special services such as the Easter sunrise service. Some special features are a Japanese tatami room, central air conditioning, an elevator, a “book nook” for English titles in the vestibule of the C entral Baptist Church and elegant travertine stone work at each end of the dual auditorium. The pastors and their wives have been missionaries to Japan for over 30 years, and have worked together on Okinawa since 1960. Both pastors plan to retire from missionary work near the end of the year and return to the United States. “As we prepare to leave Japan, we are happy to realize the dream of having been a part in the building of this Okinawa Baptist Building. The way that God provided the money was near miraculous. Suffice it to say the building is debt free and none of the funds came from stateside sources,” said the Rev. Spencer. Both pastors declare, “To God be the glory, great things He has done.” (This Week on Okinawa, June 17-24, 1984, pages 56-57)
OKINAWA BAPTISTS OPEN NEW BUILDING (1984)
Okinawa Baptist Convention has dedicated a new office and church building complex, and Southern Baptist missionary Alvin E. (Bud) Spencer Jr. calls it a miracle. The 21,726-square-foot, three-story building houses offices for the Okinawa Baptist Convention, a Baptist bookstore, an Okinawan Baptist church and an English-language Baptist church, a kindergarten and a parking garage. The flat roof will be used for meetings or recreation, but also will allow addition of another floor later if needed. The building sits along side Highway 58, a six-lane major thoroughfare. Distinctive signs on the building front provide excellent advertising for the convention and the churches. The building is situated near Hacksaw Ridge, scene of fierce fighting between American and Japanese troops in World War II. The “miracle” is that the site was bought in 1960 for $15,000, provided mainly by U.S. military personnel who were members of English-language Central Baptist Church. The rear part of the property was sold to a local bank for $1.3 million; this provided funds to construct the new building debt-free, plus buy land for a future church site near Camp Cortney, a strategic area targeted for development. For 10 months the bank allowed Baptists to continue to use their old complex on the property. Completion of the building was especially meaningful to the Spencers as they approached retirement in November; they have served in Japan and Okinawa since 1952. Also retiring at year’s end is Ed Bollinger, an American Baptist missionary who has worked closely with the Okinawa Baptist Convention and the Spencers for years and who was involved in buying the original site. Bollinger started Central Baptist, the congregation Spencer now serves as pastor. Sixteen churches are affiliated with Okinawa Baptist Convention; all but three are Japanese language. There are still some 50,000 U.S. military personnel and dependents stationed on the island. (The Commission/December, 1984, page 72. Mike Creswell)
NEW BUILDING CONSTRUCTED (1984)
The Spencers returned from furlough in the summer of 1982. This was to be their last tour on their beloved island of Okinawa. The attendance at Central was at its very lowest point in its history, but God was ready to once again shower His blessing upon a small group of dedicated Christians. Pastor Spencer asked the deacons if they would step aside for a time and let the church regroup as a mission effort once again. The deacons agreed, and a new effort of visitation and evangelism was initiated. God blessed this new effort, and soon there was rapid growth in evangelistic zeal and many new members were added to the church. Every phase of the church was reorganized, and new teachers and deacons were elected. The church was badly in need of repair. The church building that had been built in 1961 had been built of concrete blocks and cement, but the sand to make the cement had come from the beaches of Okinawa and contained too much salt. Consequently the church building needed to be replaced because the building was rapidly deteriorating.
The Spencers and Dr. Ed Bollinger asked the Okinawan Baptist pastors what they thought about selling the back portion of our one acre of land in order to have money to build a new Baptist Building facing the main highway. The missionaries wanted advice and support from the Okinawan pastors. The new building would contain an English-language congregation, a Japanese-language congregation, a Christian Book Store, a Christian kindergarten for Okinawan children, and offices for our Okinawa Baptist Convention. The Okinawan pastors readily approved the proposal and helped to locate a prospective buyer for the land to the rear of our lot, but the choice land near the highway was reserved for the new Okinawa Baptist Building.
The Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention had not provided the $15,000 for the original purchase price of the acre of land; therefore, the Foreign Mission Board ruled the Central Baptist Church could sell part of their own land if they so desired. The Okinawa Soko Ginko (bank) was interested in buying the rear portion of the land, and set a price that they would pay. The missionaries were amazed at the size of the offer. The bank leaders offered Pastor Bud Spencer $1,300,000 for the rear portion of the land. (Remember that the one acre plot of land had only cost $15,000 back in 1960.) God had
worked in our favor. We truly praised His Name, and accepted the bid that the bank had made. The bank placed the money in an account for us, and we went ahead and had plans drawn for the new Okinawa Baptist Building.
The bank allowed us to use our two story educational building for an indefinite time while we tore down our old auditorium and built the new building. The educational building was on the land that the bank had already bought. This was a godsend to us for it gave us a place to meet while the new building was being built. We were able to use the second floor of the educational building as a make shift auditorium for over a year. The church people had a mind to work, and the membership even grew under these rather trying conditions. Whenever the contractor needed a payment Pastor Spencer would phone the bank president, and the president would bring the money over to the church along with a present of little hand towels. God was truly at work. God wanted this new building to be built for His honor and glory.
God also had another plan. One day Dr. Bollinger asked Pastor Spencer, “Bud, do you remember that back in 1960 the City of Urasoe confiscated a small portion of our land in order to widen the street that runs along our property?” Pastor Spencer answered affirmatively to Dr. Bollinger’s question. The missionaries had several sessions with the Urasoe City officers. After much tea drinking and much negotiating the city officers offered Pastor Spencer $268,000 for the small piece of land that the city fathers had confiscated back in 1960. The new building was finished debt free, and there was enough money left over to make needed repairs and changes to the Reiho Baptist Church in Naha. The Okinawa Baptist Building was dedicated to God on June 24, 1984. God had performed several miracles and the missionaries, the American church members, and the Okinawan church members all praised God for His leadership and His faithfulness.
In November of 1984 Bud & Doris Spencer left Okinawa for their terminal furlough. They retired from service with the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention on the last day of February, 1985.
(Submitted by Rev. Bud Spencer, 1999)
Kitanakagusuku Baptist Mission. Up until the time we began working to start a new church, Deborah and I had been working in the area of church development in various churches in the OBC. When we felt God’s leading to start a new church we worked through the OBC leadership and decided on the area of Kitanakagusuku-son since it was where we lived and there was no church there. We started with only our family and an Okinawan lady from Central Baptist who wanted to be involved. Initially we met in our house. We had a sign painted and put up on the side of our garage to advertise the location. During that time we began home Bible studies and I did quite a bit of door to door canvassing. The starting process was very difficult. At one point we were starting to have a fair group and all of a sudden it just disappeared.
We basically had to start from scratch once again. Through perseverance, though, we continued on and began to develop a core of people who helped the church to grow. We searched for a location to meet in and found the second floor of the bank building available and moved in there. Freddie and Deborah Davis, SBC Missionaries 1980-1992.
Joe, Rosalinda, and MaryBeth, were on Okinawa from 1979-1981. To say the least, we loved it then and even more so now. We came to Central in 1980 as guests of our neighbors. At that time, I only attended Wednesday Night bible study and some Sunday Morning worship services. Our attendance was hit and miss because were not saved at that time. I remember the Mama-san in the Nursery always ready to take MaryBeth with a smile. I met Mrs. Pogue there, she was working in the nursery at that time too. Our Sunday school teacher was very patient, friendly and he always treated us very well. We were accepted into the class with open arms even though we did not have much knowledge of the Bible. Fellowships, Food, Fun, New Friends all equal Central Baptist Church!. In 1981 while I was pregnant with Joseph I surrendered my life to the Lord and followed in believers baptism. Pastor Bud Spencer was our great leader during this tour. The church membership was large in number, and everybody seemed to work very well together. Oh, I also remember the Central Bus picking the children up and me at the Makimiato Housing area when I did not have a car. That was a wonderful ministry too. We left soon after and were changed forever, thanks to Jesus Christ working through our brothers and sisters of Central. (The Diaz family: Jose, Rosalinda, MaryBeth, Emma, and Joseph, CBC 1980-84; 1994-2001)