HANK AND CHRISTIE NORTON, BLAKE AND KIRK. CBC 1993-1999. We lived in Okinawa for 6 years, February 9, 1993 through February 9, 1999. We visited a few churches and felt God wanted us at Central. We joined one Sunday night and started teaching 1st and 2nd grade Sunday School the following Sunday. We taught that class for 2 years. I was the director of Children’s Church for about 2 years. Hank was the R.A. leader for a year and I lead the G.A.’s for a year and then the Acteens for about 2 years. I also
taught VBS each year we were at Central. I had the wonderful opportunity to go on a mission trip for 10 days to Amagi in Mainland Japan. There were 10 of us who went to teach VBS to the children of the Baptist Missionaries in Japan. I grew up learning about missionaries in G.A.’s and never thought I would see the wonderful work they do for God. The last 2 years at Central I was blessed by Weekday Ministries in which I was the Director. We had the opportunity to know Frank and Josie Garver while Pastor John and Kathy were on furlough for a year. It is hard to put 6 years of memories in such a short space. We are so thankful that God sent us to Okinawa and Central. Hank was TDY allot, therefore I depended on my church family for moral and spiritual support. We made lifelong friends and grew in our Spiritual life.
Pastor John and Kathy are a blessing to Central and the people they minister to.
DOUG AND KIM SAVAGE, MORGAN, ANDREA, AND JUSTIN, CBC 199?-199?. DOUG – Ordained a Deacon while serving at Central, Lead the RA program for a year or two (can’t remember how long exactly), Assisted with the Kitchen Set-Up and Clean-Up committee, Performed music solos, duos, and trios, and performed in an Easter Cantata as Joseph/Jesus with a solo of “O Holy Night”…He was also a member of the committee that selected members for other various committees (can’t remember the committee’s title) Kim – Taught one year of first and second grade sunday school, Lead the Kitchen Set-Up and Clean-Up Committee for a year or two (can’t remember how long exactly), Lead a Thursday Bible/English class for the Japanese Ladies, Sewed costumes for an Easter Cantata, Helped organize baby showers and a Mother-Daughter Banquet for Mother’s Day, and served on the Nursery Committee. So thankful to our Central family for the time we spent together. You are all on our minds often.
RICHARD AND KIM THOMAS, ZEB AND ?. CBC 1995-1997. One of my many memories of CBC was the first time Kim and I ever visited the church. Frank was handing out some certificates to some Japanese ladies that had completed a bible study, and the ladies had the proudest looks on there faces. They were proud to know Jesus. You can’t have a memory of CBC without mentioning the Cruzado’s. Max, Aidy and the girls were such an inspiration to us. That family loves the Lord with all that they have. I can picture Max with his “boony” hat on working around the church. John and Kathy, you were not only our pastor and his wife, but you were our friends. The memory of Kim losing the baby is very hard, but you were there for Kim when I had to leave and your prayers and hospitality eased the pain. I don’t think I ever really thanked you. Thank you John and Kathy, we love you! The Lord has truly blessed us with Zebulun and now with our daughter, who will be born any day now. We only wish that our children could grow up in Central. When Dean and Craig came to preach one of the first things I told them was, this is not like Central. It is hard to explain the love and fellowship that can only be experienced at Central. One of the most moving memories I have was when Kary Johnson had the students from the international school give the Lottie Moon presentation and all the countries that were represented there. One other good memory was the Thanksgiving dinner when all the students came dressed in their native costumes. I could go on and on with the lasting memories that I have of Central. One thing is sure, I will always have them. P.S. The baby is due 18 May, It definitely is a girl, and we have decided to name her Christian Faith, because only by our faith is God and Jesus Christ could we have this miracle.
REGINA GRANT, MELISSA AND ALICIA, CBC 1994-1999?. Hi! It is with such love and pleasure that I write to you about my memories of Okinawa. There are so many. Aidy singing “Friends” to the Garver’s and all of us just crying!! She sang so beautifully! Both of my girls, Melissa and Alicia, coming to know Jesus Christ and being baptized. The wonderful Vacation Bible Schools, especially my first one the summer of ’93. We’d only been there three months. Jenny Ueno and I taught 6th grade. She taught in Japanese and I taught in English. We had the contest between the boys girls to see who could collect the most offering. I can’t hear the song, “That’s what this Alter is For” without remembering John sing it, and how it touched my heart so deeply. The fellowship of so many different cultures. We were all one in the bonds of love for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. No matter what was going on in the “world” with racial disharmony and discrimination, we could come to Central and be loved and be one and celebrate our cultural differences with songs in different languages and those wonderful potluck dinners!!!!!! Thank you so much for all the wonderful memories Central!
GARY MOREY, CBC 1992-1994. My experience with Central Baptist Church began with a phone call after morning worship services at another church on the island. I had arrived the previous Wednesday from an assignment in Seoul, Korea, where a member of my church up there had recommended I attend another church on the island. After that morning service, I didn’t feel the warmth and down-home feeling I was expecting, and like that I had just experienced in Korea. I was about to hop in the car to return to Kadena after that morning service, when I asked the driver to wait just a second while I ran inside the church office to make a phone call. Once in the office, I grabbed an English phone book where I saw a small ad for Central Baptist Church, and also saw the Southern Baptist symbol, and thought I would give them a call. I called the number when no one else was in the office. The person on the other end was not Pastor Joslin, but another American, who sounded like all the nice people I remembered at my previous Southern Baptist churches. I told the person my circumstances, having just arrived, looking around for a church, and he said “well, come on down tonight!!” So we made arrangements for him to pick me up at Kadena that night. Sure enough, the service was wonderful, the people absolutely delightful, and I joined the next Sunday morning. Going upstairs to the sanctuary intrigued me, then going up another floor to fellowship hall. I was used to stateside churches all spread out over large acreage. I loved the congregation mix with Okinawans. The other church was almost all Americans. I found the Okinawans absolutely delightful, and still miss them today. Being single, I was able to date several of the young ladies in the congregation, and still consider them the sweetest young ladies I’ve ever been with on a date. I remember the puppet skits, the wonderful music, and the need for everyone in the congregation to chip in to make the service possible. For some reason, I remember the song “Shine, Jesus Shine.” I think I sang that song there for the first time. I also remember the struggles of the Joslins. I was there during the most difficult moments of their ministry. Their love for the Lord, and for His people, was always so evident in their daily lives. I appreciated their struggles with the church, which seemed so numerous during my brief time on the island. We at Central were, and are, so lucky to have two quality missionaries like the Joslins on Okinawa. They and the Franklins are some of the finest people I’ve ever met. It was the brief relationships I had with them which first pricked my heart to consider a future in missions. The Joslins were gracious enough to invite me over for one Thanksgiving and two Christmas dinners. I was in the states for that second Thanksgiving, or I would have been at their house again! However, I have to admit I mostly think of regrets when I think of Central. I really didn’t get involved as much as I should have until about the last 7-8 months of my time on the island. It was not until then that I went on Brotherhood trips to Camp Nakajin for repairs, breakfasts and other activities with others at the church. We also went to Amagi Sanso up near Tokyo on a mission trip in late July 1994 to conduct VBS for the missionary children while the missionaries all gathered for their annual retreat. I got to meet a lot of missionaries from all over Japan there, which further stimulated my desire to one day be in missions. Also on that trip, I was able to climb Mt Fuji with Max and Cheryl Cruzado, Pastor Joslin and Sam Davis. I still have the flag on my wall from the top of Fuji, and I have video of the climb, which still makes me laugh. I still can’t believe little Cheryl Cruzado made it all the way to the top!!! I understand she’s not so little anymore! By the time I had to PCS, I was asking myself over and over, “why didn’t I do more with the Joslin’s and the church?” As I look back on my time there on Okinawa, I mainly remember activities from those last several months when I was active at Central. Now I know better than ever that going to church just on Sundays in not enough. You have to live with your church family every day of the week to fully appreciate them. Not until those last few months did I get to go diving with Max, the original ninja fighter (just look at him in his wet suit, and you’ll understand what I mean!!!) To watch Max underwater is amazing, as he spears all those fish and critters of all sorts. I tried to visit Camp Nakajin as much as possible, as well as Okuma and Hiji Falls with church members. I envy all the families that got to stay there for so long. The Nortons, Davis’ and Ramseys are the American families that come to mind that stayed long after my departure. I still marvel at the Diaz family and wonder how the Marine Corps has forgotten they are over there. How I wish the Air Force had forgotten about me and left me behind!! My few months on the island were probably the best of my life. I never wanted to leave, and certainly never wanted to leave the precious families at Central, and the Joslins. Enjoy your time there while the Lord gives you this time together.
GARY AND KAREY JOHNSON, MICAH AND EMILEE, CBC 1995-1998. We have several fond memories of the love and fellowship at Central Baptist. We often reflect on the life-long friendships that we made during our 3 ½ years on Okinawa. Gary can remember assisting John with the baptism of two dear friends, Craig and Lisa Wick, and when they rose up out of the water they were holding hands symbolizing their victory over death!! We remember the fun picnics at Tori Station (even the exciting time a typhoon was coming!) Karey remembers starting the WOM program and seeing it grow while having wonderful fellowship with the women of Central. Also, the times of sickness that came with pregnancy, all of the love and help everyone offered with food and care for Micah. We can also remember the tearful good-byes that seemed to happen too often, and the comfort of knowing that we will all see each other again someday. Central Baptist Church gave us a family away from home and the love we all need when we are so far from our families. Thank you Central Baptist for your outpouring of love and friendship you continue to give to every individual that walks through the doors!!! May God continue to richly bless you as you minister to the people on Okinawa!!
Couple spends year in Japan as volunteer missionaries (By Kristin Reynolds, Associate Lifestyles Editor)
There’s a remarkable thing about mission work, Frank and Josie Garver say. No matter what barriers exist — cultural, language or geographical –people from all backgrounds will come together to worship. The Garvers witnessed this firsthand during their year as volunteer missionaries in Okinawa, Japan, when their congregation of Brazilians, Filipinos, Japanese, Africans, Americans and other nationalities gathered for church services. Sitting in the family room of heir Moss Lake home, the Garvers chat back and forth about their experiences at Central Baptist Church, an English-language church in the city of Urasoe on Okinawa. In August of 1994, Garver, 65, stepped in for the church’s regular pastor who was away on furlough. Mrs. Garver, a church and home missionary, was involved in other parts of the church ministry, like discipling to the church women through weekly Bible Studies. The couple, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board, returned to Shelby in August with memories of the close ties that were formed in their multi cultural church. Okinawa, which is 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, is 65 miles long and houses 13 military bases. Of the 125 members of the church, two-thirds were American military men and their families, and one-third were internationals. “Frank preached in English and (the members) understood him, but as soon as church was over, they’d all gather In groups and start speaking their own language,” Mrs. Garver said. The Garvers said the younger people in their church were eager to learn English as a second language. “A lot of the women studied English in their Bible study classes every week, and some paid a lot of money to get private lessons in their free time,” Garver said. Mrs. Garver, 63, also taught English to Japanese preschoolers in the Japanese-language church next door one hour each week. Rather than learning to speak in sentences, the children learned simple words like piano, table and umbrella. “Even they wanted to learn English,” she said of the 3-and 4yr-olds. “They called me ‘Josie sensei,’ which means ‘teacher’ in Japanese.”
Because the Garvers worked in an English-language church, their Japanese language skills weren’t formal. Garver, a retired navy chaplain and retired pastor, said the couple first felt called into the career foreign mission service in 1983, when they went to Yokohama, Japan. Garver served as pastor of Yokohama International Baptist Church for six years before the two traveled to Bangkok, Thailand in 1991 for one year as mission volunteers. Japan is very open to Christian missionaries, although only one percent of the Population are Christians. On Okinawa, three percent are Christians. And on the mainland, most are Buddhists. Ancestor worship is common on Okinawa. “In Japan, they have freedom of religion, just like us,” Garver said. “There’s no hostility, no open hindrances to preaching the gospel or teaching or conducting worship.” One thing that does differ from America is the pace of life in Japan, Mrs. Garver said. “Your time is more your own there,” she said. “When you’re away from home, you’re really away. There’s only one TV station there in English … So there’s time for needlework and reading.” The Garvers are complimentary of the tropical island, praising its cleanliness and its courteous, well-educated people. However, the high cost of living is a deterrent, they said, and a primary reason for the small number of American tourists.
Leaving Okinawa was not without mixed emotions. Thirty people became members while they were there, and there were 13 baptisms. They also left behind many close friends. “We were close to the Okinawans who became Christians while we were there,” Mrs. Garver said. “There were many who accepted us as parents or grandparents. But we know that was part of our mission — to go over, and when our time was up to come back home.” (The Garvers: Frank and Josie, CBC 1994-95; 2 months in 1997)