Orlando (FBC)—A Korean co-worker trained in Evangelism Explosion often asked Masaya Ginter if she died today would she go to heaven. At first, the Japanese woman responded yes, because “I am a good person.”
But the co-worker kept asking until one day Ginter fully understood the implications of the query and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, “knowing that I was saved by faith,” she said, and was baptized “in obedience.”
Although early in their conversation, Ginter told her co-worker that she was Buddhist, she now believes “I was Buddhist by tradition and ancestry.”
With her new found Christian faith, the former military wife developed a desire to study the Bible in her own language and began a home Bible study for other Japanese persons in 1997. As the Bible study group grew, it moved to a local church before finding a permanent home at Orlando’s Dover Shores Baptist Church.
From that initial Evangelism Explosion question, a passionate new believer thirsting for God’s Word and God’s infinite plan has evolved into the first Japanese language church in the Florida Baptist Convention.
Orlando Japanese Baptist Church, a church planted for the Central Florida’s Japanese community, was started with Ginter’s Bible study participants as the core group and now draws 60 persons in attendance each week.
The church is a testimony to the cooperation of God’s people in planting churches to reach every culture. Playing integral roles were the Japanese Church Planting Network (JCPN), which is affiliated with the North American Mission Board; Florida Baptist Convention; Greater Orlando Baptist Association; and Dover Shores Baptist Church, which hosts and sponsors the congregation.
The JCPN, based in Oregon, has as its goal to plant 120 Japanese churches in North America by 2020. With 14 churches from Oregon to Maryland, the network began targeting Florida as a potential new church site, thinking Miami because of its diversity would be a likely location, said Mike Yokoy, JCPN director.
According to the U.S. Census, Florida has 11,000 Japanese residents not including those from “mixed marriages,” such as military wives like Ginter or employees of international corporations working in the state, Yokoy said.
When he learned of this band of Christian believers in Orlando who faithfully met together to study the Bible and pray, Yokoy decided God had placed them there for a purpose. With that nucleus, the church was planted.
“Thinking back, I can say that this was all God’s plan and He was leading us all the way,” said Ginter, who continues to be a leader within the congregation.
When the church first started meeting, a Japanese pastor from St. Louis traveled to Orlando each month for two years to preach for the congregation.
Then more than a year ago, the congregation called Hiro Takaoka as the first full-time pastor.
But before Takaoka, who was in the States studying for the ministry, could assume responsibilities as pastor, he was required to return to his homeland and change his student visa to a religious work visa, a year-long process.
Critical to his immigration was the promise of a guaranteed salary, which is being equally underwritten by the sponsoring church, association and state convention. Pine Castle Baptist Church provided the pastor their mission house for a year while First Spanish Baptist Church donated a car for the pastor’s use.
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