Our Story

The Founding

The San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church started as the San Lorenzo Holiness Church.  It traces its beginnings to a band of Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants), including Mr. and Mrs. Tomitaka Shinoda and Mr. and Mrs. Toku Nishimura, who began meeting in homes in 1929.  Rev. George Yahiro was assigned as the first pastor.  Kiyoshi, Tomitaka and Joseph Shinoda offered to the Lord a parcel of their nursery property for church use, thus fulfilling their prayers upon coming to America.  On that property stood a two-story building, once a well-known roadside inn, which served as the church and parsonage for over 30 years.
Rev. Juji Nakada, Bishop of the Japan Holiness Church, who was visiting America that year, was called to conduct the dedication service of the San Lorenzo Holiness Church on October 13, 1929.  About 80 people were present at the solemn and inspiring ceremony as the church was founded with hope.  Organized with only a few believers, the new church, through earnest evangelism by the pastor, became recognized and established.
In January 1930, Sunday School classes started in two places; one at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Manabu Nemoto in Mt. Eden, and the other at the home of Mrs. Kei Shimizu's uncle in Centerville.  The first baptismal service was held on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930, for Mrs. Hatsu Yamazaki.  In July, a women's prayer group (later to become the Fujin-Kai) was organized.  Rev. Yahiro was bilingual and baptized the first Nisei, Mary Shinoda, in April 1931.
In 1934, after four years of ministry and getting the church started, Rev. Yahiro moved on to Modesto, and Rev. Henry T. Sakuma was welcomed as the new pastor.  During his ministry here, he helped young Nisei and led many of them to Christ.  After 4 1/2 years, he was transferred to San Fernando. 
Rev. James E. Suehiro, who was bilingual, followed as pastor in 1938.  The church progressed and continued with cottage meetings and evangelistic meetings.  Many young people were baptized.
Following the outbreak of World War II, the church was closed in the spring of 1942 because of the evacuation of all the Japanese people living on the West Coast.


When the war ended in 1945, Rev. Suehiro returned briefly to San Lorenzo before assuming the responsibilities as pastor of the Los Angeles Holiness Church and Bishop of the Holiness Churches of North America.  He replaced Rev. Sadaichi Kuzuhara who went to Chicago to establish a church.  Rev. Tameichi Okimoto came as pastor.  He began the rebuilding of the congregation through cottage meetings and special meetings.  At this time, the Nisei work began in earnest as Rev. Daniel Shinoda returned to California in the fall of 1945 to assume responsibilities in the family nursery and to serve as the first full-time Nisei pastor.  He prepared for the ministry by studying at Gordon Theological Seminary in Boston during the war years.
In December 1945, Rev. Shinoda started young people's services on Sunday evenings.  Soon, there were 30 people attending the evening services and 11 at prayer meetings.  In March 1947, a Sunday School program was initiated.  A Vacation Bible School was started in July 1947 with four teachers.  That December 150 people crowded into the old house for the Christmas program.
During these early years, Rev. Shinoda also ministered on Sunday mornings at the Berkeley Free Methodist church at the invitation of Rev. M. Nishimura, his brother and Nichigo pastor, and at the Berkeley Christian Layman Church.
In 1948, the first women's missionary meeting was held with 16 women, which later was called the Christian Friendship Service Circle.  They have faithfully served the church in many areas, helping, at annual banquets and other special occasions, participating in lay services, and sponsoring the Pioneer Girls and the musicals.
The first Men's Fellowship meeting was held that year.  Later, they began meeting once every month with a potluck dinner and fellowship.  Also, work nights were held to take care of different projects.
The church grew rapidly in the post-war years, and in 1949, the original sanctuary was built.  A goal of $5,000 was set by the building committee.  The sanctuary was dedicated on March 27, 1949.  With $2000 in offerings received that day, it was dedicated free of any encumbrances!  Praise God!
By 1950, the Sunday School enrollment reached over 80.  In the following year, a Sunday School was started on Saturday morning in Irvington.  The Northern California youth conference at redwood Camp at Mt. Hermon was held in June 1950.  In 1951, the JEMS Mt. Hermon Conference began with 30 young people attending from this church.  The annual JEMS Conference has been growing.  God has truly blessed this ministry.
In 1951, the high school students formed "Lifeliners" and began meeting weekly.  College age young people also met.  Through the years, the Lifeline group has ministered to the youth with the help of many faithful advisors.
In 1952, the first Holiness Midwinter Conference was held at the Los Angeles Holiness Church.  In the years following, the conference has been held at many different places--including San Lorenzo in 1954, 1961, 1964 and 1975.  In recent years, the Midwinter Conference has been replaced by Winter Vision, a conference for Junior High and High School students.
Rev. and Mrs. Dexter Edwards served for one year in the church in 1952.  Rev. Edwards conducted the morning worship service, and Rev. Shinoda started an adult Bible class.
The annual Sunday School attendance contests began in the fall of 1952 and continued through 1968.  Because of the effectiveness of these contests, there was steady growth in the Sunday School.  Through the years, the church has been blessed with a dedicated and enthusiastic teaching staff.
In 1953, a combination classroom and social hall, which cost $11,600, was built and dedicated.  A church bus was purchased for $500 to bring children from Alvarado and Irvington areas.
Starting in 1954, Rev. Akira Hatori, Japan missionary, was given $100 monthly support.  That October, the church observed its 25th Anniversary.  A 25-member choir was organized under the direction of Harold Takahashi.  They presented special cantatas at Easter and Christmas.
Rev. Okimoto transferred to San Fernando in 1954 and Rev. Kichiro Fukuda came from a long ministry at the Honolulu Holiness Church to assume the pastorate of the Japanese speaking congregation.  During his nine years of ministry here, he conducted pioneer evangelism in Campbell and Mt. View.  Both Rev. and Mrs. Fukuda were enthusiastic for evangelism, prayed earnestly, and encouraged believers in their faith.
Rev. Sakuma returned to the West Coast in 1963 after pastoring the Chicago Holiness Church during the post-evacuation years to begin his second term of ministry in this church.
Sky Pilots, a ministry to young boys ages 9 - 14 was organized in June 1955.  Christian Service Brigade replaced it in the fall of 1965.  The weekly meetings include fellowship, sports, crafts, and Bible devotion time.
The evening lay service contests began in February 1956 with the different groups participating and concluding with a potluck dinner at the end of the month.  These lay series have continued through the years into the morning worship service.  It has given many people an opportunity to share their testimony and faith in Jesus Christ.
At this time, the church continued to focus on reaching out to the youth in the church and community.  Dick Nishioka, while a student at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, served the Lord by helping with the youth work of the church for two years.  A group was formed by the college-age/young adult calling themselves, "Mariners." They met monthly with varied activities.  The group spent many hours organizing the church library.
Visitation teams were started in August, 1957, and continued through 1970 on a regular monthly basis on Wednesday nights.  Numerous visits were made to encourage and invite friends in the community.
In 1958, the Billy Graham Evangelistic meetings were held at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.  Because of the prayers of many, the Crusade was a blessing to the church and there were 29 decisions for Christ.
Joseph Akahoshi was added to the staff as assistant pastor in 1960.  Serving for over two years, he helped Rev. Shinoda with many responsibilities here and at the Campbell Church.  Mr. Akahoshi was assigned to pastor the Campbell Church in September 1962.
In 1960, a building plan to enlarge the sanctuary and the kitchen, have more classrooms and a library room was completed and dedicated.
The Pioneer Girls, youth work for girls (4th through the 8th grades), was started in September 1964, with 18 girls and 5 guides.  Each girl was assigned a Prayer Pal, a Christian woman, who prays for her.
In 1967, after 22 fruitful years at San Lorenzo, Rev. Dan Shinoda left to become the pastor of the Campbell Church.  Rev. Arthur Tsuneishi came from San Diego to serve the church.  For the first time, the English-speaking Department had to assume the full financial responsibility for its pastor.
During this period, as our Issei pastors were beginning to retire, young Nichigo pastors were called from Japan to replace them.  This happened in San Lorenzo in 1973 as Rev. Sakuma completed over fifty years of faithful ministry in our Conference, and was succeeded by a young Nichigo pastor from the Japan Holiness Conference, Rev. Yuichiro Nakano.  During his ministry, he reached many young Nichigo students from Japan, and started a television ministry on a cooperative basis among Bay Area Japanese churches.  Rev. Nakano was later assigned to Honolulu, and Rev. Kiyoshi Ishihara, who was studying in the Bay Area and on leave from the Japan Holiness Conference, came to serve on an interim basis.  He served for two years before returning to Japan.  Rev. Shunji Mizoguchi began his Nichigo pastorate in 1982.
In 1978, Rev. James Toda was assigned as the English-speaking department pastor, and Rev. Tsuneishi moved to the Los Angeles Holiness Church.
Through the years, home mission work was carried out in the Centerville area, as well as in Campbell (now the Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church).  In 1977, a new outreach in the Walnut Creek area was initiated by Rev. Shinoda and his wife, Yuri, and became another extension work assisted by both the San Lorenzo and Santa Clara churches. That outreach work is now the Japanese Church of Walnut Creek.  The San Lorenzo Church has maintained a strong vision in missions and believes in supporting missionaries.   Young people from the church have served as short- term missionaries in Japan, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere.

A New Name

 At the annual business meeting in June 1981, the church membership voted to change the name of the church to the San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church.
The Navigator 2:7, a two-year discipleship program was conducted and ten people completed the course in 1983.  This program helps to develop discipline in the Christian.  Since that first 2:7 program was conducted, two other programs have been completed.
In 1983, the San Lorenzo Nursery, which surrounded the church on three sides, closed down.   The property was sold to developers who built a shopping center around the church.  During that year, the church decided to build a large extension of the church.  Mr. Ed Sue was hired as architect.  Construction was started in 1985, and in 1988 the new chapel and expanded social area was completed.
In January 1984, Rev, Rod Yee began serving as youth minister, working with both the high school and college groups.  He is a graduate of Talbot Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1981.  Rev. Yee served the church in this position until joining the Oakland Police Department in July 1985.
In November 1985, a Small Group Ministry was started by Vernon Kam, chairman of the board at that time.  He trained six men to be the first small group leaders.  Members of the church and others were invited to meet on a weekly basis in the homes of the members.  In the first year, about 70 people attended the small group meetings. The small group ministry leaders met each Sunday morning to discuss the next bible study. The format of the weekly meetings was: a sharing warm-up time, Bible questions and discussions, prayer time and a fellowship time.  This ministry has been very successful in helping many people gain a closer relationship to the Lord through the Bible studies.  A video of the Small Group Ministry was made in 1994.   In 1999, Vernon Kam stepped down from leading the small groups ministry and Lester Fujii took over.
In 1987, Rev. Takashi Furuyama was assigned as Nichigo Pastor to San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church, and Rev. Shunji Mizoguchi moved to his new assignment at Los Angeles Holiness Church.  Rev. Furuyama moved in August 1996 to West Los Angeles with Rev. David Hosomi taking his place at San Lorenzo.
In 1989, the church published an anniversary book entitled, The Holy Road, which included the testimonies of the Japanese-speaking members of the church.  At the 1989 General Conference, Rick Chuman, a member of the San Diego Church and a graduate of Bethel Seminary, was assigned as assistant pastor of the English Division of the church.  He was ordained at the 1991 General Conference in Los Angeles.  Rev. Chuman led the church's ministry for the youth and college age groups.  Jiro Fujioka joined the pastoral staff in 1992 as an assistant pastor under Rev. Furuyama for the Nichigo Division.  His duties included ministering to the Nichigo members of the Walnut Creek Japanese Christian Church.  Jiro Fujioka was very successful at growing the Nichigo Division at Walnut Creek.  He was ordained in 1995 and was transferred to the Walnut Creek church as the full time Nichigo minister.
As the needs of the church grew, Kathy Tekawa was hired part-time in August 1990 as the Administrative Assistant.  Kathy oversaw office management and performed clerical duties such as preparing the Sunday worship program, correspondence, and was responsible as Editor-in-Chief of the "Firmly Rooted" newsletter.
San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church has prayerfully reached out to the local community through various programs, including Vacation Bible School, Women's Craft Day, 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament, and the Harvest Festival.  Vacation Bible School has been a significant outreach for San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church over the years to the children and families of the community.  A bible study is offered for the mothers to attend while their children are with the VBS events.  The Women's Craft Day is an outreach to women.  A day of craft classes is conducted, culminating in a luncheon with a woman speaker giving her testimony at the luncheon.  The Harvest Festival has been designed to provide an event that can allow church members to invite children and their families to our church for a safe alternative to Halloween.  Children are invited to come to the church for an evening of food, games, and fellowship.  A pumpkin themed Gospel message is given along with an invitation to accept Christ.  The 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament provides an opportunity for youth and adults to play basketball while displaying enthusiasm for the game and for sharing the gospel with non-Christians.  A local Christian professional athlete is brought in to give a testimony.
Joe Roberts was hired part-time as the Christian Education Director in 1991.  Hiring Joe was a pivotal part of the church's growth as the congregation became more open to the multi-staff concept.  Joe was responsible for overseeing the Sunday School and providing Biblical education through seminars and other activities.
In 1993, the small group in Fremont, under the leadership of Mel Chinen, began a new work to reach out to the Asian community in the Fremont area, a community fifteen miles south of the church.  Originally called the "Fremont Christian Fellowship," a Sunday worship service in the afternoon was started at the community center.  Joe Roberts was asked to be the lay pastor of the church.  It was later renamed the Fremont Asian Christian Church and was accepted as a mission church of the OMS Conference under the San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church.  The Fremont Asian Christian Church became a full member church of the Conference in 2000.
A new building expansion was started and completed in 1995.  This expansion project added a new classroom, added a copy workroom and expanded and remodeled two pastor's offices.
In September 1995, Rev. Rick Chuman left San Lorenzo to become the Senior Pastor of the Los Angeles Holiness Church.  Eric Segawa was assigned to San Lorenzo as Assistant Pastor.  Upon his ordination by the Holiness Conference in 1997, he became Associate Pastor.
After having served at San Lorenzo since 1978, Rev. James Toda retired in 1997.  Rev. David Shinoda, a graduate of Fuller Seminary, who was formerly Assistant Pastor at LA Holiness and Gardena Baptist Church, was hired as the Senior Pastor in September 1997.  He served until April 2001 when he resigned.  A pastoral search committee was established to find a new Senior Pastor.

After leading the youth ministry as a lay leader for a few years, Scott Shimada was hired as the first full time Director of Youth Ministries for San Lorenzo in March 2000.  He is responsible for the Junior High and High School age ministries, working closely with the students and volunteers to develop and build up leaders.   The youth group meets on Friday nights and has several events throughout the year including the three on three basketball tournament, river rafting, retreats, and social projects.  Scott writes a monthly newsletter “United We Stand” to be an encouragement to others and as a reminder for prayer.
As the needs of the children’s ministry grew, an unpaid staff position was created for Children's Ministries (K-5) which was filled by Gloria Kama.  Along with her responsibilities for coordinating VBS and special activities such as a Jesus Birthday party at Christmastime, Gloria has added a worship and praise emphasis to all of the children’s ministry activities.  Gloria’s position became paid part-time in 2003.  Gloria returned to volunteer status in June 2010.
In 2000, the Castro Valley parsonage was sold.  In 2001, the San Lorenzo parsonage was sold to Rev. Hosomi.  In June 2001, Rev. George Toda came out of retirement to serve as interim pastor for one year but remained three years ministering to the needs of the church.  His duties were to preach twice a month, supervise the staff, provide pastoral care for the staff, attend meetings of the Board of Deacons and Board of Trustees, and conduct visitations for the ill and funerals as needed.
In January 2003, Rev. Segawa resigned and Rev. Toda requested a reduced schedule.  With the reduction of the pastoral staff, a new administrative structure for the church was proposed by the Board of Deacons and accepted by the congregation in March 2003.  In this new multi-staff structure, a temporary Board of Overseers was created to assist with the responsibilities of the pastoral staff.  Stan Naruo was hired to be the full time Church Administrator.
In April 2003, Rev. Rod Yee began serving as the Interim Staff Pastor, while still working with the Oakland Police Department.  He preached monthly, supervised the staff, and provided pastoral care to the congregation.
In early 2004, Atsuko Smart, came on staff part-time as the Administrative Assistant to the Nichigo congregation as she kept her full-time job.
In April 2005, the Nichigo pastor, Rev. David Hosomi retired.  On May 15, 2005, Rev. Sunao Shimada was installed as the new Nichigo pastor of San Lorenzo.  He and his wife, Tomoko, are both graduates of Tokyo Biblical Seminary.  Rev. and Mrs. Shimada and their four children relocated from Japan to come to San Lorenzo.
Brian Tekawa had been serving as part-time Director of Adult Ministries since 2001 and was made a Student Pastor in January 2006.  In March 2006, he felt called to retire early from his position at BART and to finish his studies at Bay Cities Bible College.  In June 2009, the church made him an Assistant Pastor and in January 2010, he was confirmed as a Conference Pastor by the Ordained Ministerial Body (OMB).  Pastor Brian completed a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
In January 2007, Rev. Yee was approved by the church leadership to become the Lead Pastor of the English congregation.  His duties include overall church vision casting and promotion, preaching, attending Deacons, Trustees, and Overseers meetings, supervising and leading the staff, and providing pastoral care for the ill and bereaved.  His 1981 ordination was acknowledged and accepted by the OMB in July 2009.
In late 2007, Tomoko Shimada came on as part-time staff as Director of Christian Education for the Nichigo.  Mrs. Shimada leads Bible studies, discipleship/mentoring, and helps her husband minister to the many needs of the growing Nichigo congregation.
Following graduation from Talbot Seminary, Eric Yata began serving as Assistant Pastor in September 2008.  His duties include ministries with young adults, young marrieds, small groups, discipleship, and preaching.  In January 2009, he was confirmed as a Conference Pastor by the OMB along with Pastor Brian Tekawa.
In January 2013, at the Conference Pastors’ Retreat, Pastor Brian Tekawa and Pastor Eric Yata were ordained by the OMB.  The OMB also approved Scott Shimada as a Conference Pastor.
On January 1st, 2017, the church began a new phase in its history called the GROW SANLO capital campaign in order to search for a suitable facility.  The church praised God for the recent growth of attendance in which it had outgrown its long standing church facility.
Rev. Yee announced his retirement in July 2018 and Rev. Yata was introduced as the Lead Pastor Designate.
In October 2018, Joshua Scott was hired as Young Adult and Worship Pastor (P/T) after finishing his Masters of Divinity from Talbot Seminary.  In March 2019, Pastor Joshua Scott was given full-time status as well as approved by the OMB to become a Conference Pastor.
In December 2018, Rev. Yee retired and Rev. Yata was confirmed as the new Lead Pastor on Jan. 1st, 2019.
Rev. Rod Yee was a tireless servant and leader.  He was inspirational in leading the church into a new direction with the development of multi-staff ministry and the GROW SANLO Campaign to seek a new church facility.  Additionally, Rod helped to develop the Church Administrative Office for the OMS Conference over the past 10 years.  His leadership and compassionate care will be missed as he passed away and went home to be with the Lord on Good Friday April 10th, 2020.

In February 2020, Kathy Tekawa retired from her role as administrative assistant. Jessica Pham is now hired to oversee office management and perform clerical duties such as preparing the Sunday worship program, correspondence, and is now Editor-in-Chief of the "Growing Together" formerly known as the "Firmly Rooted" newsletter.

On November 7th, 2021, at San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church, Pastor Joshua Scott was officially ordained by the OMB as he had to pass three zoom ordination examinations, one for each region of the OMC Conference, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To this day, the church sees new challenges with new staff workers, new surroundings, new building plans, and a new generation of people to be reached for Christ. Praise God for years of blessings on this church; pray God for a fresh out-pouring of His Spirit in blessing.

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