Celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island Heritage Month

Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell – Regional Executive Minister

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island Heritage Month, when we recognize and honor the accomplishments of Asian Americans and those from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands in the United States. The reason we have different heritage months is to recognize and expand everyone’s knowledge and understanding of history and contributions to the United States beyond European American history, which much of our history books have focused on.

This month, I would like to honor a true “saint” of the American Baptist Churches: Yosh Nakagawa. Yosh was born in 1932 and lived in Seattle with his parents, and they were members of Japanese Baptist Church. However, during World War II, Yosh and his family were taken, along with other Japanese immigrants, to be imprisoned at the Minidoka Concentration Camp in Idaho. Once freed from Minidoka, Yosh returned to Seattle. He eventually went to Linfield College, my alma mater and an American Baptist college, for a year and then graduated from the University of Washington.

In Yosh’s own words, “When my country turned on me, the church stood beside me.” Yosh and the other Japanese families and individuals imprisoned at Minidoka were ministered to by American Baptist Home Mission Societies missionaries. In later years, Yosh served as vice-president of the American Baptist Churches USA. You can read his own words here.

I had the pleasure of meeting Yosh when I served as a pastor in the Seattle area. Yosh was involved in the Evergreen Baptist Association, the ABC region for Seattle and other areas on the West Coast. He once shared about the founding of Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle, his home church: in the beginning, all the members of Japanese Baptist Church were not Christian. They were all Buddhist. Through the love and ministry and acceptance of the Baptists in Seattle, they came to know Christ.

Racism and hate toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has been on the rise, as are other forms of hate, and this month we raise awareness to end discrimination and violence toward Asian Americans. Executive Order 9066 was issued 82 years ago against Japanese Americans simply because they were Japanese. Nonetheless, Yosh was a lifelong advocate for justice and peace. He was a faithful reminder of how the church can stand against the world when the world is unjust. Together we can overcome adversity through the love of Christ and accepting one another as American Baptists. Celebrate and learn more here.

Posted in News, Staff Articles.