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• We had three guest speakers present for Maranatha’s 50th
Anniversary Sunday. Dr. Jeff Alverson, BIMI Military Director, spoke
in the 9:45 a.m. Sunday school hour, using the theme “Maranatha—
Blessed of God.” Then, Dr. Don Sisk, former director of BIMI for
18 years, spoke in the morning worship hour. He also spoke at the
Saturday evening banquet. It was, indeed, special that Dr. Sisk
preached the organizational service 50 years before when the church
was first organized. Dr. James Kennard, Military Ministry Director for
over 30 years and the one who was instrumental in getting Maranatha
Baptist Church started, spoke in the Sunday evening service. After Dr. Kennard spoke, the Military Ministry
presented an award of appreciation to him for 57 years of missionary service.
Three pastors from the United States spoke during the evening services at the Pacific Field Conference: Dr.
Ernest Groce, pastor of Victory Baptist, Rossville, Georgia; Brother Jon McConkey, pastor of Maranatha
Baptist in Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Camp Lejeune Marine Base; and Dr. John Paisley, pastor of
Riverview Baptist in Pasco, Washington. Each had a great message for us.
• Two other ministries in Japan were among our visits: Yokosuka Baptist Church in Yokosuka, Japan, Missionary
Pastor Mike Pinson and Yokota Baptist Church at Yokota Air Base area near Tokyo, Missionary Pastor
Danny McKittrick. It was good to be with these two ministries. Brother Alverson preached in both churches
while there. While in Yokosuka, I was able to go out with Tonda
Pinson and the ladies from Yokosuka Baptist Church and hand
out Japanese/English tracts in downtown Yokosuka. There was
a great response in taking the tracts from the Japanese as well as
We praise the Lord for the military ministries in the United States, Europe, and Japan,
serving with BIMI. It is a great honor to work with these hard-working missionaries who
have a great love and burden for the military. Please pray for all of our military missionaries
and their ministries to the military families. MARANATHA—Our Lord is coming!
“Many thanks and much appreciation go to Brother Sammy Popwell, Pacific Coordinator,
and Pastor Ed Navato, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church, for their diligent work on the
field conference and anniversary services.” (Jeff Alverson, Military Director)
In the Middle of Nowhere
By Jesse Pilalas
Misawa is about as close as you can get to the middle of nowhere and still be at a U.S. military base in Japan. People sometimes say,
“Nobody goes through Misawa, you have to have a reason to be there!” When North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-Un was flying missiles
directly overhead last year, many American news outlets commented that there were no U.S. assets in the area.
The truth is that there is a little base of about 5,000 U.S. citizens, including mostly Air Force personnel and dependents. Faith Baptist
Church was established in 1983 to serve the Lord and reach these precious souls. Nowadays, the church consists of military families,
teachers from the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, and civilian contractors.
In the coming weeks, we hope to minister to a special group of people that many in the States
may not think of when they think of reaching the military overseas with the Gospel. On bases
with families accompanying active duty military personnel, there are elementary schools and
high schools as well as potential college-level instructors and language teachers. We are having
Educators Appreciation Sunday to show our thanks for those tasked with educating the young
people and adults around Misawa Air Force Base. Our church is especially set up to do this,
considering that we have two elementary school teachers who are members of Faith Baptist
Church. In 2013, the Lord led my wife, Lynne, and me to come here. He has always blessed and provided,
although the seasons of military rotation have been very difficult. Our plan, if the Lord will, is to
serve the Lord for many years reaching the military and civilians stationed overseas.
This year, after 11 years of marriage and much of that spent in tearful prayer for a child, our
son Jesse Keith Pilalas II was born! Our hearts are full, as the Lord has blessed in our ministry
and in our family.
Welcome to Maranatha!
Maranatha Baptist Church in Okinawa, Japan, recently celebrated its 50th
anniversary. What a wonderful 50 years it has been! All glory belongs to God, for
without Him, Maranatha would never have lasted even one year. From its humble
beginnings of meeting in a home to the present day, thousands around the globe
have been blessed through the ministry of Maranatha Baptist Church (MBC). Many
people who walked through the doors of MBC could relate their own version of what
Maranatha has meant to them. My family was blessed to be part of MBC for nearly
half of its 50 years; it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
What made Maranatha a special place for us? It was our home away from home. The
love demonstrated by God’s people was evident from the beginning. We learned to
love people from many walks of life, different backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities,
and geographical locations. It was an eye-opening revelation as to the love of God,
experienced in the lives of His people. Since most military families spend an average of three years of their tour on
Okinawa, folks learned quickly to love and care for one another. Christians serving in the U.S. military are some of the
finest, most genuine people you will ever meet. Each Sunday, the MBC theme song rang out “Welcome to Maranatha;
it’s the church where you belong!”
Maranatha was a place to serve, and there were numerous ministries in which to serve. Since most did not have a long
stay on Okinawa, folks could not wait a year or two to decide where to serve; they jumped right in. Our parking lot
workers were especially skilled at squeezing in every car, van, and bus into the limited parking space. For many years,
busses ran in all directions, bringing in thousands of children, single GIs, and families. Ministries to the single GIs
included GI fellowships, Sunday dinners, and a place to stay if needed. Sunday school, children’s church, Bible clubs,
and teen activities provided a means for ministering to the youth of the military. Hundreds of boys and girls were saved,
and we witnessed great spiritual growth in our children and teens. Maranatha Baptist Academy (MBA) provided a
Christian-based education that prepared our youth for future service. We thank the Lord for the spiritual guidance and
service opportunities that our three children received at MBC and MBA.
About five years into our time on Okinawa, God gave me the opportunity to begin working with the music at MBC. This
ministry was so exciting and rewarding. Congregational singing uplifted the name of Christ. The choir ministry was
always an interesting challenge, since military folks rotate so often. Still the Lord allowed me to work with some of the
dearest, most dedicated servants in our choir. Our Christmas and Easter musicals provided an outreach opportunity,
an inspiration to our church members, and a special blessing to the participants.
Maranatha was a place to learn and grow. We were
privileged to sit under the preaching and teaching of
five different pastors (all unique in their God-given
gifts) as well as dozens of missionaries, evangelists,
and special speakers. We were amazed to witness the
growth of new believers and mature Christians in
God’s work. As one former pastor emphasized, “We
use the work to build the people.” Much has been said
regarding the hundreds of full-time Christian workers
around the world who were discipled and encouraged
in the ministry of MBC. The current pastor, Brother
Ed Navato, is (always is) a Marine who surrendered
his life to the Lord at Maranatha.
Maranatha was a place for outreach. Soul winning
and visitation efforts, though sometimes limited on
military bases, became a hallmark of MBC. Many
GIs as well as family members came to Okinawa lost but left the island new creatures in Christ. Though mainly a
church to the U.S. military, MBC also reached out to the Okinawans and other nationalities through tract distribution,
Bible studies, fellowships, and sermon translations. Many in our church assisted ministries to the Okinawans through
witnessing, serving, giving, and manual labor.
Maranatha was a place to give. Many Christians sacrificially gave of their time, talents, and money to God’s service.
Much of the current building was completed because of the faithful giving and labor of God’s servants. Missions was
paramount at MBC. Mission conferences were held regularly. I have never witnessed the abundant giving toward
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