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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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