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The Oasis for Thirsty Souls
By Ed Navato
In Matthew 16:18 the Lord Jesus Christ stated, “I will build my church.” The Bible teaches about
the seven literal churches in Asia in the book of Revelation 1:4, 11.
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him
which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are
before his throne…. 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book,
and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and
unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
4 I think about the seven churches in Asia and the seven churches here in Japan under the loving leadership of Dr. Jeff Alverson,
Military Director of Baptist International Missions, Inc. (BIMI). Whether you are vacationing or conducting business, whether you
are stationed here while on active duty in the US military or here for unit deployments, BIMI has local churches close to many US
military bases in Japan. These local New Testament churches serve the Lord Jesus Christ as they reach out to all their neighboring
communities and the military bases in Japan.
The Seven Candlesticks in Japan
From the north to the south, loving pastors and their congregations care for seven churches in Japan. If you are in the Misawa Air Base
area, please visit Pastor Jesse Pilalas at Faith Baptist Church of Misawa. If you are visiting the Tokyo area or Yokota Air Base in Fussa
City, please visit Pastor Danny McKittrick and Yokota Baptist Church. A couple of hours drive south is the US Naval Base Yokosuka;
please visit Pastor Michael Pinson and Yokosuka Baptist Church. Approximately 10 hours drive south of Yokosuka is the Marine
Corps Air Station Iwakuni; please visit Pastor Brandyn Knight and Faith Baptist Church of Iwakuni. Pastor Jeffery Wright serves at
Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sasebo by the US Naval Base Sasebo where we served for about three years before the Lord called us to
Yokosuka Baptist Church. A separate island called Japan’s “Little Hawaii” is the island of Okinawa—home of many US military bases
for our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, along with all our civilians of the Department of Defense. From the north to the south
on Okinawa, some of the bases one will find are Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab, Torii Station, Kadena Air Base, Camp Courtney, Camp
Butler, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (where I served in the Marines for my first and last duty stations in the Corps), and Camp
Kinser. While in northern Okinawa, visit Pastor Stuart Jellison and Northshore Baptist Church; and while in central Okinawa, please
visit us in Maranatha Baptist Church, where my wife and I currently serve.
These local New Testament churches in Japan and other Bible churches worldwide are the “oasis in the desert of life” for thirsty souls.
Many military personnel have received help, primarily through salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The pastors of these local
churches in Japan are missionaries to the US military and their communities as well. Many of us are US military veterans able to relate
to the needs of our military personnel. We are all serving alongside a service-oriented mission board to the local churches, Baptist
International Missions, Inc., under the effective leadership of Dr. David Snyder, President of BIMI.
Our local churches in Japan preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once a person is born again, he submits to believer’s baptism.
Instruction in the basics of discipleship begins while he attends the services of the local church. Many families are strengthened,
troubled marriages are rescued, personnel are victorious and delivered from addictions, and needs are met because of the local
churches. The Training Ground in the Local Church
In July 2011, the Lord Jesus Christ called our family to serve in Yokosuka Baptist Church. The Lord blessed in powerful ways while we
were in Yokosuka Baptist Church. We saw an increase (doubled in numbers) in the missionaries we supported. The church financial
assets almost doubled as well. We saw an average of 60 to 70 known professions of faith every year. About half of them submitted
to believers’ baptism and joined the church. Some of those who were baptized came from non-Baptist backgrounds and desired to
join Yokosuka Baptist Church. The local church is a training ground for all Christians. Some are saved and grow in grace. For other
Christians who became members, they rolled up their sleeves and served in the different ministries of the church. When Christians
serve, they also grow spiritually. After serving for a year or more (some stay for three years and some extend for a few more years),
they are equipped to serve in the local church close to their next duty stations. Most members of the local church overseas are
transients in that they leave after their military obligations. The local church is there to proclaim the Gospel and help the Christians
The Fruit of the Local Church
Brother Danny Hirte came to Yokosuka Baptist Church and learned to lead in many ministries. He was with me many days during the
week to visit folks and lead many to Christ both on base and off base. He is now an acting assistant pastor in Virginia serving under
his father-in-law, the pastor of the church. Whenever his pastor asks him to lead, he says, “This is how we did it in the ministry at
Yokosuka Baptist Church.” The last time I visited him in the States, we knocked on
doors in their neighborhood and led a soul to Christ. One day I received an email
from him that said, “Pastor Navato, I just want you to know that I will preach until
I die!” What a blessing!
Brother Aland and Ms. Berty came to visit Yokosuka Baptist Church on a Sunday.
They walked with their baby from the base to find our church. They did not
find our church right away and came during the altar invitation. The couple was
not saved that Sunday. Aland and Ms. Berty were religious folks from Haiti but
did not know Christ. We visited them in their home, and in their living room
Aland and Berty knelt and prayed to receive Christ as their personal Savior! They
now faithfully attend and serve in Yokosuka Baptist Church. Aland became the
coordinator of the shuttle van ministry. He oversees giving people rides from the
base to our church. Many visitors were saved because of Brother Aland and Ms.
Berty. Ms. Berty serves faithfully in the nursery.
Brother Rafael and Ms. Yolanda are from the Dominican Republic and joined by baptism. Yolanda is a beautician and brought many of
her clients to church. She faithfully attends the church soul winning ministries. Many souls trusted Christ because of them.
I had the privilege of ordaining Brother Kaz to the Deacon Ministry. Brother Kaz and Ms. Ruby have been members of Yokosuka
Baptist Church for many years now. Brother Kaz was saved in Yokosuka Baptist Church. He is a blessing because he is also bilingual.
He interpreted my English-preaching messages to the Japanese, and he leads many Japanese souls to Christ. Ms. Ruby, his wife, was
our church clerk, treasurer, Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, etc. She was a tremendous deacon’s wife and soul winner. She leads
souls to Christ in Japan, in the Philippines, and in the airports, and she has led many souls to Christ at church. She also serves well in
the church administration and treasury offices.
The Lord called me to Maranatha Baptist Church Okinawa in August 2017. My wife and I arrived in Okinawa on 30 September 2017.
We were former members of Maranatha Baptist Church from 1999 through 2002, shortly before I retired from active duty in the
Marines. Brother Steve Nutt was our pastor. Through his mentoring and discipleship, he licensed me to preach and then ordained me
to the Gospel Ministry. I surrendered to US Military Missions in 2001 and became a missionary under BIMI.
While we were on deputation in the States for two and a half years raising our financial support, the Lord led us back to Maranatha
Baptist Church as missionary interns with Brother Nutt in 2005. I was one of the assistant pastors, serving with Brother Al Allshouse,
Ministries Director and in charge of the treasury, and Brother Paul Fischer in charge of the Japanese and bus ministries. I had the
privilege of serving in different ministries, such as Director of Soul Winning and Visitation. We saw God provide over 100 members
participating in Thursday evening soul winning and visitation. Due to the distance, it was challenging for our Sailors and Marines
in Camp Hansen and Camp Schwab to drive to Maranatha Baptist Church on Wednesdays. Brother Nutt asked me to preach a
Wednesday night service at Camp Hansen and Camp Schwab. The Lord used a born again chaplain there to allow us to use one of the
base chapels for the Wednesday services. Two families, the Antonios and the Reyes, came to help us pick up the Sailors and Marines,
set up the chapel, and feed our military after the services.
Maranatha Baptist Church is home to Maranatha Baptist Academy (MBA) with 55 students in grades K-4 through 12th grade. Brother
Warren Allshouse is a BIMI missionary who is currently the assistant pastor, treasurer, and ministries director of Maranatha Baptist
Church, and he serves as the principal of MBA. God has called over 400 members of Maranatha Baptist Church into full-time Christian
service. Many are currently serving as missionaries. My daughter Lynne Pilalas and Jeremy Benbrooks, along with other MBA graduates,
were called to serve in missions. Lynne is serving alongside her husband, Jesse, as BIMI missionaries to the US Military at Faith
Baptist Church Misawa. Brother Benbrooks and
his wife, Mattie, are BIMI missionaries to the
Caribbean island of Martinique.
Another ministry is Faith Bible Institute, which
offers Bible college degrees. We have Sunday
school classes for all ages. We have many
different ministries, including the GI ministry
that reaches out to all single service members
and those who are unaccompanied. The Lord
has truly blessed Maranatha Baptist Church and
the other BIMI military churches in Japan.
Praise the Lord for the thousands of US military
personnel who have been influenced by these
local New Testament churches in Japan! Please
keep in your prayers these military churches in
Japan that are the “oasis in the desert of life” for