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Gardena Valley Baptist Church

Licensing

Gardena Valley Baptist Church (currently located at 1630 W. 158th St. in Gardena, California) was founded in 1914 by the Los Angeles Baptist Mission Society, targeting the recent immigrant population that had come from Japan. The church started as a Sunday School for the children of immigrants at a small rented cottage in Moneta, California (now known as Gardena). Attendance later grew to include entire families, and a formal church was established in 1919, called The Moneta Japanese Baptist Church. Services were discontinued during World War II when the Japanese American community was forcibly removed and displaced at internment camps. After the war, the church met in various facilities including the Japanese Community Center and Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gardena. The church was never the same again; Sunday School enrollment had dropped from more than 700 children to about 200. Over the past 90 years, the Gardena Valley Baptist Church community has been indicative of the significance that a physical place of aggregation has on an ethnic community. Generations of memories, traditions, and families are tied to Gardena Valley Baptist Church, and it serves as a prevailing cultural and communal anchor for the ever-changing Nikkei community in Southern California.

Slides in this album 

Over 90 years in the community

Founded in 1914, Gardena Valley Baptist Church had survived World War II and the forceful removal of every single one of its congregation members--this is the cover of the 1974 60th Anniversary banquet program.

Celebrating Its Sixtieth
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The young men of 1917

This is a picture of the young men of the Moneta Japanese Baptist congregation in 1917. Dressed in suits and looking sharp, this photo could have been used to send to a matchmaker in Japan who would arrange a marriage with a young picture bride. The practice of Picture Brides ...

The Young Men of 1917
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Pioneers

The occasion for this photo is unclear, but note the western dress of all of the early immigrants while the women still carry Japanese-style parasols. Very early on, the pioneers began regularly meeting and building a community which would later become a church that spans nine decades.

The Pioneers
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Early Families

Images of the first Issei in Gardena; despite the nature of their agricultural work, the men look stately and authoritative in their suits and derby hats.

Early Families
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Gardena Grammar School

A picture of the Gardena Grammar School in the 1920s. Japanese American children are hard to be seen, though they were the target of the American Baptist missionaries who first founded Gardena Valley Baptist Church.

Gardena Grammar School
Contributed by: genieinjapan

1917

A photo of the meeting of the Ladies of the Japanese Mission at Moneta California on January 6th, 1917. In comparison with photos of the congregation in the 1920s and 30s, the members and pioneers in this picture are humbly dressed, with looks of less certainty on their faces.

1917
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Starting a Family

A young family poses for a photo at their new home--Gardena had yet to build paved roads.

Starting a Family
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Where a Tithe Comes From

These members of the congregation worked in the fields for their weekly tithes and offerings.

Where a Tithe Comes From
Contributed by: genieinjapan

A Community Industry

Members of the early Gardena Church likely worked alongside each other in the produce industry

A Community Industry
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Kimura Family

Another large and growing family in the early church; though they were likely farm laborers, their clean and conservative dress on the porch of a house represents success in their enterprises.

The Kimura Family
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Yoshihara Family Store

Enterprising Issei in the 1910's began their own produce stands and general stores. Members of the Gardena Valley community were limited to the agricultural industry.

Yoshihara Family Store
Contributed by: genieinjapan

A Picture to Send to Nihon

A young man in search of a bride may have had this picture taken of him in a suit with nicely coiffed hair, superimposed on an image of field workers on a vast portion of land. Although he himself may have been one of those standing in the field, it ...

A Picture to Send to Nihon
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Otzuji Ranch

The Otzuji Ranch in Gardena, CA.

Otzuji Ranch
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Moneta Gakuen

By the 1920s, the Moneta Sunday School, or Moneta Gakuen, had grown significantly in size. On the cottage you can see both the American and Japanese flags hung together, above a sign proclaiming the overflowing group's name.

Moneta Gakuen
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Another Pioneer Family

The occasion for this photo is unclear, but it depicts a typical turn-of-the-century Japanese American family--many children, and the inclusion of members beyond the immediate family. Primarily having agricultural roots, it was beneficial for a family to have many children who would be able to serve as help around the ...

Another Pioneer Family
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Dedication of the Moneta Japanese Baptist Church, 1919

Although the church was officially established in 1914, it moved out of the small Sunday School cottage and because a bonafide chapel in 1919.

The Dedication of the Moneta Japanese Baptist Church, 1919
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Perhaps a First Christmas For Some

This photo is of a Christmas service at the Moneta Japanese Baptist Church in 1915.
For many of the early immigrants, the church and contact with the American Baptist missionaries offered a gateway into American culture, continuing the gradual process of assimilation. Christmas, being a Western Christian holiday, was not ...

Perhaps a First Christmas For Some
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Christmas in 1916

This 1916 photo of Christmas at the Moneta Japanese Baptist Church looks more festive, complete with decorated Christmas tree, garlands, and little girls dressed for the occasion.

Christmas in 1916
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Moneta Gakuen

The Gardena Gakuen (or Sunday School), had first begun as a small gathering of farm laborers' children in a rented cottage in Moneta. In the ensuing years, however, this large gathering of Japanese American pioneers would begin to establish their presence in the community. Notice the Japanese flag flying alongside ...

The Moneta Gakuen
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Sunday Best

This picture was taken after the formal church had been established, still under the direction of Mr. C. Howard Ross and his wife. The congregation was still composed of Issei farm laborers who lived in Gardena and the surrounding cities.

Sunday Best
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Gardena Japanese Baptist Church, Jan. 19, 1941

In 1941, the congregation was fairly young and was still under the sponsorship of American Baptist missionaries. In a few years time, this small community would be forcefully dispersed and disbanded due to President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066.

Gardena Japanese Baptist Church, Jan. 19, 1941
Contributed by: genieinjapan

How It All Got Started...

The beginnings of Gardena Valley Baptist Church were in a Sunday School started by the American Baptist Mission Society in 1914. As a means of evangelizing and serving the nearby Japanese farm-laborer community, the American Baptist missionaries rented out a small cottage to teach children of the farm laborers English ...

How It All Got Started...
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Moneta Japanese Baptist Church

The Moneta Japanese Baptist Church was starting to become a real church, with their own chapel and all. Now an intergenerational congregation, the group changed out of their laborer clothes and got into their Sunday best for a commemorative and historic picture.

The Moneta Japanese Baptist Church
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Southern California Baptist Church

This photo commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Japanese American church in Southern California.

Southern California Baptist Church
Contributed by: genieinjapan

A Pageant

These little girls were dressed for some sort of pageant, likely Gardena Valley Baptist Church's annual Harvest Festival, an alternative to Halloween festivities.

A Pageant
Contributed by: genieinjapan

American Baptist Missionaries

A picture of one of the American Baptist missionaries who had helped found the Sunday School and early Japanese church in Moneta, CA.

American Baptist Missionaries
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Mrs. C. Howard Ross...

Mrs. Howard C. Ross was one of the early leaders of the Gardena Japanese Baptist Church. Having served as a missionary in Japan for over 25 years, Mrs. Ross continued her ministry to the Japanese people even while in the United States.

Mrs. C. Howard Ross...
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Mrs. C. Howard Ross

A special mention in the Los Angeles Times, 1954.

Mrs. C. Howard Ross
Contributed by: genieinjapan

A Woman's Group

This women's group, led by Mrs. C. Howard Ross, one of the American Baptist missionaries, served as a place for young Japanese-American Nisei women to bond and maintain solid relationships in a still racially-hostile environment.

A Women's Group
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Groundbreaking Ceremony

Gardena Valley Baptist Church moved to its current site at 1630 W. 158th St. Gardena, CA in 1949. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new church was a momentous occasion, as the congregation and more importantly the community, would be able to have a physical place to call their home.

The Groundbreaking Ceremony
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Fifties

An image of assimilation--during the 1950s, the U.S. was a place of peace and conformity after the tumultuous war years. These Japanese American youths look like the average, 1950s American teenager.

The Fifties
Contributed by: genieinjapan

A Serene Ceremony

The three Hagio sisters were all married in the newly built Gardena Valley Baptist Church Chapel between 1958 and 1961. After the war hysteria and forceful removal of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, some members of the South Bay community returned and were able to enjoy a peaceful, joyful ...

A Serene Ceremony
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Wedding in the New Chapel

Reiko Hagio and Harold Kobata were one of the first couples married in the new chapel. Harold Kobata's photography and recollections of the Gardena Valley Baptist Church community reflect the various memories and emotions of Nisei youth during the tumultuous pre-War and resettling post-War eras.

Wedding in the New Chapel
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Third Sister

The third Hagio sister to celebrate her wedding in the Gardena Valley Baptist Church Chapel.

The Third Sister
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Keeping it in the Family

The second Hagio sister to be married in the newly built chapel. The sisters' marriages can be interpreted as a yearning for stability and continuity after the abrupt disruption in their community during World War II.

Keeping it in the Family
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Congratulating the Happy Couple

It was a blessing to be able to enjoy such a beautiful occasion outside of the horrors of the relocation camps.

Conratulating the Happy Couple
Contributed by: genieinjapan

An Easter Dress

A beautiful Easter Sunday dress on a beautiful Nisei young woman.

An Easter Dress
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Trying Not to Soil Their Sunday Best

These sansei kids are trying their hardest not to spoil their Sunday-best clothes.

Trying Not to Soil Their Sunday Best
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Sanctuary Dedication

Although the church began as a small Sunday School in a rented cottage, the congregation over the years had grown to consist of over 800 members. Tearing down its old facility and building a new, contemporary chapel and educational building in its stead, Gardena Valley Baptist Church received many donations, ...

Sanctuary Dedication
Contributed by: genieinjapan

An Overflowing Crowd

The caption reads: "OVERFLOW CROWD--800 persons attended the dedication service at the Gardena Valley Baptist Church for its new sanctuary and classrooms. Many more sent letters and telegrams of good wishes. Flowers and plants were received from A-One Florist, Bank of Tokyo, Ezell Office Furniture Co., Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural ...

An Overflowing Crowd
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Receiving the Keys

The caption reads:

"CHURCH KEYS PRESENTED--During the dedication of the new Gardena Valley Baptist Church at 1630 W. 158th St. last Sunday, March 28, the keys were turned over from the contractor to the architect and then to church trustees. Participating in this special prat of the dedication ceremony were, ...

Receiving the Keys
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Church Staff

This image is from the church directory in 1973. Although Gardena Valley Baptist Church started out as a small, Japanese-speaking congregation, over the years it has grown into a large multi-ethnic community while maintaining some Japanese roots. Revered Harumi Nishimoto, the Issei Pastor, would lead a separate Japanese-speaking congregation which ...

Church Staff
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Missionary Outreach

Gardena Valley Baptist Church continues to be active in sending out overseas missionaries, both short- and long-term. This image from a 1973 church directory shows the overseas missionaries for that year, the majority being in the field in Japan.

Missionary Outreach
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The LA City Mission Women's Auxiliary Luncheon

The L.A. City Mission Women's Auxiliary club held an International Doll Festival in the 70's. This is the cover of the program, designed by Mr. Al Dohi. It features a woman wearing a kimono as well as Japanese script saying "luncheon" and the date of the event. Although the program ...

The LA City Mission Women's Auxiliary Luncheon
Contributed by: genieinjapan

An Invitation to "Majiwaru"

"Majiwaru" means to gather together, or to have fellowship. This hand-made invitation sent out to the women of the Women's Missionary Society Installation Dinner at the Alondra Club in Lawndale on November 4, c.1970. About 100 Japanese American women attended, with a greeting by Mrs. June Inouye: "Mina-sama, kon ban ...

An Invitation to "Majiwaru"
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Little Girls Dressed for the Women's Auxiliary

These girls participated with their mothers in the International Doll Festival hosted by the L.A. City Mission Women's Auxiliary club. Events of the day included a message on the 85th anniversary of Japanese Christian Work by Gardena Valley Baptist Church's Japanese-language pastor, Harumi Nishimoto and Japanese interpretive dancing led by ...

Little Girls Dressed for the Women's Auxiliary
Contributed by: genieinjapan

On A Sunny Southern California Day...

These women were participants in the L.A. City Mission Women's Auxiliary club's International Doll Festival. Nisei women served as greeters for the event. Acknowledgments in the event program read: "Our grateful thanks are extended to the following: The women of the Gardena Valley Church who prepared luncheon; Mrs. Bessie Shikagawa, ...

On A Sunny Southern California Day...
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Newly Built Chapel

An article in the community newspaper chronicled the history of this place of gathering:

"Mushrooming from a Sunday school in 1914, the Gardena Valley Baptist Church has grown to a congregation of 408 families and more than 700 children in the Sunday school. To serve its parishioners, the need was ...

The Newly Built Chapel
Contributed by: genieinjapan

In the Community Bulletin

The caption provides a date of reference for the building projects: "Sunday school students of Gardena Valley Baptist Church pose for a class photo in 1962, 9 years before the current sanctuary was built."

In the Community Bulletin
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Harold Kobata Recalls the Old days

"PREWAR PERIOD Although I may not be old enough to go way back to the founding of the original church, I do, however, recall church related events starting from the mid 30's. I attended Sunday School at the old Gardena Japanese Baptist Church on Dalton and 164th St. with my ...

Harold Kobata Recalls the Old days
Contributed by: genieinjapan

A Contemporary Chapel

What the chapel looked like in the 1970s. It remained virtually unchanged until 2006 when the most recent construction project began.

A Contemporary Chapel
Contributed by: genieinjapan

"An Ideal Place...To Raise a Family"

"My recollection of the earlier years of the Gardena Valley Baptist Church goes back to May 1951, when our family moved to Gardena. At that time, Gardena was a small community with many open spaces. It was an ideal place to raise a small and growing family.

When I first ...

"An Ideal Place...To Raise a Family"
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Aging Issei

A picture of the Issei congregation in the 1970s. The Japanese-language congregation was predominantly female, which has not changed to this day. However, numbers were far greater then than now.

The Aging Issei
Contributed by: genieinjapan

"Met With Discrimination"

"I moved to Torrance in 1961 and immediately looked for a local church near our new home. Amazingly I found discrimination and mentioned it to one of my neighbors. They, Miyako's family, invited us to come to GVBC and we've been a part of this church--our three children grew up ...

"Met With Discrimination"
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Foyer on Sunday Morning

This picture from the 1970s depicts the atmosphere on any given Sunday to this day--people meeting, welcoming, and greeting each other.

The Foyer on Sunday Morning
Contributed by: genieinjapan

"Lost in a Big Japanese Church"

"When I first began at Gardena Valley Baptist Church, I felt lost in such a large Japanese church. I grew up in San Diego and attended San Diego Holiness Church which was small in comparison to Gardena Valley Baptist. As I got involved in teaching Sunday School, I began to ...

"Lost in a Big Japanese Church"
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Sunday Morning Worship

This image is of a typical Sunday morning worship service during the late 1970s. Currently, this chapel is under construction.

Sunday Morning Worship
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Thanksgiving

"As Thanksgiving approaches it is easy to be filled with many thoughts of thankfulness. As I ponder what I am thankful for, I realize that the things I am most thankful for are those things which I take for granted. Since I could remember Gardena Valley Baptist Church has always ...

Thanksgiving
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Declining Issei Membership

These were the early pioneers and foundation of the congregation; numbers of the Nichigobu, however, began to decline in the 70s and 80s as they were an aging generation.

Declining Issei Membership
Contributed by: genieinjapan

"A Memorable Gift...a Shotgun!"

"About 1975--for serving the Children's Ministry, the GVBC presented Ron Sugimoto with a memorable gift--(a 12-gauge Remington model 1100 - a shotgun!!)--it was presented to him by Dr. Ken Hiroshige during worship service."

"A Memorable Gift...a Shotgun!"
Contributed by: genieinjapan

GVBC's 75th Anniversary

GVBC Celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1989 and held a banquet at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Beach to commemorate it. In honor of the occasion, a photo and memory album was put together with, members of the congregation writing memories or experiences they had had in the church.

GVBC's 75th Anniversary
Contributed by: genieinjapan

"Before and After the Japanese Evacuation..."

"On thinking over the great years at Gardena Valley Baptist since 1950--the year we arrived--we must thank God for all who have come to know Jesus Christ through its witness, before and after World War II and the Japanese evacuation.

How thankful we are for the children growing up in ...

"Before and After the Japanese Evacuation..."
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Why Romaji?

One curiosity I found in this edition of the church directory--why is the greeting of the Issei pastor written in awkward romaji (romanized Japanese characters)?

The answer was simple: it was not yet possible to type and have a Japanese-language portion of the directory printed.

Why Romaji?
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Fellowship = Communities

By the 1980s, the church had had over 800 members. Transnational, intergenerational, and bicultural, this community began to create their own subcommunities within the church. These fellowships gathered groups of people in similar age groups with similar interests and bonded the Japanese American community at GVBC.

Fellowship = Communities
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Music

Music continues to play an important part in the church; the various groups listed here continue to exist with the addition of the Ukelele Jammers and a hula-dancing ministry that performs at local convalescent homes. Essentially, the choirs and bands are places where people of all generations can gather and ...

Music
Contributed by: genieinjapan

The Changing Face(s) of GVBC

This photographic church directory is indicative of the changing nature of the Nikkei community--characterized by outmarriage, a biracial generation, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Caucasian, and African American, Issei, Nisei, Sansei, and the baby Yonsei, the Japanese American community by the 1980s was no longer confined to people of Japanese ancestry.

The Changing Face(s) of GVBC
Contributed by: genieinjapan

Representative Staff

A photo of the pastoral leadership in 2005. This staff photo represents the changing and diverse nature of the Nikkei community--it is intergenerational, transnational, and ethnically and culturally inclusive. The pastoral staff includes Caucasian Americans, Vietnamese and Chinese Americans, Kibei, Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei.

First Row: Pastor Daniel Matsuda, Pastor ...

Representative Staff
Contributed by: genieinjapan


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