KAHULUI - Easter Sunday at Kahului Union Church held an even greater meaning for the congregation than other Easter services as ailing pastor Yukio Miyokawa fulfilled his desire to minister until the day celebrating the resurrection.
The Nichigobu, or Japanese language pastor, learned in December that he was dying of cancer and had six months to live. A suggestion was made then that the 78-year-old pastor retire but that is not his way.
"His thinking about life is if he cannot preach, it's not living for him," said Ken Tanaka, associate pastor at Kahului Union Church. "His mission in life was to preach from the word of God."
Yukio Miyokawa ministered for the last time at Kahului Union Church on Easter Sunday. Suffering from terminal cancer, the Japanese-language pastor has retired to Oahu with his wife, Tokuko, who appears with the retired minister.
He wanted to minister for as long as he could, Tanaka said of the minister who joined the church four years ago. Miyokawa targeted Easter for his last day at Kahului Union; it's been a special day in his life. He was baptized on Easter 1994 at Ala Moana Beach Park and joined Kahului Union on Easter 2007.
It was not easy for the minister, who came to God later in life.
"Physically, he's not as strong," said the associate pastor. "It was hard for him . . . (but) he wanted to do it."
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
- Philippians 1:21 from the New International Version of the Bible
He was an inspiration and role model to everyone, including Tanaka. Miyokawa "was a really good example of someone who loves the Lord with his whole heart and wanted to serve him even in his condition," he said.
The Nichigobu minister "never compromised the word of God," Tanaka said. "Just to hear where he came from, to see what God has done in his life . . . lived out in service and thanksgiving to God" makes him a shining example.
Miyokawa, who was born in Tokyo, was a successful businessman and owned three homes in Japan, said Tanaka. He began his religious life as a member of the Tenrikyo religion, rising to become a teacher. In February 1993, his daughter, who was living on Oahu and a member of the International Japanese Christian Church, sent him a Bible. That was the beginning of his religious transformation.
"God just really touched his heart," said Tanaka. "The truth was found in the Bible. From that point on he made a commitment to Christ."
He attended and graduated from Sendai Theological School. His ministerial background includes serving as the Nichigobu pastor of Kaumana Church in Hilo and providing pulpit support to Pali View Baptist Church, Pearl City First Baptist Church, International Christian Church and Kona Christian Church.
After three years at Hilo and in his 70s, Miyokawa expressed a feeling that the Lord said he might allow him to retire. Then, he was offered and accepted the Nichigobu pastor post on Maui.
"God said it was OK," Miyokawa told church officials in accepting the post, Tanaka recalled. "He really senses the Lord speaking to him and his calling to being a teacher."
He was praised by members for his work at the church.
"Reverend Miyokawa will be sorely missed," said Yukie Ueoka. "He was a dedicated pastor who reached out to the Japanese-speaking community. He was able to recall passages from the Bible in seconds during his preaching so that his sermons were understood by all."
After four years, Miyokawa has left Kahului Union for retirement on Oahu with his wife, Tokuko. He has a daughter on Oahu and a son in Japan.
Tanaka said Thursday that the cancer is progressing and that he's getting weaker but "his faith is strong."
The former Nichigobu minister at Kahului Union accepts his mortality and the resurrection that Christ offered that is marked each Easter. Tanaka read from Philippians 1:21 on Easter Sunday.
It says that "living is to serve Christ," said Tanaka. "To die is even better because he will be with Christ."
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.