Major Faye Nishimura’s Road to Japan

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Major Faye Nishimura serves at Western Territorial Headquarters as director of extension studies; she has been a Salvation Army officer for 22 years. Recently, Claude Nikondeha, director of multi-cultural ministries interviewed her.

Q: Would you introduce yourself briefly?

A: I was born in Hawaii to wonderful parents who had a great respect for what I was called to do through The Salvation Army. During my years in the Army, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to do God’s will, to do what is right and to please him. I am especially grateful for the 11 years I was able to serve in Japan.

Q: How did God call you to serve in Japan?

A: One summer in the 70s, shortly after being introduced to the Army, I worked at Camp Wonderland in Sharon, Massachusetts. Major Damon Rader came to camp, sharing his stories about missionaries and planting a seed in me. My interest in missionary work grew until I decided to apply for overseas work. I didn’t specify a desire to serve in Japan, but I received a letter a year later describing a job opportunity there. I believed the Lord wanted me to go there because they needed my help. While preparing for the trip, I stayed with the Raders, who helped me get ready. It took a while, but eventually I got there.

When I left for Japan the first time I was not yet a Salvationist. During that first trip, General Arnold Brown enrolled me as a soldier during one of the congresses.

Not long after that Commissioner Robert Rightmire encouraged me to consider officership. I asked, “Will I be able to return back to Japan?” He said, “If you really want to come back, you can, but think about officership—pray about it.” So I did.

I thought that I could perhaps do more as an officer and through full-time service for the Lord. But it had to be in his will and in his hands, not just my own thinking. After praying fervently about it, I told Commissioner Rightmire that I felt called to be an officer. The Lord cleared the path for me to enter the School for Officers’ Training in the Eastern Territory.

I thanked God for all his help—but there was still one more prayer request that I had. “You know I want to go back to Japan. This is my desire, Lord. I’m leaving it up to you, even if I go to training. You know that,” I prayed. This was my desire from the time I left Japan: to return someday to help the people. I didn’t know if that was going to happen, because during my training days, I heard that I had to serve in the (United) States for at least three or four years before I could go abroad. “You can’t ‘just go,’” people said. I replied, “No, I believe that God does answer prayers. I do not have a great deal of experience like other people do, but I believe that it’s possible. People can say whatever they want, but if the Lord wants to open the way for you, nothing will stop him.”

Throughout training, I prayed about it. “Lord, this is in your hands. You know my desire.” About six months before Commissioning, I started to get hints that it was going to work out for me to return to Japan. Then about a month before Commissioning I went in to talk to the training principal, Colonel Roy Oldford. He said to me, “You might have to take a course in Japanese before you return to Japan.” But the Lord answered my prayer sooner, and on Commissioning Day, General Brown appointed me to Suginami Corps in Tokyo, Japan.

I served in Japan for a total of 11 years—eight years as an officer and three years as a layperson.

The Lord gave me the scripture before I went to Japan: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV)

Q: Often we hear about the ministry of missionaries overseas, but we don’t hear about the ministry of local people to missionaries; did you benefit in any way during your time in Japan from the local people?

A: The Japanese people played a significant role in my journey of following Jesus. They taught me how to be humble and not to have my own way. In other words, you have to live by their culture; you have to learn how they live, how they submit to each other and what they eat. In America, you do whatever you want. Over there, you abide by what the family tells you when you live with them, which I did; you have to be obedient—in some way being obedient is being humble.

They taught me, too, how to have a servant heart—to this day, that lesson has had a tremendous impact on my life. After many years there, when I was ready to return to the United States, the territorial commander said to me: “You know, you are just like a Japanese.” This was a wonderful thing to hear; it meant I had succeeded in something. I was like a Japanese!

In the beginning it was tough, because they didn’t see me fitting in anywhere. Some of the native people gave me a bad time, because I could not respond or communicate very well in their language. I kept trying, though, until the end, when, they were able to say, “You know, you are like the Japanese.” That was the most wonderful compliment I could have ever received. Assimilating into the Japanese culture allowed me to spread the gospel with confidence and authority, and it gave me favor with the local people.

Most importantly, my relationship with God was strengthened. I don’t know how I could have stayed strong with the handicap that I have now (rheumatoid arthritis) if I didn’t have the experience of living in Japan. My heart longs to be able to do what I used to do but my physical condition doesn’t allow me to do that, and I have to accept these new limitations. This is challenging for me because the biggest lesson I learned in Japan was how to have a servant’s heart. This is what is missing in our culture here. We yearn for positions and important appointments so that we can have people serving us, but we need to know what it means to have a servant heart. I was fortunate to learn that from the Japanese people.

Q: What would you tell young ethnic officers in our territory, (Hispanic, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Laotian, African-American etc….) in terms of their service?

A: I would say—be yourself. Don’t be someone that you’re not. Be that person that God called you to be. Always seek to do the will of God. Do the best you can and always remember, God accepts you as you are. People feel they have to prove themselves, and while you do to a certain degree, God accepts you for who you are. And I will say this to anyone: if you give the credit to the Lord you will receive the blessing, but when you take the credit for yourself you will lose the blessing. Just give what you can give and do the best you can. Sometimes people say, “I can see right through that person and she is not being herself, she is a fake, not real.” When I hear that, I’m sad, because people feel like they have to put on a face, or they have to act like somebody that they are not. Well, they don’t need to do that. You know God loves you just the way you are and I’m glad He accepts me just the way I am. Be that person that God called you to be. Be faithful, compassionate, loyal, honest, humble and true to him. Praise the Lord!


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