The Formation of the Holiness Church

(Taken from “A History of the OMS Holiness Church of North America” by Rev. Tsukasa Sugimura) 


Prior to 1920, a group of Japanese Christian young people began meeting at the Japanese Friends Church in Whittier, pastored by Matsutaro Takada. The church was founded with the support of the American Friends churches in the area. Church membership was numbered at approximately twenty-five at that time. When Takada returned to Japan due to personal reasons, Ugo Nakada, a Los Angeles Bible College student at the time and a well-known Christian musician in Japan, began to serve the Japanese Friends church in 1920. Because of World War II, however, this church was closed and was never reestablished. 

These young people studied the Bible together and heard God’s call to holiness from Nakada. Soon they began to feel a spiritual power from above. One day the power of God was poured upon them and they all repented of their sins. 

This was the day of their commitment to their Lord, Jesus Christ. Nakada soon left Whittier to pursue further studies in the East. Left without a pastor, the early converts moved to downtown Los Angeles where they found more Japanese. Later that same year, hoping they could put into practice what they had learned from both Takada and Nakada, these converts began to meet for prayer at the Trinity Missionary Church in Hollywood. 

The group was comprised of several young people who were still in their early twenties: Henry Sakuma, George Yahiro, Paul Okamoto, Toshio Hirano, Hatsu Yano, Aya Okuda, and Hanako Yoneyama. Three of the men, Sakuma, Yahiro, and Okamoto, were students at the California Bible College, which was located at the church. George Yahiro was the only Nisei in the group; the other five were Issei, born and raised in Japan. 

As these young people began to pray for the salvation of the Japanese people, their concern crystallized into a vision which resulted in the formal organization of their own church. There were eleven Japanese Christian churches in downtown Los Angeles at that time; yet, they did not join any of those churches, for none of the churches truly satisfied their spiritual needs. The group wanted to establish the kind of church that Ugo Nakada had described:  a Holiness church with a burning heart and fervent prayer for the salvation of unsaved people. As a result, they organized the “Oriental Missionary Church” at the Trinity Missionary Church in April 1921. Following the teaching they received at the Friends church, they also focused on the necessity of holiness in life.