The Rev. Shigeo Shimada, Dead At 88, Endured Much For His Faith, Nationality

The Rev. Shigeo Shimada was the most determined of men.

He had to be. Growing up in Japan's Buddhist society, Mr. Shimada became a Christian when he was 16. Huge pressures to renounce Christianity came from all sides, including numerous beatings in high school and death threats during his mandatory term in the Japanese army.

He survived all that and more, passing away Sept. 23 at the age of 88 in Seattle.

"They planned to kill him during the fencing classes, so Dad became very good at that," said Gloria Kawabori, his daughter. "His faith never wavered." Christianity in Japan at the time was called "the religion of the enemy," she said.

"He did so well in the army he won a chance to become an officer. But instead he went to a seminary and sat on the steps until they let him in."

When Mr. Shimada told his father he wanted to become a Methodist minister, his father threw him out. With $200 in his pocket, he came to the United States in 1935 and entered a Methodist seminary. But before he could complete his studies, World War II started.

Both Mr. Shimada and his bride, Nobuko, were locked in an internment camp. But instead of bitterness over the treatment, the minister-to-be counseled several young men in the camp to follow their own wishes rather than the objections of their parents over plans to volunteer for the U.S. Army. Then he counseled the parents of the youths.

Shortly before the war ended, Mr. Shimada was assigned to reopen the Japanese Methodist Church in San Francisco and to care for those soon to be released from the internment camps.

In 1950, the Rev. Shimada was transferred to Spokane as pastor of the Japanese Methodist Church there. For 21 years, he gave sermons in English in the morning and Japanese in the afternoon.

And through patience and persistence, he erased a problem that had tormented him for years. After the end of the war, he had begun sending boxes of food to his father and an occasional letter. Two years of scrimping and saving produced the money for an airline ticket. Then, a carefully worded letter invited his father "to come see a Christian country and give me a chance to explain Christianity to you."

Later, in what he called the "most significant day in my life," the Rev. Shimada baptized his father as a Christian.

After his retirement, the Rev. Shimada wrote an autobiography,

"A Stone Cried Out." It is carried at the University Bookstore.

In 1976, he was honored by the Japanese emperor for his work toward improving Japanese-American relations.

In addition to his wife and daughter, the Rev. Shimada is survived by a son, Justin Shimada, and four grandchildren, all of Seattle. A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Oct. 9 at Blaine Memorial Japanese Methodist Church, 3001 24th Ave. S., Seattle.