A photo taken in 1919 shows Gardena Valley Baptist Church, known then as Moneta Japanese Baptist Church.
A photo taken in 1919 shows Gardena Valley Baptist Church, known then as Moneta Japanese Baptist Church.

GARDENA — Aug. 16, 2014 will be a landmark day for Gardena Baptist Church (GVBC) as it will commemorate its 100th anniversary.

Gardena Valley Baptist Church is a growing, multi-generational fellowship that serves the Gardena, Torrance and South Bay areas.

The church was first started under the guidance of the Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society’s former executive secretary, Dr. James B. Fox. With his vision, a Baptist mission work for the Japanese was started in Moneta (presently Gardena) in a little rented cottage. The first Sunday School was held Aug. 16, 1914. Rev. Haruye Shibata served as pastor.

Gardena Valley Baptist Church today.
Gardena Valley Baptist Church today.

In the years that followed, until Pearl Harbor, GVBC helped reach the growing number of Nisei moving in the Gardena area. But it was in the years following the war that GVBC began to really flourish.

One of the pioneers of GVBC was the late Dr. Ralph Mayberry, past executive secretary of the Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society. He is credited for founding the present GVBC location and for building the first sanctuary at this location.

Though the dark days of World War II, Dr. Mayberry made countless visits to the internment camps to help and encourage the incarcerees. Soon after the war, he and Rev. Kiyoshi Shiraishi, pastor of GVBC, ministered to Japanese Americans in the South Bay area.

On the church’s 50th anniversary in 1964, funds were raised to build a new, larger sanctuary to accommodate a growing number of worshipers.

During the 1970s and 1980s, GVBC saw a surge of high school and college students reaching for Christ during youth rallies and evangelistic concerts.

In more recent years, GVBC has grown to a membership size of over 700 people, including a Japanese-speaking Nichigo congregation.

“His faithfulness continues” (Psalm 100:5) is the theme chosen for the 100th anniversary celebration.

Key dates include:

• GVBC Youth Group Reunion, Saturday, July 12, from 12 to 3 p.m. A gathering of friends, worship and praise songs from the ’70s and ’80s, special music by Looking Up, message by Jim Cumbie and more.

• 100th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon, Saturday, Aug. 16, at 12 p.m. at the Torrance Marriott.

• 100th Anniversary Sunday Celebration Worship Services, Sunday, Aug. 17, at 8:45 and 11 a.m.

• GVBC Centennial Golf Tournament, Friday, Aug. 22, at Lakewood Golf Course to support GVBC’s Friday Food Ministry, Gardena Human Services and Center for Pacific Asian Families.

For more information on these events, contact GVBC at (310) 323-LOVE or visit www.gvbc.net.

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