A heavy mist cloaked the streets of the sleepy neighborhood. Early morning found most still in bed, warding off the start of another day. But young Kent Murahashi quietly slipped out his front door, books in one hand and Charlie Brown lunch box in the other. He knew he would be the first of his classmates to arrive at school, but he hoped to be long gone before his neighbor began his day.
He started down the walkway and rounded the corner, but he felt his pace quicken as he passed the large gray house that seemed to take over what felt like half the block. The only sounds were the shuffle of his worn out shoes against the wet pavement and the racing of his own heart.
He was about to reach the corner, relief making its way through his veins, when another sound struck his ears — the all-too-familiar creak and slam of the heavy screen door. He instinctively stopped in his tracks and reluctantly turned to see his neighbor standing on the porch, arms tightly crossed across his chest and a scowl plastered on his face.
“Off to school awfully early, aren’t we?”
“Group project,” Kent replied with a shaky voice.
That didn’t seem to satisfy the neighbor’s question. His face contorted with growing agitation as he spat, “You people think you can come here and sit in our classrooms and take advantage of everything I fought to keep for our own people. Why don’t you just go back to your own country?”
Kent cast his glance down to his shoes, hoping his lack of response would discourage any further conversation. To his relief, he heard his neighbor mutter an obscenity and make his way back through the door. As a young Japanese-American in the 1960s, it was a scene Kent knew all too well.
A Minister of Racial Reconciliation
After years of the same confrontations, Kent battled feelings of not belonging and not being accepted for who he was. But after accepting Christ as a teenager, he discovered a new kind of identity. He found out the gospel truly was for everyone, not just for those who looked like his neighbor. Yet, he couldn’t understand why his church was uncomfortable talking about it. That was when he felt God’s prompting to take action.
His ministry began with fellow Asian Americans in his area. In the Pacific Northwest, only one half of one percent of Japanese Americans are Christian. After a few years of ministry with other Seattle-area leaders, Kent heard God calling him to take even bigger steps into the world of church planting.
In 2002, Grace Point Community Church opened its doors in the highly diverse city of Tukwila, Washington — a township with a population of 19,000 representing more than 60 different languages.
“When you go in the mindset that Christ died for all people and to make disciples of all ethnicities, your church plant is going to take you into places you never expected,” says Kent.
What seemed like an impossible task to other pastors was clear to Kent. The greatest common denominator for every person is always Christ. And with that as the focus, a church built on intentional diversity could find its stability.
Equipped for Kingdom Work
With a passion to instill these same beliefs in others, Kent joined Missions Door and its Church Birthing Matrix, a two-year comprehensive training program for lay leaders.
The program equips people with the basic building blocks to either start new churches or to be more effective in their current church. Many are bi-vocational or doing ministry as a side job, so traditional seminary isn’t feasible. Through the Church Birthing Matrix, participants join others in their area to participate in the curriculum and learn from trainers and mentors.
Kent loves the opportunity to walk alongside other ethnic pastors and leaders in training as they take what they learn in their groups and plug it into their ministries.
More than 40 years later, Kent can still remember those early-morning encounters with his neighbor. But rather than allowing them to fuel his bitterness, he daily chooses to be a minister of racial reconciliation.
“Little did I know when I was being bullied just for being me, it would lead to this opportunity to stand against those who are still fighting the fact that all people are precious to God. He was prepping me from the very beginning.”