Vol 6 No. 28 A Life in Progress

I would be on dangerous ground to recall the battery powered rabbit that goes on and on as an advertisement for longevity in commenting on Tom Oshiro.  I guess I already have; the comment is never to be about longevity for its own sake, but the quality of being that is important …. Tom exemplifies both.

Early in the year, Tom was recognized by Leadership Victoria with their Lifetime Achievement Award.  I joined the Oshiro extended family and some of the Mustard Seed Victoria folk to mark Tom’s continued involvement in ministry.  The attached articles allow us to see Tom’s contribution through the eyes of the secular audience.

I want to add another observation.  Tom gave his testimony of Christ’s power to change his life.  The change was one of personal salvation, love for others, replacing hate, and a commitment to serve.  It was forceful in its straightforwardness and powerful in that it challenged us to own up to our own resentments and hatred. It was not platitudes. Tom spoke about his brothers, WWII veterans, who had to report to the RCMP as aliens because they were Japanese.  He talked about discrimination; others to him and Tom returning the favour.  Blunt, hurt, redemptive and all the while, pointing to Jesus; all the time, thankful and determined.  Thanks be to God.


In Christ,




A Lifetime Of Giving – Rev. Tom Oshiro recipient of 2010 Leadership Victoria Award

Jan 07, 2010

(News Release) VICTORIA – After major seasonal holidays, storage shelves are often more empty than full at many food banks across our country. This year’s recipient of the annual Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award knows only too well what an empty pantry can mean to the hungry, the addicted and the homeless of our communities.

Reverend Tom Oshiro, the director of the Victoria Mustard Seed Street Church and Food Bank, will accept the Lifetime Achievement Award at the sixth annual Victoria’s Leadership Awards fundraising event. The afternoon reception takes place Thursday, Jan. 28 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Fairmont Empress Hotel to honour all nominees of the 2010 Victoria’s Leadership Awards.

Oshiro has devoted his life to a ministry of care for the communities in which he has lived. He was born in Kenora, Ontario, the second youngest of seven children. Oshiro was a quarterback on his high-school football team and spent time in his early years delivering newspapers, working on the railway and playing a lot of pool and curling. In his curling days, his team went all the way to the Northern Ontario Brief Playdowns, losing the Northern Ontario title by only one game. He graduated from McMaster University and led his first pastorate for the Rainy River District in the small Ontario town of Emo. He met his wife Vietta Gingrich, a nurse, in Emo. Next came ministries in Brantford and Cambridge in Ontario and a short stint in the Baptist denominational head office in Toronto in the early 1980s. Shortly after, he headed to New Westminster where he was assigned to be Area Minister – a pastor to the pastors – for British Columbia, a high-ranking position which he held for nearly five years.

Throughout that time, Oshiro’s contributions to all those in his pastoral care have been monumental. He has worked with high-school students; has been unfailingly available to business communities; directed camp ministries; built a retreat centre; hosted a radio show and even ran a coffee house in the 1970s. Ever the adept and friendly sportsman, he has played floor hockey, baseball and volleyball as a means to connect personally with people outside the church.

Oshiro came to Victoria as pastor of Royal Oak Baptist Church. In 1991 he became counselor and eventually pastor at the Mustard Seed where he has been a gentle, vigorous and selfless fixture ever since. He was awarded Citizen of the Year for Victoria in 2002. His wife, known to many as Vi who passed away in 2008, was of immeasurable help to him, working as a tireless organizer for the Mustard Seed’s annual Christmas banquet and offering nursing help in the organization’s small clinic. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.

“To have been chosen for such an award in the city of Victoria whose reputation is known for its generosity, its care of its people, I am deeply honoured to have been selected,” says Oshiro. “When I realize the previous recipients of this award, then I am indeed humbled to join such a select company of people. Please forgive me, if I confess to you a sense of deep joy and thanksgiving to those who made the selection.”

“Leadership Victoria relies heavily upon the myriad of existing community leaders not only as volunteer resources but for inspiration and advice in our work developing the next generation of leaders.  Rev. Oshiro is the epitome of the community leader to emulate–the selection committee has once again very wisely chosen this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree,” says Kate Mansell, president of Leadership Victoria.
From Douglas Magazine, Victoria, B.C.  http://www.douglasmagazine.com/regional-news/item/454-a-lifetime-of-giving-%E2%80%93-rev.-tom-oshiro-recipient-of-2010-leadership-victoria-award.html


Restoring Honour and Dignity

By Vernice Shostal
Posted: Thursday, April 1st, 2010


Recipient of the 2010 Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award, which honours outstanding long-term service in community leadership roles such as philanthropy, innovation, mentoring and career achievement, executive director and pastor of the Mustard Seed Food Bank, Tom Oshiro, says he answered a calling.

After retirement from the ministry, Tom joined the Mustard Seed as counsellor in 1991, planning to stay for two or three years. Eighteen years later, Reverend Tom is still looking for ways of improving life for the poor. “The reason I’m still here,” says Tom, “is because I was so challenged by the responsibilities and so encouraged by the task. It was counselling to help the poor people and to help the organization to grow spiritually.”

Tom’s family roots originated in Okinawa, Japan. In the early 1900s, Tom’s father came to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the job was finished, Tom’s mother, who was a promised wife, joined her future husband and they settled in Kenora, Ontario, where Tom and his brothers and sisters were born and raised.

Tom was 12 when the Second World War broke out. Two of his older brothers enlisted; one fought on the front lines in Italy; another graduated with his wings near the end of the war. To show his own patriotism, Tom joined the army and air cadets in high school. Despite their patriotism, however, Tom’s family faced a degree of racial prejudice. Feeling alienated and angry, Tom took his hostility out in sports as a winger in hockey and a quarterback in football.

Eventually, Tom felt there was something wrong with his anger and he decided to become a Christian. “As the years passed by,” says Tom, “there was this beginning of a longing to love people, so the people who at one time I hated, it was all melted in this compassion that Christ gave me in my heart, so I changed.”

A graduate of McMaster University, Tom’s first church was in Emo, a small town on the Rainy River in northern Ontario. “It was a new venture learning new things and discovering new things in the ministry.” The job was exciting. In Emo, Tom met his wife, Vietta, a Red Cross nurse. The couple married in Kenora, and moved to Brantford, where their three children were born.

Active in the communities where he worked, Tom ran clubs for young people, coached football and hockey, directed community plays, took charge of summer camps for children and teens and was involved in curling.

As his career grew, the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec called him to become a denominational executive to oversee the development of new churches and the work of evangelism.

By 1980, because of his exposure to churches everywhere, Tom was offered a position by the Baptist Union of Western Canada to work as pastor of pastors and general overseer of 50 churches in British Columbia, a responsibility that required him to travel throughout the province, checking on the welfare of churches and pastors. Travelling by car and plane from New Westminster was tiring and Tom missed his family. After four-and-a-half years, he decided to go back to church ministry and took the job of pastor at Royal Oak Baptist Church in Victoria. “I had a great time,” says Tom. The church was brand new and was in the process of growing and after six years, Tom thought it was time to retire. “I decided I would resign and retire, but I visited the Mustard Seed – an interesting mistake.”

There have been success stories, says Tom. “I always think of a lady who came to the Mustard Seed at Christmastime and she came with a tiny little baby and she was weeping and struggling with her situation. We discovered that the marriage had broken up and she didn’t know what to do except to come to us, so from that point on, we provided enough groceries for her to keep going. On that occasion, I loaned her some money and it was five years later that she came to us and said, ‘Tom, I just came to pay back a debt.’ I couldn’t remember her at all and she said, ‘Now the good news is that I was able to go back to university and I graduated in law and I’m now in a firm.’ She was visionary and energetic and completely committed to a future for her child.”

But not all stories are successful, says the grandfather of 10. From looking after 400-500 people each week when Tom began working as counsellor, the food bank now feeds 7,200 people a month; 1,700 are children. Tom is further challenged when he sees that “We are not being honest with ourselves if we believe that we are helping them by simply giving them food and clothing. In some cases, we are entering into a third generation of people, so we have literally watched the parents here; we watched their children; we saw their children grow up, marry and now we’re seeing their children. And we can see that those children are going to end up on the receiving end of the food line.”

To change the situation, Tom proposes building a family centre to organize programs that would educate the less fortunate in general living skills such as the ability to budget, to cook and to raise children. But the proposal cannot be completed without financial help for real estate and qualified volunteers to run the program.

Tom, whose wife died in 2008, says, “Everybody who comes to the Mustard Seed has a major problem. It seems as if it’s a financial one, but it’s much more emotional and spiritual.” Instead of retiring, Tom continues to look for ways to restore honour and dignity to the lives of the poor.

To learn how you can help, call Tom Oshiro at 250-953-1575 or email RevTom@mustardseed.ca

APRIL 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND http://www.seniorlivingmag.com/articles/restoring-honour-and-dignity