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Mustard Seed pastor finds passion in helping others
Rev. Tom Oshiro is going to take another shot at retirement.
His first attempt was 23 years ago when he left Royal Oak Baptist Church in Saanich.
This Sunday he will officially retire from the Mustard Seed Church and Food Bank where he has served in every role from spiritual counsellor to executive director.
“I’m not very good at retiring,” says the affable 86 year old in his tiny office at the Mustard Seed.
Oshiro doesn’t quite know what retirement means.
“I’m reaching that period of time in my life where there are just certain things I can’t do. There are some things I still enjoy: preaching and teaching. I love working with people. Maybe they’ll (the Mustard Seed) find something for me.”
Oshiro landed on the doorstep of Mustard Seed Church in 1991 after six years as lead pastor with Royal Oak Baptist Church. First it was just to help out, but before long he was asked to be a counsellor and then lead the organization in 1995 as its executive director.
“Some of the staff had to leave due to financial reasons. I just stayed on,” Oshiro says. “I was not very concerned about paycheques, so I was the ideal person to stay onboard.”
Oshiro was born in Kenora, Ont., the sixth of seven children.
His older sisters began taking him to a Baptist church as a child. Tom left the church in his early teens, only to return a few years later and commit himself to the ministry.
Oshiro says in his early teens he was just too busy for church. He played many sports – baseball, hockey, curling and football – and worked, so he found church “a bit of a nuisance.”
But when he read a newspaper article of a Bishop martyr who was killed by some Roman Catholics, he decided he needed to get serious about life. “From that point on my life escalated into the Christian faith,” he says.
He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton 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 B.C., 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.
He was awarded Citizen of the Year for Victoria in 2002 and awarded a Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Despite all the accolades, Oshiro says spearheading the creation of the addiction recovery program at Hope Farm Healing Centre near Duncan and the Mustard Seeds’ Family Centre, which opened in 2012, were the most gratifying.
“We saw many people coming into the Mustard Seed who needed more help than we could give them,” he says.
“(Many were) drug addicts and even people who just didn’t know how to take care of themselves. These programs helped, gave them self-confidence and the ability to improve their lives.
“It had to happen or else we would be going absolutely nowhere with people.”
Oshiro’s wife, known as Vi, died of cancer in 2008, and the church became ever important for him.
“I’ve experienced fellowship with this church and a need to help serve the poor.”
But now it’s time to retire. Oshiro says he’ll spend more time with his family (three children and 10 grandchildren), and maybe get in more golf.
“I’ve had a wonderful time here,” he says.
“I still may preach, but they (the Mustard Seed) have two or three preachers. I don’t think they need me.”
– with files from Leadership Victoria