The Birthplace of Millions
Azusa Street Revival and Little Tokyo, David Hino, July 6, 2012
In 1906, a spiritual revival broke out in Los Angeles that lasted for three years and had worldwide implications. On 321 Azusa Street, Los Angeles, a church under the leadership of Pastor William Seymour became the birthplace of the Pentecostal movement which today embraces over 600 million followers worldwide and has also influenced millions of others. Many denominations such as the Assembly of God and the Foursquare point to the Azusa Street revival as their birthplace. This revival in 1906 crossed ethic lines and saw supernatural miracles resulting in thousands of transformed lives. Life Magazine has listed the Azusa Street revival as the 68th most important event in the world in the last 1,000 years.
Today, the church on Azusa Street is long been gone and the area is owned by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) and surrounded by Japanese American businesses in an area known as Little Tokyo. A plaza was created on the original site of the church. Azusa Street is now a service alley for delivery and trash removal.
The history of the Azusa Street Revival continues to have significant meaning to millions. Often today, one can see groups of people gathered on the former site of the church. In 2006, Los Angeles hosted the Azusa Street Centennial in which over 100,000 people came from all over the world to celebrate this revival.
Pastor William Seymour, born May 2, 1870, died September 29, 1922
The Azusa Street Revival is attributed to Pastor William Seymour, the son of former slaves. He was a humble, uneducated and an unassuming one eye preacher. Seymour prayed until the presence of God came into the worship service and major healings often occurred as limbs grew out, cancerous tumors disappeared, blind eyes opened and the deaf could hear. The rich and poor of Los Angeles came. Whites and blacks sat and prayed together, unheard of in the early 1900’s when blacks were still being discriminated against and murdered in the country. People from all over the world came to experience life changing moments.
Honoring the Past
Over the years, Bill Watanabe, the founder and executive director of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) has been one of the key persons to bring honor to the past. The Azusa Street Memorial Committee under the leadership of Watanabe met for over ten years to create an appropriate memorial for the Azusa Street Revival in the plaza of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC). Part of their proposal was to create a mural on the wall in the alley of Azusa Street but this was not approved. Some memorials have been put into place including a street sign on San Pedro street that reads, “Azusa St. Mission, site of the Azusa St. Revival 1906 – 1931. Cradle of the Worldwide Pentecostal Movement.” Also, a small plaque acknowledging the site of Azusa Street Revival is located in the plaza.
A large grapefruit tree located in the plaza has historical significance to both the Japanese American community and the Azusa Street Revival. The grapefruit tree is believed to have been alive during Pastor Seymour’s time and the Japanese American community carefully moved the tree a few feet to it’s current location in the plaza of the JACCC. A plaque and graft from the mature grapefruit tree was planted to honor Pastor Seymour. Over the years, the young grapefruit tree did not grow, produced no fruit and was unhealthy. It is believed that the soil under the tree had been polluted by cooking oil and other chemicals. The tree was replaced once and recently, the tree has been removed and the location is covered by a wooden platform. See links at the end of this article for news reports of the work of this committee: Groups Hope to Tell Little Known Little Tokyo Story and A Movement Born in a Stable.
The Land and the Bible
Understanding the land and how to honor the land is an important Biblical concept. Pastor Louis Barragan, a First Nation pastor, believes that God intended people to honor the land and that God also uses the land to speak to us through prophetic signs.
Some Bible passages regarding the land:
- God hovers over the waters. (Gen. 1:1) God created man out of the dust of the earth. (Gen. 2:7) The whole earth is cursed. (Gen. 3:18) A great flood destroyed the living creatures and plants of the earth. (Gen. 6) God promised that he will never destroy the earth again with a flood. (Gen. 6)
- God owns all land. “The land must not be sold without reclaim because the land belongs to me, for you are foreigners and residents with me.” (Lev. 25:23)
- Double portion is given to the land. (Is. 61:7)
- Ground can be holy. (Ex. 3)
- Specific locations have heavenly atmosphere. God is “in this place” and has a gateway to heaven in this place. (Gen. 28:16)
- The land can become contaminated. God wants to “heal their land” if the people humble and pray. (II Chron. 7:14) God wants to restore the land. (Is. 49:8) Creation groans for redemption. (Romans 8:22)
- The earth bows down to God. (Psalm 66:3-5) If we don’t worship God, the rocks will cry out. (Luke 19:40)
On September 25, 2009, Barry Deguchi, pastor at Catalyst Christian Community and David Hino, pastor at The Light Christian Fellowship talked about the connection between the Azusa Street Revival, the Japanese American ownership of the land and God’s spirit. Over time, a clearer focus of some of the spiritual, historical and cultural connections emerged. In 2011, a small group of Japanese-American pastors and leaders including Deguchi, Hino, Ron Tanaka (Ascent church), Davee Hazama (Ascent church), Bob Aisawa (Catalyst), Ron Miyake (Evergreen Baptist), Erik Kakimoto (Cerritos Baptist) and Dean Fujishima (Laulima Ministry and Unified…, Hawaii) begin meeting regularly to pray and discuss these connections and what steps could be taken to bring honor to the land and past.
This journey has produced a number of questions. Is there a connection between the past of the Azusa Street Revival, current ownership of land by the Japanese American community, and the work of God’s spirit? Are there acts of cleansing and spiritual restoration that must be done in the physical realm to affect the spiritual realm? Is the restoration of the physical soil and replanting a grapefruit tree an important spiritual act of honoring the past? What does it mean to honor the birthplace and founders of the Pentecostal movement? Are there steps of reconciliation that are needed to heal past relationships?
Special Meetings, July 13, 14, 2012
You are invited to two meetings at two different locations to seek God’s heart and respond to the Spirit regarding the Azusa Street Revival, Little Tokyo (Japanese-American community), and the global move of God. Special guests will be Dean Fujishima, Imiel Abidir, and David Demian, Watchmen for the Nations. Fujishima has had a significant ministry around the globe. Imiel originally from Egypt moves in the prophetic gifting. Demian is formerly from Egypt but currently lives in Canada. Demian has been a key international leader in the spiritual transformation in Canada and Asia. These meetings are designed to prepare for a larger gathering in December.
July 13, Friday, 7 to 10 pm, Evergreen Baptist Church, 323 Workman Mill Road, La Puente, CA 91746
July 14, Saturday, 9 am to 12 noon, Cerritos Baptist Church, 11947 Del Amo Boulevard Cerritos, CA 90703
Links to Related Articles:
Groups Hope to Tell Little Known Little Tokyo Story: But proposed walkway and mural on Azusa Street marking the location of the founding of the Pentecostal Church Movement has faced roadblocks the past decade. By CAROLINE AOYAGI, Executive Editor, Pacific Citizen
A Movement Born in a Stable
* Pentecostalism, the second-largest segment of Christendom, began in L.A. Long-stalled efforts to memorialize the site are moving forward.
June 02, 2001|TERESA WATANABE | TIMES RELIGION WRITER
Azusa Street to Bronzeville: The Black History of Little Tokyo, by Yosuke Kitazawa on February 29, 2012
William J. Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival, by Gary B. McGee
A Documentary The Azusa Street Revival 1906, Azusa Street Project, Part I. You Tube video.