Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brooks Andrews, Pastor, Japanese Baptist Church

Retired Pastor Brooks Andrews is an author of books on the effects of the Japanese American internment/incarceration on his family as his father was a Minister to the Japanese Baptist Church

Photo by Madeline Crowley

There’s a line in a TS Eliot poem that says something to the effect that, life takes a circular route, we come back to where we started and we see it for the first time. For me, coming back here was to see the Japanese Baptist Church for the first time. Not through the eyes of the child who had left, but in the eyes of an adult who’s gone through some pain and then recognizes the value and the heritage of this community that I really never left.

About Brooks Andrews

Brooks’ life reveals that the twists and turns during a profound search for meaning can sometimes bring you to the very same place you began, yet entirely transformed.

Pastor Brooks Andrews on the Central Area Community of the Japanese Baptist Church:

Did your family live near the Japanese Baptist Church in the Central Area?

We lived just down the hill, east of the Church on 15th and Alder.

Brooks in his father's arms. Collection Brooks Andrews

The Japanese Baptist Church - Photo by Joe Mabel

During World War II (WWII) internment/incarceration of the Japanese-Americans from this church, your father made a startling decision. Could you talk about that?

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Order 9066 by President Roosevelt sent all the Japanese on the Pacific coast to American concentration camps in the west.

Gate at Minidoka. Collection Brooks Andrews

Mother’s Day in 1942 was the first Sunday that the Japanese Baptist Church (JBC) and the community had been emptied of all the Japanese. This meant that Dad (Pastor of the Church) didn’t really have a job here in Seattle anymore. So, he decided that we would be moving to Twin Falls, Idaho (to minister to those in the Camp). That was about 20 miles from one of the camps, called Minidoka. And so, in late summer/early fall of 1942 when I was five-years old, Dad packed us in the car and moved us to Twin Falls.

Camp Minidoka - History

Do you remember any feelings about that move?

I was five, so I’m not sure I remember any feelings about it, perhaps I thought it was an adventure. I do remember arriving in Idaho at the house Dad had rented for us to live in. I looked out the car window and said, “Where are the Twin Falls?” I was looking for water, for waterfalls, but it was just a house.

Brooks with his family. Collection Brooks Andrews

Were your playmates from the church?

I remember prior to the evacuation playing with my Japanese playmates then the next day they were gone.  Of course, I didn’t fully comprehend why they were gone. They were moved with their families to the Minidoka camp so that’s where I caught up with them later on.

Brooks and Playmates. Collection Brooks Andrews

Since you were five years old, was the move was kind of a good thing because you were back with your friends?

It was. I was in first grade in Lincoln Elementary in the town. We weren’t allowed to live in the camps so we lived outside.

Brooks, Family & Friends. Collection Brooks Andrews
You were allowed to go into the Camp, though?

Oh yes, I’m sure Dad made daily trips into the camp. During the summer we made family trips into the camp when school was out. Often, we went on the weekends to the camp. Every time, we had to get a valid pass signed by the Department of Army. When we stopped at the gate we got out of the car and showed our pass. Then any bags or packages we had with us were looked over by the guard at the gate.

What do you remember of the camp?

I remember always seeing the guards, the guard tower and walking the grounds of the camp. We went to visit different families. They were always so happy to see us, and so very gracious in receiving us.

I remember in summer time it was very hot and very windy which precipitated the dust storms. It was desert, just sagebrush and dust. The summer dust storms were the bane of the occupants of the camp because the barracks weren’t weather tight, so dust seeped in through the walls and even the floorboards. Maybe the building lumber used wasn’t dried completely so in the summer it shrunk and you could see through the cracks in floorboards to the dirt below. There was always dust; people were constantly cleaning because of the dust. In wintertime, it was the opposite, very cold. The barracks weren’t insulated, so it was very cold in the winter.

Did you run around and play or were you helping your father?

I wasn’t really helping my father. Once we got inside the camp, Dad was off doing his business in camp. I was more involved in social things with my mother, visiting the families in the different barracks. Oftentimes when we left camp, mother would have a list of items people would ask her to pick up for them at the local dime store. They needed thread or material or little things to do because they were imprisoned.

It must have been hard for you too. When you’re little you want stay at home with your toys where you’re nice and warm.

One thing that I detested in the wintertime was that my mother made me wear these wool pants. I just hated them, they were itchy. I hated to put them after my bath on Sunday. It was just terrible.

Brooks as a Cub Scout. Collection Brooks Andrews

I think you mentioned the first time we met that your father would also run errands for people in the camps. He would frequently drive back to Seattle for those errands.

Yes. He would drive 1,500 miles back to Seattle. That was before freeways so it was two-lane roads.

(In the book 'Omoide V' by Dee Goto, Pastor Brooks spoke of the ostracism and aggression his father experienced for standing with his Japanese Congregation. He was bodily removed from a local restaurant. Later the owner of that restaurant bought the rental home the Brooks' were living in order to force them out)

During wartime rationing?

There were different levels of rationing, for food, for gas, and so forth, so depending on your occupation, you got a sticker that read A, B, C, etc. Dad did not have any problem getting gas because he had a clergy designation. Clergy had a higher designation so he had an unlimited gas resource.

In the Church to help people prior to going to the camps Dad decided to use the gymnasium for people’s household items. Dad took tape and marked off 10 foot squares on the gymnasium floor. Then put family names on the tape because they could take almost nothing with them (two suitcases only per person). They had to have a place to store their larger things, so the gymnasium became a storehouse.

Once people became settled in camp, they began requesting items that were stored here at the Church gymnasium. Oftentimes Dad would come out of the camp with a list of requested items. Then he’d drive back to the Church to pick up items. Dad made 56 trips during the years to pick up items and bring them back. The joke of the whole thing was that often the requested item would be on the bottom of the pile.

In his diary he mentioned something about picking up a box and bringing it all the way back and they said, ‘that’s the wrong box.’

Dad had to make reports back to New York City to the Baptist Headquarters every month. To give you an idea, for the month of February 1944, he made 206 calls, wrote 85 letters, preached two sermons, attended four meetings, conducted one meeting, had two baptisms, two weddings, 152 visitors coming and going at our house, and the mileage he traveled that month was 2975 miles. He carried 135 passengers. And one of the annual reports lists 42,000 miles of travel.

They didn’t have shock absorbers or paved roads so those were hard miles.

Those were hard times compared to what we have today.

How was the Church protected from vandals with everyone gone?


I don’t know what protected the Church. The Church was all locked up we really didn’t have any vandalism in the Church, a few broken windows but there wasn’t any vandalism like there was at Maneki Café or others.

Maneki Cafe - History (vandalism mentioned)

Maybe because back then people wouldn’t do that to a Church?


You said something that stuck with me when we first met. I said that your father was like a Saint…

Someone said if Baptists had Saints, that my father would be one of them.

… that’s very much deserved but it must not be easy to be the child of a Saint.

You probably talk to any ‘PK,’ Preacher’s Kid, and they will have a similar story of growing up with a Pastor.

Though, for me, I didn’t realize this ‘til later years. I feel like I grew up without a sense of self. In my writing, I put it something like, I didn’t have a name; I was Andy’s son but I wasn’t Brooks. Every time someone would see me it was always, “There’s Andy’s son.”

So, in college when I left this church I took this whole story and put it up on a shelf. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to talk about it.

That came back to bite me, though. In later years when I was in my 60s I had a crash into major depression. I had a plan to take my own life but through the intervention of some friends that didn’t happen. I spent some time in the Psych Ward as an outpatient at a hospital in Snohomish County and was in therapy for a few months. During that therapy, all this stuff bottled up inside me I was able to flush out and heal.

That’s true also for a lot of families whose parent are high profile in the community. Oftentimes, there’s a dark side to that in family dynamics or dysfunction. We weren’t seriously dysfunctional. We were just a very traditional 1940s family but my Mom and Dad divorced in 1955. And that’s when Dad resigned also…

Because back then you had to resign if you divorced?

I don’t know about that but he was the English-speaking pastor from 1929 to 1955. By then, he was older man. It was time to retire. It was time to have a Japanese-American Pastor. That was one of the reasons.

Still, I often wonder about my Mother, as she wasn’t the high profile person in that situation. She was in the background but she was doing as much ministry as my father. There’s a poem, a line from an English poet, ‘they also serve who stand and wait.’ 

I think of my mother in that regard. She was very much in the background but very quietly doing the work. Sometimes, I think if there was ‘another woman’ in their marriage, for my mother that ‘other woman’ was the Japanese-American Community. It took so much of Dad, he threw himself into that community and maybe he should have put some of that energy into our family.

Brooks, top row 3rd from the right, next to Yosh Nakagawa in white jacket. Collection Brooks Andrews

Interestingly, though, you chose a similar path.

I did. (Sighs) Sometimes I wonder was there nothing else I could do? But you know, I bounced around for some time.  I did go to seminary after college graduation in 1961 or ‘62. I was in seminary in Berkley CA for a year and half. In the early 1960s and it seemed like the whole world, or at least the US was in turmoil. Also, the seminary was only two blocks south of the Berkeley campus, the center of all this stuff… where all this was going on.

I didn’t know who I was, so I dropped out and came back to Seattle. I had worked my way through college driving a truck for UPS, the United Parcel Service. After I came back, I picked that up again.  I always had an interest in boats. So, I went to SCCC to their carpentry program.  Then spent many years working in boatyards and had my own boatyard in Ballard with a partner for several years. After that, I got into contracting, remodeling and so forth. I did that and was also involved in a Church in Edmonds. During that time, I went back and got my Masters degree at the Seminary. I was on staff in a Church in Edmonds for a long time.  

I crashed into depression in 2003. I resigned at that time and we continued worship at the Edmonds Church another year and half. During that time, Yosh Nakagawa
came back into my picture. We’d lost communication over the years. I’ve known him since grade school. Anyway, I got to feeling that now I’m free of this other church in Edmonds, maybe God was calling me back to the Japanese Baptist Church.

I said nothing to my wife about it. I thought about it, and prayed about it. Then, one Sunday after church service at the Edmonds Church the first words out my wife’s mouth were, ‘I think God has released us to come back to the Japanese Baptist Church.’ That was the confirmation I was waiting for.

We came back to the JBC with absolutely with no intention of it being a place other than to worship. Once I got here, though, they said, “Maybe you’d wanted to be ordained here in the American Baptist Churches (ABC).” I said, “Fine, I can do that.” To be ordained in the ABC, you have to be ordained into a specific job in a Church. So, I said, “Ok, I would be the Minister of Pastoral Care.” That’s how I got back into the ministry. Then, the Senior Pastor at that time retired in October of 2011. Then,  the Church said, ‘we’d like you to be our new Senior Pastor.’ I said, “No, I’m too old to start over again,” so they asked me to be our Interim Pastor while they do a search. A year and a half later, here I am.

It’s funny that it’s come full circle. When I met you I assumed there’d been this unbroken chain from your father to you…

It wasn’t that, a son following his father’s footsteps, I went all around that barn many times.

It’s actually a very interesting story how through all these twists and turns you did return to the place you’d started this story.

For me, it’s a homecoming but it’s also part of my healing journey too. In fact, a big part of my healing journey.

I was born into this Church in 1937. I grew up in this Church and had many relationships in it through the years. Some of the older Nisei today still remember me from being a child. There’s a line in a TS Eliot poem that says something to the effect that, life takes a circular route, we come back to where we started and we see it for the first time. For me, coming back here was to see the Japanese Baptist Church for the first time. Not through the eyes of the child who had left, but in the eyes of an adult who’s gone through some pain and then recognizes the value and the heritage of this community that I really never left.


  It’s interesting too that you refer to poetry quite often and to woodworking both of which is to put your heart into your hands.

In college, I had a double major in English and Biblical Literature so that’s where some of that comes from. I enjoyed boatbuilding, I did the finish carpentry on boats. The thing about working with your hands is that at the end of the day, you can step back and look at it and say, ‘That’s really good. I accomplished that today.’ Or you can see what you need to change the next day, and you change it. But in Ministry at the end of the day you look around and you think, ‘what have I accomplished today?’ Some of those things you’ve accomplished in that day, you may never know.

Sometimes in Ministry the Pastor is called to shepherd the sheep. I’ve often said, it happens in every church, there are some sheep that I’d like to lead to slaughter. There are some that you’d like to shake them and say, ‘get a life.’

It seems through pain and struggle, you have found to your way a path that from the outside seems like a path with great heart. How would you describe that?

In growing up… this is part of the dysfunction of my life, I rarely had one-on-one time with Dad. I didn’t have that one-on-one bonding relationship with my Dad. Yet, I heard his voice loud and clear always speaking to me. That voice came to me through the group, the scouting outings, or the church functions when we're all there. That voice that came from what I observed in his leadership and interactions with groups, it probably informed what I’m doing today.

I feel I grew up to be a very insecure boy. I found security or release in movies. I loved action movies like Robin Hood. If there was a hero and a damsel to be won, I felt I was there, I was that hero. The way I put it is that each one of us, are the heroes of our own story. And as I look back on my story, I can say I am the hero of my story.

I think that compassion comes out in the group; that spoke to me. So, often when I’m out in the community, I do a ton of memorial services for people who haven’t been inside the JBC for years or even had never been here, but everywhere I go among the Nisei Japanese, they say, “Oh, you’re Andy’s son.” Then, they tell me that, your father baptized me, or your father married us, or something like that. Oftentimes, when people talk about my father, or about what he did for them during the war, they have tears in their eyes.

That just makes me realize the heritage I have, the importance of… not that I have to be a Pastor also, but to realize the strength I draw from that story. And what I do for my own life, how I relate to my congregation and the community, and my own family and my grandchildren.

Do your grandchildren know that whole story?

The oldest is 18 and is graduating this year. When she was in middle school she asked me to speak about this episode, the incarceration at Minidoka. Then, for a senior project, she interviewed me and did a PowerPoint presentation about my father and our family. Also, I have a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren who live in Atlanta Georgia. Two years ago, my son-in-law went with me on the Minidoka Pilgrimage. My daughter now is the keeper of the story.

I feel blessed when I’m asked to do Memorial services and funerals and gravesites.

The Nisei Veteran’s have a Memorial Wall naming all the families who were incarcerated during the war in all the camps in the US. A couple of years ago someone initiated a move to put my father’s name on the wall there; he’s the only Caucasian name on that wall. It says, Andy Andrews, Minidoka. 

Out of my connection to the Japanese community, I was asked to speak at this recent Memorial Day Veterans’ Observance at the Lakeview Cemetery. Also, in the last two years on Remembrance Day which is Feb. 19th when the Japanese were moved from their homes, I’ve been asked twice to give the Invocation at the Washington House of Representatives on that particular day. Because of my father and my family, because of the association with the incarceration and the Japanese community, people often ask me to do things in the community. Whenever I’m asked, it honors my family; I’m humbled that people would want me to do it.

In a way, your father doesn’t get this because he’s gone. Maybe it’s his gift to you to see the difference that one person can make. If you weren’t the person you are, it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to be there, his son or not. Now it gets to be about you.

The thing about Ministry is it can be a lonely business. Last week, someone took me out to lunch and we just sat and talked. It’s a gift for me for someone to do that, because it gets me out of the office. We interact in some language other than pulpit language or church language. We can talk about whatever we want. It’s not going to be spread around, it’s just a good release.

When I was at the other church I did a lot of counseling, I used to hang out a particular Starbucks three or four days a week, to just to get outside of the walls of the building. After a while, I got to know some of the regulars and the baristas. It kind of evolved to a point where people would say, ‘oh, the Pastors in his office.’ Someone would sit down and we’d have great conversations. They’d say things they wouldn’t tell their spouse or friends. While, the preaching of a message every week, it’s like standing on the Empire State Building and pouring down a bottle of iodine on people below to cure the world’s ills. 

In the counseling I did there, the first thing I would say is I don’t want my position or my title to be a barrier to our building a relationship, so use whatever words that best express what’s going on inside you. And people would say, really? That’s why I enjoyed being out in Starbucks because it happens quicker and you go deeper. In fact, there’s a book, the “Gospel according to Starbucks.” It talks about Starbucks having this neutral atmosphere that builds relationships and understanding, you go and you sit and you have your coffee or tea and talk. It speaks of relationship building.  

To me, the real heart of ministry is relationship building. It’s the eyeball-to-eyeball, knee-to-knee part that really turns my crank.   

©  Madeline Crowley People of the Central Area 2013   All material is covered by copyright. Express written permission must be given for any copyrighted material on this page. Email to request permission to copy or paste materials. 

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About Me

Seattle, WA, United States
I am not a professional photographer nor a trained journalist. At community meetings, it became clear that many of us don’t know each other. We haven’t heard each other’s stories and don't know each other’s circumstances. This is my attempt to give a few people the chance to tell their story, to talk about our community, to say their piece in peace. As such, comments have been disabled. The views and opinions expressed here are those of each narrator and do not necessarily reflect the position of views of the CentralAreaComm.blogspot blog site itself. The is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by narrators of this project. All interviews have been edited and in places condensed.

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