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churchAt the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina’s clergy conference last week we held a Holy Eucharist which commemorated the ministry of The Reverend Hiram Hisanori Kano. Father Kano’s story is truly inspiring. Born in Japan in 1888, he immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s to study agriculture. He earned a Master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska and became a leader among the Japanese community in Nebraska, many of whom who had come to work on the railroads. Later, under the guidance of the Rt. Rev. George Beecher, bishop of the missionary diocese of Western Nebraska, Kano became a missionary to the Japanese American community, estimated to be about 600. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1928 and to the priesthood in 1936. In 1942, after conducting Sunday services in North Platte, he was arrested and sent to a series of internment
camps for Japanese nationals. He was to be interned for three years in these camps where more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent were forced to live during World War II. In the camps, Fr Kano led worship, ministered to and taught those around him, including his jailers, other prisoners, and German prisoners of war. In addition to organizing a camp college where he taught English and other courses, he conducted nature studies. After his release at the end of the war, he attended Nashotah House in Wisconsin. Upon completion of his Master of Divinity degree, he returned to Nebraska and served as a missionary priest until his retirement in 1958. Those who knew him said he held no bitterness about his internment but rather he considered his time in the camps as a gift to his ministry. Fr. Kano turned adversity and struggle into fertile mission territory. He was quoted as saying: “Well, God put me here, what does he want me to do?” The story of this faithful priest who transformed his imprisonment in World War II interment camps into a mission field reminds
me of another story. In Genesis, the story of Joseph and his brothers seems to me to be a similar story of betrayal, struggle, and faith. Joseph’s brothers, you will recall, wished him dead. Ten against one, they threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery. He eventually ended up in Pharaoh’s prison. Most people would be filled with hatred and desire revenge. But Joseph did not see it that way. He was nobody’s victim. When he looked at his life, like Fr Kano, he did not see a series of senseless tragedies. He saw a lighted path. That path wound for years through Pharaoh’s prison, but after he rose to a position of power his brothers came to him for help. He told them, “It was not you who sent me here but God. Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you.” The things that happened to Joseph and to Fr Kano were not trivial. In each case, there was struggle. “You meant evil against me”, Joseph said to his brothers, ‘but God meant it for good.” I think the lesson here is that, even at the bleakest times of our lives, God is present. God is committed to us and will work through us. Even when bad
things happen, God is present. God can take the unfathomable wreckage of our lives and make something fine of them in spite of us. Because that’s who God is.

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