Todd Yokotake (’84) has spent more than 40 years of his life at HBA, first as a student and now as a teacher for the past 30 years.
Yokotake began his HBA journey in the 3rd grade and he recalled, “one of my fondest memories was sitting on the floor in a circle, and Ms. Simmons wrote Psalm 100 on the board. I remember we memorized it in increments. Coming from a non-Christian family, I learned more about the Bible and how to navigate my way through it. By the end of the year, we had memorized the entire Psalm 100 and that was my introduction to the Bible.”
As he reflects back at his time at HBA, Yokotake appreciates that the classes were small, the teachers knew each of the students by name, and students received personalized attention. He said, “We knew that we were loved by our teachers. I knew there was something different about them (the teachers), but I didn’t know what it was. It was many years after I became a Christian that I realized they were modeling Jesus.”
After graduation, Yokotake attended and graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University and went on to get his master’s degree at Sam Houston State. In the fall of 1990, Yokotake returned to his alma mater and has been sharing his love for Jesus through the sharing of music as his ministry.
In the spring of 1991, a student approached Yokotake about starting a Christian singing group comprised of a small ensemble that would specifically only sing Christian music. This group would do ministry by singing at different churches and it was the founding of the Soldiers of Light. Ever since, the choral program began to flourish and grow and has touched many through their performances and shared testimonies.
“I think the longer I’ve been teaching music, I now see music as the vehicle of having discussions about faith, God, and spirituality. We can talk about the meaning of a song, internalize the words, and express our hearts in a way that maybe words can’t say.”
Although the pandemic has impacted music programs across the country, he said he has seen students sing on a whole new level.
“I think students have experienced loss. They know what disappointment is, they’ve been dealing with struggle, angst, and anxiety. When you start putting your own life experiences and can attach that to music, then it becomes something very powerful.”
Yokotake believes that even more so, students need that emotional connection. He believes that students are not necessarily looking for sympathy, but empathy. Teachers are helping students navigate these difficult times by loving like Jesus and demonstrating what it means to put our hope in something everlasting.
“When you work here at HBA, you understand that it is a calling and not a job. God never said it would be easy. But when you see the needs and understand the call, sometimes it requires us to go beyond our own abilities. We are called here to serve and are making a great investment in the next generation.”