Distinguished Service to God (2015)
Missions and ministries was what Sue Nishikawa was all about. She lived it, set the example for it and taught it wherever she went.
Itsuko “Sue” Saito was born on July 2, 1916 to Japanese immigrants in Wahiawa. A friend invited Sue and her sisters to a Bible study at the local playground led by Charles McDonald, Ethel Chong and other Baptist pioneers. Eventually, Sue and her sister, Ayako, were baptized into the membership of the Wayside Baptist Chapel, now known as First Baptist Church of Wahiawa. She attended Leilehua High School and was an outstanding achiever. She served as junior class president, and as a senior, was student body president.
She attended Dodd College in Shreveport, Louisiana, for two years, and then went to Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.
In 1941, she returned to Hawaii to serve as educational director at Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu. She helped organize the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) in 1944.
In 1949, the WMU led in purchasing a 16-acre camp in Waianae called Puu Kahea. Sue served as president of the WMU from 1950 to 1954 when she was elected to head the Hawaii Baptist Convention’s (HBC) WMU. In 1963, she became the associate director of the Cooperative Church Development Division of the HBC. She was given added responsibilities of music, library, tract ministries as well as WMU work. Later, she oversaw summer missionaries and the state paper, “The Hawaii Baptist.” At HBC, she was instrumental in coordinating projects like the Leadership Readiness Conference, literacy workshops, missionary coffee hours, Creative Arts Festivals, State Missions Walkathon, rallies and language work. She received national and international recognition for her work with WMU. She authored a book on Baptists in Hawaii titled, In Aloha Land (1969) and compiled a booklet of historical highlights in 50 Years of Progress, Hawaii Baptist Convention, 1943–1993.
In 1966 Sue married Nobuo Nishikawa, a member of Waikiki Baptist Church. Together, they were active members of the congregation for many years. She served at the Hawaii Baptist Convention until July 1980 when she suffered a stroke while returning from a Baptist World Alliance meeting in Toronto, ending 26 years as state director.
In 1981, the State Missions Offering was named for Sue Nishikawa in honor of her tireless example of giving, praying and ministries. Upon retirement, Nishikawa was still a pioneer, becoming the first one from Hawaii to serve as a Southern Baptist Mission Service Corps volunteer. She continued to be involved with the WMU and with The Aloha Council at Hawaii Baptist Academy.
After her husband died in 1991, Sue remained active at Waikiki Baptist, sharing the history of Hawaii Baptists with the many tourists who attended the church. In 1995, Sue returned to her home church, Olivet Baptist.
Sue left a legacy that spanned more than five decades. Hawaii Pacific Baptists who knew her personally were impressed by her tireless enthusiasm and love for the Lord. By living the life that she did, she became a symbol of missions and ministry to the many lives she touched. She died peacefully on October 25, 2004 at age 88.
Part of Sue’s estate was used to create an endowment fund through the Hawaii Baptist Foundation to support the Sue Nishikawa Offering for Hawaii Pacific Missions. Additionally, the Sue Nishikawa Scholarship Endowment Fund provides a financial award each year to a graduating HBA senior girl who best exempl ifies Sue’s heart for the Lord and missions.