03-16-2006 - Brian Akamine '81 - Committed To Positive Interaction and Ministry
Pastor Brian Akamine '80
Always Ready to Reach Out to The Community
September 17, 2005 - Norristown, PA
The predicted rain generated by Hurricane Ophelia's path luckily held off all afternoon. Under sunny skies, crowds sampled charcoal-grilled hot dogs and listened to the tight rhythms laid down by Philadelphia Christian rock band, "Unspoken."
As the smell of grilled hot dogs and sounds of hip-hop filled the air, three men in yellow t-shirts surrounded a couple in Elmwood Park.
Their goal: to help the couple bring Jesus into their lives.
Elmwood Park swelled with what organizers estimated to be more than 500 people for food and a little fun for a Norristown JAM. The mission was to bring people to the church. The JAMs, now in their second year, are the most public representation of an evangelical movement.
The hot dogs were free, and the hip-hop, along with other musical acts, was Christian inspired. The events serve as part block party, part evangelical, part marketing events for nonprofit and profit groups in town. But behind the scenes, the "tapestry," as Pastor Byron Craig calls it, is a thought out plan to change the momentum in Norristown and turn it toward Christ.
"What we are trying to do," Craig said "is increase the 'connectedness.' We want people to see the power of relationships." Those connections, Craig said, start with the individual and lead to the church.
"There is no collective voice for the common good in Norristown," said Pastor Brian Akamine, the main organizer for this event. "There needs to be an umbrella organization - whether it is us or not - so there isn't all of this duplication of services, or a hoarding of grants."
The JAMs put several of the nonprofits in one place. Not all are Christian, or even faith-based organizations. But he said that Christianity trumps any support group. "The bottom line is," Akamine said, "Jesus is the answer to all of life's issues. When the heart is changed, life is changed."
There was no charge for any of the events, courtesy of Partners for Families and the Norristown Ministerium. "This is the last of our four jams for the year," explained Brian Akamine of Partners for Families. "Everything has been converging to this big final jam. The whole purpose is to share the love of Jesus Christ with the community - in both word and deed, by practical ways of bringing the community agencies, businesses, social services and government to the people so they know these resources exist."
As he coordinated things on the field, Unspoken switched gears from R&B ballads to an insinuating reggae beat.
All the bands set to perform shared a spiritual ethic, but varied in genre from rock to Latin to hip-hop.
The men who make up the well-known Revelation 22 were making the trip up from their native New Jersey later in the day, Akamine said.
An unexpected last-minute component of the festivities was the Katrina relief effort. "Since it was our last public event, we wanted to do the responsible thing by providing this," he said, pointing to the corner of the field where donations of clothing and other items were piling up for Katrina victims. "We thought it was the least we could do."
Volunteers from Norristown and Upper Merion school districts and Bryn Mawr College sorted the clothes, flashlights and personal care items, to be packed for shipment to the Gulf Coast next week.
"Norristown Superintendent Lisa Andreko helped spearhead the effort to mobilize students and faculty for donations, and also allowed us to have the event here," Akamine noted.
"Partners for Families is also a collection site, and we'll be transporting items down south through a network of churches."
He glanced at the crowd and smiled.
"We're doing this because we really want to see the community of Norristown unified, working together, and the church being a catalyst," he said. The Ministerium would like to reach out to all Judeo-Christian churches in the area, Akamine said.
"We don't want to marginalize ourselves, but (Christianity) is our common denominator."
Pastor Brian Akamine leads the Men's Ministry at The Fairview Village Church in Eagleville, PA