HONOLULU (BP)–Picture this. You’ve retired from an executive-level challenging job you loved. You have a devoted wife. Your three kids are grown, doing well and have given you five fabulous grandchildren. You can take it easy, enjoy a life free from responsibilities and look back with pride at how it’s all turned out.
And, you live in Hawaii! Can life possibly get any better?
For George Iwahiro, the answer is yes, it can.
Iwahiro retired from the Hawaiian Electric Company in 1996 and his plan was to take it easy and relax with his wife of 43 years, Shirley.
But, as can so often happen to Christians, Iwahiro’s plans of lounging in paradise were put aside when God gave him more jobs to do.
He now serves as chairman of LifeWay Christian Resources’ board of trustees, a position he said he never imagined he would hold.
“When I retired, I thought it was time for me to pull back from some of the church responsibilities I had,” he said. “I thought it would be better for some of the younger people to be the leaders.” But a trip to LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in 1996 for an Experiencing God Weekend for Couples and studying under Henry Blackaby at a conference held for pastors and leaders of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention in February 1997 changed his mind.
“Henry Blackaby was talking to us and told us that no Christian ever retires from service,” Iwahiro recounted.
“We might retire from our careers, but not from God’s work,” he said. “That really made me think and that conference in February was a life-changing experience for me. One of the many profound statements made by Blackaby was: ‘When God gives us an assignment, our response should consist of two words, Yes, Lord.'”
Iwahiro had to decide if he really believed it — believed it enough to act on it. He did. Once that was settled, opportunities for service presented themselves.
The Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, based on its growth, qualified in 1997 to have representation on the trustee boards of LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.
Iwahiro was asked to serve as Hawaii’s first LifeWay trustee. “At first, I thought I would say no,” he said. “It seemed like a job a pastor should do. I was a retired layman and it seemed like the time for me to phase out.”
Then, what Blackaby had said came back to him. “You don’t retire from serving,” Blackaby’s words echoed.
“I went back to something else Blackaby said: ‘If you want to experience God, you must be available,'” Iwahiro related in how he saw God’s leadership to accept the trustee position.
“When I did some research about LifeWay, I liked what I read,” he said. “LifeWay is self-supporting and run like a business. Its purpose is ministry, but in order of fulfill its purpose, it must be a good steward of God’s resources. It doesn’t receive Cooperative Program money, but gives money back to the work of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was similar in size to the company I retired from. I thought that I might have a contribution to make to an organization like that.”
So in 1997, Iwahiro began serving on LifeWay’s board.
Opportunities for service didn’t stop with LifeWay, either.
Iwahiro’s circumstances changed in 1998 when his 90-year-old mother contracted dementia. Iwahiro and his brother tend to her daily needs. He sees this as a responsibility and a ministry.
Also in 1998, he was elected first vice president of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, a position he held previously. He was reelected in 1999. He then served as state convention president from 2000-2002.
Leadership opportunities continued to come his way and in February 2002 he was elected chairman of LifeWay’s trustees.
“I was so surprised that I was asked to serve as chairman,” he said. “My first thought was that I was unqualified. There are so many fine pastors and laymen on the board that I thought would be so much better,” he said. “But then, Shirley reminded me what Blackaby had said about responding with just two words when God gives us an assignment, so again I just said ‘OK, Lord.'”
Iwahiro said his tenure as chairman has been made easier by LifeWay’s EMG (executive management group), composed of LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr., executive vice president/chief operating officer Ted Warren and the division vice presidents.
“LifeWay runs so well. It has the perfect inside man in Ted Warren and the perfect outside man in Jimmy Draper,” Iwahiro said. “There is such a cohesive and united team in the EMG. Each one of them is so well-suited for the job he holds. God is at work at LifeWay Christian Resources.”
Humility aside, Iwahiro’s job as trustee chairman is important as well.
“George studies materials sent to him and asks the hard questions of our staff,” Draper said. “His guidance and counsel are valued greatly. He is making an excellent chairman for the trustees and I know he will continue in that excellent leadership.”
Draper described Iwahiro as “one of the most highly respected leaders in Hawaii who, with his wife, have given themselves to serving the Lord through the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.”
Draper noted that Iwahiro has served tirelessly and at great personal sacrifice as a trustee. “No one comes from a farther distance to meetings. He faithfully makes the two trustee meetings a year, as well as the two additional trustee executive committee meetings.”
Draper continued, “He gives unswerving support to what we are doing at LifeWay. I am eternally grateful for his skilled leadership, his cherished friendship and his godly counsel to me and all our leadership here.”
Iwahiro’s journey to all these positions of leadership began in 1970 when he and his wife became Christians and were baptized together on Easter Sunday at Hawaii Kai Baptist Church in Honolulu. The two became Christians through the preschool ministry at Hawaii Kai.
“We had a neighbor who attended the church and took our two sons to Sunday school,” Iwahiro said. “One day when he called about taking the boys to church, I told Shirley to tell him we would take the boys ourselves. After that, we got invited to adult things at the church and eventually Shirley and I accepted Christ and got baptized together.” Following that, all three of the Iwahiro children, daughter Sheryl and sons Marc and Eric, made professions of faith and were baptized at Hawaii Kai.
In 1978 the Iwahiro family moved to a different part of town and began attending Nu’uanu Baptist Church. “A lot of Sheryl’s teachers from the Hawaii Baptist Academy went to the church, so we knew them,” Shirley Iwahiro said. The church was near their home and the children already had friends in the youth group. They have been active members there ever since.
Nu’uanu pastor Rick Lazor has known the Iwahiros since they joined. He was the youth minister at the church when they began attending.
“The Iwahiros are great people,” Lazor said. “They are so warm and generous. When they remodeled their house, they added a new den that’s huge. They said they did it so they could use their house for church gatherings. They’ve done that too. They’ve opened their home to so many parties, youth events, everything. I’m grateful to have them in our church.”
George and Shirley Iwahiro are quick with encouraging words and warm, island hospitality. Their home is alive with guests and church friends, but they remain humble about the way God has used both of them in local, state and convention-wide leadership roles.
“I think George is always surprised when someone looks to him to be a leader,” his wife said. “He always thinks someone else could do better, but he’s too modest.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: A MOMENT TO RELAX and FROM HAWAII … WITH COMMITMENT.