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Pastor enriched by bicultural childhood in Japan

Rev. Bruce Metcalf, senior pastor of Hilmar Covenant Church, sits in the sanctuary. The church was built in 1902 by Swedish immigrants. Metcalf was raised in Japan and has been at the church since 1982. September 29, 2008. (Bart Ah You / The Modesto Bee)
Rev. Bruce Metcalf, senior pastor of Hilmar Covenant Church, sits in the sanctuary. The church was built in 1902 by Swedish immigrants. Metcalf was raised in Japan and has been at the church since 1982. September 29, 2008. (Bart Ah You / The Modesto Bee)

The Rev. Bruce Metcalf, senior pastor of Hilmar Covenant Church, spent most of the first 17 years of his life in Japan, where his parents were missionaries. He went to a English-speaking boarding school during the week and played with his Japanese neighborhood friends on weekends.

The school had mostly American missionary students, he said. But some children came from military families, some from European or Korean businessmen's families, and some from Japanese parents who wanted their children to speak English.

Metcalf, 60, fondly recalls the street vendors in Japan — the ones selling teriyaki meat on a stick, the sweet-potato man who would cook his produce over a small charcoal grill, the man who used pictures on a stick to tell stories to gathering children, then would sell them a toffeelike candy afterward.

"Then there was the guy coming down the street, and people would bring their wheat and rice," Metcalf said. "He'd shoot it off in his little cannonlike thing, and it would be puffed wheat or rice. You'd have your cereal."

Growing up bicultural and bilingual seemed "real normal," Metcalf said. "I was just one of the kids in the neighborhood. The fact that I was American didn't dawn on me. I just fit it with Japanese kids when I was with them and with Americans when I was with them. The idea of being different wasn't a big part of my life."

He returned to the States for his senior year in high school and remained to go to college.

Here's more information:

Family: Grew up with his mom, dad and three younger sisters. Married to Kris, 59. Their children are Jeff, 34; Lisa, 31; and Amy, 29. They have five grandchildren.

Education: Bachelor's degree with majors in mathematics and philosophy from North Park University, Chicago; master of divinity from North Park Theological Seminary; doctorate of ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago

Career: Seven years as pastor at Pomeroy Covenant Church, Pomeroy, Iowa; pastor at Hilmar Covenant since March 1982

Future: "To grow and reach the community of Hilmar and be relevant to our community today"

Greatest challenge: "The challenge is to not stay the same and become stagnant. Part of the challenge is to still minister to people in more traditional ways, but at the same time to minister to people who don't come from a church background or to young people who communicate in different ways."

Greatest passion: "To love and care for people"

Personality: "I think that I am steady, a peacemaker, caring, energetic."

Spare time: "I love to play golf, and I like other sports. For 10 years, I coached track and cross country at the high school here. I love to travel. I've been to Israel and to Greece five times. I've taken people on trips there and to the Orient many times. I also like doing yardwork."

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders — ordained and lay — in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail snowicki@modbee.com.

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