Mr. Involved: Aaron Nakamura

At 23, Aaron Nakamura enjoys public speaking before thousands of people, working with kids as director of his church’s Pathfinder club, and serving people one-on-one in developing countries. But he wasn’t always Mr. Involved. At 14, Aaron Nakamura was downright cynical.

“I thought, `Why am I at church? I’m only here because my parents go,’” Aaron remembers. “I started thinking, ` There are no programs, it’s boring; the youth class isn’t that engaging.’”

Aaron attends the Temple City, California Seventh-day Adventist church. One Saturday afternoon, a church leader asked Aaron, “How are you doing?” Aaron winced. “I’m not doing so well,” he said, and spent the next few hours venting about how he felt church offered nothing for him and his peers.

As they wrapped up their conversation, the church leader asked, “How would you like to lead out in the youth program? You obviously see some things that are needed.”

Aaron pulled together some guitars and some friends, and started leading music in youth class. “If I have to be here,” he told himself, “I might as well make it fun and interesting.” He held off committing himself spiritually, though, until he felt a personal calling. He didn’t want to be baptized just because his friends had done so, and he wanted to be sure he knew what he was going into.

Then, at 15, the Temple City church asked him to serve as an elder, a position with responsibility for nurturing the life of the church. “I had a stubborn attitude,” Aaron reflects. “I wouldn’t commit until I felt personally called by God. I said, God, if you truly see something in me, then OK, I’ll take up that call. I got baptized and became the youngest elder in my church’s region.”

The church also asked Aaron to join the youth leadership committee, which met monthly with leaders in other area churches, sharing ideas and planning regional events. The music group Aaron led turned into a youth praise and worship band, which brought invitations to lead out in other congregations’ church services and youth programs. Catching a vision, Aaron proposed his church host its own weekend event for area youth. With the eye-catching, if controversial, title “The F Words,” it focused on core teen issues like friends, family, and faith. Aaron hoped at least 50 youth would show up. More than 300 came.

At 18, Aaron got involved in the Ultimate Workout, an annual teen mission project to Latin America. Today Aaron continues to work on his public speaking through participation in a local Toastmaster’s club chapter, and has graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing Management and Social Media. He looks forward to further study in communications and journalism. At his home church, he’s starting a new challenge, directing the Pathfinder club for kids.

“My passion, since I started leadership, is working with young people,” Aaron proclaims. “I know how it feels to be in a church where there’s nothing for you, where it’s boring and the realness of God hasn’t hit you yet. When I help out with youth rallies, etcetera, you get to see people experience that `aha moment,’ that light bulb of connecting to God. You see young people really meet and experience God for the first time, and take a good look at their lives. It’s great to meet people and see new places, but ultimately it’s the lives changed that keeps calling me back.”