I was born in KY, USA to a family with a mother who was a devout believer but a father who was a dogmatic atheist. It perhaps wasn’t the “perfect home” as many perceived. I got on my on my knees every night beside my bed and prayed, “Jesus, please save my Dad.”

Eventually we moved back to Japan. I hated school.  I had no friends and was lonely as I wasn’t able to speak Japanese and was the only Christian.  I was laughed at, mocked, bullied and made fun of. I began feeling ashamed of my faith.

I had no place to go. My only comfort and escape from the horror was music. Whenever I was scared, hurt, sad or depressed I ran to music and played the piano which gave me this temporary peace.  It didn’t last long, but it was a place I could run away from reality for a little while.  Things simply escalated and I began to doubt God and eventually I walked away from Him.

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At age 12, I began spending time with gang members and doing the rebellious things they did. I was a very angry, depressed youth. I became addicted to various sinful behaviors. I hated myself, my parents, my school, authorities, all adults and Christians. Christians were a bunch of self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental people. Above all, I hated God with all my heart. I was a morally corrupt, sin-loving God hater. I loved the very things that God hated, and hated the very things that God loved. I was a great sinner.

Then, in September, at the age of 15, I was caught by the police. I was put on the blacklist and sent to court.  As I was hand cuffed and heading to the police station, I had an encounter with God in the police car.  “Jonathan Hayashi, I have a bigger plan for you; here is not where you belong.”  I ignored His voice but  he spoke again to me.  I realized then that God is real, and I truly wanted to know Him.  I decided to leave school, my gang, and the girl I was with, and instead I began to seek the Lord.

At age 15, I became a carpenter without any hope but Jesus.  For the first time in my life, I began to read the Bible.

I met a Pastor soon after named Pastor Kawamata. There was something different about this man. This man was filled with joy and love. When all other Christians avoided and despised me, he drew near to me and encouraged me. All church folks greeted him and loved him.  He treated me as if I was his own son. “Pastor, what is the secret?”, I asked. I still can vividly recall till this day, as he sat across of me he said, “Jonathan, God loved me, saved me, and changed me. That is more than enough.”

At age 16, for the very first time in my life, I decided to profess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of the Father. I was no longer a hater of God but a lover of God. I respect authority and find delight in spending time with children. I now have dreams and hopes for my future. I can genuinely smile from the bottom of my heart and was able to love and forgive myself for the past.

     My life has never been the same since meeting Jesus. Everything changed when Jesus came into my life.

So much of who I am today is in answer to my mother’s prayers for me. She has a special love for the Japanese people and has found a way to serve God by serving them. Her ministry is to translate the book “Our Daily Bread” into Japanese for the nation. Her prayers have been transforming the hearts and live of my two brothers and myself. In October of 2011, my father came to know and experience the saving grace of God, and we all praise God for this great milestone.

IMG_3005    After graduating from school in Malaysia, I went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I completed my undergraduate at MBI (B.A. in Pastoral Ministry, 2012) and completed a master’s degree in Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago (M.A. in Pastoral Congregational Leadership) in 2014. Currently I am pursuing a degree of Doctorate of Education of Ministry in Biblical Counseling from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (D.Ed.Min Louisville, KY). Today, simply all by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as a monument of His grace, I serve as one of the Pastoral Staff at Troy First Baptist Church in Greater St. Louis, MO. I also served prior to this position as an Assistant Pastor at Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois for 4 years.

As the old saying goes, “Nothing in my hands I bring, but simply to the cross I cling” Oh, Crown him with many crowns the Lord upon His throne! Bring forth a royal diadem and crown him Lord of all. No man can boast but simply in the cross. He is worthy.

My Jesus came to me, and he took away my sin, and took away my shame. Even though I was a great sinners, though I was the lowest of the low, and even though I had nothing to offer, Jesus came to me and saved me.

Now brothers and sisters, if you’re saying you always been what you’ve always been then you need to ask if you’ve ever really met Jesus.

Meeting Christ changes everything.

“Well, how is it possible? What happened?” I know it simply by this.

 

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound,

that saved a wretch like me,

I once was lost,

but now am found,

was blind but now I see.