Former Japanese Gang Member is Now a Baptist Minister & Missouri Human Rights Commissioner

Jonathan Hayashi and his wife Kennedi have two young daughters, Kaede and Anna, and are pursuing adoption of a young boy in Bulgaria. Photo submitted

Had it not been for the faithfulness of Southern Baptist missionaries, former Japanese gang member Jonathan Hayashi may have never found salvation, a call to ministry — or, most recently, a seat on the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson appointed 29-year-old Hayashi to the commission on June 17. He was also named as vice chair.

Hayashi serves as music and worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Troy, Mo. He is also the general secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention’s National Asian American Fellowship; a regular columnist for The Pathway newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention and a member of its Apologetics Network.

The 10-member human rights commission fields discrimination complaints in matters of housing, employment and places of public accommodation based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age and familial status through enforcement of the Missouri Human Rights Act.

Though commissioners do not often enter the public spotlight, their work is central to many cultural issues facing the United States today. After all, it was Colorado’s civil rights commission that sued Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex “wedding” in 2012 — a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that the commission violated the religious free exercise clause of the First Amendment by acting with “religious hostility” against Phillips.

Hayashi, on his appointment to the commission, said, “I am so thankful for this opportunity to serve in this new leadership capacity along with some wonderful leaders throughout our great state.”

Of course, he admitted that — as a minister and a father of young children — this additional role can seem “overwhelming” at times.

“But then,” he added, “I look back at God’s faithfulness. … I’m just a monument of His triumphant grace.”

Return to Japan

On the same week of his appointment to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, Hayashi returned to his childhood home with a mission team from FBC Troy. While there, he met with International Mission Board personnel in the region and shared with them about God’s grace in his life.

He recounted that by the time he was 15-years-old, he had been arrested, tried and put behind bars. At that time, he hated Christians, he hated his father and he hated God. But God was at work to bring salvation to Hayashi and his family long before this through the faithfulness of Southern Baptist missionaries.

During the 1980s, when Hayashi’s mother Yukiko studied English at a college in Sendai, Japan, she met IMB missionaries Tony and Marsha Woods, who were using the Bible to help students improve their English. Soon, she came to faith and began a lifelong walk with the Lord.

Then she met Hayashi’s father, Takakazu. Although he wasn’t a believer, she married him on someone’s advice that it would be a way to win him to faith. Yukiko tried to teach her children about the Lord and take them to church, but her husband, a staunch atheist, berated her for doing so.

His father, who became a Christian years later, “really thought we were a bunch of fools believing in a fairy tale. Growing up, I lived in fear of him,” Hayashi said of abuse that his mother and the children endured.

“It was unbearable,” he said. “The only place I could run away from reality was music. Whenever I was scared, hurt, mad or angry, I ran to the piano. It gave me this temporary peace, but it didn’t last long.”

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Source: Baptist Press