As a new student in college, James Miyashita (Interdisciplinary Studies ’15) chose to study computer science in hopes of creating video games one day. Since January 2019, however, he has served as a missionary in Niigata, Japan, a coastal town on the north side of the island nation with a population of over 800,000 people. “I wanted to have a job in the U.S. and potentially be able to help out with youth at a church,” he said, describing his goals as a freshman. “[Honestly,] I wanted to make video games and was making excuses not to serve God.”
Over his time at PCC, James saw God continually change his course toward missions. During his freshman year, a chapel message from John Allen, a missionary to Papua New Guinea, particularly touched him. “What got to me was a phrase he quoted from a [village] that didn’t have any missionaries to preach the gospel. This man would come to get medical supplies, and each time before he would leave, he would say to John, ‘Remember my people.’ Those words broke me,” James said. “In Japan, we had just experienced a tremendous earthquake the spring before I came to PCC; over 15,000 people lost their lives in one day. When John Allen said the words, ‘Remember my people,’ I remembered my own people. After that chapel message, I realized that I needed to return to Japan.”
As his priorities began to change, James got involved where he could, from joining student-led Christian Service outreach to assisting in Mission Prayer Band, where he met Jeff Bush, director of Vision Baptist Missions (VBM). “I took a mission trip through VBM to North Africa after meeting their group,” James recalled. “The trip allowed me to get exposed to the work going on overseas and allowed me to see God provide. It also made me sincerely think about whether I was completely okay with letting God do whatever He wanted with my life.”
By the time James was most of the way through his college career, his plan to complete a double major and minor had shifted to wanting to finish college by his fourth year and get on the mission field. Initially, he accepted that this would mean leaving college without finishing a degree, despite the years of work he had put in. But a faculty member who learned of his situation looked over his records for a solution that would earn him a degree, knowing that having one could help him get on the field. “Mrs. Thompson helped me switch to an interdisciplinary studies degree. Because she helped me switch, I was able to [graduate]. This all went through two weeks before graduation,” he explained. “It was a huge answer to prayer.”
After graduating in 2015, James Miyashita attended Our Generation Training Center (OGTC) at Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, participating in a one-year program offered to those who had graduated from a Christian college. While there, he spent time with active and veteran missionaries, learning how to adapt to a culture, organize a church, and share simple Bible truths. “Going to college was a big (and needed) transition for me,” James said. “The lessons you learn and the people you get to meet are life-altering. It was through those connections that I’m now on the mission field. I wish I had proactively worked to ask questions of people already in ministry when I was a student. Back then, I tried to feel out what I was supposed to do by coming up with a plan, telling people about it, and seeing what kind of response I would get. I definitely don’t recommend that method now. People need mentors to guide them, and you get guidance by asking questions instead of announcing plans.”
In Niigata, James and his wife Rosie serve under Will and Rebelle Hill, church-planting missionaries who started Hope Baptist Church in 2018. “The church we are working under in Japan right now is still in its infancy. It would make the sophomore Sunday school class look like a megachurch. We’ve tried several different new things, but they haven’t taken off. That’s part of learning and ministry, too, though. Not everything works, but you have to keep learning and keep trying,” James explained. “While talking with someone, it’s thrilling to know that this is their first time to hear that Jesus died for their sins and rose again three days later. We’re talking 99 percent of people have no idea. It’s a lot to think about, but also exciting to be a part of.”
When sharing the gospel in Japan, James has had to learn how to clearly define Who God is, what it means to have sinned, and how the Son of God provided a means for salvation from sin. “When sharing the gospel, we cannot start with ‘God loves you.’ We have to start with ‘This is Who God is,’” he said. “When we say ‘God,’ people hear something totally different. In fact, the idea of an all-powerful being is practically non-existent in Japan. [To them,] there are many gods (river, mountain, community, traffic safety, etc.), so you can’t just say the word ‘God’ and expect everyone to know what you are talking about.”
Since changing his course to God’s direction, James Miyashita has savored sharing Christ with those in Japan, and he hopes to see others join him in the ministry. “You don’t have to be a church-planting missionary to be right with God, but there is nothing in the Bible that says you shouldn’t consider being involved in missions. But for people to have a chance to get saved, they have to hear the gospel,” he explained. “Instead of saying, ‘I want this and maybe God can use it,’ we must think, ‘God wants this, so I will do this.’ Even if pursuing a non-ministry degree, I think it is not only right but also biblical to first ask what God wants.”
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