Southwestern students, faculty use experience in evangelism, biblical counseling during Japan mission trip


FORT WORTH, Texas — Japan is one of the most unreached countries in the world when it comes to the Gospel being spread there. With this fact in mind, 18 students and one faculty member from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary took part in a mission trip to Nagoya, Japan, to both share the Gospel and lead a biblical counseling conference in early December.

Jonathan Okinaga, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southwestern Seminary, said that the biblical counseling certificate conference had more than 50 participants, with about 40 people attending a seminar addressing suicide. Along with Okinaga, there were several students who helped lead the biblical counseling conference.

The other part of the mission team, known by those on the trip as the evangelism team, partnered with a church in the area of Nagoya, whose pastor and most of its members are Brazilian, to share the Gospel through multiple avenues.

“Our evangelism team sang Christmas carols at a retirement home for people there,” said Cody Hall, a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Divinity in missions student at Texas Baptist College and Southwestern Seminary from Fort Worth, Texas. “We also evangelized at the train station and on the local bus. A team went out and shared the true Christmas story to students at a language school.”

During the trip, Hall said that God is “at work in the hearts of the Japanese” and that the church they partnered with “was hungry to hear more about biblical counseling.”

Amanda Williams, a Master of Arts in biblical counseling student from Spain, said that she was able to see God at work through the work of those on the trip.

“I saw God use our efforts through evangelism in starting conversations with people and even with one joining us for church on Sunday,” Williams said. “We had many other great conversations started by topics addressed in the biblical counseling conference such as depression, addiction, and suicide.”

Through mission trips, believers are able to refine their calling from the Lord and even sense other callings that are revealed through serving the Lord, she added.

“God used this time to not only show me the importance in humility in ministry, but what it looks like to fully live life as if wasn’t ever yours to begin with,” Williams added. “I heard stories of Brazilians and Hispanics coming to Japan, leaving their families and jobs to come to Japan where they knew they would have to start from the ground up because God led them to. It has shown me how obedience is simple and full of blessing when we trust God.”

Even for a professor at Southwestern, a mission trip can help confirm a calling on his life.

“I love teaching and interacting with students. It doesn’t matter if it is in a seminary context, teaching at a church, or just having conversations about the Word of God and how it transforms,” Okinaga said.

Okinaga added that “seeing the biblical counseling students interact with the Japanese people was awesome” and that some students on the trip are using the excitement from the mission to plan “their mission trips with their home churches back to Nagoya.”

On Sunday, December 10, the group was able to worship with Missão Apoio Church in Tokai, Japan, and see some of the people they witnessed to show up for the service. Hall was able to witness to one person and get the person’s contact information the Saturday before.

“I didn’t hear from Shota (a person I shared the Gospel with) all Saturday evening and Sunday morning,” Hall said. “I prayed before bed, asking the Lord to lead Shota to church and 30 minutes before church started, I was talking to the pastor … and I received a message from Shota saying he arrived at the church. I was filled with joy and ran to him to greet him.”

Hall added that Shota “walked over a mile” to attend the church service that morning. He also said that he was “praising the Lord” for leading him to join them for church that Sunday morning.

Williams, who grew up as the child of International Mission Board missionaries in Spain, said that she “greatly enjoyed” being on the trip and being able to capture photos of the work done by the mission team. Williams currently serves as the staff photographer at Southwestern Seminary and was able to be the photographer for the mission team.

“Through this trip, God has allowed me to see how He works all things for good,” Williams said. “I was able to use Spanish and Portuguese on this trip. He has opened my eyes to a new way of serving Him with my past, gifts, and limits. Giving back to Him what was never mine to hold.”

Throughout the trip, students were able to assist in both the evangelism team and the biblical counseling team efforts. The group from Southwestern was able to share the Gospel and the hope that comes with a life with the Lord can hold.