14 December, 2016

16 years today

This day, 16 years ago, we walked on Japanese soil for the first time. We came as long-term missionaries and stayed nearly four years before we left for home assignment in Australia. No vision trip or short-term trip beforehand. No mid-term holidays. I think we did it the cheap way, but the hard way! I had very little understanding of what life would be like and it was a struggle, especially because we arrived in the middle of a Sapporo winter which was like nothing we'd ever lived in before (they routinely get five metres of snow each winter and snow is permanently on the ground from November/December to March).

However as I've contemplated today's anniversary, I've had two main thoughts.
Our first Christmas in Japan, only 11 days after we arrived. Those
two boys in high chairs will graduate from CAJ next June!

1. How far we've come!

In just the last two days I've done things I could hardly have imagined 16 years ago. I've independently:

  • gotten a hair cut and a massage, 
  • ordered a coffee and lunch, 
  • driven two hours in Tokyo with a Japanese driver's licence (admittedly along a route I know quite well, but it is not a straightforward route),
  • had conversations in Japanese with several service providers and a Japanese teacher at the school, 
  • wrote a text in Japanese, and
  • caught two trains (admittedly quite local, but I know I can do more than that).
Not to mention both of us contributing as much as we can to mission work in Japan on a daily basis.

2. How little of us still being here is because of us!

I get frustrated when people praise us because we've been here "so long" now. I'm frustrated not because I don't like praise (alas I do), but because we have seen so many people leave the field after being here for less time than they'd hoped for reasons beyond their control. For example illness in the family, learning difficulties with the kids, home church issues, lack of financial support, educational difficulties, relational difficulties, differences of opinion with the mission, even death. 

Any of this could have happened for us. Indeed we've had challenges with our kids and home church issues that could have resulted in us leaving. During our first term one of our sons had health issues that could have sent us back home. I felt so discouraged after our first term that I nearly didn't have the heart to return for another term. We spent nearly two years raising support to get here 16 years ago and we never did get to the 100% that our mission requires, they took a leap of faith and used general funds many times early on to keep us here. Were it not for David's job at CAJ, we probably wouldn't be able to stay, financially-wise.

As we were just before we arrived in Japan (at our
mission's international headquarters in Singapore at
their orientation course).
So the reason we're still here isn't because we're so amazing. Instead we have an amazing God who has sustained us here. He's given us good health (mental and physical), protected us and our kids from serious illness, provided appropriate schooling options, given encouragement and friends, provided suitable work, equipped us with suitable skills to match the work he's given, and more than adequately arranged for all of our needs to be taken care of. He's given us a stable marriage where we work well together as a team and provide the balance we each need. He also created both of us with a strong degree of perseverance and a reluctance to give up that's sustained us through some difficult times.

Okay. I'll get off my soapbox. 

I'm grateful and humbled and thankful to be able to still be a small cog in God's plan in Japan (and Australia).


Sarah said...

I'm praising our great God after reading that, He who uses us in our weakness for His glory. Keep going in His strength.

Shirley Corder said...

Story so similar to Debbie and Craig it's amazing! Well done on being obedient!

Hannah Loy said...

Thank you for sharing. As Aaron and I are looking to be missionaries in Japan in a few years, it is encouraging and sobering to hear your story and your acknowledgement/overview of all the many things that have happened to you and to our brothers and sisters in the faith. I'm know there is so much involved in your journey, but looking at the big picture and also knowing it is, as you said, a "small cog in God's plan" is indeed humbling as well as cause for thanksgiving that we get to be a part of it in such amazing ways.

Wendy said...

Thank you Sara, Shirley, and Hannah. I really appreciate your comments and encouragement.