Aug 31, 1981 The following is paraphrased from my journal entry:
I was asking myself if we were compromising by so easily letting the vision about going to Japan die. Japan had seemed so inviting to Dan because our whole family would be involved in ministry and because there were no language school requirements. A great perk was that by spending time in Japan we had already met the people we would be working with if we moved there to be missionaries. Besides, we had undeniable proof that Jesus had encouraged our trip, had financed it, and blessed it!
We heard a message taken from 1 Samuel 11 that spoke of Saul going back to plowing and his old way of living after his encounter with the prophet Samuel. I thought of Dan going back to his old profession of carpentry and our old way of living in America after our encounter with God regarding His leading us to Japan. The pastor’s point in his message was that God is interested in teaching us to rely on His Spirit.
So although we had laid our missionary ideals down, I was wondering if we should have INSTEAD proceeded to Japan andrelied on the Holy Spirit for everything we needed in the way of spiritual power, wisdom and discernment.
We both were talking to God about it. I was praying the verses I had prayed before we went to Japan:
Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children, and let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands. Ps 90:16-17
Of course our trip to Japan would not have been complete if it had not included a reunion with Yoshimi san.He had married and had one son, Hironori, the same age as Timmy –and his wife, Mihoko, was pregnant with their second child! We were all amazed at the similarities in our lives. His mother lived with them in the generational family home on the island of Shikoku.
We had taken a train from Tokyo to Osaka, a ferry to Shikoku. There were delays and we found ourselves arriving very late. A hot meal was waiting for us, and we ate it sitting on the floor with our legs under a traditional low table covered with a heavy a quilt and a heater underneath. The wooden house was unheated, drafty, and chilly, even though it was springtime. We welcomed the warmth. Timmy had slept on the journey and was wide awake and ready to become acquainted with our hosts and sample the interesting foods.
We were loaned appropriate Japanese shoes as well as a light vest for me and a Japanese jacket for Dan. Timmy was given a traditional baby jacket (as well as one for our new baby, due in one month).
We felt very welcomed as we toured the fish hatchery and admired the trees that Yoshimi was carefully growing that would be used in the religious shrines.
Traditional Japanese homes have three Shinto shrines: one by the entrance of the home for the children, one for the water source–at the well or the spigot, and one in the kitchen. They also have a Buddhist shrine where they honor and worship their ancestors. They believe that if they take care of their ancestors their ancestors will take care of them. Yoshimi confessed: spiritually we are very confused people.
Our apartment in Tokyo was perfect and I was drop-dead surprised and joyously overwhelmed by the open-hearted caring we received from the missionaries.
We felt safe and comfortable on the four-acre campus of CAJ. When Dan was at meetings, I was content being at home with Timmy or giving him stroller rides around the campus, as we admired the cherry blossoms and observed the Japanese school children across the street.
Timmy turned one-year old and one of the missionaries made him a cake with a candle perched on top. He also learned to walk!–but Dan still transported him around town and country in the baby carrier.
To meet the 7 missionary couples of the E-Free church, we traveled by car, by regular trains, and for one long journey we took the Shinkansen, the famous bullet train. And then we always returned to the familiarity and privacy of our cozy home base.
Each missionary gave us their personal insights into missionary life as we traversed the countryside to meet them, eat at their tables, and stay overnight in their guest rooms. Many of my anxieties were alleviated: Eileen knew she would not be able to go without conveniences of hot water, washing machine, heat, telephone, car, and was happy to be in Japan rather than in a crude hut cooking over an open fire (which her husband would have preferred!). She said they had moved 13 times in 11 years of marriage (which I would later be able to identify with). Monica talked about being a new Christian, who sometimes got mad at God when things didn’t go her way. She showed me how to make a delicious Japanese soup so I could replicate it in our apartment. They had come to Japan when her daughter was one year old. John believed MK’s (missionary kids) have better self-esteem than most children because they are highly regarded by the people their parents are serving. Joyce emphasized that the mission schools are often better schools because of smaller classes and that CAJ was a deluxe school with lots of extras. I was very impressed that the missionary children all traveled by train, unescorted by an adult, to school each day. One 7 year old girl, Missy, happily made two train changes to get to school, and that was not uncommon. This knowledge became a guiding principle for me–that our children needed to be raised for independence and self-confidence so that they would be ready for the experiences of the mission field. This was a God thing, as I would have tended to coddle and even indulge our sons, and instead they were all prepared for independent living by their late teens. (I also note that Dan was raised to be independent and capable and hard-working, so this early realization helped us be of the same mind in raising our sons.)
SPOILER: We pursued the missionary experience for ten years, wove our every decision around our vision for going to Japan, prepared ourselves by living a missionary lifestyle–which meant no frills, praying rather than running to the doctor, praying and sending support to people on the mission field. And then God had us lay it down. He did not explain the WHY. We knew that Father knew best, but it was a very difficult experience for us, especially for me. That’s another story for another time.