In October 2020, despite a world-wide pandemic, we had finally checked off all the boxes to leave the US to begin as missionaries in Japan. We’d quit our jobs, passed on responsibilities at church, finished our Bible training, sorted through 20 years of stuff, and began to prepare our children for the move. Japan had just reopened their borders, so we booked plane tickets for January 28, submitted the paperwork for our visas, and prepared ourselves for a whirlwind of emotional virtual goodbyes.
Little did we know that weeks later, the borders to Japan would close again. So, after selling our home, being diagnosed with a lifelong medical disease, five airplane ticket changes, and nine months later, we’re still in the US in September 2021.
As stereotypical engineers, we tend to thoroughly plan out trips. We research destinations, budget finances, and map out steps. We know how many hours it will take to get to the next destination, how we’ll get there, where we’ll stay, and who we’ll see. All the contingencies are considered—our family even has a detailed packing Excel spreadsheet for every person and every bag!
Yet our journey to Japan hasn’t followed our plans at all. It’s been filled with unexpected roadblocks and detours. We’ve been reminded again and again to surrender our plans to the One who’s ways are higher than our ways. We keep asking, “Are we there yet?” and it seems that God keeps answering, “Does it actually matter?” We may not know when we’ll get to Japan, but God who has called us is faithful and all we are asked to do is rest in his sovereignty.
Our journey has allowed us to see beautiful surprises and signs of God we could never have imagined. We were able to attend OMF’s orientation course virtually and meet members from over five continents and join the Fellowship officially. Over Zoom and Skype we can still learn Japanese language and culture with others at OMF’s Japanese Language and Culture Center in Sapporo.
Friends have generously opened their home to us for months while we wait for the border to open. (Our friends joke that they’ll only kick us out after five years!) During our medical emergency, we had doctors who spoke English and a medical system we could navigate. All of our financial needs have been met. Our church has resumed in-person worship and we’re able to experience rich fellowship after a long remote hiatus. Our kids were allowed to go back to their old school even though we don’t live in that town anymore.
If we’d left last October, we would have missed the opportunity to say goodbye to our families in person, and we’ll likely have the opportunity for other meaningful in-person goodbyes.
None of these were in our plans, yet God in his infinite wisdom and love gave us these moments. He is faithful. God is our rock, fortress, and salvation. Even when we wrestle with our broken plans, he calls us to entrust the outcomes to him and to have confidence in he, who is sovereign, wise, and good.
By Chris & Emily, OMF missionaries