When we first came to Japan in 2013, we had a two-year-old and a four-month-old. Like most first-term OMF missionaries, we started with language studies in Sapporo. Studying Japanese was challenging with two very young children, and we found it difficult to maintain a good work-life balance.
Ministry with children in Japanese schools
After we finished our full-time language studies, we moved to Iwate prefecture to join a church plant in the rural city of Hanamaki. Since our children were still young, we felt that we could go a relatively rural area to serve.
Our eldest daughter started attending a Japanese kindergarten and it was through her that we came into contact with many mothers. We are thankful for the friendships that God gave us there, and also the deeper relationships that allowed us to have one-to-one Bible studies.
Changing education systems
After six years of fruitful ministry there, our older daughter was in grade four in the Japanese school system and had difficulties keeping up with her English. Our younger daughter was also struggling in grade one. By then we also had a son, an active two-year-old. Family and ministry life was busy and it was tough to be consistent in supplementary homeschooling for our daughters. It soon became obvious that we had come to a stage in our children’s life where we had to think hard about their English educational needs, so that they can assimilate back into our passport country’s school system for their future tertiary studies.
It seemed the right time to move our kids to an international school, but there was no option for that in Hanamaki. So we shifted to Sendai in summer 2020. We were sad to leave the ministry and the people that we had grown to love and serve. The thought of starting work in a new ministry seemed daunting. Our eldest daughter was also sad to leave her friends and we tried our best to help her through this process.
Even though we struggled with the move, we see that God was teaching us many things: trust in his sovereign will, surrender our past ministry to him, and look forward to an exciting future. Almost a year later our children are in a better place in terms of their schooling, and we are starting to see some progress in ministry. All this was possible only because the Lord sustains us with his grace and strength through our different stages of life.
By Joylyn, mom and OMF missionary
Missionary kid’s perspective
I moved from Hanamaki to Sendai last year with my family. It was very hard to leave my friends. Especially my best friends who helped me settle in a Japanese school. I cried a lot, but was also excited to move house. My parents and friends said that I am very sociable so I thought making friends will be easy.
The day before we moved, I played at the school park with my close friends. I was sad to leave. However, I knew that I would have lots of fun the next day.
The day came eventually, and I was excited. After a long two-hour drive, we finally reached our new home. The truck with all our things came and I watched the movers place all our things in the house. I got the biggest room but I had to share it with my siblings. I liked my room. But I felt I wanted to have my own room. As the days went by we got used to our new home.
When the day came to go to school, I had constipation! I was so worried that I would be late for my first day of school. I didn’t want people to think I slept in on my first day of school. Finally, I was ready, and we all rushed to school. Fortunately, school hadn’t started yet. My parents talked with some teachers while I stared in amazement. This school was ten times smaller than my old school! But I made a friend who was half Canadian and half French. She was kind and I loved my teacher Mrs. Ong who was also a Singaporean. I made more and more friends and now, I call this place “HOME”.
By Grace, daughter and OMF missionary kid