I remember, in my first few years as the OMF Japan Finance Manager, complaining to a senior missionary about all those ‘unspiritual’ missionaries who felt ‘called’ to go and live near the international school when their kids reached the right age. He reflected and replied, “The thing about children’s education is, if you get it wrong, it’s a trip home.” In the 10+ years in mission finances since, I have (sadly) seen the truth of these words.
It was great having both our kids in Japanese kindergarten, then Japanese elementary school. The Lord used all four people in our ‘to connect with the community, and to share and be the gospel there. Then, once our eldest reached middle-school age, we moved across Tokyo, so we could enrol him in an international school. But we didn’t move too close to the school (several train stations away). This was what I wanted: my son to get an English secondary education, but our family to not be drawn into the expat community I perceived to exist around the school.
Imagine my horror when, just three years later, the Holy Spirit clearly led us to move to within walking distance of the school! What was God thinking? Though it would be great for both my teenagers to have an extra half-hour in bed in the mornings, surely we were going to struggle to not be drawn away from the Japanese community.
Well, it turns out that God was right to guide us to that location near the school. Within a few months, we had a thriving community of (mostly) Japanese ladies meeting in our house. Our boys were far less involved in our ministry, but on reflection, expecting teenage boys to help connect with Japanese mothers and their kids was always going to be a stretch. It was a new stage.
In a few years’ time, both our kids will be out of the house and we will move again. I’m looking forward to seeing what plans the Lord has prepared in advance for us to do then.
I was taught from a young age to always find the most precious and costly thing to put before the Lord, so I’ve often found it difficult to convince myself that the most comfortable or obvious course is actually the Lord’s will. Instead, I tend to hunt around for something more ‘sacrificial’. However, sometimes the convenient thing is what the Lord wants from us. He knows we have kids— arranged for us to have kids—and he formed his plans around this.
By Simon, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that missionaries would all seek to be connected to their community.
- Pray for wisdom in discerning God’s leading with regards to the education of missionary kids.
- Pray for missionaries as they go through various life stages, and seek to follow God through each of those.