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Two missionaries in Japan and their kids in the midst of COVID-19

In many places around the world the education of children has changed in the last couple of months. That’s something that missionary families have in common with families everywhere. We asked two mums in Japan who have children in four different education systems how life was for them at the moment.

The P family

I unexpectedly got a call from my 15-year-old son one Friday evening a couple of weeks ago. He’s at a British school in India and usually only gets to make calls on Sunday afternoons.

‘Mum, did you get the email?’

‘What email?’

‘The email school sent saying that school is shutting—today.’

This brief conversation was the start of a journey—emotional and physical—as we tried to get our son out of India before the Sunday lockdown when flights would stop, and curfews would come into force. Only a few days earlier we had had a similar conversation with our second son (13), as his year group were also affected by the latest Indian government edict. We thank God that both our sons make it out of India safely. But we were especially thankful our eldest made it into Japan as border restrictions changed whilst he was en route. God provided for us in so many ways, and he continues to do so.

Our eldest son’s end of year exams (iGCSE, British education system) are cancelled and, due to the difficult situation at the school in India, our other son only has occasional work via Google classroom. They both need to make subject choices for the next academic stage, but that is difficult with so much uncertainty at the moment.

We also have two younger daughters (10 & 8) who normally attend Japanese elementary school. They are now doing their allocated work (mostly paper-based) at home. We returned to Japan last July, after a year in the UK on home assignment and our eldest daughter has struggled to adjust back to Japanese school. So we are in middle of applying for her to move to a local international school—but that too is on hold.

For years our family has been doing home schooling part-time. Our children all have attended Japanese school and in the mornings before school we have routinely spent time teaching them English. This has provided us with some experience of educating our own children. However, having four children at home full-time, each with their different needs, as well as disappointments and challenges, has been a fresh challenge. This is definitely a new dynamic for us, but we thank God for the precious gift of being together and pray that we make the most of it!

The M family

We have three boys, our eldest (20) is at university in Australia and our younger two (17 & 14) are students at an international school in Tokyo.

Our eldest son’s university switched to online schooling mid-March and so he, like many other students at this time, is spending much of his time on screens in his room. We are thankful that he is in a safe, stable place. He boards with a family we know and he’s able to continue to stay there, even during university breaks. We’re especially thankful because we know other missionaries whose young-adult kids are in much more difficult situations, even potentially homeless in the upcoming northern hemisphere summer break.

Our younger two sons have been doing distance learning at home since the start of March. Their school was well set up to shift into this learning mode, including the provision of electronic devices for all students from grade 6 onwards. So we are again very thankful.

But it is not without challenge. I work from home as a writer and editor, and my husband is an administrator and teacher at the boy’s school. As we live close to school he’s able to walk there each morning and work alone in his office, but he’s working from home in the afternoons. We live in a smallish house, so we have to be flexible as we participate in various meetings and live classes on our computers. Our boys in Japan are each coping differently with the challenges of online schooling—one is struggling to stay motivated and the other is missing the social contact that naturally comes from being in a classroom. Both are missing the physical exercise and social interaction they would normally have in their track and field team. But again we are thankful for excellent staff at the school as well as a safe, stable place to live and work each day.

Will you pray for missionaries in Japan?

  • Pray for missionaries in the light of your own current schooling experiences, our kids are probably going through many of the same things.
  • Pray especially for missionary families and children who have been caught in the midst of transition.
  • Pray for those with children in different countries, such as college students. Pray for peace and solutions to seemingly impossible problems.

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