I could hear the whispers as we walked past other shoppers. Comments echoed all around me: “Look at all of those kids,” and “Do they have four? Wow!” I tried my best to ignore most of the comments and carry on with the shopping, but it was hard.
Some days I really want to quickly run an errand and not have people stare, point, and discuss me or my family. I am still getting used to the additional attention that having a fourth child here in Japan brings.
My husband and I rejoiced when we found out we were expecting our fourth child. And, while a four-child family is by no means a small family, it is certainly not, in our minds at least, the ginormous family that it seems to be to many Japanese people.
I get it, though. According to the Statistics Bureau of Japan 2016, the fertility rate for 2016 was 1.44 children per woman—significantly less than four by anyone’s calculation. It is true that having a large family is not easy, especially in Japan. Expectations on parents are high. Whether it be the quality of the obento (packed lunch) you prepare for your child in kindergarten, or the homework your primary-aged child needs help with every day, or the expense to simply apply for university. I can see why many people choose to have smaller families.
Before we fell pregnant, my husband and I talked for a while about whether we would try to have a fourth child, because it’s definitely not the easier option. We were already busy with our other young children, struggling with language, and looking ahead at the many adjustments and transitions. Yet we decided that easy is not always best, and for us, we felt that another child seemed right.
But it’s also true that this new baby has brought many opportunities that might not otherwise have come about. Since moving to the regional city of Hirosaki I find myself meeting many people. A lot of them know me because of my visits to the hospital, or seeing me at a baby store, or some other connection either with our recent family addition or our other children. Through our children I have met many people, far more than I would have if it were just me and my husband.
New life in the form of a baby is an amazing gift from God, even on the days when our baby brings unwanted attention. When people stop me because they remember my baby or my children before they remember me, I thank God. I pray that he might use the new baby in my family to bring new life to a precious Japanese person. I pray that we might one day be able to praise God for another new life being welcomed, not into our family or the country we live in, but into the kingdom of God.
By Mel, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Praise God for the opportunities that missionary’s ordinary lives in Japan brings for meeting people.
- Pray that God would bring people into our lives who have open hearts to hear the gospel.
- Pray for patience for missionaries, especially new missionaries, who are struggling with unwanted attention.