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Working in Japan without our now-grown kids


We have recently become “empty nesters”—a married couple whose children have moved out of the house, leaving them with an empty “nest” which used to be full of “squawking birds” who needed to be nourished and cared for.

Anticipating the change

I recently realized that half of my life and most of my married life, as well as all my life in Japan has been with our children. Our eldest son was one year old when we arrived and our other two sons were born there. All three of our kids grew up in Japan and call it home.

Four years ago we spent a year doing home assignment in the US. We knew that returning to Japan at the end of that would be the first time to leave all our kids behind and we’d have to figure out home and ministry life without them. It was really hard, as a mom, to think about leaving them behind. They were already starting families of their own, so that would mean leaving our first grandbaby too.

Throughout that year in the US, I wrestled, grieved, and prayed about returning to Japan. We knew God was leading us back and we were clearly headed to where he wanted us to live and serve. For me, it was an issue of submission and trust. As in other times in my life, I needed to put a treasured desire or relationship on the altar. God was asking me to make this sacrifice, to step forward in faith and follow him, even with uncertainties and even through heartache. 

Difficult transition

When we came back to Japan, we also moved to a new city, a new church, and new ministry roles. We often didn’t adjust so graciously. And at times the house seemed too quiet; it was void of the distractions of hungry, active teenagers, and all their friends, sports, and school activities that we had grown accustomed too. Sometimes my husband would say, “There is just us and work.”

Yet with our new-found freedom, we began to enjoy evening walks or bicycle rides together. We found we could actually afford to go out to eat. And “dates” out could be whenever. If we worked too late and didn’t plan dinner, we could easily get by on a salad or a sandwich, something unheard of when our hungry boys were around. We also had more time and energy to pour into serving God and the mission.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we feel like we are still figuring out this new season of life. And we miss our kids and grandkids terribly. But God has allowed our family to stay close and connected even though we are spread all over the world. And we have experienced God’s grace and goodness to our family, over and over again.

By Susan, an OMF missionary

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