Thursday, October 9, 2008
Our first living area
But let's digress for a moment...here are the thoughts that Vicki wrote about our departure and arrival in Japan:
On October 6th, 1983 we left the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport in the evening for Japan. Earlier that day my only brother, his wife and one daughter at that time had flown from the same airport for the country of Haiti. He was also called to be a church planting missionary and our commissioning services were only one week apart. As my family and friends gathered at the same airport twice in one day, a well meaning adult asked my mother "Isn't it terrible to be losing your only son and daughter and their families all in one day?" My parents replied, " Christian parents whose children are involved in drugs, rock music and other worldly practices of the day are the parents that have lost their children. Our children are serving the Lord and we couldn't ask for anything better." What a blessing to have parents who were behind us all the way. Ken's mother and father as well had been very supportive of our decision and would themselves within 4 years time give themselves to support missionary work at New Tribes Mission headquarters in Florida.
As I look back on that first long flight to Japan I only vaguely remember parts of it. It seemed all too amazing that we were actually on our way to a foreign country—a country on the other side of the world. With no experience in ever being out of our own country, this meant it was both exciting and scary all at the same time. Would I be able to do what was required? Would I continue to be the helpmeet I desired to be in order for my husband to fulfill his part of our calling? Could I even learn to eat raw fish? Lots of questions but again and again the saying on the plaque that we were taking with us came to memory. This plaque still hangs on the wall in our home: The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God cannot keep you. This and the many promises in His Word such as "I will never leave you nor forsake you" and "with God all things are possible…" would be comforting and strength providing Words in the days and months to come.
We left the United States on the 6th and arrived in Japan on the 7th losing almost a day with the 12 hour trip because of the International Date Line. That wouldn't be the only thing that we felt like we had 'lost' in the days ahead. How can one begin to describe the feelings that would surface in those first few days after arriving in Wakkanai, the northern most city of Japan? First it was exciting—like the flying—a new experience—at least for such a long period in the air. This first flight was in a couple sections and my dear husband has never let me forget that he did take me to Hawaii. Not that we touched the mainland of Hawaii but just sat in the airplane for a couple hour layover. We were traveling in the middle of the night and the Lord was gracious to us that part of the flight, because our three children, who were 6, 5 and 2 were sound asleep. Everyone was supposed to get off the plane once because the crew needed to completely clean and get it ready for the next section on to Tokyo. We hated to wake our tired children and knew with what was ahead they needed that sleep. So we kindly asked the stewardess if we couldn't just let them sleep and we would stay out of the way. They were gracious in allowing just that and I was so thankful that some rules can be broken when kindness is involved.
Our first glimpse of what it was like to be foreigners in a strange land took place at the Narita airport in Tokyo! Black haired, brown eyed people all around us speaking sounds that had no meaning! Would these people who looked all alike and sounded alike ever take on individual personalities? The funny part was that within a few months people we came to know did do just that and not only that, but eventually we would see Japanese that looked almost exactly like someone we knew back in America!
We were so glad that the veteran missionary had come clear south (a long train ride for him of a couple days) to meet us and help us get through the change over in flights in Tokyo, then in Sapporo on the northernmost island and on to our last stop of Wakkanai, the northernmost city. On those local flights we felt even more inadequate and insignificant. Was I up to this task? Could I pass the test? I knew our call was true. We were there committed to at least two years to prove that call. "Lord, please guide me and show me the way" was all I could pray. There were so many firsts that were going to pile one upon another. Our first sip of green tea on the plane made me understand that there was so much to learn to 'like' in the days and months ahead. The tea tasted bitter and I am thankful that we were constantly praying that we would fulfill our desire to never say no to anything that we should learn to like; that our taste buds would eventually get use to these new foods and drinks and that the training we had given our children would show forth in even this area for they had learned to eat whatever was put on their plate without murmuring. Now we would be put to the same test!
*Tune in Later for the next segment of 25 years in Japan*