In 1963, two lovebirds got engaged – and promptly parted company. He left for mission work in Japan, while she stayed in England, delayed by the necessity to finish Bible college before moving abroad.
And so began an engagement of letters. For 20 months, the pair didn’t see or speak to each other. Phone communication and overseas travel were both so expensive that they may as well not have existed. When she finally made it to Japan in 1965 (after a 5-week boat journey), the pair were married within a week – no family, no friends from home, no bridesmaids, a service conducted in English and Japanese. These were the demands made of overseas missionaries at the time – and they willingly sacrificed these expectations for the privilege of taking the gospel overseas.
Now, in their 48th year of marriage, my parents are returning to Japan. Not for the 15-year stretch they did the first time round, but for three months, to support a couple who lead a church and run a school. They will be teaching in the school, but no doubt picking up other tasks too, as their gifts, wisdom and experience lead them.
This time round the sacrifices aren’t nearly as immense as the first time round – but they are there none the less. It has taken a little while just to find an organisation who are keen to take on board a couple of crazy septuagenarian God-pursuers. They’ve had to brush up their Japanese, organise for others to use their house and car while they’re gone, and prepare for the long flight.They will miss their family (I hope! – we will certainly miss them), and also that most important comfort: familiarity. Retired people ‘settle down’, right? They find a house and a location where they feel comfortable, and this familiarity is good because, at a later stage in life, it takes less energy than gallivanting around the world.
But my parents aren’t interested in taking life easy if it’s not what God wants. They have been serving God faithfully in their home church, through ups and downs, for the last 14 years of retirement – and they will continue to do so on their return, for as long as God allows. But, for the next three months, He clearly wants them in Japan – and so they’re going. He’s blessed them with good health, and they’re using it for His work.
I hope I have this much faith when I’m as old as they are. I’m incredibly proud of my parents, and wish them well on this God-adventure.