Today at Owen’s yochien it was grandparents day. They had a special saturday morning session in which only the students- and their grandparents- were invited. No parents allowed! We knew Owen would probably be fine without his grandparents flying in from Hawaii or New Jersey, but we thought it would be special to have our close neighbor friends, the Ishid*s, attend in their stead. We often comment on how they are very much like our children’s grandparents- they attend all of our family birthday gatherings, take Owen and Annie to the park, and really love on our children.
We asked Owen’s teacher if it would be OK for a non-relative to attend. She looked very surprised, and said she would need to get special permission. The next day she hesitantly said it would be OK, but made a point of expressing that this was the first time for this to happen!
This morning, Mrs. Ishid* borrowed my bicycle and spent the morning with Owen. Special activities were planned – they made a special bottle, which had Owen’s picture on one side and Mrs. Ishid*’s picture on the other side, both drawn carefully by Owen.
They sang songs, played games, and at the end all the kids gave their grandparents a back massage. Owen loved this- he kept calling his teacher over to watch him giving Mrs. I. his special massage. They came home on the bicycle together, both glowing from a special time.
I couldn’t help tearing up as I thanked her for playing this special role in our children’s life.
Also this morning, our good friend Keiko Saikawa left us, on her way back home to Tokyo. Keiko has been a friend in Japan for 18 years, since she and I were ministry partners when I first came to Japan for three years. Our family on numerous occasions have enjoyed her warm hospitality when we have been in the Tokyo area, so it was really special to have her stay with us for a few days.
Yesterday, we took her to our favorite Japanese tea house, a 500-year old thatched-roof building with delicious green tea and specialty rice dessert, warabi-mochi. In the car coming home, she loved listening to Olivia sing out as only Olivia can do (see Tone-Deaf entry). Keiko took lots of pictures of Olivia’s smile, and spent time back at home with Annie, entertaining her with the Totoro characters (both of their favorites). Our three children loved having Aunt Keiko visit.
Keiko was also able to participate with us yesterday in our missionary small group gathering. Our children LOVE the days when Auntie Claire, Uncle Bobby, Aunt Reiko, Aunt Wendi, and Uncle Peter come over. We all love these times of fellowship.
As I contemplated our visit from “Aunt Keiko,” Owen’s morning with “Grandma Ishid*”, and the ongoing family-like relationships we have within Asian Access, I thought of the special promise Jesus gave to his followers in Mark 10:29:
“Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions- and in the age to come eternal life.”
Being far away from loved ones will continue, for me, to be the hardest thing about being a missionary (see Golden Fasts), but how I thank God for His faithfulness in bringing us abundant family from our Japanese friends and our mission community. I can only imagine the age to come…