Yesterday was a full, wonderful, bittersweet day. It contained two farewell events…. the first was from our church Sanda Chapel. I didn’t get a group photo on my camera, but I’ve been promised one! Here is a photo of our group who helped to start our house church seven years ago or so. Megumi M. (top left) and her family will be moving to Tokyo this month, so there are a lot of sad farewells.
My favorite moment from the afternoon was when Hiroshi F., the oldest member of the church, came over and grabbed Eric’s hand. He held it hard and long, and started crying. When he could speak, he said, “Your smile healed me. No really – God used your smile to heal me.”
We then went to a different community center on the edge of town for a farewell completely planned by our community. We were told where and when to show up, but not much else. Our hearts were filled to overflowing as we watched so many people who we love pour into the room, bringing potluck food and posting lots of fun photos all over the walls.
Many thanks to our friend Naoko, who coordinated the whole event. While friends from our church set up the party initially, it was planned and attended by friends from our english classes, neighbors, schools… even our pediatrician!
Two of our friends planned an elaborate game that tested first the kids, and then the adults, on how much they knew about the Takamoto family. It was a little tricky to get our kids not to give away the answers. But they didn’t guess the last question… Eric and I were asked whether or not we’ve ever had a really huge fight. Those who thought yes had to go to one side of the room, and those who thought no went to the other side. We were then asked to give the answer, and when we went to both give it, we gave contrary answers… I said yes, and Eric said no. So we discussed it a little, and Eric insisted we never had. I started giving him details of a big fight several years ago. He didn’t want me to go into it, and then he threw down a towel he was holding and stormed out of the room! At that point our two friends picked up the towel and held it up – it said that it was a joke! (Unfortunately, though, we didn’t clear it up with Owen- he thought it was a real fight until today!)
On the last quiz answer, our friend Mrs. I. won, and was asked to share.
One of the sweetest times was when our children’s piano teacher led the children in a song that they had all practiced. Owen played the drums, and the kids all sang with their hearts.
We forgot to take any group photos until after a number of families had left… but it was still so amazing to see Eric with the men (and boys)… and to realize what a privilege it has been for Eric to have so many special guy friends in a country that doesn’t promote male friendships.
So many great friendships at different ages….
Then we took a photo of the ladies – with Eric getting to be at the center of that one! – and I am so glad that I didn’t have to see each face while we took the photo or I would have lost all my makeup.
Eric and I were each asked to share some words before everything ended. I made it through, not without my voice breaking and being handed the tissue box. But I shared about a book I had read in college that had one line that I always remembered… that adding a real friendship to our lives is like adding a room to our home. Each room is special and unique, and reflects the character of those two people. Each room is irreplaceable. Our friends in the room all knew that we have been looking for a larger rental home the past four years, but haven’t found one. And I shared that we are glad we didn’t – it would have made this move to Ishinomaki harder. But I also said that we didn’t need a larger home, because instead — God has given us a mansion (yashiki in Japanese). With each special friendship in the room, God has given our family the most amazing home in Sanda. And even though we are are twelve hours away, we still have our Sanda home, because those friendships will remain…
Look at these faces. Look at the amazing mansion that God has so graciously built for us the last eight years….