We are back in Sanda for the New Year’s. I lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else in my life. It has been such an amazing gift to be back. I cannot drive down a street without seeing the home of a family or a mom or a school child who is beloved to our family. Each memory we hold is tied in to people who have been – and still are – so precious to us.
One of our “tricks” for flying is in using the same credit card for most of our purchases and saving the miles for flying domestically in Japan. It requires few miles for a round trip ticket anywhere in Japan (compared to the number of points for an international ticket). Our family was able to fly from Sendai to Osaka for free on New Year’s day! A great treat.
We were ready to go through security at Sendai Airport yesterday morning when I heard someone call my name. Our friend from Sendai, Kumiko was running towards us. (We are sort of one of those families that is hard to miss!). I nearly cried. We hadn’t seen the F. family in four or five years, even though we are now living just an hour from Sendai. Since moving back up north our lives have been very full…turns out we were on the exact same flight to Osaka!
When Eric and I first adopted Owen, our first child, our friends Greg and Lori living in the next prefecture called and asked if their friend’s sister could call us to find out more about adoption. Of course! A few days later, Kumiko called me. They lived in Sendai, and had been wanting to adopt a child. They didn’t know much about it, as it is very rare for Japanese to adopt children. We told them we’d love to meet them, and talked about a time. As we were hanging up, I mentioned that the following Sunday we were going to have a baby dedication at our church for Owen. I tried to explain what that meant, and said of course they could come if they wanted. Later I felt sort of stupid for inviting them – we hadn’t even met them yet and knew they were not Christians.
That Sunday at the dedication we were standing in front of the church sharing our little joy, and I looked out and saw a couple sitting near the back with tears streaming down their faces. I knew right then it was Kumiko and her husband. After church we sat with them for quite awhile, sharing together, with Eric and I praying for them at the end. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship!
Over the next year, we met together frequently. Kumiko and her husband started studying the bible with us. And we prayed about their adoption situation. His parents were still opposed to to the whole idea (very typical in this country). Finally, they agreed to allowing the couple to be foster parents. Through a local city connection, baby Megumi came into their family, and melted their hearts. His parents, who live in Osaka, also fell in love with Megumi, and over time the parents agreed to allowing them to officially adopt her. A few years later, her birth mother had a little boy. The F. family now has Megumi and Kazu – and they are raising their wonderful children to love Jesus and follow His ways. His family has not yet agreed to allow them to adopt Kazu (it is more complicated in Japan because he is the oldest boy grandson in the family) – but they are praying that over time this too will change.
Not having seen this family for several years, I was reflecting on the airplane how amazing God is! He brought them into our lives at just the perfect time eleven years ago… when they needed guidance for starting a family in a way that is not easily understood in Japan; and when they were open to learning about their Savior. They are just an awesome family!
As we start the new year of 2014 surrounded by friends from our past (both Sendai and Sanda) who have been so significant to our family, I come back again to one of the foundational values of my life — It’s all about relationships. I am excited about the friendships and relationships that God is growing in Ishinomaki. But I am so thankful for the past friendships that remain important and remind us of God’s grace that is layers upon layers upon layers of beauty. My mom used to have an embroidered picture hanging in our dining room: “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” We are truly rich.