Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a question that I’m guessing many will ask me once I start telling people I’m quitting my job and moving to Japan. Why are you leaving your home country with your maternal language, the city where your mom and sisters, niece and nephew live, a comfortable job with a decent salary, wonderful benefits, nice weather and a pretty solid support network to, after having spent almost two years raising support, move to a different country to work in 3-4 different languages among people you haven’t met yet, with a monthly stipend and more accountability regarding how you spend your time and money? Why???!!!
There are so many answers to this question.
I don’t want the comfortable life. I want to be stretched and challenged to grow. (But life is hard enough already – why can’t you just be stretched and challenged to grow in the States?) I don’t really know the answer to that question, but I know there is just something about living in another country, among people who don’t look like me or think like me, that pushes me to live more closely to the radical way in which Jesus lived as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Ultimately, I hope and pray, it’s not about me.
I want to give Japanese people the opportunity to learn English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and hear about life-changing truth as they do so. I want to see lives transformed as cultural barriers are knocked down and Brazilians are encouraged to see Japanese people in a different light and Japanese people are given an opportunity to see international people/immigrants in a new way. I want to provide ways for music to be a bridge between cultures and people groups who might have prejudice or discrimination against each other. I want to share our experience as a couple in a cross-cultural and dual-lingual relationship with others who can relate and talk about what makes it difficult and what helps us overcome our differences. I want to learn from others who have third culture kids and seek ways together with them to raise Sophia in a way that protects her, honors her, and develops her personality in a way that is enhanced, rather than harmed, by her cross-cultural experience.
I want to follow where God leads even when it is risky and painful and unpredictable and doesn’t necessarily fit the status quo. Because life doesn’t have any guarantees. The same things I’m afraid of in the U.S. (sickness, disease, tragedy, loss, financial struggle, pain, etc) are the same things I’m afraid of whether I live in Belgium, Japan or Madagascar. And the same God who lives in me in Tampa Bay is the same Spirit that goes with us to Japan, to comfort and guide us, protect us and lament with us.
I don’t know what the reality of living in Japan will look like. Right now the experience seems like a huge unknown blurry blob in outer space. I know I have a lot of hopes and dreams and aspirations. I know that some of these will never be realized in the way that I think of them now. I know I have grown to appreciate Japanese culture and people much more than I did when I was 21-years-old, fresh out of college. I also know I have probably romanticized a country that I lived in for two years 15 years ago.
Why are we moving to Japan to work with Brazilians, Latinos and other internationals? The opportunity was there, it fits so many of our hopes and dreams as a couple, we think it will be an enriching experience for Sophia, it will bring us out of our cocoon and hopefully open our eyes to the joys, pains and needs of people we would never meet if we chose to stay here for the rest of our lives. And we believe God is in it. Why wouldn’t we do this??