Dear Friends and Family,
I write you this letter with a heavy heart. The first attempt at writing this ended when I got to page 6. My hope in this second draft is to be much more clear and concise. I often try to justify and cover insecurity with more words. The Lord is the one that justifies and the Lord is where I find my security. It is on the firmness of that foundation that I write you today.
We have spoken with many of you, and others of you might know this already, but after much prayer, and lots of counsel, Katharine and I have decided to remain in Dallas for the foreseeable future and not return to Japan for a second term. You can know that this was an extremely difficult decision for us, but one affirmed by our leadership in Japan, the elders of our church in Dallas, our mission organization, and our close family and friends. This was a decision made in community and over an extended amount of time. This decision was one we made for the health of our family.
You can know that there was no sin, conflict, or personal ambition that drove this decision. About a year ago, we began to notice some struggles that our second child, Abigail was having. These issues were not just in learning, but in cognitive reasoning and processing emotion. Over the last year, we have tried putting her in a new school in Nagoya, and even looked at schooling options across Japan. One of the few options for Abigail to receive intervention was in Sapporo, and this was a large part of our desire to move and do ministry there. Once the Lord clearly closed that door on us in December of last year, we immediately stepped back and began praying over our future in Japan.
We spoke in detail with leaders and mentors both in Japan and in the States. We were wisely counseled not to make a decision until we had a chance to return to Dallas for our first home assignment. Because of this, we continued steadfast with ministry in Japan, and tried to keep our emotions in check until the end of our first term. We returned to Dallas in the spring and immediately got Abigail in for a preliminary screening at Pediatricians of Dallas (Presbyterian Hospital), and our suspicions were affirmed when she qualified for an extensive diagnostic testing process. Abigail has completed the testing process and on July 18, we received the official diagnosis for Abigail. This time was a mix of affirmation on our decision and heaviness of heart for our daughter. Abigail’s doctors have recommended that she receive purposeful intervention with learning for the next 3 years. At the end of this time she will be reevaluated. In addition to this, Abigail will need counseling in order to work through some of the emotional aspects that have come with the struggles she has been having.
Abigail will be receiving the personal intervention she needs over the next three years at Dallas Academy. Dallas Academy (K-12) is a school that “restores the promise of full academic enrichment to students with learning differences. We establish a meaningful connection with each student to overcome barriers to success.” Dallas Academy will work in conjunction with Abigail’s doctors to tailor a learning strategy that will be most effective for her.
This time has been heavy, but very affirming, of our decision to remain in Dallas. We have confidence that Dallas is where God has called us to lay roots for this next season of our lives.
Concerning our next steps in ministry, we have received peace and affirmation from the Lord. Here are the bullet points:
● We received a job offer from our current ministry, Reliant (formerly Great Commission Ministries), to remain with the ministry in a staff (missionary support) position.
● Reliant has asked me to consider coming on staff to 1) provide pastoral care and counsel to all their cross-cultural missionaries, and 2) to direct their ministry in the Southwest region. The later will see me serving as a recruiter, coach, and leading trainings at a regional level. This staff position began on August, 1.
● Lastly (and with excitement), we have been asked to help our Japanese Christian friends start a ministry here in Dallas that will minister to Japanese. In short, our friends run a ministry called “Grace House,” and we will establish and start Grace House in Dallas. This will be a ministry that hosts Japanese students for homestay and study abroad opportunities, among others. Our goal is to have it established as a 501(c)(3) and ready to begin ministry by Fall 2017.
As I wrote before, our hearts are heavy as we grieve, transition, and eagerly look ahead to this next season of ministry. There is so much more we would like to share, and we would love to answer any questions, thoughts, or concerns you might have. Feel free to call, email, or reach out to us on Facebook.
I would like to end with thanksgiving. At every step of the way, in every difficulty and transition, you have continued to support and encourage my family. We are blessed. Much thanksgiving has been offered up to the Lord because of you. Thank you and thank you again. For the glory of God and the joy of all nations.
Matt and Katharine Elkins