Living in Japan, there is never a dull moment. One thing we have learned in our 10+ months here is that it is like riding a roller coaster. There are plenty of highs and plenty of lows. One day we feel like we are finally getting used to life here, and the next we realize we have no idea what we are doing. One thing that we are learning is the importance of being honest and transparent not just in our victories, but also in our struggles. Living as missionaries in a foreign culture is not without its challenges.
Raising kids in a different culture has been an absolute joy. For the most part, our kids have done very well. But, recently, we feel that we have been under attack. We are facing some big challenges. Both of the things we will share involve our beautiful daughters.
Although we have big obstacles ahead of us, we are confident in the Lord and His calling on our lives. Thank you for taking time to read and pray over these very important issues.
The first thing we would like to share with you is about our sweet Abigail.
This girl radiates joy, and is one of the most outgoing children you will ever meet. Everyone that meets Abigail absolutely loves her. Japan has been no exception and she continues to live brightly everywhere she goes.
Over the last year we have started noticing that Abigail may have some possible learning challenges. These issues became noticeable as Katharine began homeschooling her. She has been really struggling over the last year to learn how to read and do basic math. As she is still too young to be diagnosed, we have had some informal assessments from both a Japanese professional and an American missionary that specializes in elementary special education. What we have learned (again, without an official diagnosis), is that Abigail is showing signs of some fairly significant learning challenges. We are hesitant to label anything yet as it is still too early, but it is certainly something we are aware of and concerned about.
Some unified advice that we have been given is that Abigail will not be able to handle two languages at the same time. This is due to the learning challenges that she is facing. So, we have been advised to not have Abigail go to her current Japanese school after this first trimester. This is such a tough situation as she has made so many friends at her current school and the teachers there absolutely adore her. It has been a great way for us to meet and build community with other Japanese families. But, we would do anything for Abigail and certainly want her to be in an environment where she can grow and thrive.
With that being said, there is an English Christian private school about 30 minutes from our home. The name of the school is International Christian Academy of Nagoya, it is a wonderful school. Here is the honest challenge we are facing though: With our current budget, ICAN is not something we can afford. This is something that will require additional support raising. We absolutely trust that the Lord will provide, but there are challenges to raising additional support from Japan. The time difference and our current schedules just make it harder to connect with potential new partners.
Far greater than the financial concern is the concern for our daughter, and regardless of the challenges, we know this is the right/best thing to do for Abigail. We absolutely trust that God will provide. She will be able to start at ICAN in August. The school is structured according to the American education system and she will begin in Kindergarten (although, because of her age, she should be starting 1st grade).
Will you join us in trusting in the Lord for all of this? Will you commit to pray for our sweet Abigail? It is hard for us not to worry in this as we look at the challenges that await us on this path. But we will continue to trust God, and we are confident that he will give us all we need. Let's together "draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
The second thing you can pray about that we wanted to share with you is regarding Hannah.
Our beautiful Hannah is one of the bravest, smartest, and independent girls you will ever meet. She is an amazing oldest child, and we could not be more proud of her.
We have shared many of the "highs" regarding Hannah's Japanese school experience. She has excelled academically, learned the language quickly, and developed some good friendships with her Japanese classmates. There are things about this experience that we know will benefit her for the rest of her life. Not just educationally (like knowing two languages), but there are character traits being built that will forever impact her.
But, sending Hannah to a public Japanese school has not been without its challenges. To be honest, it has been one the the hardest things we have ever done as parents. To send her off every day to a very challenging environment has not been easy for us. It has caused us to be much more intentional in our discipleship of her, and has certainly brought us to our knees in prayer.
A few months ago, we began noticing some attitude changes in Hannah. We just noticed her acting a bit more frustrated and stressed. After lots of prayers, conversations with Hannah, and advice from others, we felt Hannah was showing signs of culture stress. Matt took Hannah out on dates and began intentionally getting to know Hannah's heart. There were a couple of things that we discovered:
1. Hannah was getting bullied at school. These mainly involved other kids getting mad at her for not knowing what to do. In Japan, following instructions and doing things a certain way in the school are very important. It has taken Hannah time to learn this, and along the way, kids have responded to this in a negative way. She has been pulled, grabbed, scratched, slapped, and yelled at. We have been able to teach Hannah about forgiveness and loving people that are mean to us in the midst of these challenges, and she has done incredibly well responding to them. For the most part, Hannah's response and our contacting the school about this has produced vast improvements. There was even one night where a student's parents came to our apartment to apologize. Both us and Hannah were able to show Christ-like forgiveness. We are so proud of her.
2. She misses her family and friends in America. Hannah loves her family and friends back home and is finally starting to express this to us. One thing that we were able to say in response to this is, "us too." We share in this struggle as a family. It has allowed us to cry and pray together.
It is hard to know what the best thing is to do for Hannah. On one hand, we want to protect her and keep her safe from such difficult problems and challenges. On the other, we want her to learn that life is full of challenges and disciple her on how to respond to them in a Biblical way. Hannah has told us that she wants to continue going to Japanese school, and that the new school year has been much better. But, we have told her that if it is ever too much for her, that the English Christian school is also an option.
Will you join us in prayer over Hannah and ask God to give us wisdom? Will you pray for protection for her as she continues to attend Japanese public school? Will you ask God to guide us regarding potential difficult decisions regarding Hannah's school?
Once again, we cannot thank you enough for supporting and encouraging us through this journey. We have seen and clearly felt the power of your prayers for our family. As we face challenges, we are confident in the Lord, His call on our lives, and the team of people He has placed around us.