Our family recently completed our first move from one city to another on the mission field. It was definitely a learning experience—one that taught us a lot about the Lord and His care for us. Here’s the story.
Before we start, you should know that some words in Japanese are borrowed from foreign languages. This can be incredibly convenient in some cases, and quite comical in others. Such is the case for the word マンション which means mansion. The Japanese meaning is quite a bit different from the image that comes to mind in English.
When we toured the 10 story マンション (mansion) building, our potential unit was on the fifth floor. Conveniently located just a 2-minute walk from the train station and a 5-minute walk to our new church, we were hopeful it would become ours. When we first walked in, everything was clean and newly updated. The rooms were small, but had lots of light. The ofuro (bathtub/shower area) was spacious and modern looking. There were light colored hardwood floors throughout, except for the washitsu (master bedroom) which had traditional tatami (rice mat) floors. I was sold the moment I walked into the kitchen. Small, but smartly designed, it offered a clean silhouette and best of all, a dishwasher! I’d been praying for three things in our next home: a larger bathtub, a dishwasher, and a yard for our kids to play.
I realized only two of these criteria had been met as I looked out from the 5th-floor balcony at the city around us. “I guess we can’t have it all. We are missionaries, after all. We’re supposed to be ok doing without certain luxuries.”
We viewed several other properties during our short trip, but none of them were a good fit for our family. We kept coming back to the mansion in our minds, so we made the phone call to apply after much prayer. The realtor said that everything should work out fine, and since this unit had been vacant for a while, he figured the owner would be happy to rent.
Japan loves its paperwork. There are piles and piles of it for every task you attempt. And it’s all in Japanese of course! We needed lots of help, not only to fill out the required paperwork, but also to provide the necessary criteria including an incorporated guarantor. Basically, a guarantor is an individual (in a more private situation) or an organization or business (in a more professional situation) who will be a cosigner for the individual leasing a property in Japan. This is almost always necessary for foreigners like ourselves. A guarantor is required for a visa and renting a home, as well as some other things I may not be aware of yet!
Our new church is not incorporated yet, so we called upon a likeminded fellowship within Japan with recognized incorporation. Their headquarters are down south on the mainland, so we spent many days waiting for documents to be mailed back and forth and filled out.
We finally acquired all the necessary paperwork, including a statement of our income, and several letters from our guarantor and US and Japanese church affiliations! We were so relieved to submit all the paperwork and wait for the green light.
In the mean time, we scheduled a moving company. We began packing our boxes and disposing of extras we wouldn’t need in the smaller mansion.
Nine days before the moving trucks were scheduled to arrive, we received a phone call that the mansion opportunity had fallen through! We were so shocked! Our missionary friend who shared the news with us said, “Well, it must be because God has something better for you.” Although we were feeling quite stressed, we decided to simply pray and trust God to open another opportunity. We planned an emergency trip to our new city to view 2 possibilities and prayed they would be able to expedite the paperwork so that we could keep our move date the same.
House hunting in February in Hokkaido is not ideal. There were 3+ feet of snow on the ground as we made our way to the rental homes. These weren’t mansions, but rather single family homes. Both were acceptable. Neither had dishwashers, but both had small yards.
We made the decision and chose what we called “the blue roof house” with 4 small bedrooms, a larger bathtub, and a yard. The whole thing happened in less than 24 hours. God blessed and our landlord allowed us to move in before the paperwork was finalized after hearing about our unexpected situation. Exceptions to the rule are RARE in Japan! We knew God was working on our behalf.
Shortly after we moved into our “blue roof house” in late February, the entire mansion building was shrouded in scaffolding and black construction netting. As I write this in August, this building is still in a black covering. We are so glad we can look out our windows to see the sun and the trees instead of metal poles and construction materials.
Looking back, we can say with surety that the “blue roof house” is better than the mansion. Already, we have made so many special memories in this tiny, cozy home. My three criteria have been met, although a little differently than I expected. We have a nice, large bathtub and shower area. Praise the Lord, we have a yard for our kids to run around in, including a beautiful Japanese garden, a small vegetable patch, and a flower bed. I can even hang laundry outside to dry on sunny days (a welcome blessing in life without a dryer). And thanks to my loving, wonderful husband and children, I very rarely wash dishes. Our home is within the school district we were hoping to be part of. Nathan and Anna have a 5 block / 10 minute walk to school. Our neighborhood is quiet and the streets beside our home don’t have much traffic. God has given us kind and helpful neighbors who are always understanding of our mistakes and love to share food with us! We have a corner lot with a view of a lovely tree-covered path out our front door. This home also came with a parking space and garage! We feel so richly blessed!
Though the path was a little obscure to get to where we are, we know without a doubt, that what God has given us is better than we deserve, and it is definitely better than a mansion.