I wrote this post after some “freak out” moments related to re-entry struggles. Even though it’s been more than 5 months since returning, it’s still hard. I don’t want to sound self-pitying, but I do want others in similar situations to know they’re not alone. And I want people who are in any way relating to those in a situation like ours to be able to have a better understanding of the continuing cost.
As a young couple, we excitedly “counted the cost” of leaving our friends, family, and comfort of our home country to go to the foreign mission field. We had a 1-year-old and I was pregnant when we left; exciting as it may have been, the cost was real and it was hard.
We were both in full-time language study the first 3 years, and I had to leave my kids in daycare and preschool almost every day. I had stress, depression, anxiety. But it was the cost of the call, and we believed it was worth it.
The stress continued when we moved to a new city. Still in language study, we also dealt with the stress that comes from being highly involved in ministry, as well as conflicts and necessary confrontations (we’re both non-confrontational, so that was not fun at all). Still, it was worth it, right? We believed, and still do, that as long as God was calling us to be there, we could endure whatever we needed to endure.
And then He stopped calling us to be there. We still loved Japan and the Japanese and wanted to be there. But there came a point when we knew it was time to go home.
That point came a lot sooner than we expected though. We had expected to be there for…well, the entirety of our lives. Our kids would grow up there, know Japanese, maybe marry Japanese people. We would be so entrenched in the country and culture that maybe we’d even retire there.
But, just 6 years after our plane touched down in Japan for the first time, we left.
Yesterday someone said to us: “Thank you for 6 years in Japan. And thank you for coming home.” It was the first time we’d been thanked for following God’s call to wherever He led us – even if it was back to where we started.
And, in a way, it felt like an acknowledgment that coming home wasn’t the easy thing to do – that the cost of leaving continued even upon the return.
Returning to our home country meant we were leaving the home we had built in Japan; it was extremely hard and so, so sad. Telling our kids that we were leaving the place they had grown up – where 3 of them had been born – was one of the most difficult conversations we’ve had. And then telling our friends that we were leaving – it felt like the tears were constantly flowing for the 6 short weeks leading up to our move.
The cost continues beyond just the leaving. There’s the reverse-culture shock. There was our family of 6 living in my parent’s studio apartment for 2 months. And then my husband finding a job, but realizing that our family was actually financially better off serving as missionaries than we are with him being a high school teacher in America.
We’re looking to buy a house in my hometown, but we’re in an awkward place. We have excellent credit, no debt, and cash for a down payment. But we also are a single-income and low-income family of 7. Looking for a house that we can live in without going crazy but which we can also afford…challenging, very challenging. And so the cost continues.
There are other, more subtle ways it continues too. Getting involved in an American church hasn’t been easy for me. I miss my friends in Japan every day. My kids are losing their Japanese. I’m losing my Japanese.
So was it still worth it? Do I wonder if we should have never gone in the first place? Or if we should have ignored the call to return home? Or do I question why God called us to do either of those things?
Honestly, I don’t. It was worth it and is worth the cost we’re still paying for being obedient. I could go on for a long time about all the reasons why it was worth it, but I think it’s probably self-explanatory.
“Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe…”
If you’ve experienced the continuing cost, will you comment below and share just a little bit? I’d love to hear from others about this, especially how you’ve dealt with it.