When we left Okinawa in 2011, we thought it would be for only a month while we visited family and friends in the U.S., but God had other plans.
We originally went to Okinawa in 2008 for Akira to receive his ordination. Our home church in Oregon, Japanese Grace Bible Church(JGBC), was planted by the Okinawa Evangelical Mission (OEM). To be ordained, Akira had to serve in Okinawa for three years. There, among the various roles in which Akira was given experience, he worked as a hospital chaplain, a high school and music teacher, and a pastor. Josie and Josiah attended a Japanese Christian School, OCA, the same where Akira taught high school and Melanie taught kindergarten.
During our three years there, we came to love and begin to understand the Okinawans as a people group distinct from Japan who hold an identity and past of their own, similar to the Hawaiian people. They also carry many wounds left from wars of the past. They are very spiritual and more open to spiritual things than mainland Japanese. Whereas mainland Japanese are predominantly Buddhist and Shinto, Okinawans are more animistic and worship spirits and have shamans, especially in the rural areas. They also are more deeply involved in ancestor worship. And most importantly, they asked us to come back and continue to ask us when we will come.
We had planned to return to Okinawa after our visit in the U.S. but one by one God shut the doors so we stayed in Portland, Oregon for a year, praying for His direction. Then we received an invitation to move to Kansas City and join a team preparing to go to Japan (24/7 Prayer).
We attended the 24/7 Prayer Kansas City Boiler Room (KCBR) church and learned intimacy in Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. We prayed and ask others to pray and kept hearing “wait.” Now, after three years in KC we have finally received the “go” to return to Japan and Okinawa. On June 3, 2015, we will arrive in Narita, Japan. Again, through the design and plan of the Father, we will live in mainland Japan for about a year, in the (unoccupied) house of Akira’s parents in Yokohama, Japan. We will share with Akira’s family and friends, visit churches in Japan and Okinawa and find our family rhythm for living in Japan. Then, when the Father says “go,” we will move to Okinawa.