Returning to Japan, Part 1: Obstacles & Opportunities

In missionary biographies of days gone by, you can read about how many spent months at sea on their way to their fields to tell people about Jesus. While most of us missionaries don’t ride ships to our respective fields of service, we nonetheless have the chance to serve the Lord in foreign lands. But if our days are not spent sailing the high seas, what does it look like to go to a foreign country?

Returning to the field includes packing up and moving out of our residence in the States. We rented an apartment near our home church for our brief, 5-month furlough. In the weeks leading up to our departure, we (mostly Rosie) coordinated furniture pickups and returns in between saying goodbyes.

This return has been a bit different from our previous departure for Japan. Because of the ongoing coronavirus situation, we need to have negative PCR test results within 72 hours of departure. The direct flight from Atlanta to Tokyo is 14 hours long. Upon arrival, we will be required to take another PCR test. Once we are in the country, we have to do a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

We will be driving 5 hours from the Tokyo airport to Nagoya, the city where we will be planting a church. For the first 6 weeks, we will be renting a temporary-stay apartment in Nagoya while we look for houses. After finding a home to rent, we will drive 5 hours to Niigata (where we previously lived for 2 years) to pick up our household items in storage and take them back to Nagoya. After moving into our home, we will begin looking for a building we can rent for our church plant.

One of the interesting aspects of life in Japan is the layers of bureaucracy. Because our furlough in the U.S. was not a permanent move, we are still registered with the city hall in Niigata. In Japan, there is a very specific process to follow when moving from one city to another.

First, you go to the city hall for the city you are moving OUT of. Here, you submit your paperwork saying you are leaving the city. After this, you take your paperwork to the new city you are moving TO and let them know that you are moving into their area. Japan has social healthcare, but it falls to the city government to issues health insurance cards. So we will surrender our old health insurance cards to the city we move out of, and we will be issued new insurance cards at the city hall for the area we are moving into. Because of the detail tied to our city of residence, we will work on this paperwork after securing a home to live in.

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