A leap of faith into the local preschool
God called us trust him by sending our son to a local preschool when he couldn’t speak Japanese. Many blessings have flowed from that step of faith.
Sometimes God calls us to do scary things. About two years ago, my husband and I felt God asking us to send our oldest son to a local Japanese school when he couldn’t speak Japanese and we struggled with the language and culture. But looking back, we can see how God has been faithful to us in so many ways.
When it came time for us to make decisions about our oldest son’s education, we prayerfully decided that he would enter the local school on a trial basis. The decision about which school to choose can be quite intense as there are numerous options to consider. For us, however, the decision was actually quite painless, being made easier because we live in a small town with only one preschool. Even though the school has existed for many years, our son was the first foreigner to enroll in it. With some trepidation, the staff graciously accepted the challenge of teaching a little boy who spoke zero Japanese.
The staff wasn’t alone in their trepidation. Although I knew our son was ultimately in the Lord’s capable hands, I struggled with visions of him sitting off alone in the corner, either friendless and by himself or crying tears of frustration, overwhelmed by his inability to communicate. This was new territory for all of us, and I wasn’t sure how things would unfold over the coming days and weeks.
Learning to trust God
The Lord used this process in my life as an exercise in trust. We felt strongly that God wanted us to place our boys in the local school to expand our contacts and share about him. I knew in my head that this was a wonderful opportunity, but my heart wrestled with wondering whether our firstborn would be able to thrive in this situation. I had to work hard at trusting that the Lord knew my son’s needs and could meet them far better than I ever could.
From what I hear, most moms face reservations about entrusting their firstborn into the hands of teachers. I felt assured that my fears were normal, but I also knew that I needed to deal with them properly. I don’t have a failproof, step-by-step process to follow, but I can speak from experience that giving your fears and concerns over to the Lord is the best thing to do when you find yourself in this situation. I have discovered time and again that God isn’t surprised by our feelings nor does his affection toward us change because we’re experiencing fears and doubts. In fact, he wants us to release our burdens to him (Ps. 62:8; Matt. 11:28, Phil. 4:6–8), and he will give us his peace in return.
Along with praying about this transition in private, I also started regularly praying with my son in the van during the five-minute drive to school. It has been both beneficial for my own relationship with God and a wonderful opportunity to teach our son how to dedicate his day to the Lord, giving over any fears or concerns he might have, as well as praying for his teachers and classmates.
A learning experience for all
Though there was a definite transition period for us, our son, and his teachers, things gradually fell into a routine and, before we knew it, life before preschool seemed like a distant memory. I’m happy to report that our son is now thriving in his second year of preschool, and, at the time of writing, he is eagerly awaiting the start of his third and final year when his younger brother will be entering the same school for his first year. He has learned so much Japanese and is on track to surpass my abilities. He even frequently uses the local dialect, which everyone always gets a kick out of!
We’ve learned a lot about Japanese culture through this experience while making plenty of mistakes along the way (such as sending our son in a girl’s uniform blouse for several weeks without realizing it because the teachers didn’t feel the need to tell us—they thought he was “cute”!), but we’ve received abundant grace. And for the sake of full disclosure, there still are the occasional mornings when we find ourselves in the “why do I have to go to school?” battle, but most days, my son happily and independently skips off to the school entrance without looking back.
Countless other benefits and blessings have come from our decision to send our son to local school. For years, along with our teammates, we prayed that God would open doors for us to get to know young families in our community. At last, we now find ourselves with a wide pool of contacts to draw from and build relationships with. Our son’s school is unusually small, which has made it very easy to get to know the other families there. We were warmly received, and on several occasions other moms reached out to us to help us navigate these new waters—graciously answering our “foreigner questions” like “What’s the difference between a ryukku and a tsūen baggu?” and “Do I send my son to school in his formal uniform tomorrow or his gym clothes?”
Along with new relationships, I have also noticed that my Japanese has progressed. I had been studying part-time for about five years but lacked opportunities to use what I had been learning on a practical level. But once our son was enrolled in preschool, I was forced to talk to the other moms. I’m still far from fluent and quite often find myself in awkward situations where someone thinks I’ve understood something and I definitely have not, but being in this environment has improved my Japanese and increased my confidence.
A new opportunity to trust God
Just like that, two years have gone by, and we’re now only one year away from facing another crossroads with more uncertainties—elementary school. This time, there are more factors to consider and a lot of things that we may have to play by ear as things come up (such as furlough interruptions to the school year). Thankfully, there is less fear in my heart because I can now look back on our preschool experience and remember that God is faithful and will carry us through whatever lies ahead. We serve an ever-present God (Ps. 46:1) and are never alone. I want to encourage you to prayerfully step out into whatever the Lord might be calling you into with regard to your children’s education—whether that be local school or homeschooling when you don’t feel that is your gifting—and sit back and watch how God will prove himself faithful to you as he did for us.
I should finish with the caveat that not all missionaries who choose to place their children in local schools will have the same positive experience that we have had. As we have heard from veteran missionaries, every child is unique, and it is very important to consider the needs of your children as individuals and closely monitor their emotional health throughout this process.