After eleven days back in Japan, it was hard not to feel like a failure.
Everything...we...did...involved...so...much...struggle—and waiting. You see, in Japan officials are very particular about the order that things happen in. There's no expediting a process. If you need a certain piece of ID to get something set up, there are often no alternate pieces of ID that you can use. If a certain set of steps is prescribed, you have to follow the pre-defined method. In a culture that emphasizes homogeneity, everything must be done the exact same way. Every time.
We signed up for phone plans and internet, and waited. We sent in the paperwork to collect our luggage, and waited.
Meanwhile, Peter managed to figure out the problem I mentioned last time, with our computer. It turns out that ours was equipped with video RAM that had a one in a million—or was it one in 10,000,000?—defect which makes the computer monitor stop working when you do the latest Apple update. Peter—brilliant man that he is—was able to diagnose the problem, and come up with a workaround that simply involved buying a new monitor rather than spending the money on a brand-new computer. Thank God!
Then there was the issue of buying a new car. We've only bought a car twice in Canada, and once (privately, from someone who spoke English) in Japan. However, this time was going to be an entirely different matter.
Higa sensei took us around to a few different used car lots. We found some cars in our price range, and one was particularly alluring. We were ready to pay cash and buy it the same day, but when we tried it out that thing was so shaky and rattled so much that we weren't confident it would last us the ten years we'd hoped.
We walked away.
As we made our way home, we noticed a big banner advertising a car fair over the coming weekend. We planned to go to some dealerships in a nearby town to see if we could find something a little more reliable, and—barring that—perhaps come to the car fair too.
That evening was prayer meeting. I sweated through the 30˚C+ weather ("feels like 40˚C+", the internet cheerfully told me). It turns out that we'd made a mistake and had packed all of our shorts in our other luggage. It still hasn't arrived.
The other participants went around, sharing their testimonies of things that God had done in their lives that week.
My turn. "Life, as a foreigner in Japan, is hard," I said. "Right now every little thing is a struggle. We have no phones. We have no internet. We have no luggage. We have no car. But we do have God. And He is enough."
A declaration of faith from a place of failure.
Saturday was Day 12.
Peter and I walked to the dealerships in the morning. Every single used car we saw was out of our price range. We decided that we might need to re-jig our budget to increase our price range. Buying a car that would last would save us money in the long run, but we were not looking forward to having to figure out what would need to get chopped to make this possible.
We went to the car fair.
There were only three cars there of the type we could afford.
We saw it almost immediately: a little three-year old Toyota, right at the top of our price range. We tested it out. All good.
We discovered it contained all of the features we needed, plus several that we'd wistfully dreamed of.
We prayed. Should we get it?
After all, it was at the top of our price range.
I could almost feel God smiling and shaking His head at my slowness.
"This is My gift to you," came His tender response.
We told them we'd buy it. It turned out that the car fair was run by a dealership. They would do all the paperwork for us (we'd not been looking forward to this; it had been a real headache last time).
And, included in the car's price:
a three-year comprehensive warranty—"Who does that for a used car?" I'd asked Peter. "In Canada, I've only heard of three-year warranties on new cars!"—and
eighteen months of free maintenance.
We were able to navigate the whole process in Japanese, and come out the other side with a loaner car for the three weeks it would take the dealership to register the paperwork with the city office, clean the car, and so on. As I said, they have their process.
Day 12 was when everything started to turn around.
We're not completely set up yet, but we're getting there. Slowly but surely. And each obstacle we run across—well, it's a good reminder that we were never in control anyway. But we can look to our Father in trust, and thank Him always for those little gifts, tender smiles, and gentle whispers: "Trust Me."
And we do.