It’s June, and that means it’s raining here in Japan. Even though the weather is generally pretty yucky this time of year, June will always be a special month for me because it marks two (or maybe three) anniversaries in my life. As I look back on these events, I remember God’s faithfulness in the midst of this adventure He has me on, and this encourages me towards the future in faith.
In June of 2016, I took a big step of faith, which established a shift in my life and launched me into this journey I’m on now. June 1st, I landed at Kansai International Airport for my first mission trip to Japan. That month, I was ministering through music with Gospel singer Angela Primm, Pianist Christopher Phillips and pastor Dan Scott as part of pastor and college professor Yasunori Aoki’s Gospel music ministry Japan Association for Gospel. That trip was life changing, and I still remember the moment when I was sitting on a train by myself and had the feeling of “This is where I should be.” The first half of 2016 was so packed with crazy moments where God’s guidance and providence were so evident, I had a peace about things like never before, and I still feel that peace to this day.
First trip to Japan, June 2016
After 9 days in Kansai, I hopped on the Shinkansen to go to Tokyo for 5 days. That’s when I met the woman I would eventually marry, Ai, though she was only a friend at the time. In fact, I had prayed that the Lord would keep me from getting distracted from the ministry and be focused on hearing from Him on that trip, so meeting a girl wasn’t even on my mind. I still marvel when I look back and think of that time, not having a single clue that surrendering my own desires and simply following God’s guidance would lead me into such a time of blessing, but when we do things His way, in simple trust, we truly get more than we expect.
It wasn’t until I returned in September of that year that I really got to know Ai, and it wasn’t until the last couple of days that I started to wonder if there might be feelings there. As I was leaving to go to the airport, saying goodbye to Ai at the train station, I had that “when you know, you know” moment, and spent the whole flight home thinking of her. We talked every day (often for hours at a time), prayed together, studied scripture together, and laughed a lot. I didn’t know when I’d be going back to Japan, just that I would eventually be going. It was all dependent on mission agencies and such, but I knew pretty quickly I wanted to marry Ai. New years eve, her and I had a discussion that I’ll never forget. We both knew the situation wasn’t normal. The probability of me getting back to Japan just to propose were slim, as I had spent all of my money on going on those mission trips. So we just decided to get married over Skype! Who says two people have to do things the way everyone else expects you to do them, or do them the the ‘normal’ way? We knew our situation was unique, so doing it that was WAS normal for us. :)
We held off on setting a date until I knew more about my status with the mission agency I had decided to go with, but the decision to get married created complications. As things fell through with that particular agency, I was led to A.C.T. International, which was such a perfect fit for me and the ministry I felt called to here in Japan. I also felt complete peace about going ahead with a marriage, so we set the date, for June 17th! Once again, God provided everything we needed, from my travel expenses to a wedding venue. Prayer was a big factor in all of that, and I started to really value the times of prayer with my bride to be.
I landed in Japan at the beginning of May 2017 and we got to work planning the wedding, doing further preparation for my eventual move here, and even had time for premarital counseling with our friend and fellow missionary (and neighbor in Wako-shi) Steve Baughn. (By the way, the best thing I learned from those sessions with Steve was “Never use extremes when things get tense, like ‘You NEVER…” or “You ALWAYS…’” A good tip no matter how long you’ve been married.) As the day approached, we found out my parents were going to be able to get tickets to come to Japan, which was an unexpected surprise. It was great to have both of our families there. The wedding didn’t happen exactly as rehearsed, but it was still perfect. On June 17th 2017 at 2:30 PM at Rose Town Tea Garden in Ome, Japan, on an unusually perfect sunny day for a rainy season, we we married!
Now, here we are a year later, and I feel very blessed in marriage. Something we heard a lot was “The first year of marriage is the hardest.” But, again, who says we have to do things the way everyone expects? This year has been great! Ai asked me the other day if she had changed since we met. I told her no, just my perspective of her has changed. She’s the same Ai that I met two years ago, I just know her better. Things haven’t been 100% perfect, and there have been challenges, but we’ve learned to make every day new, being intentional about solving any problems between us before we go to sleep. That makes a huge difference. We’ve also learned that we need honest open communication, because we’re both peacemakers and would rather not argue or fight. So we just don’t argue or fight. We disagree, but there’s no rule that you have to fight in marriage, even though everyone says it’ll happen. Also, we hug a lot. I mean, how can you be upset at someone when you’re hugging them?
We both hope that our marriage will be an encouragement to other couples around us (and single people, too.) We pray all the time for God to continually remind us of His love for us in Christ, and we draw from that well, especially when we’ve reached our limit and our wells run dry. We may not be in marriage ministry, but we still pray for our marriage to minister. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our journey thus far, especially men and women and couples who were influences to us both separately and together, and to all those who have prayed for us when we were single. And thank you to those of you who have supported me in ministry and have been a part of my journey, both here in Japan and in the States.
Much love in Christ,
Kyle and Ai