By Carson Foushee
For the first two years we lived in Tokyo, we were out the door early each morning to board packed trains for our commute to Japanese language school, located near the second busiest station in the world. After wrapping up our studies each afternoon, we would return home with just enough daylight remaining to take a walk in the park next to our apartment before making dinner and then hitting the books again.
Saturdays provided some time to relax, yet we often found ourselves going out to explore other areas of our city. Sundays meant once again boarding trains to attend worship and various other church activities before returning home to prepare for Monday classes. And though we enjoyed our studies and friends at school as well as the relationships and growth we experienced at church, we really did not get to know the people and neighborhood in our immediate surroundings very well.
When we arrived back in Tokyo in December of last year from an extended period away due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, we decided to work from home and avoid travel outside of our neighborhood as much as possible.
Couple this with returning with a child who had begun walking while we were away and playtime on local playgrounds as well as outdoor walks and exercise became a part of the daily routine. With this change in our lifestyle to live more locally, came a dramatic shift in the relationships we have established with people around us. Suddenly, we got to know the parents of children our daughter would play alongside on the swings or in the sandbox. This led to introductions to other parents and children, which led to deeper conversations over time, especially about the struggles of parenting during a pandemic.
Probably our greatest ministry has been found in offering empathy and prayer for mothers who are caring for their children seemingly alone as their husbands work very late or are sent on long-term work assignments in other prefectures and even other countries.
This shift has also has created a greater appreciation for our neighborhood. We live a three-minute walk away from a train station few people know and that we often describe to locals as being two stops north of a famous happy hour neighborhood. And though we’ve always loved the beautiful park next door and greenway just steps away, we have not really learned about where we live.
COVID-19 has forced us to slow down, look around, and see the beauty of the people and places outside of our front door. We realize the privileges we have in being able to stay closer to home as we work alongside our Baptist partners in Japan and honestly long to be able to get back to more in-person ministry as soon as possible. However, we are trying to be simply be grateful for the opportunity for this time and to be Christ’s presence to our neighbors in the place we call home.
Carson Foushee is a CBF field personnel serving alongside his wife, Laura, in Tokyo, Japan. Learn more about ad support their ministries at www.cbf.net/foushee.