Yesterday I was blessed by a friend's visit to my home. She lives in Nagoya, 30 kilos away, and made the long drive out to my place in the countryside. She and I have known each other since the very start of my life here in Japan. She was working part-time at the Nagoya YWCA, when I began teaching there back in April of 1982. It turned out that she lived only one subway stop away from mine, and we both attended the same gathering for Christian foreigners in Nagoya, to boot. She had already lived in Japan ten years by the time I came, and was married to the boy from her host family (with whom she lived as a foreign exchange student). Upon sharing our stories we discovered that she was raised in the town nextdoor to my own hometown, back in Illinois! We felt like kindred spirits from the first.
She has been an invaluable help and resource to me in my life here. Initially she answered a miriad of questions I was constantly asking about the Japanese language, culture and way of life. She was a wonderful "big sister" (she's four years my senior). She counseled me when I was unsure about marrying my husband. After I did marry, she and her husband were warm hosts & restaurant dinner companions. This same friend gave birth to her only son the month I conceived my own! So all during my pregnancy and raising my boy she was an experienced advisor and help. I have no doubt whatsoever that God brought us together to be bosom friends for the rest of our lives.
Through the years, we've both had our set of challenges with international marriage, motherhood, teaching English and more recently in combatting disease. Our faith is our one true force for good in all situations, despite the enormous stress that we both encounter in our lives here. We aren't able to meet often, but are so refreshed and blessed whenever we can! And like onions, we continue to reveal inner layers of our most honest hearts so that we can support the other in prayer.
There is an expression in Japanese: kokoro no sasae (emotional support to the heart). This dear old friend is the personification of my heart's sasae, and hers is a foundational friendship, sustaining my life in Japan.