At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.
Genesis 8:6-7 (ESV)
I had intended to update our blog as soon as we had moved into our new place, but I had not anticipated just how long that would be. While we started the process of searching for a new home several months earlier, we’re only now settling into a new apartment in the Tsurumi district of Osaka this week. Sometimes God’s plans for us have a different timeline than we expect.
Some of our readers know that the building we moved into shortly after coming to Japan was called “Noah’s Ark.” Over the time we’ve resided in Noah’s Ark, I’ve taken an interest in the story of Noah, and we’ve seen some fun parallels between the biblical story and our own lives.
When we first found the building, we took the unique name as a sign that God was directing us to live there—after all, building names drawn from Biblical stories are rare in Japan to say the least. Our area had some strange folk in it; so we also chuckled at the irony of living in Noah’s Ark while surrounded by such odd characters. Yet within a few weeks of moving in, we discovered our narrow building was sandwiched between two very-different neighborhoods.
To the West and South were dozens of temples, many of them small but some of them massive. The closest of these temples is one of the city’s oldest and largest, which hosted two large yearly festivals (once in Summer and once at New Years). The temples would also collaborate to hold monthly bazaars where they would sell idols and religious ceremonial materials only a few feet from our doorstep.
To the East, North and Northwest was one of Osaka’s (and perhaps it’s largest) red light prostitution districts. Even our daily commute from the subway station was lined with half-a-dozen cutesy and often gaudy love hotels.
While I suspect the state of our former neighborhood is a far cry from the wickedness in the days of Noah, our discovery led Emi and I to understand that finding an apartment in Noah’s Ark was more than ironic coincidence. Our time while living in the Ark was marked with the voices of our Christians brothers and sisters confirming the prophetic nature of our time there.
The Ark was never a destination; it was a vehicle.
The Ark was our first real apartment in Japan, and when we first searched, our choices were limited by our status as foreigners and students.
Nevertheless, God provided the perfect place for us in the season. A central location, it was perfect for hosting guests and visiting missionaries. It was also only a two-minute walk from the YMCA language school where I studied Japanese.
While we knew the Ark as “home” and lived quite happily there, we never felt that it was a place we were meant to reside long term. For Noah, the Ark was never a destination; it was a refuge; it was a vehicle that God used to bring him and his family safely through a time of cleansing and into a new covenant.
Called out of the ark onto green lands
And in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.
Genesis 8:4 (ESV)
Sometime in mid-July, we started a serious search for apartments. Our search parameters were broad — someplace convenient enough that we could live without a car, big enough for a family, and much cheaper than Noah’s ark. We explored a number of areas surrounding Osaka, and even as far as the next prefecture near Kobe. But we struggled to find anything both convenient and affordable, and more importantly we didn’t feel the peace of the Lord on anything until we came to area of Tsurumi Ryokuchi. We asked God to speak to us and confirm that this is the area we needed to go.
Firstly let me recognize that when you start looking for “signs” for something that you want, you’ll typically find them even if God didn’t put any there for you. That being said, the number of small signs, particularly those that tie directly to the story of Noah, have been uncanny. These small encouragements have brought us a great deal of peace and confirmation through a quite a few challenges we had finding an apartment.
Here’s a few examples: (1) Noah releases birds to learn if the waters had yet dried up. Tsurumi literally translates to “watching a bird” (a crane), and Ryokuchi means “green land.” (2) On the topic of birds, the first time Noah sends out a dove, it returns empty handed because it could find no place to perch. He waits seven days and then sends it out a second time, when it returns holding an olive branch. We thought the first apartment we applied for was perfect, but our application was rejected because I was a foreigner (another post on how to search for apartments as a foreigner is forthcoming). We were devastated because we really felt God was leading us to that area, and none of the other apartments the real estate agent in that area met our criteria. However seven days later, the same real estate agent found a new property for us to view. It was even better than the first, and our application was accepted!
(3) The sign that the waters had receded was a dove holding an olive branch. Each branch of the subway in Osaka is color coded. The subway line color for our new station is light olive-green (Nagahori Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Line). (4) God chooses the rainbow as a sign of the new covenant with Noah (Genesis 9). As we were returning from our first application by train (the agent drove us to the site), I was just telling Emi that I really wanted to have more peace about the new apartment we were applying for when we noticed, coming up the escalators in our train line, that the whole wall is a rainbow mural.
(5) Noah is first able to see land after the flood on the first day of the tenth month (Genesis 8:5). The day we first went to look at rental properties in Tsurumi was October 1.
(6) Unrelated to Noah, we were heading out to pay the deposit on the apartment for the application. We were a little worried we didn’t have enough cash on hand, but when we went through our possessions, we found we had exactly the right amount to pay the deposit in cash.
That’s kind of cool, right? There were some other parallels as well, but I don’t want to get too deep into it in this post. I think I want to spend more time meditating on parts of the promise that God gave to Noah when he leaves the Ark, especially:
‘And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.’
Genesis 9:1-3 (ESV)
Prayer & Stuff
As we begin to pioneer in our new neighborhood, we would love it if you could partner with us in praying for a few things:
- That God would send more workers for the harvest in Japan, especially in Tsurumi. We know/know of very few Christians in this area, and there’s a tremendous opportunity for God to do something new here.
- That God would lead us to “people of peace” (Luke 10:1-11). We want to find those that God has called to be disciples and who will be able to disciple others.
- That God would create community in Tsurumi. As people have moved for work and school (and we’ve moved as well), we’re officially winding down our Tuesday night fellowship. We learned a lot in over two years of house-fellowship and simple church, and we hope that God will help us create a new community like what we enjoyed on Tuesdays here in our new neighborhood.
Photos of the New Place
Our new move means of course that we have a new address. If you want our new address, feel free to email us and we can send it over to you.
As always, we look forward to your comments and replies!