OKEECHOBEE — Paul and Anna Smith (names changed to protect their identities) are missionaries to Japan, along with their young son and daughter. Anna grew up in Okeechobee and then went off to college where she met Paul. Together they felt the call to go serve the Lord in Tokyo, Japan, and they packed their bags and moved to the other side of the world.
They were in Japan for six years and had two children while they were there. Their son even went to school there, but then just a little over a year ago, they came back to the United States because they changed missionary agencies, and they needed to raise support to get back to Japan.
Just when they finally had enough support mustered to go back to Japan, the pandemic hit, and they were told they should not go anywhere. Their supporting agency advised no travel out of the country at all. Paul and Anna were very eager to get back to Japan, because they said less than 1% of the Japanese are Christians and most Japanese live their entire lives without meeting a follower of Jesus.
They were finally given clearance to leave last week because if they did not leave soon, the borders would probably be closed and would stay closed for quite some time. They also still have valid visas and reentry permits valid until May 1, so really, they felt like this is the best time for them to go, they explained. When they arrive in Japan, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days and will stay in the home of friends, who are out of town now, but when they return will quarantine with them.
On Monday, March 30, they went to the airport and were shocked to find absolutely no one in line at all for security. They walked right through. There was hardly anyone walking around inside the airport, either, they said. Once on the airplane, they had the entire plane almost entirely to themselves. Anna joked that she was going to try out every seat just for fun. It takes about 17 hours to fly from Texas, where they got on the plane, to Tokyo, so she will have plenty of time to try out those seats.
Editor’s note: Some of the people connected with the missionaries are in restricted countries and this is why they asked not to have their names revealed.