Friday, November 28, 2014

Giving Thanks

Today’s coffee: “Autumn colored blend” (秋色ブレンド)

I’ve been drinking my Kyoto souvenir (Kona from % Arabica) at home for the last couple of weeks, and it’s almost gone… but so nice to extend our time in Kyoto for a bit even after coming back home! We also have been enjoying yuzu miso out of a cute yuzu shaped jar—it’s so delicious on stewed tofu and daikon! So in any case, today I’m at Tokumitsu to get my coffee allowance for the next two weeks.

Here are a couple of the yuzu miso jars at the shop where we got ours.
Today is Thanksgiving, but here it’s a normal work day. I started the morning with cello practice, and when I’m done writing here at Tokumitsu, I’ll make bento for supper, head to rehearsal, and then OMF prayer meeting. That’s a typical Thursday for me. Turkey will happen tomorrow, since coincidentally, my church is holding a turkey-roasting class at the same time as my family will be eating Thanksgiving dinner in Seattle. Technically, it’s the women’s Christmas event, but given the timing, Keith, who was roped into giving a short talk, will be speaking about Thanksgiving rather than Christmas.

So today, I want to take some time to be thankful, even if the day is full of appointments and work. What am I thankful for? In no particular order…

I’m thankful that there is world-class coffee down the street from my house. And that it’s a quiet place where I am welcomed to come, sit for a couple hours, and get work done. Yay!

My cello has returned home! It sounds better than before the accident—it probably needed some adjustments for climate, and it got them. I’m also thankful that I was able to use my baroque cello for the conferences and concert in October; that worked better than expected, and I learned quite a lot from playing “modern cello” repertoire on gut strings. And I also discovered (10 years too late?) that the height of my chair (and shoes) makes a huge difference for intonation. I will be dragging around my own chair to concerts from now on… Not an easy situation, but I’m thankful for what I learned along the way.

I’m thankful for 3 years in Japan, or 4 if you count our time as short-termers. I’ve now lived here longer than I lived in Canada. I love this place where God has brought us! The past 3 years have been full of exciting challenges as I learned the language, made friends, started work, and learned all kinds of things about my new friends, about Japanese culture, and about the natural beauty of Hokkaido. This is not to say it wasn’t hard… because it was, and it will continue to be. But I trust that God will continue to provide for us as he has in the past.

On that note, I'm thankful we could go on vacation to Kyoto and Tokyo.

Kinkakuji in Kyoto, in its beautiful setting. Thankful I could get this shot without a mob of tourists in it... :)
Pickles! We love them. We love many Japanese foods, but pickles hold a special place in our hearts. I'm thankful for pickles.
I'm thankful for beautiful gardens--this is in the garden at Hakone Museum of Art.
I'm thankful for tea, and tea ceremony. We went to an お茶会 (Japanese tea party) while we were in Tokyo. Part of the event took place outside!
I'm definitely thankful for this guy. He makes my life so interesting. (This was taken in the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.)
I’m thankful that my language level has sufficiently progressed so that I can now watch and enjoy the NHK Taiga drama on TV—that’s the year-long historical drama that the national broadcaster produces every year!

I’m thankful for new small groups at church! It’s been exciting to see the cooperation and excitement among the leaders, and the desire to see our church grow in maturity and in numbers. The synergy from working with like-minded people is exhilarating. I’m thankful for the youth-group leaders too—in preparation for our youth group Christmas party, we had a fondue taste-test. It was a blessing to have table fellowship with youth group leaders and their spouses, while considering the details of preparing for the Christmas party. (I’m also thankful for the awesome lunch after church last Sunday!)

I’m also thankful for a lot of other things, but it’s time to make bento now.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Trees, and peace in my heart

Today’s coffee: Kona from % Arabica (which we bought home from Kyoto!)

Our coffees last week at % Arabica in Kyoto
We just got home from vacation on Saturday—since my cello was ready to be picked up in Tokyo, we took the opportunity to spend some vacation time there; we also caught the beginning of autumn leaf season (紅葉, koyo) in Kyoto. A change of air and scenery was refreshing, although vacations to places like Tokyo and Kyoto do not tend to be very restful. There are lots of things to see and people to meet!

In some ways, spending time with Japanese friends has influenced my thinking. Last month was super busy; I completely missed autumn leaf season in Hokkaido. Of course, when we went out, I would see trees changing colors, but I didn’t get a chance to sit outside and quietly enjoy them (until it was just a little too late). I didn’t really think about doing such things before I came to Japan; leaves changing colors just meant it was the beginning of the school year, and a marker of the coming of winter. Now I feel that if I don’t spend time to enjoy each season, my year feels incomplete. That is why last Monday we made an emergency trip to Hakone, in the mountains above Tokyo. (Tokyo doesn’t have much autumn color just yet.) Now I have experienced fall. Bring on the winter… kotatsu, mikan, hibernation… and Christmas concerts.

At Hakone Museum of Art
Even more than the actual museum, the grounds were beautiful!
I've finally experienced autumn this year!
We made another attempt to see Mt. Fuji... and we saw more of the mountain than last time we were in Hakone... but we had another no-show.
A few weeks ago, after September and October’s concerts and conferences, etc. had finished, the weather was pretty good, so we headed for a nearby leaf-viewing spot. And… the weather was not as good as expected, the leaves were almost gone, the onigiri (rice balls) were too salty, and park staff members were using noisy leaf-blowers all around us as we had our picnic.

At Taki no Ue park (滝の上公園) in Yubari. Not many leaves left.
Of course, the picnic included tea.

Although I was disappointed, somehow the experience became an object lesson. Peace does not come from our surroundings. If it did, no one would ever know peace. Rather, it comes from a heart rooted in God.

I return time and time again to Psalm 1, which we read at our wedding. We read it a couple of weeks ago at our church Bible study. The psalmist encourages the readers/listeners to avoid the path that leads to destruction, but instead to be a person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

At first, my image of this well-rooted tree was one of quiet serenity, but I imagine that like all trees, this one also experiences bad weather, drought, earthquakes, maybe even forest fire.

But it has its roots in the right place. Nothing is going to shake it. I want to be like that tree. I wish I had been a bit more like that tree during the busyness of the last month—to spend less time worrying about having too much to do and not enough time and spend more time rooting myself in God’s goodness and resting in him. Let’s hope I can remember this lesson during next month’s Christmas rush!

Here’s a couple of Kyoto pictures; more later! (Probably.)

With our friend, Sharon in Kyoto's bamboo forest
This is in the garden of the Imperial Palace--usually it isn't open to the public, except by application. But it was open for just a few days, and we were there at the right time!

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Newsletter

Seasons
Keith and Celia Olson · Newsletter #26 · October 31, 2014

Autumn picnic tea on our day off
Dear Friends and Family,

It’s been an embarrassingly long time. We have been engaged in what we call “putting out fires”: taking care of urgent things which aren’t necessarily important, while neglecting things that are less urgent but more important. Fortunately (?), the very important but long-overdue prayer letter has now become a fire to put out.

Over the last six (yikes) months, we have enjoyed fresh vegetables and fellowship at the farm, joined a team of small-group leaders in launching “Koinonia” small groups at our church in September, continued developing relationships with people at church and in the neighborhood, helped out at our annual church bazaar, planned and led worship at two conferences, and Celia played two concerts. Keith continues his Isaiah sermon series at Wakaba, and he also had the opportunity to preach at Kita Hiroshima Church and Nayoro Grace Church.

We have also continued in our first-term assignment to receive training in “how to be/do church in Japan.” Our conversations recently with Pastor Takahashi, missionary colleagues, and others at church have revolved around steps seekers take on the path to faith, and about encouraging church members to read and love the Bible and to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth.

We are beginning to think about how to finish well: we have eight months left of our first term, and only about seven months at Wakaba. We’re starting to have a lot of ideas about the sort of work we want to do in the future; over the next several months, we will be thinking seriously about where to go and whom to work with. Please pray for us as we make these next steps of faith.


On our summer holiday, we hiked across Daisetsuzan National Park.
We also took the Takahashi family hiking with us--their first time!
When it gets to be autumn, we start thinking about the church bazaar! I played cello for the guests who were waiting to come inside.
I worked at the café corner making coffee and matcha!
Keith played games with children who came to the bazaar with their parents. Several middle-schoolers helped out.
Celia and Shino played 2 concerts, in Nayoro and Kita-Hiroshima (pictured here)
We led worship for OMF Hokkaido Conference. Keith played cajon--you can see his knee behind the guitar player.
Keith led us in a devotion and communion the last day of conference. (And he made the bread himself!)
***

Prayer Points
  • We give thanks for everyone who has given financially to our ministry. After looking at our budgets of the past years and the one for next year, we see how blessed we are by God's provision. For the last 20 months, we remain under-supported, but for the sake of being transparent, I also want to say that our living and ministry costs balances this out by being less than expected. Please pray that we can remain in the black.
  • "Koinonia" small groups started since September and are going strong. Pray for depth in fellowship and in Bible application. Pray especially for the group that Keith is leading, for wisdom for Keith and a Christmas caroling party that his group is hosting on December 13th.
  • Celia and Shino (pianist) are preparing for concerts:  December 14th at Hokuei Church, 21st at Wakaba Church, and 23rd at Megumi Church (Asahikawa). Please pray for good health, good weather, and good first contact with these churches for guests.
  • Please pray for our 2nd term placement, as we are having discussions with OMF leadership over the next several months.
  • Please pray for us as we learn to walk alongside seekers (as well as those who are not yet interested) and encourage them to take steps of faith. Please pray especially for Mr. and Mrs. K, for Mr. S (our farm friend), and middle and high school students.
***

Preaching in Japanese

While I (Keith) was filling out various financial documents this September, a supporting church asked us two very good questions: what were some joys of the last year and what were some hard things of the last year. I immediately thought of the sermon series through Isaiah that I have been preaching every other month since October of 2013. I was not sure, however, which question it answered.

After we joined OMF, my various advisors have been encouraging me to preach more, something which I must admit I wasn’t thrilled with at first. But I have come to the conclusion that since Japanese pastors are few and overworked, if it can take some preaching pressure from them, I am glad to share the sermon load. When we started at Wakaba Church, Pastor Takahashi said I could preach from anywhere in the Bible. “Good, I’ll just rewrite previous Japanese sermons and even translate some of my English ones,” I thought. When I prayed about it, God gave me a different thought, or maybe he just made me rethink a thought I have always had. I believe sermons are words first meant for the pastor to hear before they are for the congregation, and for many years now, I have felt God’s beckoning toward a certain part of scripture. If I wanted to spiritually grow through these sermons, I realized I needed to trust that God would meet me in the text and give me the words that I needed to hear, so I undertook God’s challenge to preach through one of the books I understood least:  Isaiah.

Fore-telling and forth-telling prophecy, oracles, Babylonian captivity, remnant, and the like are not the everyday sort of words one learns at Japanese school. I was not even sure I could give sufficient explanation in English, so what chance did I have in communicating anything in Japanese? For that first sermon, I spent weeks rereading my dusty Old Testament textbooks, studying maps and timelines, and trying to brush up my Hebrew, to not much avail. I also read through Isaiah a number of times to more avail, yet I still felt absolutely overwhelmed and incapable. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, God did an amazing thing. He met me in Isaiah. I still had to spend weeks agonizing over writing it out in Japanese, but in the end I had a sermon. And each sermon has passed similarly. I read through Isaiah a number of times, I feel completely incapable of saying anything coherent in a sermon, and God meets me there. As I reread Isaiah, again and again I am struck at God`s immense passion which simultaneously rages against sin and yet promises salvation that encompasses all nations. The moments when I met God in Isaiah are definitely some of my biggest joys of the last year.

But I am also painfully aware of how far of a gap there is between what God has been teaching me and what I present on a Sunday morning. Cutting pages of exegetical jewels, personal story illustrations, and applications into 20-30 minute sermon is hard in any language, but then having my carefully crafted Japanese sentences corrected and finally stumbling through that written script on a Sunday…Let me just say that the Japanese way of nodding in consent with eyes closed in contemplation is also the perfect cover for nodding off in general.

I know it is not possible for me to communicate everything through a sermon, but God’s passion became my passion, and I long to see that become the Japanese Church’s passion as well. I have 4 sermons left to preach, may God use them to teach and challenge me so that I may teach and challenge His Church.
***

Language (and Culture) Corner

The following exchange happened at tea ceremony class. One of the steps while enjoying tea ceremony is to ask the host about the tools. We were supposed to be very serious and contemplative, but…

   Celia: What kind of ocha-ire (tea-container) is this?
   Keith: Tonkatsu (pork cutlet).
   Fujiyama-sensei (our teacher): (laughing) No, it’s setokatatsuki.
   Keith: That kind of sounds like tonkatsu.
   Celia: You’re hungry, aren’t you?
   Keith: Yeah.
   Celia: Tonkatsu is delicious, isn’t it?
   Keith: Yeah.
   Celia: We should eat tonkatsu soon, right?
   Keith: Let’s go.
   Fujiyama-sensei: (cracks up)

Yes, tea ceremony class is fun when you don’t take yourself too seriously and have a good teacher. And it’s good for the soul.
***

Although this blog had an unscheduled hiatus this last month, it should be up and running again now, with a new post (almost) every weekend. Thanks for continuing to support us in prayer!

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Concert and Church Bazaar announcements, and whining about being too busy

Today’s coffee: El Salvador, roasted by our friend, Tim!

Last week… was very busy, as was the week before, and the week before. I’ve gotten a lot done… put out a lot of fires… but there are still more fires to put out. As stress and work pile up, my Japanese level drops and I make lots of stupid mistakes playing the cello.

Speaking of cello, Mr. Darcy (modern cello) is currently in the shop. My next concert will be played entirely on baroque cello, with baroque, classical, and modern bows. Since we didn’t have time to put together an entirely new program, we chose pieces from our repertoire suitable for a cello with gut strings… but with short fingerboard and gently sloped neck, some of the pieces we chose are pushing things a bit. The Schubert “Arpeggione” sonata goes way off the end of the fingerboard.

For those of you for whom the last paragraph read like Japanese even though it wasn’t, let me summarize: this next concert will be a challenge. It will be a good challenge, I think, but a challenge all the same.

If anyone would like to come, the concert will be Sunday, October 12 at (I think) 1:30 p.m. at Kita Hiroshima church. (Address: 北広島市泉町1丁目2-3) Eventually there will be some sort of chirashi, I think. I’ll be playing Brahms’ e minor sonata (first movement), Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata, Mendelssohn’s D Major sonata (first movement), and a few surprises. Keith will be preaching for the worship service that morning.

However, before we get to the October 12 concert, there is also our church bazaar: Saturday, October 4, 11:00-2:00, at Wakaba Church. (Address: 石狩市花畔2条1丁目) Come early for best selection of cakes and cookies. People usually start lining up around 10:30. I will be playing cello outside to entertain people while they wait, weather permitting. After that, I’ll be making coffee and tea for the café corner.


As if that weren’t enough to keep me busy, we also have 2 conferences we’re going to in October… and we’re doing music for both of them. I will be spending the afternoon rewriting a song for the second of the two conferences. And then there’s the farm, which is still going strong…

I thought about writing something else, but my brain is full of… everything. Sorry for being whiny. This is the nature of missionary work: sometimes we get very busy when everything seems to pile up at once. If you are praying for us, please do pray that we will be able to get enough rest, and to complete all the stuff we have to do without worrying about it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Curiosity, concerts, and too much coffee

Today’s coffees: an espresso and a drip coffee (Kenya) from About Life Coffee Brewers and a latte from The Theatre Coffee. Oh, and there was also a matcha latte from Starbucks before that. I think I’m going to have the shakes.

Sharon, and espresso shots
Gorgeous espresso shot...
This was the Kenyan drip coffee. It kind of looks like I'm drinking coffee in the shower.
Latte with pretty art
So… it has been a crazy week. For the last week, I've not slept in the same bed twice in a row. I’ve been at home, in Nayoro, in Jozankei, and in Tokyo… I really wish all of these trips had been more spread out, but… this is just how it happened. Having taken care of various business this morning and then having had coffee with Sharon (yay!), I’m now killing time until it’s time to take the train to the airport. The weather is bad throughout Japan, so I’m hoping my flight is not too terribly delayed. I’m ready to park myself at home for a few weeks and sleep in my own bed…

The concert went well. I think we played well, and our colleagues, Tim and Miho and three church members did a great job of welcoming the guests. It was an honor to be a part of Nayoro Grace Church’s first outreach concert.

Playing Debussy with Shino
After the concert, with one of the church members and one of Tim and Miho's kids. Somehow we didn't get a picture with Tim and Miho...
Which brings me to the book I’ve been referring to for the last few weeks: I Once Was Lost. The second chapter is about encouraging curiosity about Jesus in those with whom we already have trust relationships. I realized that this is the stage into which most of my concerts will fall: church members bring friends, neighbors, and family members, who may or not have any interest in Christianity, and who might feel weird if they think they are coming to a concert and they get a sermon. In the past, when I was stressed out about preparing for concerts (especially the “testimony” or “message” bit), I felt like God was urging me simply to tell stories that point to him. As I think about it, that’s one way of encouraging people to be curious.

This time I played a favorite hymn (How Firm a Foundation) on Shamisen; before I played, I read Isaiah 41:10 and 43:1-2, the passages on which the lyrics are based, and told a story of how the song had encouraged me. I hope that through this simple testimony I was able to encourage an attitude of curiosity in members of the audience.


Well, time to go to the airport!

p.s. I actually wrote this yesterday, since I had time to kill. I made it home safely and on time, and yes, I got the shakes from too much coffee. Oops.

The sunset from the plane was beautiful... much more beautiful than this picture.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

温泉卵・Onsen eggs

This week on Monday and Tuesday, I went to Jozankei Onsen for a retreat with some of my colleagues. During Monday's free time, we happened to observe a man cooking eggs in onsen water--a special hot spring for eggs! We decided that we had to try it.


Here's what you do: put eggs in a basket or mesh bag, dunk in hot spring (70 degrees Celsius), wait 15-20 minutes. Easy! (If you are at Jozankei, we recommend spending the waiting time with your feet in the neighboring 足湯--foot bath.) 


My friend, Shirley eagerly waits to see how they will turn out. 


Done! (Heh heh... We cooked our eggs in an onion bag...)


Cello calluses make handling hot eggs easier.


15 minutes gives you quite a soft egg; we did ours for 18 minutes, and they were on the soft side of hard boiled. I imagine 20 minutes would be completely hard boiled.

I ate my eggs with ume-flavored dashi and soy sauce.



Keith preferred to eat his egg right out of the shell, topped with a little soy sauce.



Of course, some of you don't have access to special hot springs for cooking eggs, but you can get a similar result from cooking you eggs in 70 degree water on the stove, although I imagine the temperature would be hard to control.

And if you're worried about food poisoning because of low temperature, guess what? Japanese eggs are pasteurized. I assume you can get pasteurized eggs in some other countries too. But be careful, okay?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Vignettes

Today’s coffee: Dominican Republic

Here are a few stories from this week.

Our farm continues to provide us with more food than we can eat. We’ve more or less decided not to eat out until things slow down a bit. Since tomatoes are quite expensive in Japan, Keith, who loves tomatoes, planted 24 tomato plants, each of which produced 15+ large tomatoes. Keith also likes to eat pasta with tomato sauce. Last Saturday was a movie night for the youth group; we made a big pot of spaghetti sauce with sausage and eggplant. (I continue to be amazed at how much these skinny middle-school kids can eat.) Sunday night, we had leftover spaghetti. On Monday, we realized some of the tomatoes were starting to go bad (and we have no freezer space), so guess what? More spaghetti. Tuesday we had no time to cook… so, spaghetti. Wednesday and Thursday? You guessed it; spaghetti. Tonight I’m making soup.

Soup made from my mom's Italian tortellini soup recipe! Except you can't get tortellini here, so I stuffed wonton wrappers with ground chicken, basil, cheese and garlic. I made too many, so we deep fried the leftovers.
For our day off on Monday, we went hiking. Since we were pretty tired, we chose a hike close to home—手稲山 (Teine-yama), which we can see from in front of our house. We’ve not had a single day off with good weather since July; although we were both tired, we knew that we would regret it if we didn’t take advantage of the perfect hiking weather. The hike followed a stream with waterfalls for a lot of the way; then the final climb had us scrambling over boulders. From the top, we could see all of Ishikari and Sapporo… although it was a little weird to walk through a forest of TV and radio towers as we neared the peak.

This part of the hike went on for a bit longer than I would have liked... but it looks cool, anyway.
This is Ishikari, our city. We live on the far right side, in the center, just above a patch of trees. As you can see, we're close to the beach.

Tuesday was our first tea ceremony lesson after our teacher’s summer break in August. Over the past couple of weeks lots of stuff happened and we suddenly got very busy; thinking about the lovely two hours of peaceful tea ceremony class gave me motivation to keep plowing through task after task. By Tuesday afternoon, I was so tired that I was slurring my speech and making all kinds of stupid mistakes during rehearsal with Shino. Still, after taking a break of over a month, I managed surprisingly well at the tea ceremony lesson. Sitting in front of the pot of gently simmering water, I had a space to rest, even as I played the part of the host and prepared tea for Keith and Noriko.

On Wednesday, we had our muffler fixed. My friends here used to call our car ヤンキー車, literally “Yankee car,” since somehow “Yankee” came to mean gangster or delinquent in Japanese. (Take that, New York.) But no more. Our car no longer rumbles; we don’t have to be embarrassed coming home late at night. While driving home from rehearsal today, I kept trying to clear my ears, only to be surprised that they weren’t plugged.

It’s a concert weekend! We’re off to Nayoro, about 3 hours north of here, tomorrow morning. This time I’m going to try to take seriously what my teacher always told me: short practice session the day before (everything should already be perfect, right?) and only warm-up the day of the concert. I think I might have convinced Shino to do the same. After all, playing cello and speaking Japanese seem to require the same sort of brain-power, so I often find that while I had plenty of energy to get through an entire concert in the US, I tend to lose focus toward the end of concerts I play here. Tomorrow’s final piece is probably the most difficult piece I’ve ever played. So, I’ll try to go to bed early.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Concert Announcement

This is a little late, but I'm playing a concert next week in Nayoro, which is 4 or so hours north of Sapporo. The poster is below. For those of you who don't read Japanese, here are the details:

Chapel Concert
Saturday, September 6, 6:30 p.m.
Nayoro Grace Church, Nayoro-shi nishi 9 jo kita 9 chome 21-67
Tel. (01654) 8-7742

I will be playing with pianist, Shino Inoue. Among other things, we will play Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata and Brahms' e minor cello sonata. I'm going to be working really hard this week... :)


Prayer and baby steps

 (I actually wrote this post last week, intending to post it right after Ultraman's post. But life happened, so I didn't. So, please enjoy this post a week late...)

Today’s coffee: Peru. But it’s late in the day. Will I sleep tonight?

Last week I described my freak-out moment on the blog. Today I described it in front of a room full of pastors. That was somewhat intimidating. And yet somehow it was good to share my struggles with them.

I also had a striking realization this morning: although I have been told since I was small that I need to “bring friends to church” and “tell friends about Jesus,” that was the extent of my evangelism training. (And, I basically gave up after my beloved grandmother got angry when I tried to tell her about Jesus.) Even at Regent College, I had no intention of becoming a missionary or a pastor, so I didn’t bother taking any classes geared in that direction. I think part of the problem was that in my concept of evangelism, the bar was way too high. What about the people who don’t care, don’t want to hear, and have a complicated history with Christians and organized religion? How do I relate to such people, and how do I deal with rejection? Because, as I sometimes have to remind myself, I really do believe that what I’m offering has great value—it’s worth risking everything for.

As a follow up to last week, I’ll briefly mention what I’ve learned and tried as a result of the first chapter of I Once Was Lost. To summarize, I learned (although I think I already knew this to be true) that most people start their journey of faith by forming a trust relationship with a Christian. If I don’t have a trust relationship with my neighbors, they’re not going to care what I have to say about matters of faith, and they’re certainly not going to want to come to church with me.

So, I decided to pray for the people in my neighborhood (and spend more time outside in the yard). This does not mean the “God, please give me an opportunity” sorts of prayers. I discovered that for me, those sorts of prayers are self-centered, and I need to take a break from them for a while. I started praying for each person’s well-being and salvation… and guess what? Immediately, something about our relationship with our neighbors changed. The man next door, with whom we’ve never actually talked, brought us a whole bunch of potatoes and a squash. Another time, he came and talked to me when I was working in the garden. Then, Keith rode the same bus home from choir practice with the man from the house on the other side; we had once had a very awkward conversation with him, but this time he chatted with Keith about his family.

We’re now into our fourth year; less than one year left until home assignment. I can’t help but think that there’s not enough time left, but God is capable of working far beyond our expectations.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ultraman's Photo Diary

There's this funny thing we do at church. It sort of started naturally. There's an Ultraman action figure, which probably came from the toy box upstairs. (Ultraman is a superhero character whom Takahashi-sensei fondly remembers from his childhood.) Somehow, Ultraman started showing up around the church in funny places and in funny poses. I'm actually not sure who started it, and I'm not sure who all is participating... but I started taking pictures. So... Wakaba Church proudly presents "Ultraman's Photo Diary."

Flying above the clock:

Keeping the coat-tree company in the summer months:

Trying on Takahashi-sensei's shoes:

...and as a response perhaps, he was found napping in Keith's shoe later the same day:

Trying to blend in with the office supplies:

Hanging out by the mailboxes:

Climbing the wall:

Riding an interesting vehicle:

Relaxing on the bookshelf with a Bible and a bunch of bananas:

Protecting the sanctuary from bad guys:

"Takeishi-san, don't forget your CD!"

In the genkan (entryway): "Welcome to Wakaba!"

To be continued...