Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February Newsletter

And the Word Became Meat…

Before my first Christmas concert, Keith and I were practicing our Japanese and calming our nerves by reading the scripture I had chose for the evening (John 1:1-14), coached by Shino-san, my pianist. When we came to verse 14, both of us burst out laughing: “the word became 肉(niku)… meat?” The same character referring in the scriptures to the incarnation of Jesus appears on every package of meat in the supermarket. Perhaps this set the tone for a Christmas that was different from all the others.

We had an extremely busy December, followed by a visit from my family and some much needed down time. Now we are back in the groove of language study, student ministry, English teaching, and music ministry at church.

Christmas Concert Update
In the print version of the newsletter, I included an abridged version of my last post. Rather than re-post the whole thing, I thought it would be better if everyone just looked at the original...

Snow Vignettes
Keith’s observations about life in Sapporo during the winter

In Sapporo, it snows every other night, and there is very little space to put all the snow. Many roads have packed snow and ice on them 10 inches thick (which melts around the manholes leaving dangerous potholes here and there). When the snow finally came properly (it was late this winter), I thought there would be mass chaos. Pedestrians had to use the already narrow roads because many of the sidewalks were blocked with snow. Old men continued to ride their bikes slowly down the road. The cars went the same speed on dry roads as on snowy and icy roads. Maybe it's the Japanese anti-lock-braking, but somehow, it all works out, and I have managed to not get hit by a car (even when I ride my bike much to the groan of Celia. I did almost hit a van with my bike, but that’s another story).

They do put some of the snow to good use. Every year thousands of foreigners come to Sapporo in February to see its雪まつり (yukimatsuri=snow festival). They have hundreds of snow and ice sculptures, some 50 feet high. A few of my favorites were Homer Simpson, Michael Jackson, and the huge gorilla. I found myself enjoying people watching more than anything else. The crowd control wearing flashing vests were there to make sure the white people did not try to jaywalk or walk the wrong way around the park (I must have heard the “walk counter-clockwise” announcement 20 times over the loudspeaker).

Since it is a rare sight to see bare concrete in the winter here (aside from the person next door to us who has continuously been watering his parking lot), Sapporians have developed winter means of carrying their children, dogs, and groceries. They use sleds. It makes sense, but it is fairly amusing all the same to see the brightly coloured plastic sleds lined up outside the super markets where the bike racks used to be. I have enjoyed watching people tote their children with their groceries, and one time I saw an old guy pulling a sled laden with a 20 kg bag of rice and a 24 pack of Sapporo beer. Celia saw one sled with a kid and a dog mixed up with the groceries.

Behind our church there is a park with a huge snow mound perfect for sledding. One Sunday afternoon, Celia and I were asked to babysit the 10 or so children after church. Problem: Celia and I have learned more formal Japanese, and the children use more plain Japanese, so half the time we have no idea what they are saying. Solution: we just go sledding and therefore there is no need to facilitate conversation. Problem: there are no sleds. Solution: we use a big green tarp, which could fit the dozen of us. Problem: bloody nose. Solution: bring child inside, apply Kleenex. Problem: all the children follow, and we can’t explain to them to stay outside and keep playing. Solution: drink, snack, and movie time. Problem: vomit. Solution: carry child off of carpet. Problem: vomit again, this time on Keith. Solution: give child to father, change shirt, clean up vomit on carpet. Fortunately the church meeting finished before the movie did, thus ending one of our less successful child care attempts.

Language Corner
“Speechi”: Keith reflects on the dangers of public speaking in Japanese

My first real Japanese public speaking happened on the January 3rd at one of Celia’s concerts. In Japan, the 司会 (shikai=master of ceremonies) is a very important role, and I took on the task with no idea what I had gotten into. It took weeks to get my Japanese presentable, and even then I only half knew what I was saying. Although it was all scripted, I got really nervous the day of the concert; it was Celia’s largest concert with over a hundred attendees. The first half went okay, and that was the hard part with all of the introductions and whatnot. I relaxed my guard and started to enjoy the music, but when I went up to announce the intermission my mind blanked and I felt as though I was babbling like a baby: “ku… kuke… ke…” Of course all the nice Japanese ladies came up to me afterwards and told me how good my Japanese was. Perhaps the most truthful comment came the day after when a 5-year-old missionary kid told me that my Japanese had sounded “mechanical.” I did wonder where this little girl picked up such terminology, but granted that her Japanese was better than mine, I sought to liven up my Japanese for the next speech that I gave. Its title was “初めてのデート” (my first date). I will spare you the details of the speech…suffice it to say it ended with me puking out of Celia’s car. The speech itself went well, and I have a recording for anyone keen to hear me slaughter some Japanese. My crowning mistake in it was actually the pronunciation of my name. There is no “th” in Japanese, so my name changes from Keith to キース (Keesu). Unfortunately there is another borrowed word that sounds very similar, namely キス (kisu=kiss). So while I was explaining how Celia declared her fondness for me, I said, “Celia likes kissing,” not “Celia likes Keith.” On a side note, one of the teachers asked when our first kiss actually was, and I ended up saying it lasted for 3 months.

 Mikiko-san and Yuugo-kun help Keith put the finishing touches on his speech.

Celia’s Cooking Corner
Recipe Contest Results

That’s right, we have winners! First place goes to Tora Klassen for Hot and Sour Soup. Honourable mention goes to Ronna Husby for Tonjiru. We love both of these soups—they make good use of Japanese wintertime ingredients, they are cheap and easy to prepare… and they are extremely tasty! Pictures and recipes will be posted shortly on our blog. Thanks very much to all of you who sent us your recipes and suggestions. We now have many new soups in our repertoire. It was fun to try all of them!

 The crowning achievement of Celia's Japanese cooking career: a Japanese new year's feast (おせち=osechi), prepared with help from Mom and Colin.

Prayer Points
Looking back, we are thankful for…
  • The organ at Kibou no Oka church: it is a huge blessing which raises Keith’s spirits.
  • A visit from Celia’s family. They had been uncertain that they would be able to come, because of Grandma Grace’s poor health, but other family members offered to take care of her while they were away. Grandma passed away while they were here, but other family members took care of everything, so they didn’t need to rush home. We are thankful for Grandma’s life, in particular the wonderful example she set of generosity and perseverance in suffering.
  • The success of the concerts in many ways, including building friendships with musicians, establishing relations with churches, and musical excellence! A number of people attending had never been in a church or heard the Gospel before.
  • Our friends. In particular, we are thankful for our conversation partners, Tomoaki-san and Mikiko-san.
Looking forward, we are praying for…
  • Our final concert: Shino-san and I just started rehearsing again for our next concert, which will be March 21 at Tooei Church. We’re very excited about this concert—it will take place at Shino-san’s church, so many of her friends and family will be there. Please pray for our rehearsals and that the concert will be an encouragement to the church members, and a good opportunity to invite new people to come to church.
  • Our Japanese studies: we feel like we are on a plateau. We are learning many new forms, but haven’t had much opportunity to practice them. Our reading and writing skills are far stronger than our conversational skills. Please pray that we will make good use of opportunities to practice Japanese conversation.
  • Our church, Satsunae Lighthouse Church: a number of missionaries and key members will be leaving the church soon. Susan will finish language school and start work at Oomagari church, the Widmer-Kunioka family will leave for home assignment, the Kimura family will start work at Nanae church, and we will be returning to Vancouver. In addition, the church is still slowly looking for a pastor. Please pray for a smooth transition for our church and for each person who is leaving, and that God would provide workers from among the remaining church members and elsewhere, to carry on with the work which needs to be done.
  • The Amoyaw family: our friend, Mikiko-san’s husband, Curtis recently returned to university in Russia. Please pray for strength and patience for the two of them and their son, Yuugo as they wait to be reunited in the summer.
  • Keith’s English classes: interest is waning especially in the cold weather. Most of the regular attendees are already church members, but the point of the class is outreach to the community. Please pray that the people who have stopped coming will return to the classes.
  • Our many different areas of service: we’re feeling like we’re spread a little thin, since we’re working in so many different areas, even as we are thankful for the opportunity to participate in so many different aspects of OMF’s work. Please pray for us to finish well in all our different tasks.
  • Our plans for the future: we’re going home sometime in April, but there are still a lot of details to be worked out. We are returning to Vancouver, but we don’t have a home or a job. Please pray for the faith to trust in God even in a time of uncertainty.
  • We’ve sown lots of seeds, and nurtured seeds that others have sown. Please pray that God would provide others to continue the work we started in our time here.
We can’t believe it, but we’re almost done! We’ll write our next letter after we return to Vancouver, but we will continue to update our blog. Thanks so much for your prayers and support.

Love, Keith and Celia

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