Friday, April 30, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Sapporo

So, as you have probably figured out by now, we have left Sapporo. We went south to Tokyo and various other places on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, then returned "home" to Vancouver... although "home" is a rather complicated subject at the moment.

Japanese people take life transitions, including saying goodbye, very seriously. So for the last 2 weeks of March, we seemed to be hopping from one party or social event to the next in order to properly say goodbye to all our important people.

We've mentioned before that our church lost a lot of members recently--the Kimuras went to pastor Nanae church in Hakodate area, Susan finished language school and went to serve at Omagari church, the Widmer-Kuniokas went on home assignment to Switzerland, and of course we went back to Vancouver. Before the mass exodus began, we took a church picture. There was a proper goodbye party later in the month, but I neglected to take any pictures, since we were all busy crying. I think we can blame Ayuki-chan and Ayae-chan for that--9-year-old best friends tearfully saying goodbye...

We hung out with some of our American friends and had a Southern food potluck. It was delicious! We compared notes on what Southern foods work well using ingredients we can find in Japan... and some with expensive imported ingredients. Incidentally, I had no idea the term "southern" has such a disputed meaning... Afterwards I was really feeling all the cream, meat, and cheese, since we don't eat too much heavy food like that in Japan! But it was so delicious...

We had fried okra, black eyed peas, potato gratin, and jello... my contributions were slow cooked pork chops, green bean casserole (with homemade cream of mushroom soup using delicious Japanese mushrooms), and sourdough bread. There was peanut cake for dessert.

The very next night, we had an impromptu dinner party with our housemates (there were many at that point) and some friends from church--you might recognize Osaka-san, the father of the family, since we have posted pictures from our visits to his sushi shop! They came with a plate of sushi and sashimi, including fugu... never thought I would be eating fugu in my own living room! We also had some delicious miso soup, salad, and curry rice.

Keith felt right at home, since 5 children (2 girls and 3 boys) were present for the evening.

After dinner, we had a quick lesson on making makizushi.

2 days later, on Tuesday, we had a goodbye party with the University student group. We have to admit, the party wouldn't have been nearly so lively if Alaric, our boss, hadn't also been leaving. He went back to England for home assignment.

Then on Thursday, we met with our prayer group for a Seder meal, since it was Maundy Thursday. Never thought I'd do that in Japan... I contributed hummus, roast veggies, and matzo ball soup, and we also helped out with the lamb.

On Saturday, we went with a group of friends to a baseball game, where we watched Sapporo's team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, beat the Saitama Lions.

The Saitama Lions had their own away-game fan club. We watched the fans more than the game...

Easter was a bigger than usual celebration at our church, since it was also our church's 10th anniversary! Keith and I helped with the music--and we had not one but TWO cellists! That's right, I was not the only cellist-missionary in Sapporo! We had a big potluck after the service.

Every week we sing a prayer before we eat lunch.

Yuugo-kun, who usually can't come to church because of his health, got a lot of love from the big girls.

Worn out from all the playing...

We had Easter dinner with Mikiko-san and her family. Our tradition for the last 4 years has been to eat lamb for Easter, and so we did... although this time we had Hokkaido style lamb--a special dish called Jingis Khan. It's marinated, stir-fried Hokkaido lamb with vegetables. We also had onigiri, and I provided the deviled eggs.

I went home with a special kimono cover for cooking.

The following Tuesday we left for Tokyo. Coincidentally, our friend, Yuki-san was leaving for Korea the same day.

So many goodbyes... can't wait to go back!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Final Concert in Sapporo

Shino-san and I played 3 concerts at Christmas time... but that wasn't enough for us, so we decided to do one last concert on March 21! We played Bach, Beethoven, and Faure at Shino-san's church. The church has a cute little organ, which we used for the Bach. I also told a bit of my story (in English with Japanese translation projected on power point), and we sang a couple of songs together. Altogether, that brought my concert total for the 8 months to 10 concerts and many other smaller engagements. :) I'll just add too, it was such a pleasure to play with Shino-san! I'm really going to miss her!

For your reading pleasure, here is the story I told about my life during the concert. I started by introducing myself in Japanese, so you can read that bit if you like; I recommend using Google Translate for a good laugh. :) In any case, this story will give you a good idea of what we're thinking about at the present moment.

証の前に、少し自己紹介をします。 私はアメリカのシアトルで生まれました。 大学で音楽を勉強しました。 2005年キース・オルソンと結婚しました。 それから、 キースと一緒にカナダのバンクーバーで神学校に入学しました。 私は礼拝の音楽を専門に勉強しました。 神学校の時、 私達はパットとトニー・シュミット先生に会いました。 そして、日本人の友達とよく話しました。 日本人が大好きになりましたから、日本へ来て決めました。 もうすぐ国へ帰りますが、日本へ戻りたいです。 どうぞ私達の為にお祈りして下さい!これから英語で証をします。 パワーポイントを見て下さい。

Some of you have already heard my testimony at our concert at Kibou no Oka church. Today I’m going to tell you a different story, about how I learned to trust God. I grew up in a Christian family, and I invited Jesus into my heart when I was about 5 years old. At that time, the most significant challenge I had faced was when my younger brother stole a toy I wanted to play with. My life was very safe, so I believed that God, and my parents, were completely trustworthy. As I grew up, and as I began to face real challenges and make difficult decisions, trusting God became more difficult—and more necessary. Over the 23 years that have passed since the day I invited Jesus into my heart, I have been on a journey with God, learning how to trust him and follow him.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trusting God lately. Right now my future seems up in the air, since my husband and I will soon leave behind many precious friends here in Sapporo and return to Vancouver in Canada. In Vancouver we have no home and no job, many of our friends have moved away, and our church has changed. We don’t want to leave Sapporo, but we must. Can I trust God to provide for my needs over the next several months? Can I trust him to provide a job, and a home, and new friends? Can I trust him to bring us back to Japan, if that is his will?

Every transition in my life comes with a crisis of trust: can I trust God to provide for my needs in this new situation? Can I rest in the belief that even if there is a lot of work to be done, God has already gone ahead of me? Do I believe that he will do as he promises—that he really does know the plans he has for me, and for each one of us—plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future? These words, which I have borrowed from the prophet Jeremiah, were written long ago to encourage the people of Israel, but many people today still take comfort in these words. The God who promised to bring the people of Israel home from exile is the same God who sent his son to the cross for our sins, and the same God we worship today and call upon in prayer. His power and his love for us are far greater than our fear, or our suffering, or anything that the future holds.

One time in my life when I was particularly aware of God’s provision was when I was finishing up at the University of Colorado. I felt like my life was falling to pieces all around me. A year before, I had had a dramatic renewal of my faith, my studies had been going well, I had started dating a guy from my church, and we had been thinking about marriage. Suddenly, within a few months, the relationship fell apart, my summer job plan fell through, and I was struggling to prepare for graduate school auditions. In addition, I was about to leave my church and my friends behind and start a new life somewhere else. I felt completely helpless, and had no choice but to depend on God to provide for me and encourage me. My prayers at that time didn’t have too many words, just “help me, please!” I didn’t even know what to say to God or what to ask him for, since all my plans had come to nothing. All I could do was cry out to God from deep in my heart.

God heard my cries, and he provided for me, according to his own timing and his own purposes. I found out I had been accepted to study baroque cello and viola da gamba at Boston University, with a full scholarship. God provided me with wonderful teachers and classmates there. Shortly before the term started, my parents unexpectedly met one of my future classmates, Tess, when they were traveling. When they found out we would be classmates, they gave Tess my email address, so I was able to meet her my second day in Boston. We became friends and supported each other as we got adjusted to our new life. Regarding my summer job, my viola da gamba teacher invited me to work at Interlochen Arts Camp, where she would be teaching, so that in addition to working, I could also continue to study with her through the summer. On my first day there, I met my husband, Keith!

God has done many things in my life. As I look back on how God has been faithful to me, to my family, to his people in all places throughout history, my faith becomes sight in a small way. The God who has sustained us in the past will continue to sustain us in the future, even in the hardest of times. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”