Monday, August 23, 2010

August Newsletter

Newsletter #6, August 20, 2010

Dear friends and family,

We got off the plane from Brazil on August 18 and thus have finally come to the end of 4½ months of living out of suitcases and traveling upon traveling. In case you were wondering, these are the places we have stayed since we left Sapporo on April 6: Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Unzen, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Hakone, Inuyama, Tokyo, Vancouver, Seattle, Fort Dodge (Iowa), Orlando, Fort Dodge (and a few places between Fort Dodge and Orlando), Grand Forks (North Dakota), Seattle, Vancouver, 2 places in Colorado, Seattle, Portland, Seattle, Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Fortaleza (Brazil), and finally back to Seattle again. We’re glad to be home. (Keith hates planes.)

Our big news is that we have moved to Seattle and will now live with Celia’s parents until we return to Japan. We praise God for leading us to Seattle and keeping us safe during our move. Keith drove a 24 foot rental truck through the narrow streets of Vancouver, B.C. and then to Seattle. Many things could have gone very wrong, including the time Keith was stuck mid-turn in a busy intersection, but there was no major damage to our stuff, the truck, or our bodies.

Celebrating our 5th anniversary in July near Mt. Rainier
Now we are looking for ministry work; we are following up on one possibility. We hope to find a position that will give us good experience and allow us to develop more contacts with people interested in our ministry in Japan.

One More Part of the Body of Christ

Among the many places we traveled in the last four months, one highlight was our trip to Brazil. Our school friend, Carla, invited us to come to her wedding and be witnesses, which is the Brazilian equivalent of being in the wedding party. While we were there, we enjoyed spending time with Carla and her husband, Arnaldo, with Carla’s family, and with Connie and Rebecca, who also went to Regent with us. The wedding was beautiful, and we enjoyed fellowship and food at Carla’s home.

We also decided to visit our Compassion International sponsored children in Brazil, Kaio and Stefanny, and our sponsored college student, Grasiele. The five days of visits taught us how to pray more effectively for the children living in Brazil’s slums. We had the privilege of visiting Kaio and Grasiele at home and receiving the hospitality of their families, and we also had the opportunity to attend church with Grasiele.

Worshiping at El Shaddai Assembly of God in Fortaleza, Brazil with Grasiele (next to Celia) and several of her friends
When we worship together with the people in the various places we have traveled, we are always amazed at the beauty and diversity of the Body of Christ. It is Christ who makes us into one Church, despite barriers of language, race, and social status. We were prayed for and loved by the Body of Christ in Brazil, and we praised God for their passion for the Gospel and their love for one another.

A word about charities and missionary work: while our gifts and acts of service are important, it is perhaps more important that through the experience of giving and traveling and serving, we learn how to pray. We also build relationships with people whom, apart from our mutual love for Christ, we would probably never meet. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in far-off places, from uneducated slum-dwellers to wealthy business people, have important things to teach us which we cannot learn if we simply stay at home and spend time with people who are just like us. We learn to be more like Christ through the witness of those whom we are serving, and simply because we obey God’s call to serve.

(Finally, a shameless plug: come visit us when we go back to Japan, because you will learn how to pray for the needs of the Japanese! You will be blessed by fellowship with the believers there. And you will probably eat some really good food.)

We've posted several times about this trip... so check out the last several posts too! I still have a couple more to do yet, so if you're interested, check back in a week or so.

Why Japan?

Since we came back to North America, when meeting with friends, we repeatedly hear the same question: “Why Japan?” The short answer: God gave us love for the Japanese people. There have been many little everyday confirmations of our calling which we received before, during, and after our time in Japan, but here are a couple of stories which we would consider most significant in God’s confirmation of our work in Japan.

Celia’s Story: My confirmation came on a Saturday last September, about a month after we arrived in Japan. Keith was teaching English, so I had the day to myself. I decided to ride my bike to Satorando Park to visit the farmer’s market. My heart was filled with inexplicable joy as I rode past people working in their gardens and admired the fields of onions for which our region is famous. I thanked God for blessing the people of Sapporo with good soil and delicious vegetables; I wept that most of these people don’t know this loving God who has graciously provided for their needs when he made their island. I prayed for each person I saw to know their creator and provider. After shopping at the market, I rode my bike home, thanking God for bringing me to such a good place and for calling me to serve him and make him known among the Japanese people.

Riding Home from the Farmer's Market with 20 kg of potatoes (they cost about $2!!). This was at a different time from the aforementioned story--probably in November.
Keith’s Story: Similar to Celia’s story, my specific confirmation came in everyday life—instances that would otherwise not be special had I not felt God’s overwhelming presence. On several occasions, at the subway station or the park or outside a school, God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Look around at these people.” I stood motionless. I saw men in business suits, women in tall boots, or children pouring out of school buses, and then I felt an incredible love for them. God was showing me a drop of his love for the Japanese, and it broke me when I coupled it with the knowledge that 99% of these people had no idea how much they are loved or who the Lover is. As much as I wanted to, I knew that running up to those Japanese children and trying to tell them about Jesus would be ineffective, even if I could manage it in Japanese. Showing the love of God to the Japanese will take time, and out of moments like those, God was preparing me to be willing for a lifetime of such service.

Prayer Points
  • We are thankful for a “new” home in Seattle with Celia’s parents and for safety in our move here. Please pray for all of us as we adjust to living together. Please also pray for new and renewed friendships here, especially for Keith.
  • We are looking for partners to faithfully pray for us. In order to do that, we are seeking opportunities to share about our work in Japan with churches, small groups, and individuals. Please pray that we would know who to ask and which opportunities to pursue.
  • We have our first pledge, so we have 1% of our monthly support! We’re very thankful. Please pray that God will continue to provide for us financially for our life and ministry in Japan, and for our return there in God’s timing.
  • We are looking for work: we would like to serve in a church, and by so doing, gain experience which will help us in our missionary work.


Nuts and Bolts

Just a few miscellaneous items which fit nowhere else:
  • We moved, but our mailing address in the US didn’t change, in case you were wondering.
  • There have been some major updates on the blog, including a “get involved” page and a prayer page. We will be updating these pages frequently.
  • We need 30 people to sign up for a paper copy of our newsletter before OMF will start sending it out for us. If you are reading this on your computer but would prefer a paper copy of our newsletter, don’t be shy: please follow this link and sign up! You do not need to make a donation to receive our prayer letter. Go to this link then type “Keith and Celia Olson” in the box marked “Name of person/family to whom you are pledging your support,” check the box marked “prayer commitment,” enter your address information, and click “submit.” Send us an email if you are confused.
  • One more item for the email list crowd: we have prayer cards now! This is a simple, tangible reminder to pray for us. You can put it on your fridge or bulletin board. If you would like one, please send us your mailing address.

Money Jar: We have 1%!

We need 100% pledged monthly support for our first term (5 years) before returning to Japan.  Please  keep praying!

That’s it for this month! We’re glad to be settling down. Thanks for your prayers; please let us know how we can be praying for you.

Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

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