Friday, November 26, 2010

November Newsletter

Newsletter #8, November 25, 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

I find it somewhat ironic that I'm writing about our Christmas travel plans in the middle of a winter storm in Seattle. Nevertheless, weather permitting, we hope to drive from Seattle to Grand Forks, ND and stay for a few days around Sunday, Dec. 19 and then down to Fort Dodge, IA for Christmas with Keith's family. Please contact us if you want to meet us or to introduce us to someone while we are in the area.

Autumn leaves in our yard meet first snowfall
Having divulged our Christmas plans, I'm now backtracking to Halloween weekend, when Celia and I spoke at an OMF conference. It was well attended: about 100 people showed up to Youth Night. We were encouraged, and we hope we encouraged others to consider involvement in missions, even if they aren't traveling across the ocean. Just recently, we also attended a “Sharpen Your Interpersonal Skills” (SYIS) workshop, which, among other things, taught us that we are still grieving the fact that we left Japan. When we started speaking about this loss in terms of grief instead of reverse culture shock, we were better able to identify where our “heaviness” for Japan comes from. Fast-forwarding back to the present, here we are at Thanksgiving weekend…

Boldly Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness

As I (Celia) am writing this, I’m taking a break from sermon preparations. On Sunday, I will preach about thankfulness at the church where I grew up (Newport Covenant Church), using Psalm 145 as my text. In my sermon, I’m going to encourage the congregation to proclaim God’s faithfulness, because to do so will make God’s glory known in our own lives, among our family and friends, and to the ends of the earth.

I find when I write a sermon, I am often preaching as much to myself as to the congregation. This sermon is exactly what I need to hear right now, because sometimes it isn’t easy to give thanks. There are times when I can hardly stop myself from gushing God’s praise to anyone who will listen, but much of the time, distractions of life get in the way, and I don’t really feel very thankful. Sometimes life sucks. Thanking God starts as a discipline which I must do, which then swells into heartfelt praise. Thus my daily discipline is to spend time in prayer thinking about what I am thankful for, starting with concrete things around me if I can’t think of anything else. The more I look for God’s goodness, the more I see it.

At the risk of embarrassing some people, I would like to proclaim how God has been faithful to us through the people he has put in our lives. We have been very blessed!

Recently, as we mentioned, we went to Abbotsford, BC for the SYIS conference. Our housing was provided by Pete and Sara Heinrichs, who had been complete strangers until we arrived. When we came into their home, we immediately noticed that their refrigerator was covered by pictures of missionaries and exchange students. We learned that over the years, Sara and Pete had traveled extensively to visit and encourage missionaries, and that they had welcomed numerous international students into their home. Sara carefully set the table each morning with a spread worthy of a Bed and Breakfast. As we ate, we prayed together and encouraged each other. I was overwhelmed by their hospitality—“This is our missionary work,” Sara explained. We are thankful for the many people who have hosted us in the last 7 months, especially when we were trying to discern where God was calling us to live.

Breakfast with Pete and Sara
During the last several months, we have had the opportunity to gather in prayer with a number of different people and groups. We have been searching for God’s will for our lives, as we are seeking to serve him in North America while we are waiting to return to Japan, so being supported in prayer has been very important and encouraging to us. In particular, we are thankful for my mom’s MIT prayer group, who have been praying for me since childhood, for Hosanna Christian Church (the Japanese church we have been attending), and for the OMF prayer group in Seattle, which mostly consists of retired missionaries who have encouraged us through faithful prayer and by sharing wisdom from their many years of service. There have been many others; we are greatly encouraged every time we hear that someone is praying for us!

During the month of October, God provided us with several great opportunities to meet people and make connections. We are thankful for the ministry of Phoebe Wong, the OMF regional ministry coordinator in Vancouver, who arranged the conference at which we spoke at the end of October. Earlier in October, we met up with Obo, a fellow student from Regent, who is now a pastor at a Japanese church in Seattle. He introduced us to a number of other Japanese pastors, so hopefully we will be able to speak at other churches.

Finally, we are thankful for the people who have supported us financially, through treating us to meals, giving one-time donations, and making pledges. Many of these people have been long-time supporters—in every sense of that word.

We thank God for allowing us to partner in ministry with so many loving and faithful supporters. We have acknowledged only a few of the people we are thankful for here; we thank God for each and every one of you reading this letter.

Prayer Points
  • Praise God for the turnout at the OMF conference in Vancouver! We are thankful to have been able to speak at that conference and at other churches as well, and we are praying about other speaking engagements as well.
  • We have decided to participate in community groups at Newport Church. Please pray for Mel and Janet, with whom we plan to start a group in January.
  • We're driving some 3,683 miles (about 60 hours) in December, so please pray that the weather and our Subaru will cooperate with us for a hassle free drive across the country.
  • We thank God for everyone who has given us a one time donation; these will help us with plane tickets and initial set-up costs in Japan. However, while OMF does not require that we raise all the money necessary for the first term before we leave for Japan, we need people to pledge to support us when we get there (usually given in monthly amounts). Please pray with us for pledges.
  • We still experience waves of sadness when we remember and miss Japan and our friends there. Please pray that we can find balance between our passion for the Japanese and living well now, in this current season.
  • Both of Celia’s grandparents have moved into their third assisted living home. Please pray for their continued adjustment, especially that they will make friends. They are still unhappy, but they are getting good care.

Preparing for Japan
Warning: the following is very nerdy… and silly.

Even though we’re in the US, we’re still studying Japanese. We’re specifically focusing on reading and writing, since that is relatively easy to do without a teacher. Japanese has 3 sets of characters which make up its writing system: 2 syllabic sets of 46 characters each (hiragana and katakana) and kanji (the Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system which provide meaning; there are about 2200 in standard use). Kanji is complicated, since most of the characters can be pronounced in several different ways depending on the context. Some people—both Japanese and foreigners—try to avoid studying kanji, since any kanji character can be written in hiragana as well. However, it is fascinating to learn… and very necessary, given the huge number of homonyms in the Japanese language. Let me explain with a test sentence, written in hiragana:

Translation: ??

Without kanji, this is a meaningless run-on sentence. Adding kanji, the pronunciation stays the same, but we know the meaning of the sentence and where words begin and end:

(uraniwa ni wa niwa; niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru.)
Translation: 2 birds are in the backyard; 2 chickens are in the garden.

We are thankful for kanji!

Money Jar: We have 1.5%!

We need 100% pledged monthly support for our first term (5 years) before returning to Japan. Please keep praying with us that God will provide for our financial needs!

“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All you have made will praise you, O LORD; your saints will extol you.”
—Psalm 145:9-10

May your voice join with all of creation in thankfulness to our God, who is worthy of our praise.

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

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