Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Story of our Story (We'll be in Vancouver January 29-30)

Check us out! We're on page 29 of the Missions Fest Vancouver magazine and the same story is on page 2 of BC Christian News. We were pretty excited when we found out we would be featured in these magazines, and here's the quick story of how our story got there. We happened to run into Dwayne Buhler, the president of Vancouver Missions Fest, while we were attending Seattle Missions Fest. We got to talking, and when he found out that we made our connection with OMF at Vancouver Missions Fest in 2008, he asked us to write our story out and send it to him. We did, sent it in, and heard that they wanted a picture to go with our story because they were going to put us in their magazine! Shortly thereafter, BC Christian News also asked us to use our story. We hope it will stir up interest in our ministry and missions to Japan in general.

We're going to be in Vancouver January 29-30 at Missions Fest Vancouver. Here's our schedule, so come by and see us!

Saturday, January 29
  • 11:00-12:00 We will be at the Regent College booth. You can ask us about our experience at Regent, or Japan, or whatever else you want to talk about.
  • 2:00-4:00 We will be manning the OMF booth. We can "officially" talk to you about Japan at this time. And we'll try our best to answer your questions about other places OMF works, too.
  • 5:00 Join us for dinner! Meet at the coat check, and we can chat over dinner.
Sunday, January 30 (Keith only--Celia will be back in Seattle)

We've got some exciting things coming up in the next couple of months. Here's a preview:

Sunday, February 6
We will be at West Side Presbyterian Church in Seattle for the 8:15 and 11:00 services. In addition to sharing a little about our ministry, Celia will be providing special music.

Friday, February 18-Saturday, February 19
We are attending the 10th annual International RJC Conference in Bothell, WA. We have been part of the planning committee for this event--and it looks like it's going to be a great conference! Celia will be providing some music before the Friday evening plenary session, and both of us will be assisting with a workshop about using anime for evangelism. In addition, there will be seminars by some awesome people, including friends of ours!

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Mochitsuki: Japanese New Year Party

    It all started on a day last November or so, when Colin and Jiayun came over to our house. We could hear the chainsaw going in the woods behind the house, but all we knew was that Colin was making something in Dad's workshop... out of a tree from our yard...

    Fast forward to January 3, which was "Christmas Morning" in the Wilson/Olson household, since all of us traveled over the holidays. We did our usual thing--the "children" run around the corner to see what "Santa" left in their stockings... and there was this gigantic wooden hammer.

    Mochitsuki, which is the pounding of "sweet" rice to make mochi (rice cakes), is traditionally done during the New Year's festivities in Japan. No one cooks for 3 days (January 1-3), so the rice is prepared as mochi to be served in a number of different ways. To pound the mochi, you need an usu (hollowed out log) and a kine (pronounced keenay--gigantic wooden hammer). You put rice in the usu and bash it with the kine until it is smooth. Meanwhile, someone (usually the wife) kneads the rice dough and keeps it moist so it doesn't stick. Incidentally, the usu was hidden under the Christmas tree skirt.

    Anyway, we went straight out to try the thing out. Mom and Granddad watched from a safe distance.

    Later on, Keith levitated the finished mochi balls.

    Mochitsuki is a communal event... so we decided to have a party! I prepared a lot of food: ozouni soups, nimono (stewed vegetables), and various toppings for the mochi. We got the waffle iron out to make "moffles" too.

    The first batch of mochi was pretty sticky. Or we didn't do it right. Or something.

    Then an "expert" showed up! Hooray, Hiromi-san coached us on our mochi technique!

    I made daifuku (mochi stuffed with sweet red bean paste) with some of the girls from Talk Time.

    Meanwhile, everyone was enjoying the food.

    It was so much fun that we decided to do it again on Sunday after church! That's our Japanese church, by the way.

    Everyone had a chance with the kine.

    Gender roles reversed??

    Back to normal...

    Many hands make light work.

    The parties are over now (including Granddad's 90th birthday party today!) and the usu and kine are hanging out in the sun-room doing a great job as a plant stand.

    Saturday, January 08, 2011

    Christmas with the fam, part 2: Iowa

    Continuing on from the previous installment...

    After a few days in North Dakota, we moved on to Keith's parents' house in Iowa. We only had 3 days with everyone together, starting with Christmas Eve. I seem to recall spending most of that day frantically finishing up Christmas presents for the kids. And of course, there was my concert that evening. In between, we opened presents, since Keith's family does that on Christmas Eve. Keith set up the camera in the upstairs balcony to take a picture once every 30 seconds. Here are a couple of the pictures.


    ... and after.

    Christmas morning was pretty low-key.

    Everyone was tired, so we shared the cooking responsibilities. Ilene did the prime rib and the rolls. I made green bean casserole, and there was also salad, mashed potatoes, and a dessert called "glorified rice"--interesting to note that this particular dish used to be the only rice the Olson family would typically eat for an entire year... times change!

    Meanwhile, Keith set up the camera again to take pictures during dinner--one every 10 seconds!

    Later on, Catherine made batch after batch of sugar cookies for snacks after church. Michael helped.

    The day after Christmas...

    ... Alexander got caught driving while talking on his cell phone.

    Then he played piano with Joseph.

    I prepared sukiyaki and sushi for the family with help from Nate and Ilene. It seemed appropriate to have it together, since sukiyaki is a meal for family celebrations in Japan. It was a bit funny with only one pot for 14 people, though.

    Catherine prepared the dessert: a special teapot cake for Ilene's birthday!

    Ali ate more than anyone else, we think.

    Thanks for the lovely time, everyone! We miss you!

    Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    January Newsletter

    January 1, 2011

    Dear Friends and Family,

    新年おめでとうございます! (Happy New Year!) I (Celia) am writing this letter from the inside of our Subaru. We have seen the inside of our car a lot lately—this is the 5th full day in the car since we left Seattle on December 14 (side note: snow covered bison look really funny).

    The car's new nickname: dirtball.

    We first drove to Grand Forks, North Dakota to visit our church there and to spend time with Keith’s siblings and their families, stopping along the way to visit friends in Bozeman and Bismarck. Then we continued on to Fort Dodge, Iowa, where we spent Christmas with the entire Olson family—10 adults, 4 young children, and 3 dogs!

    Keith with his brother, Joseph and our nieces and nephews: Alexander, Alison, Michael, and Elizabeth.
    On Christmas Eve, I played my own Christmas carol arrangements for voice and viola da gamba at a mini-concert at Keith’s parents’ church. This was the beginning of a major project of arranging and collecting unaccompanied music for viol and cello, and music in which I can accompany myself. Although I was blessed with excellent accompanists in Japan, there will likely be many occasions when I won’t have that option—some smaller churches do not have a piano or organ. Thus my Christmas Eve concert this year laid the groundwork for future Christmas concerts in Japan!

    Shortly after we return to Seattle, we will start work with two new ministries. We have already been attending leaders’ training for community groups at our church; we will start our group in January under the guidance of our mentors, Janet and Mel McIntyre. At Westminster Chapel, where we have been serving as hosts for the International Talk Time ministry, we will be assisting in and learning about the Alpha Course, mentored by Sylvia Ramquist, who served many years as a missionary in Japan, and who has been instrumental in bringing Alpha to Hokkaido. We’re very excited about these new opportunities; please expect an update next month!

    Our Deputation Ministry

    The other important ministry we’re involved with at the moment is deputation. This is a word I only learned after I became a missionary, so you may be wondering what I am talking about. Deputation is the work of a missionary before leaving for the field and after returning for home assignment; basically, in our case, it’s anything we do to spread the word about the needs of the Japanese, the needs of the church in Japan, and our own needs as missionaries.

    Deputation can take many forms, planned or unplanned, formal or informal. Sometimes we are invited to speak at a church, either for the sermon, a brief “missions moment,” or for a Sunday school class. Sometimes we intentionally get together with friends for a meal or coffee with the purpose of talking about Japan. Sometimes, these meetings are unplanned and spontaneous; since most of our friends know we are missionaries to Japan, the conversation often goes in that direction.

    Sometimes we struggle with this kind of ministry: why are we here in the United States telling people about the needs of Japan when what we really want is to be working in Japan with the Japanese? Why do we have to do deputation work at all? Because there are needs—ours, and Japan’s. This is an important ministry, even if it is often discouraging. We, the worldwide Body of Christ, need to work together to reach the world, which means that churches in “sending” countries like the US and Canada work alongside churches in Japan and other “mission field” countries to mutually encourage and build each other up, and to share resources and expertise. Both now and after our return to Japan, Keith and I are working to bridge the gap between the church in North America and the church in Japan.

    The truth is, we can’t get to Japan on our own, nor would we want to. By faithfully doing the work God has called us to for this time, we will gain faithful and well-informed partners for our ministry. On the flipside, our partners, both churches and individuals, will have the opportunity to join in God’s work of saving the Japanese and adding new members to the Body of Christ through partnering with us in our ministry.

    Sometimes people wrongly assume that “partnering” means “giving us money.” This leads to all kinds of awkwardness. We know that not everyone has the means to support us financially, and many are already supporting other causes. There are many ways to partner. On our blog, we have an entire page devoted to “getting involved” in our ministry. In our last newsletter, we mentioned some of the people we are  thankful for—all of whom have partnered with us in some way.

    Our #1 need right now is for people to sign up for our newsletter and to faithfully pray for us. (Update: praise God, we have enough people signed up so that OMF will start sending our letters for us!) Our #2 need is for speaking engagements at churches and introductions to like-minded people. Please help us by spreading the word!

    The ultimate goal of our deputation work is, of course, to get us to Japan with a full team of partners backing us. We are currently signed up for the July 2011 orientation course in Singapore, after which we will continue on to Japan. In order to do that, we will need to gain financial clearance (100% pledged monthly support) by May. Please pray with us that we will find many like-minded people to stand beside us.

    Money Jar: We have 1.5+%!

    We have been informed of pledges which are in progress now! 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!

    Picture Notes
    We wanted to briefly explain the pictures in the banner which is usually at the top of our newsletter (on the front of the print copy).

    On the left is Tokyo, near the imperial palace, during cherry blossom season. Next is the ruins of Fukuoka castle. The third picture is one of the shrines at Nikko National Park. In the final picture, the little statues with hats are Jizo along the Maruyama trail in Sapporo. Jizo are guardian deities of children who have died due to stillbirth, miscarriage, and abortion. Parents who have lost a child worship the Jizo by bringing small gifts which they might otherwise give to their own child. This act is a means of grieving and assuaging a guilty conscience.

    The banner at the bottom of this month’s print newsletter (and also on the back of our prayer cards) was taken at the Hokkaido Shrine on New Year’s Day 2010.

    Japanese typically celebrate the New Year by visiting the shrine and praying to the shrine’s deity for good fortune. We are hoping that these pictures will remind our partners to pray for the spiritual needs of the Japanese.

    Prayer Points
    • We are thankful to have safely arrived at home in Seattle--no crashes on the road trip, through some really bad weather.
    • Our time with family and friends in North Dakota, Iowa, and places along the way has been very encouraging and a wonderful blessing. We thank God for this time, but we also realize this was potentially the last Christmas in many years where all of Keith’s immediate family will gather.
    • Upcoming ministry: we start Alpha and a community group in January. Please pray for us to learn well from these experiences, and for those to whom we will minister.
    • Please pray for our deputation work and our upcoming speaking engagements, and for many more opportunities to arise.
    • Financial clearance by May 2011: we need 100% pledged monthly support 2 months before we return to Japan.

    Last year, we celebrated お正月 (oshōgatsu—New Year) in Sapporo with games on New Year’s Eve, church in the morning, tea ceremony, mochi pounding, people-watching at the shrine, and homemade おせち(osechi--special Japanese New Year foods) for dinner. This year, we celebrated with contra dancing on New Year’s Eve in Bozeman, Montana with our friend Kathy… followed by another day in the car. Next year? Who knows! We pray that wherever you are, your celebration may be full of joy.

    Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

    Christmas projects

    The Christmas presents all having arrived at their destinations, it is now safe to blog about the ones we made. So here they are...

    Actually, Keith did not knit any Christmas presents. This cozy little scene happened after Keith spent the day cleaning out his old room. He had to prove to me that he still knows how to knit. Moving right along...

    Keith did, in fact, hand-make a number of Christmas presents. We'll start with the candles. See the frying pan on the stove? This is not lunch... it's leftover fat from a roast... which Keith rendered to make into a tallow candle. It doesn't really smell when it's lit, but has a mild barbecue smell when you blow it out.

    My mother probably ate the peaches out of that can back in the '50s. The can was found in my grandfather's workshop.

    This one takes a bit of explanation. One of the kids at our Japanese church draws a cartoon about a character named Mr. Pickle--a pickle with underwear, a cape, and a cyclops eye. Keith provided the underwear for the Mr. Pickle ornament.

    The recipients... it's the kid on the left who draws the cartoon. :)

    We received this picture of the completed Mr. Pickle. Whichever child finds him on the tree gets an extra present!

    On to my knitting projects. This one is not for Christmas. It was Michael's birthday present. His birthday was at the end of November.

    This is not a rabbit. It's Totoro. It's for our little friend, Yuugo, in Sapporo!

    I've been working on snowflakes. Keith says this is my most useful skill. Need a pretty gift for someone? Give me a couple days of sitting in the car and I can produce a variety of them. Really, it's the finishing process that takes most of the time. They have to be stretched, pinned, glued, glittered, and dried.

    Here are an assortment of Christmas ornaments I made this year.

    This was for my mommy's birthday...

    ...and this one was for Keith's mommy's birthday.

    My biggest Christmas project was making toy chickens for all 4 of the nieces and nephews! I started working on them in October, and finished the last one on Christmas Eve. I worked on them for most of the drive from Seattle to Iowa.

    Here is a nearly completed chicken... and a bag of "chicken parts" which I had to sew onto the chicken to give it a face and cute decorations.

    Yay, all done, just in time!

    A couple of hours later...

    Elizabeth was too smart... she suspected I was up to something!

    Just for fun, I decided to use the same pattern, slightly altered, so make a tea cozy for my brother.

    It also works as a hat.