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

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