Thursday, February 24, 2011

February Newsletter

Newsletter #10
February 24, 2011
Dear Friends and Family,

It’s been a while since our last newsletter. We have been very busy, but sometimes it’s hard to explain our current stage in life—living with Celia’s parents and engaged in deputation work and various ministries, but no “real” job. We often have conversations that go something like this:

Well-meaning friend: What exactly are you doing now, anyway?
Keith and Celia: Name a day, and we’ll tell you what we do…

That’s what we’re going to do this month: we will briefly describe each ministry and activity we’re involved in.

What exactly are you doing now, anyway?
Alpha and Talk Time at Westminster Chapel: On Sunday evenings we are table hosts for ESOL Alpha (a basic course on Christianity geared towards people who are learning English), and we are hosts for Talk Time (an opportunity for English learners to practice their conversation skills) on Thursday nights. Both start with informal conversation over a meal. Alpha includes a short talk on some element of the Christian faith, with plenty of time for questions and discussions, while Talk Time allows for conversation on a wide range of topics. We started out as Talk Time hosts, and then Sylvia, our mentor at Westminster, invited us to host at Alpha as well. Alpha in particular has become an uplifting experience, as we seek God together with people who are learning about him for the first time—and we are blessed by the friendships that have been forming. (We love talking to Japanese people… so we are thrilled that the majority of ESOL Alpha and Talk Time guests are Japanese!)

Our Alpha table

Fun outside of Alpha with Maiko-san: Japanese-style Valentine's chocolates!

Community Group and involvement at Newport Covenant Church: We receive training for community group leadership on Monday nights and try to implement what we learn during our community group gatherings on Friday nights. When Celia and I first approached Newport Covenant asking where we could serve, I must admit we had doubts about community groups: would this really be a good use of our skills and time? Now that we are a few weeks into the group that we started with our mentors, Mel and Janet McIntyre, I can see why God has led us in this direction. When we first arrived at Newport in May 2010, we struggled to find our place. The community group has become an important opportunity for us to connect with others on a deeper level and uphold each other in prayer, as well as a place to learn and serve. We have also had the opportunity to preach, occasionally play with the worship band, and join in weekly prayer meetings and social groups at Newport.

Japanese Church and Language Study: In order to retain some of our language skills, we both have conversation partners. Once a week, we subject ourselves to speaking like infants (I'm probably around the level of a 3 year old, and Celia is like a 5 year old). This is a humbling and constant reminder that God is going to be the one who changes a person’s heart, not an eloquent speech by one of us. We continue to enjoy worshiping with Hosanna Church, a Japanese church which conveniently meets at Newport on Sunday afternoons after our English service and before Alpha, and also gives us opportunity to struggle on with our language skills. Religious language is often difficult to understand even for native Japanese speakers, much like “Christianese” is difficult for many English speakers, so we try to practice whenever we can.

Tea and conversation with Okubo-san

Ramen and conversation with Mari-san

OMF Prayer Meeting: On the second Monday night of the month (when we are not going to community group leaders’ training), we go to a local prayer group for OMF missionaries. This group, which consists of a number of retired missionaries and Celia’s brother and his fiancée (did we mention Colin and Jiayun are getting married?!), prayed for us while we were in Japan and they continue to pray for us now. (Anyone is welcome to join in—let us know if you want to come!) Part of the reason we are becoming OMF missionaries rather than going with another organization is that we love our colleagues in OMF, so it’s a privilege to pray with and for them!

Special Events: On January 7, we invited our friends to celebrate Japanese New Year with a Mochitsuki (rice pounding) party. Celia’s brother and dad surprised us for Christmas with the proper equipment (a gigantic wooden mortar and pestle made from a tree in our yard). We therefore invited our friends over for an opportunity to bash rice with a big hammer. The party was a lot of fun, but since we were busy hosting, we didn’t get to sit and talk with anyone! We had a second party with Hosanna Church the following Sunday.

On January 29, we attended Vancouver Missions Fest, where we met up with old friends, made new friends, and represented both OMF and Regent College at the exhibition. Our picture and story were featured in the Missions Fest magazine, since we had met our short term mission mentors (Tony and Pat Schmidt) there in 2008.

Representing Regent at Missions Fest

Finally, since last Fall, we have been on the planning committee for the RJC (Reaching Japanese for Christ) International Conference, which took place last weekend. We helped to present a seminar on using Anime for evangelism, and Celia played a mini-concert. If we only take one insight away from the conference, let it be our excitement at what God is doing among the Japanese—especially as we are reminded that not only do Japanese need Jesus, but many also want Jesus. We are expecting that God will continue to do great things!

The Daily Grind:
This is what we do in all the time that’s left over after the previously mentioned activities. We practice our instruments, work on big projects like sorting through boxes of stuff to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, write thank-you notes and prayer letters, post to our blog, pray, read the Bible, meet up with friends and family, cook, eat, and clean up around the house. And Wednesday is our day off. Ahhhhh…

Prayer Points
  • Our #1 prayer request is for opportunities to share our vision, experiences, and needs with churches, small groups, and individuals. Please pray that we would know whom to ask, which opportunities to pursue, and that others would invite us to share.
  • May 9, 2011 is our deadline for raising all finances (100% pledged monthly support) and getting clearance to go to Japan in July 2011. We have prayed about this date, and we trust God in this waiting time while we work towards this goal. Please pray that God will provide prayer partners, pledges towards our monthly support, diligence to do what we can, and peace as we trust in him.
  • We are thankful for the chance to host a table for ESOL Alpha, especially for the development of friendships with other table hosts and guests. Please pray that we will learn about effectively using the Alpha course, and for those attending the course (including us!) to grow closer to God. Please especially pray for the Alpha weekend on Feb. 25-27, which we will spend in Bellingham with our guests.
  • We attended the 10th International RJC (Reaching Japanese for Christ) conference, where we were encouraged to hear many testimonies of God’s work among the Japanese. Please pray that we would have ears which are attentive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and boldness to proclaim the Gospel to those who are waiting to hear.

Picture Notes: New Banner
Keith made a new banner this month for our print newsletter! We chose pictures which reflect our current location and activities. So, starting from the left…

…we begin with Mt. Rainier, which is probably the most famous landmark in Washington State. We celebrated our 5th anniversary there last July. Second is Celia’s Christmas Eve concert in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Celia is continuing her project of hymn arrangements for viol and voice; she recently added 3 hymns in Japanese to her repertoire. Third is a picture from a picnic last summer… at which we crashed an outdoor wedding! Last is a picture of takuanzuke (daikon radish pickles) in progress. Celia’s most recent hobby is making Japanese pickles. The first try at this particular pickle turned out a little too salty, but delicious in Okayu (Japanese rice porridge).

Money Jar: We have 14.5%!

We need 100% pledged monthly support for our first term (5 years) before returning to Japan—for a July departure, our deadline is May 9. Please keep praying with us that God will provide for our financial needs!

Blessings on your “daily grind”—may you see God’s love in the details of everyday life!

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

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