Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Newsletter

Newsletter #11
April 16, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

With the events of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the loss of Celia’s grandmother weighing on our hearts, it’s hard to believe it’s been a month and a half since our last newsletter. In the midst of this grief, we are looking forward to celebrate with Celia’s brother, Colin, at his wedding with his fiancée, Jiayun in May! So much is happening that we feel like we’re running to keep up with the incredible pace of life. Still, we are pressing on to our May 9 deadline for financial and medical clearance with hopes that we’ll be back in Japan in July!

Deep Waters
I (Celia) struggle to find words to respond to the present situation in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Even a month later, I still can’t get my mind around what has happened or even imagine the implications not only for the Tōhoku region, but the whole of Japan. On that day, all I could do was pace around the house, crying and looking out the window. The only prayer I could put into words was “Lord, have mercy,” but I know that the Holy Spirit was interpreting my tears and my silence.

We are glad to report that all of our friends and colleagues in Japan are safe. Praise God! In Sapporo, where we had been working and where we will return, there was little damage. However, even several hundred miles from the epicentre, the earthquake was the largest in living memory.

We’ve been learning a lot about grief in the last year—first as we left behind our friends, colleagues, and work in Japan, then as God closed the door regarding our return to Vancouver. In November at a conference on interpersonal skills, we were finally able to figure out that we weren’t experiencing reverse culture shock so much as grief. Then, the earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan, and within the next week, my grandmother died. At this point I felt the grief of others even more as I struggled with my own personal grief.

Celia, age 1, with Grandmother

We’ve often talked in our presentations at churches about feelings of helplessness. While we were in Japan, these feelings related primarily to our minimal language skills. Now we feel helpless to do anything to help people in Japan who have lost friends, family, homes, and possessions—not to mention people who were not directly affected, but who face the future with fear. But we have learned to pray, and we have seen how powerful that is in communicating love to grieving people. Our God’s grace is sufficient for us, and his power is made perfect in weakness. Even in the midst of our grief, we have the joy of God’s comfort.

Through all of this, I am filled with thankfulness. Many people have prayed for and cared for my family. Many people are praying for Japan. I am thankful for our grandparents, for their love for Keith and me and for the rest of the family. I am thankful for the 69 years of Grandmother and Granddad’s marriage—what a great example! I am thankful for many other people who continue to be like grandparents to Keith and me. I am thankful for people who pray for us and encourage us. God has graciously provided for us in every way.

May God redeem this tragedy in Japan for his glory! Already many Japanese have found comfort in him. May God redeem our own grief also, so that we may weep with those who weep and offer God’s comfort just as we have already received it.

As a special extra for those of you who are reading on the blog, here are some links related to this article:

Japanese Culture Night

On April 2, we held a Japanese culture night at Newport Covenant Church. Over 20 volunteers helped prepare the food, set up the room, and clean up for the over 100 people who came to hear about Japan and about our ministry. We were especially touched during the prayer time to hear so many of the people we love praying for Japan together. The event raised $2,800 for Covenant World Relief tsunami relief efforts. These numbers astound us, especially since we were initially planning for only 40-50 people. God is good. Thank you to everyone who helped out!

The meal: homemade bentos!
Celia accompanied Keith and Dan on some of her hymn arrangements. Keith sang in Japanese.
If you'd like, you can read more about Japanese Culture night on a previous blog post. Also, you can read the results of the haiku competition... and see the silly picture Keith made to advertise the event.

Beginnings and Endings    
March and April have been a time of transition—many of our ministry commitments are coming to a close as we are shifting our focus to our work of finding partners for our future ministry in Japan. We have finished the Alpha Course at Westminster Chapel—it has been such a blessing to meet the guests at our table and to learn from people who have a lot of experience in facilitating the Alpha Course! We wish it were possible to continue on. Our community group training has come to a close along with our community group. It is our hope that many of the group members will go on to start their own groups. We pray that these experiences will be helpful as we learn to be effective workers in Japan.

Our Community Group
On March 13, we “officially” said goodbye to Vancouver First Christian Reformed Church as we became members at Newport Covenant Church, where Celia was raised. Then on April 9, Celia celebrated her 30th birthday with a tea party!

Celia's childhood friend, Andrea and her daughter, Leila attended the tea party.
We are looking forward with anticipation to our financial and medical clearance deadline on May 9. We have been counting down the days through prayer, sending out daily prayer requests by email; please let us know if you would like to join us, and we will add you to our list. Yesterday we talked with our supervisor; we were encouraged to hear that our medical clearance process is going well. Our current financial support level is 55%; we are eager to see how God will provide the remaining 45%!

Provided we make our clearance deadline, we will head to Singapore for orientation course at the beginning of July, and we will arrive in Japan towards the end of the month. We are considering possibilities to be involved in relief work at some point, whether or not we make our deadline.

Prayer Points
  • May 9, 2011 is our deadline for raising all finances (100% pledged monthly support) and getting clearance to go to Japan in July 2011. Please pray that God will provide prayer partners, pledges towards our monthly support, the diligence to do what we can, and peace as we trust in him.
  • Please continue to pray for Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, for all the families that lost loved ones and homes, and for many opportunities for Christians to reach out in love to their grieving neighbors. May God's peace be made greater than any disaster in Japan.
  • We thank God for all our mentors and the ministries in which we’ve been involved, especially the Alpha course and our community group.
  • Celia’s grandmother passed away on March 16. Please pray for Celia and her family as they grieve her loss.
  • We are thankful for the 100 people who came to hear about our ministry on April 2 at our Japanese Culture Night, and for the 20+ volunteers who helped out.
  • During our time of visiting churches and friends, please pray that we take sufficient time to rest and spend time together.
  • Please pray for Celia’s brother, Colin and his fiancée, Jiayun as they prepare for their May 21 wedding and their marriage.

Money Jar: We have 55%!

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!

If you would like to support us financially, you can get information here, and follow this link to make a pledge via OMF's website.

Thank you for praying with us in this time of many transitions, much grief, and much joy!

Love, Keith and Celia

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