Thursday, July 28, 2011

July Newsletter

Keith and Celia Olson
Newsletter #13
July 27, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from hot and humid Singapore! We hope this letter finds each of you well... and in air conditioning.

We are in a season of transition. We left Seattle on July 1, spent July 2-5 in Tokyo, and since July 5 we’ve been in Singapore at OMF International Headquarters, attending Orientation Course. This seems almost settled compared to the rushing around we did before we left Seattle--packing, sorting, cleaning, last minute speaking engagements and goodbye parties, and visits to Iowa, North Dakota, Boston, and Vancouver to say goodbye to family and friends. This has been a rich and meaningful time, but emotionally draining. To say that we are looking forward to being at home in our own apartment in Sapporo would be a vast understatement.

Our harpsichord is traveling to Japan in a specially built box which will double as a bookshelf!

In Tokyo, our friend, Yoshitaka took us to some of his favourite places (in the photo we’re at Meiji Jingu)… and we enjoyed eating a lot of great food!

The next few weeks hold even more transitions, as we return to Tokyo for a few days of rest and preparation (July 31-August 4), then head north for relief work in the Tohoku region (August 5-18), and then on to Sapporo on August 22. Please keep us in your prayers for the next several weeks--for safety in travel, and for patience and flexibility, and for us to see God at work even in difficult circumstances.

Coming Home

As we’ve been in the process of transitioning back into life in Japan, I (Celia) have been thinking a lot about “home.” (This month’s banner celebrates all the places we’ve both called home--except for Seattle, which has been featured in all of our recent newsletters.) I used to think that home is where I have people whom I love and who love me--but as I make friends in all of the places I have lived, and as these friends further spread out to various places around the world, this becomes something of a challenge. How can I be at home anywhere when I am constantly grieving the people left behind? Maybe I need to re-think my definition of “home,” since my deep desire is to put down roots in a specific place and community--the place and community where God wants me to be.

Remember the story I told in the August 2010 newsletter? To summarize: as I rode my bike to the farmer’s market in Sapporo, I saw the bountiful land and the people working it, and I was filled with a sense of thankfulness and peace. I would consider this experience to be the confirmation of my calling as a missionary to Japan. As I have continued to reflect on what happened that day, something struck me as odd. Why were my experiences of God’s love for the people of Japan more “normal”--consistent and everyday--while my experience of God’s love for the land of Japan--for a place--was like getting a bucket of water over my head? I’m not talking about the country or the political structure--I mean the land itself. My experience on my bike that day was remarkably similar to what happened when I discovered Keith was a Christian--it wasn’t exactly “love at first sight,” since I’d seen him before--and yet I didn’t really see him until that moment. I guess that day on my bike was my “love at first sight moment” with Japan. God opened my eyes once again to that which he wants me to love.

But honestly, why the land? In one sense, this is fitting--John 3:16 says in the Greek that God sent his Son for the love of the Cosmos--not only the people, but the whole universe, and everything in it. That’s how big God’s love is. Romans 8 speaks of creation groaning with us as we wait for renewal. Yet I still feel a bit jealous of Keith’s experiences when God showed him his love for the Japanese people. When the tsunami happened, I cried for the tremendous loss of life and the suffering of the people--but I also cried for the pristine beaches littered with trash, the topsoil washed away, and the crops polluted by radiation.

I have yet to discover exactly why God has given me this burning love for the land of Japan, but I have a good guess. I think God wants me to love the land because the Japanese love the land. As someone God called to reach out to the Japanese, I need to love the things that they love, to rejoice with them when they rejoice, and to weep with them when they weep. I long to tell the Japanese people that this land, which they love, is a gift from our creator God. My heart breaks that so many of them don’t know him. God is calling me to point the Japanese to their creator, who loves them, and who loves their land. The whole world is his--including this precious place in which we will have the privilege of living and working for the next four years and beyond. This place is sacred ground.

We cried on the plane home from Japan in April of last year, then I cried as I watched Seattle slip away beneath the plane, and again when the plane dropped through the clouds and I saw the lush green landscape of Japan. I wanted to jump out of my seat and tell everyone on the plane that I was HOME! ただ今 (tadaima)! Home is a place--and for this season of our lives, that place is Japan.

A few Singapore experiences...

Celebrating our 6th anniversary with high tea

Francis and Mei, friends from grad school in Boston, brought us to their church and lunch afterwards! We had Chinese dumplings, Malay cuisine from Mei's hometown, and Turkish food!
Francis and Mei got us hooked on Cendol.

Did we mention it's humid here?


Prayer Points
  • Praise God for safe travels, a hassle free visa process, and no problems with luggage (specifically cello) so far!
  • Please pray for Celia for her cello practice in Tokyo (Aug. 1-4) and concerts in Tohoku (Aug. 5-18), which is the area hit by the March 11 tsunami. Please also pray for Laura-Jane and Ho Meas who are coordinating our work schedule, and for us to use this time well--listening to people’s stories and showing them the love of God even through our broken Japanese.
  • Praise God for sorting out our housing situation. Rijke, a fellow OMF missionary, is graduating from language school at the end of October, and we will move into her place, which is a spacious apartment excellent for hosting friends. It also has thick walls, so hopefully our instruments won’t bother the neighbors. Until she moves out, we will be staying in the same place we lived before (the OMF guest home).
  • Please pray with us as we work with our supervisors about a church placement. As much as we wanted to attend Satsunae Lighthouse, our previous church, OMF does not want to burden the church with too many new missionaries; also, for the sake of our education, we will be learning from a difference pastor and congregation. We are praying about attending a church outside of Sapporo, but our main concern is whether we will be able to be engaged in a church which is so far away.

An Opportunity to Serve

OMF Japan is looking for childcare workers to care for the children of missionaries studying at OMF’s Japanese Language Center in Sapporo. This is an urgent and ongoing need, as well as a great opportunity for short-term service that also provides a chance to experience Japan and see what missionary life is like. We had two childcare workers as our housemates when we were short-termers. If you are interested, please contact Christine Lau at

Finance Update: Stay Tuned!

No, don’t worry; we’re not in the red just yet. Actually, we had a talk with OMF Japan’s financial manager, and as we considered our ministry needs, we were thinking about how we should go about  lugging our instruments around Sapporo. Currently, we are considering the possibility of budgeting for a car, and so we trust that if we can more effectively carry out our ministry with a car, then God will supply the funds necessary for purchase and upkeep. (In Japan, the cost to do mandatory service checks on a four year old car is often so expensive that many people just buy a new one, so the cost of upkeep is a big consideration.) Please pray with us about this decision, and we will keep you posted.

Engrish Corner

Does dog-wiz really make the forest happy? In case you were wondering, “Dog-Wiz” is a shop selling goods for pampered dogs.

For those of you just joining us, “Engrish” is the funny English often found in Japan and in other places too. We love it… and at the same time we realize that we make similar mistakes in Japanese. When we find something good (either Japanese “Engrish” or our own mistakes), we’ll include it in our newsletter.

Quiz time!

We will mail a package of Japanese green tea to the first person to correctly identify what is happening in this picture.

We have been encouraged to meet with so many of you before we left, so now it’s your turn to come visit us in Japan and tell us what you are up to (just give us a year to get settled in first). In the meantime, we’re praying for you too!
Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

1 comment:

Aaron said...

It looks like distorted shadows of the two of you trying to kiss (and Keith is wearing a baseball cap) from the front seats of a car projecting onto the backseat of the car. Haha. I'm SURE I'm wrong :P