Keith and Celia Olson
July 18, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,
We’ve been enjoying a relatively cool summer in Sapporo, which is particularly a blessing considering our apartment averages 5-10 degrees warmer than outside. This July marks our first year in Japan as full time missionaries, and we continue to feel overwhelmed by thankfulness for everyone who has helped us to get here and who continues to support us month by month. We wish we could send each of you an individual message accompanied with a hug, but time and distance prevent this, so we must be content with methods such as Facebook. Please know that we value you and any messages, pictures, prayers, or Skittles that you send our way. This month also marks our seventh wedding anniversary, which we celebrated in Yamagata prefecture, where we got rained on, sun-burnt, onsen-boiled, and stuffed with tons of Japanese delicacies; in short, it was a very successful endeavor. We were also able to spend time with the Takahashi family, our friends from Seattle who were visiting their home church.
|Celebrated seventh anniversary at a traditional Japanese hotel with very, very good food.|
|with our Seattle/Yamagata friends|
Aside from that, our concerts (Celia’s viola da gamba concert and Keith’s choir concert) at the end of May went well, and we continue with rehearsals for our upcoming concerts in the fall. We are always surprised to see how much Japanese people loosen up at the after concert parties.
|Celia is much more easily seen at her concerts than Keith is at his.|
We have also successfully booked and passed our written and driving tests, and we have both received our Japanese driver’s licenses after a few sleepless nights and over 20 hours of waiting, filling out forms, and more waiting. And as always we have our language classes...
The Long Haul
I (Celia) confess that as we were thinking about this newsletter, I was not very excited to write it. The way we write these takes a significant amount of time--it’s important to us to go beyond a blow-by-blow of what’s been happening in our lives to reflect on what we are learning and experiencing. However, the subjects of our “reflection pieces” are often our struggles and feelings of weakness and inadequacy. I just couldn’t face another one of those this time around. But those sorts of essays will certainly continue, probably for the next 30 years or so. I’m praying they will be punctuated by success stories occasionally.
We’ve been in Japan almost a year now; a year ago at this time we were midway through orientation course in Singapore. Also, at the end of the month, it will have been 3 years since we arrived in Japan for the first time. As I look back, I’m still surprised at how God worked in my life to gently nudge me in the direction of Japan--had you told me even 5 years ago that I would become a missionary, I would have laughed. But here I am in Japan, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.
I read the following during my quiet time yesterday: “Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us” (Colossians 1:9-12, The Message).
It’s not enough that we have followed God’s leading and obeyed by coming to Japan. Every day I’m pondering what it means for God to be Lord of my life. Recently what that means for me is to be still before God and listen, to see what he is doing. That’s how I will get the “strength to stick it out over the long haul.”
It seems that the 1 year we’ve been here has gone by incredibly fast... and yet incredibly slowly, as language school drags on and on. We struggle with wanting to be finished with study (by the time we finish, I will have studied for 12 years of formal education beyond high school) and at the same time, balancing that desire with the knowledge that this is our best opportunity to learn Japanese, even if it’s rather like drinking from a fire hose.
This year our language skill have improved in a big way. Last Sunday we heard a sermon from a pastor who had been advising our church (Lighthouse) when we were short-termers. Last time we heard him preach, we didn’t understand him at all, but this time, we understood most of it! We’ve also had numerous opportunities to develop friendships with Japanese and learn about Japanese culture. And we even got Japanese driver’s licenses!
This year we have seen God at work in our church, in our friends, and in us. There have been many challenges, but the ways God has united us as a couple in the midst of these challenges reminds us that he will continue to provide for and protect us for the long haul. I praise God we are able to be in Japan and participate in God’s work here.***
- We thank God for our completed first year and pray for many more to come.
- Our concerts at the end of May went well. Pray for our preparation for our church mini-concert (Celia on cello and viola da gamba and Keith on piano) on September 17, and for a concert on October 14 where Celia’s father, Celia, and Keith will join the Baroque Collegium in singing a number of sacred German baroque pieces.
- We give thanks for our dear friend Mikiko and her son, Yugo, who will be moving away to Ghana to be with her husband, Curtis, and his family for a time. It has been very encouraging to see Mikiko’s faith grow over the years, and we will miss her and Yugo a lot..
|We will miss these guys|
- During July 26-29, Celia will be attending the Viola da Gamba Society of Japan Summer Seminar. Pray that she can make contacts, for her Japanese skills, and that Keith will be able to feed himself while Celia is away.
- The OMF field council has suggested a church for us to attend where we will work and further our training after language school. Later this month we are going to meet with the pastor and our regional director. Please pray as we discuss what roles we could play in this church and how the pastor would be able to disciple us.
Engrish of the Month
One rainy day out of the window of our bus, we saw the WonderGOO store. I'm not sure what they're selling, but there was only one car in the parking lot...
Sometime in March, I (Keith) was fishing out seeds from my grapefruit when I came across one that had a little root extending from it. One of our winter horticultural experiments had just failed, so I thought I might as well try planting this in that soil to see what grows. Nothing happened for weeks. As you can see by the pictures, eventually it broke soil, and now our four month old grapefruit plant is starting to resemble a little tree. It’s been pretty exciting to see it grow, but it will take ten years before it is able to produce fruit if at all.
I can understand why the theme of planting seeds is used so much throughout the Bible. Certainly it feels like I’ve been watering certain seeds for a while without seeing anything break through the soil, and it makes me wonder if there is any seed at all. I have another friend that makes me wonder if it will take ten years before he starts to bear fruit in his life. Much like the grapefruit tree, however, I can do nothing to grow the plant, which is a good thing because if the growth was entirely dependent upon my evangelistic and discipling skills, these people would have no hope. The good news is that God gives the growth, and all I do is give a little water and sit back and wait, sometimes in patient excitement and sometimes, well, not. Regardless, God is doing his work, in His perfect timing.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
According to Paul, we have the privilege to be alongside God as fellow workers, yet our role is actually quite minute when compared to His, and I’m glad to let Him handle the impossible bits of growing the seed.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. Thanks for your prayers in this first year and beyond.
Love in Christ, Keith and Celia