Sunday, December 02, 2012

December Newsletter

Keith and Celia Olson
Newsletter #20

Dear Friends and Family,

We have news! The arrangements have been finalized and announced, and we are now free to tell our friends and family that we’ve been designated to Wakaba Church in the city of Ishikari after our graduation from language school (see map). We will finish school the end of January, move to Ishikari (30 minutes north of our current home), and start at Wakaba Church in early March.

Wakaba Church
The last two months have been very busy. We had a 2 ½ week visit from Celia’s parents in October; during that time Celia’s dad joined us for a concert of German Baroque music and we all went on vacation to Daisetsuzan National Park to enjoy some fall colors. At the end of October, Celia went on a relief work trip to Iwate prefecture with her shamisen teacher, Tomiko Arai and other members of Tonden Church where Tomiko attends. Celia and her teacher were able to present 2 shamisen mini-concerts as well as participating in other relief activities with the team. After that it was time to prepare for Christmas concerts, study for a major Japanese exam, and keep working on our remaining language school coursework, preparing us to lead Bible studies and write talks and sermons.

Daisetsuzan National Park
October concert with Baroque Collegium Sapporo
Shamisen Mini-concert
Keith in class with Yoshimura-sensei
Already two Christmas concerts are over; on November 23 Celia and pianist, Shino Inoue played at Sakae church’s quilt exhibition. The second concert, on November 24, was at Wakaba church. The concert at Wakaba went well; about 80 people came, including many guests invited by church members. Celia played both cello and viola da gamba together with Shino on piano and harpsichord. Celia also presented a Christmas message which included her testimony--first time to give an evangelistic talk in Japanese! As with each concert we perform, we pray that God will work in the hearts of each person who attended. In this sort of ministry, we usually do not see the fruit of our labours, but this time we will have the privilege of getting to know the people who were in the audience!

After our concert at Wakaba Church with Pastor and Mrs. Takahashi and Shino
Performing Bach's First Sonata

Introducing Wakaba Church

Wakaba Church started 31 years ago (Celia was about 2 months old at the time) and has been pastored by many missionary colleagues whom we love and respect. Currently Wakaba Church is pastored by Hideyuki Takahashi, which means this will be our third consecutive church pastored by a Takahashi-sensei.

Since Wakaba church is near Sapporo, we hope to be able to keep up with our contacts and continue our involvement in our various music pursuits, although we will have to scale back to give priority to our training at Wakaba. At this stage we cannot be entirely certain what we will be doing, but as we work with the church, our roles will solidify. Keith will have opportunities to preach, and Celia will get some hands on training in music ministry. We are excited to be under a pastor who has an interest in training missionaries and is willing to put in the time and effort necessary to explain how church in Japan functions. Our training will likely include a fair bit of “shadowing,” which is a typical Japanese training method. This means we will accompany the pastor to church meetings, prayer groups, etc., see the church from his perspective, and learn through listening and watching.

From now on, please include Wakaba church and the Takahashi family in your prayers. We will keep you up to date on prayer needs there from March. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu-- we’re depending on your support in prayer!

A little story of God’s grace: a buzzing cello can also be a gift from God.

Over the last six months or so, I (Celia) have been reading the Gospel of John in various contexts. I’ve read it at school in Japanese, together with the other missionary women in English, and alone during my quiet time. One thing that has struck me is the way the author returns again and again to the themes of God being revealed in Jesus, and Jesus revealed in people’s stories about their experiences with him.

In preparing for Christmas concert talks, I felt that God wanted me to tell stories which pointed to Jesus. I decided on a three-part talk with music in between, telling the story of Advent (God’s people waiting for a saviour), then Christmas, and then my testimony, focusing on the way the Incarnation of Jesus has affected my life. But God isn’t only present in the big things of life. I want to tell a story of how God did something small and it made a big difference.

As I was practicing my cello in preparation for Christmas concerts, I noticed a buzzing sound. It’s not really unusual for such things to happen in the winter, but annoyingly, I had been to the shop two days before to have my bow re-haired. I gritted my teeth, finished my practice session, and prayed that the buzzing sound would be gone in the morning.

It wasn’t. After class, I rushed off to the shop again, except the shop was having a special exhibit in a different location, and I got terribly lost trying to find it. (Who would have thought that Sapporo Station would have two Exit #8’s on opposite sides of the station?)

I opened my case and pulled out my cello. The man in charge of repairs took one look at my cello and said, “Your bridge is too tall. You might want to think about having it replaced.” I smiled and thanked him for his concern, but explained that I didn’t think it would be a good idea a week before a concert. He quickly found the source of the buzzing sound and I arranged to come back to pick up my cello the next day.

When I came back, I found that the buzzing was gone, and my cello generally sounded much better. I had some time, so I decided to try some of the instruments on display. First was a cello from in Nagoya, completed this spring. I noticed how easy it was to play--I could easily press my fingers all the way down to the fingerboard even in the difficult Schubert sonata I’ve been working on. Next I played a cello attributed to Stradivarius; exciting, of course, but what really impressed me was that I could play both of the cellos easily and without pain. The repairman was right. My bridge was too tall. I hadn’t played anyone else’s cello for years, so I didn’t even notice. I requested a new bridge and arranged to pick up my cello the next day.

When I went back the second time, I was nervous. However, when I started to play, it felt like my cello had been cured of a head cold. The new sound was clear and sweet, and I could play with much less effort than before. I never would have found out if my cello hadn’t suddenly started buzzing. Praise God for buzzing cellos!

Prayer Points
  • We thank God for the time we were able to spend with Celia's parents and for the concert we had with them in October. We also thank God that Celia's recent concerts have gone well (Nov. 23rd and 24th), one of which was at Wakaba church, which is where we have been designated after we graduate in February next year.
  • After buying our car 3 months ago, we finally registered the car under our own name. We are thankful to have this ongoing stress off our shoulders.
  • Please pray for Japan churches as they start their Christmas evangelism. Many Christians in Japan say they had their first contact with the Gospel during the Christmas season. Celia has three more Christmas concerts (Dec. 8th, 15th, and 24th) and Keith will be singing with Sapporo Symphony's Choir (Dec. 8th and 9th). May these concerts point people to the meaning of Christmas.
  • Last week we heard from the landlord that someone was complaining about the noisy cello. We have been attempting to apologize to our various neighbours and then asking them when a suitable time to practice is, but most people do not answer their doors. Please pray for Celia right now as she has the added stress of hauling her instruments around to different places to practice.
  • Keith will preach his first sermon in Japanese on Dec. 30 at Kitahiroshima Church (where we are currently attending) on Revelation 21:1-8. Please pray for his preparation to be led by the Spirit and his delivery to be an encouragement to the church.

This Christmas, may each of you experience the deep love of God shown through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

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