Tuesday, March 05, 2013

March Newsletter

Keith and Celia Olson
Newsletter #21

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s been a while, and a lot has happened! Christmas concerts, finishing our formal Japanese studies, graduation, vacation, moving... all completed! February 17 was our goodbye party at Kita Hiroshima Church, and last Sunday, March 3 was our first Sunday at Wakaba Church. We’re looking forward to serving and learning as we work at Wakaba over the next 2 years. Thanks for praying!

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

Christmas Concerts

In November and December, I (Celia) played 5 Christmas concerts together with pianist, Shino Inoue. We played Christmas carols and cello and piano works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Schubert. We also performed Bach’s first viola da gamba sonata. My shamisen made an appearance at two of the concerts with my own arrangement of “I Wonder as I Wander.” I think playing the shamisen (and presenting the Christmas story and my testimony in bad Japanese) helped people feel comfortable talking to me after the concert. I think I am connecting with the audience much better than I did 3 years ago.

New Year’s and Cultural Study

Once all the concerts and Christmas festivities were over, I made Osechi (the Japanese New Year’s feast) together with my friend, Sharon. Kimono classes continue; my latest topics of study were formal obi and my graduation hakama.

Takaki’s baptism

Our friend, Takaki, whom we first met over 3 years ago when we were short-termers with OMF, was finally baptized on February 3 after about 5 years of seeking. We were privileged to hear his testimony of how God used many people to show and explain the gospel to him. A Japanese person often takes many years to come to a decision to be a disciple of Jesus, but baptisms like Takaki’s show that God is indeed working in this land.


On February 8, 2013, we graduated from OMF’s language school. As a farewell present to the school we made a Costco turkey for the graduation potluck and dressed up in hakama (Celia) and kimono (Keith), which are traditional Japanese formal wear, although they do make carving a turkey a bit tricky. Our Japanese is far from perfect at this stage, but we are excited to do some self-guided study at a slower pace.

Prayer Points
  • We thank God for many things this time. The Christmas concerts went well, Keith successfully completed his first (and second) sermons in Japanese, we’re finished with full-time language study, we were able to have a short vacation, God provided us with a house, and moving went well--there were snow storms before and after, but we had good weather for our move.
  • We’re thankful to be working at Wakaba Church! Please pray for good relationships with Takahashi-sensei and church members, as well as with our new neighbors.
  • As we’re starting a new life outside of school, please pray for us to use our time wisely and to form good habits of music practice, Japanese study, Bible study, etc., and that we would know how much work to take on and when to say “no.” Please pray also for wisdom regarding Japanese teachers and conversation partners for our ongoing studies.
  • Celia and Shino are preparing for a concert on April 10 for the women of Minami Church. Please pray for us as we plan and rehearse.
  • Celia has struggled with sinus issues since last September; please pray for healing and good sleep.

Hokkaido Winter Fun

Hokkaido is famous for its winter: skiing, Sapporo snow festival, and the ice floes. Although Hokkaido’s latitude is the same as southern France, due to the influence of winds from Russia, we have cold winters and a lot of snow. In the east of Hokkaido, the Okhotsk Sea is covered with floating ice. We spent 3 days in Utoro looking at the ice floes, hiking, eating, and onsen bathing. We continue to be thankful that we live in an awesome place like Hokkaido!

Keith’s Sermons

I (Keith) preached on December 30 from Revelation about the new heaven and the new earth; it was well received. In fact, I was asked to preach again on February 17; I spoke from John’s Gospel about the spiritual growth of Nicodemus, which was also well received despite my Japanese stuttering. Each sermon took around a month to prepare, thus automatically disqualifying me from weekly preaching. Fortunately.

Goodbye, and Thanks!

I (Celia) prepared 2 new hymn arrangements for our goodbye party at Kita Hiroshima on February 17. I wore kimono accessories which I received from various members of Kita Hiroshima church. These precious gifts made me feel like I have a lot of Japanese moms. (Yes, it is possible to play viola da gamba while wearing a kimono, provided you also wear a hakama.) After church, we enjoyed eating “Jingis Khan,” a Hokkaido lamb specialty.

New Home, New Church, New Address

As you can see, we’ve moved to a place (Ishikari) with even more snow than Sapporo. This picture is from the morning after we moved in--we’re thankful that the blizzard waited until after all our belongings made it safely into our new house. Yes, it’s a house! And that’s our car parked in front! (We still get excited that we have finished registering our car.) There’s plenty of space for us to cook, entertain, and practice our instruments. We’re looking forward to having meals and movie nights with lots of friends.

We already wrote a bit about Wakaba Church in our last newsletter. Our work will start out slow; this month we will attend meetings and services and generally observe how things work. We will also do our best to get acquainted with the church members; many of them have already offered help and advice. Our first Sunday at Wakaba included a welcome feast! We are blessed to be well cared for here.

Since we have a new house, we also have a new address... but I'm not going to post it here. If you want it, email us.

Financial Update
Last year, we finished with an overall 99% support level! Even though there was an increase in our 2012 budget and an unfavorable exchange rate, we received a number of unexpected donations which covered that gap. We are truly blessed to have so many supporting us. Every month when we see our donation summary, we thank God for each of you who, as part of the Body of Christ, provide for our financial needs.

Our 2013 budget is roughly the same as 2012. The exchange rate is slowly becoming more favorable, but our support level for this year, like last year, has started out on the lower end. However, we trust that God will supply for what we need in His time.

Look how much I grew!

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