Friday, May 31, 2013

May Newsletter

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from warm and sunny Sapporo. Although the snow pile at the nearby soccer field has not yet melted, I think it’s safe to say that Spring is here.

It's Sakura season! So glad they were still blooming when we got home from Tokyo!
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been busy getting to know our church. Gradually our church responsibilities have been picking up; we’ve started teaching Sunday school for middle school and high school, attending weekly prayer meetings, playing piano and cello for worship services, and inviting church members for supper. In addition, thanks to conversations with Takahashi-sensei and various church members, we’ve had a lot of food for thought about “being the church” in Japan. We’re very thankful to be at Wakaba; we are confident that the next two years will be full of opportunities to learn and serve.

A good deal of a missionary’s work takes place outside of the church building. We’re trying to meet people in our community through common interests. Keith continues with choir; Celia played a concert shortly after Easter and is already preparing for fall and winter concerts. We’ve started tea ceremony classes along with another member of our church. We rented a plot in a community garden close to our house; today we chatted with a neighbor as we planted. What a great opportunity to meet people!

Easter concert

Keith practices Tea Ceremony with Fujiyama-sensei
At our vegetable garden with Tamura-san, a friend from church
In May, we spent about 2 weeks in the Kanto area (in and around Tokyo) attending “Indigenous Biblical Church Movement” training and visiting friends and colleagues in the area. The training, simply put, gave us the opportunity to think and process what it means for a church to reflect its community here in Japan. We’re looking forward to putting the course content into practice. (Also during our trip, we went to see Sumo, and Celia had 2 viola da gamba lessons, the shorter of which was 3 ½ hours!)



Prayer Points

  • We continue to thank God for his guidance in leading us to Wakaba Church. Our relationships with Pastor Takahashi and other church members are going very well.
  • Please pray for our endurance with language--for us to be able to listen for long periods of time without losing focus. Sundays and Wednesdays can be hard.
  • We have started to transition from observing to supporting various events at church. Celia will be preparing an Italian-style meal as part of a movie outreach event in July, and Keith will start preaching monthly from August.
  • Please pray for our involvement with PB Kids, the children’s and youth program at church. Pray for our relationships with the other teachers and with the students. There are currently 4 high/middle schoolers who regularly come and many others who occasionally come. 
  • Please pray for adult children of church members who can’t find jobs, who are too busy with work to come to church, or who are uninterested and disconnected from church.
  • We attended “Indigenous Biblical Church Movement” training in May. We had many meaningful conversations and times with friends.  Pray that we will reflect well on and apply what we have learned.
  • Pray also for us to continue building relationships at church and in the community through gardening, tea ceremony and kimono classes, and music.

The First Wednesday

It would be hard to explain in detail all that we do now at Wakaba Church, so I (Keith) thought a snapshot into Wednesday morning and evening prayer meetings might give some insight into our new weekly routine. Let me first say that most churches associated with OMF in Hokkaido have Wednesday prayer meetings. I have also heard of churches that have a daily early morning prayer meeting (6:30 am or earlier), but fortunately ours are at 10 am and 7:30 pm on Wednesdays. These two prayer meetings, although slightly different in content, follow a basic two hour schedule of worship, Bible reading and sharing, prayer request sharing, and then splitting into pairs to pray. For Celia and me, four hours of prayer meeting in English often leave us drained, so when you multiply that by Japanese, at the end of a Wednesday, coherence in any language becomes challenging.

The good news is that our endurance is growing as well as our relationships with key members of the church. Of course, the bad news is that no matter how hard we try to keep concentration, there are times when we are completely lost. For instance, at the first Wednesday prayer meeting, I was trying to remember everyone’s name and follow their prayer requests. As each person shared, my memos became shorter and shorter until I was simply writing down random Japanese words here and there, some that I didn’t even recognize, in hopes that they would be useful if I were called upon to pray for one of these items. After we all shared, we numbered off to decide which portion of the church’s prayer bulletin we would pray for, and then we paired off to pray. The sweat pooled in the palms of my hands as I attempted to remember the person’s name with whom I was praying, decipher my poorly written memos of her prayer requests, try to read the complicated Japanese of the church’s prayer bulletin for the first time, all while trying to craft sentences using the specific set of rules of Japanese prayer language.

Those first few Wednesdays were rough, but by God’s grace Celia and I not only got through it but were able to contribute. There were times when complicated Japanese forms or words I didn’t even know that I knew came from my mouth while I was praying. There were times when the person for whom I was praying was moved to tears. Many times I felt the presence of God in my prayers and others’. I am positive that my Japanese prayers were and are riddled with mistakes, but even so, I trust God knows what I’m trying to say, and my Japanese prayer partners understand the kimochi or feeling behind my prayers even if they don’t entirely understand its contents.

Language Corner
Last Sunday, we were celebrating our church’s 32nd birthday. Yes, that’s right, Wakaba Church is the same age as me (Celia). For a while, everyone listened attentively to Tamura-san, who was leading the meeting. Then the photo albums came out, and everyone started flipping through the albums while excitedly reminiscing among themselves as the meeting descended into happy chaos. So, in celebration of Wakaba Church’s birthday, here is a lovely Engrish from the cover of one of the photo albums. It reads: “Let’s have a fun! Why don’t you go out and play games with us under the shinning sun? Every member is a super hero in our happy team.”


Thanks for your continued prayers! Let us know how we can be praying for you too.

            Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

This month I grew a flower... and it smells really good!

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