Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August Newsletter

Seasons #23

Dear Friends and Family,

Six months have passed since we graduated from language school, and we continue to rejoice that we can serve God at Wakaba Church as we continue our training and solidify our language skills. Both of us have been active with PB Kids and the youth program at church, giving children’s messages and hosting a movie night at our house among other things. Keith preached his first sermon at Wakaba on August 11, and Celia directed the making of lasagna for about 35 people (with homemade noodles and sauce plus ingredients from our own garden) for an outreach event on July 27. Both sermon and lasagna seemed to be well received though it left us exhausted at the end of the day. We were able to take a couple of weeks in July for our 8th anniversary to see some of Hokkaido’s amazing scenery and to recuperate somewhat from the daily stress that living in another language brings. Summer in Hokkaido means camps and retreats: Wakaba Church retreat, OMF field conference, and JECA (Japan Evangelical Church Association) summer camp.

On vacation on Rebun Island, near the northern tip of Hokkaido
Tea ceremony class: everyone wore yukata together!
One of 7 lasagnas Celia made for an outreach event at church
Our farm
We're thankful for God's provision--we've been eating very well!

Camp: The Odd One Out

Last week we went to JECA camp: a 3-day gathering at a nearby youth hostel for kids (grades 5-12) from churches all over Hokkaido. From our church, there were about 8 kids and 3 staff. We decided to join the staff so we could support and encourage each of these kids.

I (Celia) certainly wouldn’t call myself a natural youth worker. We are helping lead our church’s youth group because there is a need and because it is an important part of our training. I think the reason it is going relatively well is that we see most of these kids every week. We know their parents, siblings, and even grandparents in some cases. Most weeks we pray together about their school and club activities. They’re like our family: we trust them, and they trust us (probably).

At camp, I was the odd one out. The 4 first-year middle school girls (7th grade in the US) in my group were not my family—I was dropped in the middle like a kid transferring schools mid-year. I found it difficult to find anything to talk about. I had one girl from our church in my group, but my whole group, plus the other 4 first-years from another group, knew each other; they had all been together last year and the year before. The ringleader was a pastor’s daughter who pretended not to understand me when I told her to shut up and go to bed. She had all the “right” answers during devotion time, but somehow it didn’t seem like her heart was in it.

As the girls chatted excitedly about boys and pop stars and other subjects that I knew nothing about, I quickly got bored. Even in middle school I had had no interest in pop stars. If I hadn’t been the group leader, I would have found some other way to amuse myself, but I couldn’t leave. The other staff seemed to be getting on so well with their campers, but there was no way any of my girls were going to open up to me in the 3 days we had together. “What’s wrong with me?” I thought. “Is it because I’m not Japanese? Or am I too old?”

The first 24 hours were misery. I wanted to go away by myself and cry, but I couldn’t. “God,” I prayed, “If anything good happens here, it’s not going to be my doing. Help!” Then I realized that this was also part of my training. Each of these girls could be the only church-attending kid in their class, or even their whole school. In a society that places a high value on being part of the group, doing something that stands out can lead to isolation. I was feeling left out because I didn’t get along well with a group of middle school girls for just 3 days, but how much more does each one of these girls have to deal with isolation on a daily basis?

Towards evening on the second day, things started to go a bit better. I felt like someone was praying for me. (If it was you, thanks!) I also figured out some things for us to do together other than talking about boys and pop stars.

This particular activity did not involve any discussions about boys or pop stars.
Before we went home, we prayed for each other. Each of the girls asked for prayer for good relationships with others at school, in their classes and club activities. Maybe if there had been more time, we could have been closer, but I can certainly continue praying for each of these girls. Did anything good happen? I may never know. In any case, it wasn’t my doing.

This story was originally last week’s “Friday blog post.” I’ve decided to write a reflective post every Friday (or sometimes Saturday); I’ve discovered that I need to spend time each week reflecting on my experiences. This is a spiritual discipline for me, and my mother (and other supporters) find it helpful in understanding our life and knowing how to pray for us. Win-win! Much to my own surprise, I’ve managed 9 weeks so far.

Children’s ministry at Wakaba: Keith holds the children spellbound during his first Children’s message.
At our Sushi Party event in June, the children proved that they have expensive taste; the sea urchin and crab were the first things to disappear.

Prayer Points
  • Praise God, 2 middle school boys at Wakaba are preparing for baptism, and a third confessed faith at camp! Please pray for each of them to grow in their faith. School is very busy for Japanese middle and high school students; please pray that each of these three and the others in the youth group would be able to attend worship services and events at church, despite club activities on weekends and evenings. The youth group leaders are currently re-thinking the Sunday school curriculum for youth and the timing and frequency of various events; please pray for wisdom.
  • Keith has finished his first sermon at Wakaba Church and is scheduled to preach every other month. Please pray that he will be able to hear the message God has for the church, and pray that these opportunities will be more than just language practice but will also grow the church and himself spiritually.
  • We are preparing for concerts this fall; Celia will perform in her viola da gamba teacher’s studio recital in Tokyo September 8, at Grace Chapel in Abashiri (eastern Hokkaido) on September 28, at Wakaba’s bazaar on October 5, and at Sakae Church (Sapporo) October 26; Keith will perform Britten’s War Requiem with the Sapporo Symphony Chorus on September 20-21. Please pray for our preparations: rehearsals, Celia’s testimony, individual practice; please also pray for good relationships with fellow performers, especially for Keith who has had opportunities to share with choir members about the War Requiem’s Christian content.
  • Celia’s pianist, Shino, is in desperate need of more students; teaching is her main source of income. Please pray that God would provide for her needs.
  • Although we face a lot of language fatigue, praise God that our endurance is growing and we are able to cope for longer stretches of time.
  • We’re thankful for lots of delicious vegetables from our farm! Please pray for our friendship with Mr. S, our neighbour at the farm.

Language Corner
We’re not sure what the owner of this car was thinking…

"4x4 club Pathetic Realize"

Thanks so much for your continued prayers! Please let us know how we can pray for you as well!

Love in Christ, Keith and Celia

I got a lot taller! Unfortunately I also got eaten by slugs…

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