Friday, February 26, 2016

February Newsletter

Dear Friends and Family,

We are excited to announce that we have been designated! For those of you who don’t understand OMF-language, that means we have been officially assigned to a church and a job in Japan. We will be back at Wakaba Church, and also doing ministry elsewhere: Keith will teach new pastors at Hokkaido Bible Institute and Celia will start a music and arts ministry. We have each written more about our vision for ministry below.

In other exciting news, Shino Inoue, Celia’s friend and pianist, is coming to Seattle! Celia and Shino will present concerts on March 5 and 6, giving our supporters here a chance to meet one of our ministry colleagues and experience our music ministry firsthand. Celia is also planning to release an album of music from our first term, titled Music and Stories, concurrently with the concert. Please let us know if you would like one!

Celia's new album
Thank you for praying for our travels and family times over the last few months. We were able to spend Thanksgiving with Keith’s family--we met 2 new nieces for the first time and caught up with all the rest of the nieces and nephews too! Then we spent Christmas with Celia’s family for the first time since 2007. The next day we were off for 6 days in St. Louis at the Urbana student missions conference where we talked about missions and OMF and Japan with lots of college students who stopped by the OMF booth.

With our oldest niece/goddaughter, Elizabeth
Back in Seattle, two New Year feasts, mochitsuki party… and then the last of the exciting news: our nephew was born January 7, the first on Celia’s side of the family: Calvin Chen Wilson! We got to visit him when he was only a few hours old.


Prayer Points

  • We are thankful that our designation is finalized! Please pray for us as we begin to think about how to balance our responsibilities between church and other ministry. 
  • Please pray for Keith’s classes at Regent College (major paper due March 4) and his preparations to teach at Hokkaido Bible Institute. Teaching theological concepts in Japanese will entail a steep learning curve. 
  • Please pray for Celia and Shino’s concerts, March 5 and 6. Shino arrives February 29. Please pray for effective rehearsals (we only have 5 days!), encouraging time together, good health, and that our concerts will be a blessing to those attending.
  • Please pray for our meetings with individual supporters and for 100% pledged support by our deadline on March 23 (we are currently at 92%).
  • Keith will be visiting his family March 18-26. Please pray for a good time together.
  • Please pray for the students we talked to at Urbana as they take their next steps towards missions involvement. Please also pray for our OMF US colleagues as they continue with follow-up.


Tea Bowl: We have 92%!

We’re coming up on our deadline: one month left! We need 100% pledged monthly support for our second term. If you plan to continue your support from our first term into our second term, thank you! If you haven’t told us yet, please be sure to let us know again in person, by email, or through the OMF website  (select “update information,” and enter “re-pledging” in the comments). Our deadline for 100% pledged monthly support is March 23, 2016.

Celia’s Vision: A Restful Space

The contents of my arts thesis box at the library
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the Regent College Library in Vancouver. Keith was busy studying for one of his classes (he’s taking classes to prepare for his new ministry); I was with him for MissionsFest and a concert. I glanced up and saw a sign for the arts thesis (IPIAT) projects on a nearby bookshelf; I went and found mine: Praise the LORD with Stringed Instruments: Instrumental Music as Participation and Contemplation. Although I once had had great ambitions of continuing my project and maybe turning it into a blog or a book, it had been years since I even looked at it. (Japan happened. Surprise!)

I felt nostalgic, looking through the pictures, programs, CDs and other items in the box—even a paper star from the prayer-origami I had everyone do. I thought back to all the people who collaborated with me on this project and all the work that went into it. But until I opened the 3-ring binder containing my thesis, I couldn’t remember what I had written.

I thought I had given up on this project when I went to Japan. But it turns out, the things I studied, agonized over, wrote about, and put into practice back in the 2008-2009 academic year were still swirling around in my head as I agonized over the rut into which I had fallen with the bait-and-switch-style concert ministry that was expected of me in Japan. (Come to a concert! You’re also going to hear a sermon, but I’m not going to tell you that.) Here are a few highlights from my thesis:
“Words, even edifying and truthful words, can be busy and noisy. They crowd the airwaves and our brainwaves. We need the wordless space that can be offered by instrumental music, time to listen quietly, waiting to hear a still, small voice.” 
“I am aware that I need more than anything to pray, to listen, and to be still before God. Studying theology is like drinking from a fire hose.” So is Japanese study and missionary work. “There is so much to learn in such a short time that reflecting on what I have learned is an unknown luxury. The feedback I received after the first three worship services [the practical component of my project] convinced me that I was not alone; we all need to gather deliberately to be silent before God.” 
“Even though this stage of my project is complete, I consider it only a foundation for work that will last the rest of my life. The stillness and rest offered by instrumental music is a great need. Wherever I go, I will continue to offer this restful place to those around me.”
Reading my thesis again, I am encouraged that it’s okay to re-think my music ministry, because the quiet space I want to offer is necessary to the souls of over-worked businessmen and women, students, pastors, and missionaries. Busy people forget about God—or they don’t think about him in the first place. Therefore, providing quiet space for contemplation is a vital part of evangelism.

Our designation is finalized: we’re going back to the Sapporo area, to Wakaba Church in Ishikari. As for me, I’ve been given a blank slate to start a new arts ministry. Now is the time to pick up that dream of offering a restful place to those around me: a collaborative arts ministry involving my own disciplines of music and tea ceremony as well as the gifts brought by like-minded colleagues. What will this look like practically? Who knows? What I do know is that it will start slowly: 一歩一歩 (ippo ippo)—one step at a time.

I surrendered my dreams at the foot of the cross… and now I’m picking them up again. Wow. This is really happening. I’m so incredibly thankful.

Keith’s Vision: God Gives the Growth 

Blast from the past: Keith studies in the Regent library for his comprehensive exams in April 2009
While I was taking classes at Regent College 10 years ago, I struggled with my vocation. I had no idea where or what God had in store for me, but one option I seriously considered was teaching at a Christian school, and I knew how I would do it. I imagined myself teaching students, who were struggling with the Bible like I had, all the exegetical tidbits I wished I'd known.  I even looked at job possibilities in California. Fortunately, God brought us to Japan instead, and like Celia with her thesis, I shelved my idea of teaching.

10 years later, I am taking a couple of classes back at Regent College, again struggling with my vocation. This time I know where (Hokkaido Bible Institute) and more or less what (teaching exegesis, Isaiah, and perhaps more), but I'm not exactly sure how.  As I commute from Seattle to Vancouver, I often wonder how to contextualize what I am learning for a Japanese school. The classes I'm taking have already gone a long way to recondition my theological muscles, but reconciling the critical English approach with the top-down Japanese teaching style is impossible. Not that I think teaching Bible in any context would be easy, but like the times I preached, led discussions, held events, or even any time I answered the phone, if I have any success in Japanese, it is only by God's grace and his enabling.

I originally intended to write about the problem of aging pastors and the rise of pastorless churches and to discuss the need for the younger generation of Japanese Christians to step into full time ministry positions. And I do trust that I will be able to support HBI in its mission to train pastors, evangelists, and lay leaders, but I don’t see my ministry as filling a need as much as being filled myself.  I have mentioned not in so many words before, but I go to Japan for a very personal reason: to grow closer to God. I do long to see Japan grow closer to God too, and in some inexplicable way, God has shown me that my life and the life of Japanese people I encounter are bound together. I grow with them; I don't grow them. When I think of the times I’ve opened the word of God with Japanese people, I both witness and am witnessed to at the same time.

This is a long way of saying that although I am intimidated and humbled, I am excited to have the opportunity to share life with pastors, evangelists, and lay leaders, and to grow with them in any way that God gives growth.

Only three months left until we return to Japan--May 23! Let us know if you want to meet up before we go back. Thanks for your continued prayers.

Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Recording project: Music and Stories

I've been really busy lately with projects. One of them is obvious: there's a concert in 2 weeks, so I'd better practice my cello... and of course there were invitations to make and generally getting the word out. I think practice is going rather well.

The other project is one Keith and I dreamed up last year in January when we were at Pre-Home Assignment Workshop: a CD (or set of mp3 downloads) to give to our supporters to give them a taste of my music ministry and thank them for their support. It was supposed to be a Christmas present. Oops.

Now there's a new deadline: have the CD ready to release on the day of the concert. (Not to mention, Shino, my collaborator for the upcoming concert and a major collaborator for the CD, is eager to have one.) Release date is March 5! Lots to do...

Ta-da! The cover will look something like this, only better, when I get used to the stamps. The Japanese writing on the right is my friend's calligraphy. The red stamp is my doodling... isn't it cool that you can get custom made stamps on the internet?
On the CD will be cello and piano music by Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms; Japanese folk songs accompanied by shamisen; my own hymn arrangements for viola da gamba and voice (in Japanese); and 2 Japanese worship songs composed by friends of ours and performed by the Sambi Reihai band at our church. Other friends contributed art for the cover, recording expertise, design help... and moral support.

The recording itself was completed before we left Japan. I just needed to figure out web hosting, CD printing (as in getting art printed on the back side of the CD rather than using a permanent marker to write the title, as I have usually done in the past), design for the cover and booklet, actually writing the material for the booklet... etc. I only came up with the title about a week ago, but things are coming together, I think. I hope.

If you are praying for us, then we invite you to order a CD (or mp3's to download). Click on the link; it will take you to an order form. This offer is also open to those of you who follow our blog and aren't on our email list. If we don't know you, please be sure to leave an answer in the box labelled "would you like to introduce yourself?" Please introduce yourself, and tell me why you want a CD, because I'm only giving this to friends... so let's be friends. We're looking forward to "meeting" you. :)

One more thing: if you want an actual CD rather than mp3 downloads, please order by February 28. Otherwise you might have to wait until May if I don't have any extras.

Okay, back to work on writing liner notes...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Concerts in Seattle

It's official! Shino is coming to visit... and we're playing two concerts! For those of you in the Seattle area, this is your opportunity to meet someone who has been both a dear friend and a valuable colleague to us. We'll give you a firsthand glimpse of what our music ministry looks like. Please come, and stay to chat afterwards! 


Concert 1: Saturday, March 5, 7:30 p.m. at Newport Covenant Church, 12800 Coal Creek Parkway SE, Bellevue

Concert 2: Sunday, March 6, 5:30 p.m. at Japanese Presbyterian Church, 1801 24th Ave S, Seattle

The program will include music by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Debussy, and more. As we usually do in our concerts in Japan, we'll intersperse stories into the concert. In this case, we will tell stories about how we have seen God at work as we engaged in music ministry in Japan.

Here is an invitation. Please come!

If you are wondering who we are and why you would want to come hear us, I have also included our profiles below.
A native of Sapporo, Japan, Shino Inoue (井上志乃) started playing piano at age five. She studied music education at Sapporo Otani University, after which she established her own piano studio. Shino is involved in music and youth ministry at Toei Church, where she has attended since childhood. 
Celia Olson grew up in Newcastle and has attended Newport Covenant Church since birth. She started cello at age 10 and then played in the Seattle Youth Symphony during high school before studying music at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Boston University. Celia’s life took an unexpected turn when she started theological studies at Regent College, leading her to become a missionary with OMF International in Sapporo, Japan.
Introduced by a mutual friend, Celia and Shino met in Sapporo in November 2009 and played together for the first time at Christmas 2009. Since then, they have presented concerts at churches all over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Story for Valentine's Day

Today's coffee: meh.

Mom and I went out for sushi a few weeks ago with some people who are special to us: my cousins’ grandparents. Not the grandparents I share with them—the grandparents on their mom’s side. I’ve lost all my grandparents now, so I’m glad I have these two.

My cousins call them Ba (short for Obaasan) and Pa. He calls her “darling,” and she calls him “honey;” they are devoted to each other even after more than 60 years together.

I’ve always admired Vic and Yasuko, but now that I’ve been living in Japan, I especially admire Yasuko’s courage as she left her family and her home in Japan and made a new home in the US with her husband. Like me, she lives between two very different worlds.

Over lunch, we got the two of them talking about how they met. I don’t actually know my own grandparents’ love stories, so that motivated me to write their story down.

During Yasuko’s childhood in pre-war Japan, one of her relatives studied abroad in the US. When he came home to Japan, he brought clothes for her as a present. The style and quality impressed her, and she began to wonder what sort of place America was.

Yasuko’s older sister had an arranged marriage—she already had a boyfriend, but she had to break up with him and marry the man her parents had chosen for her. Yasuko suspected that she would follow the same path as her sister. She left home and found work as a telephone operator at an American air force base (Misawa, in Aomori prefecture) after the war.

Vic was stationed at Misawa from 1951-1952. Once when he was making a phone call, Yasuko connected his call. She has a cute voice, Vic thought to himself. He started asking around to find out who the cute voice belonged to. Eventually he found out, and asked Yasuko to meet him.

Yasuko didn’t know Vic at all, so she hesitated. A mutual friend reassured her: “He’s nice. And his family is nice, too. He always gets good packages from home.” So they met up in the “usual” way: “I’ll be the one wearing such and such.”

I interrupted the story at this point. “So what were you wearing?”

“A dress, one that was fashionable at the time, and a little bolero jacket.”

“And what was your first impression? Was it love at first sight?”

“Well, no… I certainly thought he was handsome, but there were lots of handsome young men at the air base. I knew that a good heart is much more important than good looks, so of course I didn’t know right away.”

(She was quite mature for age 18, I thought to myself.)

Vic chimed in between mouthfuls of edamame, describing one of their first dates. Vic loved soba, but strict rules forbade servicemen from eating local food—there were concerns about contamination from the practice of fertilizing fields with “night soil” as was done at that time. (No need to be worried, they don’t do that anymore…)

“Yasuko and I were sitting in a soba restaurant, and I was really hungry. We ordered our food, and out it came, and I was just about to take my first bite… when a big Texan officer threw open the door and started shouting at me. He dragged me back to base, leaving Yasuko crying her eyes out, thinking I was going to be executed or thrown in prison.”

“Did your parents oppose?” I asked Yasuko. It was right after the war, after all.

“They did at first… but then God intervened, and I got appendicitis.”

I looked at her blankly. She continued. “My mother came to Misawa to take care of me after I was discharged from the hospital, and Vic came every day to visit. He brought lots of flowers and presents. His kindness and care for me won her over. Then she convinced my father.”

There you have it. It's been a blessing to have these two as a part of our family.