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

No comments: