Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Newsletter

Keith and Celia Olson
Newsletter #33
August 31, 2016

11th anniversary hike to Zenibako Tengu Yama! Sapporo is in the background.

Dear friends and family,

Thank you for praying! We are safely settled in Japan for our second term.

We arrived in Sapporo May 24, started our 3-month Japanese language “refresher course” May 30, moved into our new home June 11, moved our belongings out of storage June 16, went to OMF Japan Field Conference June 20-24, got our new-to-us 2005 Subaru Forester July 1, celebrated our 11th anniversary with a hike July 9, had a much-needed kitchen update August 8-9, and finished language school August 26. It’s been a packed 3 months juggling language study with working on our house.

We plan to start September with a camping trip, followed by working on our house, getting up to speed again with things at church, and catching up on various things that fell through the cracks while we were in school.

When we weren’t at language school or working on our house, we reconnected with friends: Yugo and his family...
... and... Ultraman?

Matsu House
Matsu House, on replace-the-kitchen day. (Not our car, by the way.)
As we mentioned, we have a new home. Our landlady during our first term, Mrs. Saito, offered us a larger house, closer to church, with a huge garden (by Japanese standards). (Her grandson now lives in our previous house.) Our new home belongs to Mrs. Saito’s aunt, who is now unable to live on her own, and Mrs. Saito is the caretaker.

Before we moved in, the 40-year-old house had been unoccupied for two years, but was in surprisingly good condition considering. The garden was (still is) overrun with persistent weeds (if you ever find dokudami in your garden, KILL IT), the wallpaper is flaking off, the kitchen was leaky and moldy, and the tatami flooring was rotten in places. On the other hand, the layout of the first floor will allow us to have a kitchen and living room in addition to tea room, music room, and dining room--perfect for having guests in a wide range of situations. And unlike the new houses in our neighborhood (box-shaped and boring with asphalt for a garden), this house has a lot of character. It just needs a lot of work.

Celia was hoping that it would be possible to quickly replace the kitchen unit and the offending flooring and wallpaper before we moved in. Keith had no such delusions; he expected that it would take at least a year before we got the house “as we like it.” We waffle between despair (will we ever be done painting the bedroom?) and excitement at the possibilities since we’ve been given free rein to do as we like with the house.

Kitchen, before
Kitchen, during. Our friend, Shino's dad, Mr. Inoue, is building us a bar counter.
Kitchen, after (?)
In one of those despairing times, God gave us a name for our new home: Matsu House. Matsu has two meanings in Japanese: “pine tree” and the verb “to wait.” Because of the double meaning, we chose to write it in Hiragana and Katakana: まつハウス.

Celia chose the name “Matsu House” as she thought of a beloved pine tree at her grandparents’ house, and remembered that the pine tree symbolizes eternal life in both Japan and the West. While in the West we use evergreen trees in our Christmas decorations, Japanese use pine during the New Year holiday. For the same reason, we chose a Japanese family crest for ourselves featuring three snow-covered pine trees.

Our family crest. It's called Yuki mochi mittsu matsu. (Say that ten times fast.)
Keith, on the other hand, chose the name “Matsu House” for its second meaning, which expresses our hope that in our home, we and our friends and neighbors would learn to wait and hope in God--to be quiet before him, to cry out to him in our need and in our joy.

We have certainly been waiting a lot recently. Waiting for God’s guidance regarding our house. Waiting to get our car. Waiting to finish house projects. Waiting for vacation time. Waiting for God’s leading regarding our new ministries. It seems that everything takes longer than we think it will. We’re not very good at waiting, so maybe that’s one reason God gave us Matsu House.

Right now, there are no pine trees in our garden. There is, however, a pine cone, collected on a recent hike. It’s on the table in the living room. We are waiting for it to open so we can plant the seeds. This pine cone seems a lot like us right now.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)

This picture of the table in our living room represents our last few months pretty well...

Prayer Points

  • We are thankful to be back at Wakaba Church. Please pray for us as we reconnect with our friends here and try to find a good balance for church responsibilities and our other ministries (Celia’s music ministry, Keith’s preparation to teach at Hokkaido Bible Institute [HBI]).
  • Please pray for us as we try to make our home a welcoming place, and for wisdom to find ways to creatively fix it up in a cost-effective way.
  • We will take some vacation time at the beginning of September. Please pray that we get some rest so we can start ministry refreshed.
  • The Wakaba Bazaar is October 15. Please pray that we and church members can make new connections with people in the community and deepen the connections we already have.
  • Keith plans to start taking classes at HBI November 22. Please pray that he can develop relationships with students and faculty, learn theological vocabulary, and get a good sense for how the school runs and how classes typically operate.


New Address
We have a new address! Let us know if you need it. Our permanent address in the US stays the same as before.

Language Corner
In Japan, there are said to be many gods. Thousands, in fact. One of them is the toilet god. (We are not making this up.) We photographed this sign in a rest-area toilet. The idea is to say, “please keep the toilet clean” in a cute (?) way.


Thanks for praying! May God be present to each of you as you wait for him.

Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

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