Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November Newsletter

Keith and Celia Olson
Newsletter #34
November 30, 2016

Newly completed bar counter at Matsu House!
Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from snow-covered Ishikari. The snow came early this year, and we are still trying to prepare our garden and house for winter. Keith has been busy plastic-wrapping windows to conserve energy and researching the least-stinky kerosene heater for use in our bedroom. We hope to get the first floor rooms completed in time for welcoming friends for Christmas meals and other holiday gatherings.

Meanwhile, Celia has been practicing the fourth Bach cello suite for her Christmas Day concert at Wakaba Church. Sambi Reihai (our informal afternoon worship service with music and scripture readings) stopped while we were on home assignment, but we hope that this Christmas “concert,” which will involve participation from many church members and include some of the same elements as Sambi Reihai, will be a step towards getting it started again.

Prayer Points
  • Christmas events at Wakaba include women’s Christmas tea (Dec 3), children’s Christmas party (Dec 11), Celia’s small group Christmas tea (Dec 17), youth Christmas party (Dec 23), Christmas Eve worship, and Christmas Day worship, lunch and Celia’s concert. Please pray for those who will invite friends and family. Please pray also for us, as we hope to have friends over for meals; pray for wisdom for whom to invite and when.
  • Please pray for first floor house reforms to be done in time for Christmas hospitality.
  • Keith’s small group is hoping to start “Kodomo no shokudo,” a ministry in which they hope to occasionally provide supper for children in our community whose parents work late. Please pray for a clear vision for how to get started and what they hope to accomplish.
  • Please pray for more energy. We have been feeling tired and unproductive, which is discouraging. Please pray for us to depend on God’s strength, not our own, and to get enough rest.
  • A number of our friends are facing serious health issues. In particular, please pray for David Ferguson (OMF Japan field director, blood cancer), SL (our close friend and OMF colleague, recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes), and KS (Wakaba church member, cancer).
  • Please pray for our ongoing preparations for teaching at HBI (Keith) and arts ministry (Celia). Please also pray for Keith’s safe travel to and from HBI classes (in winter, the trip takes about an hour each way on icy roads).

Decisions, Decisions
In the process of discussing our second term ministry with our pastor and with OMF leadership in September and October, we discovered that it would be impossible to continue in all the ministries we were involved in during our first term. We therefore decided that we would continue training small group leaders (and take part in each of our groups’ activities), preaching (mostly Keith), and worship leading. Celia plans to start a small Bible study group for the benefit of a new Christian, with hopes that the members of this group will become more confident in their faith and that perhaps they would be able to lead Bible studies with seekers in the future. Keith has started auditing classes at Hokkaido Bible Institute (HBI), where he will teach, and Celia is in the visioning stage for her new arts ministry. Thus we decided to step back from youth ministry for the time being, since we already had many other things on our plate.

Preparing to Teach at Hokkaido Bible Institute
I (Keith) have been studying Japanese for 7 years, and some of my well-meaning Japanese friends have hinted that my Japanese level must be somewhere around a 7-year-old’s. Using this logic, when I turn 8 in Japanese next year, I will start teaching Isaiah to graduate level students. Now imagine a third grader walk to the front of a class of pastors in training, call everyone to order, and open his briefcase to take out his class notes. Give that third grader a beard and tweed jacket, and that is not entirely unlike the position in which I imagine myself to be in one year’s time.

Keith's first day auditing classes at HBI
As intimidating as it feels to teach Isaiah in Japanese, I am equally excited to see how God has been equipping me for it, and likewise, excited to see how this next year will unfold as I brush up my Hebrew and Greek (among other things) by taking classes at HBI. Since coming to Japan, reading the Bible with Japanese people has always been one of my greatest joys. This passion is perhaps the main way God has guided me to this position at HBI.

As I look back on my life before Japan, another piece that has fallen into place is my desire to teach. In college, I took several teaching classes (before I escaped via music degree); I’ve enjoyed many teaching assistant positions and tutoring jobs along the way; and during seminary I even started to pursue various Bible teaching positions at private schools. I have found that if I really want to own what I have learned for myself, I must teach it, and even while teaching, I learn with the students and come to a deeper understanding. Basically, I teach in order to be a better learner.

And finally, a passion I have that connects a core value of OMF with HBI, is to see churches planted in areas where there is no church, especially in towns and cities of rural Japan. During our camping vacation in September, Celia and I experienced first hand what it is like to attend church in rural Japan. After much searching, we found that the closest church to our campground was over an hour away by car in Bihoro, and we passed several towns to get there. The closest town, Teshikaga (population 8,680), had a church a number of years ago, but it since closed.

Even now, our friends at the church plant in Nayoro (population 30,920), where I preached and Celia played a concert in 2014, have been waiting several years for a full-time Japanese pastor or evangelist to partner with them. At the same time, churches without pastors are increasing as the church, with the rest of Japan, ages. In order to see more church plants, we need to see more pastors trained to fill the vacuum of pastorless churches and unchurched towns, and to fulfill the role of the Japanese church in global missions in those ways in which the Japanese church is uniquely gifted.

HBI Quick Facts
  • Started in 1964.
  • Has a three-pronged approach to Bible training: study, life, and service, which is reflected in their motto, which, roughly translated is "Know Christ in order to serve the church, the world, and this generation." (Sounds cooler in Japanese.)
  • Has around 15 full time students as well as other attendees. Right now, we are praying for 5 new students to start next year in April. 
  • Offers a 1 year “Believer’s Course” and a 3 year Pastor’s degree.
  • If you are interested in supporting the work of HBI, please use this link.

Matsu House Update
Thanks for praying! Since the last newsletter, Keith finished painting both sides of the bedroom and build bookshelves in the “hallway” between. He also painted part of the roof to enable snow to slide off. Mr. Inoue (Shino’s dad) completed the bar counter in the kitchen, which Keith coated with finish. Mr. Inoue and Keith then moved on the the next big project: the dining room. Keith stripped the wallpaper, put additional insulation in the floor, enlarged the doorway to the kitchen, and painted the trim, while Mr. Inoue installed wood flooring. They are currently in the middle of applying keisodo (a traditional plaster used for tea rooms) on the walls.

Keith models his new bookshelf (and tweed jacket).

Installing the last strip of flooring in the dining room

First dinner party in the dining room! (Walls yet to be plastered...)
We have discovered that a house that needs work improves our relationship with guys of our acquaintance, since many of them are eager to help us out and work together with Keith. We’re very thankful for helpful friends. Please continue to pray with us as we continue to work towards a home in which we can show God’s love through hospitality.

Enjoying Hokkaido Autumn
Remember Mr. and Mrs. K who were baptized last year? Guess what? Mr. K is a hiker! God brought us a hiking friend!

Mr. K is in the center, between Keith and Celia. Behind him is Noriko. The others are co-workers and friends.
We also went on an onsen expedition in early November. Thankful for new friends!

Mrs. K is next to Celia. In the background are Noriko, Miki (Takakashi-sensei's daughter) and Mina (Takahashi-sensei's wife)

Language Corner
The owner of our house left us two tiny electric heaters, which heat tiny spaces in our house through the Hokkaido winter. They came with the added benefit of interesting English.

The box reads: “Mini Fan said, ‘I will give you a petit hot, and clean air.’” Thanks, Mini Fan.

The fan itself also promises that it's a "clean pet" and it includes "air remover." Oh my.

Thanks for praying! May God bless you with his presence this Advent.

Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

Remember me? I'm the grapefruit tree. I'm glad to be in my new home, and not outside... it's cold out there! (I had a haircut.)


Joy Sprankle said...

Hi. I googled blogs on Japan and missions. I was an MK in Sapporo, lived there 12 years. Grew up there. I recognize many of the towns you mentioned. I used to travel with my parents (IMB missionaries for 26 years in Japan) doing music concerts, etc. I'm not sure if this would be helpful in your ministry or not but my mom has recently written some fictional books about how God pursues a young Japanese woman. They are very natsukashi for me. The gospel message is very strong and I wonder if it'd be a non-threatening way for students to hear the good news? Check out her blog if interested. Books will be released on Amazon this spring. http://karolwhaley.com/

Celia Olson said...

Thanks for sharing!