みなさん、日本より「今日は」Hello from JAPAN everyone!
It used to be that we corresponded from Japan via what they called Aerograms. After writing a letter on the small piece of paper that we would fold five times, seal three times, address and send to our supporting friends, family and churches in America, it would take six or seven days to get there. It would take at least another six or seven days to get a response, if they hastened to write back right away. We are not using an aerogram today, but sending you this letter by the Bethel Fellowship International homepage. We hope you find its contents uplifting. Your prayers and financial support all these years are so very, very encouraging to us. Without it, we would certainly not be able to remain here working in the Lord’s harvest field here in Japan.
January — Insulin Pump!
Nils has been on insulin pump therapy for his Type 1 Diabetes since 2001. While in Denver visiting family in January 2013, his pump became inoperable and needed to be replaced immediately. A Medtronic loan pump was given him for a month, but he had to return it or pay several thousand dollars penalty. When he returned to Japan, his Japanese doctor put him on a Japanese National Health Insurance issue Medtronic pump. When he returns to the US for furloughs longer than one month, the Japanese-issue pump coverage ends. So, an immediate call went out for financial help to pay one-third the cost of a pump donated by the Charles Ray Foundation (CRF). More than enough offerings came in to pay the one-third cost. However, the CRF required a US doctor’s prescription in order to release the pump. A Japanese doctor’s prescription was not acceptable. A special trip to Tacoma in January 2014 was made in order to secure a US endocrinologist’s prescription for the pump. The pump was finally released and Nils will be using it for the first time during our two-month short-stay to Seattle-Tacoma and Alaska for a follow-up doctor appointment, for visits with family and touching bases with a couple of our supporting churches. Thank you to each of you who helped us in a sudden and great time of need. Remaining funds from the 2013 offerings are still being used for monthly doctor appointments, diabetic and heart medications. Our monthly income is not enough to cover these medical costs.
February — Valentine’s 愛 love you!
It won’t happen again, but on February 14, 2014 (2/14/2014) we sent out about 15 or so invitations to couples for whom we have performed marriage ceremonies in our church building. Many were not able to attend so we asked couples in our congregations to come and celebrate the evening. Entire funding for the event was a special gift from a couple in Washington state, to whom we shared our desire to bless couples we have married.
We contacted our Master Calligrapher friend, Bokuden MATSUDA and had him write 30 original calligraphic expressions of LOVE 「愛」 to give as a remembrance of each couple’s “first love.”
In Japan, Valentines Day is usually a day where only the ladies present chocolate to the men, and men reciprocate a month later on what is called White Day with cookies of some sort, but we prepared long-stemmed red roses for the men to give to their wives, plus a box of chocolates for each wife to give her husband. A special gospel choir sang songs to the couples as they sat in the cozy, restaurant-lounge-looking room with low lights and flickering candles. Self-introductions made each couple relax and enjoy the entire evening. Follow up letters with copies of the “I love you” orientation notes I usually give to couples before their ceremony were sent out a couple weeks later. The couple in the picture above were the second couple I married in the church about 16 years ago. She wrote a thank you note and said that it had been a long, long time since she and her husband had been able to go out and enjoy an evening like they did that night.
Property Purchase —
On January 31st the Munakata Bethel Christian Center (MBCC) paid its second installment in the process of purchasing the property on which the church has been built. Normally property is first purchased then a building is constructed, but God led us to lease property first and then build. In 1992 the building was completed and paid off. No bank loans were incurred at all. The property was then leased for more than twenty years for FREE. At the end of the contract, the land owner suggested we purchase the land. Elders/Deacons all agreed that this was the wisest thing to do and stepped out at God’s leading and confirmation to purchase the property. The total cost agreed upon of the 1/4 acre of property ! was US $380,000. The church’s downpayment was US $97,000. We paid our second installment of US $97,000 on January 31, 2014. The third payment of $98,000 is due January 31, 2015; the remaining balance of $88,000 will need to be paid by the purchase contract end on January 31, 2016. So, the total need to payoff the property is $186,000. Our church faithfully takes property offerings each week. Our current property fund balance is about $8,400. Yes, we need a MIRACLE — and I believe doing miracles is one of God’s favorite hobbies! Thank you for praying and BELIEVING with us. God has promised us: “Ask of me . . . and I will give you the uttermost parts of of the earth for your possession.”
My pastor told me a few years ago when I told him about this wonderful property purchase, “Nils, money is NOT the problem, There is lots of money. The problem is the heart of man that controls it.” I’ve been asking God to move those hearts AND situations that will release the needed monies for the finalization of this purchase. Many of you have been a part of this literal ongoing miracle, for which we want to thank you very, very much. It will be God who rewards you for your giving.
Thank you for all your prayers and support for the ministry here in Munakata! We are so thankful for the many opportunities to share the Gospel and to pray for healing and salvation of the people we meet.
Of course, there many challenges and problems, but in the last few months, we have seen a growth in numbers and have baptized three people in their 70’s! Over 24% of Japan’s population is 65 or above, and they are very traditionally Buddhist, but we have seen a real hunger in that group to hear about Jesus, His love and eternal life through Him!
A few highlights from our ministry in the past few months . . .
It was so wonderful to see the joy and light come into Tsurue OISO‘s face (R) as we prayed and baptized her! Her daughter, Setsuko TANOUE (L) has been praying for her for years and asked us to make the trip to southern Kyushu by train to witness, hear her mother’s confession of faith and to baptize her! It was an experience we will never forget! Tsurue-san is in her nineties!
Thank you so much for praying for our former choir director, Mrs. Sumako MATSUO. At 57 years old, she had a stroke affecting her speech and her right hand and was hospitalized for one month. Matsuo-san has a very strong faith in God and His healing power and was determined to get better! She is now driving her car, her speech has improved greatly and she is in church every Sunday!
In the photo to the left are (L to R) MBCC’s Associate Pastor Jim Xavier’s wife, Tracy, Andrea and MATSUO-san while attending a Billy Graham Festival of Hope luncheon in early March.
Pictured below are two wonderful sisters, Takeko and Kyoko INOUE , have been with us since almost the beginning of our church here in Munakata 32 years ago! They are deaconesses as well as worship leaders and take care of the bookwork and accounting for the church! We love them so much and appreciate their hearts to serve!
They led their mom to the Lord and we were able to baptize her before she passed away in May of this year. Being able to witness to all the unsaved family at the Christian funeral with singing hymns and a message on eternal life, and then ministering to their 86 year-old father as we prayed and placed his wife’s remains in our church gravesite was such a privilege!
LASTLY . . .
We really do need and appreciate all the prayers and support for the work here. Our prayer is that God blesses you as you read some of how God is working here in Munakata! We love you and are looking forward to seeing some of you this summer! We will be taking a short break to visit family members, some of whom we have not seen in several years. Our trip will entail visits to Alaska, Washington and Oregon to visit our siblings.
Thank you again for all that YOU have done for us here in Munakata City, JAPAN.
July, 2014 — Nils & Andrea OLSON