She’s Here!

She’s here! Amelia is here. Our sweet baby girl was born on January 25th! And what have I been doing since then? Giving her snuggles and daydreaming about Japan.

Eight months ago, when we found out we’d be moving to Japan there were so many things that needed to be in place before we could move.

Amelia’s birth was the last thing on that list! We’ve sold our home, moved into a transitional space, which has proved to be such a blessing, and now we’ve officially become a family of four!

I am longing to be in Japan, to be in our new home, and begin our lives and ministry there.

But I know God has a purpose for these next four months leading up to departure.

Just because there are no major milestones in sight and all our big items are checked off- does not mean we are prepared and ready to leave just yet.

These next 4 months are a beautiful gift of time.

Time to grow spiritually and prepare our hearts and minds for the work to be done in Japan. Time to grow together as a family of four and find our new normal before jumping into an even newer normal! Time to sit at the feet of Jesus and still our hearts for the unknowns up ahead. It is a blessing. There is so much spiritual preparation that goes into a move to the mission field. Life kind of slows down, we give ourselves time to reflect, to dig into the Word, and to be even more diligent in praying together. Yes, I am definitely grateful for this time and I can’t imagine moving overseas without Matthew, Archer, and Amelia. God knew what He was doing when He put the call on our hearts but delayed the sending until our little family was complete. His timing never ceases to amaze me.

End of Year Update:

Thanksgiving at the Church at Braden River 2018

Here’s a quick 2018 recap:

  • Our foster son is happily settled into his adoptive family and we’ve transitioned to Aunt Kristen and Uncle Matt. We’re so grateful to still be a part of his life and for all the friendships made through him!
  • I’ve spent 8 months of 2018 pregnant and can’t wait to welcome our new little one in 2019!
  • As of today our home is officially SOLD! Praise God; He was in every aspect of that sale.
  • We’re comfortably, gratefully, settled into our temporary home for the next 5 months and preparing for the arrival of baby Mia.

Plane tickets have officially been purchased!

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far so we were able to buy our tickets this far in advance and secure a good deal! We’re humbled by how clearly we can see God walking us through this journey and are grateful He’s been so present through so many changes! 

Mission Goals for the first six months of 2019:

  • Get all our papers in order to move overseas! [Passports, International Driver’s License, etc.]
  • Find devoted prayer partners to pray for the Japanese people- prayer changes things!
  • Help Archer adjust to all these changes in a healthy and positive way
  • Pack!

Mission Goals for the last six months of 2019:

  • Adjust to everyday life in Japan
  • Get Matthew settled into his new job
  • Establish a new routine for me and the kids
  • Make relationships and begin building a community
  • Improve language skills to better communicate in general and to explain the incredible gift of Jesus Christ

Thank you so much for your prayers and support as we come down to the last few months before departure! -K

Will You Pray With Us?


When we were in Japan last year, I’m telling you, I could feel the prayers of our faith family back home. We were keenly aware that God was with us and I know a large part of that was due to your prayers. And we were so blessed by that.
space
A few Sundays ago our church was going over Acts 13. Specifically verses 2 and 3.
Space

“As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.” -CSB

Space
These verses really stuck out to me and have been on my mind ever since. I love how they fasted together, prayed together, and laid on hands to send them off!
 Space
It reminded me all over again of the importance of prayer in this season of preparation. As well as fasting and preparing spiritually for God’s ministry in Japan.
 Space
In the moment we’ve been immersed in the details of preparing to sell the house and what to keep and what not to keep. Packing, and then repacking all the things my helpful little three year old decided to unpack and play with.
 Space
I’ve found myself forgetting to let my knees hit the floor over the whole reason we’re doing this. Between planning, packing, and preparing I’ve missed the most important of all: praying! Of course we pray often for Japan. But I’m talking the earnest seeking of the Lord on the behalf of the Japanese people, this journey, and our little family that’s about to undergo quite a few big changes to life as we know it.
 Space
As a family, we’ve recommitted to not let ourselves get too busy in the details and forget to lay them all at our Father’s feet. To just be with Him in the midst of all the preparation that goes into an overseas move.
 Space
If you’d like to pray with us we would be so grateful! Prayer is incredibly powerful and we know this transition and mission will go so much more smoothly if it’s covered in prayer.
Space 
Will you partner with us in prayer?
 Space
-K
Space

Space
Current Prayer Requests:
*For God to prepare the hearts of the Japanese people, only He can open their ears and eyes to see the love of Christ we hope to show them. Only He can make the seeds that we hope to plant grow.
*Quick sell of the house
*Smooth and peaceful transition to our new living arrangements for the remainder of our time State side
*Praise that we have already raised 10% of our goal!!
*Prayer for the remaining 90% needed

The Where: Heguri

We’re going to Japan! I know we already announced that, but it’s still pretty exciting. It’s amazing to see every day how God has planned and provided for us. We wanted to take a moment to give you a little better look at where we’ll be in Japan and what it will be like.

Heguri is a relatively small town located on the southern end of Japan’s main island, Honshu. It is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s big cities, which is a blessing for us!

It is a farming town which deals a lot in rice, one of Japan’s main goods.

It is still quite modernized. Houses are usually thinner and taller in Japan, the same is true for Heguri.

We will also be pretty close to one of the largest cities in Japan, Kyoto, where we stayed during our first trip. It is an easy day trip by train.

All in all we’re very content with where the Lord has placed us, we couldn’t have picked a better location or community ourselves! Please feel free to respond with any questions or curiosities you have! We’ll be glad to answer.

Prayer Update: Preparations are under way! We are currently in the process of vacating and selling our house so prayers for a smooth transition and quick sale would be great! We’ve had many people reach out with love and support for our mission in Japan, we are so grateful for how God has been working. Continue to pray that we can reach our financial support goal in a timely manner, we’re hoping to have everything prepped and ready to make the moving to another country process as smooth as possible!

How you can help:

I cannot stop thanking God for His incredible timing. He has truly put the pieces together.

He’s provided the vision. Five years ago, Matthew felt called to lead our family overseas. Since then we’ve doubled in size, but He’s done nothing but reinforce that call.

He’s provided the passion. Matthew has always loved Japanese culture. But God has grown our hearts for the Japanese people. So much so that I feel close to tears imagining their smiling faces and the holes in their hearts where their Savior should be. I cannot wait to be there and love on these beautiful people.

He’s provided the way. After many closed doors, He has truly worked everything out in His own timing. He’s provided Matthew a job that will sponsor all of our visas! Not only just a job, but the kind of job we never thought possible for us in Japan. One that mixes Matt’s teaching skill with his background as a youth pastor. I’m overcome when I think about how much this particular job is an answer to so many of our prayers. I can see now why He closed the doors on all the other ways we tried to get over there.

He’s provided the place. Heguri. A town in the beautiful Nara Prefecture that captured our hearts last year. It is a town of a little over 18,000 people. We have never been there before, but the few pictures of it we’ve found show it to be a beautiful place.

He has provided the people. For whatever reason, God decided to put our second child on our hearts at the same time as this transition. (Perhaps He put her there earlier and I’ve just been stubborn. haha.) But either way, it’s clear that this new little one was meant to come with us and make us a traveling family of four!

So you can see why I have no doubt that He will provide the means. Matthew’s school is a small missionary school and they are able to pay their staff a modest stipend. It is very generous and will go a long way towards supporting our family as we minister in Heguri. We are praying and seeking the remaining support from those who believe in what God is doing in Japan.

As you would expect we have initial moving costs, home set-up, and travel expenses for getting to Japan that we’ll need to raise. Our biggest mountain though, will be establishing monthly supporters. Our hope is to have partners who are willing to sponsor our family on a continual basis. This will allow us to make due in our day to day lives and ministry and maintain our presence in Heguri as we build relationships with the people around us.

We feel blessed that so many people are for us in this move. That so many people have affirmed that this is where God has called us, for however long He wills. My heart is warmed every time someone shares that they are praying for us, or that the are behind us in this leap. We can feel those prayers, and they have power.

 

If you feel at all led to become a monthly supporter or would like to know more about what we’ll be doing we’d love to communicate with you. Please feel free to contact us through this blog, Facebook, or Email. (Or in Person!) Any recurring donations set up between now and before we leave will go a long way towards helping with the initial amount needed for the move. Thank you for all the support you have shown us so far!

The What:

What will we be doing in Japan?

Of course our main purpose for going is to share God’s love and make disciples. Comfort the Japanese people, who are very self-reliant, and let them know they don’t have to do this alone, they don’t have to have all the answers. They can take their weary over-worked selves to the feet of Jesus and just rest knowing He is in control.

The way we hope to do this varies!

Matthew will be teaching at a K-12 Missionary School that teaches an American Christian curriculum. (As a mom I am so excited that Archer will be able to go to school with his dad! I’m sure that will outgrow it’s coolness at some point, but for now it’s the coolest thing ever).

The school has about half Japanese students and half missionary kids. I believe somewhere around 9 nations are represented. Investing in the children of Japan is one of the easier ways of sharing the gospel. They are much more open to it and Matt will be teaching from the Bible in addition to his regular subjects.

Some other things we are praying about is the fact that there is no church in the town we are moving to. We took a “Timothy Initiative” class at Bethel and are praying about possibly implementing some of those strategies in Japan as well as all we have gleaned from Braden River meeting in homes for the last few years. We’ll have to wait and see when we get there. That one needs a lot more prayer.

We’ve also been praying about an opportunity that has come up for us to teach English through Bible Study. The leaders of this group will be heading back to America for home assignment the same month we arrive and have asked if we’d be willing to keep it going while they’re gone. It’s not in the same town, but nearby. We’re praying about taking that on with two little ones at home and how the logistics of that would work.

We are so excited to be a part of what God is doing in Japan and will continue to pray about home church possibilities and leading the English Bible Study.

For the first few years in Japan, life will probably look much like it does now. Matthew teaching and me at home with the little ones. Once the they are older, I’ve been told there is always a need for substitute teachers and teacher aids at the school Matt will be teaching at. Until then I’ve been preparing my heart to be sensitive to do what the Lord would have me do. Whether that be befriending neighbors and inviting them over for an “American dinner” or just taking the best care of my family that I can while we all find our footing in this foreign land. We’ve been told Japan is a “spiritual vacuum” of sorts so making our home a light in that community will take more of an intentional effort than it does here. We would love your prayers as we seek to honor God in all of our decisions.

-K

Going to Japan!

Guess what team! The Steele’s are finally going to Japan! This is coming much sooner than we anticipated, but God has paved a way for us that is undeniable. (More details to follow.) As many of you may remember, Kristen and I visited Japan last year to seek what God wanted for us there. We spent a week in the city of Kyoto and surrounding area, it was amazing. (In both a spiritual sense and a traveling sense.) God showed us that Japan is a beautiful country with amazing people, but also a place where He is desperately needed. (See ‘Prayer and Ramen’ for some of the break downs and stats.) During this trip we also met with a missionary who has lived in Japan with his family for 20 years. He was kind enough to talk with us about his experience and give us advice as we prepared ourselves.

Fast forward to this year. Kristen and I began to notice that many houses were going up for sale in our neighborhood. (I promise this is related!) We looked up a couple of them to find that the housing market in our area had gone way, way up; which is why so many people were selling. Just for fun we started to look at how much our house was worth and muse about what we would do with the profit we could make from selling it. One of our questions was obviously ‘where would we live if we sold out house’. To which I jokingly responded ‘we could just go straight to Japan’. Though it was in jest, both Kristen and I really started to think about it, and we thought ‘why not take a look?’

We (and by ‘we’ I mean Kristen) began researching opportunities to teach in Japan, at first without much success. But she decided to search specifically in one of the areas we visited, an area called Nara, where we had met the missionary. She found a listing for a teaching position at a missionary school in the area. We looked over the requirements and they matched almost almost perfectly for my experience. Without wasting any time I put together my application and sent it in. After we had sent it, we remembered the missionary we met with talking about a similar school he had sent his children to while they lived in Japan. We emailed him to ask about it, turns out not only was it the school his children went to, but he was also on the board of the school.

So long story short (I know, too late) through several emails and Skype ins, the principal, board members, and the Steeles all agree that this is where we should be. Starting in Aug 2019, I will be teaching in Japan!

If you’re not tired of reading yet, below is a brief overview of the ‘Where, What, Who, When, Why, and How’s’ of what we’re doing. We will be putting up posts later going more in depth with each of these subjects, but wanted to make sure we pass on the basics first.

Where
We will be in a town called Heguri in the Nara Prefecture. It is on the southern end of the main island of Japan. It’s a relatively small town but is about an hour away from two of Japans largest cities.

What
I (Matthew) will be teaching at the Missionary School and Kristen will be responsible for the household. There are many ministry opportunities for us both, and we are very excited about it. (More details in the later post.)

Who
The school itself is called Kansai Christian. They teach all grade levels, in an English curriculum. (Which is good since I’m still working on Japanese.) It has been in operation for a few decades now and has recently updated to a corporate status. Which means they are able to sponsor work visas. (Which is very helpful to us!)

When
I am slated to begin teaching in the 2019 school year, which begins in August. The Steele’s will be moving to Japan around June of next year to give us time to adjust and get everything set up before the school year begins.

Why
As mentioned before, Japan is a wonderful country. But it is also a country to has very little of God in it. Our desire, the one that God has put on us from the beginning, is to be among the Japanese people and show them God’s love. We are going to be living in a town there and be a part of the community. Our focus will be on building relationships with the people around us and show them what God has done in our life and what he can do in theirs.

How
There are a lot of preparations that need to be made to move to another country. Some of the major ones include selling our house, finding living arrangements in Japan, as well as planning the trip that will move an entire household there. Kansai Christian generously provides a salary to its teaching staff. However, they are not able to provide enough for a living wage, especially for a family. WE WILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT. We will be entering into the process of raising support for our family as we live in Japan. We are seeking those who believe in us and more importantly, what God has us doing. We highly recommend you sign up on our email list (The little envelope button) so we can keep you up to date with our preparations as well as send updates while we are in Japan.

 

Thanks!
For all the love and support you have shown in this process. We ask you continue to pray for us and thank God for what He has done and will continue to do. Please feel free to reply with any questions you have! Again, we will be putting up more blog posts in the future that go into more of the specific details.

-M

Language & Culture Studies with a Toddler

 

This is what language & culture study looks like with a toddler!

My imperfect quest to fluency has done an amazing job of reminding me to have grace for myself.

As I said in my previous post, it is hard for me to do things halfway so I either do or I just don’t! And the last few months I haven’t been! Granted it has been a very busy time as we transitioned our sweet foster son to his forever family (so many bittersweet tears!).

But what helped me to integrate Japanese into our lives (as opposed to taking over our lives and making us useless stateside) was oddly enough, a book that had nothing to do with languages.

Women of the Word.

(You can get your copy here or head into your local Lifeway if you have one and pick up a copy there!)

I love this book- I could write a whole post just about how helpful it is, but I’ll settle for a quick paragraph. It has been revolutionary in my personal Bible study time. Especially answering the question of “where do I start?” in Bible Study. Incredible.

In it, Jen talks about building Bible literacy. She goes over how Bible study needs to be approached with patience, you’re not going to understand everything you read in your first read-through. I’d venture to say no one will ever fully comprehend everything in the Bible. God is that awesome. But there is one quote I got from this book that really stuck with me and has seeped into all other areas of my life.

“By all means build.” 

The author was talking about building Bible literacy. Even if it’s slow-going, keep going! A little is better than nothing! “By all means build” has become sort of a life-motto for me since I’ve read it. It’s changed the way that I approach, well, change. I know it’s silly but for all of my twenty-seven years I’ve just expected change to happen and stick fairly quickly- leaving little room for grace for myself.

But that phrase, “by all means build”, has helped me to realize that even if I’m sowing small seeds, and just a few at a time- it’s something- and it’s sure better than nothing.

So… in my approach to fluency: “by all means build!”

I am so grateful to live in a town with a wonderful public library system. (I actually take advantage of the library systems in two counties since we are very near the county line!). This is one thing I will surely miss when we move to Japan. My boy and I load up the van with last weeks’ library books and head off to get some more on an every-other-week rotation. He’s unaware as of yet that we’re moving to Japan someday. But he does enjoy learning the culture and language (and honestly having it simplified for children helps me so much too)!

So, this is me building- one picture book at a time, haha! But even though missions as a family can be a little more complicated, I know God intended us to do this as a family, to be there for each other as we live out this calling and prepare for whatever He has planned.   -K

Undertaking Fluency

Okay friends, I’m going to need your help with this one.

Languages.

Most Americans would agree they are pretty tough to master. Being oceans away from the natives who speak most of the languages we want to learn make the best way -submersion- a bit difficult. Many people, myself included, use this as an excuse to not even begin trying.

I have often thought of how easy it will be to pick up Japanese once we live in Japan. But as more time passes before we actually make the move, I feel a sense of urgency to use this time to learn the language. I don’t want to get over there and resign the first couple of years to language studies. We can’t be certain of how much time we will be given in-country, so why would I want to waste a moment trying to learn the language when I could be studying it here and now?

To my surprise when we were over there this past spring I discovered how hard it was to just “pick up.” Spanish is a lot easier for me to “pick up” because I’ve spent years in study of the language and culture. The last formal course I took in Spanish my professor said I was nearly fluent. Anytime I went to Guatemala or Spain I easily fell right back into my Spanish. I think my studies of it in America made “submersion” easier; all the parts that didn’t make sense clicked once I got there- but I don’t think they would have clicked had I not spent the time State-side.

But in Japan it didn’t become easier… because I knew absolutely nothing. I was dismayed at the thought- we’ve had this call on our lives for 4 1/2 years and I still knew absolutely nothing. Well, I could say “hello”, “excuse me” and “thank you”. That’s still all I can say, and “Domo Arigato Mister Robato”….

Another layer to my longing for fluency- Missionaries not only need to get by in the society but we need to be able to convey life-changing deeply moving Truths that can change a persons life. While translators are available, the impact of sharing the gospel with someone in their own native tongue is astounding and irreplaceable. So would you come with me on my journey to fluency? I’ll share tips and tricks that I learn along the way and you all can be my accountability!

Here’s the plan: I’m going to attempt to learn Japanese with fluency as my goal. I’m going to try and see what works and what doesn’t. (I already know quite a bit of what doesn’t.)

This will hopefully be helpful to other missionaries who are aiming for fluency or anyone who does not have access or funding to take classes conventionally. The advice and lessons will be easy to fit into an active schedule. Many people are called into missions as singles, that makes it quite a bit easier to devote large blocks of time to language studies. What I’m attempting is meant to be added into everyday ministry in a country that is not of the language you are attempting to learn. I.E.- yes we’ve been given time in America to learn the language, but I don’t think the study of it should be so encompassing that we are completely useless where God has us here and now. So balanced dedication is what I’m aiming for. Which is hard for me. I like to go all in, but I have a family of four to take care of and I can’t compromise my job as a Wife & Mama.

Who’s in? Anyone want to learn Japanese with me? I hear it’s helpful in the business world! Or want to apply these principals/methods to learning another language? Think of all the doors that can be opened, lives that could be changed, and friendships yet to be made!

Let me know so we can keep each other accountable on this journey!   -K

Boldness.

I’m reading a Beth Moore book. Not a huge surprise, I love Beth Moore. We share a common love for Jesus, His Word… and studying. Man I love a good study. I’ve done her studies, read some of her devotionals- but this time I’m reading a book by her- called Audacious.

It. is. wonderful.

Coming upon one of the first few chapters I came across a paragraph that spoke right to me- not in a soft “Kristen focus on this” kind of way- but like a SMACK right in the face!

It was one of those painful truths. I finished reading the paragraph- put the book down and came right here to write. It was that powerful. I love how God can use a good book opened at just the right time- so does Beth Moore, she said so in the beginning of this book actually!

For some context, we’re talking about boldness. Not obnoxious boldness- but being bold in Christian humility and love. She said:

 

“Boldness says that we don’t see every little obstacle as some big hindrance. We’re not too fragile to adapt and too finicky to accept. Boldness says that each circumstance is up for rent as opportunity. What we’re willing to do with the room we’ve been given is up to us. Boldness makes the best of it.”

 

Immediately Japan came to mind.
It took me forever to accept that Japan is our mission field. It’s not what I had in mind, not what I had planned – at all! But here we are- getting ready to move there within the next few years. The phrase that really got me in that paragraph was “too fragile to adapt”. Ouch.

I want to have the faith of Abraham and just get up and GO (Genesis 12:1).   I want to say “Here I am Lord, send me!” as Isaiah did. (Isaiah 6:8)

But I say no, or wait… let me think about it.

Jesus talks about this very thing!

“Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.'” (Luke 9:61)

Yah know what happened to that person?

Jesus left! He missed it! That person missed out on the most incredible journey of a lifetime!

He said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61)

That’s pretty serious.

Though people don’t get turned into pillars of salt anymore (Genesis 19) for looking back- think of all the missed opportunities.

Think of all the people who could have been reached but weren’t. Or I think of all the satisfaction and growth that could have happened within my own life that didn’t because I was “too fragile” to adapt.

Boldness.

I need some of that boldness. Boldness to adapt- to trust. To know that God has my best interests at heart- so if that means jumping on a plane and moving 7,440 miles away- then I’m not just going to drag my feet and submit.

I’m going to get on that plane with purpose, with joy, with thankfulness that I, of all people, was chosen for this particular journey. I’m going to use every opportunity because life is hard and people need Love. (Ephesians 5:16 sort of)

So next time any of you hear me complaining about the distance, or how hard it is to learn the language, or yada yada stuff- tell me to go back and read this post and get on my knees and thank God that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) – that I can always come back into His loving embrace no matter how many of His opportunities I miss. And to thank Him, from the bottom of my heart, that I do not have to stay as I am. I do not have to remain “fragile and finicky” because that doesn’t have to be “just the way I am”. In Christ I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17):