A News Update 8/7/2017


Dinner on Tim’s 62nd Birthday…

It’s been awhile….

To be exact it has been about 11 months since we sent out our last update. That newsletter was actually our last “official” communication with you as Covenant missionaries. Still, we had hoped to stay in touch with you as our new situation here in Washington unfolded. Maybe that’s the problem. Things didn’t unfold as easily or quickly as we had hoped and so it became harder to know just what to write… but as the months have passed we have come to feel that God is leading us step by step on new paths and so here is an attempt to share those developments with you.

  • Last Fall the focus was on me (Tim) getting some employment while Andrea worked hard at finishing up her doctoral dissertation. LOTS of job applications went out (mostly in areas of office administration, clerical, paralegal, pastoral, and chaplain positions) but most of them simply went dark. Applying for jobs online (read: no interviews, little response, multiple corporate firewalls, etc.)  was a new experience and helped us understand what so many others experience in this mostly online digital era. In the end, I began working part-time hours at our local Home Depot and Andrea gutted it out and finished up her dissertation by mid-January!
  • Since May of last year I had been preaching about once a month at the Japanese Congregational Church in Seattle as part of a bilingual preaching team of 4-5 individuals who were helping the church following the resignation of their former pastor. After 6 months they offered me a part-time position as pastor, coming down to Seattle from Mount Vernon 2 weekends a month and also taking on some other pastoral and administrative duties. I’ve accepted that position and so officially became their pastor on Easter Sunday (4/16/17), at the same time that I finished up my 6-month run at Home Depot (3/31/17). It is a dwindling congregation of about 30 beautiful and diverse folks. The church was planted by Japanese immigrants to the Seattle area at the start of the last century so has a history of over 100 years. While there are a handful of Japanese-speaking individuals who are still part of the church most are 3rd and 4th generation Japanese Americans with little connection to present day Japan. I feel honored to serve them during this time of transition as they seek to understand their identity in a rapidly changing urban environment.
  • During the winter I also studied and passed the courses and exams for the Washington state real estate licensing process. While I’ve always had an interest in real estate it’s not the simplest area to just jump into, especially if you’re new to an area. Yet, it continued to be one of the few doors that remained open during my job seeking and so I have in faith walked through it, trusting God to provide support and ministry opportunities in this area too. As of June 1st I’ve been working with the Ellingson Home Group, one of the Keller Williams real estate teams here in the Skagit Valley. I work with a team of 9 other realtors. My kids have teased me about being a double agent – “Are you looking for a spiritual home….?  ….. or may I interest you in a 2-story colonial in Mount Vernon?  I can help you with either one….”  Just kidding, but you get the picture. I DO find myself occasionally wondering HOW I got here and WHY I’m involved in these projects? It can seem strange after living 40 of my 60+ years in Japan. Yet, it’s also quite exciting to contemplate new possibilities and new adventures even at this stage of our careers and ministry.

From Andrea…

Thank you for being our friends and caring about us through the years! It’s been a treat to connect with a few of you and we hope to see more of you if your paths take you near Mt. Vernon just off of I-5, about an hour from the Canadian border on the north and Seattle on the south. I’m really enjoying staying put this summer in Skagit watching the rabbits and deer wander through the yard and collecting eggs (some torquoise, some brown) from our chickens when I’m not at work. The vegetable garden was a total fail, but my flowers are doing pretty good—butterfly bush, gladiola, geraniums, alyssum, poppy, lavender, succulents and a lot of other cool stuff I don’t know the name of. My sister Patrice is a gardening whizz.

Finishing my dissertation Praying about Forgiveness in Japanese, English, and Beyond Words: Bilingualism as an Underexplored Resource for Christian Spiritual Formation was a big deal. I’m SO grateful for my family and friends who believed in me and encouraged me that it was a significant topic, and that it was worth doing. There were many bleak days such as all pioneers are prone to experience, and I’m glad they are behind me.  Now you can read it too! It’s available for download here  but unless you are really hard core, I suggest skimming the table of contents and then choosing just the parts that interest you.

Celebrating Andrea’s graduation and dissertation at Portland Seminary (formerly George Fox Seminary). With us is Rachel Ames, Sam’s girlfriend.
Once the hype of the dissertation was done, then “Ordinary Time” both in the liturgical sense and also in the frightening what-am-I-supposed-to-do-for-a-job-here-in-Skagit-at-my-age sense came crashing in. I’d been able to dodge much of the angst of “we think this is a good idea but what in the world are we doing here far from Japan” by keeping my nose to the grindstone, but suddenly we really needed to find jobs and build a life.

God provides. Why do I sound surprised?!? Since the beginning of June I’ve been working at Hospice of the Northwest as a per diem Spiritual Counselor (what used to be called chaplain). Most of the first two months was full time–not exactly the usual per diem experience–but I’m very grateful because I needed the daily reinforcement on both the computer system and the content of the job. Oh, and the paycheck was quite helpful too after 9 months of no work(!) I find it to be a surprisingly good fit for me and hope to continue. I enjoy the patients and their families as well as my colleagues, and I’ve also enjoyed diving into a new genre of study. Here are a couple of good books in case you are interested:
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande,  Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life by Ira Byock, and Driving Miss Norma,  by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle, the story of one family’s loving and surprising response to a terminal diagnosis. Oh, by the way, one of my coworkers even shows up in this book!

The other big news for us is OUR YOUNGEST (Sky) IS TAKING DRIVERS ED AND HAS A JOB! I wasn’t sure I’d live to see this day–it is a good one. Thanks for your prayers, warm thoughts, and many generous and kind words and actions. God is good!

If you’ve read this far…

So you can see we’re doing well. Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, and communications from so many of you. Sam and Lilla continue to do well and enjoy their time at the University of Washington. Sky will start his sophomore year at Mount Vernon High School in a few short weeks. Both Andrea and I serve on the leadership team of Crossroads Covenant Church in Burlington, WA – our “home” church when we’re not at the Japanese Congregational Church or doing chaplain work at hospice. We’re also able to stay in touch with Japanese friends and mission colleagues back in Japan which helps us to know what’s going on back there. We live in an amazing era for communication don’t we?

God’s richest blessings on each of you as well!


P.S. Current contact info:

Please discard our “covchurch” email addresses. They are no longer active.

Our current email addresses:
Tim:  tgj0528@gmail.com
Andrea:  andrea.johnson1@me.com
Postal Address:
834 Greenleaf Ave, Burlington, WA 98233

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