Monday, August 5, 2013

On my way!

My these are strange times! Transfer calls came this morning, and guess what! I'm going to be a grandma!! :D My sweet little Sister Lowry is actually being transferred to a place in Saitama called Kasukabe, where she will whitewash in with a new missionary! There are Elder's there already but she will be opening up the area for sisters. Is that crazy or what? I am SO excited for her! You know only a number of months ago it was absolutely unheard of for a transfer 3 American missionary to whitewash with a trainee. These are exciting times! Sister Linquist will be taking care of Kiryu for me, along with Sister Stubbs from Australia who will be her follow-up trainer, and a brand new little sister! Kiryu will be staying a threesome. I LOVE Sister Stubbs and oh how happy and peaceful my heart became when I heard she would be coming here to take my place. I really feel like she is the perfect fit for our ward and investigators. God is watching over my little Kiryu!

In other news...we were on the radio again on Friday! This time at a big festival and wearing yukata's that the ward presented to us. I'm famous!! Haha okay no not really, but it was fun.
 
Something pretty awesome happened for my last Sunday in Kiryu...our new African friend came to church! And stayed for all 3 hours and even for the baptismal service afterwards for a girl in the ward. Also I was able to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting...it was so interesting. Felt a lot different than I'd expected. But good. Actually...there was an earthquake during my talk. NOT kidding! That's just how we do things up here in Kiryu. :)

I wanted to share a parable that I talked about in my testimony yesterday. Sister Long actually shared this with me on the train back from Tokyo this last week.
 
There was a man who went out to a well behind his house every day for water. He had two buckets. One was shiny and strong. The other was rusty, a bit crooked and had some holes. Every morning he would take his buckets, walk to the well, fill them with water, and then return to his house. The nice shiny bucket always got all the water to the house. But by the time the rusty bucket was to the house, much of the water was gone, having leaked through the holes. Since this is a story, the buckets can talk. One day the rusty crooked bucket said to the man, "Look, I'm no good. I can't even get all the water to your house. I'm broken and full of holes. Look at your other bucket, he is strong and shiny and does a perfectly good job. You don't need me. Why don't you just throw me out?" The man looked down at his bucket patiently and simply asked, "Have you taken a good look at the path we walk on each day?" "No..." The bucket replied. "Well maybe you should take a look."

So the next day the bucket did look, and saw that all along the path from the well to the house, were beautiful flowers. The bucket was speechless. Once the bucket had seen the flowers, the man said, "I know you have some holes and that you're not perfectly shaped. So I went along before using you and planted seeds for you to water. And now look how beautiful my yard has become thanks to your leaky holes."

If God wanted perfect people to do his work, pretty sure he wouldn't have picked me. God is all knowing and even through our mistakes he can create something beautiful. We just have to remember that HE KNOWS. Although we may think our purpose is to 'get all the water to the house' perhaps he has something different in mind for us.

This story touched me so much and I had to share it. :)
 
Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be my last full day in Kiryu. Wednesday morning I'll be getting on a train to Tokyo and then going through the temple with Iida Shimai. Then we will go back to Koiwa together where I will stay the night. Thursday we go into the mission home! Sister Linquist and Sister Lowry will be looking after Kiryu until Thursday morning but will be coming to the mission home to get their new companions after that. I'm hoping to take a family picture with my grandkids! :D
 
 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beautiful haha and chichi!!

Oh what a week this has been! Teaching, finding, training exchanges, meetings, teaching my girls how to use maps, soaking up lots of hot sunlight. Full of some interesting challenges and mental battles, perhaps the usual ones that come to us at the end of our missions. Some heavy realizations and thoughts come to us in times such as these. Satan sure saves some nasty tricks for the last few weeks! BUT..he will not win!

We had a lesson with Iwai Nozomi Shimai at her house on Tuesday. That day we actually were a little disappointed because she didn't seem quite ready to be invited to baptism. But we left her with a strong challenge to pray fervently to know if this was the path God wanted her to take.
 
It was a rather long week until Sunday, that started out with curry-making in the morning for our afternoon Chinese party. My beautiful curry ended up all over Sister Lowry's new dress on the car ride to the church. Something to do with a particularly passionate Asian driver. Church attendance was also a bit discouraging. However, our day brightened when Nozomi made it to Sacrament meeting and said she had something special to tell us. After the meeting we gathered around a bit nervously, and she began saying how touched she was by time we've given to her, and how much we've helped her the past few months. She said she'd been thinking about it, and one night when she came home to find her door posted with hearts and thank you notes from us, something clicked. She announced that although she doesn't know everything yet, she wants to be baptized. !!!!!!!!! She's prayed and says it feels like the right thing to do. She's actually moving back to live with her parents in August, but with the help of her member friend, has located a ward there only 20 minutes from her home. Although there is still a lot she doesn't understand, she sees the lives of the members and how they think, and their perspective on life, and she wants that.

We are planning her baptism for the same week Sister Long and I go home.
 
Our Nozomi chan is getting baptized! :)
 
Thank you so much for all your prayers and thoughts sent this way. I testify that your prayers are so powerful, and that they are felt strongly on this side of the ocean. There is something that links us all together, something that comes from being made by the same great creator. And when we pray, oceans are crossed, mountains are breached, and we all draw a little bit closer to that heavenly home. Please keep Nozomi in your prayers as she prepares over the next few weeks to enter the gate. Oh how we love her. The three of us were just beaming yesterday. Once she left, Sister Lowry recommended we pray and thank the Lord for this great miracle. How powerful it was to slip into a quiet room with them and pray together in gratitude. I testify that Heaven is listening for us!

Monday, July 15, 2013

His Work

This past week was BUSY. It ended with a matsuri  (summer festival) on Saturday night with the ward. We'd been working hard to invite lots of people since it would be a great opportunity to mingle members and investigators as well as show the ward we are serious about being missionaries here. The Lord blessed us tremendously! We had FOUR families, two investigators, two of their friends, an eikaiwa student, and a load of kids that go to school with the bishop's family. It was amazing! The ward went crazy. They were saying yesterday that more non-members came than members! Which was quite close to being true. It was ward-conference weekend so the stake leaders and families were in our ward. Sacrament meeting ended with a passionate talk by the stake president preaching unity and charity and faith, as well as missionary work. He ended by pulling out a hymnbook with one of the bookmarks Sister Long and I made our first transfer here and put in all the hymnbooks for the ward. We'd written a message about how excited we were to work in the beautiful city of Kiryu and to live our mission theme of 'United in So Great a Cause' as we combined efforts with the ward members. He read it with vigor and urged the ward to love the missionaries and get involved in bringing our brothers and sisters unto Christ. It was moving and I think many people were touched. So grateful for the great leadership in the church here.

We have been just dying to set a baptismal date with Iwai Nozomi! She is so special to me, and so ready! But wow things have been playing against us. We finally have an appointment with her at her home tomorrow. That will be a first. Her member friend is coming too and we are going to run it like a Family Home Evening. We are going to invite her to be baptized on July 28th. Oh please pray for my sweet Nozomi! She is so prepared, and so ready. It is one of my biggest desires this transfer to see her fully embrace the gospel. Cool thing about Iwai san; her first name, Nozomi, in Japanese means 'desire.'

I don't think I quite know how to think or feel about this month of my mission. I feel strongly that my mission won't end when I take off my tag. If anything, the most important things I've learned by being a missionary is how to be a member missionary for the rest of my life. My offering to the Lord won't be finished when I step onto the plane. The changing of countries and faces and languages may throw me through a loop, but through 18 months of transfers I've learned that there are people everywhere who need God's love. Wherever we go, there is always someone, one of God's precious children, who is waiting for His light to come to them through us. No doubt my heart may nearly be torn in half after leaving my country of Japan. I can already feel the tugging when I stare down into little Asian eyes and hold little Asian hands. But I also feel I will be back someday.

The real thing that scares me is if I've finished all the Lord sent me here to do. My offering to him is so meager. My part so small. But then I realize that the 'my' in all of this means little. It is 'His.' His work. His glory. His mission. His people. I've been simply a steward. I guess it really hasn't been about me at all. Sometimes I've been caught up in 'my mission' and 'my baptisms' and 'my success' when really none of it belongs to me.

And although I know I am and have not been enough, I've learned: He is enough.
 
And for me, that is enough.
 
Oh help me not to forget!

Friday, July 12, 2013

NIKKO

So we spent pretty much our whole day today with some fabulous members who took us to NIKKO! About an hour and a half drive away from here, deep into, and up into the tops of the mountains! SO BEAUTIFUL. You would not believe this place. The shrine/temple is over 500 years old. We saw two huge monkeys on our drive up!
LOVE YOU SO MUCH!
 
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy July.......?????????????!

I am not sure how else to start this letter except to tell you that I have been 'megumarete' or incredibly blessed with the two most wonderful, amazing sisters! We picked up Sister Linquist from the Mission Home on Wednesday. Feels like I've been there quite a lot lately! I can hardly believe that the same building I came walking out of a year ago, wide-eyed and clueless and a little scared, was the same one I've walked out of twice now with new missionaries. Pretty sure though that these two beautiful sisters were sent here to help me on my path to discipleship- not the other way around.
 
Sister Lowry has just bloomed this transfer!! Oh I have been so impressed with her and how she has broken through so many walls this transfer. She is happy and full of light and is such a blessing to the people here. Her Japanese is incredible- people here can hardly believe how quickly she is learning. I was so proud of her yesterday as we were teaching an unplanned lesson to three Japanese university students at the church, and after I finished explaining about something, without prompt, she jumped right in with her thoughts and testimony. She is a fully contributing member of our companionship, and has helped me so much as I've become the leader of this area and the surrounding sisters.

Now about Sister Linquist! She is from Springville and is a few months older than me. Comes from a family of five, with two older brothers. Worked at Melville Stables when she was eleven and loves horses, even did some competition when she was younger. Majoring in Landscaping. Plays the cello. She is SO chill and easy going, and has slipped right into Kiryu and into our companionship. We just love her. We all seem to be the easy-going type and have managed to have very peaceful relationships. I just love these girls!! I come close to tears at night because of how blessed I feel to be companions with them. They are prepared and ready to serve. I don't have to 'train' them. I just have to 'be' a good example, and then make sure to stay out of their way as they shine.

There is one simple experience I had last week that I wanted to share. Every Tuesday morning all the leaders in the mission join in on a conference call with President Budge and talk about the previous week's baptisms, the upcoming week's baptisms, and about the overall status of the mission. It was my first time sitting in on the call without Sister Long in the same area, and as I listened to the miracles happening and thought about the responsibility I have for this area, I felt the weight of all I need to do and be here come down heavily on my shoulders. Honestly it was scary at first, leaving me a bit breathless, and then the doubts started to come in. Was I enough? How could I possibly lead this area, let alone all the sisters I have responsibility for? Who was I to ask heaven's hand? Who was I anyway? Amidst my weaknesses and flaws could I really pull enough together to guide this area and these people? I was walking down that little negative mental path in my head when suddenly I stopped. A voice inside me said, that those thoughts weren't mine, and they weren't His. And the simple words came to mind, "Choose to believe."

Although I could almost physically feel a force pulling me downward, trying to make me give in to the doubt, I took that step back upward, and with all the mental energy I could muster, I told God, "I choose to believe....I CHOOSE to BELIEVE." And you know what happened? The doubt lifted. The burden lightened. And I found that sweet place just beyond the shadow of doubt, where the Savior's light can touch us. All it took was my choosing to turn to him. Choosing to believe. I still didn't know if I could do it. And I knew that in reality, I wasn't, and am not, enough. But when I made that choice, I felt a huge difference. Because although I'm not enough, He is enough. It was amazing how differently I felt moving forward after that moment.  

That seems to be the most prevalent message of my mission these past few months. It's been coming from many sources, and through many experiences. It's one of the great eternal truths I'm here to teach these people. Recently we've taken a new spin on how we introduce the Book of Mormon. Using the pictures in the front of the book, and also using a piece of paper that we fold into different shapes, we tell the story of Lehi's family that left Jerusalem. The paper becomes a compass, a boat, a house in the Americas, a divided house, a sword, and then finally it is torn in half as a nation is destroyed. But then we unfold the torn up pieces and the biggest is a cross. Because God sent Jesus Christ to the world to heal the world. Broken nations, broken families, broken hearts, broken people. He has power to make them whole. The rest of the shreds actually spell out the word 'love.' And we teach people about the love of Christ. It is really cool. Gives me chills every time we do it. It has made me see the Book of Mormon and the role Christ plays in our lives in a completely different way.

A few answers to your questions...yes they are showing the Work of Salvation broadcast to all the wards here. We are watching it little by little during companion study, in English. Sister Linquist was actually in the choir. :) She came into the mission knowing more than me what the church's vision is for missionary work. These truly are exciting times!

We had another meeting with the FMKiryu radio station, and are going on the air July 15th. I'll get you the link. ;)
 
Sister Long's new companion is the sweetest, most wonderful Japanese girl, from Nagoya. Oh we love her so much. And they are so happy together. Sister Kubota is her name. At the testimony meeting with the new missionaries and trainers she said she was going to speak in English because we were all working so hard to speak Japanese. She spent some time studying at BYU Hawaii and told us how well she understands the difficulty of being in a foreign country and trying to learn the language. How all you can do is smile, even if your heart is aching inside. Her testimony just made me want to cry and cry. I prayed so hard for Sister Long to get a companion like her!

We have some wonderful investigators right now. I don't think I know how to finish a mission. At least I can find so much peace in the fact that I'm leaving this area in the hands of Sister Linquist and Sister Lowry. Mom and Dad I love them so much!!! I have been so blessed!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Transfer 11, Day 1

We received transfer calls on Saturday morning. Sister Long is transferring one area over and whitewashing with a new missionary. Sister Lowry and I are staying in Kiryu...and getting a daughter/little sister!! Since the mission is splitting he's already picked our companions, so I even know her name. Sister Linquist from Springville, Utah! We will be 3 Americans wandering around our little Kiryu land!!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I was thinking that if Sister Long transferred I might get another trainee....but I was expecting her to be Japanese....so this is a big surprise!!! She is flying into Japan on Tuesday night, and we will go pick her up Wednesday morning! :D

I'm not sure what God is thinking...pray for me and my girls! Oh I hope I can just love them and watch the love of God for these people grow in their hearts and shine from their eyes! I also hope I can keep track of two fiery new missionaries....I was leading on the bikes the other day and going over a bridge, wind blowing in my hair and feeling pretty good about things. Then a voice from close behind me yells, 'Hey, Grandma! You okay up there???" HAH! I got called a GRANDMA!

This past week feels like it didn't even happen it went by so fast. Lowry Shimai was lucky...she had a mom AND a dad for a week! And next week she gets a little sister! We're a big happy family over here. :) Except dad transferred to Oyama a few hours ago...whoops. Yesterday Long Shimai was asked to bear testimony in Sacrament meeting, and as she was talking I was just sitting there shaking my head, wondering how in the world we've already been here together for two transfers, when it feels like just last Sunday we were bearing our first testimonies to the ward together. It still hasn't quite hit me yet that she is gone. We just came to Kiryu! How could she been gone already? Absolutely blows my mind. We're going to miss her here. Especially her kanji reading and cooking skills. ;) Oh Long Shimai! I'm not sure what they are thinking putting me in charge of everything here...but at least I'll have two young ones to keep me running. Seriously I thought I was pretty fast on a bike until I put Sister Lowry in front of me....Sister Long and I were huffing and puffing behind her all week! What am I going to do when there's two of them?? They'll leave me in the dust.
 
We have some exciting things going on here in Kiryu. See out here even though there are still lots of buildings, you can go 20 minutes walking without passing a single person to talk to. We've had to get a bit creative in order to make new friends. Our ward mission leader has been working hard for us and got us into a radio station, where a few weeks ago we began talking about doing some type of regular broadcast. Brother Yasuda (the WML) apparently went to high school with them all. A lady in the studio noticed us and told him to bring us back to talk to specifically her. She was fascinated with us and the church, and we are scheduled to have a live interview in a few weeks. You'll be able to look it up online. ;) Lowry Shimai was a bit worried about the Japanese, but the lady just told her she can speak English and I can translate.... 0.0 Not sure if they are going for educational or comical here, but at least we're getting noticed. Another person from the radio is getting us set up to do short English classes live on the radio to advertise our church English classes. They are going to bring in college students and we'll teach them on the air. Not quite sure what we've gotten ourselves into yet...we're making some history though!
 
On Wednesday Tomura Shimai (Jenna's trainer) came to Tokyo to go to the temple, and we also met up with Iida Shimai. They called me and I was able to talk to Tomura Shimai for the first time in almost 10 months. One of the first things she said was, "Oh...Wylie Shimai...you speak Japanese!" hahaha. Good! She is getting married this fall and then has plans to move to New York for her soon-to-be-husband's job. Good excuse for me to take a stroll up to NY? I think so! Anyway it was really fun talking to her again after so long. If she can she might come up for my last temple day next month.
 
There is much to be done here! I am so grateful that I get to stay. This is my home right now. Please keep praying for me and my girls! Sister Long and I are both still sister training leaders...but we're now working separately and have different sisters assigned to each of us. Since I will have two companions, I will occasionally leave them to work together in Kiryu while I go to another area and work alongside the shimai there. Should be an adventure!
 
Thank you so much for your love and prayers. I FEEL THEM SO STRONGLY HERE!
 
 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Families

What a week!! Haha I have to say this transfer has been a bit exhausting. But, although we're a bit breathless, life is good. The temple was wonderful today. And I am happy.

I don't have much time but I thought I would tell you a little about my week. First of all, I got sick. The day that it got particularly bad was also the day we were scheduled to go to a less-active member's home up in the middle of the mountains. She had invited us to come make sushi. Not wanting to ditch out on something she'd prepared, I went despite feeling under the weather. From her I received mysterious Japanese medicine-no clue what it was except that it was mostly 'natural' but I was miserable enough that I eagerly took whatever she put in my hands- and was cured within 24/hours. Not even kidding! I went from what Tada Shimai thought was severe tonsillitis (sp?) to just a runny nose in under a day. So! :) That was that.

Another big event of our week happened on Saturday. We had just begun an exchange with the sisters down in Oizumi. Sister Lowry and I went with Takishita Shimai down to our little Brazil and Sister Long and Sister Tada stayed in Kiryu with Sister Silva. Around 10 am we got a call from President Budge. In Kanagawa (an area that will be south mission next week) a second-transfer sister had been ill since the MTC and it was finally, rather abruptly, decided that she needed to go home for a while. President Budge wanted her on a plane the next evening. Sister Tada was asked to transfer down that day and take her place. So their end of the exchange was spent teaching kids English class and the packing, and then getting on a train at 4 pm. I didn't get to see Sister Tada until today at the temple. Crazy! Since then we have been working as a threesome. It was kind of a shock. But Sister Tada is now with Sister Dolan (Mom you know her mom right?) and they are both happy. Tada Shimai's dream was to be in the south mission. It is bittersweet. We miss Sister Tada but we are having fun up here in our threesome. It is nice to have Sister Long back. We aren't sure what will happen with real transfer calls this week, but the Lord is in charge.

Some good news...do you remember Hitomi and her little son down in Kofu? They are getting baptized this Sunday! :D What a beautiful miracle. I am so so happy for them. I wish beyond wishing that I could go, but it is just too far and too expensive. But oh how I miss Kofu! I am calling her tomorrow.

Also I was able to see Iida Shimai today in Tokyo! I LOVE HER SO MUCH!

I can't believe Adam is coming home in three weeks!! Ok for that matter I can't believe I'm coming home in 7....what is happening??? This will probably be the most bitter-sweet experience of my life. I'm sure the difficulty of the experience will be soothed when I get to see your gorgeous faces and have the chance to just be with you all again. Oh I have missed you so much. And I am so excited to be fed at your healthy whole foods table. :)

You are all so wonderful. I love you so, so much. Families are a miracle. So much of the work we are doing out here is in a effort to save families. In the most basic roots of life and eternity and godhood and this gospel and who we are, is our family. God's family. It's all that matters! Becoming one with our families. Becoming one with Jesus Christ. Becoming one with God. There's simply nothing else that even comes close in importance! In PMG it says..."The feelings of love and concern that we have for our families are eternal and rooted deep within our souls. They are centered in our relationship with God. You have been part of God's family since before you were born..."

That is my favorite message to tell as a missionary.