Monday, December 10, 2012

Here comes Santa with a bag full of sushi...

Well first of all I managed to NOT pass out during my talk on Sunday! That by itself is something I'm quite pleased about. Haha. :) Okay so my talk went decently I think. All leading up to it I had the feeling you get when you're standing under a massive elephant in the jungle and if you make a wrong move he's going to step on you and then you realize that you're also standing in a puddle of pickled plums that someone might make you eat....

...OK so I've never stood under a massive elephant...but I have stared at a bowl of pickled plums with a grimace wondering when someone is going to make me eat them! Haha anyway where were we? Oh yeah my talk! Okay so I felt pretty strange all leading up to it like I said but once I started talking I was fine. Also Mikami Shimai, one of my favorite people in the ward, was also on the stand to give a talk so that made me happy. Sort of wondering if everything I said was chipunkanpun (gibberish) but everyone was smiling anyways. I talked about God's love being the center of missionary work, and talked about Sister Sachiko. :) Did I mention that Sister Oseki also worked in Koiwa and met Sister Sachiko?
 
Bree has most definitely been a blessing to me, and I've noticed it the most since coming on a mission. Right now I have FIVE investigators who have children or siblings with autism or Down syndrome or aspergers! Can you believe that? Not to mention families in the ward. It has been such a miracle, first of all, that I can relate to them. Second of all, that I can testify powerfully and with conviction about the purity of these spirits and the reality of the resurrection.
 
It was so cute yesterday in sunday school...one of the autistic boys in our ward, Yuji kun, about 20 years old, was giving a little presentation in the single adults class. He stood up and held up his pictures and then looked around until he saw me, and then asked, "Wylie Shimai can you see okay??" Haha it was so cute. He always remembers my name and wanted to make sure I was watching.

This week was absolutely ridiculously challenging, but we came out of it with SO MANY miracles.

Thank you so much for your prayers for Sister Oseki! She is walking and riding her bike again which is a miracle, we just make sure to walk up hills instead of bike them. The doctor honestly didn't do much of anything except give her these funny knee patches that she wears every day now. From what I've been able to figure out it is a ligament inflammation problem, or a nerve sliding under her knee cap. Whatever it is...a priesthood blessing, everyone's prayers, and Sister Oseki's unshakable faith have really brought her a miracle. We're being careful, but the work is unhindered! This transfer is blowing by and I hope and pray we don't get moved from Machida! Until this transfer I haven't ever given specific requests for transfers but now in every president letter I've been asking to stay! Ultimately of course the Lord knows best but if he gives me any say in the matter...I am quite planted here in Machida. Hopefully I'm not cursing myself by saying that. Haha.  

Another miracle this week...I've been talking to Miyuki Shimai again. It was such a warm sweet feeling that came when she started to call me again. I really want to help her. Lately she's been having some weird problems that have been taking her to the hospital a lot, and they're wondering if it's cancer. I don't know her reason for coming back in contact but I am so grateful, and hopeful that her heart will be softened to hear the gospel again.

Next miracle...the Kondo's. Brother and Sister Kondo were first found by Elder Davis about 1 1/2 years ago. They've been investigating the church on and off ever since and slowly their lives have been changing. They showed me a picture of them with Elder Davis from maybe a year ago and I couldn't believe it! The gospel changes people. It changes hearts. And the power of the Savior is real. :) They came back in contact with the missionaries during my last few weeks with Sister Takei. They've been to church almost every week since and have finally managed to quit tobacco. Sister Oseki has been an angel for them. For some reason they clicked right from the start and we went from hoping to set a date with them for next year sometime this transfer to an actual baptism in two weeks! They have a baptismal service planned for December 22nd. Looks like it's going to be a white Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Not slowing down!

So this week has been a roller coaster of sorts and definitely a time of learning and growth. Usually at the beginning of a new transfer things slow down for a bit but this transfer we seriously hit the ground running and have been going ever since! The Lord has blessed us with many people to teach, many opportunities to make friends, and a full schedule. I remember biking back to the apartment around 8:40 one night from an unfamiliar place in Machida and wondering at the fact that we'd been all over our bit of Tokyo that day from zone meetings to distant investigators and barbecues on random mountains...and had managed to fit in all into one day. Definitely wouldn't recommend that schedule to anyone on a regular basis! Haha. Actually our rather challenging schedule is probably the cause of our big trial this week. Oseki Shimai, her first transfer, had a big problem with her knees to the point where she couldn't walk. After being told to not walk for two weeks, however, she received a priesthood blessing and was able to get out within two days. Well her knees gave out again when we were heading to the church on Saturday. Honestly I can't figure out exactly what the problem is because of all the Japanese medical terminology...but the nerves in her knees slip under the bone or something and get grounded and then there is something wrong with the muscle. Either way, we've had a break from the bikes since then and are waiting for a doctor's appointment this week. I told you Machida hills were something! She was actually surprised when she first got that transfer call to Machida because of the many hills. We usually walked up the bad ones, but I guess we pushed too hard. Foo! But, the Lord is with us, and we know he has a higher plan and purpose for this circumstance. We've been able to call all the Elder's investigators and PI's they left us, and have been plowing through the area book and updating our records and things. We've also managed to get to some appointments by bus and train. My biggest concern is that they'll take her away from me next transfer! Please pray for her. :)

A few more tidbits about my adorable little companion. Oseki Shimai has a super high octave voice that makes everyone smile, especially the members at church. She sounds like a little girl and loves it. She also loves to laugh. Seriously she is so cute I'm sending you a video soon with my Christmas package. Her dendo style is a lot like mine so we've been able to unite in our purpose here quickly. Oseki Shimai also is not afraid of anything. She will talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. I am astounded with how naturally she just talks to people all around her. I have a lot to learn from her and I hope God has it in mind to let me keep her for a while. A few funny facts about Sister Oseki...she doesn't like sushi. Or sashimi. In fact, she hates raw fish. 0.0 What! I'm not joking. First nihonjin I've met that doesn't like raw fish. And she is allergic to wasabe! (not sad about that one!)

So on Sunday I bore my testimony in Sacrament meeting. Our stake is doing a 40 day fast and the zone leaders wanted a missionary in each ward to testify about that. It was a nice experience and I was even brave enough to read a scripture in front of everyone. Well after sacrament meeting, Brother Takayashiki comes up to me with a grin on his face and says he has 'a favor' to ask of me. As soon as he said that I knew I was in trouble because Brother Takayashiki is the ward secretary and in charge of the sacrament meeting program. Sure enough...I'm giving a talk in church next week. 3 minute? 4 minutes? Nope. We're going for a homerun this time and pounding 10 MINUTES!...please pray for me. :)

Uyama Shimai, one of our investigators, came to church on Sunday. She's actually been coming to church about twice a month for a year now. Brother Takabayashiki used to work with her in the same business and brought her to church. She actually lives in Koiwa boundaries (1 1/2 hours away by train) but has friends here so she comes to this ward. I love Uyama san. She is such a sweetheart and looks like a member, and her personality is so much like mine that we get along well. We don't meet with her much for lessons because of her work schedule but we do skype lessons sometimes, and talk at church. Anyway I got to sit down with her in the chapel after sacrament meeting and have a good heart to heart talk. She and her whole family have been catholic for about ten years. She has one younger brother who has autism. She asked me about Bree and we started talking about people with special needs. I told her about how my mom always taught me that people with these handicaps are God's special, beloved children who were pure spirits before this life and didn't need the same tests from mortality that we do. That they came here, really, for us. She then told me that her family first sought after a Christian church because of her brother. Without him, they wouldn't have come to know Christ. What a beautiful story! Talking about this really hit her heart and she got emotional, especially when I told her that after the resurrection her brother wouldn't have autism anymore, and she will be able to meet him as his pure, unhindered self. Such a blessing to have this knowledge. Uyama san felt she wanted to investigate the church for at least a year before she joined, so now that it's been a year, we are working on picking a date with her. I love her so much!

Bree has really been a big blessing to me as a missionary. Having her as a sister has helped me to connect with a lot of people, and to share the gospel. The Spirit always testifies to my own heart when I talk about her that this gospel is real and the resurrection is real, and Bree has a beautiful, pure heart that will one day shine through even brighter then it can now while in it's mortal frame. Bree, I love you! Thank you for coming here as my sister, and for loving me through all these years! You are beautiful and your light is reaching all the way across the world to the Japanese people through me.

This work is challenging but full of miracles. The light of Christ is real. The love of God is real. And the overcoming power of the atonement floods every continent and every people. Though we are imperfect, God loves us perfectly. Though in life we often have to be cut down like the current bush, we can trust the master gardener and know that it is in order for us to be all he knows we can be. Being in a very foreign country and speaking a language I still know so little about, I've had to accept that I don't know a lot of things. I don't have much wisdom and I am naive in the eyes of many. I've had to take lots of correction and hold on tightly to my heart as it's been given a world of responsibility and asked to love deeper then it has before. Honestly, I feel very small. I'm really not much of anything just yet. My heart often sinks and my shoulders often sag. My weaknesses ever threaten to pull me down. But...I know the Lord is real. I know he loves me. And I know he loves these people. And in the most trying moments when I find the courage to look up, I realize heaven is so, so near.

 
I love you and I miss you so much. And always, thank you. :)

 Your Jenna Shimai

Monday, November 26, 2012

Like Nephi

So Sister Oseki is probably the best thing that could've happened to me at this point in my mission.  You're so right about how good the feeling of 'clicking' with your companion is. Sister Oseki and I just have something that really works. And we have so much fun together. She loves to laugh and make people laugh just as much as I do, so there's a lot of joy bouncing around our apartment. And we can be childish and goofy when the time is right, but have also already had powerful spiritual experiences together. It's the perfect balance I think. And she has the most sweet sincere prayers. The kind that I think even a die hard atheist couldn't scoff at. It's interesting how people and relationships work. My views have changed so much. The types of people I thought before were my type now aren't, and the types I never thought I'd work with are the ones I love working with the most. Does that make sense? And the people I look up to the most out here in the field, the missionaries and the members, are the ones who are humble and honest and firm in their resolve to do what is right; the ones who, although may get thrown in the mud, continue to get back up, and continue to turn their eyes towards heaven. They admit to their weaknesses and joy in the mercy of the Savior.
 
"Failure is not the falling down but the staying down."
 
I've started the Book of Mormon again and have been reading through first Nephi. I was impressed again by the story of Nephi and his brothers returning to Jerusalem to get the plates. They were obedient and went back though it seemed an intimidating task. They put some decent thought into it and even came up with some pretty brilliant plans to try and retrieve the records. But twice, they failed.
 
I think a lot of the time we rail on Laman and Lemuel for being rebellious and not wanting to keep trying. But how likely is it we wouldn't of had a similar reaction if we were in their shoes? They gave what they considered their best efforts. They even gave up all their money. They'd already left their home and friends. They'd given two good tries to get the plates. Wasn't that enough? 
 
I think this is a point everyone reaches in their lives. We've given everything we think we have to give. We're backed up to the wall of faith. We're at the edge of the cliff and asked to jump. We're in the moment where we either surrender to the will of the Lord, or we decide we've done enough. I think this moment is defining. It's the difference between the typical and the valiant. It's the difference between the third and fourth missionary. It was what separated Nephi most from his brothers.
 
"And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless, I went forth...."
"...and he (Laban) had fallen to the earth before me."
 
Nephi took that step into the dark. He followed the Spirit although he himself was completely inadequate. He pushed past that point where reality ends and the Lord works his miracles.  
 
And the before seemingly impossible challenge ... had fallen to the earth before him.   
Wow.
 
I want to be like Nephi.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We live under a God of MIRACLES!

I am so excited to tell you that God has sent me a MIRACLE in the form of a beautiful Japanese sister named Oseki Shimai!
 
I seriously get stressed with transfers and eventually felt numb over transfer weekend. Juliander Shimai and I were both sitting in Machida together waiting for our new companions. I had met and seen Sister Oseki before at conferences and she was also on of the sisters Tomura Shimai trained, but I really knew nothing about her. I always thought change was easy for me but yikes transfers stress me out! Haha. Well we made our way to Machida train station and all the time I was wondering how I was even going to find my new companion because Machida train station has two lines and gazillions of people flowing out of it at night, and I hadn't been able to coordinate a meeting spot with her beforehand. All I knew was she was supposed to come in around 5. Well proof that God is on our side, after only about 10 minutes of waiting, Oseki Shimai comes coasting towards us down the hallway with a big red suitcase bumbling at her side. In less then 5 minutes as we walked back to the bikes together, all my worries went POOF! and my heart settled.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE OSEKI SHIMAI! I cannot even explain what a miracle she is to me! We seriously go together like pizza and cheese. She is absolutely adorable and such a sweetheart and has a can-do-anything attitude. We feel so comfortable and happy with each other. And she is so happy to be in Machida. She's been wanting to come here. I am so humbled God has blessed me with her!  And our dendo style is SO similar...we've been talking about goals and things we want to do and 89 percent of the time we say, "What! I've been wanting to do the EXACT SAME THING!" Not even joking! And we jumped right into a busy schedule (thus the delayed Pday) and although it's only been a few days...seriously, I am so happy. And it's fun being the area senior. She has already been such a big help with the investigators she's met...and my worries have flown out the window.  And she loves my cooking! Thank heavens. We are very excited for this transfer. :D

Oseki Shimai is 22 and this is her 10th transfer. (Can you believe I'm on 6?)  She is from Nigata Japan, and comes from a family of 3. She is an only child. Her parents were both converts when they were young. Her mom teaches English in their home. Her English is great. :)  I enjoy her company so much. Honto ni I don't know what I did to end up so happy but it is proof that God is here with me! And she wants to run in the mornings. Yokatta! Pictures coming soon. Another fun thing about Oseki Shimai is that she worked in Koiwa! It was her and her companion that found Sister Sachiko. :D Hopefully we can go visit her together!

We have a lot of things going on with our investigators and many exciting things coming up next month. I am so stoked for Christmas dendo!! If you have any good dendo ideas for Christmas, let me know! Machida is such a special place to me and I hope to stay here for a long time. We are especially praying for Satomi, Fukuhara san and her son and husband. It's amazing as a missionary how your heart gets so full you can hardly sit still and somehow as challenges and experiences weave in and out of your life, your heart changes and grows, and the love keeps growing. Love can sure hurt sometimes but wow it brings us the greatest joys. I believe it is in that love, when we find it, that we truly meet our Savior and our Maker.

Back to last week...I don't remember if I wrote about this already, but going to the temple with Iida Shimai was sure special. The Koiwa Elders and Sisters came too. It's the first time I've seen her since her own baptism, and wow what a miracle to see her enter the temple! I've actually been praying to gain a stronger testimony of the temple, and my prayers were answered. I was sitting on the bench in the font room, watching her do baptisms. About three times in, a powerful spirit flooded my whole being from head to toe and my heart about burst from the warmth and love I felt. And the Spirit confirmed strongly to me how REAL the temple is, and how the ordinances we do there are part of something much bigger then we can even begin to comprehend. What a miracle it is to be a part of this church!

This week to our afternoon kids eikaiwa class...6 moms came! New ones are coming every week. It is amazing how effective it has been so far. It is a fantastic opportunity for young, good families to be introduced to the church. There are also member families that are going to start coming. We are still doing a church message each time but will need to separate soon because it is too big of a group to teach at once, and maybe teach only those who are really interested separately. But still anyone can come to the eikaiwa. Crazy that this just started a month ago after meeting a mom on the street! We are praying to be led in the right direction and to find good families who are ready for the gospel. This brings me to a favor I need to ask...I need English children's books! Ones that are simple but with great pictures that will keep 3 and 4 year old's attention for more then 30 seconds! :) If people are thinking of sending something...this would really help me! Also ANY ideas for activities would be awesome. I'm grateful for my experience with kids, these little adorable Japanese darlings are sure full of life!

In writing this email and thinking over my life right now I feel SO blessed. God is so, so good. And he is real. And his mercy and love are real. Being a missionary has been anything but easy, in fact, it's been SO HARD! But I'll tell you what...blessings really do come after the trials!! And though sometimes day to day life can get tough or dark or when our weaknesses just never seem to fade...our life and all our experiences all have purpose and our woven together to help us learn and become, ultimately, happy. And the best people we can be.  

Also I want to hear about Davin! Could you print me and send me his emails sometimes? Not every week but I am wondering how he's doing. :)
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eeeeeee......Life is scary!

So we didn't really have a P-day this week except for the temple because we had appointments immediately afterwards and ever since! Haha so we are sending emails today amidst Takei Shimai's packing and our deep cleaning of the apartment before transfers. TRANSFERS...AHH! We find out Saturday morning who will be taking Sister Takei's place. I am kind of freaking out. Okay I'm freaking out. Basically I'm taking over our little Machida now...or at least leading the way....with no clue yet who's going to be beside me! Wild. This whole mission business sure is something. I'm glad we have more awareness in picking our more permanent companion in the future...haha.

Our Stake president, the bishops. and all the missionaries in this stake are participating in a 40 day fast for missionary work. They've done this once before with us, and it brings so much power into the work. We can almost feel it in the air sometimes. Today is our day so we started at 12pm and will end tomorrow at the same time. It's kind of cool because at the same time someone stops, the next person immediately starts. Recently we've been seeing a lot of growth in our teaching pool, and some big miracles with our investigators. We started an afternoon kids English class at the church about a month ago, and yesterday had to split into two classes because the mom's are bringing new friends every week and the class was getting too big. The kids are all ages 3-4. What we do is have an English class for 30 minutes, and then a 30 minute church lesson. We have a group now of 6 young mothers and their ADORABLE children coming every week. We have been so surprised at how fast it's grown! The interesting thing is that it's probably one of the hardest appointments for me, and also the most effective! Funny how life works that way. The experiences that are the most trying are, often, the ones that bring the most blessings. God sure is stretching me!

Tonight we are actually going back to the temple!!! Iida Shimai is going to be baptized for the dead. :) We got permission from the Zone leaders to go, and somehow amidst our crazy schedule, God made time for us to go with her tonight. I am so excited. This is such a special experience. My first two transfers were SO tough for me, and Iida Shimai is one of the tender mercies God gave to me from that time. Such a miracle. I can't wait to tell you about it next time I write. :)

Not sure when my next Pday is going to be by the way...so thank you for your patience!
 
Satomi Shimai and her son Shutaro kun are fantastic. We also met the dad this week, and we were pleased to learn that he is a good good guy. Drinks a lot of beer, haha, but that is normal. We are praying he also starts to listen to our message soon. Satomi Shimai has such a beautiful open heart. This week was our last lesson together with Sister Takei, and Satomi shimai gave us these beautiful glass angel ornaments. We were so surprised by her kindness. She started crying as we were leaving. She loves Sister Takei so much.

It is incredibly intimidating to be taking on the huge responsibility of leading the area. Please pray for me! And for my new companion. Ahhhhhh new companion!!
 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy......November???

So it turns out I started my mission in one of the best areas of Tokyo right now, as far as member growth. Counting Iida Shimai and Sachiko Shimai there have been over 6 or 7 baptisms in Koiwa ward this year! So many miracles.

During my mission I've been thinking a lot about happiness and optimism, and their opposites. I've been asking God to teach me how to be an optimist. He's been giving me a lot of rather unexpected experiences! I've learned that truly, at the root of happiness, is light. And the root of light is Christ. Ultimately the nearer we draw to him, the more light we will have, and the more happiness we will be capable of finding. BUT...and there is a big but...happiness comes from within ourselves. Although many things can bring us happiness, ultimately we have the choice of whether or not to let it shine through our windows. Many times we put down the drapes. And sometimes we forget the windows are even there. And sometimes we don't know how to open the drapes. But the Savior is always there, as a lighthouse, showing us the way, bidding us to come to him if we will but raise our eyes to see.

Anyway before I go off anymore...on Thursday we were riding our bikes back from Kakio where some of our investigators live. It's about a 40 minute bike ride. The way back is almost a constant slant upwards...haha typical of this area. It takes a bit of 'ganbaru' to get back to our cozy little apartment. We were coming towards one of the more steep eternal hills, when an impression came to my mind to say a specific prayer. I take no credit for this because I know it was God teaching me something. As we started up this hill, in my heart I started to pray, "Thank you God for giving me this hill, that I may learn to be strong. That I may learn that I can do hard things. Thank you for the strength in my body you've given me so I can make it up this hill. Thank you for this chance to be strengthened by a challenge."  And that was it. I thought about the impression a lot that night, and I'm so grateful God gave me that moment to learn something vital about how we see and react to the hills in our lives. The hill didn't seem so long that night.

This week we had 3-zone mission conference. Takei Shimai gave her departing testimony. She is so beautiful. We've been putting it in her mind to go to the English Language Learning Center at BYU, so hopefully you will get to meet her in the future. :) She has been such a miracle for me. And I've been her longest companion! I'm sad she is going home but excited to see where she goes in life. Her sister lives in Machida, and her family comes through here when they go to the temple each month...so I'll get to see her every once in a while. Hopefully she will come be the member for our lessons! Haha. At conferences I always love to hear from the other missionaries. Something that stood out to me this time was that the testimonies I listen to most and that touch my heart are not that of the strongest or most beautiful, but of those who admit to their weakness, and glory in the reality of a Savior. I hang on their every word.

Thank you for letting me know a bit about Sato Satori Shimai! I miss her and hope she is doing well! I cannot imagine going to college in a foreign country. It seriously blows my mind. So I respect her so much and pray for her happiness and peace while she takes on this challenge. I have so much faith in her though. She is one of those people who's eyes beam with light.

Amazing the flood of applications that are pouring into Salt Lake! Anna Shimai in our ward is 21 and just turned in her papers...only to find out she may have to wait up to 9 months to get her call! Crazy. Is anyone in the ward wanting to leave sooner now?

Mom you said you were surprised about Halloween in Japan. They actually don't really have it here...unless you are in a place like Tokyo that has a lot of international influence. Or if you're a member of the church. Haha. :) A lot of American Mormon traditions carry over to the church here. Takei Shimai knew about Halloween and had parties at her church growing up in Nagano, but Eguchi Choro (my zone leader) from Fukuoka had never even heard of Halloween until he became a missionary.

Being a missionary is fun!! Sometimes I forget to breathe and soak in what an incredible experience it is to be a missionary in Tokyo. Recently I walked through the biggest, most complicated intersection in the world! And tonight we got 'shulanpo' at a little shop near the eki. It is actually a famous Chinese food. Machida is known for this little tiny shop that makes amazing shulanpo. Seriously this shop is the size of our kitchen in Pleasant Grove...not even joking...and there are almost always 6 people or more bustling away to serve all the people that come through! Insane. Japanese people sure don't waste any space.

And being a missionary is something so unique and special and set apart from everything else in the world. I'm convinced there is just nothing else like it.
 
 Sisters and sushi!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Out come the scarves! wakaranai!

Beautiful Chichi to Haha...
 
I got COLD last week...COLD! Unthinkable! Haha it was the strangest experience. We were out on our bikes and suddenly we both looked at each other and said, 'samui!' and from then it feels like Autumn has started. We are wearing more long sleeves and scarves. It is actually kind of nice to be able to switch up the wardrobe a bit. Sure love being a Shimai!

This week has been busy with a lot of late nights and running from place to place. Splits, Halloween party, Tama district meeting, ward conference, Korean cooking activity, and new investigators. I was also humbled to my toes when we had a lesson with an Eikaiwa student named Yu san. He is actually one of my favorite students, and one of the funnest, in the advanced class. His favorite game is charades and he is hilarious. Also he is a genius. 30 years old. Wants to be a philosopher. Anyway the Elders have been teaching him but I bring up the gospel a lot with him in a friendly natural way during Eikaiwa, and then he asked to have a lesson from the Shimai. I was excited because I feel strongly he will be a member in the future. So we found a member (an RM who went to Hawaii) and had a lesson with him on Saturday. The Elders warned us that usually lessons consist of answering his endless list of questions. I guess I didn't ponder much before hand on what it would be like to teach a philosophy guru who is brilliant and full of deep questions...in Japanese. He jumped right in to deep questions about Christ and about self-improvement and all sorts of things...really great thinker, really great heart. But I was humbled by my lack of intellectual conversational skills in Japanese and about deep doctrine in the bible. It was kind of a flash back of lessons during my first few weeks when I wondered what in the world I could possibly contribute. My simple way of usually teaching the gospel seemed utterly insufficient. At the end of almost 2 hours when we were packing up to leave he said kindly, 'This was a really great experience to be able to discuss my thoughts with the sisters. But it would have been nice to hear more from Wylie Shimai.' Whoops. I realized how silent I had been during the discussion. About 20 minutes in I'd started desperately searching for heaven's help. But perhaps my prayers were too late. From this experience I have been really pondering on how much I NEED the spirit. I need to be much more conscious of his guidance and seeking of his help before and during lessons. And in my life, I have to absolutely put everything on the altar that might possibly hinder his influence. Of course this is something I already knew, that I'm sure most missionaries know...but, being human, sometimes we let the things of a spiritual nature become habitual and our heart slightly disconnects. Lucky for us, God loves us, and is quick to remind us to keep our eyes turned towards heaven!

Thank goodness everyone except me had a really great experience. Haha. Yu san is even bringing a friend with him to eikaiwa and our lesson next week.
 
Yesterday was ward conference and I played my violin with the choir. Strange how I'm not so uptight about playing my violin here as I was in Utah. Anyway the Spirit was felt and that is the purpose of my music, so I felt good. Ward conference was also fantastic. I love our bishop and stake president. We've been able to build really good relationships especially with the bishop's family. They are pretty young, maybe late 30's. We went to their house for dinner a few weeks ago and we we walked into the genkan there was this container with dirt and these huge larva and I was like what in the world is that? He said it was beetle larva and they ate it with their meals. Of course, being me, I completely believed him. And naturally, being about to eat dinner at their house, I was only slightly able to conceal my horror. Haven't heard the end of it since.

Sadly Iida Shimai got sick on Friday and was unable to come see me on Sunday. I haven't asked her again about the Liahona but I will let you know. :)
 
My cough is still here but I do have medicine, and I think it might be asthma...so might just have to deal with it until the air clears up. Besides my lungs I am genki! So no worries. :)

LOVE YOU TO PIECES! Next week will be my halfway mark. When did that happen?????

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ai shimeshite kudasai

Davin is going on a mission!!!!! :D :D :D Wish him my luck! I will try to send him something to the MTC. And Dallin is in Brazil. They are both going to be stellar missionaries. How long is Davin in the MTC for?

The weather is finally cooling down here in Machida. I actually use a big blanket at night now. It gets pretty cold at night and is the PERFECT temperature during the day. Not sure how long that will last, but I have high hopes!

For starters...yesterday I could not speak Japanese. Seriously my brain just completely shut off the Japanese switch!! Ridiculous. Haha. Anyway we were visiting an 80 year old grandmother we found housing a few weeks ago. She has the CUTEST smile I've ever seen. We were talking casually in her kitchen and I was teaching her how we pray. I told her to fold her arms or clasp her hands, and then I meant to tell her to close her eyes...but I was thinking in half English, and the Japanese half wasn't functioning properly, so I said 'eye o shimeshite' instead of 'me o shimete'. 'eye' sounds like 'ai' which means 'love'. 'shimeshite' means 'show'. So instead of telling her to shut her eyes, I told her to show love. Hahaha. She looked confused and Takei Shimai cocked her head to the side until it dawned on her what I was trying to say. (She is really good at figuring out my Japanese). Anyway we had a good laugh about it and life went on.

Have I mentioned that Takei Shimai looks like an Indian princess? Well she does. She is so beautiful! I attached a picture of us we took while at the Sister Conference this week. Yes, we had an all sister mission conference...and it was so awesome! There are 34 of us here now. But numbers are going down soon...last transfer no new sisters came in. This coming transfer only 1 is coming. The transfer after that, none again. So it looks like I won't get the chance to  train for a while...which may be a good thing. We don't want any poor sisters being traumatized by Wylie Shimai. I can just see it...Sister Budge getting a call late at night, "Wylie Shimai is making animal noises again....I don't know what to do....make it stop!" Haha.

Apparently Brother Sakai (the man I talked about a few weeks ago) was Jeff's mission president. What! Tell Jeff he needs to write me and send a note for him!
 
I mentioned we are teaching a lady named Satomi san. Her 13 year old son just became an investigator too! He is awesome. Makes me think of Alex. Kept popping his head in during our lesson or bringing us water or something so we invited him to come listen. He became an active participant and even shared about how he's convinced he's felt the Spirit before helping him make decisions. When we told him we were going to pray, we explained that prayer is talking with God....his eyes about popped out of his head! He was so surprised. So cute. What a great age to be introduced to the church! We have such high hopes for their family.

Iida Shimai is actually coming this Sunday. :) And I am playing my violin with the choir. Lucky for me music is a language I can speak!
 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Conference

Last week I was missing my dear sweet Iida Shimai like crazy so I decided to give her a call. We email back and forth every week or so but I wanted to talk to her. My zone leader told me it was fine. It was the happiest 20 minutes of my week!!!! I was seriously bouncing around my apartment like a leprechaun! (sp?) She wasn't expecting my call so it was a pleasant surprise. The best part about it? I could understand her! :D The last time we talked was at her baptism over two months ago...which doesn't sound like very long ago, but that's a long time as a missionary! Anyway...it was the most beautiful thing. I felt suddenly I could hear her whereas it's like we were speaking under water before. I love her to pieces. I hope you can meet her someday. She is coming to Machida ward in a few weeks to visit. The same day I am playing violin with the choir. Should be a good day. :)

General Conference was a miracle. We had five investigators total come! Quite unexpectedly too. We'd invited just about everyone of course, but until Saturday morning and Sunday morning we didn't have a definitive answer from anyone. Because not many people come for the Saturday sessions there weren't any English speaking sisters...so I got to watch 5 hours of conference in Japanese! I'll tell you what...there is no better way to humble an American missionary in Japan! Haha. But it was all okay because I was with our investigators. I couldn't seem to piece together sentences after that though. In trying to retell a phrase Takei Shimai taught me, I said 'Even dishes fall from trees.' LOL. The correct phrase is 'Even monkeys sometimes fall from trees.' It got some good laughs though. I actually pray sometimes to be able to make my companion laugh, and those prayers are almost always answered...generally by me doing something ridiculous like mixing up names or shouting happy birthday to members when it's not their birthday...but it makes people laugh so it is okay!

Unfortunately I have to cut this short today we are out of time. I love you.
 
Machida missionaries and some investigators.

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Machida

First things first...I am staying in Machida for another transfer....and keeping Takei Shimai for her last!! I am so so happy to be working with her another six weeks. And it will be special working with a 'dying' missionary. We are planning out a lot of fun P-days, and some serious dendo time! If the Lord has any reason not to work some serious miracles here in Machida this coming transfer, we want to make sure it is undoubtedly not us!
 
Today we went with some of the single adults in the ward to a food festival thing, featuring tons of booths with food from Hokaido. We also went to a big park and my first shrine. Amazing I've been in Japan for five months, and just barely got around to seeing a shrine!! Haha. It was pretty neat. Nestled in the middle of woods. The woods were my favorite part. I don't think I've been somewhere not surrounded by some type of building until today. Don't worry though, living in a big city is fun. I actually enjoy it quite a lot.

About Conference...we actually haven't watched it yet. They get it a week late here in Japan. Not sure why, but it is what it is, and boy are we looking forward to it! A little strange feeling a bit disconnected from Utah. But I get to split with Juliander Shimai and watch it in English, so I am grateful for that. One of Takei Shimai's biggest dreams is to be able to understand the prophet, in English. I admire so much the strength and testimony of the Japanese people. They obey and love a prophet who doesn't speak their native language! But they have so much faith. Anyway since it's Takei Shimai's last transfer she is going to come listen to the last session in English with me. I know she'll do great. :)

I did hear from the zone leaders about the big change in missionary age. God and I had a little laugh about that one. But I am excited. What surprised me the most was that they lowered the age for the young men. I think this is going to bring out a burst of missionaries within the next year or so. How exciting!! I wish I could watch the press conference with President Holland! What a special time to be alive. You can feel the energy of 'hastening the work' coming from the Brethren.

We have a baptismal date for one of our investigators, Nakajima san. She is a classy 60 year old woman we found on our phone that was a former investigator. She likes to go out to expensive restaurants with us about every other week. We do phone lessons the other times. She has helped me gain a testimony of how powerful the Book of Mormon is in the lives of people investigating the church. Since she keeps her commitments, her faith is growing, and we are simply here to guide her along her road to the Savior. What a special opportunity.

Anyway it is finally starting to cool down here. I even wear socks in the morning. :) We are happy and healthy and ready to run into a new transfer!
 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Here comes transfer 5...0.0

Where to start this week! We've been busy. Maybe I'll start with saying they made me give another talk in church on Sunday...in the same ward, too. Haha. Great fun. I spoke about 1 Nephi 11:17. We don't know the meaning of all things, but we can know God loves us. And when we know that, we can overcome anything. I used to worry about what to say when investigators asked me hard questions like why there are starving children and war and things. Now I know that it isn't my responsibility to answer all those questions...just to testify and be a witness to God's love. Once they let a bit of that love into their lives..they'll be able to answer that question themselves. It was a good experience anyway. It's actually not as scary to speak in sacrament in Japanese because they expect me to be simple, and I just say what I can from my heart and know that even though I can't speak Japanese, the Spirit can, and he will teach them what they need to hear.

A surprising experience this week was visiting the Sakai family. Turns out the couple I thought was one of the normal ward couples is actually absolutely remarkable. They were both converts when they were young, 17 and 20. They met through the church and were married. When Brother Sakai was 32 he was working for the church. One day he got an unexpected call in the middle of the night from church headquarters to inform him that he was being called as mission president for the Sendai mission! Not only that but they wanted him to leave as soon as possible. Apparently the current mission president had become very sick and hadn't been able to interview or work with the missionaries for over a month, and they wanted to get someone in as fast as possible. So his wife wrapped up their life in Machida and moved to Sendai with their two boys under 6. They served a full 3 years as mission president. Amazing! I'm not sure when this happened but he also had President and Sister Hinckley stay at their house while visiting Japan. Sister Sakai said after they fed them dinner, President Hinkley insisted he help with the dishes. During his stay President Hinckley's health went down because of the many countries he'd been visiting, and because of an asthma condition. He asked Brother Sakai to give him a blessing before he flew home. Imagine giving a blessing to the PROPHET! Brother Sakai's description was awesome. He even did it in Japanese because he'd never given a blessing in English and he was too nervous to try. Later Brother Sakai was asked to write a piece in President Hinkley's biography about the experience. If you have the book you can probably find it! The Sakai's were also temple president for several years. Amazing couple. After we did a practice lesson with them, Brother Sakai even did an example lesson for us about how to teach the atonement simply. So fantastic!

Sister Sakai made us meatloaf. I didn't know they believed in meatloaf here. Made me think of you, mommy! She made meatloaf in this round glass bowl and surrounded it with veggies and sprinkled cheese on the top.  

I also like the Sakai family because I was able to understand 80% of what they said. Haha. Some people are easier then others!
 
This past week I also went on splits with O'Rourke Shimai who is from Australia. She was converted when she was 20 and left on her mission a year later. Way awesome. I loved hearing about her story. When she was in college she moved in to an apartment that touched property with the Brisbane temple. She said before the missionaries found her she used to sit out on the back porch smoking and watching the angel Moroni, haha. She is on transfer 6 so we aren't that far apart. I got to go out into the country a bit to a place called Kiryu. The ward there meets in an old factory building that's been converted to a church. Only about 40 active members. A Sisters only area right now. It was fun being out away from the city and surrounded by rice fields and rolling hills. Honestly in some places going down the streets looked like Salem Utah haha except with cool Japanese style roofs. Housing as two guijin is such a different experience! We went to a poor part of town, and wow poor people are almost always warmer then rich people! Even when they rejected us, they were nice and polite about it. We knocked on one door and this adorable little grandma popped out and chuckled as she listened to my blip, and they called out to her husband in Japanese, 'Otosan! Two beautiful white people have come to our door. Do come and see!' Haha. We introduced ourselves and the church a little, and they sent us away with bananas and energy drinks. Being a missionary is great. :)

Today after going to the temple we had MEXICAN FOOD. This little shop the Shibuya sisters found a while ago. A big group of us sisters went. I think that's the second time I've had a tortilla since coming to Japan. Afterwards Takei Shimai had to go to the dentist. They actually had a genkan there to leave your shoes and then you got slippers from a vending machine, haha. Japan is awesome!! We also had a big miracle today. So Takei Shimai's crown fell off her tooth so we went to the dentist. We went to one of our investigators offices in Shinyurigaoka. Afterwards to make use of the trip we handed out eikaiwa fliers. We usually wouldn't be handing out fliers at this time. At one point a lady came up to me and started asking me about the class. She said she wasn't interested in English, but she had a son with Asperger's (sp?) who loved learning English. She then noticed I was from a Christian church and started talking about how she was really interested in Christianity and wanted to find the right church but there were so many she was confused. She then said her son might not like our eikaiwa since a lot of kids come now and he doesn't like being with a ton of people. I told her if she was willing to listen to our message, we could come give her personal lessons at their home. She readily agreed. I introduced her to Takei Shimai and we talked a bit more and turns out she is SUPER interested in the church and has concerns for her son and family and wants badly to find answers in church. She is such a sweet mommy! She even said she wants to enter our church (as in become a member) and is going to come on Sunday. It was such a miracle to find this beautiful woman! We both felt the spirit so strongly when talking with her. Wow wow wow. :) This past week had been a bit rough. Investigators dropping us, baptismal dates at 0...so this was such a miracle. After trials come the blessings!! Please pray for this family. :)

Transfer calls are this weekend. I want so badly to stay with Takei Shimai here in Machida for her last transfer!! Especially now that we found this lady. God knows best!
Jenna's recent 95-year-old convert and her companion...it is never too late to change!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rolling out of September

Ai suru ryoshin... :) :)
 
I learned something interesting at the grocery store today. The baskets actually DO NOT take your money forever! When you get a basket you put a 100 yen in to detach it from the others. I never realized it gave it back to you at the end when you put the cart back!!! Waaa! Hahaha. Apparently Japan isn't after my money as much as I thought...

It is very strange that it is the end of September. Only two more weeks of this transfer. Next transfer is Sister Takei's last one...so hopefully I get to keep her through November. We will see. This week I get to go to Kiryu on splits with Sister O'Rourke from Australia. I haven't figured out who she is yet haha although I'm sure I've met her. I'm super excited though because Kiryu is way out in the more countryside of Tokyo. Pictures next week!

This week Tama area called us with a referral. Sumi san. She was actually an investigator last year but only met the missionaries twice, before her records drop off without reason. She has also been to church once. We gave her a call and she was pleased to have us come visit for 'tea and bread' although she made sure to tell us that she is Lutheran and can't join our church. Turns out she only lives about a 6 minute bike ride from our apartment. We weren't quite sure what to expect. We were surprised to find a 71 year old woman with a huge (well Japanese huge) house who is genki and bouncy and just beaming with happiness and fortitude. She is an adorable little lady! She fed us bread and potatoes and herbal tea and told us we had to eat a lot because we needed power to be out talking to people all day. Her beliefs are super similar to ours...and meeting her has given me a really good image of the Lutheran church. She even had an organ she played for us. Oh and she is also fluent in English. So we spoke Japanglish most of the visit, haha. She already had a book of Mormon and listened with pleasure to our message and promised to read the Morumon Sho more, and even come to church again. (She promised to do these things before we even asked her!) She loves Jesus Christ. It was such a lovely thing teaching someone who already has a testimony of Jesus Christ. We aren't quite sure what her potential is, but she was a ray of sunshine I'll tell you what. One of my favorite moments with her was when we were talking about trials and challenges. She said, with passion and vigor and a sparkle in her eye, "Challenges come to me because I can overcome them. When something difficult happens in my life, I can say, BECAUSE I CAN OVERCOME, THIS HAS COME TO ME." She was so inspiring to me. I was definitely the student in this case. This moment came right out of a movie, I swear.

Funny moment was when she was trying to explain something to me that is down in southern Japan...she was trying to remember what they are called in English, and she was explaining them to me in Japanese. Finally she pulled out some paper and started drawing one. In lieu of what I thought her drawing was a perfect replica of, and forgetting everything she'd already explained to me, I said, "Oh, a Christmas tree!!!!" .........for the record, it was not a Christmas tree! It was an old traditional Japanese style house. A 'gashozukuri'. Takei Shimai was about dying in the chair next to me trying not to explode laughing. Luckily Sumi san has a good sense of humor!

A miracle I want to share from this week. We went with one of our members to visit one of her dear friends. This close friend, Kuehara san,  has family who are members of the church, but isn't a member herself. She is in her 70s. Our member has taken missionaries over before, but Kuehara san has only ever peeked her head out the door for a few moments of brief conversation. Our member asked me to bring my violin because Kuehara san loves music. Our idea was to say hello and then play her a song from the genkan (foyer). She'd left a note for her a few days earlier mentioning we would be coming by with a violin. We came to her door and ping-ponged. After a few moments, Kuehara san opened wide the door and invited us in. Surprise number one. Then she listened to me play 'Nearer My God to Thee' in her living room. Afterwards, she wanted to hear more. Surprise number two. I ended up playing several songs. Then as we began packing up to leave, she insisted we stay for a small dinner. Surprise number three!! After leaving her house, our member was quite emotional and touched by this experience. Such an unexpected miracle. We have hope for Kuehara san becoming an investigator.

So some great things this week!
 
If you are curious about Miyuki Shimai, she is doing well...but I think I mentioned before that she is studying Christianity and Buddhism? Well this week she has been more interested in Buddhism, so we haven't seen her much...but we have hope for this coming week!

Lots of love and prayers coming at you from across the pond...
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ai shite iru yo!

We just returned from the primary summer festival at the church. On the way back, I heard Takei Shimai (who was ahead of me on her bike) moan and then rush faster towards the apartment. Within a few seconds I also felt the curtain of rain slam down. My reaction was a bit different, however, and I burst out laughing. I'll tell you what though, Takei Shimai generally has a nice pace when we are biking but boy if you want her to move just wait for some rain and she is out of sight! Haha I think she might even beat Tomura Shimai's speed when it's raining. (And that is saying something!!) Apparently there is a typhoon coming tonight. We got to feel the start of it anyways.

Tomorrow we have a 3-zone conference with President Aoyagi of the area presidency. This is a big blessing for the Japanese missionaries I believe, since he is Nihonjin. We are super excited. Takei Shimai is one of the missionaries being interviewed.

Mom you asked about Takei Shimai. She is from Nagano, only about 3 hours out of Tokyo. Her parents were both converted to the church when they were young adults. She has a younger sister who actually lives here in Machida ward haha. She is 24. We were at her apartment last night for a Single Adults activity. Her little brother is on a mission in Sapporo.
 
Here are the SCARRIEST THINGS I've ever seen!! You have to post this on my blog. :) Rice field bird protection.
 

Enjoying the countryside and beautiful sky.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Life by the inch...

Japan is still melting this week...but we are happy and in good spirits! There is a rumor going around that fall will be coming soon. I'll believe it when I feel it! :) Actually it has been cooling down SLIGHTLY the past few weeks. I'm only wet for about 70% of the day instead of 170% of the day. Hehe. Mommy you asked me about the routine and if it is feeling normal yet. That is actually something I've thought about quite a bit. The routine has definitely become habit and a part of who I am. It's kind of fun how no matter what area you are in or where you are, a lot of things don't change. We all live in funny little apartments with random food and tatami mats and futons. We all have these huge grey desks that will survive through the millennium. We all wake up at 6:30 and exercise and comment on the heat every five minutes. We all start study at 8. Bedtime is always at 10:30. The missionary life is actually comforting once it becomes habit. Through ever changing circumstances and companions and the roller coaster of life as a missionary, some things are always the same.

I am really digging having nihonjin companions! Though Japan isn't all that big really, every area has different foods they are famous for and different ways of cooking. I got the wild Osaka taste of things with Tomura Shimai, full of octopus and fried noodles, and now I have entered a more veggie-centered terrain with Takei Shimai and her Nagano dishes. She loves to cook and has made me some great traditional dishes. Prepare yourselves for when I come home!! I can't wait to cook when I come back to America. Hopefully I can find all the ingredients.

So last week we met an obachan on the street with the whitest hair I've ever seen. I really like her because she is so friendly, and speaks slower and clearer then most obachans...haha. She is super genki  and invited us to her book club where they are crazy about Hemingway. We went and made some great new friends and ate at Denny's and shared a bit about the church and gave away a Book of Mormon. Denny's here is way different!! They don't really believe in breakfast foods in Tokyo. Pancakes are a desert food for them. So most of the menu was pasta and soup and things. Seriously even my companions are funny about breakfast! They eat the same things they eat at every other meal. Anyway...one of the members of the book club is Yamada san. He is 86 years old and speaks English because he used it a lot in his work before he retired. He is so great!! SO healthy. I asked him his secret to good health...and he said he just has good ancestors! I wasn't very satisfied with that answer but it's all he would give me. He taught me about Haiku, and I taught him the word of wisdom. (He asked me why I didn't order coffee). Haiku is so awesome! I think Nate and Mikayla have done it before...special kind of poetry. It is so awesome in Japanese. This last week Yamada san came to my Eikaiwa class!! He said he will continue coming when he has time. He lives close to the Elder's apartment so we are hoping he is a kinjin. :) (golden person) I also like Yamada san because his kanji is super easy to remember and I can even write it! SCORE.

Thank you for the pictures mommy!! I put in the one of you and dad on your wedding day. Everyone loves the pictures I have of you two. The main one is one I took of you and dad sitting together in the canyon. They don't really do 'cute' couple pictures here, and they think it's so American that you are leaning your heads towards each other all cutely. Haha. Japanese people are so funny. Could you send me a picture of me on the violin? Maybe the one from my senior pictures.

Whoops I've got to go!! THANK YOU for all your prayers! Miyuki Shimai is progressing. I really love her. She has some tough challenges, but we have so much faith in her and her future. OH! I gave a talk in church yesterday! One of the speakers didn't show up so the bishopric asked Takei Shimai and me to speak for 3-5 minutes each. SURPRISE. I spoke on hope and read 2 Nephi 1:15. Haha my Japanese was probably a joke...but a lot of people came up to me afterwards and thanked me and said "Kibo, ne?" haha. "Hope." So at least they understood I was trying to speak on hope! Lol.

A few people have asked me what a gokiburi is. It is a Japanese cockroach. :D Fun fun!!! I think I'll bring one home for Melia.
 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From the melting city of Machida...

My testimony of Joseph Smith has become a lot more apparent as I've testified of the Gospel of Jesus Christ like he did not so long ago. What an incredible man. I can't wait to meet him and Emma Smith someday. They are some of my heroes.

The first week of the transfer went by quickly. Miyuki Shimai is quickly becoming a good friend, and her desire to find the truth is growing stronger. We really love her and want to help her. We had a miracle with her this week when she came to Sacrament meeting on Sunday. Miyuki Shimai has an illness that makes her ridiculously tired, so waking up for church is a challenge. We were expecting her to come at the end like she did the week before, but some ward members rushed in before sacrament started to tell us she had come! Not just on time, but early. She was able to attend all of sacrament meeting. Such a blessing. I have to show you a picture of her hilarious dog, pooh-chan. He is a hoot! I'm convinced he has bear in his ancestry. He has the most massive eyes. When his momma (Miuki san) talks to him he almost always understands, and half the time answers. Once in a while he gets this big confused look on his face and his eyes get all wide and he tilts his head. I got a good laugh from Miyuki Shimai when I told her he looks exactly like me when I can't understand what's going on.

We had zone conference and interviews this week. Also, 5 new sisters are here. 3 are gujin. I've been wanting to talk to all of them but only managed to find where one of them ended up. My dear Kuahara Shimai is a trainer!!!! I sent you pictures I took with her at the MTC. I love that woman! And she is a trainer now! SCARY! Anyway I gave her and her new companion a call the other day. Her companion is Sister Grosland from LINDON. Haha. She graduated a year after me. I'm super curious to find out if I recognize her or not. Is she from our stake?

I thanked President Budge this week for leaving me in Machida another transfer. He replied, 'Why fix something that isn't broken?' Haha. So I guess that is his motto on transfers!
 
This is a bit short this week but I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH. I really really miss you!  The Lord is with me and I am where I need to be. :) My companion is wonderful and we get along just great. Since third transfer I've actually felt more like a real missionary. Speaking of missionaries...does Davin leave this month??? So excited for him!

Mail has been a bit slow the past few weeks. In fact I think Larry (the lizard) might be eating our mail. So if I am slow to reply, forgive me!
 
 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Did I mention that what goes down must come up?? These hills are something!

One of my favorite highs this week...well favorite shallow, not missionary-purpose-oriented high....is the bike I am currently riding! Haha. My bike is in the shop getting a new tire rim. But since people can't live without their bikes here in Tokyo, bike shops lend out bikes while they are fixing yours. So I have been pedaling around on what is called a 'mamachayri' or what I like to call a 'momma chariot'. It is a heavier bike with a low low bar that is sturdy enough to carry a handful of kids! I am TOTALLY getting one of these when I am a mommy and live in a flat place. The seat is also the most pleasing thing to sit on. It's HUGE. The bars turn inward so you are actually sitting up completely straight while riding. Maybe I won't come back with a hunchback after all. So strange to get used to at first. And going down hills it just cruises and I start laughing out loud every time because I feel like I'm in a movie. Mary Poppins. Anyway...pictures next week!

So we just had transfers. As expected, Takei Shimai and I will both be staying in Machida. :D YAY! President Budge is leaving a lot of people in their areas longer, and leaving companionships together for longer. Very interesting. I am so so grateful to be staying here in Machida because we've had so many miracles the past few weeks and have found many new people. I want to share a quote from our last district meeting...

"We may turn from him, but he is still there. We may feel that he is hidden because of the cloud cover of our concerns, but he is still close to us. We- not he- let something come between us. But no lasting eclipse need ensue...our disregard of him is no match for his love of us."

I testify that this is true. He is always there. And, wow, his love for us is so big. When we turn outward in service of others this love begins to seep into our own hearts. I'm sure it magnifies like crazy when we become parents. God is love!!

So on Friday we had a self referral call from the elders. Her name is Miyuki Yamada san. She is interested in English and more so in religion. So she came to Eikaiwa on Saturday and at the end of church on Sunday. Miyuki san has a lot of problems, but she is a beautiful spirit. I have never met someone so open hearted and ready to listen. She is special. I spent some good time talking with her on Sunday and she got to meet a lot of people in the ward. Wow, though she challenged my Japanese with some DEEP questions. I haven't been faced with questions like hers so far on my mission. One thing she asked me was, 'Am I sick now because of my sins, or something I did before this life?' Miyuki san has some illness that gives her a ton of fatigue. She hasn't had it forever, she said she use to be extremely genki. We aren't quite positive what specifically her problem is yet, but it is evident in her countenance that she is not well. She accepted a Book of Mormon and we are visiting her house today. She called us last night with some worries and we taught her how to pray. I am so humbled by her sweet spirit and readiness to accept whatever we teach her. She is 42 years old. She is so patient with my Japanese. One of the most humble people I've ever met. I think I have a lot to learn from her. Some special prayers in her direction would be wonderful.

Last week I had my first American companion! We had splits and Lundy Shimai came to work with me here in Machida. She worked here for two transfers just before Takei Shimai came so she was SO excited to be back. It was so different being with an American! Not to mention that she is tall and has long blond hair. Lundy Shimai just DUMPS love on people!! It is amazing to watch. She is on transfer six and OH! She is training Dolan Shimai, mom! Yes I finally met Miss Dolan Shimai, and she is great. She wants to be thrown into everything here head first! She has a lot of fire and isn't afraid to talk to people. Hopefully I'll get to work with her in the future. Apparently you and her mom have become friends...? Haha uh oh. I told Dolan Shimai that my mom is very ambitious and will teach her mom all kinds of things.

So this past week was a bit tough. There were a few times where I really wanted to call my mommy or sleep or run around crazy outside to release some of the stresses and pressure of being a missionary. There was a point where I felt frustrated because missionaries are so limited as to our communication with home. I thought that if I could just call home I would feel better. I didn't feel I had an outlet. I think this type of situation happens to everyone at one time or another. There comes a point in life where we don't know where to turn for relief, when the pressure is high and our spirits are sore and our hearts sorrowful. Everyone has to make the choice to either turn to the world, or lift their eyes to heaven. We see so many people who have reached for alcohol or other things in attempts to find solace. As missionaries we are here to point people towards heaven. Towards the only real and true hope. My favorite scripture on this is Moroni 9:47. "...may Christ lift thee up...and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever." I think one of the reasons missionaries are asked to separate themselves from the world is so that they realize they must turn to him. They have to rely on him. God reminds me of this often. :) When I finally decide to turn my eyes to him, he frees my heart and lifts my soul. He has really blessed me this week.

Our Ghasemi family is doing well. Nedar san, the father, is a future leader!! We slammed them with a ton of commitments on Sunday since they are getting baptized so soon, and they accepted all of them. One of the commitments was tithing, and we actually forgot at first to tell them where tithing funds actually go, but they still said they would pay! Then we were like...oh...by the way...do you want to know how tithing is used?? Haha. They are so great. And Tina chan has the BIGGEST smile I have ever seen. I will get pictures of them soon. :) Special special family. Trevor I need some Farsi phrases! Did I mention Nedar san reads the Book of Mormon in Farsi (the parts that are translated) English, and Japanese? Amazing.

I love you so much and I pray for you every day. I would not be here without you!! Your love and support mean SO much to me. Good luck jumping into another school year!

Monday, August 20, 2012

What goes down...must go back UP!

To my most loved and thought about family...and to the many other fabulous people that take a peek at my letters home... :)
 
 
So strange things are happening here in Machida. First of all, I am starting to almost like the strange Japanese sweets Obachan gives us. I need to take a picture. They are these big balls of mochi on a stick covered in this brown sauce of soy and sugar and who knows what. They look like eyeballs. I have had to stomach them several times now but could hardly stand them. This last visit though, I realized, wow...this is actually kind of good!....What is happening to me?? Haha. I am also a big fan of mogi-cha (barley tea) which absolutely tasted like ash-tray water to me my first transfer. Now I think I will probably keep drinking it once I return to the states. Yikes!

There is so much in my head I want to share so we will see how fast my fingers can go today! First of all, such a miracle, my dear Sachiko Shimai was baptized on Sunday. Unfortunately I was not able to return to Koiwa to attend. I was so very sad about this, but so grateful and happy at the same time. My two best friends in my first area have both entered the Lord's church. It fills my heart! I hope I am able to visit her in the near future. In the meantime I have a letter and the CD's you sent to give to Tomura Shimai tomorrow at the temple. Sachiko Shimai wrote me the sweetest email last night after her baptism.

"Dear Sister Wylie, Thank you for your kind email, which made me happy. Yes, I am thankful for your setting today as my baptism day, otherwise I would not be baptized for many years to come. I appreciate your thinking to look far ahead and into the future. Thanks to brothers and sisters of Koiwa church, my baptism was carried out so smoothly. I realized I am trying to lead my new life being supported by brothers and sisters of Koiwa church. During baptism gathering, we sang Teach Me To Walk In The Light. Thank you again for your thought about me and my baptism. Please take care in this hot and uncomfortable season. Sachiko."

I started emailing her my first week in Koiwa. She is so special to me. Honestly the first two transfers for me were so challenging, and I often felt like a shadow. Or a kid holding onto a big kite and getting dragged across a field. But, Weight Shimai said something at mission conference that really summed up what I have been learning. She has had a lot of physical challenges on her mission and was telling about a time where she was feeling very physically and spiritually weak. Her brother, who is also on a mission, wrote a letter to her and said, "Feeling weak is a sure sign of being a missionary!" Truly God can use the weak and simple to do his work. If we really think about it...God is all powerful. Of course He will accomplish his work. Of course he can work miracles with whoever will give their lives and hearts to him. Why do we even dwell on our incapacity's? Haha well of course we do because we are human...but really, He can do ANYTHING. We just have to trust him. We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, with our eyes facing the heavens. He will hold onto us. If He is far away, we are the ones who have let go.  

Now for life in Machida. First of all, this week Shoko san took us to REAL sushi...like...serious sushi! The whole place smelled like fish. As we were sitting on the waiting bench near the front I was happily watching the chefs bustle about and particularly enjoying the enormous tanks filled with fish swimming around on the back wall. My smile began to go slightly pinched however as I watched a man in a tall white hat dive a fish-net into the tank after one of the fishies. Though they scampered about wildly for their lives, the man in the white hat was triumphant, and soon pulled an unfortunate fishy out of the tank. My pinched expression they turned to one of horror as he immediate slapped the fish onto a plate and grabbed a knife...our little fishy-friend was on someones plate within minutes. Yeah. Fresh, fresh sushi is the hit here in Tokyo. Shoko san and Takei Shimai thought my reaction was hilarious. Eventually, somehow, though I was sure at times that the fish on my plate was still flopping, I was able to overcome my shock and find my appetite. Needless to say it was very, very oishi.

Experience number two...this actually happened on Saturday. We were out visiting less actives and housing when the Elder's called us to see if we were coming to Eikaiwa. I teach every Wednesday but usually the Elder's teach on Saturdays and Takei Shimai and I just participate and get to know the students. Anyways they asked me if I would be willing to teach. They were still going to be there but since they will probably transfer they thought it would be good for me to teach. It was 30 minutes before the class was supposed to start which meant we would have to haiyai to the church and I would walk in and improvise. Last week I was asked to give the spiritual thought on the spot and translate and it was a train wreck so I had a sour taste of walking into eikaiwa unprepared. Of course though we said yes. I am ashamed to say my attitude was slightly below what it should have been and as we rushed back towards the church there were grumblings in my head. I promise I am not kidding when I say the thought crossed my mind that it would be a convenient time for my bike to break down and then I wouldn't have to teach. I hushed such thoughts and carried on after my punctual companion. Within a few minutes however there was a big clank below my legs and my usually sweet-sounding bicycle began crunching dinosaur bones. My pedaling efforts suddenly yielded no results and I came to a stop. Being in a very big noisy city Takei Shimai didn't hear my calls and was soon out of sight. Honestly at first I definitely laughed out loud at the irony of the situation. Then I took a look at my bike. The wheel was crooked and the chain had come off the runner. After several attempts of getting it back on my bike was rideable and I made it to the church in one piece. I didn't make it in time to teach Eikaiwa. I have now thanked God for his lesson on attitude and am humbly hoping I can be better in the future!

Yesterday after church we finally got to visit the Ghasemi family. They met Sister Derricott around Christmas and are an absolutely fabulous family. However they are SO SO incredibly busy so it has been impossible to meet with them this transfer, except for going to Yasuko san's ballet performance, and one time when Nedar san and Tina chan came to church. Anyway...they picked us up at the train station and took us to their adorable house. Yasuko-san loves ballet and her house is absolutely brimming with pink and the furniture looks like she took it from a ballet dressing room. Nedar san is actually from Persia. (Trevor...teach me some Persian!) but he speaks fluent English and Japanese too. They have been married since '89 and have their 11-year old daughter, Tina chan, who is just a doll. We spent a lot of time with them yesterday to make up for the last few weeks. We invited them to be baptized and they actually wanted a sooner date then the one we originally set. Amazing family. Nedar san's Japanese is actually a lot easier for me to understand...probably because he is also a foreigner! Haha. While Takei Shimai spent some time helping Nedar san with Kanji, I talked with Yasuko san and helped Tina chan on her violin. Turns out Tina chan is slightly autistic. (I actually know that word in Japanese) so we talked about Bree a lot and about school and Yasuko san's worries about her future. I am really grateful I was able to connect with this family. I was worried that being the new missionary, and they having known Sister Derricott for so many months, that it would be difficult to build a relationship. But God answers prayers! It is amazing how he weaves our lives, isn't it?
Yasuko san actually doesn't like to cook so we had a very Persian style dinner. Pasta with hamburger meat  and eggplant and potato salad. Yummy!
 
I also made a special friend this week from Eikaiwa. She invited me and Sister Takei to a tea party at her house. Her name is Suzuki san. We made sure she knew our tea standards, and she ended up giving us her homemade tea. I thought about Kathy Anderson! Suzuki san loves studying health and herbs and was telling us all the benefits of the teas we tried. One was Red Clover and apparently it is really good for your brain. I told her I was going to start drinking it during language study. Her English is very good and she is such a sweetie! Lives right by the church and has been watching the church members for a long time. She is super curious and very open to coming to church or to relief society activities.

Ok well this is a novel now so maybe I will finish. I love you all so so so much. MOMMY and DADDY thank you for your letters!!! I look forward to them eagerly every week. MY LITTLE ELLIOT IS SUCH A STUD! I loved loved loved the picture of him upside down on dad's lap. So so cute. I miss him! Well I miss everyone. So so much. I am so grateful everything was okay this week with the car having issues...what a miracle you were so close to car shop and not going to fast!! Many prayers of gratitude from me to Heavenly Father for protecting my family.

With all the love I can catapult across the pond...your missionary....
 
Wylie Shimai :) :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baptesumakai

Baptisms are the most amazing thing ever. They make everything pale in comparison.  
 
Saturday was beautiful. I was expecting it to be wonderful, but I was absolutely blown away by the spirit that absolutely soared into the room and into my heart as I watched my dear sweet Iida Shimai enter the water in the baptismal font. She has come so far. I am so, so proud of her. I was kneeling next to Sato Shimai on the floor close to the font, both of us completely overcome with joy and with emotions that perhaps have no name. Sato Shimai was practically our third companion with Iida Shimai, and has been a huge blessing for her. We have been so grateful for her consistent love and fun spirit on this journey with Iida Shimai.

Iida Shimai was so beautiful in her white dress! It was such a joyous reunion to be back with her and Tomura Shimai. They are both so special to me. I wish I could poetically and accurately explain my experiences on Saturday but I just don't have the skill. Needless to say...it was beautiful. I hope and pray I can always stay in touch with my first friend here in Tokyo. Saying goodbye after the service was so difficult. But...the timing is just right, that I will hopefully get to go through the temple with her a year from now. I hope hope hope the timing works out!! Tomura Shimai said she will come back for that too. I pray for this special day at the temple! And hopefully this month I will get to go back to Koiwa for Sachiko Shimai's baptism. :)
 
I have no doubt that this is the Lord's work. He has been in this vineyard much longer then I have. So many of his precious special children are here in Tokyo and they don't know who they are. They don't know! And we want so badly to tell them. It breaks my heart when we look into their eyes and tell them from the bottom of our soul that they are a child of a loving heavenly father...but they don't listen. If only they knew. If only they could see! But, "...the elect hear my voice..." and Akiko Iida Shimai has turned her life towards her loving heavenly father.

This last week actually blew by crazy fast. On Monday we got to go to the American base with the elders. One of our members is Japanese but grew up in Canada and Hawaii and works for the US military. He met his wife at BYU Hawaii and they moved here about 4 years ago. She is from Taiwan. They are the most awesome couple ever. Two boys, and one little girl that reminds me so much of Eden. She is turning 4 this week. So cute! They took us to this place on base that has all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta. Does God love me? Yes, yes he does. :)

On Tuesday we went with a PI to a sushi restaurant!! Can I just say...sushi is SO, SO good here. Maybe even good enough for you to like it mommy! The fish is fresh. And they don't even fry it. Healthy. :D Anyway they have these super cool conveyor belts that always have plates of sushi and other things sliding by your table, and you can grab whatever you want. If you want something specific, every table has a computer screen and you punch in your order and within a few minutes it comes by on a special plate. SO AWESOME. The system is genius. America needs to figure it out!

Haha I promise not all my cool experiences have to do with food. Lately there have been tons of super loud booming military airplanes flying over the city here. I was talking with Shoko san about it and she told me rather seriously that she wants me to go back to America and talk to Obama, and let him know that his planes are disturbing her peace. LOL. It was so so funny. We also went to Akino mama and Akino papa's house on Friday, where we taught them about repentance and she taught us about sewing. Haha. Good trade right? We made these awesome hanger things-pictures coming soon- and she also made us little cloth covers for our hymn books. She is such a cutie! But oh I had a big surprise at her house when she came out of the back room with a little container to show us...can you guess what was inside?? MASSIVE man eating beetles!!!!! I couldn't believe our dear Akino mama could have such an outrageous hobby as collecting ginormous fighter beetles. Haha. Nihonjin are awesome.

Anyway...rainy day today! And it is still hot here. And it's apparently going to be hot for another two months. Oh boy. Wearing our raincoats on days like this seems rather ridiculous because we get just as wet with sweat as we would with rain. Haha. Everyone always talks about the weather here. It's actually a great conversation starter on the street. All we have to do is pull up next to someone on our bikes at a stop light and say, "Atsui desu, ne!" and they launch into a conversation with us about the blithering summer heat. Haha. I love Japan.

The church is true. The Book of Mormon is so, so true. And the Lord is leading this work!!
 
I LOVE YOU ALL.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

...and the some (:

So yesterday we only took about half of a Pday so here I am again! :) I have wonderful, WONDERFUL news....Ida Shimai passed her baptismal interview!! :D :D :D Her baptism is scheduled for this Saturday at 2:30. I AM SO HAPPY FOR HER. What a miracle. Did I mention I met her my first night in Koiwa? It was her first time coming to Eikaiwa...and my first time teaching it.  And now she will enter the waters of baptism. So so special. She is such an amazing spirit and I am so proud of how far she has come. Thank you so much for all the prayers on her behalf. Thank you thank you thank you. I love talking to people about my family. Ida Shimai always loved to hear about you, and was especially surprised when I told her you thought she looked like an angel. 

Another happy note....Kanari san has a baptismal date. September 1st. We are very excited for her. I also just found out today that she was first found over a year ago by none other then Tomura Shimai and her trainer. At the time she wasn't progressing and eventually the missionaries had to let her go for a while. She was off and on for a few months until Derricott Shimai found her again and started working with her, and ever since she has been slowly progressing and has wanted to be baptized. Honestly she is very easy to teach. No hard questions, no deep delving into doctrines...she easily accepts the commitments and humbly tries to do her best. I am blessed to be able to work with her in this stage of her life. At the end of our last lesson (the one where I told her God cleaned the earth for us) we asked her to pray at the end. Surprisingly she was hesitant at first because she felt embarrassed and shy about her prayers. But with a little insistence she agreed. I wish I could write more beautifully how I felt when she prayed, but for now all I can say is...God was listening. I am not one to shed tears often during spiritual experiences, it's just not my way, but I couldn't hold back a few tears as I felt the spirit enter the room when she prayed.

So during my time in Japan I have slowly lost my fear of cooking with no recipes. I made the most amazing Nesquick chocolate cookies in our tiny microwave oven! And just recently I tried orange/craisin cake. I put in too much egg but it was a worthwhile effort. There is a lot more treat-baking and card-making in missionary work then I anticipated!

Last night we had a dinner appointment with Lieutenant Shimamura. Lieutenant was in the Japanese army for 32 years. Every month he has two of the elders and the sisters come over for dinner. He is such an interesting fellow. He has been coming to Eikaiwa and feeding the missionaries for over 30 years! BUT...he is not a member. He absolutely loves the church and the missionaries but declares that he can't become a latter-day saint right now. He just wants to be a 'supporter of the church.' He is turning 81 next month. Before going to his house he told us to be sure and bring our meshi (business card, all the missionaries have them). To my surprise, when we arrived he pulled out a big container absolutely full of meshi's! Haha I think collecting them must be his hobby. The very first missionary he ever met was Elder Baird....who is now a mission president in Nagoya! He has read the Book of Mormon 4 times. People like Lieutenant puzzle me but we have hopes that someday, perhaps sooner then later, his heart will change and he will be ready join the church.

So I love you all to pieces!!!!!!! By the way there is actually wildlife in Machida. We have a lizard I have named Larry that sits on the wall outside our apartment every night after dark. Sometimes he has a date. And we also have massive bugs flying around. Sister Takei absolutely despises them. I think they're pretty cool. I'm still waiting to see a gokiburi in our apartment, but no luck yet....

More to come soon! :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm meeellllllltttttttiiiiiinnnnnggg!!!!!!!!

This is going to be quick and brief so forgive me! Mom I have a bunch of pictures for you but no time to send them today, but we have a few rollover PDAY hours tomorrow so hopefully I will get a chance to pass them along. :)

That is crazy that Uncle Jeff knew the Derricotts!! So did he live here or near Machida? Tell him he better start sending me some referrals! :D There are a few families we are working with here that were referrals from Derricott Shimai's parents.

So funny story we were teaching Kanari-san about the Plan of Salvation and I was explaining the preearth life and the creation. 'Sozo suru' means to create and 'soji suru' means to clean...well, although I know these two words and have never had an issue with them, for some reason they got mixed up in my head and I  told her that God 'cleaned the earth for us' and 'cleaned our body's' and that he 'cleaned everything for us so that we could have a chance to learn and grow'. Finally Takei Shimai asked me 'Do you mean 'sozo'? WHOOPS. Luckily Kanari-san is good natured and not a tough investigator!

I went to a Japanese class for two hours on Saturday! One of our PI's is a volunteer there so we went to the class and are meeting her for lunch next month. Anyway I got sat at a table with a lady from the Philippines. She's lived here for three years. I've lived here for three months. Who thought that was a good idea? So we had a tutor who was a man that lives around here. He was super friendly and nice but oh my goodness my brain was absolutely blown for the rest of the day! Kanji...deep grammar...deep Japanese....little by little!

LOVE YOU GOT TO GO!

Monday, July 23, 2012

MACHIDA!

Ai suru kazoku....konnichiwa!
 
I LOVE MACHIDA!!!!!!!!!! Can I say that again? I absolutely LOVE IT here! I am so grateful Heavenly Father has sent me to this place!! And Sister Takei is just an angel. She is actually turning 26 this week...wow! Almost has 5 years on me. She is so calm and mature and wise and genuine with the people...I cannot tell you how absolutely perfect she is for me right now. And Machida....eeeeeeeeee! So Monday was mostly spent planning and buying food and things near by, but Tuesday I got to get out and see Machida. I am replacing Derricott Shimai, who just went home. She was in this area for 8 months! Unbelievable. And let me tell you, she left some very big shoes to fill! I am currently using her bike while waiting for mine to get here. A little about Derricott Shimai...she was a blond boisterous awesome missionary whom we all looked up to. Like, seriously, she is about a foot taller then me! Haha. And of course because of her passionate missionary service. :)

So, on Tuesday, on a bike built for Michael Jordan, with mere toes on the pedals...I ventured off into my new area. It reminds me of Virginia and Hawaii. SO much green. A lot more space then there was in Koiwa. More parks, lots of rolling green hills, actual space between buildings. And I can see the sky. :) It's gorgeous. In Tokyo they have this habit of utilizing every spare bit of space. I think construction workers walk down the roads until they come to an alley way and then they say, "Oh wow there is a 3 foot wide ally way here, let's build a hotel!" Hahah I'm not kidding I need to get you some pictures. But here in Machida there is a lot more space. They still believe in Nature here. :) Lots of cute little Japanese style houses too.

AND...drum roll please....there is a Costco in my area! AND....a Baskin Robbin's! WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED. :) We have plans to get ice cream as soon as we make some serious progress with our investigators.

Now on to more missionary-centered matters. :) Sister Takei and Sister Derricott both begged President Budge to send a 'genki guyjin' to Machida when Sister Derricott left. I have been so surprised at the amount of investigators who we either teach in English or who are coming to us through English class. My first lesson here I taught in English. Sister Takei understands a lot of English but doesn't speak very much, so she was really wanting a foreign companion. We have some wonderful investigators right now. There is one especially who I just adore. Her real name is Kin Ueguri, but she doesn't like her name so she asks us to call her Shoko-san. She is 74 and was found by Sister Derricott while housing. She actually came to English class a long time ago so already knew about the church and the missionaries. She has been having the sisters over for lunch every Wednesday for quite some time now. She is such a doll. She is also a painter. She has a cute little house and a tiny garden with gnomes. She doesn't like to have her picture taken, but I'll get one soon. :) She has come to church 3 times but is a bit hung up on tithing at the moment. However, we have high hopes for her. Serious I just love her. We met her by accident again on Friday and we went to lunch together. She knows a little English but is really shy about it so we mostly speak Japanese but I feel so comfortable with her.

The next person I just have to tell you about is a recent convert. We call her Obachan (grandma). She is 95 years old and was just baptized a few months ago at age 94. Never too old!! She is probably 4 feet tall and has the most beautiful smile. She can't understand a word I say but somehow I think we understand one another just fine. When we visit her she insists I sit Indian style or with my legs outstretched instead of traditional style. Can you see why I love her? ;) When she knows we are coming she gets Japanese treats and fills us to bursting.

This is getting long so I'll just mention one more investigator. Kanari-san. She actually has a son with autism. She lives alone now. She is probably our closest investigator to baptism. Right now she is having a hard time coming to church on her own because of back pain that she says makes it hard to walk very far. To get to the church she has to take a bus and walk up a hill which is a challenge. Now she asks members to pick her up every week. To help her practice walking, we meet her somewhere a little ways from her apartment each week. Last week it was 7-11. This week it is at a bakery. Each week she walks a little farther to meet us. Step by step, little by little. Honto ni that is one of the biggest things I have learned on my mission. Things don't usually happen in big booms and sudden change. So many things happen little by little, one step at a time, one day at a time. People take time. Learning Japanese takes time. Becoming a great missionary takes time. It is the little things we do each day that will lead to miracles in the future.

There are two branches in Machida, and one set of Elders for each. Sister Takei Shimai and I are over both branches. My first Sunday was awesome. I was asked to do a jikoshokai (introduce myself) and a testimony in one of the sacrament meetings. The chapel is really nice. The people are even nicer. :) I was a bit shy about replacing Derricott Shimai, who'd been here so long and who was very loved, but I felt embraced by the ward immediately. Machida 2nd ward has about 3 people who are mentally handicapped. One of them, Brother Yuji, talked to me for about 20 minutes after sacrament. He reminds me of my cousin Taylor. Such a sweetheart.

Though we have many investigators, their appointments are pretty spread out because they are so busy. Thus we've had a lot of finding time. Lots of time on the bikes and going housing. Did I mention Machida is full of rolling hills? It's quite the party. :) I thought I was getting buff in Koiwa....

Oh yeah Mommy you'll be so proud of me! I bought arm sun-protectors to wear while I'm out on my bike. :) I thought you'd be pleased. I'm convinced the sun is much closer to the earth here then it is to America. I think I'm going to come home with melted DNA.

This area was actually Tomura Shimai's very first area. Cool fact.
 
In answer to a few questions...I have not been to a Japanese bath house. Haha. But I have been to a Japanese ballet! There is this fantastic family here we are teaching, and the mom is a professional ballerina and gave us tickets to her performance yesterday. She is Japanese, and her husband is from Iran. They have a beautiful 12 year old daughter named Tina. She has huge eyes and reminds me a of Brent's little sister. So much energy and a big heart.

God has blessed me so much. I am so excited to be in this area. Also I actually have time for language study here so hopefully I will be able to make some big steps with the language. But whatever happens, I know God's hand is in the work here. Oh I'm so sorry one more thing...we have a sports night every Friday, and this Friday one of the members brought two of her friends who are both 18. One of them is called Ryoka san. She knows a lot of English and has a strong desire to learn. Both of them go to a Christian college. Ryoka san has a powerful spirit. Something really stood out to me about her. We clicked quickly and she is excited to meet with us again soon. But she has two jobs and is so busy! Please pray we can meet with her soon. After meeting her something clicked in my head I can't really explain it but it's like my motivation for missionary work just shot up a level. People like her give purpose to the things I do every day.

I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH. I miss you! OH I got a FANTASTIC package from Nancy this week! I will thank her soon but please let her know I got it and it absolutely made my whole day!!! :D :D