Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Going to the temple...

What a joy it is to write you today and to receive your emails! Weeeeeeee! Sorry I don't think I mentioned last week that I was going to be having another Tuesday P-Day because of our temple visit. But! Here I am now. We visited the temple this morning and it was wonderful, of course. I got to see a lot of my friends from the MTC again and that always lifts my spirits. The inside of this temple actually looks a lot like Provo. They sure managed to get a lot of missionaries into the session room! After the temple we went to....SUBWAY! Pretty much made my day. They don't have footlongs, as far as I could tell, and the sandwiches seem a bit smaller then they are in America...but still delicious. I had a shrimp avocado on wheat. Thought you should know. Boom. I also learned that there are a TON of Americans in that area. They were all over the place. Apparently there are a lot of international offices in that area so a lot of foreigners live near by.

Okay time for some little facts about my life here in Tokyo. First of all...Tomura Shimai trivia! First of all, she has EVERYTHING you could possibly think of to use for missionary work. As Weight Shimai put so well yesterday at our district meeting, when you look at Tomura Shimai's desk, you'd think she'd lived there for ten years! Haha then during transfers everything suddenly explodes, and then miraculously ends up all in a suitcase. Then she goes to her new apartment and BOOM! You'd think she's lived THERE for ten years! I'm not joking when I tell you that she has a LAMINATOR...and a massage pillow....and a takoyaki maker (about the size of a waffle cooker)...and many more things I am discovering every day. Seriously. A laminator. She busted it out when we were making cards for Mother's day. Pretty much we are set. :)

So as I've mentioned before, riding a bike here in Tokyo is quite the adventure. Riding a bike in a skirt throws in a bit of ridiculousness. Giving Wylie Shimai the map and making her lead just drops us into the realm of insanity. Tomura Shimai has been quite determined to make me a master navigator of Tokyo. Her method? "Wylie Shimai, lead me please!" And then if I get another word out of her about our whereabouts the next few hours then it's a very lucky day. Haha. I have these fleeting moments where I feel I might be beginning to get the hang of the map...but then a few minutes later I realize we're supposed to be on a whole other page of the map. Lol. We have this big map book of Koiwa that is filled with Kanji. Though I am not always first to admit it, it is a blessing that she is being so diligent at helping me learn to navigate. I'm sure I will be very grateful later on when I can find my way around easily. :) Biking in this city is INSANE. There are so many people and traffic lights and random rules and tiny roads. It is great fun. Funny moment of the week...Tomura Shimai was trying to explain what she thinks I am like on a bike, but she couldn't figure out the word in English. So she pulled out her translator and typed it in and held it up for me to see....'wild boar'. LOL! I about fell out the window laughing and thinking 'Oh boy...what have I gotten myself into?'

Oh and mother you will be happy to know that Tomura Shimai has taken quite the concern in my posture. Yesterday it got to the point where she pulled out this elastic band posture-fixer thing and put it on me herself. It goes around both of your arms, with an elastic behind your back that pulls your shoulders together. You know I thought I was a pretty decent person before coming to Japan...generally polite...good manners....but goodness these people really push things up a notch! I was trying to tell the first vision to Tomura Shimai during language study and she kept fixing things like where I placed my feet and how I sat and how I was holding my chin and even stopping my head from tilting! Crazy. And she is slowly trying to break me of all kinds of little habits like clicking my tongue when I'm thinking (a sound I didn't even know I made) and sighing. I guess when Japanese people hear you sigh, they think you've lost your happiness. Haha. I thought of a good metaphor to describe how all this adjustment feels. It's like I am playing a new instrument that I'd never heard before coming to Japan, and I am constantly trying to get it in tune to notes I'm unfamiliar with, and playing it every day. It is uncomfortable and strange sometimes and can feel frustrating, but I know I am learning. One day I will master this. :) 

Oh I have gotten some wonderful letters from the Ossofsky's and they made my day so I hope they know I appreciate them so much! I miss them!!
 
On a spiritual note...the Lord is here in Japan! One of our investigators, Ida Shimai from English class, came to church on Sunday. She is SO super genki (happy) and has been curious about the gospel and really interested in learning more about the sacrament. We gave her a church tour the Friday before she came. When we opened the baptismal font her eyes about popped out of her head she was so surprised! Didn't expect to find such a strange thing behind the wall in the relief society room. One of the Elders serving in our ward invited her to a baptismal service we have on Saturday for one of his investigators. She accepted. We have high hopes for her. She even prayed for the first time at the end of our church tour. She smiled through the whole thing. She accidentally prayed to 'Iesusama' Jesus, but the spirit was there and she is starting to get an idea of what we want her to learn.

I love you all SO MUCH I can hardly hold it in sometimes. Your letters mean THE WORLD to me, and even more your prayers and thoughts and support. We are running through the last week of this transfer and excited for next month! We have splits this Thursday and I'll be with Nisshigaki Shimai for 24 hours. She doesn't speak any English so prayers specifically for that day will be very appreciated! I am nervous but trying to move forward in faith.

So sorry I might not have time to respond individually but I LOVE YOU!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I AM A MISSIONARY!

Guess what...I AM A MISSIONARY. Seriously this week I was walking along a busy street and feeling happy when suddenly this wave of realization washed over me, that I am a missionary. I looked forward to this time in my life for so long, and now here I am...walking the streets of Tokyo. When did that happen??? Growing up it seems the things you dream of in the future will always be in the future. But sure enough, they sneak up on you, and you find yourself talking to people in a language your brain didn't know a thing about a few months previous, in a land far from home. Wow!

So I have been putting some serious effort into my future smile wrinkles these past few weeks. We end up talking with people for an hour or more and although I am able to pipe in every once in a while, sometimes the conversation runs off my radar and I am just sitting there holding my smile. It's pretty grand. Actually this week I have been able to talk a lot more. I think my brain is finally accepting the fact that it has to think a different way, and my thoughts are flowing more easily. Still have a loooooooooooooooooooong ways to go, but it feels REALLY good when I recognize progress. This week I was even turning my pages backwards in my English Book of Mormon! Haha.

God has been working some big miracles in my life this week. Last Tuesday we had a visit from Elder Don Clark of the Seventy and his lovely wife. They spoke to us in the chapel by the Tokyo Temple. It was absolutely fantastic. He was hilarious and has so much fire for missionary work. During his devotional, I honestly felt like my heart was going to break into pieces. There was so much desire inside of me and so much I want to be as a missionary, but I have been made quite aware of my weaknesses and feeling the weight of expectation and desire just about did me in. But then something beautiful happened. Amidst all these feelings I was pleading with Heavenly Father to open the door for me to make it to the next level of being a missionary. I felt I was absolutely stretched as far as I could and that without Him I could not go any further. During this day, something changed inside of me. I wish I could explain it better, but I promise that the Lord opened that door for me. Suddenly the weight and pressure was drastically lightened. I felt I could breath deeper. I could handle the daily missionary stresses SO MUCH EASIER. My heart was lightened, I could work hard, be bolder, and honestly I promise there was a change inside of me and it came from the Lord. My language skills didn't change, my environment was the same, but my capacity grew. I testify that when we push to the edge of our limits, God WILL meet us there, and He will open the way for us to move higher. I am absolutely insufficient on my own. But in His strength, I can be whatever He needs me to be. I have been filled with so much gratitude this week. I only hope I can express it enough. There were still challenges this week and the language is still hard...but the Lord is with us here in Japan.

Something else cool I found in the scriptures this week. In Alma 41:11 it talks about the nature of God and the nature of happiness. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I realized that they are the same. The nature of God IS the nature of happiness. Boom. :)

Okay time for my hazekashi (embarrassment) from this week. We were about to head out to the church and I had both my backpack and violin. We were taking our bikes so Tomura Shimai started off and I somewhat awkwardly tried to get onto my bike. Well my violin slid around as I was getting my leg over the bar and my leg got stuck and before I could do anything about it, my bike toppled over and I splatted (is that a word?) into the road. *Sigh* Everyone nearby immediately turned around to see Wylie Shimai in a muddle in the middle of the road. GRAND. Hahaha. No injuries incurred except to my pride.

A few exciting firsts happened this week. Tomura Shimai convinced me to meet a potential investigator at McDonald's for lunch. Oh boy! Actually I think it tastes better here than in America. Next first...I got my first phone number on the street all by myself!! Weee! Ok ok it was all in English...but still! Awesome Philippine (sp?) woman who is a devoted Catholic but who is really searching for more truth because she doesn't like how everyone interprets the Bible differently. We are planning on meeting with her tonight.

Seriously I am really craving pizza right now. OH oh oh I saw a SUBWAY on Sunday when we were going to the bishops house!! Ahh! Tomura Shimai told me we could go one of these days. Waku waku shimasu! So so excited.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sister Wylie on the streets of Tokyo!

Jenna said during our Mother's Day skype yesterday that no matter what she says to the older people in Japanese they just look at her companion and say, "She is so cute!"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

:) Hello! Or perhaps I should say good morning...I think I am sending this off about midnight Utah time. Yosh! I love you all so much and I pray you are all happy and healthy and genki as ever! I got two letters this week; one from Brent yesterday, and one from grandma today. They SO lifted my spirits!
 
Japan is slowly beginning to feel like home. It was a major adjustment, but I think my body and spirit are finally getting settled here as a missionary. There is so much to tell that I don't really know where to start! I have met two girls who knew Tandy. Both were sister missionaries and one was her companion in Kobe. One of them is Sister Soto and the other I don't remember. Sister Soto facebooked Tandy and sent her some pictures so you'll have to ask for them. Very cool! There is also an Elder in my district from Tandy's home ward...Elder Kinnison? Something like that. So I've been eating a lot of good food this week! Quite a few members have had us over. I even got SALAD and it was SO DELECTABLE! My diet generally consists of rice, noodles, tofu, cereal, and some other weird things in balls of cheese with spam. Haha. I just don't ask sometimes. So I was thrilled when salad was brought out. The most recent home we were at was the Utagawa family. They had us come and bring investigators to FHE. My first surprise was that they had couches, and my second surprise was that they let us sit on them!! Haha some people we visit have couches but for some strange reason we always sit on the floor in front of them and not on them...hmm....

Oh and I am going to be able to pound anyone at leg wrestling when I get home! We've been on the bikes a lot this week, which is awesome. Some members/investigators live about an hour away by bike so they're keeping us in shape. I'm getting the feeling I'm going to go through a lot of skirts on my mission though...

I need to share a bit of my testimony of prayer. Just when I start to think I understand prayer, God starts to remodel my life and I find myself pleading for his help more and more. There was a particularly challenging day last week where I felt I was doing everything wrong. I was failing at several small cultural decorum's, my language skills were lacking, my mogi lesson with a member felt strained, and I was feeling crushed under a weight of expectations and responsibility. It got to the point where I absolutely didn't know what to do or how I could continue on with my heart in turmoil but still have the full presence of the spirit. Finally I was able to go to the Lord in quiet, personal, tearful prayer and plead for his help for truly I was overwhelmed on my own. Nothing in my outer circumstances changed, but there was a tangible weight lifted from my heart as I laid all my worries and stresses at his feet. What an incredible blessing! That people such as we, young in spirit and seemingly small through the eyes of the universe, can kneel before the creator of all mankind and receive personal comfort, personal direction, and peace that only He can give. Sometimes it is in difficult circumstances when we finally realize the reality of our relationship with God. How miraculous! He has given me so many tender mercies as I try to become the missionary he needs me to be.

I am feeling much more happiness this week. There is so much joy in the work we are doing here. Tomura Shimai and I are becoming good friends and I am learning so much from her. Most of the people here adore her. Yesterday we got permission to visit one of her old investigators in another area. Sister Saruma, an African woman who speaks Swahili, Japanese, and English. She is having a bit of a difficult time getting use to the new sisters in her area so Tomura Shimai and I went to see her with the sisters to make the exchange more comfortable. I was able to talk with her in English which was strange but cool. She was such a sweet woman. There are also quite a few Philippine people who the missionaries work with. We visit one who is less active named Ootake Shimai. It's kind of funny because we teach her in Japanese, she reads the Book of Mormon in Tagalog, and she uses English church vocabulary. We just got a referral for another Philippine (sp?) woman who is suppose to be golden and the missionaries said she speaks better English then Japanese so if we can get ahold of her I will have an English investigator!  

So a bit about our schedule: we wake up at 6:30 (although the sun is up by 4:45am) exercise and get ready for the day. Starting at eight we have about 3 hours of personal/companion/language study. Sometimes more or less depending on if we have appointments. We meet with people often around 9 or 10 so our study is sometimes split up throughout the day. If Tomura Shimai believes in food we have 30-60 minutes for lunch and dinner. The day is full of streeting, housing, visiting members and less actives, and teaching. Wednesdays nights and Sundays after church we teach English class with the Elders. There are two companionship's of Elders working in the same ward as us. One is Nihonjin, one is from Idaho, the other two from Utah. They are awesome. Goofy sometimes, but great missionaries. We get a LOT of our investigators from English Class. Since it is held at the church, people get to feel the spirit there and get to associate with the missionaries in a non-intimidating environment. They figure out we're real people  and we are able to become friends with them before introducing them to the gospel. This is the best way to do missionary work here because people generally don't let you into their lives until you first have a good trust relationship. I've been able to use my violin once so far when we were meeting with some recent converts. This Friday we are giving an investigator a tour of the church and singing hymns and she wants me to bring my violin so that should be fun.

I realize this is super long but I hope it has interesting content. :) My heart just overflows when I think of home and I long to write you and hear from you. The Lord is with me here, and He is teaching me so much. I've found that although the language is hard, I can bear testimony of the gospel and right now that is enough. I can smile, I can show love, and I can serve without saying anything. I love cleaning the apartment or doing dishes or helping at the church because although I can't speak very well yet, those are things I CAN do. Oh! I bore my testimony in Sacrament meeting on Sunday! That was so neat. I felt this explosion of happiness in my heart as I walked up to the pulpit and looked out on all the beautiful families in my ward here. They are my people now, and God is beginning to fill my heart with the love he has for them.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers. I cannot describe how much they mean to me. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. I MISS YOU. Oh I miss you. But I know this is where the Lord needs me.
 
With love, Your missionary....Wylie Shimai
 
P.S. Tell Alex to look up Sky Tree in Tokyo. It is this new tower they built that is GJINORMOUS and bigger then Tokyo tower. We rode by it on our bikes and I could NOT BELIEVE HOW MASSIVE it is! You've got to look it up and tell me how tall it is!