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

Monday, July 16, 2012

...welcome to Machida!

To start off I might as well announce how transfers went this week. To put it simply, I am now sitting in my new little adorable apartment in Machida! My new companion is Takei Shimai. I am so lucky to be heading into transfer three with another Japanese companion. She is 24 and this will be her 11th transfer. She is a sweetheart, and I think we are going to have a great time together. Leaving Koiwa was tougher then I anticipated. I was really touched by some of the members and investigators that reached out to me to express appreciation my last day. I guess I assumed I'd been viewed as Tomura Shimai's shadow the past few months, but somehow, God helped me touch some hearts. I got a few nifty gifts from some of the members we worked with a lot. I am so impressed with the members here in Japan. Hirakawa Shimai, who has helped us with kodomo eikaiwa, actually sewed me a little purse. So cute! Another sister whom I don't even know that well gave me a piece to a Japanese yukata. You may have seen pictures from Sato Shimai of our little adventure this week trying on yukata's with the relief society sisters. Complicated, but fun. And beautiful.

Iida Shimai was probably the toughest person to say goodbye to. I met her my very first night in Koiwa and we have become good friends. We changed her baptism to next month so that we could help her work through a few things, but I should still be able to attend.

I am not used to this whole transfer business yet. It is really strange, haha, but God has helped me so much to feel peace and to move forward trusting in his hand. Truly, he is here with us in Tokyo. Today for transfers all the sisters met at the church in Kichijoji and then went to eat lunch at...don don don....a PIZZA/SPAGHETTI BUFFET!!!! I was so excited you have no idea. I think it made my whole year. SO YUMMY. Turns out Nihonjin know how to make pizza after all. They are very creative too. I had a pineapple/kiwi pizza with sprinkles (among many others).

President and Sister Budge are FANTASTIC. I am so excited to have them in the mission. So much energy and many new ideas. Plus....President Budge is a health nut! Boom.
 
Anyway time is short but I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH. Thank you for the letters. I always look forward to them.

 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Changing hearts...

This is the last week of the transfers which meant Temple P-day! Loved it. I love love love going to the temple here with the missionaries. Plus I got to meet Sister Budge. I met President Budge earlier this week at an institute choir concert. They are awesome! Young with lots of energy. Their daughter is here with them right now too, but only for a bit. She is 20 but since her dad has been called as mission president she already has a mission call and leaves for the Sapporo Japan mission in a few weeks. We have a mini-zone conference tomorrow and interviews so I will get some one on one time with the budges. More info on that next week. :)

Transfers....we get the call on Saturday. Honestly I am kind of stressed about it but I am trying to move forward in faith and not let it be on my mind.
 
Thought for this week...we were walking during exercise time in the morning to buy some eggs so we could make cookies for a less-active member's birthday. My mind was on something I've more or less struggled with most of my life and I had that thought, "I don't want this trial!" haha. Almost immediately after I thought it I chuckled to myself a little bit. Of course, if I wanted my trials then they probably wouldn't be trials would they? The Lord really tailors our challenges to our weakest muscles. BUT....we can "...be of good cheer; [Christ] has overcome the world," and can help us overcome our challenges. Truly, He will lift us when the burden is too heavy. I can testify of this. He has been SO MERCIFUL to me and has poured countless blessings into my life. I am so so touched by his grace and hope I can share it with those around me.
 
Ida Shimai's baptism is scheduled for this Sunday and we are praying and fasting that everything works out, but the timing is a bit uncertain. We aren't sure she has committed to the Word of Wisdom for long enough and need to make sure she is getting baptized for the right reasons. Thank you so much for all your prayers on her behalf. We do have good news for my dear Sachiko Shimai...she wants to be baptized! I don't know if I've mentioned her much before but she is 72 and lives alone but has an LDS daughter who lives in California. She is such a darling old woman and speaks fluent English. She has been a big blessing to me. She had contact with the missionaries before but stopped communicating with them when they started pushing too much about baptism. We started off very slowly with her last transfer just sending her emails and getting to know her a little bit, and little by little she began opening her heart. Eventually she let us visit and then fed us yummy food and then began coming to church again. She fits in SO WELL at church. She loves talking about the lessons. We don't have to worry about her at church because she takes care of herself just fine. I love visiting her because she is always playing Mozart and her home is so cute and smells good. Plus, she feeds us the most delicious food...and usually ice cream and watermelon. :) Anyway she now wants to get baptized and we are planning on next month on the 19th. She said the cutest thing yesterday in an email... "Are you sure I am ready to be baptized? I can't even sing the hymns yet!" SO CUTE.
 
The weather is HOT. "Mushi atsui!" Humid and hot. It's great though. Yesterday we rode our bikes ALL OVER the place visiting less actives. I love being out on our bikes.
 
Thank you for your letters every week. Oh I have been teaching Kids Eikaiwa the past two weeks and it's so fun. The kids are so so cute. Big blessing to finally get to interact with the little ones.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hello JULY

On Saturday our Relief Society president, Nisshimura Shimai, came out with us on our bikes to visit some less-active members and recent converts. I was pretty impressed at how genki she was! We rode a pretty decent distance to get to people's homes, and she right with us the whole way. Afterwards she took us out to eat...members here ALWAYS love to feed us....and we had this interesting noodle dish that looked fairly normal at first. Haha. Then on closer examination I found that some of the noodles were transparent with strange texture. I held one up and asked, "Kore wa nan desu ka?" What is this? To which I got the reply. "Kurage." Jellyfish tentacles. Haha! I didn't even know you could eat those. They tasted like jellified celery.

Last week we focused a lot on Ida Shimai. I think we had five lessons with her total. She is a deep thinker and has had somewhat of a challenging family life. She is strong though. She has a strong passion for learning. Sometimes she shows up to our lessons, not knowing beforehand what we are going to talk about, and has studied for exactly what we planned to teach her. It's happened twice! The second time this happened she read a scripture in Mosiah about Alma and how he felt after receiving a remission of his sins...and we were planning to share that exact story with her! We couldn't believe it. It was funny actually Tomura Shimai and I both said at the same time, "Keiji o ukemashita!" You received revelation! Her baptism is still set for the 15th. Every prayer sent in her direction would be greatly appreciated. I really love her. As for something to send her, that would be so sweet. A subscription to the Liahona would be wonderful, I believe. I will get you her address this week. Thank you! :)

The Lord has been teaching me many things this week. One...being a missionary is sometimes much more complicated then I anticipated. There are a lot of problems in the world. A lot of really dark things. It can be hard to understand sometimes why children have to grow up amidst such turmoil...but I know that we are in His hands. The gospel is incredible. The church is miraculous. It is DESPERATELY needed in this world. Having grown up swimming deeply in the church and now being out again where its influence is still small, I can testify to what a difference it makes in communities and in families. The church is true! :) Its message is one of hope. And though darkness and evil run rampant, the gospel, carried forth in the hearts of the righteous, cannot be defeated. No unhallowed hand can stop this work. I am really humbled to think that I was given the blessing of growing up in an LDS family. I am beginning to see what a small percentage I am a part of.

About missionary work being complicated...this week we've had some problems come up with investigators being too dependant on the missionaries. This is such a frustrating situation, because we want to pour out love on these people but sometimes we have to be careful because if they depend on us they become less active as soon as we are gone. We are always trying hard to involve the members but sometimes the investigators don't like this. It is really difficult. I don't think I was anticipating how hard it would be to love people and then have to watch them choose not to embrace the gospel.

President and Sister Budge arrived in Japan on Friday! We will meet them next week. He is interviewing all 170 missionaries in 11 days. Crazy! We are all excited and anxious to meet and work with the Budges. It is fun that they will have one of their kids living with them in the mission home.

Something fun this week...we started kodomo (children) English class!! We will now be having it every Sunday after church. We had about 13 kids show up this week...quite the party! We have two really talented women in the ward who helped us put everything together and will help with the class. They have both been children's English teachers and have so many great ideas and materials. I am so happy to finally have the chance to work with these adorable little children! We are hoping the members will encourage their non-member friends to bring their kids, so that it will be a missionary opportunity.

Thank you so much for all the prayers and love and support. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. I cannot say that enough. I miss you. Happy forth of July!!