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