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!