Monday, August 5, 2013

On my way!

My these are strange times! Transfer calls came this morning, and guess what! I'm going to be a grandma!! :D My sweet little Sister Lowry is actually being transferred to a place in Saitama called Kasukabe, where she will whitewash in with a new missionary! There are Elder's there already but she will be opening up the area for sisters. Is that crazy or what? I am SO excited for her! You know only a number of months ago it was absolutely unheard of for a transfer 3 American missionary to whitewash with a trainee. These are exciting times! Sister Linquist will be taking care of Kiryu for me, along with Sister Stubbs from Australia who will be her follow-up trainer, and a brand new little sister! Kiryu will be staying a threesome. I LOVE Sister Stubbs and oh how happy and peaceful my heart became when I heard she would be coming here to take my place. I really feel like she is the perfect fit for our ward and investigators. God is watching over my little Kiryu!

In other news...we were on the radio again on Friday! This time at a big festival and wearing yukata's that the ward presented to us. I'm famous!! Haha okay no not really, but it was fun.
 
Something pretty awesome happened for my last Sunday in Kiryu...our new African friend came to church! And stayed for all 3 hours and even for the baptismal service afterwards for a girl in the ward. Also I was able to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting...it was so interesting. Felt a lot different than I'd expected. But good. Actually...there was an earthquake during my talk. NOT kidding! That's just how we do things up here in Kiryu. :)

I wanted to share a parable that I talked about in my testimony yesterday. Sister Long actually shared this with me on the train back from Tokyo this last week.
 
There was a man who went out to a well behind his house every day for water. He had two buckets. One was shiny and strong. The other was rusty, a bit crooked and had some holes. Every morning he would take his buckets, walk to the well, fill them with water, and then return to his house. The nice shiny bucket always got all the water to the house. But by the time the rusty bucket was to the house, much of the water was gone, having leaked through the holes. Since this is a story, the buckets can talk. One day the rusty crooked bucket said to the man, "Look, I'm no good. I can't even get all the water to your house. I'm broken and full of holes. Look at your other bucket, he is strong and shiny and does a perfectly good job. You don't need me. Why don't you just throw me out?" The man looked down at his bucket patiently and simply asked, "Have you taken a good look at the path we walk on each day?" "No..." The bucket replied. "Well maybe you should take a look."

So the next day the bucket did look, and saw that all along the path from the well to the house, were beautiful flowers. The bucket was speechless. Once the bucket had seen the flowers, the man said, "I know you have some holes and that you're not perfectly shaped. So I went along before using you and planted seeds for you to water. And now look how beautiful my yard has become thanks to your leaky holes."

If God wanted perfect people to do his work, pretty sure he wouldn't have picked me. God is all knowing and even through our mistakes he can create something beautiful. We just have to remember that HE KNOWS. Although we may think our purpose is to 'get all the water to the house' perhaps he has something different in mind for us.

This story touched me so much and I had to share it. :)
 
Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be my last full day in Kiryu. Wednesday morning I'll be getting on a train to Tokyo and then going through the temple with Iida Shimai. Then we will go back to Koiwa together where I will stay the night. Thursday we go into the mission home! Sister Linquist and Sister Lowry will be looking after Kiryu until Thursday morning but will be coming to the mission home to get their new companions after that. I'm hoping to take a family picture with my grandkids! :D
 
 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beautiful haha and chichi!!

Oh what a week this has been! Teaching, finding, training exchanges, meetings, teaching my girls how to use maps, soaking up lots of hot sunlight. Full of some interesting challenges and mental battles, perhaps the usual ones that come to us at the end of our missions. Some heavy realizations and thoughts come to us in times such as these. Satan sure saves some nasty tricks for the last few weeks! BUT..he will not win!

We had a lesson with Iwai Nozomi Shimai at her house on Tuesday. That day we actually were a little disappointed because she didn't seem quite ready to be invited to baptism. But we left her with a strong challenge to pray fervently to know if this was the path God wanted her to take.
 
It was a rather long week until Sunday, that started out with curry-making in the morning for our afternoon Chinese party. My beautiful curry ended up all over Sister Lowry's new dress on the car ride to the church. Something to do with a particularly passionate Asian driver. Church attendance was also a bit discouraging. However, our day brightened when Nozomi made it to Sacrament meeting and said she had something special to tell us. After the meeting we gathered around a bit nervously, and she began saying how touched she was by time we've given to her, and how much we've helped her the past few months. She said she'd been thinking about it, and one night when she came home to find her door posted with hearts and thank you notes from us, something clicked. She announced that although she doesn't know everything yet, she wants to be baptized. !!!!!!!!! She's prayed and says it feels like the right thing to do. She's actually moving back to live with her parents in August, but with the help of her member friend, has located a ward there only 20 minutes from her home. Although there is still a lot she doesn't understand, she sees the lives of the members and how they think, and their perspective on life, and she wants that.

We are planning her baptism for the same week Sister Long and I go home.
 
Our Nozomi chan is getting baptized! :)
 
Thank you so much for all your prayers and thoughts sent this way. I testify that your prayers are so powerful, and that they are felt strongly on this side of the ocean. There is something that links us all together, something that comes from being made by the same great creator. And when we pray, oceans are crossed, mountains are breached, and we all draw a little bit closer to that heavenly home. Please keep Nozomi in your prayers as she prepares over the next few weeks to enter the gate. Oh how we love her. The three of us were just beaming yesterday. Once she left, Sister Lowry recommended we pray and thank the Lord for this great miracle. How powerful it was to slip into a quiet room with them and pray together in gratitude. I testify that Heaven is listening for us!

Monday, July 15, 2013

His Work

This past week was BUSY. It ended with a matsuri  (summer festival) on Saturday night with the ward. We'd been working hard to invite lots of people since it would be a great opportunity to mingle members and investigators as well as show the ward we are serious about being missionaries here. The Lord blessed us tremendously! We had FOUR families, two investigators, two of their friends, an eikaiwa student, and a load of kids that go to school with the bishop's family. It was amazing! The ward went crazy. They were saying yesterday that more non-members came than members! Which was quite close to being true. It was ward-conference weekend so the stake leaders and families were in our ward. Sacrament meeting ended with a passionate talk by the stake president preaching unity and charity and faith, as well as missionary work. He ended by pulling out a hymnbook with one of the bookmarks Sister Long and I made our first transfer here and put in all the hymnbooks for the ward. We'd written a message about how excited we were to work in the beautiful city of Kiryu and to live our mission theme of 'United in So Great a Cause' as we combined efforts with the ward members. He read it with vigor and urged the ward to love the missionaries and get involved in bringing our brothers and sisters unto Christ. It was moving and I think many people were touched. So grateful for the great leadership in the church here.

We have been just dying to set a baptismal date with Iwai Nozomi! She is so special to me, and so ready! But wow things have been playing against us. We finally have an appointment with her at her home tomorrow. That will be a first. Her member friend is coming too and we are going to run it like a Family Home Evening. We are going to invite her to be baptized on July 28th. Oh please pray for my sweet Nozomi! She is so prepared, and so ready. It is one of my biggest desires this transfer to see her fully embrace the gospel. Cool thing about Iwai san; her first name, Nozomi, in Japanese means 'desire.'

I don't think I quite know how to think or feel about this month of my mission. I feel strongly that my mission won't end when I take off my tag. If anything, the most important things I've learned by being a missionary is how to be a member missionary for the rest of my life. My offering to the Lord won't be finished when I step onto the plane. The changing of countries and faces and languages may throw me through a loop, but through 18 months of transfers I've learned that there are people everywhere who need God's love. Wherever we go, there is always someone, one of God's precious children, who is waiting for His light to come to them through us. No doubt my heart may nearly be torn in half after leaving my country of Japan. I can already feel the tugging when I stare down into little Asian eyes and hold little Asian hands. But I also feel I will be back someday.

The real thing that scares me is if I've finished all the Lord sent me here to do. My offering to him is so meager. My part so small. But then I realize that the 'my' in all of this means little. It is 'His.' His work. His glory. His mission. His people. I've been simply a steward. I guess it really hasn't been about me at all. Sometimes I've been caught up in 'my mission' and 'my baptisms' and 'my success' when really none of it belongs to me.

And although I know I am and have not been enough, I've learned: He is enough.
 
And for me, that is enough.
 
Oh help me not to forget!

Friday, July 12, 2013

NIKKO

So we spent pretty much our whole day today with some fabulous members who took us to NIKKO! About an hour and a half drive away from here, deep into, and up into the tops of the mountains! SO BEAUTIFUL. You would not believe this place. The shrine/temple is over 500 years old. We saw two huge monkeys on our drive up!
LOVE YOU SO MUCH!
 
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy July.......?????????????!

I am not sure how else to start this letter except to tell you that I have been 'megumarete' or incredibly blessed with the two most wonderful, amazing sisters! We picked up Sister Linquist from the Mission Home on Wednesday. Feels like I've been there quite a lot lately! I can hardly believe that the same building I came walking out of a year ago, wide-eyed and clueless and a little scared, was the same one I've walked out of twice now with new missionaries. Pretty sure though that these two beautiful sisters were sent here to help me on my path to discipleship- not the other way around.
 
Sister Lowry has just bloomed this transfer!! Oh I have been so impressed with her and how she has broken through so many walls this transfer. She is happy and full of light and is such a blessing to the people here. Her Japanese is incredible- people here can hardly believe how quickly she is learning. I was so proud of her yesterday as we were teaching an unplanned lesson to three Japanese university students at the church, and after I finished explaining about something, without prompt, she jumped right in with her thoughts and testimony. She is a fully contributing member of our companionship, and has helped me so much as I've become the leader of this area and the surrounding sisters.

Now about Sister Linquist! She is from Springville and is a few months older than me. Comes from a family of five, with two older brothers. Worked at Melville Stables when she was eleven and loves horses, even did some competition when she was younger. Majoring in Landscaping. Plays the cello. She is SO chill and easy going, and has slipped right into Kiryu and into our companionship. We just love her. We all seem to be the easy-going type and have managed to have very peaceful relationships. I just love these girls!! I come close to tears at night because of how blessed I feel to be companions with them. They are prepared and ready to serve. I don't have to 'train' them. I just have to 'be' a good example, and then make sure to stay out of their way as they shine.

There is one simple experience I had last week that I wanted to share. Every Tuesday morning all the leaders in the mission join in on a conference call with President Budge and talk about the previous week's baptisms, the upcoming week's baptisms, and about the overall status of the mission. It was my first time sitting in on the call without Sister Long in the same area, and as I listened to the miracles happening and thought about the responsibility I have for this area, I felt the weight of all I need to do and be here come down heavily on my shoulders. Honestly it was scary at first, leaving me a bit breathless, and then the doubts started to come in. Was I enough? How could I possibly lead this area, let alone all the sisters I have responsibility for? Who was I to ask heaven's hand? Who was I anyway? Amidst my weaknesses and flaws could I really pull enough together to guide this area and these people? I was walking down that little negative mental path in my head when suddenly I stopped. A voice inside me said, that those thoughts weren't mine, and they weren't His. And the simple words came to mind, "Choose to believe."

Although I could almost physically feel a force pulling me downward, trying to make me give in to the doubt, I took that step back upward, and with all the mental energy I could muster, I told God, "I choose to believe....I CHOOSE to BELIEVE." And you know what happened? The doubt lifted. The burden lightened. And I found that sweet place just beyond the shadow of doubt, where the Savior's light can touch us. All it took was my choosing to turn to him. Choosing to believe. I still didn't know if I could do it. And I knew that in reality, I wasn't, and am not, enough. But when I made that choice, I felt a huge difference. Because although I'm not enough, He is enough. It was amazing how differently I felt moving forward after that moment.  

That seems to be the most prevalent message of my mission these past few months. It's been coming from many sources, and through many experiences. It's one of the great eternal truths I'm here to teach these people. Recently we've taken a new spin on how we introduce the Book of Mormon. Using the pictures in the front of the book, and also using a piece of paper that we fold into different shapes, we tell the story of Lehi's family that left Jerusalem. The paper becomes a compass, a boat, a house in the Americas, a divided house, a sword, and then finally it is torn in half as a nation is destroyed. But then we unfold the torn up pieces and the biggest is a cross. Because God sent Jesus Christ to the world to heal the world. Broken nations, broken families, broken hearts, broken people. He has power to make them whole. The rest of the shreds actually spell out the word 'love.' And we teach people about the love of Christ. It is really cool. Gives me chills every time we do it. It has made me see the Book of Mormon and the role Christ plays in our lives in a completely different way.

A few answers to your questions...yes they are showing the Work of Salvation broadcast to all the wards here. We are watching it little by little during companion study, in English. Sister Linquist was actually in the choir. :) She came into the mission knowing more than me what the church's vision is for missionary work. These truly are exciting times!

We had another meeting with the FMKiryu radio station, and are going on the air July 15th. I'll get you the link. ;)
 
Sister Long's new companion is the sweetest, most wonderful Japanese girl, from Nagoya. Oh we love her so much. And they are so happy together. Sister Kubota is her name. At the testimony meeting with the new missionaries and trainers she said she was going to speak in English because we were all working so hard to speak Japanese. She spent some time studying at BYU Hawaii and told us how well she understands the difficulty of being in a foreign country and trying to learn the language. How all you can do is smile, even if your heart is aching inside. Her testimony just made me want to cry and cry. I prayed so hard for Sister Long to get a companion like her!

We have some wonderful investigators right now. I don't think I know how to finish a mission. At least I can find so much peace in the fact that I'm leaving this area in the hands of Sister Linquist and Sister Lowry. Mom and Dad I love them so much!!! I have been so blessed!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Transfer 11, Day 1

We received transfer calls on Saturday morning. Sister Long is transferring one area over and whitewashing with a new missionary. Sister Lowry and I are staying in Kiryu...and getting a daughter/little sister!! Since the mission is splitting he's already picked our companions, so I even know her name. Sister Linquist from Springville, Utah! We will be 3 Americans wandering around our little Kiryu land!!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I was thinking that if Sister Long transferred I might get another trainee....but I was expecting her to be Japanese....so this is a big surprise!!! She is flying into Japan on Tuesday night, and we will go pick her up Wednesday morning! :D

I'm not sure what God is thinking...pray for me and my girls! Oh I hope I can just love them and watch the love of God for these people grow in their hearts and shine from their eyes! I also hope I can keep track of two fiery new missionaries....I was leading on the bikes the other day and going over a bridge, wind blowing in my hair and feeling pretty good about things. Then a voice from close behind me yells, 'Hey, Grandma! You okay up there???" HAH! I got called a GRANDMA!

This past week feels like it didn't even happen it went by so fast. Lowry Shimai was lucky...she had a mom AND a dad for a week! And next week she gets a little sister! We're a big happy family over here. :) Except dad transferred to Oyama a few hours ago...whoops. Yesterday Long Shimai was asked to bear testimony in Sacrament meeting, and as she was talking I was just sitting there shaking my head, wondering how in the world we've already been here together for two transfers, when it feels like just last Sunday we were bearing our first testimonies to the ward together. It still hasn't quite hit me yet that she is gone. We just came to Kiryu! How could she been gone already? Absolutely blows my mind. We're going to miss her here. Especially her kanji reading and cooking skills. ;) Oh Long Shimai! I'm not sure what they are thinking putting me in charge of everything here...but at least I'll have two young ones to keep me running. Seriously I thought I was pretty fast on a bike until I put Sister Lowry in front of me....Sister Long and I were huffing and puffing behind her all week! What am I going to do when there's two of them?? They'll leave me in the dust.
 
We have some exciting things going on here in Kiryu. See out here even though there are still lots of buildings, you can go 20 minutes walking without passing a single person to talk to. We've had to get a bit creative in order to make new friends. Our ward mission leader has been working hard for us and got us into a radio station, where a few weeks ago we began talking about doing some type of regular broadcast. Brother Yasuda (the WML) apparently went to high school with them all. A lady in the studio noticed us and told him to bring us back to talk to specifically her. She was fascinated with us and the church, and we are scheduled to have a live interview in a few weeks. You'll be able to look it up online. ;) Lowry Shimai was a bit worried about the Japanese, but the lady just told her she can speak English and I can translate.... 0.0 Not sure if they are going for educational or comical here, but at least we're getting noticed. Another person from the radio is getting us set up to do short English classes live on the radio to advertise our church English classes. They are going to bring in college students and we'll teach them on the air. Not quite sure what we've gotten ourselves into yet...we're making some history though!
 
On Wednesday Tomura Shimai (Jenna's trainer) came to Tokyo to go to the temple, and we also met up with Iida Shimai. They called me and I was able to talk to Tomura Shimai for the first time in almost 10 months. One of the first things she said was, "Oh...Wylie Shimai...you speak Japanese!" hahaha. Good! She is getting married this fall and then has plans to move to New York for her soon-to-be-husband's job. Good excuse for me to take a stroll up to NY? I think so! Anyway it was really fun talking to her again after so long. If she can she might come up for my last temple day next month.
 
There is much to be done here! I am so grateful that I get to stay. This is my home right now. Please keep praying for me and my girls! Sister Long and I are both still sister training leaders...but we're now working separately and have different sisters assigned to each of us. Since I will have two companions, I will occasionally leave them to work together in Kiryu while I go to another area and work alongside the shimai there. Should be an adventure!
 
Thank you so much for your love and prayers. I FEEL THEM SO STRONGLY HERE!
 
 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Families

What a week!! Haha I have to say this transfer has been a bit exhausting. But, although we're a bit breathless, life is good. The temple was wonderful today. And I am happy.

I don't have much time but I thought I would tell you a little about my week. First of all, I got sick. The day that it got particularly bad was also the day we were scheduled to go to a less-active member's home up in the middle of the mountains. She had invited us to come make sushi. Not wanting to ditch out on something she'd prepared, I went despite feeling under the weather. From her I received mysterious Japanese medicine-no clue what it was except that it was mostly 'natural' but I was miserable enough that I eagerly took whatever she put in my hands- and was cured within 24/hours. Not even kidding! I went from what Tada Shimai thought was severe tonsillitis (sp?) to just a runny nose in under a day. So! :) That was that.

Another big event of our week happened on Saturday. We had just begun an exchange with the sisters down in Oizumi. Sister Lowry and I went with Takishita Shimai down to our little Brazil and Sister Long and Sister Tada stayed in Kiryu with Sister Silva. Around 10 am we got a call from President Budge. In Kanagawa (an area that will be south mission next week) a second-transfer sister had been ill since the MTC and it was finally, rather abruptly, decided that she needed to go home for a while. President Budge wanted her on a plane the next evening. Sister Tada was asked to transfer down that day and take her place. So their end of the exchange was spent teaching kids English class and the packing, and then getting on a train at 4 pm. I didn't get to see Sister Tada until today at the temple. Crazy! Since then we have been working as a threesome. It was kind of a shock. But Sister Tada is now with Sister Dolan (Mom you know her mom right?) and they are both happy. Tada Shimai's dream was to be in the south mission. It is bittersweet. We miss Sister Tada but we are having fun up here in our threesome. It is nice to have Sister Long back. We aren't sure what will happen with real transfer calls this week, but the Lord is in charge.

Some good news...do you remember Hitomi and her little son down in Kofu? They are getting baptized this Sunday! :D What a beautiful miracle. I am so so happy for them. I wish beyond wishing that I could go, but it is just too far and too expensive. But oh how I miss Kofu! I am calling her tomorrow.

Also I was able to see Iida Shimai today in Tokyo! I LOVE HER SO MUCH!

I can't believe Adam is coming home in three weeks!! Ok for that matter I can't believe I'm coming home in 7....what is happening??? This will probably be the most bitter-sweet experience of my life. I'm sure the difficulty of the experience will be soothed when I get to see your gorgeous faces and have the chance to just be with you all again. Oh I have missed you so much. And I am so excited to be fed at your healthy whole foods table. :)

You are all so wonderful. I love you so, so much. Families are a miracle. So much of the work we are doing out here is in a effort to save families. In the most basic roots of life and eternity and godhood and this gospel and who we are, is our family. God's family. It's all that matters! Becoming one with our families. Becoming one with Jesus Christ. Becoming one with God. There's simply nothing else that even comes close in importance! In PMG it says..."The feelings of love and concern that we have for our families are eternal and rooted deep within our souls. They are centered in our relationship with God. You have been part of God's family since before you were born..."

That is my favorite message to tell as a missionary.
 

Monday, June 10, 2013

"We will always have enough resources for being who we are and what we can become."

First of all I better report on the exchanges I did this week...because a Sister Davis from Provo Utah came up to work with me! Apparently she is way good friends with all the Shields in Provo. She also happens to be Kaitlyn Waters cousin. Seriously she knows or is connected to just about everybody! I guess that is typical for people with Provo roots. It was an awesome experience! She just barely had her 20th birthday. She came to Kiryu to work with Sister Lowry (who was her MTC companion) and me. We had a great time! And somehow the next day I even got all of us back to Urawa for the conference with Elder Ringwood, even though the trains getting there were brutal. LOTS of switches and some big stations. God is good! That's all I can say.

It is a humbling experience being a leader. I feel like a lot of the lessons God has been trying to teach me gradually throughout my mission have all been compounded into one transfer. I think I've become more aware of who I really am as a missionary, and as a person, than ever before on my mission. I feel I am learning more from those I'm supposed to be 'training' than I could possibly be teaching them! It was interesting because although we had a good exchange I didn't really feel like I'd been able to do as much for them as I'd hoped to. I have a big desire to empower them and give them my heart, but I felt kind of unsatisfied. Then at the end of the day, as we were all laying in our futons to sleep, the conversation turned towards the big changes in the Tokyo Mission, and all the new missionaries coming in. I feel the Spirit so strongly whenever we talk about that and I testified to them with all the heart I could spare that they were chosen and prepared for this time, and that I was so impressed with them and their group. I was able to really share how I felt about this mission and about their role in it, and the Spirit touched my soul and I felt that I was finally able to give them what they needed from me that day. It taught me strongly that God knows what these sisters need from me. I may have my own plans and ideas of how to be a training leader, but in reality what I think about it all doesn't matter much. God knows what and who he needs me to be! I've got to trust him, put it in his hands, and do everything I can to invite the Spirit into my life.
 
It's been quite the week. I also got some heavenly tutoring on effective planning and finding....which mainly came through the form of failure in those areas. But Sister Lowry is such an angel! I've been blessed with the sweetest fiery little companion! She is one of those miracles in small packaging! Anyway...amidst a challenging week, God also granted us some big miracles. We had 12 students come to eikaiwa this week!! Including 6 new students. They just kept coming. Then over the weekend we also received 4 referrals from members. 2 from our sweet Bishop's wife, who found the courage to invite some of her friends to hear the gospel, and 2 from the Elder's Quorum President who, when we came to his area and asked where to dendo, sent us off to see two of his friends. So cool.

Okay in closing I'm going to share something else that is really long (sorry) but so worth it to read! This is a quote from Patricia Holland, Elder Holland's beautiful wife.
 
"My greatest misery comes when I feel I have to fit what others are doing, or what I think others expect of me. I am most happy when I am comfortable being me and trying to do what my Father in Heaven and I expect me to be. For many years I tried to measure the oft quiet, reflective, thoughtful Pat Holland against the robust, bubbly, talkative, and energetic Jeff Holland and others with like qualities. I have learned through several fatiguing failures that you can't have joy in being bubbly if you are not a bubbly person. It is a condition of terms. I have given up seeing myself as a flawed person because my energy is lower than Jeff's, and I don't talk as much as he does, nor as fast. Giving this up has freed me to embrace and rejoice in my own manner and personality in the measure of my creation. Somewhere, somehow the Lord has 'blipped the message onto my screen' that my personality was created to fit precisely the mission and talents he gave me. But the moment I indulge myself in imitation of my neighbor, I feel fatigued and find myself swimming forever up stream. We will always have enough resources for being who we are and what we can become."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Like a fire is burning

Happy June...? Wait what? JUNE????
 
That's how I feel about that!
 
So anyway. We had something really awesome happen last week! We taught a combined lesson with Brother Ogiwara, another recent convert, and their home teacher, about missionary work. Although we didn't directly ask them for referrals, we challenged them to pray for missionary opportunities, and to think of a friend who might listen to the gospel. Well...we finished off the week with 3 referrals from Brother Ogiwara!! He had us write letters to two of his friends, introducing ourselves and the church, and set up to bring another one with him to Stake Conference yesterday. We could hardly believe it. He is so cute, too. He met us at the church where we passed him the letters he'd asked us to write, along with other materials he might need, and then off he went to deliver them. After handing off each one he would call us and report how it went. So amazing. He is already such a blessing for this ward!

In other news...Stake Conference was yesterday! Since our ward building isn't big enough to seat the whole stake, they rented out a culture center hall close by. As we walked in the members passing out programs stopped us and asked if we were Kiryu sisters. After confirmation of names they quickly pulled us with them down the hall and told us they were waiting for us on the stage. Apparently I was assigned to translate the meeting into English for Sister Budge. Haha! Surprisingly I haven't had a lot of opportunities to translate on my mission. It was VERY humbling. We did have the miracle of  5 investigators coming to stake conference! Anna, unfortunately, was not feeling well and although we went to her apartment that morning, wasn't able to attend. She sure is having some tough challenges right now. My heart just aches to get her into the gospel where she can feel the safety and peace that comes from our Savior.
 
It's kind of been a scary feeling, recently, feeling like there is a clock hanging over my head, and that I only have so much time to help the people here. I suppose it happens to every missionary, where the urgency of the work lays more heavily on the shoulders as the months roll by. The thought of leaving some of these people before I know they are safely 'in' just tears my heart apart.
 
We found a little family recently named the Kazama's. Maybe I mentioned them already. Anyway the oldest child is a girl and she is 10. She and her siblings come running as soon as we turn our bikes onto their street. We are trying to get them to primary this week, although their parents might not come. I've never really worked with children on my mission until coming to Kiryu. Now we've got two families where the kids love and want to listen to us. We just have to pray their parents follow their example.

Being a trainer and a leader is extremely humbling! Sister Lowry is so easy to be companions with, and her Japanese is just going through the roof. They say you learn the most in the last transfers of your mission, and I'm starting to believe them!

We appreciate and need all your prayers for us and Kiryu!! I feel like there is more...but we need to buy food. So! Off we go! I LOVE YOU.
 
Sister Wylie

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Behold, thou art my people."

We did a phone lesson with Dai san last night. Dai san loves English and wants to be able to speak it so badly. Near the end of the call as we were saying goodbye, he said, in brilliant Japanglish, 'Good night. Please sleep slowly. Have a good tomorrow!' Hahaha. Ok so in Japanese people often say 'yukuri yasunde kudasai' which translates roughly to 'take it easy' or 'sleep well' but directly translates to 'please sleep slowly.' It's those moments that really remind me why I love being in Japan!

So this past week was kind of a flash back to when I was young and went to a park with my buddies to go sledding during the winter, bundled up and ready for an adventure, not sure quite what to expect. We would haul this big heavy old sled slowly up a hill, winding around trees and lumps in the snow, our eyes darting back and forth between the top of the hill and a sledge of snow that formed a perfect jump for our sled. We finally made it as high as we dared go, piled into the sled, and shoved off with shouts and pumping hearts. Gravity poured down on us much faster than we'd anticipated, and we flew toward that jump like a rock being hurled into a lake. I remember swinging my legs to the side of the sled, trying to slow us down or avoid the jump that maybe I wasn't quite ready for yet, but only managed to fling up more snow. Over the jump and into the air we flew! The burst of exhilaration lasted a few moments and then we slammed into the snow, cruising down the rest of the hill until we toppled into a heap at the bottom. I don't think I was able to sit down comfortably for about a week after that.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, this week was quite an adventure! The beginning of the week was spent deeply in dendo and in pushing slowly up that hill of finding and knocking and planning, and then finished off with a big hurl of exchanges and trainings and days filled with lessons and training home-teachers to teach new converts and working with the converts and members, and trying to pull all the pieces together of being a sister training leader. A lot of trial and error, exposure of weaknesses, and a bit of cold snow in my face. And I'm a little sore. But! There were also some amazing miracles.
 
I brought Sister Vail to work in Kiryu with me while Sister Long went to Utsunomiya for the day with Sister Hansaker. Sister Lowry and Sister Tada were paired together and given a day of dendo as two young missionaries. I remember sitting around our little Japanese table with them that night, planners open, phones buzzing, and looking up to see 3 pairs of eyes watching me steadily as I pieced together our schedules. I don't think I was ready for it all. But God has been good to our little Kiryu. While I was riding back to the train station with Sister Vail at the end of our exchange, a 17-year-old girl came up and started talking to us. She said she had been to Florida before and was studying English. She also said she believes in God. We were able to get her number and a promise to come to church! Her name is Mako. So now we have Anna chan and Mako chan...they are so precious. I haven't really taught young people much on my mission, and it is such a great blessing! Anna was able to make it to the first Young Woman's class Kiryu has held in a long time. She loved it and promised to come every week. Mako also is planning to meet with us soon. :) Thank you for your prayers!

At the beginning of one particularly and potentially stressful day, I was sitting at my desk during personal study, unable to properly focus and going between staring blankly at the scriptures and flipping the pages to appear that I was reading. I closed my eyes for a few quiet moments. When I opened them they were immediately drawn to a scripture marked in 2 Nephi 8. I began reading at verse 12, and as I kept reading my heart filled with the message and my emotions surfaced. It was such a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father, and it touched me deeply enough that I want to share it here.

12. I am he; yea I am he that comforteth you. Behold, who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of man, who shall die, and of the son of man, who shall be made like unto grass?
13. And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, and hast feared continually every day, because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?
14. The captive exile hasteneth, that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail.
15. But I am the Lord thy God, whose waves roared; the Lord of Hosts is my name.
16. And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion: Behold, thou art my people.
 
Even thinking about this now brings me chills. I'm so grateful for the tender mercy of an Almighty God...and that he would care enough for a young, tired, missionary, worried about the responsibilities of the day, to send her peace and love through the scriptures. I like to tell people that the Book of Mormon is a love letter from God, for his children who are temporarily away from home.

So...there is a lot going on over here! And I sure don't know what I'm doing most of the time. But I suppose if I already knew what I was doing, I wouldn't need the experience of doing it, right? I do know that God is with us. There are so many experiences in our lives and in the lives of those we love, in which the purpose is often hard to find. And though one life may differ from another, we are being guided. Our lives have been tailored to us and our needs. And we can and will triumph as we put our hearts in His hands. I hope and pray that through my mistakes and mishaps and sore spots, that I will never forget that!

On to another week!
 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Parenting

Sister Lowry and I had a great first week together. Oh I love her so much! God has blessed me tremendously by giving me this chance to work with her. Sister Lowry is from Rexburg, Idaho, and comes from a family of 10. She is number 3 of 8 children! She was actually born in Provo but moved to Rexburg when she was 7 because her father got a job as a professor there. She was homeschooled all the way up until she was ready to go to college. She went to BYU Idaho for 2 years before her mission, majoring in Recreational Science. She loves the outdoors. She is itty bitty and doesn't break 100 pounds. She is SO easy to get along with and is willing and eager to be involved in everything we do. I've been so impressed by her big faith and desire. I really believe that her faith has been leading us to many miracles! She will also eat anything we put in front of her. It's so interesting being a trainer! It feels different than I'd anticipated! We are having lots of fun. :) By God's mercy I actually feel a lot more peaceful than I thought I would, too. And something Dad sent me recently has kind of become my motto... "Pray as if everything depends on God. Then work as if everything depends on you."

This first week was quite eventful! We were without bikes until Friday morning, which meant LOTS of walking. My poor companion on her first day had to walk miles in the rain with me looking for a less active...who, once we finally found her house, wouldn't give us more then a few cold words through the intercom. Everything went uphill from there though. :) We found some incredible new people together this week! I've never had so much success housing before. Yesterday we found a sweet 17-year-old Catholic girl named Anna. She was so pleased to meet us and listened to our message of prophets and the restoration, and accepted everything we put in her hands. She is coming to church on Sunday and I would love it if you could pray for her! She is so precious and has been waiting for this gospel! Something cool about this too...we don't have any active young women in the ward. BUT...yesterday in church (before meeting Anna) they finally called a Young Women's president. Coincidence? Definitely not!
 
One more cool miracle...we were out finding again (we do that a lot as missionaries, you know) and I asked Sister Lowry where she thought we should go. She directed us back to some houses around an apartment building we'd been by earlier. The first door was opened by an old man who, the moment he saw us, let out a huge groan and without giving us the time of day, slammed his little sliding door shut. Sister Lowry said (half-jokingly) that she was not going to pick where to go again, but I suggested we continue down the same road. Finally near the end, in a little apartment building,  a door opened and was quickly flooded by children quite curious about the strange foreigners standing at their door, and eager to talk with us. Their mother listened for a few moments and then went back in the house. The children (all under 11) scurried around our feet and listened eagerly as we told them about primary. We easily convinced them that they wanted to come. Their mom said that they could go next week. We got their number and left with them and their neighbor friends tailing us down the street. They are going to nearly double our primary next week! I looked into the eyes of these little children, dressed in an array of hand-me-downs, all with grins on their faces and eyes eager with the want for attention. What a difference the gospel could make in their lives! 

I also had the opportunity of speaking in Sacrament meeting yesterday. It was fun. although such experiences always remind me how much harder I need to study this language! I spoke about serving others, and then was prompted to share an experience I had recently. There have been a few stresses in our ward and with some people close to me, and there was one point where we were sitting in a room together and my heart felt so sore because of circumstances that seemed so avoidable with a little forgiveness and kindness and the light of the gospel, but that were only getting worse. I was praying for relief, when a warm touch seemed to lay upon my heart. The pain, however, didn't cease. But so clearly in my mind I could feel the words, "I won't always take the pain away. But I feel it with you. I have to let you feel these things so that you can grow. But I am with you. It is okay." It touched me so deeply, and when I was sharing it from the stand I felt the spirit testify again to me, and I started to cry. I can't remember ever getting emotional while at the pulpit before. It was a special experience.

I have one more name for your prayer list this week...Dai san. :) Dai san is this cute little man that Sister Long and I met outside the city office our first week in Japan. He's been coming to English class, church, and even came to the Saturday sessions of conference last month. Well we taught him on Sunday after church about Baptism, with Brother Ogiwara there as a member joint. :) At the end Sister Lowry invited him to be baptized, and he said yes. We set a date with him for June 9th. It actually turns out that he knows Brother Ogiwara because they worked at the same place a number of years back. They've become great friends! What an incredible place I've been blessed to be in!

I testify of the reality of a Savior, Jesus Christ, and of his perfect love for us. He won't always take away our pain. But he feels it with us. And he will support us through it. I know that is true.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We live under a God of Mercy!

You would not believe what a week this has been! We came home from Tokyo a few hours ago after attending the temple. Soon afterwards we received a phone call from President Budge...giving us an early transfer call!!! Oh my goodness God has been so merciful to me!!!!!!!! So the new missionaries are actually coming to Japan early (this Thursday) because of some scheduling conflicts...and he said he is sending two of them out to us on Saturday morning! Sister Long and I will BOTH be STAYING IN KIRYU and TRAINING! :D I still can't believe it! We've been hoping and working so hard for this all transfer....and the Lord has just poured this great blessing to us! I never would have guessed that I would end my mission training in Kiryu, in a 4-shimai apartment with Sister Long!! I still am seriously sitting here barely able to breath....and yet it has left my heart so peaceful! No stressing this week about transfer calls...just preparing for our new little ones!

Leadership training was awesome last week. I was sitting in the same chapel I sat in over a year ago during my first zone meeting...and comparing then to now left me a bit breathless. I couldn't believe I was sitting in that same room at what seemed like such a short time later, with the leadership in the mission, me as one of them. It blows my mind. More about this next week! But things are good.

OH!!! And we had a wonderful baptismal service for Ogiwara san on Sunday. :) More about that later too!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A teaching missionary is a happy missionary!

I am still out here in my little Kiryu! And having the time of my life with Sister Long. I cannot even tell you how MUCH I love being her companion again. It is miraculous! And there is no one in the mission I would rather be with right now, as we were both called as the first multi-zone Sister Training Leaders this past week. Blows my mind away! Not sure what all our responsibilities are yet...but isn't it crazy? Sisters have been joking forever about becoming the first sister Zone Leaders or APs...and now it's happening. And it's the face looking back at me in the mirror! Hah! What are they thinking?

Other then that it has been a busy week! The Lord's hand is in Kiryu. We see it every day. The dendo has really caught fire and we've even had days with back-to-back appointments and all kinds of miracles. God has been sending us referrals like never before on my mission. It is really humbling to think about. I don't know why the Lord sent us here together at this time....but oh I breath in the days and they are so sweet.
 
It's fun to see how Sister Long and I shoulder the responsibilities we have here, and how things naturally fall into place for us as a companionship. We feel a big time has come for Kiryu! Of course there are many challenges. Although the dendo has caught fire, there are some interesting knots in the ward that are related to people who work closely with us and our investigators, so that is where we are feeling the most friction. But we've been brightening up the church! Last Sunday we made these cool bookmarks for the hymnbooks with a message about unity and a picture of our mission logo. We were walking down the hallway on Sunday and could see Brother Kodaka showing it to all the primary kids. We also set up a big missionary stand/board with all sorts of things for investigators, and a place to post all the things we're doing and to write miracles we see and put pictures. They love it. We wrote up the little miracle about finding the Oizumi church from a few weeks ago, and Brother Kodaka saw it and asked us to speak about it during Sacrament meeting that day. We're also working on hanging up pictures all around the church...but the walls turned out to be much harder than we thought. Still working on that one. My favorite thing to talk about with members is how we have so much hope for Kiryu and how we feel a special time has come for this place. I've started seeing the light of that hope flickering in their eyes. We refuse to let them tell us this is a hard place with hard people...and God is giving us every reason to believe otherwise.

We had a lesson with Ogiwara san this week where we taught him the Plan of Salvation. I've never seen someone soak it up the way he did. I slapped the first piece on the table of 'zense' or 'pre-earth life' and it took his attention immediately. Piece by piece we laid it out on the table before him. At one point he put down one hand after pre-earth life and the other one down past 'death' and he said with emotion, "This is all I knew existed before." Although he's been to other churches before, that was all they were able to teach him about. When he first saw the pre-earth life piece he said it made him suddenly remember a dream he'd had when he was a teenager, where he'd been in a beautiful place with someone like God. He'd never understood what it meant before. It touched my heart so much to watch someone learn God's plan, God's purpose, for the very first time. I think maybe I've taken for granted the knowledge I've had since I was little. What a difference it has made in my life. It is such a pillar of hope for the weary traveller! The knowledge that this isn't the end. No matter how many sunsets paint our earthly lives, they will all turn to sunrises. Pain won't last forever. We don't have to stay the same. Our future is bright! We have a Savior! No matter how imperfectly we are loved or treated, there is one who loves us perfectly. Knows us perfectly. What a glorious truth I have been sent to share. May these experiences change my heart forever and turn my eyes to heaven!

That night he sent us the sweetest text message. "I have bright life since today, because I catch chance forever."
 
We are trying to soak in these days, because we know they are limited. It is certain I will only have this transfer with Sister Long, although we are hoping to both stay in Kiryu and train here. Thinking about my time left sends all kinds of strange feelings through my soul, and honestly I can't really think about it right now. Heart can't quite take it. For now I am here and trying to sink my feet in the ground as deep as they'll go!

I love you so much! Life is beautiful. :) Please pray for our sweet Kiryu!
 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The country of Kiryu...

Being at this point in my mission is amazing. It's beautiful. There are challenges of course and I'm not perfect at Japanese and there are still things I don't know, but I feel so much more...what's the word....settled in my heart. The stress and uncertainty isn't there anymore. We were sitting in a lesson yesterday with an investigator and the two members who had referred him and Long Shimai were talking and I felt so settled into my purpose and my role as a missionary, and could feel the quiet confidence in my heart that the Lord knows my name and that I am where he would have me be. It's not such a big deal anymore that I'm not perfect at teaching or speaking or being a missionary. I wasn't sent here to be perfect. I was sent here to become perfect. And to enjoy the journey. :)
 
There is such a great work to be done here in Kiryu. It is their time. I feel it so strongly in my heart. And whether I'm only here a few more weeks or until the end of my mission, I'll pour my heart out to help these people. They deserve all that I can give.

A few nights ago I had an interesting experience. I was in my futon getting ready to sleep but I was overcome with this fear of bad things that could happen. And I was afraid that because I was afraid that it would actually happen. It was kind of silly. But it was late and I was tired and I let myself think too much. Anyway....we said companion prayers and then I began my personal prayer. I pleaded for peace and safety and, honestly, didn't know if I would feel any different because of the prayer. But as I continued the most amazing thing happened. I felt as if a blanket of security was being wrapped around me, until my heart felt completely at peace, and it was as if someone very real were there and protecting me. It was such a tangible feeling. I was so surprised, and humbled.
God is so good!
 
Now I have to share with you our experiences on Saturday! So we went out before conference began to look for some less actives that lived waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out somewhere we hadn't been before. Well we get all the way out there and can't find it and end up wandering around for a bit, all the while time is ticking because we needed to be back for conference. Finally we found two old men to ask for directions. It was such a funny sight. We're seriously up on the mini mountain amidst rice fields and plows and winding roads and Long Shimai was crouched on the ground in her helmet searching over a map with this old grandpa, his huge scruffy dog sitting there with big eyes. We thought we figured it out but couldn't find it before time ran out and we had to go back. It is seriously Japanese country out here! We were cruising down this road laughing at the lack of anything but fields and plows in our view. Okay so I wish that was the only adventure of our Saturday but it wasn't. We did make it back to conference and our Investigator, Dai san, (he tells us frequently that it is pronounced the same as 'die',) made it to church. Afterwards we had an appointment to visit an old less-active former army captain soldier guy who lived out in the opposite direction. Well we studied religiously the googlemaps view on our computer, took a few notes, then headed out. We ended up pushing our bikes up a mountain and into this little hidden mystery village tucked away where no one would think to look for it. Well we get up there to the road where I thought Captain Fujinuma lived only to have a lady tell us there was no one up here by that name. She looked at our address and told us google had brought us to the completely wrong part of Kiryu. !!

Well we did manage to find the Captain's house at least. And we got to sail down that mountain we pushed our bikes up. Good heavens though! IT was worth it because he is hilarious. Totally an army guru. The only English he knows is Army lingo, so whenever he would walk out for a minute he would say, 'please stand by...' and then in his prayer he asked God to bless us on our 'operation mission.' So cute! Even though he is less active, thanks to him the ward had two baptisms last year, and they are both active and happy in the ward. 
 
Oh!! That investigator we had a lesson with on Sunday? His name is Ogiwara Akira san. And he wants to get baptized. :) We set a date for him for May 5th! Very excited. If you would keep him in your prayers it would mean the world to me. Also, Hitomi san (Kofu) was supposed to be getting baptized this coming Sunday but just after I left her son broke his leg...poor little guy! So she's a bit behind on lessons. I miss her so much! We had an emotional parting, but with hopes that I'll be able to come back for her baptism. Might be tough though because it's so far away and expensive.

A few more exciting things....we tripled our English class attendance last week! (It went from 0-3....hahaha.) Also, they put sisters back in Koiwa! Which means I can probably go on splits there soon if I beg hard enough. Also, I am going on splits tomorrow to Oizumi! That Brazilian community I mentioned last week.
 
Our funny moment of the day...we have an investigator who lives across the street from the church, and we were outside waiting for her. Her dad pulls up in his car and marvels for a minute at the two Americans (there aren't a lot of us out here) then pulls out a harmonica and begins playing away! He claimed he was playing hymns...

 

Monday, April 8, 2013

; )

It is hard to believe a week has already flown by since I came to Kiryu!! Yet here we are! I still look over at Sister Long on a daily basis and can't believe we're companions again. It's funny, really. We both met in Shinjuku (Tokyo) and rode the train out here together. Both of us coming into this area not knowing a thing. It was like the MTC all over again. :) Except, somehow, we're standing together now on Japanese soil, a year of experience behind us and the 'prime' months of our mission sliding by beneath our shoes. It is the strangest feeling.

So...Kiryu!!! They actually brought sister missionaries here for a few transfers after the big earthquake, but they had some health problems and other issues and eventually a sister went home early and then they moved sisters out entirely. There weren't enough missionaries to keep them here. But! They did keep the apartment. So although it was a bit dusty, we came right to a good place. When we first came there was a miscommunication with the Mission Home and we showed up with no phone or computer or any means of contacting anybody. All I can say is....how did missionaries live without phones?? We did have a sweet member couple pick us up from the train station, take us to dinner, buy us groceries, and give us the apartment key. The members here have been waiting for us. President Budge was apparently here visiting the stake a few weeks ago and promised them sisters, so they've really been looking forward to our coming.
 
Kiryu is very interesting! The church building is big, but of peculiar shape. It used to be a warehouse and was later converted into a church. I think it looks kind of like a pet shop with a hotel on top. There are about 30 active members. There are no young women, and only 5 in the primary (3 of the 5 are the bishop's kids.) I think the men in the ward actually outnumber the women. We spent this morning at a relief society activity and there was only us and two other women from the ward. It was still way good. :) It didn't take long at all to come to adore these people. They are few, and it seems this little ward has had some tough struggles, but they are powerful. Sister Long and I have been feeling so strongly that God has some big things planned for our little ward. Oh we are just burning inside to love these people to pieces and light Kiryu on fire!

We were so humbled this week by the blessings God has sent to us. Our first day we started off without connection to the real world, and knowing little at best about this area. Within a few days we received 3 referrals, one of which even made it to church on Sunday. What's kind of funny is the ward really wants more sisters in the ward but all 3 of the referrals were men! Haha. Besides those three we were also able to find 3 former/new investigators, and make many new friends. Haha there are so few people just roaming around on the street that we talk to just about anybody we can find! And can I just say it is SUCH A MIRACLE BEING WITH LONG SHIMAI AGAIN! Oh I love her so much! It is SO INTERESTING being companions again after all this time. Remember how she is a crazy talented cartoon artist? Well we have a board with our investigators/potentials/LA/recent converts names posted on it, and she draws a face for each one. Pictures coming soon. :)

The trains out here are worse then Kofu and only come maybe once an hour going in directions we want. Oh! And about 50 minutes by train is the LDS Portuguese/Spanish speaking ward. They are nestled in a little town called Oizumi that is just bursting with people from South America. It is the only ward of its type in Tokyo mission so people come from all over. We had to go down there to meet our Zone Leaders after church yesterday to get our phone charger (that didn't  come in the package from the mission home with the phone) haha. We didn't really know where the church was and we had no way to ask them so we got the general location from our giant kitchen map and headed down to 'brazil'. Well we spent a good 20-30 minutes wandering around where we thought it was, with no luck, and decided there was really only one sensible thing to do. We stepped up by a little wall on the side of the road, closed our eyes, and prayed for help. We ended the prayer and sat and stared at each other for a few minutes. Didn't hear any voices so we picked a new road and started trekking down it. Not 5 minutes later a little Bolivian man comes riding past on his bike and we stop him to ask about the church. At first he didn't understand and thought we were trying to preach to him. Haha then finally his eyes got big and he was like, "Oh you're LOOKING for the church?" at which point I found a Spanish pamphlet in my bag and showed him the church's name in Spanish. He immediately turned around and started beckoning us to follow. We scrambled after him and within a few minutes we were standing in front of the rented floor of a business with the church logo on the outside. Prayer works!!

Anyway we are moving forward. We have no idea what the next few months will bring but we have such high hopes and are seeking every day to discover God's vision for our little Kiryu. So turns out even MORE sisters came then they were planning on this transfer! Haha. They surprised 2 sisters last minute and informed them they would be training! And here is the bit that blows us...there are only 4 sisters not training right now. And there are 10 new coming next transfer. Try chewing on that for a few minutes! God has something marvelous in mind although to us it may be overwhelming. These new sisters coming in are part of a group that is so special and so powerful. We are so blessed to have them here with us!

Monday, March 25, 2013

BONUS WEEK!!!

Where to begin! Well thank you so much for the letters and emails and the love I feel everyday from your side of the world. Spring is blooming here in Kofu! We are going out to take pictures today of the Sakura (cherry trees) and all their snow-like blossoms. It is just as beautiful as everyone says! This is such a looked-forward-to season for everyone in Japan. I love experiencing the seasons. As the air warms and the flowers bloom there is a tangible feeling of hope and new beginnings in the air. Perhaps more so for those of us who hold in our hearts the hope of our Savior and the truth of his Resurrection. Trevor was good to remind me to turn me thoughts to him as we approach Easter. :) And Conference! Ah! I was thinking the other day that I'll probably end up listening to at least a few sessions in Japanese, and I wonder how much more I'll understand compared to October, and then I was like AH! Conferences are six months apart....which means I've added 6 months to my mission since the last Conference! That is insane. 
 
Speaking of Japanese and Conference....I was sitting next to the bishops wife in Relief Society yesterday as we studied the talk by David A. Bednar from October Conference. The teacher was writing up stuff on the board and I couldn't read the kanji so I asked the bishop's wife what something was and she read it out of the talk for me. A few minutes later I was taken aback, realizing that I understood every word she said, completely, and that compared to a few months ago church is so much more enjoyable. For a moment I felt elated and then quickly was overcome and humbled by an outpouring of gratitude as I realized that God lets me understand and has given me such an incredible gift. No I still don't know or speak Japanese perfectly, but for the most part, I understand, and I can connect with people through language. Their language. It is so beautiful! I started to cry right there (I'm telling you, being a missionary does something funny to my emotions, and I get all leaky) and my heart was so full. It is strange being at this part in my mission. I never  thought I would actually get here.

On that note...I really want to share something fantastic I learned from my mission president in my interview last week!! This was a huge light-bulb-on moment for me. I was asking his advice on how to make the most out of the last months of my mission, and how to really be the best I can be while I'm in a position to be a huge influence on the people around me. President Budge is an incredible person and has a head full of so much knowledge and experience, as well as a solid testimony of the gospel. We are so lucky to have him here! Anyway. He said he's been reading a book recently called 'Falling to Heaven' and it's got him pondering a lot about humility. He got up and wrote on the board 'Exact Obedience' then went on to explain that the Lord demands no less then exact obedience from his missionaries, and from members of the church. But....we are incapable of this. At one point or another, we fall short, we mess up, we miss the mark, and we 'fall short of the glory of God.' This is inevitable. So why does God ask us to '...be ye therefore perfect...' when it is impossible?

Next he opened up to Ether 12:27. We all know this scripture. He then said that when we hit those moments where we fall short, there are two choices we have of how to react. He wrote these on the board under 'exact obedience'. The two possibilities are: humble or humiliated. On the humiliated side, it is a hit to our pride. We turn inward and feel inadequate and feel sorry for ourselves and decide we aren't enough and can't do it. This is a downward spiral that is so easy for us to fall into! We feel like we aren't good enough. We feel like we can't do it. And we turn inward. This is actually a form of pride! We all know about the 'uppity' pride. This is the other side to pride. And it's not good!

Ok so now to humility. When we choose to be humble, we accept that we aren't enough on our own. We accept we aren't perfect. But we also acknowledge and give ourselves over to the grace of the Savior. Because he already paid the price. All of it. He doesn't just come down to the line of our very best; he comes down all the way. We humble ourselves before him, accept that even if we aren't enough, Christ is. We turn outward. And we draw a little closer to God. Somehow our falling short actually brings us nearer to Him.

I'm sure this isn't a new concept to you...but it was such an eye opener for me. I feel I've been searching a long time for the line between humility and beating ourselves up for not being good enough. There is a line. And now that I understand that we don't have to make ourselves miserable and feel worthless in order to be humble....it has become a sort of secret-to-happiness. Humility is beautiful! And I love to concept of 'falling to heaven.' I was so excited about this. Last week the two of us spoke in church on Sunday, directing our words to the up-and-coming missionaries, and this is what I spoke on. It was cool because a dude from the Stake spoke after us and elaborated on the same subject. Then the lesson is Relief Society was from Lorenzo Snow about becoming perfect one day at a time. Such an amazing lesson! What an incredible principle. Anyway...I really wanted to share that. :) It's been changing me drastically.

Now a little about my week...did I tell you last week about the 82 year old less-active we found right here in Kofu city? Well she was so pleased at our visit and invited us in her home. She used to be a super-active member and even talked about attending the temple weekly. She remembers the name of her missionary who baptized her 60 years ago...Elder Price from Utah. She still has the Book of Mormon and loves the church. We think she stopped coming because she can't drive on her own, most of her friends in the church have passed away, and her sons aren't members and won't bring her. Anyway we brought her to the relief society activity this past week, and she brought her 80 year old younger sister along. Her little sister, Hosaka Kikuko san, isn't a member but has apparently been to our church before in Hawaii. She is SUPER suteki, and an artist. She accepted a Book of Mormon and is already reading it, and told us to come over today. We are really excited about her. :)

You know the second Emily we told you about? Well she is back from France and met us for Indo Curry on Friday. We learned she was actually a music major (piano and voice) and loves music. At one point she got up to get a drink and Soda Shimai and I turned sneakily to each other and decided that maybe if we were singing in church on Sunday, she would come. When she came back to the table we announced that we were doing a special musical number on Sunday, and that she should come to English class that morning and then to Sacrament meeting to hear us right afterwards. She happily agreed. Haha. Later that night we called Brother Harada and then the bishop to ask if we actually could sing in Sacrament on Sunday....they said yes. And she came! We put together a pretty version of Come Thou Fount with the Elders, acapella, using both English and Japanese. After only practicing it once it actually turned out really well. Thank heavens for all the practice we get singing in the church!

The rest of the week was spent gardening with members, teaching English class, going to Japanese class, running around with members searching for less-actives, teaching a lesson on a train here, a lesson on the street there, and walking down dusty country roads amidst cherry tree orchards and Japanese temples. Unfortunately Satomi san got sick and wasn't able to come to church on Sunday. I've seen this over and over again on my mission. Someone makes a good decision, they start turning their sights and their footsteps down the right road, and Satan gets upset. Luckily his attempts are nothing compared to the love God has for his precious children. But he does get annoying!

On Tuesday after the temple Iida Shimai came to meet me. :) She looks wonderful! We had so much fun and enjoyed cherry-hamburgers and a lot of sunlight. Did you know that the day I come home will be her 1-year-anniversary of getting baptized? We are trying to get her temple goal set for the week before so that I will be able to come.

Well I'm sure I've written enough to get your eyes tired. I will send pictures soon. Some members in the ward are going to take us to a hill with over 2000 Sakura trees on it this week!
 
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Off with the marshmallow jacket!!

So something interesting has been happening this transfer. The days have been getting shorter!! It's like magic...the days that seemed like months have changed to days that blow by like hours and months that come like days. Whenever I think about it I feel time is like wind blowing all around me, without thought or concern for the moments it blows away so quickly. Sorry for getting all poetic here, I guess what I'm trying to say is, time feels really strange!! There are moments where time stands still, like when a testimony is being borne or a commitment extended, those moments where you hold your breath as you watch people make decisions that you know will affect their eternity. Then there are the hours knocking, the 24 mile bike rides, the conferences, the trains, the nights where you lay up laughing together, the nights crying together, the phone calls, the study hours...they are all like wind blowing past your face and sending chills to your toes. One moment they are there. Then just a memory. It absolutely blows my mind that soon I'll be telling people I've been living in Japan for a year. Being a missionary really puts things in perspective, doesn't it? How time is only a measurement used by us mortals. How the only things that really matter are the gospel, our families, and loving our neighbors. Those are the things that withstand time. Those things are what never fade. Everything that I regret from before my mission stems from those three things; not being a better daughter and sister, not showing more love inside my home, not more purposefully pursuing an education  and bettering myself while I was young, and not being an influence on those whose lives I may have had power to touch.

This week was pretty intense. Monday was dinner with a member family and a long-time less active, Tuesday was stuck in our apartment until 4 while a new toilet was installed (it is INTENSE,) and then making an impulse decision that we wanted a piano for dendo more then we wanted to buy groceries for a month (TOTALLY carried it under my arm for the mile bike ride home,) Tuesday night didn't end until about 2:30 am after getting home from the hospital (not for me), Wednesday didn't start until about 10 am once we finally woke up after the long night, Thursday was driving out with Hosaka Shimai (our 73 year old grandmommy) to a nursing home to visit another member, where she proceeded to drive her car straight into 4 foot deep trench she didn't see in the parking lot (we saw it...luckily we and her car are fine...lol), Friday was a 24 mile bike ride to and from a less-active members home in Nirasaki, Saturday was a big blitz with the stake where we went out and dendoed with members in Hachioji (and I met, for the first time, a girl from Ukraine), and Sunday was as usual the miracle day of the week.

*breath* Okay so that is probably a lot to try and understand in one big breath, so let's calm down for a moment and talk about our miracle yesterday! Church was lovely as usual with our incredible ward family. Junpei made it to church this week (last week he got pulled over on his way there). Now that we have Elders in the area they are officially teaching him, but we are still friends. Emily helps me in Sacrament as I fumble around with my scriptures and notebook and electronic dictionary, trying to figure out what people are saying. When I can't find or spell a word I hand my dictionary to her and she types it in for me. Sacrament meeting has actually been a lot better these last two transfers. I don't fall asleep anymore!! And I can actually follow the speakers enough to take notes and understand the points of their talks. So anyway...after church and a few hours of putting together reports for the ward, we decided to go search for some long-time less actives. There wasn't much daylight left, and by the time we found the right neighborhood it was dark enough that addresses were hard to read. We couldn't find the home we were looking for and decided to knock on a random door and ask for help. We found an old old man in a big Japanese robe looking at us through huge coke-bottle (sp?) glasses, very surprised to find two gaijin on his porch. Well he happened to be an old man who was friends with the family we were looking for, and, being impressed with the Japanese we managed to spit out and feeling pity on us, he put on big cotton socks and slippers and started trekking down the road. We looked at each other and, with a shrug, followed after him. After a few blocks he walks into the yard of a traditional Japanese home, and starts knocking on their door. "Okubo! Hey! I've found two gaijin out looking for you!" Hahaha. We couldn't believe it. Well a man came to the door and our guide hustled away, and invited us into the genkan. His wife ran away into the kitchen but he sat and talked with us for about half an hour. He was really pleased at our visit, and said he felt something as we talked to him. He hasn't been to church in 40 years. His parents were against the church. But (get this timing!) his parents both passed away this year. He still has a Book of Mormon. He wants us and the Elders to come to his house again so he can help us learn kanji. And we really think he may even come back to church. He was the only home we made it to that night. Everything about finding him was a miracle. Things like that leave no room for doubt that God is leading this work!

So life moves on here in Kofu. :) I am happy. So excited for spring. It got so warm this week we haven't even used jackets. Three more weeks of the transfer, and much to be done! Hitomi san wasn't able to meet with us last week because her son got super ill (of course) but is scheduled to come see us this Friday, and is super excited. We are too.

I love you all so much! On we go!
 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Haru ga kite imasu!!

I have SO much awesome news to share with you this week! I don't even know where to begin. After going through a week full of personal battles of self-confidence and fending off Satan's little esteem-minions....I am looking back in awe at the blessings that just rained from heaven. It fills my heart. And as a missionary from the field during this great and long-prophesied (sp?) time, I am here to tell you that the gathering is hastening! I had a few moments this week where something would happen and the Spirit would absolutely rage through my soul like the wind and my heart would burn and I just knew that I am standing here in the front lines to witness the Lord gather His people. I wish, oh I wish I could send a taste of it home...but then I realize that we're all on the front line. This is happening all over the world, and extends even to that world beyond. Through temples that are flooding the earth I feel the heavens are drawing closer, and the gathering is taking place on both sides of the veil. What an incredible time to be alive! And it's not going to slow down.

I had the incredible opportunity this past week to gather with the missionaries and be taught by Elder Russel M. Nelson, who came with his wife to visit our mission. There were about 160 of us in a little chapel with him. Having been in the choir, I was on the second row. The experience was everything we could've hoped for it to be, and more. His daughter is married to the area seventy and lives there in Tokyo, so she and her husband also spoke to us. He taught us, encouraged us, answered our questions, and left us with an apostolic blessing. I think when missionaries meet with an apostle in such a personal setting, it is an experience like no other. 160 young men and women, absolutely reverent and focused and upright in our seats for hours, listening to the words of an apostle of the Lord. I felt strongly that just as Peter and James and John and the Nephite apostles who wrote the scriptures were powerful representatives of the Lord, the man standing before us was of no lesser standing. It was fantastic.

Something he told us to do was write down the numbers of the Japanese stakes and wards and members, and hold onto it until we have grandchildren. He said when we read it to them in the next few decades, we will see as perhaps no other generation has seen, the Lord's hand and the hastening of the work.

The other big miracle this week happened on Sunday, as Kanari Shimai from Machida was baptized! She made it!! Do you remember her? She was one of our investigators that was working with us all 4 transfers I served in Machida. She was the one who couldn't get up the hill to the church. Well, she made it. Through the power of the Book of Mormon and the love of the members, she overcame every odd set against her.  A little about her background. She was married and has five children, 1 of which was born with severe autism. When her children were still fairly young her husband walked out on her, leaving her and their kids absolutely nothing. She fought to stay above water for years but eventually was overcome with pain from the past and fell into deep depression. Some of her kids grew old enough to live on their own, and the younger ones were taken away by the government and put into facilities. For years she has been alone. She was found by the missionaries in 2011. Actually her first missionaries were Tomura Shimai and her trainer. She grasped onto the hope she felt from the gospel but was still being crushed by a past she couldn't let go of. Crippled by mental illness, and her ever declining living conditions, she gave up on the church for a while. After some months she says she was beginning to get so angry at the pain people had caused her, that she was going to take drastic actions. The same week the anger finally pushed her over the edge, the missionaries came again to her door. From that point on she began letting them into her life. They helped her clean her house and then started offering her the hope only the gospel could give. But her progress was slow. When I came into the picture she couldn't come to church on her own and was taking multiple drugs daily to deal with her physical condition. She would always say yes to baptismal date, but time after time wasn't able to reach her goal. Although her progress was slow or sometimes seemingly non-existent, her desire to change was always there. I think it was because of that desire that God keep us in her life. I remember Sister Takei had so much faith in her. I followed her lead in pouring out our hearts to try and help this daughter of God find her way back. She made it to church a handful of times while I was there, and even once on her own. But her situation was still dark. I am ashamed to say that when Takei Shimai first left I thought about dropping her because I didn't feel like she was going to make it. But, thank the heavens, something in my heart just wouldn't let me let her go. Honestly, the Spirit would not allow me to stop meeting with her. Finally with Oseki Shimai we got her reading the Book or Mormon daily. It was amazing because when Kanari san read and prayed she always felt a night-and-day difference. The gospel light affected her so much. But the adversary was so strong in her life! Well after I left she bumped up to reading 30 minutes every single day. Miracles started happening. She was brighter. Her back stopped hurting. She was able to let go of all the anger and hurt from her past and lay it at the feet of the Savior. When I saw her at Uyama Shimai's baptism, the light her countenance had doubled. Last week, at last, she passed her baptismal interview, and this last Sunday was baptized. I sadly was not able to attend because of money and responsibilities here in Kofu, but oh the Spirit just fills my heart when I think of it. I am so so sad I couldn't go! Missing the baptisms of those you love is such a hard thing as a missionary. But the joy I feel that she, a precious daughter of God, and MY SISTER, has come into Christ's arms is huge. What a miracle. I learned so much from being a part of her life. God was there with her. His children are SO PRECIOUS TO HIM. Every one. Every single one.

Time for the next miracle! Seriously I come to write you sometimes and I am flooded with emotions as I realize the tender mercies the Lord shows me in my life. Last week a member in our ward brought her friend and her little 5 year old son to church. Her name is Hitomi san. Hitomi is a miracle child! Apparently she came to a ward activity last year and has just been WAITING for Sister Hoshi to invite her to church! When she found that out Sister Hoshi was a little embarrassed that it took her so long, haha. Well Hitomi and her son both loved church and were there again this week. We were able to spend more time talking with her and she at one point asked, 'How does one go about joining this church??' Are there any words sweeter in the ears of a missionary???? We told her we wanted to start meeting with her and she was so cute and worried because she's sure we are 'so busy!' All the while Sister Soderborg and I are thinking, 'There is not a missionary in Japan that is too busy for you sweetheart!!' We told her we were free on Wednesday. She said, 'I drop my son off at the bus at 10....I'll be here at 10:30!' We are so excited to start working with her. The work is hastening!! I testify of that with all my heart.

I was on splits this last week and there were people coming up to US on the train asking 'Hey are you the Mormon missionaries??' I could not believe it!!! Haha BTW on splits I was with a little Japanese sister named Sister Taneda. She is on transfer three right now. She is SO MUCH like Sister Tomura I could not believe it! They are even friends. Her hair is the same, her personality identical, and her work ethic is through the roof. I thought, you know, me being on 8 and her being on 3 that I'd be leading her around but NOPE she was on FIRE and I was just grateful for the energy to keep up with her! I felt I was with Sister Tomura again, it was crazy.

So this is already longer then anyone probably wanted to read, but if you made it this far, thanks for staying with me! Mom and Dad I love you so much and I miss you to pieces. Thank you so much for everything you did to get me here. I would not be here with out you. Please please pray for Hitomi and her little son. She is a single mom and so anxious to find peace from her past and bring her son into the light of the gospel. It is such a good place for him and he recognizes that. If she joins the church he will be raised in the gospel. This is such a critical time for them. Every prayer brings so much power! I know your prayers have blessed the lives of my precious friends so much already.

 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy half-way thru February...good heavens!

For starters today I would like to enlighten you on some good solid proof that I am hitting my year mark this week.
 
Number1# I lost my shaving razors. Guess where Soda Shimai found them a few days later? The freezer drawer.

Number2# I had finished cooking and had already turned off the stove, but kept hearing a sizzling noise. Confused I finally turned to the pan and found that I'd left the spatula in a way that the handle had then melted itself to my pan. Fooo.

Number3# I consider a bowl of warm rice mixed with nothing but canned tuna a delicious meal.
 
Number4# When people ask what I did the day before it takes me about five minutes of stumbling around my head before I admit that I don't remember.

Number5# I have dreams that our apartment has a heated toilet seat. (It doesn't)
 
Number6# There are eight devils (one more jumps on each transfer) sitting on me in the morning when I try to get up!

Okay now for some serious stuff! So we had zone meeting this week. For the first time in a while I actually have two American Zone leaders! Anyways, they are both in Machida and informed me that they just set a date with Yuu san. Remember that guy? The Philosopher? I am way excited. Maybe something has finally clicked in that incredible brain of his.
 
We had another miracle yesterday. In Kofu Sundays are always miracle days! So a few weeks ago we were doing area book dendo and I called this lady named Idonah. She is from the Philippeans and has lived in Japan for 7 years and is married to a Japanese man. She was so thrilled to receive the call from us, and was even more thrilled when we told her there was an LDS church building in Kofu. She promised to meet us there as soon as her work schedule would allow. She lives about 30 minutes away by train so we sent her an English and Tagalog Book of Mormon in the mail. I was able to talk to her a few more times over the next two weeks or so. Finally she got Sunday off and called to say she was coming to church. On Sunday morning while Soda Shimai taught eikaiwa, I hopped into a car with Sister Hosaka to pick up Idonah from the eki. On the way back to the church we were talking and suddenly, to our great surprise, it comes out that she was already baptized when she was 10 years old in the Philippeans! Here we were thinking we were bringing a golden investigator to the church, when she was really a long-lost member! So surprised, but so happy. Later in Relief Society we were in a circle sharing spiritual experiences, and tearfully she admits that since she came to Japan she's been praying for God to help her find the church. Unexpectedly one day she saw LDS missionaries at the train station passing out fliers. They exchanged numbers but nothing happened for 9 months until she finally got the call from us. We are now in the process of finding her records and getting her settled in as a member of Kofu ward. :) She is so excited to come back next week. What a huge blessing it was to watch a faithful sister finally find the fold again!! I can hardly believe sometimes that God is so good as to let me take part in such precious experiences.

I had one of those 'wow' moments today during personal study, where you look back and realize how much has happened in the past year. Something reminded me of something that was very life-changing for me at the MTC. In my deepest desires and hopes to become what the Lord wanted me to be, to be able to give myself and my will fully and completely over to him, he asked me to give him what I was most frightened of giving. That experience was very personal and a huge turning point in my quest to follow God. Looking back to that experience and the ones that came as I went onward into the mission field, I realize that there is something much bigger to all this then just a pile of memories. I am indeed very weak and very human. But my heart is so full because God has blessed me so much. He has strengthened me and preserved me and walked by me as I've faced some of the steepest mountains in my life. The interesting thing is that the steepest challenges for me did not come from outside circumstances, but were rather the monsters I had to chase out of my own closets. I guess I just want to testify that we are not alone. This life is not the end. And if we follow the Savior, our chance for progression will have no end. I am not the best missionary. I still struggle to make the right choice at times. I am still tired in the mornings and don't always talk to the person next to me on the train. I am not perfect. But somehow, that is okay right now. This is the 'becoming perfect' phase, right? So...on we go! As stated by Joseph Smith, '...on, on to the victory!'

Life goes on here in Kofu. :)
 
Oh!! I almost forgot!! So at this end of this transfer a handful of sisters are going home...which will leave us with 18 sister missionaries in Tokyo...and then guess how many are coming in??????................12!!!!!!!!!!!! Is the math making sense in your head? There will only be 6 of us NOT training next transfer! So since about my 4th transfer there have only been 1-0 sisters coming in and lots more going out. And now they are about to come in with a boom!! We are so excited and nervous and working hard to prepare ourselves for the burst that is coming over the course of the year! So exciting!

Monday, February 11, 2013

8 transfers old

Ai suru okaasan to otoosan...
 
Your little girl is growing up out here in the valley of grapes and rice fields! I am celebrating turning 8 transfers old today. What a strange concept that is! I remember not so long ago gazing up all wide-eyed at the Shimai who were 8's and older, marvelling at the skill and wisdom I was sure they had. Now I'm sitting on 8 and thinking....well....still don't have all the answers, still am not perfect at Japanese, still haven't overcome my shortcomings, still wondering what exactly they were thinking when they sent a little whimsical Utah girl studying Russian and working at Wal-Mart to an Asian nation as a representative for the Lord. Haha. I guess that's okay though. If anything I'm just 8 transfers more humble, 8 transfers more in love with Japan, 8 transfers better at taking off my shoes and recycling my bottle caps, 8 transfers more reliant on the Savior and his grace, 8 transfers more sure that the only things that really matter in this world are the gospel and the family.

The last week of the transfer started off on a high with a sleep-over at the sister's apartment in Shibuya, along with 6 other far-away-area shimai. The next morning was the temple session for the missionaries. The temple was great. The bus ride home was long, but colored with the beautiful mountains and scenery of Yamanashi ken. Did you know that Japanese people don't believe in going around mountains? They prefer staying on the strait and narrow....even if it means blowing a hole through an entire mountain. I'm not even kidding! There are tunnels we go through getting out here that are miles and miles long. They don't let anything get in their way out here I'll tell you what!

The rest of the week was, honestly, a bit boring. Since Emily and Uyama shimai's baptism and confirmation, about all our teaching stopped, and we were left with many white and quiet days. This got us out knocking and walking and knocking and waiting and calling and knocking just about the entire week. And, until Sunday, absolutely nothing came of it. We had some interesting conversations, but didn't get past a single genkan. I wasn't sure what we would be walking into this transfer with, but then Sunday came. On Sunday we had Junpei in church, as well as our new miracle family. We found the Nakajima family when we were out with a member looking for long-lost inactive members. The mom was baptized a long time ago in Tokyo and eventually, for whatever reason, fell out of contact with the church. She was excited to find us at her door, especially she lives way out in the countryside. Since she became less active after joining the church none of her 4 children have been baptized. On Sunday she came with two of her sons to eikaiwa (which we hold in the morning before church) and they accepted the invitation to come to sacrament meeting afterwards. Her sons are 17 and 26. We adore them!! The 17-year-old's name is Eisuke. He is such a sweetie...has the most pure smile and bright spirit. He has a little speech impediment, where he has a hard time getting out words when he feels nervous, but he is awesome. His hobby is making these incredible intricate little statues of Disney characters. I can't wait to send you pictures. The 26-year-old is Hiroyuki. Throughout sacrament he was genuinely interested and expressed so after the meeting. Sunday was great too because the stake president came. Haha oh and just as they were preparing to start the opening song I found the bishop kneeling by my pew, asking if I would be willing to speak right before the stake president....hahahaha! Go figure.

After church the SA's threw a welcome party for Emily. She didn't know beforehand that she was the center of the activity, haha, it was awesome.
 
I have to tell you something cute about our little ward here. So I wore a skirt to church on Sunday that had a hole in the back from my bike. Sunday night Sister Hosaka calls us and tells us she is coming to measure our waists in the morning, and her and some of the other relief society sisters were going to have a get-together-to-make-the-shimai-skirts party!! Hahaha. That's the type of ward we have here in Kofu. And for some reason she is also really concerned about our shoes, so on Thursday before she takes us to visit less actives she is determind that we also go to a shoe store....They are so sweet here.
 
So...turns out that although sometimes nothing comes from knocking on endless doors...heaven is watching, and somehow all that walking and knocking brought about miracles in a different way. The thing that has been boggling my mind since coming to Kofu is the mercy and grace that just pours down from heaven, although I don't deserve a drop of it. Seriously I don't earn a single miracle. This work is the Lord's. These people are also His. I cannot cease to marvel at the blessings I watch him drop down from his throne on high. May I never forget or stop looking towards him!

Time for some fun facts about Japan....
1) Take-out boxes are illegal.
2) They sell bread in baggies of about 5-6 slices and not in loaves.
3) They don't believe in dryers.
4) Walking and eating at the same time is rude.
5) Hugging is really really weird. Except it's become a norm among the Mormons. :)
6) Toilets are, almost everywhere, equipped with heated seats.
7) When you use a public restroom, as soon as you sit down, this noise of a running stream starts playing. They feel that the sounds of going to the bathroom are unpleasant.
 
Anyway....I think that is all for now. I sure love you though. :)
Sionara!!!!