Monday, January 28, 2013

A late white Christmas

On Tuesday night we got a text from Emily saying that her mom was feeling a bit better, and that she wanted to come to eikaiwa (English class) the next evening. We were thrilled and told her to come early so we could talk. She came about an hour before. We had a good talk and ended up teaching about tithing (which she took without a blink) and then about her baptism. This was the day her interview was actually supposed to be, but had been cancelled in relation to her moms accident. We told her, however, that she could still be baptized on Sunday if she felt she was ready. She did. We called Elder Miura and shared the happy news and begged him to come down to Kofu for her interview.

Emily is a very special spirit. We don't really feel like she's needed us much at all, but we're so grateful to be with her during this monumental point in her life. Her baptism was held right after church on Sunday, and a good chunk of the ward was able to attend. The service ran smoothly and, although she was nervous, her fears were calmed by our sweet bishop and the Spirit. She requested to be baptized by Bishop Kumamoto. He is our big teddy-bear ward daddy. He's the type who's to be found in the church halls carrying and chasing down children during meetings. He helped us with Emily from the beginning and even came to some of her lessons, and they quickly became good friends. Emily's closing testimony was confident and accompanied by a powerful spirit. After the service everyone lined up to say congratulations and to give her more gifts then she could even fit on her bike. We are so proud of our Emily! Her baptism is in answer to many prayers and the beautiful people of Kofu ward. They've given so much to missionary work and the Lord is blessing them. We walked back to our apartment from the church yesterday, and I was marveling at the miracle of baptism and Emily and how the Lord has seen fit to bless us her in Kofu.  

Can I just say, I love being in this middle bit of my mission! I love being on transfer 7. Every transfer brings its own changes and challenges, and during this one I've felt something in my mind open a blue sky, opening a window, throwing open curtains...and I've found myself on the other side of the hill from being a follower and a junior, to walking in my own two shoes. Released from the pressures of other's expectations and demands, and let free into the realm of being the missionary I am day to day because of my choices and my relationship with God. We're far out here with our little land of Kofu all to ourselves, doing the best we can to serve not because someones looking over our shoulder, but because we want to be here giving our best to the Lord. In many ways the responsibility has heightened, and sometimes I feel that since we are so free to do our thing here, that we report strait to the angels watching over us each day. It's been a great learning experience. The Lord is close to us here. And though I can hardly believe the shortcomings and flaws that beset me daily, His grace comes to meet me when I reach towards heaven.

My heart is full this week. I'd like to share some of the day-to-day miracles we have been seeing. On Thursday, despite our efforts, we were faced with an intimidating 'white day'. No appointments. We prayed and laid out the day the best we could, then hit the road. We decided first to go visit two less active members. Neither were home so we left them chocolate and little message cards. We then went housing in the surrounding area. We felt drawn to a blue apartment building down a small road. Nothing remarkable happened at that one, but we continued to it's neighboring building. The first person we found was a boy from Argentina. He spoke Japanese well enough to tell us about how he prays every day and, although his mom wasn't home at the time, he thought they might like to come to the Spanish Sunday school class on Sundays. Sister Soderborg just happened to have a copy of a pamphlet in Spanish. We continued on. In the very top apartment, a cute mom opened the door, a bouncing three-year-old at her side. She listened for a minute, trying to keep her little one from darting out the door, when suddenly her husband appeared and said something, motioning towards us. At first we took this as bad news as a lot of the time, if the dad comes out, it means it's over. Turns out they were in the middle of their daughter's birthday party. He came out and listened to us politely, saying that he has seen our church before, but, what we are doing must sure be hard in Japan because most people have closed hearts to Christianity. We stated simply that we believe in families that last forever, and that we are here to share that with whoever will listen. He thought about that, and then surprised us by asking us to please come back later. They are a super awesome little family, and we are so excited to start teaching them. Right after that we got a call from a busy 20 year old PI who said she had time right then to meet us at the eki. We rushed back and were able to eat lunch with her. That night we also had Junpei agree to give us ten minutes on skype so that we could read the Book of Mormon together. Boom. It was a miracle day. Junpei also has a baptismal date for next month.

I can't say every white day is filled with obvious miracles. But the Lord truly blesses us when we go out in diligence and do our best. Sometimes the blessings don't come that day. Sometimes they don't come that week. But they always come. I feel like many of the struggles that overwhelmed me throughout the first months of my mission, are being met with God's mercy now as he leads special people into my life, and also as he helps me now grow into something more then I could have without being first cut down a little. Ok, cut down a lot...but I realize that as I am cut and cast down into a broken world with weakness, I can "cast all [my] cares upon him, for he careth for [me]" (1 Peter 5:7) Though it's a hard lesson to learn and even a harder one to teach, this life wasn't meant to be easy. But it is worth it. Just as the hairs of our head are numbered, I believe the tears of our heart, too, are numbered. And though really sometimes I feel that I can't overcome myself, he reminds me, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) And I testify that he has.

So in gratitude for the many prayers and the big love I feel from you each day of my life, I end for now. Thank you for teaching me to trust God. :) Your examples and never failing faith have made the difference for me. I love you.

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