Coming to Kofu has been special to me somehow. Like slipping into an old sweater, or coming in a warm house from the snow. I feel like I belong here. Something just tells me that, right now, I am supposed to be here. Like it's always been the plan. The feeling is beautiful and sweet. There is a peace and a burning that has entered my heart since coming here. I wish I could describe it better, but it's one of those things that you feel much more then you can say.
Shogatsu gave me the chance to learn quickly about the ward and its fantastic members. We had 7 invites to peoples homes last week- all of them nearly back to back every day. I didn't know I was capable of digesting so much food!! And have you heard of mochi? Basically Japanese people are big fans of rice, and they've come up with every possible way to eat it. Mochi is one of them. To make mochi they get together and have 'mochisuki' which is kind of like a big party where everyone puts rice in these big log looking things and then pound it with mallets until it becomes this chewy white block of....well...mochi. Sometimes they add things like nuts or sea weed or sweet beans, and there are about a million different ways to eat it. One little block of mochi equals about one bowl of rice. Are you starting to understand the danger of mochi??? It's a good thing we are running every morning this transfer! "How many pieces of mochi would you like in your soup?" "Hmm maybe one would be good?" "Here have three!!" Hahaha. It was lots of fun though.
The members here are special. And I mean that with all my heart. They act like one big family here in Kofu. And they love us. They really take care of us, too. During Shogatsu they would drive us and coordinate with other people we were visiting the same day and take us from place to place...without us saying a word. Pretty much we just sat back and enjoyed the ride! We'd be sitting in the back of their car and they'd be on the phone with another member, talking about us and where they were taking us and what time we'd get where...Soderborg and I would just smile and laugh to ourselves. They also love to dendo with us and often call to take us out to visit less actives or do service. There are handfuls of members who jump at the opportunity to teach with us, and nearly everyone is willing to bend over backwards for the investigators. They even decide a week in advance who will sit with our investigators the next week, and who are the best fellowshippers. I've only been here a week and I am blown over impressed. I feel like we are here to help them in their already diligent efforts to bring other unto Christ. There is a prophecy from Elder Eyring about the work of the Lord flooding Japan, because of a change that will start in the hearts of the members. Kofu is right on top of it!
One interesting fact about being in Kofu is that I'm only about one hour away from the Nagoya mission home...and over two hours away from my own. The Nagoya missionaries are right on the other side of Fuji san! Another great thing about Kofu...my apartment building has an elevator! And is literally right across from the church. Soderborg Shimai says that if she needs something at the church she'll make me get it while she watches from the window. It is a HUGE blessing being right next to the church building! Especially since my bike took a while to get here. Actually that ended up not being so bad because one of the members lent me their old mama-chari! I'm telling you, my happiness levels SIGNIFICANTLY increase when I start floating down the road on a mama-chari! I've been asking myself what I've been doing on a mountain bike...
Being with Sister Soderborg is a HOOT. I am NOT even kidding when I say that I laugh SO much with her that my abs are legitimately SORE. I have nearly choked on my water, or food, or mochi multiple times thanks to this lady! It is nearly impossible to sing or keep a strait face through district meetings when I am sitting next to her. Seriously, she is going to kill me! And I'm going to laugh the whole way out. It's interesting being with an American. I'm wondering if all my old American habits are going to start slipping into my mannerisms again. Something else I've been noticing while being with an American is the fact that there is no way we could be doing the things we're doing (in particular, saying the things we are saying) if the Lord's hand wasn't in this work. We get people asking us all the time "How many years have you been in Japan?" and then are astounded when we give them a number of months instead of a number of years. The gift of tongues isn't always necessarily a moment where you start spitting out words you've never said in your life- it's more often God blessing your mind with the capacity to study harder, learn faster, and retain things you've studied as higher levels then you otherwise could.
I want to share an experience now that actually happened a few weeks ago back in Machida. It was simple, but touched my heart. It was Sunday, during the last hour of church, which was Sacrament meeting. I was sitting by a less active member who was in church for the first time in years. It was one of those Sundays where I was exhausted and it was all I could do not to fall asleep through the meeting. There was a member of the stake presidency visiting our ward. He is actually half American, but grew up in Japan and is married to a Japanese woman. He is also the Japanese translator for President Monson. Anyway he was the last speaker and I was really trying to listen because I look up to him and wanted to hear his message. I don't remember now what the subject of his talk was that day, but I do remember that during one point something in his countenance changed and he began talking about missionaries. His hand went over his heart and he said that he, unexpectedly, felt strongly that he wanted to share his gratitude for the missionaries in Japan. He got a little emotional and went on to share how the missionaries leave behind everything to come and give their all to the Lord for a few years of their lives. He mentioned Sister Oseki and I by name in his talk. I was really touched by this. After the meeting, he came purposefully up to me and shook my hand. As I began to thank him for his talk, he looked me in the eyes and said, "I don't know what that was today...I just..." and then he paused and looked away, trying to find what he wanted to say, and then: "Well...Sister Wylie. The Lord loves you." and that was all.
I am so grateful for a father in heaven, who cares enough about little me, to send me a message of love through one of his priesthood servants. That Brother knew of the Lord's love. He felt it. What he didn't know was that my heart was desperately seeking for the light that he gave to me through his simple words, "Sister Wylie, the Lord loves you." The previous week I'd been through a whirlwind of unexpected challenges that started with my companion going to the hospital and our four baptismal dates failing. In my self doubt and feelings of inadequacy, I was starting to worry if I just wasn't enough. Through the Spirit, that touched the heart of this good brother, I was reminded of a loving Savior who has a perfect love for me, and who is not condemning me for my shortcomings. In reality, he stands with his arms outstretched, waiting for me to come to him. He doesn't live to judge us or make us feel bad when we fail. He lives to comfort us. He lives to love us. And he lives to save us.
God is in the details of our lives.
Something else that touched me in Machida is the beauty and purity of little children. Every week I taught English to a lively group of 3-year-old's whose families we'd found through streeting and housing in the local area. I grew to love these beautiful young families. Before each class we would open with a prayer. Now I would sometimes worry about trying to have a good experience with prayer with a bunch of such young girls. But I worried for nothing. After teaching them and their mothers how to pray, they participated every week with reverence. There is nothing that could've touched my heart more then these little girls sitting quietly at the table, fingers laced together, eyes squeezed shut and heads bowed, listening to the prayer. My last week one of the moms even commented after the prayer about how cute and precious it is watching them pray with us. I hope hope hope with all my heart that those wonderful mothers felt something as we prayed with their little girls! I hope they realize that there is someone up there, that the prayers are going beyond the walls of the room, to someone who loves them and their babies with an infinite love. Oh that I could make them understand that!
Okay this is getting long but back to Kofu for just a moment....I have to share a few of our miracles. Number one: we had three investigators in church on Sunday! Number two: one of those was there for the first time, and is a self referral named Emily. She has an American name but is actually Japanese. Emily is one of the most beautiful, most prepared people I have ever met. She ate up everything and took every book or pamphlet she could get her hands on. She was so happy to be there...and had so much light! Everyone kept asking what ward she was from because they thought she was already a member! I know my explanation is brief but there was a moment where I couldn't believe such an amazing person was sitting next to me throughout church...and then, I did believe it. Because we work under a God of miracles. Emily is so special. Please please pray for her. We are meeting her tomorrow at the church.
Number 3: Sister Soderborg gave a lesson in Spanish on Sunday to a Bolivian part-member family in our ward. Does Sister Soderborg speak Spanish? No! That's why it's in the miracle section. :) And yes it made my whole day to walk in a room filled with Bolivian people! The funny thing was I even had my Bolivian bag and photo book. Unfortunately I could not come up with A WORD of Spanish to save my life!!
I love you all so much. Oh!! By the way the bishop has a young teenage son who has autism, whose name is Kazuki kun. Kazuki kun has quickly become one of my favorite people in the ward. He can't talk much but is so adorable. He pretty much does what everyone else feels like doing but are too polite to do. He knew we were going with his mom to visit the Bolivian family and he was ready to go, so he grabbed Sister Soderborg's arm and pulled her out to the car, opened the door, and motioned wildly for her to get inside. He then went back to get his mother (who loves to talk) and tried the same approach. When pulling on her arm didn't work, he went in between her and the other members and pushed her until she began moving towards the car. Once we were all in he started motioning again and Sister Soderborg speaks charades so she figured out he wanted us to put on our seatbelts. Seriously he is ADORABLE. I'll try to get a picture with him soon.