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!!!!