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.