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!