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.