Monday, July 22, 2013

Beautiful haha and chichi!!

Oh what a week this has been! Teaching, finding, training exchanges, meetings, teaching my girls how to use maps, soaking up lots of hot sunlight. Full of some interesting challenges and mental battles, perhaps the usual ones that come to us at the end of our missions. Some heavy realizations and thoughts come to us in times such as these. Satan sure saves some nasty tricks for the last few weeks! BUT..he will not win!

We had a lesson with Iwai Nozomi Shimai at her house on Tuesday. That day we actually were a little disappointed because she didn't seem quite ready to be invited to baptism. But we left her with a strong challenge to pray fervently to know if this was the path God wanted her to take.
 
It was a rather long week until Sunday, that started out with curry-making in the morning for our afternoon Chinese party. My beautiful curry ended up all over Sister Lowry's new dress on the car ride to the church. Something to do with a particularly passionate Asian driver. Church attendance was also a bit discouraging. However, our day brightened when Nozomi made it to Sacrament meeting and said she had something special to tell us. After the meeting we gathered around a bit nervously, and she began saying how touched she was by time we've given to her, and how much we've helped her the past few months. She said she'd been thinking about it, and one night when she came home to find her door posted with hearts and thank you notes from us, something clicked. She announced that although she doesn't know everything yet, she wants to be baptized. !!!!!!!!! She's prayed and says it feels like the right thing to do. She's actually moving back to live with her parents in August, but with the help of her member friend, has located a ward there only 20 minutes from her home. Although there is still a lot she doesn't understand, she sees the lives of the members and how they think, and their perspective on life, and she wants that.

We are planning her baptism for the same week Sister Long and I go home.
 
Our Nozomi chan is getting baptized! :)
 
Thank you so much for all your prayers and thoughts sent this way. I testify that your prayers are so powerful, and that they are felt strongly on this side of the ocean. There is something that links us all together, something that comes from being made by the same great creator. And when we pray, oceans are crossed, mountains are breached, and we all draw a little bit closer to that heavenly home. Please keep Nozomi in your prayers as she prepares over the next few weeks to enter the gate. Oh how we love her. The three of us were just beaming yesterday. Once she left, Sister Lowry recommended we pray and thank the Lord for this great miracle. How powerful it was to slip into a quiet room with them and pray together in gratitude. I testify that Heaven is listening for us!

Monday, July 15, 2013

His Work

This past week was BUSY. It ended with a matsuri  (summer festival) on Saturday night with the ward. We'd been working hard to invite lots of people since it would be a great opportunity to mingle members and investigators as well as show the ward we are serious about being missionaries here. The Lord blessed us tremendously! We had FOUR families, two investigators, two of their friends, an eikaiwa student, and a load of kids that go to school with the bishop's family. It was amazing! The ward went crazy. They were saying yesterday that more non-members came than members! Which was quite close to being true. It was ward-conference weekend so the stake leaders and families were in our ward. Sacrament meeting ended with a passionate talk by the stake president preaching unity and charity and faith, as well as missionary work. He ended by pulling out a hymnbook with one of the bookmarks Sister Long and I made our first transfer here and put in all the hymnbooks for the ward. We'd written a message about how excited we were to work in the beautiful city of Kiryu and to live our mission theme of 'United in So Great a Cause' as we combined efforts with the ward members. He read it with vigor and urged the ward to love the missionaries and get involved in bringing our brothers and sisters unto Christ. It was moving and I think many people were touched. So grateful for the great leadership in the church here.

We have been just dying to set a baptismal date with Iwai Nozomi! She is so special to me, and so ready! But wow things have been playing against us. We finally have an appointment with her at her home tomorrow. That will be a first. Her member friend is coming too and we are going to run it like a Family Home Evening. We are going to invite her to be baptized on July 28th. Oh please pray for my sweet Nozomi! She is so prepared, and so ready. It is one of my biggest desires this transfer to see her fully embrace the gospel. Cool thing about Iwai san; her first name, Nozomi, in Japanese means 'desire.'

I don't think I quite know how to think or feel about this month of my mission. I feel strongly that my mission won't end when I take off my tag. If anything, the most important things I've learned by being a missionary is how to be a member missionary for the rest of my life. My offering to the Lord won't be finished when I step onto the plane. The changing of countries and faces and languages may throw me through a loop, but through 18 months of transfers I've learned that there are people everywhere who need God's love. Wherever we go, there is always someone, one of God's precious children, who is waiting for His light to come to them through us. No doubt my heart may nearly be torn in half after leaving my country of Japan. I can already feel the tugging when I stare down into little Asian eyes and hold little Asian hands. But I also feel I will be back someday.

The real thing that scares me is if I've finished all the Lord sent me here to do. My offering to him is so meager. My part so small. But then I realize that the 'my' in all of this means little. It is 'His.' His work. His glory. His mission. His people. I've been simply a steward. I guess it really hasn't been about me at all. Sometimes I've been caught up in 'my mission' and 'my baptisms' and 'my success' when really none of it belongs to me.

And although I know I am and have not been enough, I've learned: He is enough.
 
And for me, that is enough.
 
Oh help me not to forget!

Friday, July 12, 2013

NIKKO

So we spent pretty much our whole day today with some fabulous members who took us to NIKKO! About an hour and a half drive away from here, deep into, and up into the tops of the mountains! SO BEAUTIFUL. You would not believe this place. The shrine/temple is over 500 years old. We saw two huge monkeys on our drive up!
LOVE YOU SO MUCH!
 
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy July.......?????????????!

I am not sure how else to start this letter except to tell you that I have been 'megumarete' or incredibly blessed with the two most wonderful, amazing sisters! We picked up Sister Linquist from the Mission Home on Wednesday. Feels like I've been there quite a lot lately! I can hardly believe that the same building I came walking out of a year ago, wide-eyed and clueless and a little scared, was the same one I've walked out of twice now with new missionaries. Pretty sure though that these two beautiful sisters were sent here to help me on my path to discipleship- not the other way around.
 
Sister Lowry has just bloomed this transfer!! Oh I have been so impressed with her and how she has broken through so many walls this transfer. She is happy and full of light and is such a blessing to the people here. Her Japanese is incredible- people here can hardly believe how quickly she is learning. I was so proud of her yesterday as we were teaching an unplanned lesson to three Japanese university students at the church, and after I finished explaining about something, without prompt, she jumped right in with her thoughts and testimony. She is a fully contributing member of our companionship, and has helped me so much as I've become the leader of this area and the surrounding sisters.

Now about Sister Linquist! She is from Springville and is a few months older than me. Comes from a family of five, with two older brothers. Worked at Melville Stables when she was eleven and loves horses, even did some competition when she was younger. Majoring in Landscaping. Plays the cello. She is SO chill and easy going, and has slipped right into Kiryu and into our companionship. We just love her. We all seem to be the easy-going type and have managed to have very peaceful relationships. I just love these girls!! I come close to tears at night because of how blessed I feel to be companions with them. They are prepared and ready to serve. I don't have to 'train' them. I just have to 'be' a good example, and then make sure to stay out of their way as they shine.

There is one simple experience I had last week that I wanted to share. Every Tuesday morning all the leaders in the mission join in on a conference call with President Budge and talk about the previous week's baptisms, the upcoming week's baptisms, and about the overall status of the mission. It was my first time sitting in on the call without Sister Long in the same area, and as I listened to the miracles happening and thought about the responsibility I have for this area, I felt the weight of all I need to do and be here come down heavily on my shoulders. Honestly it was scary at first, leaving me a bit breathless, and then the doubts started to come in. Was I enough? How could I possibly lead this area, let alone all the sisters I have responsibility for? Who was I to ask heaven's hand? Who was I anyway? Amidst my weaknesses and flaws could I really pull enough together to guide this area and these people? I was walking down that little negative mental path in my head when suddenly I stopped. A voice inside me said, that those thoughts weren't mine, and they weren't His. And the simple words came to mind, "Choose to believe."

Although I could almost physically feel a force pulling me downward, trying to make me give in to the doubt, I took that step back upward, and with all the mental energy I could muster, I told God, "I choose to believe....I CHOOSE to BELIEVE." And you know what happened? The doubt lifted. The burden lightened. And I found that sweet place just beyond the shadow of doubt, where the Savior's light can touch us. All it took was my choosing to turn to him. Choosing to believe. I still didn't know if I could do it. And I knew that in reality, I wasn't, and am not, enough. But when I made that choice, I felt a huge difference. Because although I'm not enough, He is enough. It was amazing how differently I felt moving forward after that moment.  

That seems to be the most prevalent message of my mission these past few months. It's been coming from many sources, and through many experiences. It's one of the great eternal truths I'm here to teach these people. Recently we've taken a new spin on how we introduce the Book of Mormon. Using the pictures in the front of the book, and also using a piece of paper that we fold into different shapes, we tell the story of Lehi's family that left Jerusalem. The paper becomes a compass, a boat, a house in the Americas, a divided house, a sword, and then finally it is torn in half as a nation is destroyed. But then we unfold the torn up pieces and the biggest is a cross. Because God sent Jesus Christ to the world to heal the world. Broken nations, broken families, broken hearts, broken people. He has power to make them whole. The rest of the shreds actually spell out the word 'love.' And we teach people about the love of Christ. It is really cool. Gives me chills every time we do it. It has made me see the Book of Mormon and the role Christ plays in our lives in a completely different way.

A few answers to your questions...yes they are showing the Work of Salvation broadcast to all the wards here. We are watching it little by little during companion study, in English. Sister Linquist was actually in the choir. :) She came into the mission knowing more than me what the church's vision is for missionary work. These truly are exciting times!

We had another meeting with the FMKiryu radio station, and are going on the air July 15th. I'll get you the link. ;)
 
Sister Long's new companion is the sweetest, most wonderful Japanese girl, from Nagoya. Oh we love her so much. And they are so happy together. Sister Kubota is her name. At the testimony meeting with the new missionaries and trainers she said she was going to speak in English because we were all working so hard to speak Japanese. She spent some time studying at BYU Hawaii and told us how well she understands the difficulty of being in a foreign country and trying to learn the language. How all you can do is smile, even if your heart is aching inside. Her testimony just made me want to cry and cry. I prayed so hard for Sister Long to get a companion like her!

We have some wonderful investigators right now. I don't think I know how to finish a mission. At least I can find so much peace in the fact that I'm leaving this area in the hands of Sister Linquist and Sister Lowry. Mom and Dad I love them so much!!! I have been so blessed!