Monday, April 22, 2013

A teaching missionary is a happy missionary!

I am still out here in my little Kiryu! And having the time of my life with Sister Long. I cannot even tell you how MUCH I love being her companion again. It is miraculous! And there is no one in the mission I would rather be with right now, as we were both called as the first multi-zone Sister Training Leaders this past week. Blows my mind away! Not sure what all our responsibilities are yet...but isn't it crazy? Sisters have been joking forever about becoming the first sister Zone Leaders or APs...and now it's happening. And it's the face looking back at me in the mirror! Hah! What are they thinking?

Other then that it has been a busy week! The Lord's hand is in Kiryu. We see it every day. The dendo has really caught fire and we've even had days with back-to-back appointments and all kinds of miracles. God has been sending us referrals like never before on my mission. It is really humbling to think about. I don't know why the Lord sent us here together at this time....but oh I breath in the days and they are so sweet.
It's fun to see how Sister Long and I shoulder the responsibilities we have here, and how things naturally fall into place for us as a companionship. We feel a big time has come for Kiryu! Of course there are many challenges. Although the dendo has caught fire, there are some interesting knots in the ward that are related to people who work closely with us and our investigators, so that is where we are feeling the most friction. But we've been brightening up the church! Last Sunday we made these cool bookmarks for the hymnbooks with a message about unity and a picture of our mission logo. We were walking down the hallway on Sunday and could see Brother Kodaka showing it to all the primary kids. We also set up a big missionary stand/board with all sorts of things for investigators, and a place to post all the things we're doing and to write miracles we see and put pictures. They love it. We wrote up the little miracle about finding the Oizumi church from a few weeks ago, and Brother Kodaka saw it and asked us to speak about it during Sacrament meeting that day. We're also working on hanging up pictures all around the church...but the walls turned out to be much harder than we thought. Still working on that one. My favorite thing to talk about with members is how we have so much hope for Kiryu and how we feel a special time has come for this place. I've started seeing the light of that hope flickering in their eyes. We refuse to let them tell us this is a hard place with hard people...and God is giving us every reason to believe otherwise.

We had a lesson with Ogiwara san this week where we taught him the Plan of Salvation. I've never seen someone soak it up the way he did. I slapped the first piece on the table of 'zense' or 'pre-earth life' and it took his attention immediately. Piece by piece we laid it out on the table before him. At one point he put down one hand after pre-earth life and the other one down past 'death' and he said with emotion, "This is all I knew existed before." Although he's been to other churches before, that was all they were able to teach him about. When he first saw the pre-earth life piece he said it made him suddenly remember a dream he'd had when he was a teenager, where he'd been in a beautiful place with someone like God. He'd never understood what it meant before. It touched my heart so much to watch someone learn God's plan, God's purpose, for the very first time. I think maybe I've taken for granted the knowledge I've had since I was little. What a difference it has made in my life. It is such a pillar of hope for the weary traveller! The knowledge that this isn't the end. No matter how many sunsets paint our earthly lives, they will all turn to sunrises. Pain won't last forever. We don't have to stay the same. Our future is bright! We have a Savior! No matter how imperfectly we are loved or treated, there is one who loves us perfectly. Knows us perfectly. What a glorious truth I have been sent to share. May these experiences change my heart forever and turn my eyes to heaven!

That night he sent us the sweetest text message. "I have bright life since today, because I catch chance forever."
We are trying to soak in these days, because we know they are limited. It is certain I will only have this transfer with Sister Long, although we are hoping to both stay in Kiryu and train here. Thinking about my time left sends all kinds of strange feelings through my soul, and honestly I can't really think about it right now. Heart can't quite take it. For now I am here and trying to sink my feet in the ground as deep as they'll go!

I love you so much! Life is beautiful. :) Please pray for our sweet Kiryu!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The country of Kiryu...

Being at this point in my mission is amazing. It's beautiful. There are challenges of course and I'm not perfect at Japanese and there are still things I don't know, but I feel so much more...what's the word....settled in my heart. The stress and uncertainty isn't there anymore. We were sitting in a lesson yesterday with an investigator and the two members who had referred him and Long Shimai were talking and I felt so settled into my purpose and my role as a missionary, and could feel the quiet confidence in my heart that the Lord knows my name and that I am where he would have me be. It's not such a big deal anymore that I'm not perfect at teaching or speaking or being a missionary. I wasn't sent here to be perfect. I was sent here to become perfect. And to enjoy the journey. :)
There is such a great work to be done here in Kiryu. It is their time. I feel it so strongly in my heart. And whether I'm only here a few more weeks or until the end of my mission, I'll pour my heart out to help these people. They deserve all that I can give.

A few nights ago I had an interesting experience. I was in my futon getting ready to sleep but I was overcome with this fear of bad things that could happen. And I was afraid that because I was afraid that it would actually happen. It was kind of silly. But it was late and I was tired and I let myself think too much. Anyway....we said companion prayers and then I began my personal prayer. I pleaded for peace and safety and, honestly, didn't know if I would feel any different because of the prayer. But as I continued the most amazing thing happened. I felt as if a blanket of security was being wrapped around me, until my heart felt completely at peace, and it was as if someone very real were there and protecting me. It was such a tangible feeling. I was so surprised, and humbled.
God is so good!
Now I have to share with you our experiences on Saturday! So we went out before conference began to look for some less actives that lived waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out somewhere we hadn't been before. Well we get all the way out there and can't find it and end up wandering around for a bit, all the while time is ticking because we needed to be back for conference. Finally we found two old men to ask for directions. It was such a funny sight. We're seriously up on the mini mountain amidst rice fields and plows and winding roads and Long Shimai was crouched on the ground in her helmet searching over a map with this old grandpa, his huge scruffy dog sitting there with big eyes. We thought we figured it out but couldn't find it before time ran out and we had to go back. It is seriously Japanese country out here! We were cruising down this road laughing at the lack of anything but fields and plows in our view. Okay so I wish that was the only adventure of our Saturday but it wasn't. We did make it back to conference and our Investigator, Dai san, (he tells us frequently that it is pronounced the same as 'die',) made it to church. Afterwards we had an appointment to visit an old less-active former army captain soldier guy who lived out in the opposite direction. Well we studied religiously the googlemaps view on our computer, took a few notes, then headed out. We ended up pushing our bikes up a mountain and into this little hidden mystery village tucked away where no one would think to look for it. Well we get up there to the road where I thought Captain Fujinuma lived only to have a lady tell us there was no one up here by that name. She looked at our address and told us google had brought us to the completely wrong part of Kiryu. !!

Well we did manage to find the Captain's house at least. And we got to sail down that mountain we pushed our bikes up. Good heavens though! IT was worth it because he is hilarious. Totally an army guru. The only English he knows is Army lingo, so whenever he would walk out for a minute he would say, 'please stand by...' and then in his prayer he asked God to bless us on our 'operation mission.' So cute! Even though he is less active, thanks to him the ward had two baptisms last year, and they are both active and happy in the ward. 
Oh!! That investigator we had a lesson with on Sunday? His name is Ogiwara Akira san. And he wants to get baptized. :) We set a date for him for May 5th! Very excited. If you would keep him in your prayers it would mean the world to me. Also, Hitomi san (Kofu) was supposed to be getting baptized this coming Sunday but just after I left her son broke his leg...poor little guy! So she's a bit behind on lessons. I miss her so much! We had an emotional parting, but with hopes that I'll be able to come back for her baptism. Might be tough though because it's so far away and expensive.

A few more exciting things....we tripled our English class attendance last week! (It went from 0-3....hahaha.) Also, they put sisters back in Koiwa! Which means I can probably go on splits there soon if I beg hard enough. Also, I am going on splits tomorrow to Oizumi! That Brazilian community I mentioned last week.
Our funny moment of the day...we have an investigator who lives across the street from the church, and we were outside waiting for her. Her dad pulls up in his car and marvels for a minute at the two Americans (there aren't a lot of us out here) then pulls out a harmonica and begins playing away! He claimed he was playing hymns...


Monday, April 8, 2013

; )

It is hard to believe a week has already flown by since I came to Kiryu!! Yet here we are! I still look over at Sister Long on a daily basis and can't believe we're companions again. It's funny, really. We both met in Shinjuku (Tokyo) and rode the train out here together. Both of us coming into this area not knowing a thing. It was like the MTC all over again. :) Except, somehow, we're standing together now on Japanese soil, a year of experience behind us and the 'prime' months of our mission sliding by beneath our shoes. It is the strangest feeling.

So...Kiryu!!! They actually brought sister missionaries here for a few transfers after the big earthquake, but they had some health problems and other issues and eventually a sister went home early and then they moved sisters out entirely. There weren't enough missionaries to keep them here. But! They did keep the apartment. So although it was a bit dusty, we came right to a good place. When we first came there was a miscommunication with the Mission Home and we showed up with no phone or computer or any means of contacting anybody. All I can say did missionaries live without phones?? We did have a sweet member couple pick us up from the train station, take us to dinner, buy us groceries, and give us the apartment key. The members here have been waiting for us. President Budge was apparently here visiting the stake a few weeks ago and promised them sisters, so they've really been looking forward to our coming.
Kiryu is very interesting! The church building is big, but of peculiar shape. It used to be a warehouse and was later converted into a church. I think it looks kind of like a pet shop with a hotel on top. There are about 30 active members. There are no young women, and only 5 in the primary (3 of the 5 are the bishop's kids.) I think the men in the ward actually outnumber the women. We spent this morning at a relief society activity and there was only us and two other women from the ward. It was still way good. :) It didn't take long at all to come to adore these people. They are few, and it seems this little ward has had some tough struggles, but they are powerful. Sister Long and I have been feeling so strongly that God has some big things planned for our little ward. Oh we are just burning inside to love these people to pieces and light Kiryu on fire!

We were so humbled this week by the blessings God has sent to us. Our first day we started off without connection to the real world, and knowing little at best about this area. Within a few days we received 3 referrals, one of which even made it to church on Sunday. What's kind of funny is the ward really wants more sisters in the ward but all 3 of the referrals were men! Haha. Besides those three we were also able to find 3 former/new investigators, and make many new friends. Haha there are so few people just roaming around on the street that we talk to just about anybody we can find! And can I just say it is SUCH A MIRACLE BEING WITH LONG SHIMAI AGAIN! Oh I love her so much! It is SO INTERESTING being companions again after all this time. Remember how she is a crazy talented cartoon artist? Well we have a board with our investigators/potentials/LA/recent converts names posted on it, and she draws a face for each one. Pictures coming soon. :)

The trains out here are worse then Kofu and only come maybe once an hour going in directions we want. Oh! And about 50 minutes by train is the LDS Portuguese/Spanish speaking ward. They are nestled in a little town called Oizumi that is just bursting with people from South America. It is the only ward of its type in Tokyo mission so people come from all over. We had to go down there to meet our Zone Leaders after church yesterday to get our phone charger (that didn't  come in the package from the mission home with the phone) haha. We didn't really know where the church was and we had no way to ask them so we got the general location from our giant kitchen map and headed down to 'brazil'. Well we spent a good 20-30 minutes wandering around where we thought it was, with no luck, and decided there was really only one sensible thing to do. We stepped up by a little wall on the side of the road, closed our eyes, and prayed for help. We ended the prayer and sat and stared at each other for a few minutes. Didn't hear any voices so we picked a new road and started trekking down it. Not 5 minutes later a little Bolivian man comes riding past on his bike and we stop him to ask about the church. At first he didn't understand and thought we were trying to preach to him. Haha then finally his eyes got big and he was like, "Oh you're LOOKING for the church?" at which point I found a Spanish pamphlet in my bag and showed him the church's name in Spanish. He immediately turned around and started beckoning us to follow. We scrambled after him and within a few minutes we were standing in front of the rented floor of a business with the church logo on the outside. Prayer works!!

Anyway we are moving forward. We have no idea what the next few months will bring but we have such high hopes and are seeking every day to discover God's vision for our little Kiryu. So turns out even MORE sisters came then they were planning on this transfer! Haha. They surprised 2 sisters last minute and informed them they would be training! And here is the bit that blows us...there are only 4 sisters not training right now. And there are 10 new coming next transfer. Try chewing on that for a few minutes! God has something marvelous in mind although to us it may be overwhelming. These new sisters coming in are part of a group that is so special and so powerful. We are so blessed to have them here with us!