Monday, December 20, 2010

12/20/2010

Hello again. It's been a busy week, let's see if I can cover everything.


Ok, I need to pick up from a week ago today because that day was nuts. We had a good p-day, got our stuff done (the office elders do shopping for the entire apartment so we don't go grocery shopping), went to Luminarie as a district and then to family home evening where we planned on meeting two investigators. Neither showed up, so we were on our way our when one of the sister missionaries said we really needed to go upstairs to the kitchen because something was happening up there. I was worried. We went up there to find Shota-kun, a convert of six months and probably the most active member of the ward here. He's from Shikoku but is in Kobe going to college. Whenever I'm at the church, whether it be for an activity or for church, he's always there. He was in the kitchen sobbing uncontrollably. Probably the hardest I've ever seen a grown man cry. We just sat there and watched him for a solid five minutes, trying to comfort him but mostly just awkwardly watching him. I didn't know him well but knew he was a recent convert so I thought maybe he'd relapsed on an addiction or something. Finally, he said "Aruma yon-ju sho. Shinjitte imasuka?" (do you believe Alma 40?). We immediately turned to it and saw that it was about the resurrection and said of course we believed in it. Both of us were thinking "crap, someone died." He cried for a little while longer and then said we needed to go to his apartment. Then it got really scary. My companion said when we walked in, he was looking for a body. His apartment was one of the tiny-sort. The three of us barely fit in it.

When we got to the end of the hallway, there was a yellow dead bird lying on the floor. We read Alma 40 together in both Japanese in English (he wanted to make sure that I understood, he's a nice guy) and prayed together and then went back to the church where all of the other six missionaries and President McIntyre were waiting to comfort him. He really was torn up over it. I think he's just really pure. He has the heart of a child. This experience is probably hilarious to read, but I think it was really important that we were at FHE. If we hadn't had investigators, we wouldn't have planned on coming. He honestly looked like he could've been suicidal that night, but he's all happy now. The next morning, we had a funeral service....no I'm not kidding. It was short ten minute deal. We buried the bird, sang a hymn and said a prayer. Definitely a wild experience. Everyone kept saying that I'm definitely having the most bizarre first transfer of anyone else in the mission.

The next day was Eikaiwa. I finally felt sufficient for once. The language has been really frustrating up to this point. I'm not sure if I'm improving either. One thing I've realized is that I don't have Gaijin power. Japanese people are more willing to listen when a blond-haired, blue-eyed caucasian tries to talk to them than me. So, I need to make up for it with tact and cleverness. The problem is, I know how to say hardly anything, so people are baffled when they see me struggling to speak Japanese. To be honest it's humiliating. Even after I explain that my mother is Japanese, they ask me why I don't know how to speak and I have no answer. I'm doing everything I can to improve right now....and letting my companion do a lot of the talking.

We have met sooo many internationals. We met Minu from Nepal this week in McDonalds. She was sitting there all alone and looked rather lonely. We said hello to her (she speaks English) and she said she was here studying Japanese in order to enter college (just like our other investigator O-san from China). She said it's a specific program for people from Nepal so she planned on doing it with her friends but all of her friends got sent to Tokyo and she got sent here to Kobe. She told us that she's just really lonely, has spent all of this money on the program so she can't go home, but she has no friends and is always sad. I can't even explain how sad the look in her eyes was. We're going to have dinner with her and all of the other Kobe missionaries on Christmas Eve. We've invited a few other investigators too.

I wish I could tell you about all of the interesting people I've met, but there's just no time. 90% of the people we talk to just say Kekko-desu or just pretend they can't hear us, but the few that do listen are always very fascinating individuals.

I also went on a split with one of the zone leaders this week in Amagasaki. We taught a lesson there. The kid (18 years old) really wasn't interested and will probably drop contact, but it was good practice. Cool going outside of my area. I realized that I really am in one of the most Tokai areas of the mission. This is a huge city. So bizarre that I'm spending my first transfer at the mission headquarters.


We had a ward party on Saturday. Our investigators bailed so Elder Bowman only let us stay for the last 20 minutes. It's hard getting to know the members when we're running around on Sunday with investigators and can never go to activities. We finally met with the bishop yesterday so hopefully that will improve.

Yesterday at church, O-san came again. He also came to all other church activities this week. He looks promising, but we pushed his baptism back. He says he needs to do more studying and it's getting hard to teach him because of the language barrier. I have no doubt that he will be baptized though. He accepted the word of wisdom yesterday with no problems and said he is reading and praying every night and loves coming to church. He is ridiculously prepared.

The AP's serve in the Kansai branch (English speaking, covers all of the Kansai region) and had an investigator there who speaks English but is from China. I went on a split with one of them, because my companion and the other AP had to go to the Eki to pick up investigators. We taught this guy (Harrison, the investigator from China) lesson one with Ricky, President McIntyre's son who's home for Christmas. This guy was very science oriented, but also very nice and loves the missionaries. It was a fight to get him to pray, but eventually he agreed to do it by repeating the AP's words. He didn't want to pray to something he didn't believe. I also made a funny observation during that lesson. I've taught lesson one three times in Japan, watched the restoration video twice: both times in Chinese. Chinese people are everywhere and are very open to listening to us.

And like I said, we met with the bishop last night. Great guy. He speaks fluent English too so have of it was in English. This ward does have a long way to go in terms of missionary work though. They now have four pairs of missionaries working in it, so we really need their help.

Then after that, we threw a surprise birthday party for Karekara Shimai who serves in Akashi, lives in Kobe. Yes, the McIntyre's were there, face cookie and all. It's too bad I just missed my birthday. You only get a face cookie if you're in Kobe so it's a rare occasion. That was so much fun though. We really got to see the McIntyre's as just a family. They are so young! I think every mission president should be as young as he is. Seeing him interact with his sons and joke around with the missionaries really just made them feel like family. He makes us work, but he also loves to have fun and I think that's so important. Sister McIntyre was also talking smack, because sports taikai is this week and she says she is really good at dodgeball....I can't even imagine. President McIntyre also formally invited us (The AP's, Office Elders, Kobe Sisters, Me and my companion, and the Akashi sisters) to Christmas dinner at his house. He said we will be watching Toy Story 3. Yeah, he's ridiculous. I can't believe how lucky I am to have this as my first area. This Christmas will be great, I'm sure. I love their family, they're just great people, all of them.

I guess that's all I have time for.

Just know that I'm well. Thanks for everything and have a good week!

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm being blogged

Here's a post about my arrival in the mission field on my mission president's blog:

http://presidentmcintyre.blogspot.com/2010/12/new-missionaries-december-2010.html

Enjoy!

12/13/2010

Hello again!



Today is my first p-day from the field. Any guesses as to where I am? Here's some space to think about it:

























KOBE!!

I'm still here at the honbu, no I'm not an AP or an office elder. We're actually technically opening a new area. Before, the office elders and AP's and one pair of sisters were responsible for proselyting in the Kobe area but they were lucky if they had one hour a week to proselyte so they added to two elders to this area. Wajima Shimai also stayed here with Shields Shimai so there are two new missionaries currently being trained at the mission headquarters. Apparently we are the first new missionaries to be trained in Kobe since 1996. It's very rare that I get to see all that happens in the mission headquarters and be close to the office couple and the mission president. It's a great opportunity. I get to see all that happens in the mission from a distance and I get to look at the area board and baptismal record everyday. I know what everyone in the mission is up to. Plus, it's a great area! When you get your mission call, you wonder what Kobe is like, but in reality the chances of actually serving here are slim. It's very strange that I'm in the Kobe mission and Kobe is my first area.

My companion is Elder Bowman from Twin Falls, Idaho. He is a very hard worker. He has six months left in his mission. I live in the apartment (right under the church, which is right next to the mission home, which in Japan-terms...it's all the same building) with the AP's and the office elders. We don't buy groceries, we give money to the office elder and they go to Costco to take care of it.

It's a huge city! I went to Iluminariae last night and it was a madhouse. You have to wait about two hours to walk through it. It makes for pretty good dendo. I had a great conversation in English with a couple who are Japanese but do business in Taiwan and speak Mandarin and English fluently.

We've met a ton of foreigners. We plan on teaching Musa from Africa this week and came in contact with people from Haiti, China, Malaysia, and Europe.

Another great thing about Kobe is the church is big here too. There's an English speaking branch that covers the entire Kansai branch. About 50% of them are black and dressed in their Sunday best (very different from Utah Sunday best) to church. Sometimes I forget that I'm in Japan. I see Americans all the time and our apartment is very western style.

So what have I been up to? Well, this is a new area so naturally we've spent most of our time finding. Finding is necessary, but I've quickly realized that finding is the not glamourous part of missionary work that you never hear about. It's tough. It's basically impossible for me to make a natural conversation. Whenever I stop people, all I know how to say is that I'm a misisonary and they immediately run away. I'm doing my best to remain positive and have confidence that I will get better.

Who have we found? We spend most of our time in Sanomiya (I sent you a picture from there last time) the really tokai part of Kobe. OUr first investigator we found who is coming to FHE tonight is Naoki. At first glance I thought he was a woman. When my companion stopped him, I wondered why he was talking to him (we have sisters in Kobe so we're not allowed to stop women). He had shoulder length purple hair, a knee length furry coat, black painted fingernails, and a shiny silver, black, and purple purse. He said he was an "artist" so how knows what he does. He seemed very open though and definitely needs the gospel.

The next day, I went on an exchange with Elder Hinton who's family showed up today to take him home. We went to a restaurant called Braziliano's in Harborland with a group and it was amazing food. We then made our way to Harbor Island and met lots of people on the bridge. The most outstanding being O-san from China. He's here studying to eventually enter Kobe Daigakuin. When we told him we represented a Christian church, he immediately wanted to come. He showed up yesterday and had cut his finger on the bike ride over. THe ward members and Sister McIntyre helped him out. He also got to see a baptism. There was a baptism in the Gaijin branch, he saw that and then came to the second half of sacrament meeting. He said he wants to come every week. I was astonished. He obviously had been prepared for this because honestly, we did hardly anything with him up to that point. We sat down with him for a lesosn after sacrament. His Japanese is good, better than mine, but was stilll a barrier in the lesson. We showed him the restoration video in Chinese and he said he would study the pamphlets we gave him and come to Eikaiwa on Tuesday where we will teach him again. We commited him to baptism on the 26th and he said he wanted to and wanted to bring his friends. I'm blown away. Hopefully this works out and I'll see a baptism within two weeks in the field!

I also had to conduct the ward mission meeting on Sunday. My companion had to do a baptismal interview for the gaijin branch so I was left alone. That was interesting, but they eventually found out what I was trying to say.

Well I suppose I'm out of time. I know this is sparse. I forgot my journal so I might've left some stuff out. Just know that I'm fine. I'm still getting used to being a missionary, but I'm having fun and I'm plenty healthy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photos - Day one in Kobe

Conveyor-based sushi. Awesome.

Taking the Gospel to every creature.

December 9, 2010 - Live from Kobe, Japan

Kobe から こんにちわ!


I am here! I made it safely and have already hit the ground running. I left LA just fine, I felt pretty darn sick after all three flights (I never been on three flights in a row) and I nearly lost my dinner landing in Osaka, but it all went well. We landed in Osaka and got to the Honbu at about 9:15 last night. The Assistants and the McIntyryres were wating for us. They`re awesome. And yes, I met the Elder who`s mom cut dad`s hair. We briefy met with President and Sister McIntyre at dinner (taco rice) and went to bed. I already absolutely love President and Sister McIntyre. They`ve taken great care of us and just want to make sure that we`re ok. It`s been fantastic up to this point.

I slept like a rock. It`s 3:15 now and by all means I suppose the jet-lag wave will come quite soon but as of right now I feel perfectly fine.

We had breakfast this morning then four hours of training and then went to a Kaiten-zushi for lunch. It was awesome. I`m so happy to be eating this food again.

After lunch they sent us right out to dendo from which I just returned. I went with one of the office Elders. There`s a picture attached. Man, I can`t beliveve that actually happened. We were talking to everyone we saw, something I`ve never even dreamed of doing. We managed to get rid of one Book of Mormon. The man rode the train into downtown Kobe with us and gave us his phone number. He also had a beer in his hand and no front teeth and was probably drunk. I can`t even describe how clueless I felt but....bring it on. I managed to bear my testimony several times and they always smiled as if really saying (that`s so pathetic, it`s cute). It was so fun though. Just being here and breathing the air is amazing. I still can`t believe it`s real.

I`ll meet my trainer tomorrow. Apparently they didn`t now that Sobrinho Choro wasn`t coming so there is going to be a san-nin in the mission.

So what happened that last week in the MTC? It was pretty amazing. I just felt really loved. (Side note: it is really hard to type on a Japanese computer so I`m going really slow. I`d forgotten.) We had our final Akashi-kai with our teachers and that was incredible. They are the thing from the MTC that I will sincerely miss. I can`t explain the kind of relationship we formed. I loved having them and they were honestly the best two Japanese teachers at the MTC, I`m sure of it. Sister Davis (converted in Akita at 17) told us that she met about 10 pairs of elders before she was baptized after meeting sisters. She never took lessons from elders, but she remembers them all. She said don`t ever think you`re not making a difference. That was so powerful. I felt like my purpose as a missionary finally started punching me in the face.

We also had a departure lesson from Mills Kyodai, currently the manager of all the international MTC`s and the former Fukuoka Mission President. He was incredible. He taught us about the power of expectations and all of the history of the church in Japan and how Heber J. Grant said that the most powerful prayer he ever offered was the dedicatory prayer to open Japan for the work. He reminded us that it is a lie of lucifer to us to expect that we cannot baptize here. We can and will baptize, it`s what we`re here to do. The Lord has already done the seed planting.

Take care! がんばります!

Monday, December 6, 2010

November 30, 2010

Hello again. Saigo no MTC kara email!


I can't believe I'm to this point...but at the same time, I can. It's definitely time.

Thank you so much for the homemade jam and rolls! It was still warm and it dissappeared very quickly. Everyone loved it. Direct quote from Elder Peterson: "I don't like jam but this....wow."

We got our travel plans on Wednesday! Without question, that was the most exciting moment here in the MTC. We were all in the cafeteria cheering, screaming and high fiving everyone in sight. Our teachers came to eat with us and celebrate. I fly Delta to LA, flight leaving around 9:00 AM.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. I woke up, desperately wanting to be having Thanksgiving at grandma's house, but I got over it pretty quickly. We had a morning devotional at 10:00 AM. We had no idea who was coming. We were STUNNED when Jeffrey R. Holland and all of his family walked in. It was overwhelming. Apparently he came to the MTC the week before we got here so we weren't expecting to see him here, it was the perfect surprise. His devotional was very unconventional. He opened the meeting by saying "this isn't a devotional, this is a celebration. All you need to know right now is that the Holland's are your family right now since you can't be with yours." He chose five of what he thought to be outstanding missionaries from the MTC and had them bear their testimonies. One of them was Duarte Choro from Brazil (I think I've told you about him, nicest human being I've ever met) who will serve in Nagoya. One was an elder from mainland China who talked about whispering hymns in dark rooms for sacrament. One was another sister from Brazil who's parents told her never to return when she left. Another was a referral center missionary who has only a few months left to live. He then had all of his grandchildren sing to us and his wife speak to us. She couldn't stop sobbing the entire time. She said she just desperately wanted all of us to come over to her house to eat and that she feels very motherly toward us. Elder Holland closed the meeting and bore such powerful testimony. He talked about Christ and real gratitude. He said that we are hypocritical when we ask God for help with trivial things but then are blind to the poor in this world. It was incredible.

That afternoon we ate a decent Thanksgiving dinner. Much better than the typical MTC meal....but still MTC cafeteria food. I can't complain though.

We did a humantarian project that afternoon. The MTC made around 30,000 backpacks for children around the world.

The managing director of church humanitarian services also spoke to us about things he's done in south east asia and in Congo. He told us an incredible story about this town in Congo where the church has boomed because of one irrigation pipe the church put there.

We had a "thankful" fireside later in the evening where anyone could go up and say what they are thankful for. Tamir Shimai was one of them. She had written down what she was thankful for and the room was eerily silent. It doesn't matter what language she speaks, everyone completely shuts up when she opens her mouth. Now, everyone in the MTC walks up to her and says "thank you so much for your testimony."

This group of nihonjin have been a blast. They're hilarious. There's actually a brother and sister among them, Elder and Sister Kishi. How cool is that? The two of them are like walking cabbage patch kids dolls, you just want to pinch their cheeks. Elder Kishi loves giving hugs too. A lot of them are really proficient in English and have been learning lots of English phrases and pick up lines. Elder Kishi came to my room last night and asked me "did it hurt?" I said "did what hurt?" Kishi Choro: "when you fell from heaven"

Another sister during gym will say "I'm gonna clean your clock" or "sorry, I'm just so beautiful." Japanese people are nuts, LDS Japanese people are insane.

Am I ready to the feel. As ready as I can be. I know I will struggle to say what I want to say but that is to be expected. My comprehension is pretty good I think. There's a couple of the Nihonjin here that have crazy accents but other than those two, I can understand almost anything the others say to me...can't always respond though. I'm not too concerned about anything else. Everyone else is in a panic to learn about cultural etiquette, I'm glad I have that edge. I think a lot of the missionaries here see the Nihonjin missionaries and take them to be your typical Japanese when in reality, they're loudest, friendliest, most outgoing, and American-ish Japanese people you'll ever meet.

That's all I have time for. Have a good week! The next time you get an email from me, I'll be in the field!

November 23, 2010

Hello again.


So right after I wrote my email last week, I went to get my haircut and met an Elder who is going to Ukraine and is from Kobe. He told me that members are the only way to see success in Japan. It was really cool because the night before that, Davis Shimai said "don't you DARE, ever, ever, EVER teach a lesson without a member present." I'm glad I have that advice, I think it's pretty inspired.

Tuesday night, the apostle streak finally broke. Still a good devotional though. On Tuesday night, Elder Peterson had a pumpkin pie sent to him (he gets something almost everyday) and some big polynesian elders came storming up to our residence hall. I happened to be visiting in his room when they knocked, they said (their bodies filling the entire door frame) "are you Elder Peterson? We heard you had pie." Then they said a prayer and blessed that it would be "scrumptious and not poisonous" that was awesome.

The Nihonjin are great. It's hard to get a word in with them though, they're always being mobbbed. Two of them are sitting right behind me now though, one is Asai Shimai from New York. She has lived most of her life in the states but she speaks perfect Japanese so she only has to spend three weeks here. I'm super jealous.

I've got a bit of cold right now, for the second time. Not happy about it. It should be fine within the next few days so I'm thankful that it's happening now and not in two weeks. Speaking of...yeah two weeks from yesterday. Oh boy is it time.

Sorry if there are grammatical errors all over these emails. I read some last week and I was shocked. That's always been one of my pet-peeves, but it's hard not to make them when you're so rushed.

Have fun on Thursday. It'll be a pretty laid back day since nobody comes into work. There's a gigantic service project and fireside planned, that's all we really know. We eat Thanksgiving "dinner" at noon and then pack a sack dinner. Who knows what it will be. We also have TRC tomorrow since it's normally on Thursdays. The gym is also closed until Friday. Some people might go insane on that one.

The Mongolian sisters are better than ever. Now that we can understand most of what Aruinzaya Shimai says, she's hilarious. She's actually got an extremely dry, quick, and sarcastic sense of humor. We're all excited to go to Kobe together.

Do you still do Japanese during Family Home Evening? You should. Sam and Clint are still young enough to learn this language. It's much easier when you can hear it often. I'm serious. They won't be as embarassed as I am when they come to the MTC and the Nihonjin are confused as to why their Japanese is so bad. Just a thought.

Best of luck this week!

November 15, 2010

Ohayo Gozaimasu.


I'll start right at a week ago today: four in a row. Four apostles in a row, I heard that ties a record. Elder Bednar came last week and that was without question the most bold I've ever heard an apostle speak. His talk was "the answer is always in the doctrine." He said that sentence about 20 times. He talked about how doctrine is most important, then principles, then applications.  He said that "gimmicky applications are why home teaching doesn't work." He also asked if throughout our lives we had focused more on doctrine, principles, or applications. He then said (the senior missionaries all sit at the front) "there are some grey heads looking at the floor right now because they know they've focused on applications." That talk has completely changed how I approach my study.

I turned 20 this week. I haven't really even taken it in at all. I feel exactly the same. I'm just glad I'll be home before I'm 22. On Wednesday, Elder Ewer (argues absolutely everything. Everything, seriously. It's hilarious) and Tamir Shimai were discussing something and all I heard was Ewer Choro say: "Subete Mongorujin was totemo baka desu" then Tamir Shimai, grinning ear to ear says "Oh, honto? Shinitai desu ka?" They get funnier by the day.

My birthday was great. We all go to the classroom at 7 AM for 45 minutes of personal scripture study. My companion said he needed to go to the bathroom at first. We went and when we got back, the lights were out, so of course there was a celebration waiting for me. Everyone in the district had 3x5 cards that spelled out H-A-P-P-Y-B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y on them. The Mongolian sisters had made them. And they weren't just holding the cards, they had sewed handles on the back. Holding the cards, or even stapling rubber bands to them would just be too easy right? On my desk was a box wrapped in that flowery wrapping paper from our house, so of course I knew who had wrapped it. Inside were some mints, some ice cream, and a journal that everyone in the district had written in, including the teachers. Ten pages were scriptures copied in Japanese in English accompanied by scrapbooked pictures of the savior, the prophet, the temple, etc. Tons of time and effort had gone into that. I said "Dare ga kore o kakimasitha ka?" and immediately Tamir Shimai responded: "Dare?! Iesu Kirisuto!" Elder Shumway also had one of his friends send me a twelve pack of Coke that is hiding under my bed.

I'm still realizing how epic these two sisters are. In class, we had to answer a life question using the Book of Mormon in Japanese. Tamir Shimai answered "is there life after death?" and talked about her father, whom she has never told she loved before and has now passed away. She said she knows he'll feel her love most if she can share it in the mission field. All of this of course being in completely perapera Japanese. I also learned that Sister Aruinzaya is somewhat of a legend in Mongolia. She's served three mini missions and went on splits once a week in Mongolia. She was involved in the conversion of two sisters and the reactivation of another sister, all three of whom are at the MTC now.

They didn't have a Mongolian translator in sacrament meeting this week, so they asked my companion and I to translate into Japanese. That was insanely difficult.

The class has also been really amused by how Davis Shimai makes Japanese vocal expressions while she thinks. If you ask her a question she has to think about, she sounds like a bomb falling out of a plane. She'll go (pitch starting high and descending gradually): "AAAAAaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhaaaahhhhhhhaaaahhhhh" and if she does it for 10 seconds, the class will make an exploding noise. They're in for a big surprise when they start teaching investigators that are much more strange than her.

Last night, she said she had the second biggest laugh attack she's ever had in the MTC. Her hobby in Japan was always karaoke. She's actually a fantastic singer and whenever the hymn hit the second verse, she takes the soprano part up a half step. Peterson Choro, the rugby player, who hates singing, subconciously tried to follow her last night and his voice cracked comparable to a rooster. They both laughed through the entire hymn and the prayer. It was just hysterical to see her laugh so hard. Her Japanese mannerisms were telling her to stop laughing, so she covered her mouth, but she simply couldn't stop.

Speaking of, the next wave of Nihonjin arrived yesterday. 3 Elders, 8 (we heard 8, we've only seen six so far) sisters. We've only got to see them very briefly. The international office keeps them busy until Wednesday. All four sisters we got last time were constantly being flirted with by every elder in the MTC. ...I don't think we'll have that problem this time. It's a good thing though. If all 8 of them looked like the last four, they wouldn't be able to get anything done.

I'm really excited to have them. I felt like the three weeks we had the last group were the three weeks where I saw the most improvement in myself language wise, so hopefully I can do that again this time. I feel fine as far as teaching in Japanese goes, but I'm far from conversational and I want to be there before I leave. When we do the 15 minute "task" (shopping, obtain a referral, discuss food) the investigator will say "ohhh perapera desho!" or "sugoku hatsuon!" but then when we go into the 30 minutes of teaching, I struggle. I still have three more lessons to teach in the TRC to improve.

It is getting pretty difficult to be patient with this place. I think everyone feels that way. The MTC has nine weekly training meetings, so if you're here for twelve weeks, they start over. Yes, it feels extremely redundant now.