Monday, February 28, 2011

Whale meat

This is whale meat. Yeah, a ward member gave it to us.

Big turn out at Outreach.

February 28, 2011

Good morning.

My second transfer officially ended yesterday. Transfer calls will go out tomorrow morning which means I might just find out tonight or today sometime. I'm about 90% sure I'm leaving this time. The number of missionaries is going way down this transfer so a few areas have to inevitably close, and this will be the first one to go I assume. The transfer after this one has 21 new missionaries coming in, so they also have to put trainers and new leaders into place.

So last week's tabehodai (all you can eat) with President and Sister McIntyre in Osaka was incredible. They had all you could eat crab, that was the main thing. It costed 2,500 yen, but I felt like I ate more than that in just crab. They also had basically any other kind of food you could imagine: steak, sushi, chinese food, french fries, gyoza, everything.

Tuesday night was James McIntyre's birthday and that was probably the funnest night we've had so far. Sister McIntyre was hilarious. Elder Bowman was asking her if Japanese people ever use saracasm (because she was being sarcastic with James in English) and then she started smacking him and said "Bowman Choro kakkoii na!" ("Elder Bowman, you're so cool")  Also, by Shields Shimai's recommendation, we all improved lyrics to Hallelujah for James's birthday. It was pretty hilarious.

It is to the point now where nearly every single person we talk to assumes that I am Japanese. One guy asked me to translate for Bowman Choro this week. It's really difficult. I still don't feel like my language ability has improved at all, it's so hard to gauge.

We've found a lot of new investigators this week. We've done a lot of church tours and Outreach and Eikaiwa (English lessons) are really full every week. We've worked really hard to get those programs moving and I think it's really starting to pay off now.

On Thursday we met with three English speaking investigators and they were completely awesome. Johnson Choro came with us because Osaka Choro was fulfilling his commisarian duties, moving missionary apartments around. It was really bizarre to teach in English, but it went really well.

On Friday we had a really bad experience, probably the worst I've felt on my mission. One of our Chinese investigators, Yo, took us to his school where his friend Chin was waiting for us. It was a Japanese language school for Chinese students that need to pass the language exam in order to get into the university. We've had lots of investigators that attend that school. We sat down in a room that had a glass wall and was completely visible from the hallway. Really bad idea. When we started talking with the two of them, I knew we shouldn't be there. Everyone walking through the hallway would stop and look at us. Within a few minutes, the guy in charge busted in and told us we needed to leave immediately. Yo and Chin felt really sorry and tried to explain as we walked out the door, and it seemed like the guy wasn't happy with them. We should've been more careful. We felt absolutely disgusting as we walked back to our apartment. It's not fun when you know you've left a really bad impression on a place with a lot of influence on investigators. The guy saw my Book of Mormon and we heard him say "Morumon Kyo" as we walked out.

We had KyoKyo, the Sister's Chinese investigator make Chinese food for Outreach on Friday and the turnout was huge. We had investigators and less-actives there mingling with members and it was great. Two of the investigators there were getting baptized that Sunday.

We had a surprise birthday party for McLaws Choro that night. You'd think that maybe missionaries are put in Kobe based on when their birthdays are...

An 80 year old man approached me and said he knew that God exists and knew that we were teaching about truth. He would only speak in broken English (he was Japanese, but wouldn't speak it) and we couldn't really make an appointment with him. It seems like he wasn't really interested in meeting with us anyway. It was a very interesting experience. I thought a lot about his salvation.

Yesterday was Lee, the AP's investigator's baptism. It took two whole transfers for this district to come up with one, but it happened. It was great. He said in his testimony that he has known his whole life that God exists and his dream is to go back to China and teach people about it. He got baptized to open his eyes. He had a "why not?" attitude about it. He knew it was necessary and wants to learn as much as he can now.
I guess that's all. I hope everything is well at home. Have a good week!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Snow in Kobe

This is one of our member's way cool apartment. Those stairs are way steep. Doesn't it look like it's straight out of Jet Set Radio Future?

What the honbu apartment looks like after the office elders go grocery shopping. I think that's 20 cartons of milk.

I also decided to take a picture of the Sannomiya shotengai. I may be transfering so I thought I should. That's our main stomping grounds. I walk though that shotengai everyday trying to talk to people.

February 20, 2011

Hello again. This transfer is just flying by. I'm now entering the final week. I will be receiving a transfer call (in Kobe is just President McIntyre telling me when I run into him in the office) a week from tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

A week ago today it snowed like crazy. It's snowed a few times here, but only for an hour or so and it evaporates as soon as it hits the ground. This week, it was all day and it was sticking. Crazy. I'll attach some pictures.

Tuesday was our zone conference with the Kobe and Akashi zones. That was fun. President McIntyre made a point of talking about what Elder Cook said while they were together. He wanted to make sure that we knew how impressed he was with every single missionary: that everyone looked and behaved like a missionary. He also said that he originally planned to talk about the Doctrine of Christ and Extending Commitments, but he really didn't talk about either at all.

I've been on a lot of exchanges this week. We had Kuroda Choro from KitaRokko (Maeda Choro, the old office elder was doing some training for Johnson Choro, the new office elder again) with us Wednesday afternoon and then Johnson Choro with us Wednesday night, because his companion, Osaka Choro, was doing translation at another zone conference. Thursday, I went on an exchange with McLaws Choro, the other AP. We definitely get bounced around a lot here.

The Wakayama zone leaders were here to exchange with the AP's on Thursday. One of them is Elder Everrett. How do you know his mom again? He said he was born in Machida so I assume that has something to do with it.

So, this week, more than ever, people on the street have immediately assumed I'm Nihonjin. I'm pretty puzzled. It's usually before I speak too. As soon as I start talking, they get really confused. I get it at least 3 times a day.

It got really warm by the end of the week. We went for totsuzen (surprise) visits to members on Saturday morning and it was beautiful. Everyone was outside playing, walking, and being friendly to each other. We stopped to talk to a guy in front of a high school and these girls were playing tennis and some rugby type game. I wanted to take a video; they way they do things is just so different and so fascinating. They were practicing volley's and they were just screaming each other the whole time saying "AH! GOMEN!" ("Oh, sorry!") or "NICE VORE!" ("Nice Volley!") Straight out of a video game.

On Saturday we found James from Uganda. I can't imagine what it's like to Dendo in Africa. It was like we were long lost best-friends as soon as we say Jesus Christ.

Yesterday we had 8 people commit to come to church, and five of which we were certain would be there. Only two showed up.

Happy birthday Randy! I totally remembered yesterday while walking around Motomachi that it was your birthday. Do you need shoes? If you can figure out your Japanese shoe size and tell me (hopefully it's not too big), I can get some SICK shoes for way cheap.

That sommerset newsletter is pretty cool. That's very nice of Sister Stanley to do.

We heard about the new mission president. Nobody knows if he speaks Japanese or not yet. Everyone is biting their nails over that I think. I'm sure he is called to the work. I can't lie though, I will really miss the McIntyres. They're driving us to Osaka in an hour or so for crab tabehodai. Yeah, they're awesome.

So last p-day we were shopping in Uniqlo. Cool store. Anyway, I heard a Brooke White song in there and nearly fainted. Heck, I'd be excited to hear her music in a store in the U.S. I never at all, thought I'd hear it in Japan.

Last story. Yesterday, we met with Ryu Koto (Chinese investigator who became a yakusokusha (committed to come to church) last week but had to work yesterday and couldn't come to church) at night by Motomachi station. He has a Chinese friend in Australia who got baptized and is really pushing him along to meet with us. The language barrier is tough, even harder than O-san's. He is a pure spirit though. Anyway...he's done a ton of research about the church. Jubun no ichi (Tithing) really freaked him out so we talked about that. As we walked him back to the Eki (train station), he pulled his iPhone out and showed me a picture of David Archuleta and said "morumon kyo, desho?" ("a Mormon, right?") I was shocked. Apparently, he's a huge fan. The only way he could express it was "kare wa....ichiban suki." ("I'm a huge fan.") I honestly thought that faze of my life was over. That name just keeps following me wherever I go. I decided to tell him that I had met him and that he's a pretty nesshin (dedicated) member.
That should be all. Have a good week!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Pictures!

Us with the Hamaji's

Harborland is all decked out for Valentines. Valentines is pretty big here.

The Idaho burger is gone from McDonalds in Japan, and now there's the Miami burger, and yes it has tortilla chips in it.

The last picture is one of many of my favorite signs in Sannomiya.

February 14, 2011

Hello again. This week was another great week.

Last p-day we played Risk again with the AP's, this time on the mission map. How did that come about? On Sunday, Nielson Choro suggested to me that we play "Mission Risk" (just a shorter version with different rules) and I, not knowing what that meant, asked "does that mean you play it on the mission map?" He said "no, but you're a genius!" So that morning he made the game. It was pretty fun.

On Tuesday we had more Eikaiwa (English Class) miracles. One investigator we hadn't had contact with in about a month showed up and another random guy showed up out of the blue. This transfer is really starting to pick up steam.

On Wednesday I had probably the coolest street contact I've ever had. We talked to a Chinese guy named Lee Feng. Yes, he's Chinese, but it took forever to find out. Typically, if we can't tell by their looks, we can immediately tell when people are Chinese because of their accent. This guy was like a native speaker, even though he's only been in Japan for three years. I know Chinese people that have been here for five or six years and their Japanese is still impossible to understand. By the end of the contact, we found out that he also spoke perfect English. Anyway, he basically just had this gigantic smile on his face the entire time we talked to him. He said "I really need to enter a church because I wasn't allowed to in China and I think God is mad at me for that." How crazy is that? We had a Chinese Book of Mormon on us and he walked away frantically reading it. I think it's amazing how some of these Chinese people really are like unspoiled children in terms of religion. Most of them we've taught believe in a God, they just don't know about him, whereas most Japanese people we teach believe in themselves and their jobs. Very interesting.

On Friday, we spent a lot of time frantically cleaning the apartment in the event that Elder Cook would visit it. That afternoon we had a zone activity where we switched companions every hour for about five hours. That was a lot of fun and went by really fast. That night, the stake president took the entire zone out for yakiniku (Korean Barbecue) and paid for it. He REALLY wants us to work on the YSA's. I think the yakiniku was a bribe. I definitely see where his inspiration is coming from. There's about ten YSA's here in Kobe, lots of them are recent converts that aren't sure what to think, almost all of them are 25 or older, and none of them are dating anyone at all.

Saturday was our all mission conference with Elder Cook, Elder Aoyagi, and Elder Nakatsuka (apostle, seventy and area seventy). Definitely one of the highlights, if not the best moment of my mission thus far. He was just full of love. He immediately wanted to shake everyone's hands. It was really fascinating seeing how he'd react to certain missionaries. All we had to time to say was our name and where we were from. He and his wife's jaws dropped when the Mongolian sisters were up there. He also starting crying when the Priddis's (the office couple) greeted him and said over and over "we are so proud of you." He said some pretty interesting things. He said you need to do four things to be a successful missionary: Love the people, love your companion, love the mission president, and love the Lord. It's funny, Julie B. Beck said the exact same four things to us in the MTC. He said one thing that comes into play when missionaries get their calls is mission presidents and how well the missionary could potentially work with them. He also kind of hesitated in the middle of his talk, going off subject and said "the most important thing I'm going to tell you today is that this is the place where the Lord needs you. You might think you are more needed at home because your family is having a hard time or something, but your service here will bless those you know more than being with them." You could tell it was very inspired and I suppose a lot of missionaries really needed to hear it. He acknowledged that we face more rejection here than almost anywhere else. He told us to always be focusing on establishing the church. Baptism is obviously the biggest element to establishing the church, but being an example at church and strengthening the members is as well. His wife was funny too. She just made us sing three or four hymns because she loved hearing us sing so much. Elder Nakatsuka and Elder Aoyagi were awesome as well. Both very good speakers.

It was fun seeing all of the other missionaries as well. Everyone from my doki (MTC Group) seems happy and well. Seeing that Kobe chapel packed full of missionaries is really a sight. After our meeting, Elder Cook had a conference with all of the stake presidents and a few of the bishops in the area. Elder Bowman went to talk to the Okayama stake president because he was his last stake president. This stake president (I forgotten his name) was American and he really wanted to tell us about what happened in Kurayoshi a couple weeks ago. I told you Sato Shimai and Ilch Shimai baptized Saki Imai who was 17 years old and needed permission. Well, apparently this girl had been waiting for almost a year and it just wasn't going to happen. The dad was solid and about five pairs of sister missionaries have tried to get permission from him and all of them have basically run away crying. When Sato Shimai arrived this transfer, the branch was doing a 20 day fast. She basically thought that wasn't good enough. She went to their door, Saki answered and she said "let me talk to your dad." Saki begged her not to, but Sato Shimai insisted. He yelled at them told them to leave and apparently said some really vile things. Basically any other missionary would have run. Apparently, Sato Shimai got him to be quiet when she said "explain the taste of salt to me as if I've never tasted it." He was pretty confused. She then said "your daughter has tasted something that you know NOTHING about because you haven't experienced it and you can't understand and you have no right to keep her from it and I'm not leaving until you give her permission." The girl was baptized that Saturday. I think people need to hear that story. All it took was someone to stand their ground. When I talked to Ilch Shimai about it at the conference she said "Kamisama no te o mita." ("I saw the hand of God.")

Saturday night was also Osaka Choro's birthday so you guessed it, we had a party in the office that night. Sister McIntyre wanted it to be a real surprise so we turned off the lights. As always, it was fun as always to spend time with President and Sister McIntyre. They talked to us about the time they spent with Elder Cook and Elder Holland (they flew in together, Elder Holland went to the Nagoya mission I believe).

Church yesterday was awesome as well. We had four investigators there: Inaba, O, Hiroki and Ryokoto (Chinese). Hiroki and Ryokoto came out of the blue. We hadn't contacted them in weeks since their initial contact, but they randomly showed up. Hiroki had no interest, but Ryokoto became a yakusokusha. Apparently he has a member friend in Australia. I taught Inaba-san. Yes, we split and I took charge of the lesson with just me and a member. It was a little scary, but went just fine. He rambles a lot and Sakano Kyodai (the member) said he doesn't make sense to him either. Inaba has been coming to church for four weeks in a row now but is really yada ("no thanks") about baptism and learning about lessons. He's got some serious depression and is taking lots of medication. His excuse is that he's just too dumb to understand any of this stuff. We just read the Book of Mormon together and I committed him to certain passages and told him I would follow-up throughout the week.

I think that's all!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Photo - Mr. Donuts

Here is what we did today. We went to Mister Donuts and a place called "The Burger Pit" with Kobe Beef burgers.

Take-home donuts make a mission president happy.

February 6, 2011

This was a really good week.

Last p-day we played Risk with the AP's for three hours and holy cow it was fun. I haven't been that relaxed since before I went to the MTC. It felt good.

On Tuesday I went on an exchange with Elder Imai, one of my zone leaders. This time, Bowman Choro went to Amagasaki and Imai Choro and I stayed in Kobe. Imai Choro is legendary in the mission. It seems like Japanese missionaries can often fall on either end of the spectrum. They can be shy, reserved, and terrified to open their mouths, or they can be the boldest, loudest, strongest, and most effective missionaries in the mission. Imai Choro is the latter. Dendo-ing (proslyting) with him was kind of like walking next to the Terminator I thought. He can get ANYONE to stop and talk to him for as long as he wants and he almost always issues a baptismal commitment to everyone he meets. He's definitely one of the most successful missionaries in the mission, if not the most successful. I'm really lucky that I got to work with him. He's also from Hakodate. Definitely born after you were there, but do you know an Imai family? On that subject, do you know a Murayama family? Or a Sagawara family? They're all from Hakodate. Murayama Kyodai (served as an AP in the Kobe mission) and Sagawara Shimai are ward members in Kobe and they're engaged.

On Wednesday I had an "Idaho Burger" at McDonalds. It's a special limited time offer. It had hashbrowns inside of it.

This week is Chinese New Year so Motomachi Chinatown or Nankinmachi was nuts. There was a stage set up with regular performances and the place was packed to the point that we couldn't move. I got some video of it.

The Stake President gave us a gigantic responsibility of planning Outreach on Thursday. He wanted us to do "English Games" and he emailed every bishop in the stake and told them to really push their YSA's to get there. All of the missionaries in the zone were there too. Yeah....two people came.

That next day we laid the law down. We called everyone we possibly could in the ward and told them to come to Outreach. And it turns out it worked. We had a good turnout on Friday (Thursday is games or something fun, Friday is cooking). The stake president told us that Outreach is still focused on YSA's but now, anyone can come just for the sake of having bodies in the room. Matsuoka Kyodai, Shota-kun (he used to be at every activity but has gotten busy lately), and Hamaji Shimai showed up in addition to Hide-san who is a regular Eikaiwa student and has been to church before. Another former investigator walked in half-way through as well. I showed Hide-san my blog. Are you reading this?

It turns out Hamaji Shimai and Matsuoka Kyodai are fellowship all-stars. They were fantastic at being warm and friendly and I think the visitors felt completely comfortable. It's amazing when you can feel that everyone is being taken care of as a missionary and you don't have to constantly be talking to the investigators.

Hamaji Shimai told me that there is still a Wendy's in Sannomiya. I had heard that Wendy's pulled out of Japan but maybe I'll go check that out. I talked to her for a while and I remember having a feeling that perhaps I'm still in Kobe because I need to strengthen her and her less-active son she had told us about at Eikaiwa.

Church was awesome. I found an English speaking investigator during the week so I invited him to the Kansai Branch (English speaking). The AP's serve in that branch. He didn't show up but I attended the branch anyway with Elder Nielsen. President and Sister McIntyre, Elder Nielsen, myself, and one other member bore their testimonies. They cut the meeting ten minutes short because it was so unbearably awkward. Sad, huh? After the Kobe Ward sacrament meeting, Elder Bowman and I went on a split with the office elders.Elder Johnson and I taught Kaji-san who was found at the Burger Pit who also became a yakusokusha. He's 19 and studying music. It was absolutely incredible how well he could understand the Book of Mormon. I almost felt like he was teaching us.

That night, Bowman Choro and I visited Hamaji Shimai and her son. I felt SO good about that visit. When we got to her apartment complex, she came downstairs to walk us up to her apartment. She very politely asked us to start by just having a natural normal converstaion with her 15 year old son because he's very "yada" about church right now. That was exactly what we were planning to do, so that made me a little nervous that perhaps he wouldn't like us. It turns out, he's awesome. He's a really nice kid and we were able to make a great relationship with him. We plan on taking him out to eat sometime next week. I just feel like I so desperately need to help Hamaji Shimai whenever I think of her. She's one of the most noble members I think I've ever met.

Oh, and guess which area had another baptism this week? Yep, Kurayoshi. Sato Shimai and Ilch Shimai are machines. Apparently, this investigator is 17, but just couldn't get permission from her parents and was planning on waiting until she was 20. She's been attending church for a year now. All it took was for Sato Shimai and Ilch Shimai to go over there and talk to her dad. They came out with a baptismal date.

Speaking of Sato Shimai, we shared and at Outreach on Thursday. While we were looking for a video to show, we found Sato Shimai's testimony. Maybe this will give you an idea of how powerful of a missionary she is:

January 31, 2011

This week has gone by pretty fast.

So Monday night, I went with Kuroda Choro to Kita Rokko for an exchange during leadership training. It was very interesting being out of my area. Kita Rokko is the area just over the mountains from Kobe (we actually live at Rokko Eki), it takes about an hour and a half to get there. It is much more of a small town. I've actually sort of had this fantasy image of Inaka (country) areas. I've always pictured them as these quiet towns with rice fields, fish markets, traditional houses, and onsens only. It wasn't like that. There were busy roads wherever you went, so it was always noisy; kind of like being next to the freeway all day. There neighborhoods were more spread out, so yes there were quite a bit of big properties with rice fields, but the roads and warehouses kind of canceled out there charm. Plus, all of the houses were enormous. We're talking Farmington, Utah size houses. I was shocked. To be honest, it's a pretty unattractive area. I felt like I was back in the U.S. in some factory town. Hopefully if I do get transferred to an Inaka area, it will be quieter and prettier than Kita Rokko. That's selfish but....I'd love to experience it. I've heard Iwade looks just like Tottoro. And I'm sure Shikoku is like that as well.

Anyway, I had a great time in Kita Rokko with Kuroda Choro. It was good to experience being completely away from the Honbu away from other missionaries and alone in a freezing cold apartment with a Japanese companion. I think that was my first experience of what being on a mission is really like for most missionaries. I have a really unusual experience here in Kobe. Kuroda Choro is one of the nicest people I've ever met.

When I came back to Kobe, we started seeing all kinds of success. Well...numbers wise. We had 10 people commit to come to church yesterday. Only two showed up, but five of them called before hand to cancel. I know, that probably sounds pathetic, but it's actually a miracle. It is VERY rare that people actually call us. They usually give us a fake phone number or block us after we exchange numbers. It's good that we're still in contact. Also, one of the two people at church became a yakusokusha (committed to baptism). His name is Te. Yes, he's Chinese. He's 30 years old and has been in Japan for 8 years so his Japanese is completely fluent, unlike O-san's. He is very smart and had all kinds of difficult questions like "what was before zense (premortal life)?" He expressed how good he felt at church and especially when he prayed. Like many Chinese investigators, he definitely wants to seriously investigate but he was still ok with setting a baptismal date. We'll see how it goes. He seems pretty solid.

Oh, and as far as my Japanese, that was something I noticed quite a while ago. We're not allowed to contact women, but when we occasionally do talk to them (couples, etc.) I noticed that I understand them twice as well as men. It's like a night and day difference. I've never understood why, but my companion actually suggested that it's because I've heard mom's Japanese my whole life and it's ingrained in my mind. From then on, I started noticing that I speak with female intonation as well. Don't worry, I know better than to end a sentence with wa.

On Thursday morning, a member dropped into the apartment and needed a "segatakai" (tall) missionary to change a lightbulb in the church. That was terrifying. I had to stand on top of a shaking ladder and hold a gigantic bulb, bigger than my head. I don't know why I shared that...

We also had outreach on Thursday. Only one guy showed up, Takayama Kyodai, our Dendo Shunin (mission leader) who shows up to everything. He's 24, a returned missionary and a furita (lives with parents). He only has an arabaito (part time job) and says he's saving up to go to BYU Hawaii next year so he has all kinds of time. We nearly canceled until this guy we didn't know at all walked in. He said he is a member and came all the way from Miki. When we talked with him after the activity, he was baptized 8 years ago, but hasn't really been to church since then because of his job. That was a miracle I think. Outreach is there to strengthen those members. We watched part of the DVD Another Testament of Christ. Have you seen that? It's a DVD of those photographs of people acting out Christ's life. It is incredibly powerful. You should check it out. It's the same guy that did the book Reflections of Christ.

Hamid, our Iranian friend made Persian food for Outreach on Friday. He's still the happiest man on earth, and also the most devout Muslim you'll ever meet. We're just going to keep being his friend.

There was a 3.6 earthquake on Friday night. It came while we were laying in bed. It freaked everyone in the apartment out. Apparently, they haven't really felt one on their missions. I was fine, I remember the 6.0 I was in in Tokyo. Osaka Choro from Kanagawa was really confused as to why they made such a big deal about it.

So last night, I was up in the office. My companion was getting yakusokusha information and numbers from the office elders and AP's. I overheard the AP''s recording and talking about all of the numbers throughout the mission (I typically hear them every week. I know, VERY unusual experience). I heard them say, "wow, now here's the best area in the mission: Kurayoshi." Ilch (Tamir) Shimai and Sato Shimai. I knew those two would be dynamite together. They had no zeros at all, which means there was a baptism this week. Very rare figures. They're kicking trash. When I talked with Ilch Shimai, she said they had an investigator ready to be baptized so I suppose that's who it was. Apparently, this investigator was yada about baptism because her boyfriend was threatening her if she kept meeting with the missionaries. Of course, Ilch Shimai told her "bring him to the next lesson and let me talk to him." She said that he needs to leave his girlfriend alone and that he also needs to read the Book of Mormon. He called her that night crying saying that the Book of Mormon was true and his baptism should be soon to follow. Don't mess with the Mongolians.

I suppose that's all. I heard we're going out for burgers with President McIntyre as a district today. It should be fun. I'm doing pretty well. Hope all is well at home!