Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28, 2011

I don't have a lot of time so I'll do my best.

So on Tuesday we helped with getting supplies sent to Sendai. The Ibaraki church is the Osaka North stake center and probably the biggest church in Osaka. All supplies that have been gathered in the Kansai region were sent to our church so the ward members needed our help loading them into the truck. It was a TON. Like, three american sized semi-trucks filled completely FULL.

Here's a picture of some of the supplies. It filled the gym, then the genkan, and then went into the trucks.

Also, on Tuesday morning we received a call. Matsukura 長老 answered it and the person said they wanted to talk to a 外人 宣教師. (American Missionary)(By the way, I can't read most of the Kanji I've been using in emails. I either use a dictionary to confrim them or just ask my companion. I'm not THAT good) Her name was Eriko. She just returned from a study abroad in Australia where she was baptized last September. She lives in the Ibaraki ward and wanted information.

She showed up to Eikaiwa (English Class) the next day with her mom. The AP's were there too. They had an exchange with Elder McConnell and Elder Mitsukawa on Wednesday and exchanged with us on Thursday. There are four (only two came) of them now too. They became a three-some this transfer and a four-some when the Tokyo missionaries came. The fourth is Guy 長老 from the Tokyo mission who's hometown is Cambridge, England. Yes, he has the coolest accent ever. The old お祖母ちゃん students where absolutely in love with him. Elder Nielson is the other one that came. It turns out that Eriko met Elder Nielson's parents in Australia. They spoke at a fireside in her ward, since they're currently serving in New Zealand. How crazy is that? She emailed them a picture of him. Anyway, she said that the two of them would be coming to church on Sunday.

Our exchange on Thursday was awesome. Those AP's are called by inspiration, no doubt about that. We collectively found 6 investigators that day. I got to 伝道 (work) with both of them and they are just awesome. I missed Nielson 長老 and it was good to work together again for a little bit.

On Saturday morning, Mitsukawa 長老 left for the 本部 (Mission Home). He is probably on his way to the U.S. right now as I type this. In case you forgot, he's going to the MTC and has been called to the California San Francisco/Oakland mission.

We took a picture of the four of us the night before Mitsukawa 長老 left.

On Sunday, Eriko and her mom showed up to church and we made an apointment to meet on Sunday, way awesome. We had a meal with the Ibaraki 伝道主任(ward mission leader) and two other members. It was fantastic. These Osaka-jin's....they are just hilarious. It's funny, we're told in the MTC and countless times by our mission president NOT to use Kansai-ben (local dialect) so when I hear it it automatically registers as swearing, but really it's just how people talk. It's no different from the southern dialect Jacob probably dealt with. It's just weird when even the bishop says "しらへんやな!" (no way to translate) We also did a special fast for Sendai on Sunday. All of Japan is doing it this week as well as next week (fast sunday). I'll be honest, fasting is NO fun as a missionary.

Speaking of which, did you look through the planner (I got it today) you sent me? I can't believe the memories that brought back. I had my daily schedule written in it and holy crap it was hectic. Some of the entries have two activities at the same time and it says "toss a coin" or "go here first and be late to the other one." All of that aside, I learned SO much that year. Being in Peter Pan and such shaped me so much as a human being. Lessons learned then are definitely helping me now. No questions asked.

Sister Sato is pretty awesome. In the one and a half transfers she's been in Kurayoshi (one of the most 田舎 (rural) areas in the mission....hard to find people) she's had four baptisms and it wouldn't surprise me at all if she had another one this transfer. I think she's a little embarassed about that video.

I love these new Tokyo missionaries, but I do hope they're able to return soon. That's a lot of people with no chance to hear the gospel.

Everything is going great. There's only one week left in this transfer! I imagine I'll stay here with Matsukura 長老 but you never know. Until next week!

The last one is us at the Kumano's house with Konno 兄弟 and Koike 姉妹.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 22, 2011

It's been a long week.

On Wednesday we got a call from the zone leaders saying that 42 Tokyo missionaries were indeed coming our way. Nothing changed in our apartment. There's still four of us here. Mitsukawa 長老 leaves for the MTC (he was called to the California San Francisco/Oakland Mission but had visa problems. He's from within the Kobe mission but is working here temporarily. I talked about this situation, right?) this Sunday. I assume that we'll turn into a san-nin (threesome) then but we really have no idea. I don't want to be a san-nin to be honest. It's no fun.

We went to Tanaka 兄弟's (Brother Tanaka) house to eat dinner on Tuesday. He's a former stake president and the friendliest member in the Takatsuki ward. He had his friend (also named Tanaka, no relation) help him prepare the meal. It was sukiyaki. I should've taken a picture of it. I've never seen so much food in my life and there were only six of us there. It was SO good too. Possibly the best meal of my life. Matsukura 長老 walked out saying he was dissappointed because it wasn't as much food as last time. That's hard for me to believe. Last time, apparently, Matsukura 長老 requested that he make shabu-shabu. Tanaka 兄弟 bought a shabu-shabu appliance just for that meal. He's incredible. Both Brother Tanakas were also so friendly. They were praising my Japanese like crazy which I haven't really experienced a lot with members. The Kobe ward members weren't as forgiving. Tanaka 兄弟 said that I had really 綺麗 (beautiful) pronunciation. They also happened to find out that I'm a descendant of Ii Naosuke and about fainted. They said that being here in Japan was a huge 責任 (responsibility) for me and that a member in the Takatsuki ward was actually baptized for Ii Naosuke. By the way, has ANY temple work for mom's side of the family ever been done. If not, why not? Anyway, Tanaka 兄弟 is awesome. He just gets it. He was telling us that he knows that missionaries can't do it without the members. He always wants to join us for lessons and goes right to investigators when they're ate church. He always shows up an hour early to church, trims the hedges, picks up garbage, throws the doors open, and invites anyone that walks past to come inside. He's incredible.

We didn't find any investigators this week. First time on my mission. It's pretty tough. We did have some lessons and visited a couple less-active members though.

We also went to our service activity for the last time this week. They're moving to another location and it will be too inconvenient to have us visit from now on. We went on a walk and I had to hold Takatsukawa-kun's hand in order for him to keep up. It's crazy how they're all just children in adult bodies.

Osaka-jin's (Osakans) are really different. They have no problem being rude to us. I got it occasionally in Kobe, but it's crazy here. Add ugly Kansai-ben (local dialect) on top of it and you really feel like you're being chewed out. Speaking of Kansai-ben, there's an awesome less-active here named Hanada 姉妹 (Sister Hanada). We park in front of her restaurant everyday and she comes out to talk to us. She invited us in this week and basically shoved ramen down our throats and wouldn't take our money. She has the strongest accent.

My companion continues to be hilarious. We go to Mister Donuts a lot. We walk past a lot of restaurants and I hear a lot of "今度 いこか?" ("Shall we go there next?")  I asked him if he did Karaoke before his mission and his answer was "もちろん!!!やらない人はぜんぜnいない!”("Of course! Anybody who's anybody does it.") He told me stories of how he'd done it for nine hours straight before and made me promise that we'd go after I get home.

We were called Saturday morning by the stake president saying we needed to come to stake priesthood meeting. All of the elders in the zone were there (three of which are from the Tokyo mission). We found out in the middle of the meeting that we were going to bear our testimonies and that basically was the majority of the meeting. They read a letter from the first presidency in that meeting also. They also read it in both sacrament meetings on Sunday. I heard it three times but it was in ultra-polite Japanese so I think I got the hang of it by the third time. Basically: please help, we'll use tithing funds for relief, the Tokyo and Sendai missions are closed.....honorifically. The church has been PACKED with relief and supplies all week. I don't know where it's coming from, but it's all going north.

That fundraiser looks awesome! Well done!

I guess that's all. I'd really appreciate any update I can get on the conditions up north.  I hope everyone in Machida is ok. Have you heard from them?

Have a good week!

There's the Tanaka's and us. Great people

I didn't know the half-mast flag is a Japanese thing also. There aren't so many flags here, but I've seen a couple at half.

I've heard that this church has the biggest gym of any church in Japan. It was FULL of boxes and stuff.

"Tim-tam slam." They're chocolate biscuits that are really popular with missionaries. Last night they had a competition to see who could eat the most, but they had to "slam" them. To slam, you bite both ends off and then sip hot chocolate through it and then suck it up like ramen. It was pretty gross. And hilarious.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Earthquake/Tsunami/Radiation update: Elder Low will get more roommates

Many of you have been asking, so here's some brief news about the missionary evacuation in Japan. The Kobe Mission blog has reported they will be inheriting 40 missionaries from the Tokyo Mission who will be leaving the Tokyo area due to the Earthquake and Radiation problems. Tokyo is experiencing rolling blackouts, fuel shortages, and minimal radiation fallout. If you've read Jon's messages, you know that the Kobe mission has ample room to inherit these missionaries and places for them to work. There's no decision on how short or long term this evacuation will be at this time.

So it looks like Elder Low will get a new roommate this week.

Read more here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14, 2011

完全 に 大丈夫 です!

(I am completely fine!)


Well, I guess I should start this off by saying that I'm perfectly fine. We were having our weekly planning session Friday afternoon. I was actually dozing off so I thought I was getting dizzy when I felt the earthquake. It was very weak, barely even noticeable, but it lasted for about 3 minutes. It wasn't until we went to church yesterday that we really knew what had happened. To us it was just a tiny earthquake. We heard little bits and pieces of information here and there, but really didn't know. All of the prayers at church were long and filled with tears. We're really worried about the missionaries up there. A lot of them are friends and there are a couple missionaries in the Kobe mission from that area.

On Tuesday we had our weekly service activity. We never did that in Kobe, Bowman 長老 would have said めんどくさいわ! (What a pain!) It was really fun though. We spent about an hour at a home for oldered mentally handicapped people and they were tons of fun. The place smelled like a barn, but that's ok. We helped them play some very simple card game with numbers. It was almost like your typical kindergarten class. There's the teacher's pet that says 違う! 違う! 違う! (Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!) anytime anyone does anything wrong, there's the smart kid that doesn't say anything, there's the girl with pigtails and too much makeup, there's the one with no teeth but is always smiling, and there's the kid that's picking his nose. We're going back tomorrow.

We found one really solid investigator this week and he's committed to the Word of Wisdom and baptism. He's very cooperative and very knowledgeable about the Bible. Sometimes his interest seems so-so, but I think so long as we continue to meet with him we'll see.

. The pattern I've noticed is that our daily plans always have us passing a 食べ穂代 (All You Can Eat place) where he checks the price and says いつか いこ! (Let's go soon!)

He's also one of the funniest people I've ever met, by far. We were discussing how missionaries in the MTC always mess up the sentence "キリストは悪い人人に殺されました except they use を instead of に turning it from "Christ was killed by bad people" to "Christ honorifically killed bad people." When Matsukura 長老 heard that, he said "十字架?! おまえがはこべ!" ("I'll take you on with my cross!") while swinging around an invisible jujika (cross). I had a serious laugh attack. You know the kind, I was standing in the middle of a crowded 商店街 (shopping street) laughing so hard that I couldn't breath. He also sings me gospel music in English sometimes (he speaks zero English) that missionaries showed him. I'll randomly laugh throughout the day just because of something I remember.

Mitsukawa 長老 got a call from Tokyo this week and he will go to the MTC to learn English on March 28. I have no idea what's going to happen to me then, but for now I just assume we will become a 三人 (threesome) until further notice.

Our first district meeting was with the whole zone. The four of us are a district and we're in the Osaka North zone. It's funny, the Osaka North zone is made up of only ten missionaries. That's the exact same number of missionaries in Kobe. It felt like a normal district meeting to me.

Oh, one thing I remembered. Why did I never know how famous Ii Naosuke is? Anytime I tell someone that I'm a descendant of his, they basically lay an egg. Matsukura 長老 and Mitsukawa 長老 found out this week and nearly died.

Also, Machida is by far the Utah of Japan. We used the brand new Word of Wisdom pamphlet and all of the pictures inside are of members from Machida. Basically any picture in an official church publication is of people from Machida. Any time you say Machida to a member anywhere in Japan, they gasp.

That'll be all for now. Just to make sure everyone knows, I am indeed perfectly fine. A little nausea is the only way the earthquake affected me. Thank you for the information. I still really have no idea as to the whole of the situation. Pray for the people up there. Until next week!

This picture is a view from the Takatsuki apartment. It's not a pretty place, just one narrow street and lots of convenience stores and holes in the wall. I feel like I have a near death experience eveyday on my bike. You can step into any hole in the wall and find amazing food though.

So, on Saturday morning we were told to stay away from rivers or oceanfront completely because of Tsunami warnings. I guess we were naughty.

It's been freezing all week until suddenly yesterday it got really warm. It's warm again today. The junior high next to the church is having graduation right now. It's so noisy. I love it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake/Tsunami Update

We have received word from Elder Low's mission president that all missionaries are safe and accounted for in his mission. It appears that the Kobe mission didn't feel anything from the earthquake that struck a few hours ago. We haven't yet been able to contact Elder Low's grandparents in Tokyo. The phones are down and much of Tokyo is without power. We're grateful that Elder Low is safe and accounted for.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 7, 2011

A TON has happened since the last time that I emailed. Holy cow. Let's see...

On Monday night, the AP's just walked into our bedroom to do our transfer calls. They told me that I was going to Fukuchiyama.

Elder Bowman was sick all day on Tuesday so I stayed in and packed. I said goodbyes to a few Kobe people that night at Eikaiwa (English Class). A lot of them said that they were sure I would return. A lot of missionaries tell me that they think I will be an office elder later in my mission. I typically just brush that off because I don't think my Japanese will ever be that good, but as last transfer came to an end, I definitely felt that perhaps I would return to Kobe someday. I felt that maybe these two transfers were just a foundation for me to come back as a more skilled missionary and help the people that I met.

The new missionaries also came on Tuesday night. Four elders from America and two Japanese sisters, PLUS Elder Mitsukawa who is from Hashimoto (in the Kobe mission) and has been called to the San Francisco mission but is having visa problems and will serve here for the time being.

Friday night, President McIntyre sent me off to Ibaraki/Takatsuki instead of Fukuchiyama. At that time, they were a san-nin (threesome) so it made sense to send me there. Fukuchiyama is unfortunately closed. Mituskawa Choro is being "trained" here by Elder McConnell from Holladay, Utah and Elder Matsukura from Sapporo. He could leave at any time and so could I, I suppose.

This area is indeed Osaka. You must have emailed me pretty recently. I haven't been here long. It actually feels pretty "inaka" (country) to me. Granted, I've only been to Tokyo and Kobe. In terms of the mission as a whole though, this is one of the more tokai (rural) areas. I'm surprised. There are a lot less people here than I would've assumed. It's definitely the outskirts of Osaka.

I arrived here late Friday night so Saturday was my first real day and it was nuts. We went to visit a member. She had a dog that bit off the last Ibaraki Elder's nose. She was an extremely nice lady. I noticed she had a Weber State University diploma on her wall and asked about it. Her son went there. She then gave me about a 20 minute history of his life (all of this in the genkan (entry hall) with the door open because she was home alone) which eventually turned into her singing Alma 32:32-34 to some Lamanite-sounding music CD. Her house was a really pretty traditional Japanese house. There was a gigantic poster with the scripture written on it next to a wooden staircase. I didn't even realize she was singing until she was about a minute into it, I thought the voice was coming out of the stereo. It was like she turned into a Disneyland animatronic. She was standing back by the stares, swaying back and forth, singing perfectly note for note. Yeah, it's as funny as it sounds, but her testimony was SO strong. She had a beautiful voice too. We left having hardly said a word, but she said we had answered her prayers.

Later that night, we visited a man who's been seeing missionaries for years. He's American and has lived in Japan for a long time doing lots of various entertainment work. Matsukura Choro speaks zero english so it was very interesting. We showed up and he wasn't wearing any pants. Outside of his house is a giant jaguar stuffed animal with fake bones in it's paws. He talked for a long time about everything. He's an actor himself, but he's the kind of character that any actor would kill to play. The way he talked, what he talked about, and his conditions were so fascinating. I almost wanted to take notes on him. He smoked four cigarettes while we were there, talked about being in the military, his past marriage, and why he loves christianity. When I invited him to church, I asked him to bring his children (living with his ex-wife but apparently have come before) and he asked if he could bring his girlfriend.

Sunday was good. We attend both the Ibaraki and Takatsuki wards. Lately, it's been two missionaries for the two wards. It's been two for each ward before (and will become that next transfer because a ton of missionaries are coming in) but for now it's four for both wards because two of us could leave at any time. They want all four of us to make relationships with both wards.

As far as Matsukura Choro, he looks like the Panda in Kung Fu Panda I think. He eats like crazy. Before fast Sunday he said he was going to "mecha, mecha taberu" ("eat like crazy") so he wouldn't die. He's always talking about food and always eating it. He's a really nice person though. He compliments my Japanese a lot.

Elder McConnell is an old, experienced missionary and he's awesome. We attacked the apartment today and cleaned it. It was disgusting. It's still not the best but it looks a lot better. I didn't even want to touch anything before.

I'm excited to be here. I'm now realizing how easy I had it in Kobe. I just stepped outside and let my companion talk to people and we found investigators. I suddnely feel like a lot more weight is on more shoulders even though Matsukura Choro is the senpai (senior), he doesn't know much of the area. I'm going to have to grow a lot.

Randy, Sam, and Clint, LEARN JAPANESE!!! I'm not kidding. Your chance of being called to Japan is mecha-takai (extremely high) now that I've been called here and you will like life a lot better if you can speak Japanese. You become the missions biggest weapon when you're billingual. Besides that, it's part of your heritage. I'm still ashamed that I didn't know it before. You'll be a better person and have a more open mind. DO IT!

I suppose that'll be all. Take care!

Some pictures:

We had a lesson with Ryu Koto on Tuesday, with Lee helping as the Member. I can definitely see him getting baptized soon. He wanted to take a picture when I told him I was transferring.

A picture of Harborland, we went there last p-day.

That's what the mission home apartment looks like.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Elder Low's been blogged

The Japan Kobe Mission blog has been awash today with a lot of pictures including Elder Low. Here's a few of them.
A baptism in the Kobe Ward. Link to original article

All You Can Eat Crab on P-day

Celebrating James McIntyre's birthday
(Mission President's son)

Celebrating Elder McLaws' birthday

Celebrating Elder Tsushima's birthday