Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011

I typically have my journal with me when I write emails in order to remember what happened during the week but I forgot it today. Hopefully I can remember everything.


Tuesday morning was transfer calls. It`s funny, even though I am starting my fourth transfer, that was the first time I received a normal transfer call. The first three were all just casually said to my face since I was in Kobe. I was completely expecting to stay in Ibaraki since I`d been told several times that I would be; and I was content with that. However, when I received the phone call, President McIntyre said he didn`t think I was going to transfer (which obviously meant I was transfering) but that he needed me in "one of the most wonderful, baptizing, areas in the mission": Shingu.

I`d heard quite a bit about Shingu before. Bowman 長老 told me that if there was one area he didn`t want to go to, it was Shingu. It`s termed as the "banishment" area. When you transfer to Shingu, you are banished. Apparently there are stories of missionaries that beg for mercy when they receive the call that they`re going to Shingu. Why? Well, first of all it`s far. From Tennoji station in Osaka it takes a total of nearly seven hours to get there. It`s the southern most tip of Honshu. It`s the little claw just above Shikoku. There is NOTHING out here. Yes, this is the part of Japan where they catch whales and dolphins. In fact, for a p-day activity, we are planning to head out to the place where Hayden Panitierre swam out to sea to try to save dolphins. The members told blonde missionaries not to go out there because it`s dangerous for gaijin(foreigners). If they see foreigners, they immediately want them out. We figure it`ll be fine since people mistake me for being Japanese 90% of the time.

Second, the branch is tiny. There are about eight active members. About four transfers ago, they called a branch president, before then, one of the missionaries had to be the branch president. The branch president and his wife live in Tanabe, about an hour and half drive away. That also intimidates people I suppose.

How do I like it? I think it`s perfectly fine! It`s definitely different.

View from the Shingu Apartment




My first area was Kobe (big ward) and next was Ibaraki and Takatsuki, both big wards, about 70 members each. VERY different experience. The church is a tiny little building, about the size of a rich American`s bedroom. We live directly above it. The ride down was so ridiculously long. I didn`t think it would ever end. On the train from Tanabe to Shingu, at about halfway, my companion and I became the last two people left on the train. That`s how 田舎 (out in the sticks) this place is.


The one shotengai (shopping street) in Shingu. Yeah, it always looks like this. You should compare it to the picture of the Kobe Sannomiya shotengai I sent a while back.



The members as well are quite colorful people you could say. My companion, Nishio 長老 says that he saw these kinds of people in movies but didn`t think they were actually like what he saw until he came to Shingu. All of that said, there are strong members here that would fight until their death to keep this branch alive. Because there are so few members, they are all VERY close friends and obviously work very closely with the missionaries. Heck, they`re all like companions to us. If you bring an investigator to church, the investigator then belongs to the branch...the missionaries just do the teaching, and that`s how it should be. The recent converts feel completely at home when they join the branch.


Brother Tsuboi and I. He is an AWESOME member. Super strong faith. He wanted to take a picture together.



We went to a service project this week. We cleaned a nursing home. I wouldn`t be surprised if the nursing home in Ponyo was inspired by this one. I felt like I was in that movie. We had to wear masks. I felt really legit wearing my mask, looking out the window and seeing the ocean as I vacuumed underneath a barely alive old lady`s bed.

The easter dinner sounds like it was fun. Grandma`s house is always fun on occasions like that.

I`m so glad that mom gets to go to Grandma Tsuchiya`s funeral. She deserves to go to Japan. Mom, you should give yourself a day to relax in Disneyland...the Winnie the Pooh ride is great. Last transfer I had this huge craving to return to Tokyo at the end of my mission. Probably because I had a Japanese companion. I was just always speaking and thinking in Japanese (I guess I still am, new companion, but also Japanese) and I realized that I would love to revisit that place that I love so much. I will probably have a different perspective now that I can understand what people are saying.

You`re totally right about how they all unite in a crisis like this. The branch got on the subject during Sunday School and it got so out of control. Anyway, we ended up turning off the air conditioner. They`re trying to save power, even clear down here.

In the email from Kobe today, it says that the Tokyo missionaries are all going to be returning in waves starting the first week of may. They haven`t decided who is going and when, but that it will indeed start. The plan is to have all of them back by the end of this transfer. Finally. They need missionaries up there. It will definitely shuffle things around here when they do go back though.

Also included in the email from the mission was a picture of Ryu Koto, my investigator from Kobe. He got baptized! He`s the David Archuleta fan. I sent a picture of him back in February when I transfered out of Kobe. That picture will probably show up on President McIntyre`s blog soon. Kobe is exploding with baptisms lately.

Well, I guess that`s all I have time for.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011

Hello again.


There is a ton to write this week.

So yes, Nakatani 姉妹 was baptized this Saturday and confirmed yesterday. That's an experience you simply can't describe. Teaching all of the lessons to someone and seeing them get baptized. Seeing them go from start to finish is so beautiful. She had absolutely miraculous faith. She didn't have trouble believing one thing we taught, nor did she have trouble commiting to keep any of the commandments. To be honest, yeah, that's incredibly unusual. The only explanation is that she was prepared by the Lord. We had nothing to do with it. It's amazing how things like this come together. Two missionaries in Australia baptized Eriko while I was in the MTC which planted the seeds for us to teach her mother. It all comes together so beautifully. She will make such a great member. She had such humility and gratitude for everything we did. She bowed more than I've ever seen anyone bow and used the most polite Japanese I've heard besides people working in retail. We also have the perfect handoff set up. Yoshino 姉妹 who just got back from the Salt Lake City South mission, speaking spanish, will teach her the AB lessons. She's been an awesome help. It's really perfect timing. Just seeing her run up to Eriko and Nakatani 姉妹 after the baptism and give them both big hugs just felt so right. I'm not worried at all.

Transfer calls actually aren't until tomorrow and transfer day is Thursday. It originally was last week but since the Tokyo missionaries joined us mid-transfer, the transfer was extended by a week. None of them will be returning at the transfer (at least that's what I've heard) but if some do return, it will be in the middle of the transfer. I sure hope they get to. It's been really fun having them down here and getting to know them and learn from them, but let's be honest, we need them up there. If it's safe, they need to be there. That's the biggest city in the world and there are currently zero missionaries there. That's sad. We've met a couple people from Tokyo lately and we always have to do a double take because we usually say that there are missionaries in Tokyo that they can call but as of right now...there aren't.

So yeah, Kyoto was AWESOME. I would guess that over 100 missionaries passed through Kiyomizudera between 11:00 and 5:00 last Monday. It was crazy. The sakura (blossoms) were unbelievably gorgeous.








"Kiyomizu" means "pure water."  Here it is.






Yes mom, I saw Bunderson 長老. He said "so apparently our mom's are hanging out and doing fundraisers and stuff." I got to talk to Sister Holker and Sister Myagmarjav from my MTC 同期 for a little bit. They were on their way out when we went in.


I got to walk through the temple with Sister Ilch. She's doing awesome. She's in Sekime. The area that has Umeda (biggest station in Osaka) in it, probably the most 都会 (big city) area in the mission. It's been a little rough in that she spent her first two transfers in Kurayoshi where the church is a shed and there's hardly anything. She's as happy as always though.



I also got to talk to Elder Bowman for a bit who was on his way in when we were on our way out. He said that O-san moved to Kyoto for school but on his last Sunday in Kobe, he brought his friend, also named O. The O I taught is really tall and apparently this new O is really short so they call them big O and little O. Anyway, little O was baptized this Sunday! That was another really amazing thing to hear. All of that worrying I did trying to soften O-san's heart paid off. I met him for a reason, just couldn't see it then.

On Tuesday I saw one of the most sickening things I've ever seen. A woman carrying a toddler (maybe a year or so old, could hardly waddle) walked past us in a hurry. The child was screaming and crying and the woman was obviously frustrated. She got about 60 feet in front of us and SET THE CHILD IN THE STREET and walked off!! Another lady on a bike immediately stopped and tried help. The mother then turned around, grabbed the child like he was a grocery sack and stormed off towards an apartment complex. Luckily the lady on the bike called the police. I don't know why I'm sharing this...I just have it written in my journal and remembered it. I felt so helpless. There really was nothing we could do. I wanted to rip the child from her hands and run. I feel sick thinking about what could've happened and what that child could possibly be going through right now. You see lots of crazy things when you walk around all day.

We randomly visited one of hundreds and hundreds of less-active members on the map this week. When she opened the door, she said she had been praying for someone from the church to come and visit her. That was an AMAZING feeling. That was probably the most I've ever felt like a missionary. We left and she had completely changed. She asked us to pray that she could find a new job so that she can attend church. It was crazy.

On that same day, we randomly met a less-active on the street. He has a very mild speech impediment but stopped coming to church 8 years ago because of some bad experiences he had. He was baptized the year I was born. That was heart-breaking. His faith and testimony were so strong, but unfortunately a couple bad experiences keep him from church. We couldn't change his mind, unfortunately. So sad. There are countless members like that in Japan.

So Randy, yeah I get to see a lot of cool things. Yeah, I am in an awesome place. Yes, I get to eat good food and yes I'm really blessed. BUT, it ain't all sunshine and roses. It is certainly worth it, but don't fantasize. If you want to put it into perspective, the next time you're in a crowded place outside of Utah, try to stop every single person you see and start talking to them about the church. Then think about trying to do it in Japan...in Japanese. That's what I do for 8 hours a day.


It's funny, about an hour ago when Matsukura 長老 was emailling, a man walked into the church because he was interested. That NEVER happens. All it takes is faith...

I had no idea that Tokyo Disneyland was still closed until now. It's funny, Matsukura 長老 and I talk about it all the time and have already made plans to go together after we get home. I hope everything will be ok. Are all of the rides ok? Silly question but....I honestly am a little interested...ok, a lot.
I hope all is well at home. I'm sending a letter to the ward today. I figure I should since they've sent met two now.

That's me next to a real crane. The A Thousand Cranes cast will probably recognize the pose.





A park right by our apartment. The sakura are all gone now, but wow they were gorgeous.


 

One more picture of the park near our apartment. It typically looks pretty dull and gray but for two weeks, it was the Celestial Kingdom.

This is the politician that rode past me on his bike.


 

 
I guess that's all for today. Talk to you next week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11,2011

Hello!


Yeah, I am writing from an internet cafe. We`re on our way to Kyoto today and will spend all day there. We don`t have a lot of time so I apologize if this is short. Next week will be loaded with pictures for sure.

The Sakura (cherry blossoms) are really starting to explode right now. I like this Ibaraki & Takatsuki area perfectly fine, it`s just....ugly. It`s not a beautiful big city like Kobe and it`s not a beautiful inaka (country) area either. It`s just kind of ugly and in-between. However, add tons of Sakura and there are some gorgeous places in this area. Way excited to go see them in Kyoto today.

So one thing to know, Ikeda Shimai is for sure getting baptized on Saturday!!! This is a really exciting time. We`ve finished up all the lessons and she`s set. I`ve loved seeing her go through this process. Any time we committed her to live any commitment, her answer was 喜んで!("Gladly"). To be honest, I don`t feel like we did anything. She was prepared 100% by the Lord, we had nothing to do with it...and I think that`s a good thing. We`re way excited. This will be the first baptism I see on my mission as well as Matsukura 長老`s first baptism. Way exciting.

Have you ever eaten at an Ohsho`s? Dang, it`s good. Huge portions and way cheap. I was going to send a picture but don`t have time. I know Randy would be jealous. Ramen and gyoza.

Funny story, so we were walking around a really quiet residential area this week when we heard four bikes behind us ringing their bells and saying こんいちわ ("Hello!") really loudly. It turned out to be a guy that is running for mayor of Osaka-fu. Pretty big deal. He`s really young and we see his picture everywhere. He basically looked just like Snow White`s prince, except on a bike followed by three other guys on bikes. He was wearing a sash and white gloves and everything. He rode past us, bowed and said しつれします ("Excuse me"). I felt really cool.

We also had interviews this week. It was good to see President and Sister McIntyre again. They are still just as cool as they always have been. It`s amazing how much and how well President McIntyre can understand exactly what`s going on even though I haven`t seen him once this transfer.

General Conference was great. It`s a very different experience watching it upstairs in a quiet room with just a couple members and other missionaries. They also show all of the sessions consecutively with only one hour breaks so it`s like a marathon. It`s fun, I think. The onigiri and taco rice in between eating really brings the members together.

Well, that`s all the time I have. Look forward to next week! It`ll be a good one!

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011

Hello!


Yes, Matsukura 長老 was at leadership training this week. I spent three days with Hashimoto 長老 who is also from Hokkaido. There's a lot of them in our mission.

On Tuesday we had our first lesson with Ikeda-san, Eriko's mom. I can't remember if I wrote about Eriko or not but anyway, she recently came back from a study abroad in Australia where she got baptized. I can't believe how well it went. She was prepared in every way to hear our message. She is so awesome, she brought inari-zushi for us to eat afterwards.

The next day we went on an adventure to find a referral we got from church. All we had was an address so we looked at the map and headed in the general direction and then asked the people at 7-11 (they always know!) how to get there. It turned into an hour and a half bike ride straight up the mountain.  I'll send pictures. I couldn't believe how quickly the atmosphere changed.  It turned into 大田舎 (the boondocks).


To give you an idea, this is what it looks like outside of our apartment.


And this is what it looked like when we got there.




The referral was a "secret referral" in that the member wanted us to very naturally proselyte their house because if they found out that we were sent there, it'd be strange. It turned out that they weren't interested. The lady that answered the kekko-box (intercom at the door where the resident usually says "Kekko", which means "No Thank You") (I don't think I'm supposed to call it that but I don't know what it's really called...) giggled when she heard we were missionaries and then hung up. It was kind of sad.

The next day we visited a former investigator from the area book. You know, I used to always think that lots of characters in movies are too crazy. You know, I would think "nobody is really THAT crazy." Well, it turns out that I haven't met enough crazy people to make that kind of judgement. This man was insane. When we knocked on the door, he barely cracked it opened and peered around it so we could only see his eyes. It looked like he had washed his face in the chimney. The little bit I could see of the inside of the apartment was newspapers stacked to the ceiling. He saw that we were missionaries and said that he would come back outside in just a moment and slammed the door super hard. We waited for about 15 minutes before he finally came out. His clothes looked like he'd never changed out of them in 20 years...and he smelled that way too. 一つ歯しかない (Only one tooth)。 He walked us down to the river close by which was beautiful. Sakura (cherry blossoms) are starting to come out and there were little kids playing hide and seek and such. We talked to him for a while and first of all he wanted to know how we got his address. We told him how and he basically just shrugged. He then dove into about a 1 hour conversation. He'd take pauses to whisper secrets to his hands and would burst out into hysterical laughter every 2 minutes or so. At the end, he asked us to destroy his record. It turns out that he hates Americans. I think that was a good experience...I won't ever forget it.

I got the package. Man, that news coverage is just too much. I love how the Nagoya missionary said "I felt dizzy" yeah, that's because the earthquake was so faint that it felt like you were imagining it in your head and it made you dizzy! It was definitely quoted to make it sound dramatic. To anyone that's reading this: WE'RE FINE! Everything is normal down here. Worry about the people that are in trouble up in Miyagi who lost everything. Don't worry about the missionaries that can be pulled out with the snap of a finger. I also laugh when I read that missionaries were pulled out of the "affected" areas. A lot of those Tokyo missionaries were WAY far south, but were only taken out for safety precautions. I don't think parents calling the mission homes everyday helped either. Hopefully the missionaries will be able to go back to the Tokyo mission soon. That's a lot of people that don't have the chance to hear the gospel right now. There are about 50 youth in the gym at this church right now assembling boxes to send up north.

Yesterday at church we had another lesson with Ikeda-san. She's doing great. Yoshino 姉妹 (I guess I should say Hermana Yoshino) sat in on it. She returned from the Salt Lake City South Mission where she spoke Spanish. Yeah, she's trilingual. She said some really great things in the lesson. It was funny though, she had to ask for a lot of words in Japanese. She was at BYU before her mission so it's been a while.

True, we don't have General Conference until this weekend. It should be pretty fun. Apparently it's the most relaxing time as a missionary. I'm excited. I suppose they didn't announce any temples for Japan. I'm sure this happens every year, but all of the members here are anticipating a Kansai (Osaka area) temple to be announced at General Conference.

I guess that's all I have time for this week. We might be headed to Kyoto next week because the Sakura (cherry blossoms) are starting to come out! Watch for pictures!