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.