Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 30, 2011

Ok, well I guess I should first tell you that even though I`m writing this email from Wakayama, I am still working in Shingu. My new companion is Elder Schramm from Midvale, Utah. He is also half-Japanese. He is fluent in Japanese though, he spoke before he came on his mission. We are in Wakayama because Elder Schramm is going to Kobe this week for President McIntyre`s final leadership training and we have to come early in order to get there on time since Shingu is so far away. I will be spending the next three days in Sennan with a second transfer missionary from Brazil named Elder Cardoso. I`ve heard he`s a pretty fiery, new missionary. it will be interesting to work with him.

To be honest, I am pretty dissappointed that I wasn`t asked to go to leadership training. President McIntyre leaves at the end of June so this was my last chance to go during his presidency. I think I will get to see him one last time before he goes home. At least that`s what I`ve heard. Who knows.

So transfers weren`t much of a surprise. Elder Nishio transferred to Tsuyama, his hometown for his last transfter. He came to the Kobe mission before it combined with the Hiroshima mission, but when the two missions consolidated, his hometown became part of the mission and he`s wanted to serve there ever since then. On top of that, while he`s been on his mission, his parents moved to Amagasaki, the ward right next to Kobe in the Kobe stake.

Because Shingu is such a small community, the members get all up in the missionaries business. They come to the station to wave goodbye when missionaries transfer. Now that I`m the area senpai, I`ve been answering the phone everyday. They don`t hesitate to call at all. It`s beena little bit of a patience exercise.

Within in just two hours of being in Shingu, Elder Schramm and I taught a lesson to Bisunu from Nepal who works at the Jusco. He can speak a little bit of Japanese and little bit of English, but dispite that, we were able to commit him to a baptismal date. It will be an adventure, but he looks pretty good and definitely teachable so we`re excited to see what happens with him.

IT`s been raining like crazy since Friday and in fact, there has been a typhoon going on since yesterday. Right before church, the city made an announcement over the loud speaker (yes, it is small enough in order for them to make announcements to the entire city over a loud speaker) to stay inside and watch your TV for warnings.

On Saturday, it was raining like crazy. Being outside was like jumping in a pool. It was one of those days where I thought: "what`s the point?" There was nobody outside and even if somebody was somebody to talk to, they obviously wanted to get inside quickly. We visited a member and had to go to the apartment of one of our investigators to reschedule our appointment with him. As we were riding our bikes, I thought "yeah, this sucks but we really don`t have a choice, do we?" AS I was riding, it was incredible how quickly and how clearly I was able to feel as though I was doing what I was meant to be doing. It was almost like I could feel the Lord put his hands on me and hear him say "thank you." It was a cool feeling and I`m glad that I had that experience even though everything in my bag got completely drenched and all of my clothes are still soaking wet. The visit with the member went really well. We got them to really bear testimony to us, when I thought all last transfer that they were on the verge of going in-active. All it took was showing them a little bit of love and sharing a gospel message. They were really thankful that we took the time to come and see them, even in the rain.

We figured no one would show up to church since there was a typhoon. It wasn`t a surprise when we walked in 30 minutes early, everything was set-up and Tsuboi Kyodai was writing on his board for his sunday school elsson. The three of us planned on just taking the sacrament and going home when Iwamoto Kyodai and his five year old son showed up. We did sacrament meeting regularly and the members we visited the day beofre (the Wada`s) showed up as well and we were able to do the full two hour program. We took off right after on our way to Wakayama.

Have a great week!I`m a 1/3 done with my mission!

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011

I forgot my journal again so I might forget some things. Anyway, here it goes.

So the last email you got from me was from Wakayama. The next morning we took the train to Mikunigaoka for zone conference. That was my second zone conference and my last with President and Sister McIntyre. That is so strange. I can`t believe how fast that went. We`ll miss them a lot. They`ve done incredible work here. President McIntyre talked a lot about Japan in general and what has happened here recently. He said that when they met with President Eyring before they were set apart, President Eyring said that Japan will see a huge surge in membership growth and again and the church will become more well-known and well-respected. Well, during President McIntyre`s stay here, the number of convert baptisms has nearly tripled. President McIntyre had a goal to see 100 baptisms in 2011 before he leaves and as of Sunday, that number is 101. Miracles are taking place in Japan and prophecies are being fulfilled. He told us that we wants us to double the figures with the next mission president.

Group Picture at Zone Conference 

I`ll really miss their personality too. Sister McIntyre was talking about having a positive attitude; she said she saw a documentary on TV about how the brain works. She was explaining how nerves carry information and that when we think positively, the nerves carry the information faster. To demonstrate this, she spread her hands out and made zapping sound effects. The look on President McIntyre`s face was absolutely priceless. Everyone laughed. President McIntyre heckled her a little bit when he spoke and she said "don`t make fun of me, I`ve told you that before!" from the back of the room. They`re great.

We went to Kushimoto on our way back. Kushimoto is in our area but impossibly far to get to by bike and the trains are so few that it isn`t ever worth making a trip out there. It`s the most southern tip of honshu. It`s a pretty place. We were able to visit a less-active.

Some really famous rock formations in Kushimoto.

That is me in Shionminosaki. Just so everyone isn`t confused, I`m not where my finger is. I`m at that brown dot near the bottom of the sign.

The next picture is a famous light house. It is the most southern tip of Honshu and apparently is famous in post cards in such. We paid to walk into the light house. There were only two other people there.

Shirahama beach were we stopped on our way back to Shingu.

Only two days after we left Wakayma, the Wakayama zone leaders came to Shingu for an exchange. They really helped us a lot, I think. We needed a boost. We found two investigators, one of which came to church. He was a very interesting fellow who lives in Taiji and gave us a good talk on Greenpeace when we met him. He seemed to like us just fine though, I was with Elder Lystrup from Las Vegas who has bright red hair.
Elder Lystrup and I on our exchange.

Other than that, it`s been pretty normal business around here. Ah, I feel really bad that I didn`t bring my journal because I feel like I have more that I could potentially write about, I just can`t remember it all.

The branch continues to chug along. The branch president hasn`t been able to come for the past two weeks because of the commute and some health problems for his wife. It`s been a little bit difficult to keep everyone coming.

Mom, I did get the money you sent from Machida. Thank you! I loved the bracelet too.

I`ve come to realize that Japan is simply a part of who we are and to be perfectly honest, it is neglected FAR too much in our house. It is an honor and priviledge to have heritage in two very different countries, but if you don`t treasure it, it dies. Sam really needs to go to Japan and really, all of us should learn Japanese. It`s sad, really. I`ve met lots of people from similar families with different degrees of Japanese culture infused in them. Trust me, if you live in the U.S., the more the better. Eat the food, speak the language, and know the culture. You will be happy you did.

I hope Farmington will be ok with that flood scare. Heck, you`re far more 困っている (in trouble) than I was during the earthquake. I can`t believe that new things are being built out by that station now. I suppose it will look pretty different when I get back. I just realized that as of yesterday, I`ve been gone for 8 months. That`s pretty fast I suppose. I probably wrote it in every email from the MTC, but it really is true that the days feel like months and the months feel like days.

So the home teachers came? Does Brother Bell have a companion now? Hmm, maybe that changed while I was at college and I just never noticed. It`s amazing how long he`s been our home teacher. I still remember meeting him for the first time.

Transfer calls are tomorrow. I have absolutely no idea what will happen. I guess you will next Monday. I suppose that should be all, I`ll send some pictures too. Talk to you next week!

Some pictures from the AWESOME Kamikura Shrine in the mountains. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I tried to emphasize with pictures just how steep the hike is. The pictures don`t do it justice but just know: it`s really, really steep.

There is a box of walking sticks there to use as you can see. 


Spring water feeds the purification trough

So there was a dead squid in front of the church one day...no idea how it got there.
Uma (horse meat) sushi at a place right next to our apartment. It was interesting.


Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011

I`m in Wakayama right now. We have zone conference on Tuesday and since Shingu is so far we had to leave yesterday right after church. We got on the train in Shingu at 3, got to Tanabe at about 6, and then got on a limousine bus and arrived in Wakayama-shi at 8:30. It`s absolutely ridiculous how far out there Shingu is.

So on the Monday you called, we attended the church of one of our investigators. We had to get permission, but we were encouraged to go, especially in that it would be a good opportunity to meet people. It`s called "イエスキリスト御霊教会”(Church of Jesus Christ Holy Spirit). The real church is in Tanabe, but the preacher comes to Shingu every Monday for all of his followers in Shingu. It was really hard to find. It happened to be in a tiny little run-down house. There was only our investigator (a woman in her sixties named 益子 (Mashiko) ) and two other really old ladies. When we walked in, the preacher basically started interrogating us. He said we were more than welcome to watch, but as he asked about all of our beliefs, he didn`t attack them, but the look on his face told the story. He basically told us how wrong we were and then continued with his speech. I actually felt really good about it. He asked us questions, and we answered respectfully. To start the sermon, they prayed, which was probably the most bizarre thing I`ve ever seen. First of all, everyone in the church was kneeling through the whole thing. To pray, they rocked back and forth and said "hallelujah" as fast and as many times as they possibly could. We were a little scared. About five minutes into his sermon, the crowd had grown to 16. That was the real stunner. How is this guy beating us?! We obviously have work to do.

We`re emailing in a public place so I can`t send pictures but I went to Kamikura jinja up on the mountain this week. It`s the one under the boulder. It was awesome and I got lots of great pictures that I`ll be sure to send next week. That hike is so ridiculously steep. I don`t know how the wrinkly old people that go up there to worship don`t die.

It got unbelievably hot and humid for two days this week. Even in the pouring rain, it felt like an oven. I HATE that feeling. Hot, humid, AND, raining. It has cooled down quite a bit since then and is actually quite nice now though. I guess that was just a preview of this summer.

The biggest miracle of the transfer happened on Saturday. We saw a Brazillian man eating at the food court in Jusco with his Japanese wife and two incredibly cute kids. We knew he was Brazillian because he was wearing a Brazillian soccer jersey. We saw him again, walking the kids on our way out to a less-actives`s apartment (it`s the one by that amazingly pretty river I sent a picture of), we both felt a very strong prompting to talked to him but decided we were busy and just said hello as we rode past him on our bikes. As we were leaving the less-active`s apartment, Nishio 長老 said "if we see him again, we are going to talk to him" sure enough, he was there on the same street. We talked to him and it turns out he was baptized several years ago in Mikunigaoka and quit going to church after six months because he got busy. He is married now (as we were talking, his wife was being driven to work. She waved out of the back seat of a car being driven by two REALLY shady looking men and she was plastered in makeup...) and has been living in Shingu for three years. He wants to come back to church and make sure that his children are raised with a belief in God since Japanese people typically don`t believe in God. That was awesome. It took three run-ins for us to finally have the courage to talk to him, but I`m so glad we did. I`m excited to see what happens to him.

Sorry, I wrote this about two hours ago, but the computer froze and we had an appointment to go to yoga. Luckily it saved as a draft. I`ll talk to you next Monday. Have a great week!

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011 - Photo Essay

I figured I would just send pictures and narrate this week. I can`t really remember much of what has happened anyway.
The Shingu castle ruins. There are hundreds of hawks constantly flying overhead and you can basically get them to eat bread out of your hand, it`s way cool.


That is Mie prefecture. The other side of that river officially becomes the Nagoya Mission. There is actually a less-active family that occasionally attends the Shingu branch so we go over there to visit them. I have officially been in the boundaries of the Nagoya Mission.

Shingu really is just mountains and ocean.


Picture of me housing. There are some very interesting "houses" out here.


One of the two really famous shrines out here. I forgot it`s name. It`s Kumano-something-something...  Anyway, it`s pretty. (Note from Dad: It's Kumano Shingu Nagatoko shrine.)


This is a really pretty river right by an apartment complex where a couple investigators live. Pictures can`t do it justice. It looks like something from a fairy tale. The river is huge and deep and mountains are extremely tall and green from top to bottom.


Kamikura shrine. I need to hike up there before I leave.

This is Kujira (Whale meat)!

We cut up half of it and ate it raw and cooked the rest on the stove. The raw stuff is pretty good,

but holy cow...it turns into a juicier, better version of steak when you cook it. No wonder Japan puts up such a fight to keep whale fishing.

A door sticker I liked

Me eating a Kujira (Whale Meat) donburi in Taiji. (Where the movie "The Cove" was filmed.)

The whale museum in Taiji. 

Yes, these are show whales...they are not for eating. However, I find it really funny how Japanese people think dolphins and whales are just as cute as anyone else, but they`re totally fine with going next door to the giftshop cafeteria and eating them for lunch. I guess it`s just a different kangaekatta (way of thinking). いいんじゃないですか?("What's wrong with that?")

As you can see, the let you get pretty close to the dolphins.

This is it. "The Cove." This was during golden week so I suppose all of the fishers were on vacation. My companion and I were the only people there. It was almost spooky how quiet it was. Apparently, when they are fishing, this entire outlet is filled to the brim with dolphins and the ocean as far as you can see turns red.