Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 27, 2011

It rained like crazy a lot at the beginning of this week and then got unbelievably hot by the end. We tried spending all of Tuesday and Wednesday on foot, basically just wandering. It was pretty effective I would say, it guided us to people that we probably would`ve just passed over on our bikes, but it was also ridiculously exhausting.

On Wednesday morning we walked to the ocean and found an old man named Moriharu loading garbage into his car that he had just picked up off of the beach. We had a good conversation with him, he said that his family is everything and he lives to make them happy. We talked about eternal families and he expressed interest. We made an appointment with him and as we were saying goodbye to him, he looked really tired. He said something about having bad knees and it was incredibly hot. As my companion shook his hand to say goodbye, he collapsed.

We were both in shock. He laid down on the ground and looked like he was going to throw up. A jogger came back as we called the police and explained how to get here. Before the police got there, he woke up and said "トイレしたい" ("I need to use the toilet") and then half-crawled, half-waddled over to the bushes to do his business and that`s when the police showed up. They got everyone`s information and everything turned out being just fine. We called him later that night to make sure he was ok. He was fine, and his wife picked up the phone and thanked us for taking care of him.

We`ve been working closely with one of our recent converts. We`ve done lots of service for him which he really likes. We picked weeds and umeboshi off of one of his trees. He lives up in the mountains; it is definitely not fun biking up there. I think if missionaries keep doing that for him, he`ll get the point eventually. 

On Thursday we had our second and last district meeting. The zone leaders came down again and afterwards came back to Shingu with us to do a companion exchange. District meeting was really great and we had amazing okonomiyaki afterwards. 

I don`t know why I look THAT happy to be eating a brownie.


Us eating okonomiyaki afterwards.

The air conditioner in our tatami room broke...and the four of us slept in there. It was つらい (agony). Schramm 長老 and I have been sleeping in our study room since then because it`s too hot to sleep in there without the air conditioner. 

I spent Friday with Burhoe 長老. He`s from American Fork and a  really great misisonary. He`s really good at having fun on his mission. We pulled weeds for Tsuyutani 兄弟 who is living with Nagai 兄弟. The weeds were in front of these storage sheds which are apparently owned by Nagai 兄弟`s boss. I guess it was a favor of sorts. We also went to the retirement home as always on Friday.

Elder Burhoe and I with Tsuyutani kyodai when we went to pick weeds.


I totally wanted to share this story last week but forgot until I saw it in my journal. Anyway, last week at the retirement home they just had us "go fishing" with the patients. They had cut-out fish attached to clothes hangers and the old people would use fake fishing poles to "catch" them from off of the floor. The lady I helped was probably the cutest thing I`ve ever seen. She focused sooo hard trying to catch the fish and would stick her tongue just barely out of the corner of her mouth as she did it. Everytime she would finally catch a fish she would say "釣った!嬉しい!" ("I caught one! I'm so happy!") and then drop the pole to clap her hands. I was talking to another lady afterwards who seemed perfectly healthy. She wasn`t in a wheel chair and could perfectly carry on a conversation...besides one thing: she asked me where she was every 30 seconds. When I would tell her she was always astonished. She asked why we were there and I told her I had no idea. It was so hard not to laugh...she asked about 15 times.

On Saturday, we got a call from Sister McIntyre. She said that she and President McIntyre had decided to spend their last Sunday in Shingu. They said they were thinking about it earlier in the week but they weren`t sure if they could make it, but on Saturday it was official. Three members, the branch president and his wife, and one other person were there. I can`t even begin to expalin how spiritual yesterday was. Both President and Sister McIntyre spoke and I`ve never seen them with so much conviction. In a way, this was almost like their dying act. The Shingu branch entered the Sakai stake in Januray, but before that it was an individual branch that was run by the mission and presided over by President McIntyre. They came just to visit. They really wanted to help after hearing about some of the problems that have come out for the branch this year. I probably can`t write what was said because it was so sacred. I can say that that was the most passionate and bold I`ve ever seen President McIntyre and that`s really saying something...especially considering how small that room is. It was like lighting dynamite in a closet.

Both President and Sister McIntyre addressed specific problems and gave counsel. President McIntyre basically assured everyone that this is Jesus Christ`s church and all of us are to do our best to follow him and try to become like him. It doesn`t work when we`re not willing to serve or forgive others. He said eventually they will come back to Shingu and want to see 20 to 30 people there. Tsuboi 兄弟 sat on the edge of his seat, bowed his head, and said はい ("Yes") as if it were an order.

My name tag. A friend asked me to put that Texas sticker on the back of my name tag back when I was in the MTC and I forgot to take a picture of it until today. Hopefully he`ll see it if it`s on my blog.

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011

So, youtube videos haven`t really loaded on these computers until today. I just watched Randy sing "Fly Me to the Moon" for the first time. Pretty good! I`m impressed with how much confidence you have in performing.

Apparently the news of the Book of Mormon musical has made it out to Japan as well. Our branch president was talking about how he saw it on the news. You know the last musical that those two made was the same story. It was extremely offensive and swept the Tony`s as well, but it actually didn`t make a lot of money and people stopped going to see it so it only stayed open for a little over a year. Hopefully this one is the same. I would hope that the average American is smart enough to know that comedy, especially parody, is never based on fact.

I`m jealous of all of the missionaries that get to wear the helping hands shirts up in Miyagi. Apparently a lot of the Tokyo missionaries were sent up there as well. That`s just an army of people doing good, on-lookers can`t deny that. At the very least, they know that they are good people. I`m sure they will have lots of success through that. At the very least, they`re making a great name for the church.

I don`t have my journal with me so we`ll see how much I remember.

On Tuesday we met with President and Sister McIntyre for the last time. We were really worried that we weren`t going to be able to stay for the whole thing at first due to how few trains there are. We ended up taking a super express train back that was double the cost. It was our only choice, really. Anyway, it was really great. He decided to just give us some training which was more or less, his last words for us as missionaries, but even more so as people. He talked about things that we can carry with us into the next life: Christ-like attributes. Basically, he just told us to choose what kind of people we ought to be and that in the end, it`s our choice. We choose the attributes we develop and everything else will be brushed off of us as we pass through the gate. It was really awesome. Since the Japanese missionaries were in the majority, he did the training in Japanese which was a first. Man...he`s fluent. He has lived in Japan for a really long time though. He told the Japanese missionaries to 優しくしてください ("Go easy on him") when they write their first letter to their new President. He hasn`t been to Japan since his mission 40 years ago so Kanji might be a little difficult I suppose. The McIntyre`s gave us contact information for them and said that we will all certainly be seeing them after we return.
 About half of our zone with President and Sister McIntyre for the last time. From left to right: Elder Burhoe (Wakayama zone leader), me, Elder Kuroda (Sennan), Elder Suzuki (Wakayama zone leader), Elder Schramm, Elder Cardoso (Sennan, I exchanged with him a couple weeks ago), Sister Sato, President McIntyre, Sister McIntyre, and Sister Kadekaru.

That night, we had a game night with the branch and the turn-out was fantastic. We had nearly all of the members and one member and her entire non-member family. Little things like that give the branch a nice push every now and then.
This is Takamaru 姉妹 - a really great member out here.

We`re still trying to get Bisunu from Nepal to church. As soon as he can, he`ll probably be baptized....it`s just next to impossible for him to get to church. It`s a different world our here. No young people...and everybody works a blue collar job like a slave.

We discovered the 2010 and 2011 For the Strength of Youth videos and oh my goodness those things are amazing. Do you use those? You should. We don`t deal with anyone under 40 out here, but we`ve still used them multiple times this week. There are solid testimonies on there from young people all over the world. We showed the 2010 theme to Tsuboi 兄弟 at family home evening and he absolutely loved it. The theme is Joshua 1:9, "be strong and of a good courage for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." It really had a powerful application to him. There was nearly a two year period where he attended sacrament meeting alone with two missionaries. In many ways, he`s still alone out here. It`s hard not to feel lonely out here, I`ll admit that. He lives by himself and has no one to share the joy of the gospel with...in fact, he goes housing like missionaries do just because he has nothing better to do and has that much desire to share the gospel and socialize. I can`t even imagine the rewards that are waiting for him in heaven.

Yesterday the stake president and one of his counselor`s and his whole very young family came to church and it was awesome. There were 18 people crammed into the church and I think that might`ve been a record. The counselor`s young family set such an incredible example. The young husband and wife bore amazing testimonies in sacrament meeting and the husband gave a fantastic sunday school lesson where he questioned the members, put them on the spot, and really strengthened their faith. Their three daughters (the wife is pregnant with a fourth), the oldest being 8, were reverent through the whole day, even sitting through an adult Sunday School. Really, really impressive. Families can set such an example for members. I wish they could just move out here.
This is what the inside of the Shingu church looks like. This room is the chapel. We move the tables out from the back room to do English class and stuff.

The Stake President also had business to take care of. Schramm 長老 became the first counselor in the branch presidency. It`s about time. It`s been really difficult knowing how to help the branch when all of the authority is three hours away. It`ll be really great for us to coordinate things together and so much easier to strengthen the branch now.

It`s raining like crazy right now. I don`t want to go outside. It rains basically everyday and we`re basically just always wet. Being dry has become a joy.

Well, I guess that`s all. It`s been a pretty normal week. Hope all goes well at home.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13, 2011

Alright, I`ll just get to business as to what happened this week.


So on Monday, last p-day, as we were on our way back from grocery shopping, we ran into Kazuma, our 17 year old investigator who we unfortunately had an awkward lesson with last week. We committed him to pray then and he found us right in front of the church and told us he got an answer to his prayer. He prayed that he could see his father whom he hadn`t seen in over a year and the father showed up at their apartment, unexpected that night. He was super excited about it. He said "神様しか思っていない。”(Only God could have known.) It was a really, really cool experience. That was probably the most concrete answer to a prayer that I`ve ever seen with an investigator.

So we visited Nakamura 兄弟 from Brazil this week. It turns out he just needs a friend. It was great talking to him and helping him get groceries. I really feel for people that are stuck out here. He works construction and it sounds pretty rough.

On Wednesday we had district meeting in Tanabe. I don`t know if I told you but there are sisters in Tanabe. Tanabe is the area next to Shingu (three hour train ride) and is open about half the time, depending on whether or not there are enough missionaries to fill it. This transfer, President McIntyre got really gutsy and white-washed two sisters into it. Sato 姉妹 and Kadekaru 姉妹 are there. Our zone leaders from Wakayama came as well. It went really well. I didn`t have a district meeting at all last transfer so it was good to talk to other missionaries. Sato 姉妹 had a lot to say about Ilch 姉妹. She said she absolutely loved her transfer with her in Kurayoshi and talked about how she was in contact with my family. Just so you know, she said that Ilch 姉妹 was 大事にしている (keeping/taking care of) with everything you sent her. Sato 姉妹 said someday, the two of them want to visit Utah and meet mom. I know I`ve told you about how awesome Sato 姉妹`s convert testimony is; she was in charge of the もぎ (devotional) for district meeting and had us all simply bear an honest testimony of prayer. She said the missionary that taught her was a greenbeanchan. During lessons, she would look at her planner, then look up, then look at her planner again, then try to say something, then mess up and get frustrated. However, she said she could feel something special in her effort and the one thing she could clearly express was 祈って下さい. ("Please pray"). Sato 姉妹 said she didn`t get an answer but that young sister missionary just came telling her 祈ってください。She didn`t want to pray, but got her answer because the young missionary was persistent. Really cool story, I thought.


Picture from the train. That train ride is basically three hours of views like this and the ocean.



We met a really nice lady while housing this week. She told us that she knows her familiy can be eternal and that she is willing to learn anything there is to learn if she can make sure of that. It was really cool. She was hard to make an appointment with because of her family`s schedule but she said we`re welcome to drop by anytime.

We spent all day at church yesterday. It turns out that Schramm 長老 has a lot of studying to do in order to be the ward clerk. Typically a Japanese missionary has the calling, but they called him because he is fluent. We`re a little pressed for time here. Besides the branch president, wife, and visitor,only two members showed up in sacrament meeting. A high counselor from the stake came with the branch president and his wife and he was absolutely awesome. Very enthusiastic and counseled the members (more showed up after sunday school...they kind of just show up when it`s convenient...that really needs to change) on going to the temple and spreading the gospel. He wasn`t shy about it either. These members, really do need to get to the temple. He also talked about how many people assume the Japanese people are a lost tribe of Israel because of all of the parallel`s between Japanese Buddhism & Shintoism to Judaism. It`s true, there are a ton. I can`t name them all but they are there...namely how much they use things that look like the arc of the covenant. Sister Enomoto shared how the work got started here. 20 years ago, the two of them were called to home teach a member out in Kushimoto. That member got baptized because her son in Tokyo was a member. From there, the Enomoto`s have always felt like the gospel needed to be spread here. The area is famous for three grand shrines...and all three of them focus on 12 gods...many people say has relations to the 12 disciples. The Enomoto`s then served in the Nagoya mission and spent their time establishing the Shingu branch. Missionaries have been here ever since. It`s amazing how this branch is their life`s work. I wish they could live out here so they could be more accessible to the branch. They`re only able to come every other week because they live in Tanabe.

Schramm 長老 looking at Shingu from the Shingu castle ruins.


 
It looks like you had a ton of fun in Disneyland. I`m extremely jealous. I know I`ll get to go again eventually. I`m glad you had a good time. I basically drooled reading about the two new rides, even though I don`t really like Star Tours that much. It sounds awesome.

I guess that`s all for this week. Have a good one!

Nishio 長老 and I at Kushimoto


 
A better picture of Kushimoto that I stole from Nishio 長老`s camera.

Nishio 長老 and I at Shingu station, right as he left for transfer.


 
Us and the zone leaders at Tsuboi 兄弟`s house for Family Home Evening last transfer.



An abandoned house behind the Iwamoto family`s house in Mie-ken (technically the Nagoya mission). It is insane how old they are and how it really is just a jungle back there. I thought Totoro could jump out any second.


 

The next is a little place we found housing that seriously resembled a concentration camp...no? Yes, there are people living in those things.

June 6, 2011

It`s been a pretty good week. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Sennan while Schramm 長老 attended leadership training in Kobe. I was with a second transfer missionary named Cardoso 長老 who is from Brazil and it was absolutely fantastic. He had more faith than any second transfer missionary I`ve ever seen, by far. He was absolutely fearless in talking to everyone. He stopped every single person he saw and then did his best in Japanese before turning it over to me. I learned a lot. I learned a lot from his example and I finally was able to feel a little bit more independent and capable. We didn`t really run into language problems. We were able to say everything we needed to say to people on the street and they understood us fine. I was able to give five baptismal commitments on the street during those two days which is pretty normal in the mission, but for me, was a huge step of improvement. Sennan is a fun area too. The apartment is on the tenth floor and you can see Kansai airport and Akashi bridge and Awaji island in the distance.


We got back to Shingu on Thursday and had another lesson with Bisunu, our yakusokusha from Nepal. We taught him the restoration and I can`t believe how well it went. He told us he believes in Krishna, the one singular Hindi god, but that really, God is all the same person, we just see him differently because we`re from different cultures. It was almost like he read the answer right out of Preach My Gospel. He believed that God created him, knows him, and loves him. I really learned to appreciate how the scriptures tell us to "become like a little child" because teaching Bisunu really was like teaching a child because of the language barrier. We used a mixture of English and Japanese in that he speaks a little bit of both and we were very lucky that Schramm 長老 was able to get a Hindi (he speaks fluent Hindi, but his native language is Nepali and there is no Book of Mormon in Nepali) Book of Mormon at leadership training. Who knows how long that would`ve taken to get had he not gone to Kobe directly. We taught in the most simple sentences we possibly could, used lots of pictures, and even drew diagrams. He understood just fine. When we taught the Restoration and the First Vision, we asked how he was feeling. His face was read and he said "I feel...suddenly...very comfortable" the Spirit was undeniable. Unfortuantely, it is looking nearly impossible for him to get to church on Sunday. He works at the food court in the Aeon mall 6 days a week for 12 hours everyday. Slave labor basically. There is a possibility for him to take a break at 3 if they`re not busy. Our sacrament meeting is at noon but we hold a special sacrament meeting at 3 every week for one of the members that can`t come at noon due to work. He wasn`t able to make it this week. We`ll see what happens.

Apparently, this work on Sunday problem has been a problem in this area ever since missionaries first came here. It might be the biggest reason that active members are so few. You see, Shingu is an extremely blue collar town. There are no business men out here. Everybody works either driving taxis, buses, at restaurants, or stores. Those kinds of jobs simply aren`t flexible. Another problem is that the population of Shingu is rapidly decreasing and the average age is increasing. Shingu was an important city about 40 years ago because they used to send lots of goods up the river that divides Mie-ken and Wakayama-ken, but now that everything is delivered by car, people are just here because it`s where there ancestors live. Nearly every high school student that graduates here runs off to a bigger city to get a better job....they don`t want to work behind a cash register or at a nursing home for the rest of their lives. We had a discussion about it on Sunday and it`s been a problem for a long time and is causing problems still. The first counselor in the branch presidency has a new job and it`s absolutely impossible for him to get to church now. While we were housing this week, a really nice old lady came out to talk to us. She had no interest but was really polite. She told us not to keep going down the street because nobody lives in the houses. She said they were all なくなった人. (dead people). It totally made sense. We went anyway and of course, nobody was there. This is going to be a ghost town eventually.

So yeah, like you asked mom, I`m sure Nakamura san (that`s the Brazillian, his dad is Japanese) doesn`t have that great of a job. He moved out here because his wife wanted to move into her mom`s. And yes, they have an infant and a three year old son. They need the gospel.

Do I usually write about how we have Family Home Evening with Tsuboi 兄弟 every Friday? Well we do, and it`s the best thing about this area. It was great as always. He is the strongest member I have met thus far on my mission, no question. His wall is plastered with pictures of missionaries, mission presidents, and even temple presidents that have come to visit him in his home. You really get the bigger picture looking at it. You see all of the people that have passed through this tiny town, trying to get something done to establish the church here.

I am going to join with Grandpa and say that Sam needs to study lots of Japanese before going. You HAVE to! 勉強しなさい!(Study!)  Anway, it will be lots of fun, I`m sure. Grandma and Grandpa are so much fun when you go by yourself. They`ll treat you really well. Be very polite and say thank you a lot. Take tons of pictures. I wish I had more pictures of my trip. Disposable cameras just don`t get the job done. Learn enough to express some basic ideas.
You`re right, I am extremely jealous that you are on your way to Disneyland. Please tell me all about the two new rides. Man, I can`t wait until I get to go again. Have lots of fun and send some pictures.

Sorry that last week`s email was so ばらばら. That computer was really slow, the text would show up ten seconds after you typed it.

I haven`t really taken a lot of pictures lately but I know you want to see them. I didn`t bring the USB, so I will hopefully send some next week.

I think that`s all the time I have for now. Have fun and Disneyland. I`m excited to read next week!