Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 26, 2011

I guess I should tell you how transfer calls turned out this morning. Anderton 長老 is headed off to Kouchi on Shikoku and I`m staying here. I`m training. I`m not quite sure what to think. Only four elders are coming, they`re all from America. I`m a little excited and definitely nervous. This transfer was my first time being a senior companion to a gaijin and this next transfer it will only be multiplied. Here we go...

So we finished last Monday evening doing a scavenger hunt for the YSA (all three of them that showed up, including our recent convert) and it seemed to go really well. They asked us to come up with it about a month ago as a test run so they could see what it was like. They plan to do a huge one next month for Halloween. They plan on giving it a 伝道 (proslyting) purpose so hopefully members will come and bring their friends.

There was yet another typhoon this week. We were perfectly fine though. It rained really hard when we woke up, but by the time we finished study it was sunny outside. It`s almost like the typhoon`s just skip over Nara. We keep hearing about how bad they are, but there`s usually nothing out here.

On a rainy day, there weren`t many people to teach outside. So like it says in the scriptures, we preached to "every creature" we saw.
The deer in Nara are designated as National Treasures in Japan.
Our Ward Mission Leader took us out to dinner this week. He`s one of the funniest people I`ve ever met. He lived in the U.S. for 8 years and will only speak in English to us. I tried to send a video to you but this computer is acting up.

I also hit my year mark this week. It was interesting thinking about the day that I walked into the MTC. In some ways it does feel like an eternity ago; like it was another lifetime. At the same time, when I think of specific experiences, they were yesterday. I can`t believe that I`m halfway through. It`s an odd feeling. It`s odd to think that everyone at home is living normal lives while I do this. Sometimes I feel like everything else I left is frozen in time because my life is so different now. I know it will be a shock when I return, perhaps moreso than when I left. Honestly, I do feel like I can look back and be proud of what I`ve done with this year. I feel like I`ve grown and learned and accomplished so much. It would be hard for me to finish now. However, that only makes me more excited for what is to come. Knowing that I`ll only continue to grow and get better at what I do is really exciting. I can`t wait for what the next year has in store for me.

Two of our investigators canceled their appointments this week. That was no fun. One was due to the weather, another was due to his work. That`s no fun. I still think they`re both going to really continue to progress and grow in the gospel, it`s just going to take a lot more time now. I hate that. I still really need to work on being patient. I am staying in this area for another transfer which, funny enough, has been rare for me on my mission. I will get to work long-term with some investigators.

Yesterday was a good day at church. I LOVE that the branch president invites us to branch council. It makes such a difference. When we attend branch council, everyone knows what we`re up to, and even if they don`t help us directly, we know they`re praying for us and our investigators. During the meeting, I slowly realized how what I was doing at that second was absolutely impossible for me only a short 9 months ago. I had the floor in the meeting whereas, at the beginning of my mission I would sit very quietly in those kind of meeting and just act like I knew what was going on. It`s a good feeling. I think I need to take more time to think about and notice things like that. Answers to my prayers from so long ago. I need to be better at that. The Lord gave me exactly the help I asked for and I just manage to take it for granted. Things really do come gradually and on his time table...makes it harder to notice sometimes.

Our Golden Investigator decided to go visit his dad in Kumamoto this week and apparently they had all been fasting for it last fast sunday. This branch is awesome. We are keeping our fingers crossed and really praying that he will come back with permission to get baptized.

Sounds like a good week at home. Best of luck to Sister Wirthlin. She`ll be a great missionary.

The fundraiser performance sounds like it was fun. I loved hearing about the "singing in the dark" experience. It really brought back memories. Really, being in that department in that school is just full of moments like that. Life-defining moments. I have more than I could ever explain. I really became who I am today on that stage. I`m excited to hear about what happens for the rest of the school year.

All is well here. Do you have any questions? I feel like I have nothing to write about sometimes. I guess that`s all the time I have this week. Have a good one!

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19, 2011

I will hit my year mark this Thursday. I feel really weird.

So the event of the week was the 交換 (exchange) I got to do in Abeno. I`ve heard stories about it for my whole mission because my trainer (Bowman 長老) was trained there. It was absolutely a blast. I exchanged with Elder Lystrup from Las Vegas. I exchanged with him a few months ago in Shingu. It was great to work together again in a polar opposite atmosphere. If you remember, Elder Lystrup was my zone leader when I was in Shingu. I exchanged with him back in May in the most rural area of the mission. This week we worked together in downtown Osaka.

He is simply an incredible missionary. Anyway, we spent the day going from house to house, visiting recent converts, less-actives, and taught one investigator at the church. It was incredible. The lesson we taught at the church was with a guy who was dating the older sister of a member here. That older sister is currently serving a full time mission in Sapporo.  The younger sister is from Himeji so I know her parents. She came to be the doseki (member helper) for the lesson. He was amazing, I`m sure he`ll be baptized.
Our investigator, Elder Lystrup, me and the helping member after our lesson at church.

We were planning to visit the Yasufuku`s (acquaintance of mine from BYU) but they weren`t home so we went to Yasufuku 姉妹`s sister`s house. She also served in the Sapporo mission about 28 years ago. Sound familiar? She shared some awesome experiences from her mission with us.

The next morning, we attended an 80 year old member`s cooking class that she uses to share the gospel. Yes, you read that right. She had been thinking about stopping it because people had stopped listening to her gospel messages. She asked us to attend and sing. We sang and all of the 8 students stayed for the gospel message.

Overall, I just learned from Lystrup 長老`s example of love. He loves everyone, sincerely. It`s such a simple thing but such a hard thing to truly develop. It shows though. The members trust him with everything. Christ didn`t tell us to "hang all the law and prophets" (Matthew 22) on love for nothing. I had a blast in that area and would love to serve there someday.

Elder Lystrup and me in metro Osaka. We have a picture of us in the most inaka (rural) area in the mission and now perhaps the most tokai (metro) area (Abeno) in the mission.

Our key investigator still just needs to come to church. We have to strengthen his faith until he gets to that point. He`s going to start attending institute.

We taught another investigator this week who is just absolutely awesome. He`s outgoing and...normal. I love that. He isn`t overflowing with excitement and enthusiasm about his investigation of the church, but he IS willing to read and find out for himself whether or not it`s true. That`s what`s best about him, he`s humble. People like him are rare. I think he`ll be baptized within a month or so. He told me on the phone yesterday that things have gotten hard in his life since he started reading the Book of Mormon and naturally, he feels like he should pray for help more often. He said he doesn`t think he receives help, but it feels good. I`m sure it will all click for him pretty soon...

We went to member on Saturday that was far away. We weren`t exactly sure why we were going out there. We had already been pretty recently because the Branch President told us to visit him, but he seemed just fine. He`s a Melchizidek priesthood holder. He told us that he wasn`t planning on attending church but changed his mind because we had come to see him. If we can keep priesthood holders attending, the Nara branch will very soon achieve their goal of becoming a ward again. I love working with members and helping them achieve goals that they already have for themselves.

We`re still working with our golden investigator who can't get parental permission. He says that he wants to go to Utah now because of the English program. Maybe we`ll room together...

The members worry about his well-being a lot. In all honesty, we could probably just step out and they would take perfectly good care of him. They call us about him and give us ideas. I`m just thrilled with the members here. We also met with a mother who`s husband and daughter aren`t members. The daughter comes to church every week. She isn`t baptized because she feels like she needs to decide for herself. Hopefully we`ll be able to meet with her soon. The member also gave us some information on one of her 20 year old co-workers who seems really interested in the gospel.

This is a Gangoji, another world hertiage temple.

You can`t take pictures inside of it, but you can walk around inside the main hall and touch everything. The temple isn`t world heritage for its size but for its history. It was moved from Asuka when Nara became the capital clear back in 718AD. It was one of the first Buddhist temples in Japan, ever.

This last picture is from the zone activity several weeks ago where everyone got caught in a downpour and were soaked.

It sounds like everything is nice and busy at home. I guess that`s all the time I have. Have a good week!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 12, 2011

I`m running out of time already...

So on Tuesday, we went to help teach Eikaiwa (English Class) in Yamatokouriyama. Have I told you that everyone knows that I`m a descendant of Ii Naosuke in Nara? I told the Dendo Shunin (Mission Leader) that the night I got here and ever since then it`s been like everybody knows that before I even meet them. One lady there (not a member, just eternal eikaiwa student) knew before I even met her and put her hands in a triangle on her desk and bowed like I was royalty. It`s been astonishing to find out just how well-known and respected that name is. People go crazy and ask to take pictures with me. I never knew...

There`s a huge matsuri (festival) today here in Nara. They`ve had these latterns set up around the pond for a couple weeks but I couldn`t get any good pictures. It`s really pretty.

There is an investigator here who has been taught since about May. He has been taught everything and from the looks of it, was only interested in the social interaction. Anyway, I decided to try teaching him a couple times and he has really changed. He told us this week that he has a witness that the Book of Mormon is true. He said he wants to be baptized but had lots of concerns. We listened to them one by one and all of them were misunderstandings. Becuse missionaries said that they can`t play video games, he probably took that to mean that that is some sort of commandment and he can`t if he is baptized. He said that he has bad thoughts, but we assured him that we all do, but we can better fight them when we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He also said he was worried about the Word of Wisdom because he drinks tea everyday. When we asked what kind of tea, he said mugicha (herbal wheat tea, which is fine).

It`s been a  bit of a slow week as far as finding is concerned. We were walking around on Friday and got stopped by three people one after the other. The last one was wating until we finished talking to number 2. One of them is an investigator now, the other just wanted to lecture me on American history, the other was a really nice tourist from Hong Kong who has met with the missionaries there many times.

I still love cleaning the Izumikawa`s store and the bread they give us. Heck, I wouldn`t mind working there part-time after my mission.

There was a Shokujikai (Ward Dinner) after church. Three families are new to the ward so this was their welcome. Wards really do come together through activities like this. The food was incredible too. To be honest, I had heard a ton about Japanese Mormon food before my mission. I hadn`t really been THAT impressed until yesterday. Holy cow, that food was amazing.

We stopped a man while biking yesterday. He was realy smiley and friendly and knew who we were as soon as he saw us. He knew about KentDerricott and Kent Gilbert and somebody-Ito. He said that he is separated from his wife and children because he got in a fight with his mother-in-law. Anyway, after talking to him for about 2 minutes he said to me : 目が輝いている("My eyes have been opened"). He loved talking to us and asked for my phone number before I said anything about meeting with him again. That was awesome.

I`ve been hearing through the grapevine, bits and pieces of how the typhoon last week was actualy pretty bad. It`s surprising because it really was just a little rain in Nara. I heard that the southern part of Wakayama ken was the worst and I immediately thought of Shingu. I hope they`re alright down there. I`ve said it before and I`ll say it again, I was always, always, always worried that a natural disaster was going to happen when I was in Shingu. It`s just the worst possible pace to be if there is one.

Sounds like everyone is doing well at home. Ah, I hate not having enough time to write more email. Anyway, take care. Have a good week!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 4, 2011

Happy birthday, Dad. I did remember it this morning when I saw the date on the cell-phone.

Well first of all, I`m really excited that Randy has a part in the musical. I don`t remember much about Fiddler on the Roof. I`m sure it will be taped by someone, the trick is getting the copy afterwards. Don`t forget that Randy...I want to see it.

We met with our golden 18 year old investigator again this week, as did the branch mission leader (just the two of them) and it seems like it`s still going to take some time. He told me last night that so long as his parents say no, he has no intention of getting baptized, nor does he have any intention of asking for permission again since it will cause contention. We`ve already met with his mother and we cannot meet his father since he lives and works in Kyushu. We will continue to meet with him and strengthen him. He has decided he is going to BYU though. I think in the end it will all work out how it is supposed to.
Here`s Horyuji, he world`s oldest wooden builing(s) which we visited last week. They were built in 607 AD. 

So yeah, there has been a typhoon this week, but it`s not that bad. It`s rained a ton. We only had to spend about 2 hours in the apartment, other than that, we`ve been able to stay at work.

The branch president has also kept us busy visiting less-actives an part-member families. This area really is like a dream. The members are fulfilling their missionary responsibilities. It makes the work just that much more of a joy. We figured the ward missionaries would report our work to him on Sunday for us, but after church, he came and hunted us down, asked for a report and then gave us more names. Nara was once a "ward" and they are all working together to obtain that title again. I think it will happen soon. Two Melchizedek priesthood holders moved in, plus our convert can be ordained in February at the next stake conference.

As usual, we went to clean the Izumikawa`s bakery again on Saturday. We went up there early and decided to visit Izumikawa 姉妹`s (Sister Izumikawa's) parents, the Morishitas. Holy cow they are amazing. The 兄弟 (Brother) is 81 but he looks 50. They are perhaps the kindest and warmest people I`ve ever met. Not to mention they`re hysterical. Morishita 姉妹 (Sister Morishita) is a fireball. She said that she was a lot thinner when she was young (she`s still extremely thin) and then I said that I thought she was still thin and she said that my eyes were saying "debu" ("fatso"). She had me nearly falling off of the couch. They got up about ten times to retrieve some kind of snack for us. Morishita 兄弟 wanted to eat ビスコ ("Bisco") which is a type of cookie for toddlers. He left the room three times to find them, his wife saying they were in a different place each time. He came back really disappointed that he couldn`t find them. We told him we were fine and didn`t need to be fed but he said "They`re not for you, they`re for me!" As the conversation continued, he lit up and said, "Oh they`re still in the car!" His wife then said that they went shopping a week ago, they just forgot to take them out. We watched him walk out to the car from the living room window and when he opened the trunk of the car and found he cookies, he waved them in the air like he had just won an Oscar. That was priceless.

We talked abour their conversation. 30 years ago they lived in a mountain village called Ikeda in the dead center of Shikoku. They said there were only 6000 people in town and the missionaries were celebrities. They met with the missionaries so often that they`d say お帰り("Welcome Home") when they came over. They`ve served as temple missionaries and have three returned missionary children. They`re amazing. When we shared a quick message, they said, "Our neighbor is interested, let`s go over right now." Morishita 兄弟 then walked us over and we had a lesson with them right there. That was unreal. The members here are simply driven. They get it. The friend met with missionaries about 8 years ago. Not too interested, but the amazing thing is that the Morishita`s had the guts to instantly introduce them to us.

That night when we cleaned the Izumikawa`s pan`ya san (bakery), Izumikawa 姉妹 told me that she went to Westminster college and lived with a family in Centerville. She also said she served in the Sapporo mission about 27 years ago. Do you remember a Morishita 姉妹? She said Low suddenly sounded familiar when I told her you served there.

Once again, they sent us home with more bread than we know what to do with. What I noticed this time was that she does the same thing to her college age employees. She sends them home 15 minutes before closing and keeps shoving bread into their hands. The employees feel guilty receiving so much charity. It`s amazing. The Izumikawa`s are really examples in their community. They exude the light of Christ. When I looked through the old potential investigator records, it looks like the Izumikawa`s have referred all of their employees.

I guess that`s all I really have time for. I hope everything is going well over there. Best of luck with the fall season. I hope everyone enjoys their school situations. Yes, it is September now, but no, I have not quite been on my mission for a year. I don`t want to think about that yet.

Have a good week!
A couple more from Kasuga Taisha and Todaiji last week.