Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!
From what you`ve been writing about Randy, it kind of sounds like he is that kid that I acted like I couldn`t stand, but secretly wanted to be my best friend in high school. The one who`s not only ridiculously talented and fun, but nice to everyone...even the people that like him a little bit too much. I finally got a letter from him. Maybe you should read this outloud to him and tell him thank you for me. I know how many of Jacob`s emails I read when I was in high school would be best if you read this outloud to him. He won`t know otherwise.
So like I said last week, I went to Nara-koen for the second time to show my companion around.

There were lots of school tours going on that day.
We met a member family on a tour from Salt Lake City right as we entered Todaiji. They were thrilled to see us. Apparently that happens fairly often here. Anderton 長老 (my last companion) said that a Mormon guy took him and his companion out to lunch before I got here.
I don`t know if you remember, but there is a hole in one of the pillars that is the exact same size as one of Buddha`s nostrils and if you can fit your body through it, it`s good luck. The last time I went, there was just a British tourist stuck in it, this time there was a queue of hundreds of school kids and a lady squating at the base of the pole, pushing them all through one by one. It was really...fascinating.

Your Questions and My Answers:
Q: How is Sister Zinke?
A: Unbelievably friendly. Sister McIntyre was like a mom in that she loved us, took care of our temporal needs and wasn`t afraid to scold us, but Sister Zinke is like Grandma.
Q: What kind of person is she? From what I read, she sounds pretty nice?
A: She`s lovely. She really, sincerely loves the missionaries and supports her husband.
Q: We checked, and it looks like you’re going to get a Snoopy mug if you keep using your Mr. Donuts card. Mom wants to know if you’ve tried the rice flour donuts or the snowman donut. I really miss Mr. Donuts. The smell . . .
A: I had one doughnut that was coated with 100% coacoa powder and it was possibly the most revolting thing I`ve ever put in my mouth. I think I`d rather lick the floor. The last time I went I had a shoyu (soy sauce) doughnut with shoyu and nori (seaweed) flakes on it and it was surprisingly good. Like, I really really enjoyed it and will probably get another one today. I have a coupon that expires today...
Q: How is your companion progressing?
A: He`s getting there. He`s a fighter. He`s quiet but I can see the drive and desire in him. He`ll be a great missionary.
Oh, mom. I do know what I want for my birthday. There`s a DVD called "Another Testament" and it is made up of photographs of people re-enacting Christ`s visit to the America`s in 3 Nephi. I used it in Kobe but I want to be able to use it again. It did miracles.
Have a great week! I`ll be just fine!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24, 2011

This week is really blurry, I`ll see what I can piece together of it.
We visited a family where the wife is a less-active who converted 20 years ago, the husband still isn`t a member. Apparently they have two daughters who are baptized and completely active and one of them married an American at BYU. This was the subject of conversation. The husband was outside trimming his trees when we went and we got to help him a little bit. It felt great to be of service like that. I feel like that`s something that missionaries are just supposed to do. Unplanned service like that hasn`t popped up in my mission as much as I would like it to.
We`ve spent a lot of time going from member`s house to member`s house. As I said last week, we`re focusing on teaching 3 lessons a day and we certainly don`t have 21 investigators to teach so we`re doing lots of member lessons and re-activation. The good thing about it is the communication between our work and the members has improved a ton. We`re able to discuss all kinds of things about less-actives and how to help them and in turn, I`ve made really good friendships with a lot of the members here.
On Thursday, Elder Ringwood, the first counselor in the Asia North Area Presidency came and spoke to the mission. It was a long conference with a morning and afternoon session. I loved it. He was very humble and dignified. The thing he said that stuck with me most is that if we give all we have everyday, we can say in our prayers "we know a miracle happened today and we don`t care if we ever see it." Lately that mentality has sort of left me. I`m thinking too hard and beating myself up too much about the work.
On Saturday we had the Halloween party. 20 people showed up. We invited lots of less-actives and we were able to identify some that look like they will come back to church with the help of some members. I think for the members to see and hear about people attending who hadn`t been in the church for 10 years was really good. We asked some members to follow up for us and invite them again. Hopefully other members will follow their peers examples and begin inviting their friends, whoever they may be, into the church. It`s something we just simply have to do.

Yesterday at church was the Seminary 発表 (program). Three students spoke. Man, they are awesome. They`re really examples to me. To be honest, I don`t think I could switch places with them. I struggled enough going to seminary during school. They wake up at 5:00 and have high school and college entrance exams that are 10 times harder than the ones I took. Apparently the year started with 5 students, but only three of them finished the year and they`re the three that spoke. They sang a musical number as well. I honestly can`t imagine a harder environment for a youth in the church than their`s. There probably is one, but they have it rough. They`re amazing. I got emotional hearing Sean-kun speak about how he didn`t go to seminary for his middle two years, but when he came back, he lived a church centered life and is more happy than he`s ever been. The stake president`s daughter spoke about how she feels like she has learned about the importance of spreading the gospel. She is the one who said that her EFY company all promised each other that they would meet at the MTC.
I haven`t been the the Grand Canyon either. People ask me if I have all the time here and then scold me because I live so close to it. It looks like you had a fun time. It`s weird seeing all of these pictures of just the four of you. You`re all getting so old. Well, we, I guess. That`s weird.
I`m going to walk my companion up to Todaiji and go pet some deer now. He hasn`t been yet and is really itching to see what it`s like up there.
I`m sorry this is short. Like always, if you ever have questions, just ask. Until next week...

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011

First of all, thanks for all of the emails and pictures. I enjoyed reading them. I feel like the Uncle Mike from my child-hood would never be caught at a GEEX expo for some reason. I`m glad Sam and Clint liked it and really glad that his company is having success. I remember hearing about Gears of War. Has he been working for that company for a long time? That sounds like a pretty big deal.

These weeks are all bluring together. We were pretty busy and feel like we sat in meetings all week.

The mission`s training plan now wants us to have three lessons planned every week. It`s different. We end up teaching lots of members and less-active members. The expectations I have now when I walk out the door are so different from the way I was when I would walk out the door with my trainer. I was always anticipating talking to at the very least 100 people wandering around Sannomiya. That kind of dendo is basically gone now. President Zinke wants us in lessons teaching as much as we can so we can develop the skills to become good teachers that the Lord can trust with his elect. The idea is that once we are skilled enough, we won`t have to spend all day looking for them, he`ll just trust us and lead us to them or lead them to us. It certainly makes sense but takes a lot of adjustment.

So on Wednesday we had a 交換 (exchange) with the zone leaders and I was once more with Lystrup 長老. I think I`ve gushed enough about how good of a missionary he is, but really, he`s incredible. I`m thankful for every opportunity I have to work with him. He teaches through example and beyond that, he`s just fun.
Me with Lystrup 長老.  This time I brought him to Nara. That teeter-totter is right outside of our apartment and he couldn`t leave without taking a picture on it.

The next morning was interviews in Sekime which was a long train ride away and when we weren`t being interviewed we were either talking with Sister Zinke or being trained by the Assistants. They way interviews and zone conferences are run has completely changed since the mission president changed.

Through all of this member work, we`ve really developed great relationships with the members. I`ve realized that those relationships are "treasures in heaven" that we can take with us after die. President McIntyre strongly encouraged us to find those treasures as his "dying words" to us in a sense. Fujita 兄弟 our dendo shunin (mission leader) drove us around like crazy and we`ve worked on some re-activation. I`ve heard that one way to measure your success as a missionary is to constantly count sacrament meeting attendance, members and investigators included. Well, it is going up here. We aren`t bursting at the seams with investigators like we did at church in the Kobe ward, but people that haven`t been to church in years are popping their heads in.

Nagura 兄弟, the branch clerk took us out for ice cream on Saturday. He`s hilarious, and really contributes so much to the branch. He says he reads my blog so, hi Nagura 兄弟.

Sunday was great as well. We met with the branch president and he expressed concern for our investigators and gave us serious, very specific instruction and assignments regarding less-active members. He really cares for his branch and I`m so happy that he trusts us enough to put us to work.
This is the inside of of the Izumikawa`s Bakery, taken from the loft above. Yes, there`s a train inside of it and they`re really famous for it.

It sounds like things are kind of how you could expect them as far as home is concerned. I hope everyone is staying busy and happy. As long as you have both it`s a good thing.

I got a reply from Grandma to my letter. I`ve tried emailing them but they never answer. Did their address change again? This is the first letter she`s sent me with no English part. It`s still bizarre to me. She`s still Grandma but....not Grandma. She can express so much more in her native language. It makes me sad thinking about all the time I spent not knowing my Grandma and Grandpa`s real personalities. Heck, I could even say that for my own mother. I can`t stress it enough to each of you LEARN JAPANESE, NOW!!! I don`t know what it will take for you to take me seriously but maybe you`ll start when I stop speaking English in the home. Not because I don`t want to communicate with you, but because you (brothers) need to find out who you really are.

I`m short on words this week. All is well. We have Elder Ringwood, the first counselor in the Asia North Presidency, coming to speak to us this Thursday. That should be fun. Talk to you next week!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Elder Low's Been Blogged - Again

Read a great article about Elder Low's companion on President Zinke's blog here.

October 10, 2011

I guess first of all, I haven`t taken any pictures this week. I don`t know what it is, I guess I`m finally getting used to this place and I`m not amazed everytime I turn the corner.

I`m just blown away about the lack of time I have right now. Adding another hour to companionship study and 30 minutes to language study everyday really puts you in the apartment for half of the day. I still need to figure something out. We`re not finding anyone and I feel like I`m really not giving my brand new missionary the right entry experience into missionary work. I really need to think and work smart.

So I guess I`ll start with General Conference which was this past weekend. The last time I watched General Conference was in Ibaraki which also happens to be the Osaka North Stake Center and the entire stake was there. That was a blast. Since the Osaka Abeno stake is so big, the split it into two viewing districts. On Saturday, there were 7 members watching General Conference in the Yamatokoriyama building. Yeah, seven. The member setting up said he`d never seen anything like it. We`re still not sure why exactly nobody showed up. There were hundreds of members in the Ibaraki Stake Center last April for the Saturday sessions. I`m confused. Sunday was pretty normal, high attendance though.

The talks were great. Elder Holland`s talk in Priesthood Session really made me sit up straight. I don`t think he`s been that fiery since his Book of Mormon talk. There definitely needs to be some straightening out. I loved the talk from one of the Seventies (forgot the name) about how service is doing the right thing, at the right time, without delay. I also thought Sister Dalton was genius. A lot of the time when a member of the primary presidency or young women`s presidency speaks, we expect a sappy talk about how we can learn from the young people`s example and their experiences as they`ve traveled the world meeting them. I loved how Sister Dalton chose a very specific topic and wasn`t afraid to speak to Priesthood holders. General Conference simply has so much more meaning when you`re a missionary.

On Tuesday we were out working when Mr. S called and asked if we could meet him in 30 minutes. He`s been busy so we haven`t been able to see him too much. He`s one of my favorite people I`ve met on my mission thus far. He`s just a blast. He`s really outgoing and open, we get along really well. Anyway, we just discussed what he was feeling, how his Book of Mormon reading is going, whether he had prayed or not and such. He said that he took up Moroni`s challenge as we invited him. He prayed moreso for personal reasons rather than to know if the Book of Mormon is true or not. He just started living by himself. His family all moved back to his hometown while he stayed behind by himself and apparently it`s been difficult. He works at Mos Burger all day and he doesn`t really know what he`s living for. He prayed to know what to do with himself and said he really felt like something was telling him that he`s being selfish and that if he wants to become more happy, he needs to find a way to help and serve others. We talked a little more and the discussion wasn`t moving forward. He still wasn`t sure about joining an organized religion or whether he wanted to keep commandments.

I decided to just ask him what he wants for himself. What he wants in life. He told me what he`s said earlier: he wants to just lose himself in serving and loving others and be fulfilled that way. He just doesn`t know how. I opened Mosiah 18:8-10 and read it with him. He stared at it for over a minute. It was one of the most spiritual moments of my mission. He didn`t know what to say, neither did I. We gave him a solid commitment to follow the Word of Wisdom and he agreed. He also came to General Conference yesterday. He loved it. He didn`t understand much of what was being said but he said he was so impressed with all of the speakers because they were so "信じぶかい” (wise). Well, he went for a walk to go get lunch afterwards and the Yamatokoriyama elders caught him smoking. He told us before that he drinks coffee on ceold mornings sometimes to stay awak, only drinks tea when offered, and socially drinks alcohol about once a month. He said he hated tobacco so naturally I felt a little bit betrayed. When he got back to the church, he basically turned himself in. He felt horrible and said "止めるしかない” ("I have to quit") as he went home. I think that was supposed to happen.  God is really working with and preparing him. I`m excited for him.

We visited K 姉妹 this week. Apparently she still talks to Elder Everett and his mom all the time.

I-san has a baptismal date next month. We needed to make a goal with him or he wasn`t going to progress.  For the lesson, we read 3 Nephi 14 to really teach him the importance of the sabbath and it worked beautifully. It just made sense when he read it from the scriptures. He made a goal to come to the last hour of church almost by himself. It was like his faith and desire jumped through the roof once he read the commandment from the Book of Mormon. I`ve really (re)learned the power of the Book of Mormon this week. I don`t know why I haven`t been able to use it this effectively for my whole mission. Anyway, it did miracles this week.

With General Conference and two hours of studying everyday, we really haven`t had time to do much else. I wish I had more to report on.

It looks like the Homecoming festivities were fun in Kaysville. That really is a tradition-rich place. I would`ve paid to see you drive that truck in that parade.

They`ve tried to deliver the package from Eiko Andrews to me twice but I haven`t been home. I`ll get it tomorrow. Thanks for sending the music. This month's Liahona had a section on just EFY Japan. Did you get it? You should. Just looking at the pictures makes me teary-eyed. I always thought the idea of being an EFY counselor sounded like hell but I`d for sure do it in Japan for a week.

I enjoyed the question exercise last week. Feel free to do it whenever you`d like. And it doesn`t have to be just Dad. I do understand that asking any of the rest of you to have interest in what I`m doing is a little むり (pointless) though.

I guess that`s my time. Have a good week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Elder Low's Been Blogged

You can see some great pictures of Elder Low and his new companion on Sister Zinke's blog. Click here to view.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 3, 2011

Well, it`s October. The weather has finally started to cool down a bit. I`ve been out for over a year and I have a brand new missionary with me. This is really strange.

That's me on the board in the Mission Office.

I`ll start off by answering the questions that you sent:

Q: What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this month?
A: M 兄弟 took us out to eat Okonomiyaki as somewhat of a farewell gift for Anderton 長老. It was one of those places where they cook it in front of you and you eat it directly off of the grill. It had pork, shrimp, and squid in it and it was unbelievably good.

Q: Do you go to Mr. Donuts frequently? I miss that place.
A: I go at least once every time its 100円 week. I have a point card that expires in February. I`ve got 210 points. I get a prize when I turn in my point card.

Q: Who is your new companion? Are you going to get along with him?
A: Good question. My new companion is Elder Dustin Tsuyoshi Nukaya. He is from Idaho Falls, Idaho and is 100% Japanese, 101% American. Really though, his blood is 100% Japanese, no corruption. Does he speak Japanese? No. Neither do his parents, or even his grandparents. We are going to get along perfectly fine. He`s actually really, really similar to me. It`s kind of scary. To be perfectly frank, it`s no fun to look Japanese and not speak it. It`s hard. It`s something you can`t understand unless you`ve been through it and I`m glad I can help him through it and give him advice as someone who`s situation was very similar to his. It does also mean that there will be some special challenges, for sure. Every new missionary and trainer has them. It`s almost like all of the things that I worked so hard to conquer at the beginning of my mission are going to come back to haunt me through my companion. I`ve got my work cut out for me, but it`ll be great. He`s a great missionary and has a rock solid testimony. He wants to work hard, and really that`s all that is necessary. Worthiness and willingness.

Q: Do you ride your bike a lot? Are you tired of that yet? Are you being careful?
A: Yeah, I don`t see myself dying to get on a bike when I go home. Biking here isn`t too bad. Kobe was really full of hills; Himeji was huge and we had hour long bike rides sometimes; Shingu required biking up mountains (really) nearly everyday so I have nothing to complain about. I`m being careful, especially with a new missionary. He`s still weirded out by being on the left side of the rode and how narrow the rodes are.

Q: What are your thoughts on your mission president's monthly training he’s been giving you?
A: He`s completely reformatted the way the monthy training and focus gets to us. It`s extremely heavy on the Spirit. Basically everything has been about the Spirit since President Zinke got here. It`s a really important element of missionary work. I`m anxious to see what else he will train us on...or if we`re just going to be talking about the Spirit for the next year.The way I work has slowly changed and I have to say, I like it. I like where the mission is headed.

Q: Are you happy? (That’s the one parents worry about the most.)
A: I`m happy. Missionary work can be fun, sometimes it`s not.

Q: Is there anything scary that’s happened to you? The kind that would make Mom freak out?
A: I think I`m safer here than when I was grocery shopping in Provo, Utah.

Q: Finally – do you feel the Spirit in your work? Is He guiding you? Has your testimony grown?
A: I think so. My testimony grows most from my observation of others. I do think I have a way to go in terms of being "guided." Sometimes I feel like I need to be seeing a miracle every second or I`m not suceeding. But then again, what`s a miracle? It`s all about perspective.

We spent the beginning of the week getting Anderton 長老 all prepped and ready to be white-washed into Kouchi. This was his first area. We went and said goodbye to a lot of the members.

On Thursday morning I headed out to Kobe to go and pick up my new companion. I was half an hour late because the group that I was going to Sannomiya with all showed up 20 minutes late. I had to take a taxi from Sannomiya to the honbu (Mission Home). I still saw Myagmarjav 姉妹, Shumway長老, and Ewer長老 at Sannomiya. I love seeing my MTC group in the field. Myagmarjav 姉妹 is now in Tokushima and guess who her companion is? Yep, Ilch 姉妹. They`re reunited. I can`t wait to hear about the kind of miracles they work together, again.

So I told you about my new companion. He`s great. It was so bizarre being in that Trainer/Trainee meeting sitting on the other side of the chapel. I remember so distinctly sitting in there, so nervous about which person was going to train me. It still hasn`t quite hit me yet that my companion has never been to Japan and is straight out of the MTC. I still feel like that`s me sometimes.

There is a new program for new missionaries that requires two hours of companionship study and an hour of language study everyday. I feel like we have no time. I`m not sure what to do with the time. I`m going to have to really re-evaluate how we plan and how we spend time if we want to get anything done this transfer. It`s really different. It is a good program though. President Zinke described it as a "learner`s permit." It restricts you time wise, but really teaches you how to be a missionary. Every new missionary has to do it for their first 12 weeks (two transfers) so I will most likely be here in Nara for at least another transfer (until Christmas).

I guess that`s all I have time for. I`m glad you enjoyed General Conference. We do indeed have to wait until next weekend to see it. I hope all is well at home. Until next week!

So last Monday, Elder Anderton and I went to see Yakushiji and Toshodaiji. In one transfer we saw all 7 of Nara`s World Heritage temples. These were the last two.

Yakushiji, built in 698AD.

Toshodaiji was built in 759AD.