Monday, December 26, 2011

December 26, 2011

Well hello.

Elder Low at Sakaide Station. His parents lived in this city years ago when his father taught English. Elder Low's older brother was born here. This city is in his new area.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Mine was great. It's been fun seeing all of the things you've been up to lately.

So last Monday I packed up and was out of Nara early Tuesday morning. No time to take Monday to Thursday, packing, wrapping things up, and saying goodbye. I was just gone. It was kind of sad, I really grew to love that branch and the people there but I think it was time to move forward. I'm so excited to be where I am.

I got to Marugame Tuesday afternoon and we were immediately off to work. We had Eikaiwa (English Class) and taught an investigator right before and he had a really strong desire to be free from his past and to enter heaven at the end of his life. He committed to come to church on Sunday.

Marugame, Japan

On Wednesday I went to meet the branch president, President Jackson, from Utah. He is so awesome. His wife and kids are in America now for the holidays and he's actually packing right now and leaving to join them tomorrow. I think his personality is pretty similar to mine. We could've been really good friends before my mission. He and his wife teach English for a living and seem to be doing well. There is actually a really large concentration of English teachers here in Kagawa-ken, thus the branch is full of English speakers.

I met Suezawa Shimai. (One of the family's dearest friends from 23 years ago when they lived in the branch) She was stunned and so happy.

Sister Suezawa and Elder Low

We went to Sakaide English Enjoyment Club held at the Sakaide Hall and run by two members, one of which met the elders there and converted in February. She's a fireball. I love her. She's been to both the Tokyo and Fukuoka temples multiple times. The other member said he remembers being in a faculty meeting with a Low-san (Elder Low's father) many years ago. He himself was an English teacher and a member but went less-active at the time due to his hantai (opposed) mother. He remembers people gossiping saying that Low-san was Mormon. When I showed him the picture of dad, he recognized the face instantly. This member is very active now.
That evening we were supposed to have Family Home Evening for single member and new converts, but not many showed up.
On Friday, we had a Christmas activity. The activity was amazing. This branch is unbelievably musically talented. It was spectacular, to be honest. I haven't seen anything that musically impressive since before my mission.We had a lesson with Investigator Y Shimai and her husband and she seems really sincere.
It seems like the biggest obstacles to the work for me on my mission have been social problems. That honestly NEVER crossed my mind before serving. Patience is really an important attribute to carry I feel. We can't do too much mediator work, most of it has to come from example.
Did I say that it's freezing cold? The wind is killer here.
I talked to Akiyama Shimai and Yamanishi Shimai (Two members of the branch that Elder Low's parents were friends with years ago when they lived there) for about half an hour before church. They had to make a little effort to remember you from the picture, but when I explained your situation a little further, their faces lit up and they knew who you were. They are darling, really elderly ladies. I'm really impressed with their determination to come to church. Fujimoto Kyodai drives then to church. He remembers you as well.
This building is one of the coolest I've ever been in ever, let alone Japan. It's brand new and has, by far, the biggest parking lot of any meetinghouse in Japan. Yes, it extends all the way to that house in the last picture.

That night President Jackson took us out to The Ellis' house for dinner. It was fantastic. Everyone was speaking English and eating fried chicken. It was like being in America again. I love the Americans here too. They're all really adventurous; you have to be to move your family half-way across the world. I think I'm going to love it here. This Christmas was just as good as last year and I really didn't think that was possible.
We had a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner of KFC and cake at Brother Ellis' house in Takamatsu. President Jackson drove us there. Yeah, you're reading those names right. There are TONS of English teachers in our branch. So many that they have to provide translation service. They also come from all of Kagawa ken, so they can be together and all receive translation service from the same place. It"s really cool.


Well, I should get going. It was great talking to you today. Hope you have a great week!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 19, 2011

We had a zone activity at Osaka Castle Park last Monday.

Built in the 16th Century.

Downtown Osaka, the 10th largest city in the world.

Taken from the roof of the castle.

We played sports in the park for a little while and had to ride the train in the street clothes due to a lack of a place to change. These are kind of incriminating pictures, I suppose.

Plus, I look like Jabba the Hut, not paying attention with my sweats and slumpy (is that even a word?!) back.
Most importantly, transfer calls came last night. They said this transfer will be minimal so they only called those who were transfering. We were called. I`m transfering. I`m heart-broken that I don`t get to spend Christmas with my favorite branch in Japan, but I`m also bursting with excitement as to where I`m going. Any guesses?
Apparently the assistants and president prayed really hard about me and felt that I needed to go here. They didn`t even know the relation our family has to the area. I`m so excited. (Editor's note: Elder Low's parents lived in this branch over 22 years ago when Chris was teaching High School English. Elder Low's older brother was born there.)
The next important item of business is the Christmas call. Please call me at 8:00AM my time which should be, if I calculated correctly, 3:00PM your time on Christmas day. It will be Monday over here, Sunday over there. You won`t be at church or on your way to Logan then will you?
I`m way short on time and not too sure what to report on. We spent most of this week contacting people about the Christmas party here in Nara and it looks like there`s going to be a huge turn-out. I hope the missionary that takes my place can handle it and get it coordinated. They will still use whatever you sent to Nara for the Christmas party. I think the branch will really appreciate seeing it, since I`ll be gone.
Funny story, Ono 兄弟 had us 今西兄弟 (Brother Imanishi) (recent convert and his new home-teaching companion), 久保兄弟 (Brother Kubo) (branch missionary), and us over for lunch after church. Suezawa 姉妹 called their home and I got to talk to her again. (Editor's Note: Elder Low's parents lived in the same Branch as Sister Suezawa over 22 years ago when Chris taught High School in Japan. She is a very close friend of the family. Elder Low's mother spoke with her for the first time in over 20 years last week.) She was so happy that she got to talk to you. She said she hadn`t heard from you in over 20 years and was really wondering how you were doing. I gave her your email address so be expecting something from her sometime. I told her I really wanted to go to Kagawa-ken (she`s actually in the Takamatsu branch) and at that point I didn`t know that I was transferring. Crazy. This is really inspired, I can`t wait to see what happens out there.
I`ve grown and really been stretched by these last two transfers as a trainer. It`s almost like my mission started over in a sense. I had to re-evaluate everything I was doing. I think in the end it certainly contributed to growth for the both of us. I`m excited to see where Nukaya 長老`s mission takes him. He`s really evolved in these past 12 weeks and I think he`ll only change more and more for the better.
We actually transfer tomorrow morning instead of Thursday so I`m going to be packing like a maniac all day today. I don`t know if I can get everything ready and sent off in time.
I`m really jealous that you`re in Disneyland. I can`t wait to go again. I hope you`re getting all the rest and relaxation you need.
I`m sure the holiday spirit is pretty crazy in Utah as well. I remember coming home from finals two years ago (whoa.) and Grandma was in the house because you two were in Disneyland. Good memories.
I haven`t gotten sick at all. I think I`ll be ok. If I do, I can gaman with the stuff they have here, even if it`s weak.
Yes, please do post-pone me until winter semester. There is no way I can step off the plane and go to school the next day.
I did get the newsletter and it was awesome. I get a physical copy too, right?
I might be sending you a couple post-cards that I need you to give to members there. It would be best if I could somehow send it to them, but it`s too late now, so I`ll just send them to you so they make it in time and you can hand them off.
I`m out of time. Talk to you next Monday!
McDonalds is selling an "i`con box" for Christmas. 1000 yen  (about $12) for two sandwiches, a set of chicken selects, a set of chicken nuggets and two medium orders of fries. My companion and I ate it and nearly died. I really wanted to send something home in the box.


Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12, 2011

I`ve now been in Japan for over a year. I came on December 6, 2010.

I`ve always gotten a kick out of this picture when I see it in the elevator. I finally got around to taking a picture of it. Is that bad?

On Tuesday of this week I went on a 交換 (exchange) with Soares 長老 from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He`s been the district leader here ever since I got to Nara. He`s going home this transfer. He`s one of the most naturally happy and friendly people I`ve ever met. It`s impossible not to like him. We went to Nabari, his area which is the only area in the mission in Mie-ken. Maybe you`ll remember that I went to Mie-ken several times when I was in Shingu. Anyway, it is really 田舎 (rural) out there. There is a member there named S兄弟 who lives in a home for mentally disabled people. There are surprisingly quite a few people like him in the church in Japan and to be honest, they`ve tried my patience the most on my mission and I`ve had to pray for charity and patience for them. This S兄弟 however required no patience. He was so naturally lovable. For the most part, he was a pretty normal guy, just a little bit slow. He was very shy and soft-spoken, but had a lot to say, especially about the gospel. I loved meeting him. I wanted to take him home with me, actually.

A lady called me Thursday night saying she was planning on driving an hour from Kashihara city to attend our Eikaiwa (English Class) on Friday. I spoke to her on the phone in Japanese. She called Friday night because she was lost and I gave her directions to the church, again in Japanese. She got out of the car with a 10 year old daughter and 8 year old son. I thought "great, we`re going to have to teach a kids class tonight." I small talked with the mom in Japanese as we walked up to the church, but as we were talking, she leaned to her kids and said in English: "Ok, be on your best behavior." It was pretty shocking. What was even more shocking was hearing them reply in absolutely PERFECT English: "Yes, mother." Both children were completely fluent in English. In fact, they prefer English to Japanese. Their mother only speaks English to them and they talk to foreigners on Skype all day. Their mother is pure Japanese, and NEVER studied abroad. She just loves English and only uses it with her children. They actually speak better than her. Plus, they go to a Japanese public school and their father only speaks Japanese so they have no problem with either language. I was probably flaming green with envy the whole night. We should be seeing them again at the Christmas party.

Fujita 兄弟 the 伝道主任 (ward mission leader) invited us over to his house on Christmas day. He said he was praying that I don`t transfer since transfer is on the 23. We`ll see.

We went to visit N姉妹, a less-active member who lives really far away. I felt like we needed to go by bus. We can go in a relatively fair amount of time by bike but I felt like we needed to take the bus. We visited another former-investigator close-by and then walked over to her house. She answered and said she was busy and basically sent us away. That was pretty disappointing. We went to wait at the bus-stop and after about five minutes, she showed up. She was planning on riding the bus as well. We were able to talk for about 20 minutes on the bus about her situation and it was a really spiritual experience. She wants to go to church, but can`t due to complications with her family. She still keeps all of the commandments and is praying for some solution. She seemed really thankful an waved to us after she got off the bus. I suppose that was a prompting.

We visited the Takakura couple on Saturday for lunch. I first met them at the Ibaraki ward and they moved to Nara the same week I did. They`re both returned missionaries and have been helping us a TON. They live practically next door to us, and the church. They`re great people.

The Takakuras

Church started an hour late yesterday due to the Nara Marathon. We didn`t see any of it, but apparently it`s a big deal. I gave a talk and I felt like it went pretty well. I talked about Brother West, my 9th grade seminary teacher and the very, very important role he played in my conversion.

I haven`t gotten an email yet, and this computer`s keyboard is really messed up, so I`ve spent a ton of time correcting and backspacing. Man, internet is frustrating. Anyway, I might get to check to see if you have sent anything after my companion finishes up his email, but just in case you`re writing anything, please do send it quickly! I hope everything is well at home. Have a good week!

Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5, 2011

It`s December now.
I`m sorry this is so late. I assume you`re all asleep now. The internet cafe has been so busy, we had to come back twice before there was space for us. Even so, we`re using one computer at a time so we`ll be here for two hours. Gah. I really wish libraries in Japan were open on Mondays.
I forgot to write possibly the biggest news of the week last week I just realized. Last Sunday, our branch president changed. It`s definitely rare to see that as a missionary I suppose. We only stay in units for 3-5 months on average. Our new branch president is Takara 会長 and he`s really young. He and his wife are expecting their first child. He was the young men`s president before and did such a fantastic job at it that they made him the branch president, I think. He`ll still work very close with the few precious young men the branch has...and watch over all of the おじいちゃん`s and おばあちゃん`s (elderly people) in the branch. He`ll be great and really easy to work with I think. I really admire he and his wife`s sacrifice though. I can`t imagine the stress and pressure. He returns home from work at 8PM daily and he got called right in time for tithing settlement. かわいそう. (Poor man)
We took a the Hattori`s, a member couple that`s been in the branch since the beginning to go visit 竹村 姉妹 and her husband. I think I wrote about her last week. Baptized 30 years ago, went to church for 5, and hasn`t been back since. It`s very interesting to see people catch up after 25 years of not seeing each other. It was good to talk and to help some member`s realize that all of the people that have stopped coming to church still exist.
There`s this guy with a super neck-beard that we see walking around the eki (train station) near our church and apartment everyday. He`s started talking to me a couple times but I can never understand what he`s trying to say, he`s obviously got some sort of mental illness. He looks homeless and uses the world as his toilet. Anyway, I think I wrote about how we found a Chinese investigator in the freezing cold last week (two weeks ago?). Anyway, we went to that Chinese guy`s apartment complex because there was apparently a less-active member living in it but we forgot to write down the room number. Well, this week we went back to follow-up with the Chinese guy and wrote down the less-active`s room number so we could see him as well. I`m guessing you can guess who the less-active was. Yep, neck-beard guy. He invited us in but he was in his underwear. And it smelled really funky. We invited him to church and got out pretty quick. It`s really fascinating to see the variety of people that have come and gone through the church. We visited another one who was baptized 30 years ago, moved twice, and hadn`t been to church since she was baptized, nor had she met or talked to anyone from the church, yet somehow her current address was in the records. She was terrified that we had found her.
We got to see the 森下`s again on Saturday. I really think that 森下姉妹 could make a living as a stand-up comedian. I have trouble not falling out of their couch laughing everytime we go. Their super Shikoku-ben  (dailect) is half of what`s so funny. She always talks about how she used to be skinny (she still is very skinny, I think) because of all the work that she did when she was younger but now all she does is sit and eat. She said she was skinny because 「家をそうじしごはんを作り仕事をししゅじんに仕え」("I honorably served my husband by cleaning and cooking.") and as she said that last one, she put her hands on her thighs and did a super polite bow with this indescribable sarcastic face. She then went on and on about he is a "せんさ" (Shikoku-ben;なにもしない人 ("useless")) because he is a "muakshi no hito" ("ancient") and just expects the woman to do everything. This whole time he`s laughing as well. Those two are just very simple, happy people. I think everyone deservest to be as happy as they are once they reach retirement. I hope their daughter earns a good retirement from their pan`ya (bakery). They are just so exhausted and it`s becoming hard for them to come to church. We just go and clean and then they give us everything that`s left over. I still wish there was more that we could do. 森下姉妹 would say 大変でーー!("It's tough!")
I think that`s about all I have to update on. Transfer lands right before the Christmas party here in Nara. I`m really curious as to what`s going to happen. It can swing either way.
Was this week normal besides the wind storm? Everyone staying busy?
Any questions? I never feel like I have enough to write.
Have a good week!
The giant toy horse is right by a member`s house. I`ve meant to take a picture of it for a while but kept forgetting. Cool right? Playgrounds don`t look very fun here, but they sure are interesting to look at.

I thought I needed to take some pictures of some of the fall colors. It`s めんどくさい (a pain) to jump off your bike everytime you see a pretty tree, but this mountain view was too pretty to pass up.