Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012

This month is already over.
Answers to your questions:
Q: Have you ever given a blessing? In Japanese?
A: Yes, many times. My first time was really scary, but it`s normal now.
Q:Have you eaten Katsu lately? I miss a good katsu place.
A: Actually, no. In fact, I can`t remember ever having just Ton Katsu on my mission. I`ve eaten more of it in America than Japan, ironically enough. Sure, I`ve had Katsu Curry, and Katsu-don, etc. But still haven`t had a really good katsu yet.
Q: Were those noodles last week good? (Elder Low's current area is very famous for good noodles.)
A: They really were. In fact, I did an udon noodle test this week. I`ve been kind of bewildered by the whole sanuki udon thing. I was in Takamatsu this week and I met three tourists on the street who came JUST to eat udon! I`ve been to a few places, and sure it`s good, but I certainly wouldn`t travel across the country to eat it. I did a test. I bought some local sanuki udon and generic brand udon at the grocery store and ate both for lunch. Then I understood. It wasn`t that the Sanuki udon was so good, it`s that the generic brand was disgusting! The texture is the biggest thing. The generic udon was like rubber. You can see the difference.
You might remember this udon noodle place in Sakaide. We passed it on a Saturday morning and it looked like this. They only feed the udon from 11:30 to 12:30 and this pictures was taken at 11:00. Hopefully we`ll get to eat there someday.
Q: Can you get a picture of you with Yamanishi Shimai?
A: I think so. You see, I tried once. She`s usually just sitting in the foyer with Akiyama 姉妹. I tried with the two of them and it didn`t go too well. I don`t think 山西姉妹 would mind though. I talked to her a little bit yesterday too.
Now, some news:
Is it a cultural thing not to put dogs to sleep? Actually, I take that back, I know it isn`t. There`s a member who lives right next to the church who can`t come recently because she spends 24 hours taking care of her 18 year old dog that can`t see, hear, or stand. She feeds him by hand. There`s something kind of sweet and tender about it, but at the same time I kind of felt like going and grabbing some weed killer and pouring it in the food. She asked us to come feed him every now and then. She refuses to put him to sleep, even though he`s obviously suffering. She can`t sleep because he wails 24/7.
I had an exchange in Takamatsu with Elder 小部長老 and it was really great. He`s on his last transfer and is companions with one of his best friends before his mission, Elder 南川長老, the district leader. He told me that missionary work is a waste of time if you`re not having fun. I remember trying so hard to teach that to one of my former companions, but realize now that I`ve forgotten it. We met with the Takamatsu 伝道主任 (ward mission leader) that evening and the Suezawa`s were in the church. They were happy to see me as always and were telling me all about the meal they had in store 2 days later at zone conference.
We had Sakaide English Enjoyment club this week in Sakaide and afterwards the Tanaka`s took us out to yakiniku.
Sakaide English Enjoyment club is still one of my favorite things to do here and the Tanaka`s took us out to yakiniku afterwards. I love yakiniku.
They are incredible. 田中姉妹 has been baptized for just over a year this week. Her husband hits his year mark in June. It`s killing her having to wait to get her endowment. The two of them have been to the temple 5 times for baptisms for the dead. They`re incredible, and also some of the funniest, most loving people I`ve ever met. They`re also separated 24 years in age. They met when she was 24. She said she got "DABURU SUKOAA!" They`re really great people though, she`s dying to come to Utah and I`ve offerend our home many times, just so you`re aware.
Zone conference was really great. I felt really good walking out of it. The biggest topic discussed was the difference between our role and the members role in missionary work. With so much emphasis on the 20 lessons per week goal, lots of missionaries are only teaching members or less-actives. Why do numbers have to be such a big deal? We can`t be motivated by them, or else they get distorted and we lose integrity; but we also can`t live without them. I was translating again so I think I lost a lot of it because it just goes in my ears, out my mouth and out of my mind. President Zinke also taught a lot about the doctrine of families and it looks like the mission is going to start shifting focus to finding families rather than young singles. Anyway, President Zinke really set the record straight and I felt really confident about the training I received after zone conference this week.
Takamatsu is famous across the whole mission for having the best zone conference meals on earth. It totally lived up to the expectations. Heck, that was the first thing that Suezawa Shimai told me when she called me when I was in Himeji. It looks like she organizes the whole thing. (Click on photo to enlarge.) 

Like really. Notice the takoyaki (barbeque octopus) stand in the back. Zoom in on each of the individual dishes and look at how elaborately presented they are. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Oh and that is home made root beer AND ice cream. I don`t know how they do it. 四国人`s really take food seriously.
As always, I was so shocked by all of the returning missionaries testimonies. Sister Myagmarjav gave her final testimony! She`s going home in two weeks! You would`ve been so proud of her (I guess you haven`t met her yet). Just hearing her speak is a reminder that God exists and performs miracles to execute his will. She had total command of the room, speaking a language she heard for the first time less than 18 months ago. She said that even though she couldn`t speak English, she never thought that learning Japanese in the MTC was difficult. She said she had never sat down alone and simply "studied" Japanese for more than an hour. It all just entered her mind and stuck, and she said she learned very early that she can do nothing on her own. I`m still shocked that the four sisters from my MTC district are going home. Anyway, Meg 姉妹 said she`s most likely going to school in Virginia with her younger sister.
A really pretty view of Marugame port. We went to research ferry fares to the islands that are technically part of Marugame city. They`re really expensive...hopefully we can go sometime. The harbor is really pretty though and the old Marugame church (it`s a warehouse...I think I sent a picture of it a couple weeks ago) is right by it.

We also ended up in Kotohira this week. Total tourist trap. I was shocked I didn`t think there was anything like it on Shikoku but there is. We couldn`t even ride our bikes through the streets there were so many people. It has just as many omiyage stores as any famous shrine in Kyoto.

Three investigators came to church yesterday, including Y san (well, she`s there everyweek anyway). The members are saying they`re impressed by all of the "ugoki" (movement) happening in the branch right now. I hope it turns into progress soon rather than just movement. I have been sooo tried with patience on my mission. The church building is perhaps our biggest finding tool. It`s so beautiful, people just walk in.
A funny store we pass every now and then.

Specialty doughnuts at Mister Donuts. Goma (sesame)

 .......and anzuki (sweet bean paste).
I hope the Hansen family will be ok.
Anyway, I guess that`s all I`ve got this week. Have a good one!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 20, 2012

Feburary is already almost over.

So last Monday evening was yet another really great night. I 兄弟 took us to a very, very, very famous restaurant in Marugame called "Rone." You`ve probably been there. It has been open in the exact same spot for 41 years. The owner and his wife were some of the first converts in Marugame, he was the second branch president. Anyway, I 兄弟 is really good friends with them and they will feed us for free if he brings us. They learned how to make pizza in San Francisco and then opened a tiny little shop underneath their apartment.

It is the most charming restaurant I think I`ve ever been in. It is all cabin themed, log benches and wooden tables. It also has little hints of Japanese culture here and there like kokeshi dolls and fans on the walls. The soundtrack playing in there probably hasn`t changed in 41 years either. It`s really like walking into a black and white movie. The owner said that if you lived in the Sakaide branch 23 years ago, you`ve definitely been there. The entire branch would come over for activities and he`d feed them for free. The pizza was incredible too. I don`t know that I`ve ever had better pizza.

Before we went there we also went to get our hair cut by a former investigator. We`d been going to 1000円 QB house before but I found in the area book that a place called "Heartful" will give missionaries free hair-cuts. Sure enough, they did. And it wasn`t just a a hair cut. I`ve never been so pampered in my life. It was a really great place and some of the employees might be teachable if we go again.

We had Valentines Day here too. We had Eikaiwa (English Class) so all of the students brought us chocolate. They LOVED hearing me talk about high school dances in America. It`s always a surprise to hear what English students think is interesting about American culture.

We had of course yet another lesson with Y。 Basically she won`t be baptized until her 18 year old daughter who was baptized in October is finished with Juken (Entrance Exams).  I really, really, really hope we can get some fire under her. There is branch conference on March 11 and that will really help her. She met the Zinkes once before and absolutely loves them.

We went finding one morning near Tadotsu port and decided to eat lunch out there. Of course, all that`s out there is udon noodle shops and sailors. I wish I could`ve filmed what happened when we walked in to an udon place for lunch. The place had a line right to the door and everyone eating there is sailors and it`s ear-ringing loud with slurping. When we walked in, the slurping halted and everyone was staring at Maris 長老 with their mouths wide open while their udon slips off of their chopsticks. It was straight out of a cartoon. We still laugh about it.

It started snowing again on Saturday. It snowed all day, and of course melted as it hit the ground.

We were having a lesson with T兄弟 Saturday evening in the church and the church phone rang. It was a Korean man named Kim (is there any Korean who isn`t a Kim?) that said he had interest in learning about the "Mormon Church" and meeting Americans and said that he would come to church tomorrow if that was ok. It was a really good thing that we were there to answer the phone. The church actually overhauled the system so now people call our cell-phone if they look up the church on the internet since the church sits empty most of the week and nobody answers that phone.

I talked to Y san on the phone on Saturday night and she said she was really excited to come to church because Elder Nakatsuka, the area seventy was coming. She said if it snows over night that they`re walking, very jokingly. We woke up on Saturday night and everything was covered in about an inch of snow. Really shocking. I just laughed. Of course, it all started melting as soon as the sun came out. I asked Y Shimai if she had walked to church the next day, it was pretty funny.

I got to talk to Elder Nakatsuka a little bit before sacrament meeting. He DOES remember Elder Chris Low very clearly, he said. He said you were a great missionary and to say hello. He gave a fantastic talk in sacrament meeting. He always does, he`s an extremely charismatic speaker. He talked about his conversion. He was the second convert in his hometown of Yonago where he still lives. He didn`t include this part, but Yonago is now one of two wards in the mission that regularly has over 100 people in attendance. He`s a pretty awesome man. The distirct president was also here and he spoke. I was the other speaker. I was really nervous. I had no idea I would be speaking the day that an area seventy and the district president were in attendance.

We had a lesson with Kim after sacrament. He`s a little かわている (different) but teachable. We will meet with him during the week. He thinks coming to church will eliminate discrimination in the world since his biggest concern is that he can`t get a job in Japan because he`s not Japanese.

I meant to write this last week, but 山西姉妹 (Sister Yamanishi) is absolutely an angel. Her back is extremely bent because she still works in her field and grows vegetables, so in a normal stance, she barely reaches my stomach. Last sunday, she started pulling on the corner of my suit coat to get my attention. She took her Liahona magazine out of the plastic celophane wrap that it gets mailed in and then took four sweet potatoes out of her purse, put them in the plastic wrap and then handed them to me. I think mom would be very proud to hear that I ate all four of them. They actually weren`t that sweet which is why I liked them. They were like baked potatoes, I put them in the toaster and then put butter and salt and pepper on them. She gave us more food this week. She has to look straight up to look me in the eye, it`s really cute.

I am absolutely shocked to hear abour Brother Hansen. He did many many wonderful things for Jacob and I when we were young men. I hope they`ll be ok. I even remember once when only Curtis Muson and I showed up to go to the temple and he ended up baptizing the two of us and a whole group of young girls since they were short on priesthood holders. I remember him saying his back hurt so bad. Brother Anderson took us out to the Mandarin in Bountiful afterwards. I tell that story to companions all the time.

I love that a vacuum and dryer are the biggest news from Farmington, Utah. Some things just don`t change I guess.

I realized last night that I haven`t really taken many pictures this week. Sorry. I realize pictures are the most fascinating thing I send home. As you can see, McDonald`s has moved on to the Broadway burger with spicy relish. I almost feel ashamed that I`m writing about this...but not enough to not write about it.

I guess that`s all I`ve got. As always, let met know if you have questions. Until next week!

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012

I had one of the most amazing experiences of my mission this week...definitely one of the most spiritual experiences of my life, for that matter. I'll write about it first.

Typically, Thursdays are the day for weekly planning. We sit in the apartment for up to three hours and it's no fun, to be honest. This Thursday, we had no appointments until the evening, just planned on sitting in the apartment and planning for the week. At about 10, right before we finished language study, I got a call from Suezawa 兄弟 (Elder Low's parent's best friend when they lived in the branch 23 years ago. He was in the Stake Presidency at the time.) I still hadn't met him yet. He said that he had been told that he needed to help the Marugame missionaries this morning. I was thinking "who?" He said he was on his way and to meet him at the church in about 15 minutes. I was kind of weirded out, he sounded pretty serious.

We went to the church and he was waiting for us. We parked our bikes and as I was locking mine up and getting my bag out of the back, I could see him walking across that huge parking lot we have with a humongous grin on his face. He finally ran up to me. I put my hand out to shake his hand and he put both his arms around me, hugged me, and started crying. That was a really cool moment. He apologized for hugging me for so long, but I didn't mind. He said I look just like the both of my parents.

We went inside the church and I showed him some pictures and he was, of course, really happy to see them all. He then explained that when he had prayed this morning, he felt like he needed to come and help us. He asked who do we need to go see?  We got in the car and took off. He had his scriptures open on the dashboard of his truck. He said he has been trying to meet with T Kyoudai for years. He said that he KNEW we were going to finally see him today. This man is one of the most spiritual people I've ever met. I think he should be a mission president. Anyway, we got to the T's place and they weren't home. He said we are definitely supposed to meet them today so we went somewhere else with the resolve to come back later.

We went to visit the O couple who are in their 80's and less-active. He was the branch president about 30 years ago.  Anyway, they were very kind. Suezawa Kyodai, quite abruptly, started talking about the Book of Mormon as we met with them. He explained that a new translation came out in 2009 and that they should read it. The one they carried still had a picture of Moroni on the cover. The wife was very much against it, but for one reason or another, he said he wanted to read it. She tried to talk him out of it, but he took it. She then tried to pay for it and was really upset when she found out we weren't allowed to accept money. We got in the car and Suezawa Kyodai said 御霊はすごいですね (The Holy Ghost is amazing) and then basically gave a play-to-play recap of what had just happened. I'm telling you, he should be a mission president.

We then returned to the T's. Their car was now in the drive-way so we knew they were home. So we visited them too. After that visit, we got in the car and left. It really was a miracle. No one in the church has seen him in years and had Suezawa Kyoudai not been there, I don't think he would have visited us.

He took us out to eat. The two of us went to the bathroom and he was yet again crying when we came back. He then took us to the old Sakaide church. The logo was still written on it. It was eerie being in the staircase. We couldn't go inside. That floor of the building has been gutted and I think will soon be used by another company.

Building where Chris and Saori went to church back in 1988-1989. The Sakaide Branch.

A Coffe Shop/Bar was on the first floor. Note logos for both the bar and the church on the same signpost.

Stairs leading to the second floor where the branch met, through that door.

"Does any of this look familiar?" Yes, very familiar.

He took us to Lamu, right next to the old church because three members work there: Tsutsui Shimai, Maruyama Shimai, and Idebuchi Kyoudai (remember him? I haven't met him yet). Only Tsutsui Shimai was there, so he bought us a loaf of bread so we could say hello to her.

He also wanted to visit Sister Cook. He hadn't seen her in a couple years and really loves her. She'd been having a bad day so he was able to give her a blessing and she was really thankful.
Here's a pretty view of Sanuki Fuji near Sister Cook's house. We visit her once a week.

We said goodbye and I hugged him again. I feel like in those 7 hours we spent together he became family to me. (Editor's note: That because he is family to us.) He gave me all kinds of advice and more than anything, just made me happy to be a missionary and to be a alive. Perhaps the greatest miracle of the day was what he did for me. Perhaps I needed to be strengthened more than anyone else we met that day and that's why he came. Either way, it was an incredible day and worked out perfectly. I'm sure I'll have more chances to meet with him again before I leave. He sends his love and says he really wants to see you again.

As for the rest of the week:

Brother I. took us out to eat yet again on Monday night. We went to a brand new Kurazushi (Sushi restaurant with conveyor belts). It's a popular chain I've been to many times, but this one is new and they had a new system. The kaiten zushi plates are protected by a plastic incubator type device that releases when you touch the plate. They let us test it when we walked in and bowed after we tried it. It's moments like that that make me want to stay in Japan forever.

I got a call on Wednesday night during family home evening (only Tanaka Kyoudai was in attendance) from Takashima Kyoudai who I wrote earlier is in the branch presidency and Terajima Kyoudai (who lives in Machida where Elder Low's grandparents live) was his mission president. He asked for all of the details about the car acccident. Terajima Kyoudai called right afterwards and was very kind. I told him I'm fine and not to worry one bit.

Our district is new now. We now have two zone leaders in our zone and one is also the youngest missionary in the zone. It's an odd feeling. I'm really getting old. Myagmarjav Shimai stuck around, Holker Shimai went to Kobe. This is their last transfer. The sister missionaries from my MTC district go home in March.

We taught Y san yet again. We taught her the golden Lehi's dream vision, the goal being to ask where she thinks she is and what she needs to do in order to get to the iron rod. She said she's drowning in the river. Still need to figure out what to do with her.

There was a shokujikai (pot luck) after church for Michael yesterday. It was a blast. The food here in Shikoku in the church is top notch. I talked to Maruyama Shimai for a while and she has a REALLY good memory. She remembers Grandma teaching them how to make picture frames and says she still uses hers. She said that Wendy also sent Christmas ornaments she made at a young women's activity to the Sakaide branch, and the Sakaide branch used those ornaments every year on their Christmas tree until the branch closed five years ago.

Yes, 20 lessons is a standard for the mission. But remember, one taught principle and a commitment can be counted as a "lesson" so it's not as huge as it sounds.

 It's also Valentines time again (I can't believe I'm to the point where I can say "again" now) so I'm getting chocolate from everyone. I felt bad opening and throwing away this box, it was so emaculate.


 I took this picture yesterday when we went to go visit a member out in Zentsuji. I thought it was really pretty and "Japan".  Note the Buddhist pilgrim.

I guess that's all. Have a good week!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 5, 2012

I guess I'll just start by talking about yesterday.

It was just so great. Baptisms are always wonderful and I do usually think about what kind of member the person being baptized is going to become; but yesterday, there was something different about it. Just knowing that the two of them are already planning on getting to the temple as soon as possible and the strength and depth of his faith makes it so much more stress and worry-free. His testimony afterwards was incredible. I don't know how he knew all of the church vocabulary that he used. The members were all saying that we "shikkari shita" ("did it right") with him and taught him so thoroughly, but the truth is we really did nothing. Lara had taught it all to him and he had accepted it long before we met him. Lara told the story of how they met before the baptism too. They met three years ago speaking Italian at a common interest club. She said she remembers the first time she asked him about God and he said that he wasn't sure. He'd stopped practicing his Catholic faith in his teenage years. Lara at the time was less-active, not going to church. She DID hold true to her testimony though. She said she never doubted that anything she learned about the church was true.

She still had that light about her and that obviously was enough to spark his interest in the Gospel. On the other hand, he was necessary for her as well. Had she not found him, she could possibly be still drifting and wandering away from the church. It's truly a miracle. It's like the beginning of a fairy tale ending. We were really lucky to be a small part of it. Really though, we did nothing. They had been led and guided to where they are today throughout their whole lives.

I went to show the pictures you sent to Tachibana-san. So just so you know, their third daughter lives at home with her two kids. her husband works in Kyushu. She comes maybe once a month, neither of the kids are baptized, so we're trying to work with them. The oldest daughter is married and living in Okayama. The youngest daughter (the one with you in the picture) is married and lives in Nagoya. I believe she's still active as well. Anyway, ojii-san (The father) was really happy to see those pictures. He's not too interested in coming to church but is incredibly nice and said to say hello. The older lady in those pictures is his mom. He was very surprised to see pictures of her.

Go to to view this video.
It snowed REALLY hard this Friday morning. We were studying and heard our next door neighbor shout "yuuuuuukiiiii!!" ("snooowww!") on her way to school.

It started like this, pretty soft.

It snowed for about an hour and got really strong. It was like Utah.

And then after another hour it looked like this.

Now that Michael is baptized, we need to work to find. We actually had a really solid, deep pool of investigators we were teaching before he came around, but they all kind of disappeared into thin air just before he was baptized. They either cut contact or just stopped keeping commitments and became unteachable. We're still meeting with Y-san every week though. I believe she can be baptized soon. She is a very caring, sincere, and loving woman though. She loves missionaries so much that she knows all of the missionaries in the zone by name as well. When Elder Knight, our zone leader, came to interview Michael for baptism, Y-san showed up and dropped off take out from an Indian restaurant, just to say hello to him. She needs a strong spiritual experience, I'm praying that we can make it happen eventually. Her daughter (18, baptized in October) was able to come to church yesterday for the first time in over a month. Juken (entrance exam prep) is killing her.

We tried to do some finding at the Seto Ohashi Bridge Commemorative Park this week. Even in the freezing cold, there were a lot of people there....still wasn't too effective though. It is a really nice place though. It's a pretty big park with fountains, etc. and a really pretty view.

Side note: Grandpa just sent me an email and I could only understand half of it. I know it was about my accident though and that he's willing to contact the insurance company, or even come down here, etc. I don't know what to do. The whole thing is just really mendokusai (a pain). I don't have time or energy to even think about going to the hospital and arguing with an insurance representative.

I sure hope nobody else is crying over hearing about my accident. Really, I'm fine. I ride my bike about 10 kilo's everyday and I feel fine.

I felt like I had a lot more to say but I can't think of too much now.

I kept meaning to write it week after week, but I did finally receive your Christmas package about three weeks ago. It looks like it got sent to Thailand somehow and that's why it was so late. Don't ask me why it went there...

Also, the package I sent you back around Christmas time is fine to open and look at. I remember you writing about it. In fact, those ties were supposed to be gifts. I was in too much of a hurry to write a note of explanation and put it inside. That stuffed animal with antlers on his head is Sento-Kun. He's the Nara city mascot. All of the big tourist cities have mascots, just like Himeji had that fat princess with a castle for a head. I always think they're so strange and end up buying one before I leave.

I'm glad to hear that there is Japanese instruction going on in Family Home Evening. The next step is to start singing the opening and closing hymn in Japanese. That helps a ton and is the best way to learn hiragana. Ganbare!

Here's a picture of the Las Vegas burger. It doesn't even come close to the Grand Canyon.

I can't think of anything else. As always, ask questions if you have them. Have a good week!