Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26, 2012

There was a pretty sunset yesterday. This is behind the castle.
So last Monday while we were at the church, a thirty year old lady walked into the church asking about the free 英会話 (English Class) sign. It was pretty good that she came while we were here. She showed up on Wednesday and was the only student. She just returned to her parent`s house in Ako and has only been here for a month. She does nothing and said she wants to use her head. About 15 minutes into the class, she said that she wanted to learn about Jesus Christ and we just answered her questions for an hour. She was erupting with questions...she couldn`t process information fast enough. It was really awesome. She came to church on Sunday and fit right in, socially. We had a lesson with her. She was still starving for information. She had read half of the seiku gaido (combination of topical guide and Bible dictionary) and the first 8 chapters of the Book of Mormon. She was ready, so we committed her to baptism and she was caught off guard. She made it very clear that she will make no commitment, just wants to learn. We went from there to sacrament meeting (sacrament meeting is last) and she seemed really uncomfortable and disappeared afterwards. She has no cell-phone, so we have no way of contacting her. It was a really magical first meeting, but I guess she needs to be prepared more....which is really sad. It was a glimpse of light that led to a really big let-down. I`m still telling myself that it`s not my fault.
We had a bazaar in front of the church. We gave away all kinds of the junk that the members gathered together and people could make donations for Dai Shinsai  - Great Earthquake (I don`t even know what to call it any more) if they want. The branch raised 7000 yen.
The rest of the week was just finding, finding, and finding, and even more "Bukkyodesukara" ("we're Buddhists").
We finally had our first district meeting. Apparently 9 areas in the mission were white washed, and both of the areas in our district (Ako and Kakogawa) were completely turned over. Kakogawa, has Elder Meyer and Elder Wong (a new missionary from Hawaii). You may or may not remember, but I`ve been in this district before. I was in Himeji. I don`t know if I wrote this or not, but I taught Eikaiwa in Ako every week when I was in Himeji because there were two Japanese elders here.
Elder Meyer was in Kobe for 4 transfers prior to coming here and he told me all about the Kobe ward. That place has changed a lot from when I was there.
Yesterday was branch conference so all of the stake leaders were here, many of whom I met when I was in Kobe. Nobody remembered me, they were freaked out when I remembered their names. No surprises though, I wasn`t there for that long, and I was a terrified brand new missionary. I got to talk to 大嶋会長 the stake president for a while. I like his family, I only know him and his son, but they`re great people. His son gave a talk in the Himeji ward when he came back from his mission and I talked to him for a while. Apparently he`s at BYU now.
This is the Oishi shrine dedicated to the 47 Ronin. It`s impressive when you walk up to it, but when you look at the statues up close, they look like giant action figures that were made from a machine. It`s also deserted.

I`m probably going to buy a suit today. I hope my card will have enough money on it.
I`m getting really good at food presentation. That`s definitely something they take seriously here. I can dress up instant noodles and make them look like a $10 meal, no problem.
I never know what to write, please ask questions.
I guess that`s it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 18, 2012

I have a lot to say.

First of all I got a letter from Brother Bohman a couple weeks ago and saw that my accident was talked about from the pulpit and then a note from Sam saying it was discussed at a Missionary Weekend. 何しっとん?! I told you not to say anything. It`s really nothing.

It was so difficult leaving Marugame.  That place (Marugame) was really special. I think it was because I really made a connection and I feel like I would be welcome if I were to visit again. I loved it.

These are the people I was able to say goodbye to. This is Kono, an Eikaiwa (English Class) student in Marugame. His name is the same as my middle name, same kanji and everything.

This is President Jackson and his family. They are simply incredible. They give so much for that branch. The little boy is Holden and he`s four and attends a normal yochien (kindergarten). They have an 8 year old, Spencer who was at school. I`ll miss them.

This is Sister Cook. She's a sweet lady.

Tanaka Kyodai and Yumi Shimai. They were at family home evening everyWednesday.

This picture is with the Yamada`s Kana and Chiharu. Tsu, the dad was of course on business.

Elder Kobe spent his last transfer in Takamatsu so I got to exchange with him last transfer. He is awesome and went home. This is us at the transfer spot in Sannomiya.

Goodbye to the apartment. I loved it. 
I know this transfer is what it is and it`s all the will of the Lord. The peace that came was the fact that I was so upset about it. Leaving really made me appreciate my calling and the opportunity I had to serve there. The image that kept flashing into my mind was my last Sunday there. Both of the Jackson`s and Michael and Lara had birthdays recently so there was a birthday cake at the shokujikai (pot luck). We sang to them and it was a mix of Japanese and English mess. It was beautiful. Everyone was laughing. That was happiness. I remember thinking in that moment that I wanted to be there for the rest of my mission.
There is not much in Ako. Seriously. There is a small little shrine dedicated to the 47 ronin, but it`s abandoned. This place has 50,000 population compared to Shingu`s 30,000, but it feels much, much, much more quiet than Shingu. 
A pretty tree in bloom in Ako.
Here are some pictures of a park in Ako. We went on a Saturday afternoon to find people to teach, and it was the warmest day of the year and it was STILL deserted.

Click here to watch this video. Note the eerie background music.

Apparently, the city has tried and tried to become a tourist destination, but it just doesn`t work.

The branch is humble. There were 24 people in attendance, only 5 priesthood holders, two of which are young men. Most everyone is into their 50`s. This branch will die without young converts. It is very lively though. Half of the branch has been called as branch missionaries and they`re fantastic. Very energetic and willing to work and very much aware of their responsibility to keep this branch alive. That`s why we`re here.

There are two other cities, Aioi and Tatsuno in the area, but we have to climb mountains to get to them. Apparently there were other missionareis that went often, but it looks like a pretty rough journey.

My new companion is Elder Singleton from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He`s awesome. He reminds me a lot of Jacob. Quiet, and says off-beat, hilarious things under his breath.
Katharine McPhee is staring in a Broadway show? Wow, you really know how to push my buttons. That show sounds like exactly my thing. Sounds like she got her success a little bit late. I'd like to see that show. I also need to come back to Japan multiple times after I come home. Gah...

I never got to participate in the region One Act thing, so you`re lucky, Randy. I still think I`ve yet to hear more than three sentences from you on my mission.

I`m not sure what else to write. Questions are always welcome. Talk to you next week!

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

Transfer calls came this morning. This area is being white-washed and I`m being whitewashed into Ako. The Elder in Ako is training his new missionary here. I`m not happy about it. I know I`m being really immature about it right now, but I still haven`t been able to calm down yet. I JUST hit my stride here, we have investigators coming from right and left and I just got here.  I really don`t want to leave. I don`t think I even have the guts to say goodbye to anyone here. It will be too sad. I wasn`t even able to start packing this morning. Maybe I`m in denial. I don`t know why I`m so upset about it. I know the right thing to say is that I`ll learn something and it`ll be for my good, but I`m not to that point yet.
We had dinner with the Weatherston`s last Monday. Brother Weatherston is from Utah, served here on his mission and his wife is from Hiroshima. They have a cute 5 year old daughter, Rachel, who can understand English, but will only speak Japanese.
There`s a newer member here who didn`t come to church on Sunday, but we met with her on Monday night and she said she popped the Bible open to Ecclesiaties 3 and cried because it touched her so much.
I can`t believe it`s been a year since the earthquake. I feel like I haven`t felt an earthquake since about summer, actually. It`s been a while.
Here are some pictures of a 72 hour kit activity at the church on Saturday. You might be able to pick out a couple faces. (Click photo to zoom in.) Everyone took this really seriously. I was surprised. It`s been a year since the disaster and everyone is very on top of their preparedness.

I went on an exchange with 南川長老 in Takamatsu and it was great. He`s a great missionary. We rode past one of the Marugame member`s English pre-school (they live in Marugame, have the school in Takamatsu) and they spotted us and pulled us in. The Ellis`s (live in the school, but attend church in Marugame because of the English translation, etc.) pulled us in and had us eat dinner. We came in just as the school was closing and the kids were being picked up by their moms. The school has a No Japanese rule. It was really bizarre hearing English pop out of the toddler`s mouths with perfect pronunciation. The Ellis`s go back to the U.S. next month. Brother Ellis is the second counselor in the branch presidency.
We had our last district meeting in Tokushima. Really bizarre feeling, three members of the district are going home. Elder Knight, Elder Kobe, and Sister Myagmarjav.
Yesterday was branch conference. This was my first time attending a branch conference in a district. So yes, the mission president was there. It was a great day. Really spiritual and huge attendance. The meetings went super long though. We ate udon afterwards and it was great.
Heather, an English teacher who goes home this week brought two friends to church last week, a mother and a daughter. They were very nice but left saying they loved it, but weren`t interested. The mother came back this week. She said she just felt so good last week that she had to come back. We have a meeting with her on Tuesday.
I hope everything is well at home. Sorry if this is くらい (dark). I still need to grow up and get over it. Until next week...
I`m realizing right now that all I took pictures of this week was food. The final "Big American" burger. It`s called the Beverly Hills burger and it might be the best of the four. It is difficult when McDonald`s is next door to the church.

I like the saying on this wrapper. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

A member gave us these white chocolate covered osembe. I didn`t realize where they were from until the moment before I opened them. They were a very strange mix of spicy and sweet.

I`m glad the student teaching has been a good experience. I hope it all turns out well.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5, 2012

We have a new 18 year old investigator named M. 南川長老 and Maris 長老 found him while I was in Takamatsu on a 交換 (exchange). He`s awesome. He is very innocent and pure and has always believed that God loves him because sunshine and flowers make him happy. He prays to be led to beautiful nature. He understands what he learns very well. He reads the material before we teach it to him and he basically recites it before we even explain it to him. When I asked him to be baptized he said ”日の堺にいけるなら構んで” (If that's what it takes to get to the Celestial Kingdom, gladly). Best answer ever. He has a goal for April 8th.

We`re still trying to get into conatct with the Y family. Do you remember Kaori T? She is married and her name is Y now. She said she visited your apartment in Orem when she was at UVSC. Anyway, she`s married, her husband is in JTAI in Kyushu and her two children aren`t baptized. She comes to church every other week. I`m not sure what her deal is, but her kids need the gospel, it sounds. We`ve ridden our bikes out to that home in Sakaide many times. I`m sure you remember it.
Marugame has lots of these giant ponds with ducks swimming and a whole bunch of garbage floating around in them.
I`m not sure what else to write about this week.

Oh, we have become Udon Otaku (Noodle Freaks). Some English students recommended a bunch of places and we`ve been going back and forth like crazy. The udon is good, but the fun is comparing different restaurants. We finally went to that 日の出 place that I sent a picture of last week. It was an experience. You sit on little stools and it`s so crowded in there you can barely lift your arms up to the table to eat. It`s like a slurping concentration camp.

山西姉妹 bore her testimony yesterday and I thought it was really powerful. She`s a very simple, country lady, but she has a testimony. She`s not good with words and is getting old, but she gave such a pure testimony. You hear lots of people say 教会に入てから ("Since I joined the church") but it was very meaningful to me having seen pictures and heard stories from around the time of her conversion 24 years ago. She just said that when we 実際に (Truly)  live the gospel and keep the commandments, we are blessed and she knows that through many years of experience. She said that this morning her husband asked 今日は食べん日か ("Is this the day you don't eat?"). Seeing her old frail body and bent back say that was very powerful. She still fasts.

It`s March so a lot of the English teachers are going home this month so there was somewhat of a farewell meeting at the branch president`s house after church yesterday. I didn`t think I could be in a room full of so many foreigners that aren`t missionaries in Japan. All of those English teachers will most likely be replace by members of the church. It`s really a community out here. This is a very interesting branch.

Transfer calls are next week. I don`t want to go.

I`ll address the news I`ve received:

I threw up in my mouth reading about Clint`s backpack. (He found an uneaten lunch in it that was two weeks old.) I`ve never been able to stand filthiness. I don`t like cleaning, but I HATE a mess. It`s been one of the hardest things to deal with on my mission. Missionary apartments are disgusting. It`s no fun when you`re trying to clean an inch of build up off of the stove or in the shower while your companion organizes his desk during your weekly hour of cleaning.

Q: Has the weather warmed up at all?
A: A couple days ago, it was astonishingly warm, but it`s rainy and cold again today. Once it gets warm and we`re not required to wear suits anymore, I think I`m going to send mine home....or throw them away? They`re destroyed, just so you know. I ripped a pair of pants pretty good, running to catch a bus in Tokushima so now I only have one pair of pants that isn`t ripped in any way. I think I`m going to go buy a super clearance one at Aoyama pretty soon and just use that for conferences, church, etc. until the end of my mission. I`ll probably go home before they make us wear suits every day again.

Q: Have you been bit by a dog yet?
A: I`ve gotten pretty close. I told you about the wailing fur ball that lives down the street from the church right? Can`t see, can`t move, can`t hear, just gets force-fed by a member. He`s begging to die, I think. There`s lots of people with bigger dogs out here in the country. In the big city everyone has little dogs that can basically fit in their pocket. One of our neighbors has an enormous German Shepard. It`s like a horse.

Q: Have you had a chance to take the bus out to Yoshima yet?
A: Still trying to figure out how to get there.
This is the coolest telephone booth I`ve ever seen. It`s right in front of 丸亀市役所 (Marugame City Hall).
I guess that`s all I`ve got. Have a good week!