Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012

No I haven't switched back to Monday preparation days. I'll be back onto Saturday preparation days this week. We had to move an apartment on Saturday so we are taking our preparation day today. Please continue to write on Thursday nights.

In response to your email, no I am NOT cooler right now. It is blazing hot, no clouds in the sky everyday now. The Dallings (the senior couple now, the Priddis's went home in January) come back to the office from the bank looking like they jumped in a pool. They're from Rexburg Idaho and haven't ever been outside of the U.S.
There have been some gorgeous sunsets lately. I've also forgotten how beautiful this city is. It's definitely my favorite big city in the mission. Much prettier and cleaner than Osaka.

The Kobe Stake Center

I don't even know where to begin. It's been so long since I wrote last and a lot has happened this week.

First of all, our apartment has spiders and cockroaches and it's nasty. It was winter the last time I was here so we didn't have that problem. We haven't seen them lately but it was pretty bad earlier in the week. The place is pretty old. The church actually bought a ton of land and houses directly behind the church and mission offices and are going to be doing construction for the next five years. I can hear them hammering away at it right now. Apparently they're going to make this church massive and combine it with two neighboring wards to save money. I guess the they are trying to make more big units and less units all together.

Last Sunday there was no 伝道調整集会 (Ward Mission Coordination Meeting) because the 伝道主任 (Ward Mission Leader) has a serious illness and is in the hospital. His name is Brother Taneda. They were the first members I visited on my mission and they're amazing. I know I sent a picture of them.
Here's the picture. The Taneda family with Elder Low and Elder Bowman back in December, 2010.

They're a young couple with a five year old (now about to turn seven) son. Everyone was in shock and really sad. In spite of it all, Sister Taneda still showed up to sacrament meeting, visibly tired, but with a smile on her face. She walked up to me to say hello. She remembered my name and apologized that her husband is un-able to fulfill his calling and that they can't have me over for lunch sometime. Of course, I told her to stop being ridiculous. That couple is incredible. Some of the strongest, most faithful people I've met on my mission. Apparently he's stable now, still in the hospital and can't accept visits.

It's been good to be back with this ward, but also really strange. I now can understand and communicate with people perfectly fine whereas when I first met them, they were speaking nonsense to me. There's also lots of members who I don't know who are either converts or moved in. Lots of members have also sadly gone less-active since the last time I was here. It's very bittersweet. The ward has an older feel to it now.

We've taught a college student a few times and he's really interesting. I think I wrote about him last week. He is definitely the most intelligent investigator I've ever had. We can teach him one principle through one verse of scripture and he can then repeat the principle back to us in his own words sounding like a general authority. His understanding is perfect, he just isn't converted in his heart yet. It's going to take a lot of effort and guided teaching to crack his shell open. He's a really good person and I love teaching him.

On Wednesday we went to look at an apartment in Okayama for the sisters out there. That was a long road-trip, two hours one way. It was fun though. We go to 大東建託 (a property management company) and they put us in their car and drive us around. They're really nice to us, but also a little bit weirded out by our appearance. The apartments are really the commisarrian's (茂田長老) (Elder Shigeta) duty so Bevan 長老 and I are just there to be his companions. The commisarrian's duty is really tough. I don't think a foreign missionary could handle it. They have to be so business-like, polite and well....Japanese.

Wednesday night we had Eikaiwa (English Class) and H姉妹 was there. I was so happy to see her again. Elder Bowman and I had a really good relationship with her and she helped us a lot. It sounds like Elder Bowman is coming to Kobe with his fiance on the 8th.

We're also teaching an 86 year old lady. She was the sister's investigator but since the mission is short on sisters right now, there are none in Kobe this transfer. She was already interviewed for baptism, but needed some review because she didn't remember everything. She was a little bit rushed before as well because one of the sisters teaching her was on her last transfer. She is the perfect opposite of our other investigator. She's converted in her heart, just can't remember it all. If we can just get her to remember the commandments and principles in the baptismal interview questions, she'll be good to go. She's a very sweet, healthy lady.

We also went to Sakai to look at an apartment. Sakai is in Osaka and the most expensive rent in the mission, plus it's old and in bad shape so they're trying to move it to a nice new one for less rent. Common sense right? Sister Zinke has been working on replacing as many lowsy apartments as possible (through the commisarian) since she got here. It's not only nice for the's saving money. Most of the new apartments are feel unworthy. It also creates lots of physical labor for us. We went and found an extremely nice apartment on Friday afternoon, left a message saying that we wanted it that night after getting it cleared with Sister Zinke, faxed in the form, but the apartment was taken by Monday. That was really sad. They've been looking for an apartment in Sakai and just haven't been able to find one. We went spur of the moment when this one popped up. We're thinking that the owner possibly gave it to someone else after us because they didn't want to rent it to the church. That would be sad.

Saturday we moved the Shimogamo (downtown Kyoto) Sister's apartment. There are no sisters there now but they'll be there next transfer. We moved them out of an old rickety house that was being loaned to the mission by a member into a gorgeous new apartment. It was so hot. I was drinking water bottles in one gulp. Sister Zinke and Sister Dalling came to help us. I had no idea that Sister Zinke drives herself around. She's pretty tough.

Yesterday was the 5th Sunday and there was a shokuji kai (potluck dinner). They never did that when I was here last time.

Your questions, my answers:

Q: How are you adjusting to the office routine?
A: It's very different but we really enjoy each other's company. The three of us get along really well and the office couple is very friendly as well. It's hard to go out at 5PM to proselyte. You're just in a different mind-set and tired mentally rather than physically.
Normally companionships decide who prays by playing jan, ken, po (rock, paper, scissors); but since there's three of us, this is how we decide. (Note: If you're reading this in email, click here to watch this movie clip.)

Q: How many hours of actual missionary work do you get to do a week?
A: About 10.

Q: What about eating? How’s the food situation different now that you’re in the office?
A: It's the same as the last time I was here. Everyone in the apartment pays 2000 yen and the office elders go buy it. So I go shopping here, in a car. That's nice.

Q: What's it like working daily with President and Sister Zinke?
A: They're great. Really fun. One thing the office elders tell me is that the AP's are President's assistants, we're Sister Zinke's. I didn't notice that at all before, but it's true. She looks over all of the temporal stuff that we manage so we have to talk to her and work with her a lot. She may not speak Japanese, but she's really adjusted to living in Japan in a year. She's smart, drives, knows her way around, how people think and how to deal with them. She brings us homemade treats all the time just to be nice.

Tomorrow is zone leader council so a bunch of the zone leaders are here and we went to eat at Brazilliano`s. All-you-can-eat meat for a good price. It was fun. They`re all still in Sannomiya hunting for G-Shock watches. It`s a HUGE fad in the mission right now. Lots of missionaries own two or more in multiple colors that they can match with their ties. I hate watches in the first place so I have no interest.

I heard about the Denver shooting last Sunday. Didn`t hear much, just that there was a shooting. I am absolutely in shock that Jansen was there. Man, that`s a 懐かしい (memorable) name. I`ll never forget her house. It was almost as good as Disneyland. I told all of the elders that story today and they were in shock. Lots of them hadn`t even heard that there was a shooting.  Haven`t really talked to her since elementary school.

How long was Sister Wirthlin home? That`s sad that she had to spend that much time out of the field.

I heard the Olympics started. Anything interesting?

I feel like there`s something else I`m missing. Maybe I`ll remember later...

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

Sorry for not telling you earlier, I completely forgot; now that I'm in the office my preparation day has changed to Saturday since I have to work on Mondays. You can write something fast if you'd like. Whatever works. Just know that from now on my preparation day is on Saturday.
I'm here in the 本部 (mission office). Back where I started, but it's completely different from when I was here last. I sleep in the same bed and have the same closet but that's about the only thing that's remained. All of the people are different, the way everything works is different, even the surrounding area has gone through lots of construction and looks different. It's really strange. As of yesterday, besides one Japanese elder, my doki (group) is now the oldest in the mission. Very, very, very strange feeling.
I guess I should back up and talk about what happened earlier in the week. On monday after I emailed we went to the Akashi Ward who loves to do activities. They had a 夏祭り (festival) and wanted all of the missionaries there in yukatas. It was really fun. They had a talent show in the church and a bunch of the elders did the haka (Polynesian dance that football teams do before games to intimidate the opposing team), of course, led by Elder Wong. I miss him already.
These pictures are from the Matsuri at the Akashi ward that we went to on Monday. It was really, really fun. The members put all of the missionaries in yukatas.

We spent Wednesday night at the Kakogawa apartment with Elder Vilchis and Elder Wong. They are two really great missionaries. It was really fun to spend the last two transfers in their district. Thursday morning was transfers. It was really weird. As usual I went to the gathering place in Sannomiya, but I didn't leave with a new companion to a new area, just sat around and waited until everyone had left and then went back to the honbu with the Kobe elders (there are zone leaders and assistants in Kobe now). As we were about to get on the bus back, we saw Sato 姉妹 who went home in March waiting in line for the bus. She was going to say hello to the returning missionaries. It was really, really, really weird to see her without a nametag and headphones in her ears. She filled us in on who's dating who and who's engaged. It's crazy.  Sato 姉妹 also said that Ilch 姉妹 is working in Tokyo right now and will be there until December.
This picture is with 石山姉妹 (Sister Ishiyama)  who went home to Sendai yesterday.
Thursday was crazy. As soon as I got here we were arranging things and cleaning up after new misionaries that were leaving with their trainers and for returning missionaries. I never thought the office seemed like they were THAT busy, but it's definitely not what I expected. Something to do always pops up. We do all of the behind the scenes work that nobody ever even thinks about.
Yesterday morning, 17 missionaries went home and a bunch of their parents came to pick them up. I didn't like seeing that when I was here before and I still don't like it. It's really weird. It was extremely weird this time since the missionaries that left are so close to me in age. In fact, I've been out longer than all of the sisters that left. One of the sisters that went home worked in the cafeteria at the MTC when I was there and she didn't even have her mission call yet! I'm old. Of course, yesterday morning, the phone was going off non-stop. Parents were calling from payphones all over the place trying to get to the honbu. We had to chase down a taxi in pouring rain. I had to go with Elder Dalling (office senior couple) in a car down to the eki and pick up an elder's family. We thought it would just be his parents, but it was a family of four. There wasn't enough room in the car for all of them so I had to go on an "exchange" with the elder's dad and walk back to the honbu. That was too weird. We spent most of the rest of the day upstairs doing office work. It's fun. I'm sure it can get a little bit difficult being up here all day. I'll have to find ways to keep myself movin around.
We taught a lesson to a college student yesterday evening. It was really refreshing to teach a young college student again. Kobe is really the only area on my mission so far where I've been able to teach lots of young people, college students in particular. They are so easy to relate to. This person is very intelligent and very willing to listen to the message, he just won't really apply his heart to it. He did say that he has a desire to know whether or not the Book of Mormon is true though, so he still has lots of potential. We'll have to really teach him by the Spirit to guide him in the right direction. The trick is going to be finding the time to do it...
I'm not sure what else to update you on. I have a feeling it's going to be pretty difficult to make weekly email interesting from now on. Please ask questions. Hope you all have a great weekend. You're probably all out playing right now so I look forward to hearing from you next Saturday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16, 2012

I got a call from the mission office this morning saying that they are buying my plane ticket home now and wanted to confirm that I`m going to Salt Lake. It`s official now.

I also got transfer calls this morning. The mission is going down by 6 elders this month and there are an odd number of them. Ako will close, most likely for just one transfer. I`m going back to my roots. I`m returning to Kobe; this time I`ll be in the office. Since President Zinke doesn`t like to have three-somes in the field, I`ll join the two current office elders and be trained over the next couple of weeks. Normally the office elders have to transfer a few days early for training. I`m excited. Lots of missionaries fear the office, but I feel like it`s an honor. Also, I`ll still be spending plenty of time dendo-ing. I`ll be able to go right to work since I already know the area and the members (although they`ve probably mostly forgotten me). I`m happy.

On Tuesday we had a lesson with our Lutheran friend who still investigates the church. He`s just one of the nicest most lovable people. We watched the Restoration DVD and he said he was いやされた (healed) by it.  He still is very committed to the Lutheran church, but he came yesterday to church and also to an activity on Saturday so he knows he`s welcome. I think over time he`ll start to find the truth when the missionaries come back to Ako.

We had interviews on Thursday and I thought mine went really, really well. I feel at peace about lots and lots of things and ready to move forward and work hard for the rest of my mission. President Zinke is called of God.
We had interviews this week and Elder Osaka who I lived with my first two transfers in Kobe was there. He`s one of the best friends I`ve made on the mission. He`s returning to LDS Business College this fall so I`m sure I`ll see a bunch of him. He`s been an Assistant for the past three transfers. He spent over half of his mission in the honbu as both an office elder and an asssistant.

When my companion was getting interviewed and I was waiting in the church with the other missionaries, the Ako branch president called and said the one of the K. family`s children had passed away and that there would be a funeral at the church.

The K. family has come to church two or three times since I`ve been here and they have five adorable young children. I was absolutely shocked when I heard the news. We found out that the funeral was for a pre-mature newborn once we got to the church and all of the existing children were there. Still very, very unfortunate, but a huge relief for us. I didn`t think I could sit through a funeral for a child that young. Since I`ve been here, only the mom and three or four of the kids have come. The father said that that was the first time that all of them had been to church together in three years.
The Ako Branch members at the funeral. The branch president wanted to take group pictures but forgot his camera so I took them. Thought they might be interesting.

The beautiful K. family

Saturday was the branch camp. They rented a couple cottages up in the mountains above Aioi-shi and spent the night. They had us come just for the evening. It was a lot of fun. I wish I would`ve taken pictures. We ate yakisoba and had yakiniku and vegetables over the fire. It was soooooo good. Possibly the best meat I`ve had on my mission. There was more than anyone could eat.

As far as ramen goes, I`ve only been to Ohsho lately, but that is really good stuff. Tempura? I feel like I have recently but I can`t remember when. Donburi, usually lunch is some kind of donburi that I make.

I sent another package today by boat. It should be there in about two months. The birds seem really fun. I hope they can get back into the wild and fly.

Some of those names you mentioned from the home ward were really なつかしい (jogged my memory). I haven`t heard from anyone from home in a long time. Most letters I write and receive now are all 国内 (domestic).

We`re going to a matsuri that the Akashi ward is putting on today so we`re kind of in a hurry. I`ll be emailing you next week from the place where I started! Have a good week!
We went to Himeji last week with the district. This is everyone in front of the castle and a view of it from the station. It`s really cool how the castle is in the dead center of the city and you can see it from the train.

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, 2012

It`s still raining and raining and raining. This week was lots of being wet. It`s very sunny outside now and it was sunny all day yesterday. I`m wondering if maybe 梅雨 (The Rainy Season) is over.
 It rained really hard Friday and Saturday. This picture is Elder Schramm and Elder Wong walking in the rain. The umbrellas didn`t really help, the rain just bounces off of the ground and onto your clothes.

We went to Aioi and visited the member family who owns a restaurant again. She`d just gotten back from the hospital and now isn`t wearing a bandana because she now has some hair on her head. There was another member (who reminds me of Grandma Rhodes) there visiting with her to see how she was doing. They fed us dinner...they demanded. It was good. They`re amazing people.

I spent my second Fourth of July in Japan with Elder Schramm. This time we had triples at Baskin Robbins (everyone calls it サテイワン here). They are doing a special deal that you get a triple for the price of a double all month. I got a small and it still costed 400 yen.

Friday morning was district meeting. We went to Kakogawa and then we both stayed and did a companion exchange there. We got the new monthly training plan at district meeting. It`s about being faithful, trusting the Lord to do his work, not worrying too much, etc.
We had an exchange in Kakogawa this week. This is Elder Wong from Hawaii. He`s probably the funniest missionary I`ve met so far. He wanted to take a picture with the two of us.

We went to yakiniku afterwards since it was Elder Schramm`s last district meeting and he really wanted to go. Elder Vilchis, the zone leaders and I went back to the church for a baptismal interview. Right after the candidate had passed the interview and left the church it started raining. There were waves going across the roads. It rained for the rest of the day and once it got dark there was thunder and lightning that woke us up in the middle of the night a couple times because it was so bright and loud. On the exchange, Elder Vilchis and I didn`t really have any time to go finding, we were just getting things in order for their baptism. We went to their Dendo Shunin`s (Ward Mission Leader) house to put the shedule together. It was the second time I`ve met with him, he`s a great guy, very faithful member even though he has a really tough life.
We were the only two speakers in Sacrament meeting yesterday I thought it went pretty well.
I think I wrote last week about how an Eikaiwa student tried to give me money. She brought us this this week. It was huge.

Probably weighed more than her.

We`ve drunk just about all of the juice now. I love fruit juice in Japan. It actually tastes healthy in comparison to America`s liquid sugar.
This week wasn`t very eventful and we`re going to Himeji (ugh, I`ve been so many times) since it`s Elder Schramm`s last real preparation day and he wants to do something fun so I`ve got to hurry. Sorry if this is short.
This ferris wheel has been under construction the entire time I`ve been here, but they`re starting to take the scaffolding down.

This is a group of kids singing at a Tanabata Matsuri on Saturday night.

If you're reading this in email, click here to watch these videos.

Let me know if there`s anything else. Have a good week!

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2, 2012

Mister Donut has ginger donuts now and they`re really good. They taste a lot like ginger-bread men. I guess that`s why they draw the face on them too. The other one is Strawberry Old Fashioned which is also new.
Sounds like everything is well at home. Things are pretty stable here as well. I`m not sure what to report on. If I didn`t bring my journal to email each week I`d be completely lost.
I think I told you about the T family that we visited a while ago. They`ve known the missionaries for four years, pretty much treat them like grandkids. We saw them again. They`re great people but I really don`t think they`re going to budge on the Gospel. They`re some of the kindest people I`ve ever met in my life though. If I asked for ANYTHING in their house, I`m sure they`d give it to me.
A lady at 英会話 (English class) this week tried to give me cash as a token of her gratitude and I had to turn her down. She wasn`t trying to show off or anything. She was being very sweet and sincere and said that she just wanted to repay the feeling. I felt so bad. She was really embarassed. I hate doing that. I`m not sure how to make it up to her.
This is my desk top. I wish I had taken a picture of the top of my desk in every apartment. It`s probably the single place where you spend the most time in one area, I`ve realized.
Earlier in the week my back was in killer pain. I think I`ve been carrying too much so I need to be careful. I was in pain for almost three days and had to lay down during the day a couple times.
We met with F san this week. He`s the one that was baptized into the Lutheran church really recently. He opened up to us really quick. It was refreshing. I haven`t had a loving missionary-investigator relationship for a while. That`s one thing I love about missionary work: listening. I could just sit and listen to people talk about how they feel and the things they`ve been through all day. He had everything going on for him until his mom got alzheimer`s. He had to go take care of her, couldn`t find a job near his mom and ended up getting divorced because of it. He started to lose his mind and then met the missionaries about 3 years ago. The missionaries helped him and loved him but when they transfered he became depressed. A song called "Winter Love" by a Korean singer BOA apparently then motivated him to keep living. He nearly started worshipping her (still LOVES her) but then found out she was Christian...put the dots together and went to the Lutheran church since he thought it would be embarassing to come back here. He said he found what he`s looking for at the Lutheran church but would like to just be connected to our church and meet every now and then. He didn`t really accept commitments...isn`t looking to change. We`ll see if he can start to grasp the Restoration and its necessity in the future. We don`t have another appointment with him at the moment though.
It`s sunny today, but was rainy all day Saturday and Sunday morning. Sunday (yesterday) afternoon was the hottest and most humid day so far. It poured rain all morning, then the sun came and brought the rain just barely up to eye level so it was a green house. It looked foggy. It was so gross.
This is a place called Sakoshi that we go to every now and then. It`s really nice.

I'm sorry that Sister Wirthlin had to come home for a while. I`m sure that`s really difficult. It`s hard to be away but to come home and then go back to the mission field a second time, I`m sure, would be very difficult. There`s one sister missionary here that did it. I know of a couple elders who had similar plans but never came back. Maybe as the ward mission leader there`s some way to set up some teaching appointments for her? So long as a member is with her. Or maybe she can sit in on some of the elder`s lessons?
Thank you for the video. I really enjoyed it. Everyone looks so different. Sam looks like Randy did when I left and I feel like Randy stole all of my clothes.
Keep Sam and Clint very grounded in that Japanese study. Work them.
There`s a giant Aka (symbol for the color Red, part of "Ako") on the mountain here. It`s hard to get a good picture of it.

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