Monday, August 27, 2012

August 24, 2012

Zone conferences have been going on all week. The President, his wife, assistants and Elder Bevan attended all of them so mostly Shigeta 長老 and I were alone in the office with the Dallings. There was a lot of preparation to do for all of those so we've been upstairs most of the week. It went by really fast. It feels like it was all one day.
The one here in Kobe was on Thursday. It was my last so I gave a final testimony. Strangely, I was the only missionary in the group that was returning so I was the only one to bear testimony at the end, usually there's three or four.
 This is Elder Wilkes. I took him out for his first dendo experience a little over a year ago when he first arrived in Japan and he still remembered that. His older brother taught at the MTC when I was there and I was so shocked at how much they look alike when I first saw him.

President Zinke ordered these flags to take to zone conferences. Cool, right? ("True Disciples, One and All")
Zone conference was all about "helping" our investigators as opposed to training them. The missionary purpose (which everyone has memorized by their second day in the MTC) says "Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel...." President Zinke focused on those three words. I thought it was pretty good. The area mental and physical health doctors also came. I can`t believe it has been a year since the last time I heard their presentations. They come once a year. Unfortunately, they were still giving the same presentations, same slideshows and everything. It is very important information that the younger missionaries need to hear I guess.
We did have one lesson with our investigator from China. I think I wrote about him last week. He didn`t show up at first. He told us he lives about 5 minutes away from the church by foot so we were pretty sure he could come. He said that he was busy, but when we asked what he was busy with, he couldn`t make an excuse. He showed up about 20 minutes late looking very depressed. None of the excitement from the first meeting was there. I do think we did everything we could to follow the spirit in that lesson, though. Had we not, we probably would have just sent him home. We started by teaching what was planned, reviewed what we went over last time. It really was miraculous how questions popped into my head. I can`t really think of too many other times when I`ve felt such specific words enter my mind during a lesson. It really should be that way. He obviously wasn`t listening to what we were saying. I asked him if he could ask one thing of God, what would he ask. He thought about it and then we had something to work with. My companion was on the same track and was able to really focus and tell him things he needed to hear. We have an appointment with him on Monday.
Also, as promised, Y-san was baptized on her birthday this week in Marugame.  It was really exciting to see her picture come in. She stayed true to her word. I've got to get back to Marugame some time.
The two of us also went to Sakai on Tuesday to move an apartment. It`s the oldest and its rent is the most expensive in the mission so it was quite natural to get them a brand new apartment that`s sparkling clean and in a better location...and cheaper. The old apartment was pretty gross and had tons and tons of junk. The two elders (zone leaders, Elder Hugo and Elder Healey) who live there were fantastic. They were very clean, very smart, very strong, very helpful, and very happy to be helping which made a huge difference. It was blazing hot and there was tons of stuff to move. I think my arms still might be a little sore. We had to move four desks into the new apartment through the back doors. We took the sliding glass doors out and then had to lift the desks above the four foot railing on the back porch. It was amazing that we got it done. We were all drenched in sweat. Even the two wearing jeans looked like they had waded through a river.
Last Saturday night was the summer festival for the Kobe ward. It was Hawaiian/Okinawan themed. They called it "Alohaisai" It was really amazing. They went all out. The food was incredible and only about a third of it got eaten. Lots of investigators came and they all seemed to have a good time.

They taught all of the female investigators how to dance. They loved it.
(Note: If you're reading this in email, click here to watch these video clips.)
This member is from Okinawa originally. My companion Shigeta 長老 went to college in Okinawa and knew him before the mission.
Transfer calls are on Monday. Honestly, anything could happen. I could stay and finish here or be sent out for six weeks somewhere in the field. I don`t know. I don`t really have too much preference either. I wouldn`t be excited to pack up again but, whatever happens happens. This transfer has gone by especially fast.
Ah, 申し訳ない (sorry), I can`t really think of much else to write about.
Sounds like an interesting week at home. I can`t believe Randy is in college either. He`s not the same person he is when I left, none of you are. I haven`t realized that until really lately and it will be a big surprise.
Mom`s job sounds so exciting. I`ve always dreamed of some opportunity like that. I really just love diversity. For that reason, I don`t know if I could live in Utah for my whole life. The amount of diversity I`ve seen on my mission has really been a pleasant surprise. This is such a homogeneous society, but as a missionary, you deal with the people who are hidden...hiding under rocks and tucked where nobody can see. I`m sure that will be a fun job, but it will also be an adventure every day.
Well, I guess that will be all. Unless I can think of anything else...
Have a great week!

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 18, 2012

This is Elder Kawamura (APs Elder Boice and Elder Vail on the left, my companions Elder Bevan and Elder Shigeta on the right) who went home in April. He left for Snow College yesterday and came to Kobe to say hello on Tuesday I believe. Anyway, he looked good, seemed really happy. A few returned missionaries have visited since I've been here and it's really weird seeing them. It's like their celebrities. You can't take your eyes off of them and you want to remember everything they did and said.
Thanks to your reminder last week I went to McDonald's and had the Golden Masala. It was a chicken sandwich with three buns, chicken on the bottom, tomato on top (tomato is really sacred here because it's so expensive) and full on Indian curry inside. It was really, really good. (Click here to see what it looks like.) We caught it on its last day, now they're doing Aussie Deli.
I can't believe August is already half over.
The transfer is coming to an end. I don't know what's going to happen. The chances of me staying and leaving are pretty even. I'm just not thinking about it. With the transfer coming to an end though, we're staying pretty busy. We have zone conferences next week and have to prepare everything that everybody ordered. Plus, there's lots of transfer preparation that takes place. On top of all of that, we're moving another apartment in Sakai. We're going to stay really, really busy.
Here's the utitility van we drive in the office. The president drives a Toyota.

The mission home.

Two entrances to the office. The first is on the north end of the church...

... the second is on the south.Our apartment is hidden behind that staircase.
On Saturday for P-day, after I emailed we went to Hanshin Stadium in Nishinomiya and watched a first round game of the high school national championship. The underdog team from 山口県 (Yamaguchi Prefecture) came back 4-0 to win by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was really cool.

(Note: If you're reading this in email, click here to watch this video clip.)
The zone leader's investigator from China got baptized on Saturday night. I've got to talk to him a few times at church and he's awesome. There are easily enough baptized Chinese people in Kobe to have a Chinese speaking branch. The zone leaders had a lesson two hours before the baptism so they filled up the font before then. When the meeting started and we all walked downstairs to the font, it had all drained. We watched a DVD in the chapel while it filled back up. I was impressed with how fast the bishop was. He said he actually loves when problems like that come up because he can think on his feet.
Taneda 兄弟 came to sacrament meeting. It's a miracle that he's walking around. He looked normal besides a couple shaved spots on his head from the surgery.
Signs directly north of the mission home that you can see from the road.

I spoke in the Kansai branch on Sunday. The Kansai Branch meets in the Kobe building; it's an English speaking branch for anyone in Kansai that wants to attend. There was only one other youth speaker so I ended up speaking for 30 minutes. It was difficult...I haven't given a talk in sacrament meeting in English for almost two years.
Yesterday we had a lesson with an investigator who is from China. We found him a while ago but he didn't show up to his first appointment. He just turned 20, is studying economics at Kobe University and probably has the best Japanese I've ever heard a Chinese person speak. His pronunciation is perfect. It's because he's been in love with Anime since he was a kid. Apparently, when he first got off of the airplane in Japan, he got proselyted by another Christian church (he doesn't know what it's called, he just calls it 無効の教会 ("The other church")), has been going there every Sunday since then and recently got baptized. He likes it, but says it feels mostly like school. He, like most other Chinese people I've taught, was absolutely blown away when he heard about the Restoration. He couldn't believe it, but said it would really be amazing if it were true.
The view from the top of an apartment complex we were housing a couple days ago. This city is really pretty.

We had another appointment right after him that didn't show up so we just talked to K兄弟 who is a recent convert here (Kawamura 長老 baptized him). He's really strong. I hope he stays strong and really helps the young people in the Kobe ward. There were so many of them before, not many of them are coming now.

There's a 夏祭り (festival) at the church tonight. That should be fun. Hopefully R兄弟 will come. I've been emailing him ever since Bowman 長老 came.

This is so つまらない (boring). I can't think of anything else. Sorry. Hope you all have a good week!

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 11, 2012

We saw fireworks last Saturday with an investigator. It was cool.

When it comes to fireworks, Japan rules. (Note: if you're reading this in email, click here to watch this video clip.)
I'll start with answering your questions:
Q: How is Brother Taneda? Any better? I hope so.
A: We don't know much about it. He's still in the hospital and can't accept visitors. This last Sunday was Fast Sunday. His wife and mother bore their testimonies and they were both absolutely incredible. I couldn't believe their strength. His wife said that when it happened she thought 「このために生まれて来たんだな。」("Perhaps this is one reason why I was born.")  and said 「この人生がどんなに苦しくても私達は主に頼って信仰を示すために生きています。」("No matter how painful life becomes, we are here to follow the Lord and show our faith.") She was completely composed and confident. She said throughout the whole ordeal she's felt peace. She said that because they had such wonderful lives, they were in danger of forgetting where their blessings came from and that she's been so grateful for this trial as a reminder. His mom said that when they were in the hospital, she saw his entire life flash before her eyes, his birth, his mission, his marriage, etc. She said her husband knew that it was a trial from God from the start. She said that when they knelt and prayed in the hospital as a family, she'd never felt closer to God and was so grateful for that opportunity.
Q: Did you spend any time this week working on English Companionship Language Study? Do you think any missionaries have passed tests or are actually studying it? What about the missionaries – do they want to do it?
A: Missionaries that have come into the field within the last 6 months-ish received the text books in the MTC and I believe they're studying it. I just discovered them in the office and see if we can get them distributed to the older missionaries. Studying English isn't hip like it used to be. Some really want to speak it, some refuse to try.
Q: How many elders are in your apartment? Do you drink as much milk as the others?
A:7. I drink maybe one of those liters at the most.
Q: Have you seen a decrease in bugs yet?
A: They had gone away for a while but I got attacked by a huge cockroach in the kitchen last night. It was right next to me and really came by surprise. I ended up on top of the counter.
Q: What kind of car do you drive? Send pictures. Also, we’ve never seen pictures of the layout of the office.
A: I don't drive, just ride. It's a van. Here are some pictures:
Here's the view from where I'm sitting right now. The mission secretary, Sister Dalling usually sits here (it's Saturday so she's home relaxing). On the far right is the front door, the closed door directly in front is the president's office and the door on the left is the Elder's office.
View from the front door of the office. The mission quilt is on the left, baptismal pictures on the right.

Down this hallway is the Assistant's office, Sister Zinke's office and a reception room. If you walk out the far door you walk down a staircase and into the church parking lot. Our apartment is hidden behind the staircase.
Q: How are the unique sandwiches at McDonalds now? What’s that chicken sandwich (Spicy Gold Masara?) like? McDonalds in Japan is just so much better than here.
A: I haven't been lately, but I really, really do want to try the Gold Masala. Before that they had a french-burger on some kind of french bread.
What else happend this week?
We've been really busy in the office this week and haven't been able to get out much. Our investigators have gotten busy in preparation for obon as well and keep canceling appointments.
Last month Japan changed it's foreigner registration system and it's a huge pain. Before when we transferred, we had to just go to the city hall in our new area to check in and change our address. As of July, we have to check out before we transfer and then check in. Yeah...we all transferred without knowing that. We've been getting calls from all over. Most of the city halls are not being very cooperative. It's crazy how they are all completely different. Some city halls just dismiss it and say "you didn't know, it's not your fault, we'll just let it slip" and some are demanding that they return to their former residence...which is impossible. It's been a huge pain. Luckily, I got mine taken care of.
Grady Bowman (My first companion and trainer) came to Kobe on Thursday night and we went out to dinner. H 姉妹 (Bowman 長老 and I got along with her really, really well), one of his converts,  and his fiance were there. He really hasn't changed a ton.
He still looks like a missionary, talks like one, has the same motives....just a girl on his arm. That was so bizarre. My instincts were telling me to separate them. He's been in Japan for a couple weeks and will stay until the end of the month. He'll fly straight to China where he'll be teaching volunteer English for four months. He met his fiance at BYU Idaho. She was baptized 8 months ago. Sounds like a very familiar story... We ate at World Buffet. He was sitting next to me the last time I was there. So weird. It was really good to see him though. He had met up with some of the people we worked with here and gave me some information and ideas on how to get them to church. Sounds like I'll have work to do.
Yesterday Elder Bevan spent the day with the zone leaders since he's the district leader and needs to have an exchange with the zone leaders. Shigeta 長老 and I drove to Kyoto to finish up the Shimogamo Sister's new apartment. We took two dressers, a table, light fixtures, curtains, etc. Even though we spend most of the time just sitting in the car traveling, those road trips can be exhausting.
I laughed really hard reading about Jacob and that green car. I think you need to get rid of it before it gets rid of somebody. I also laughed at his blog post you pasted in your letter to me. Why is Jacob so talented? I kind of hate that.
I got a letter from Emma Phelps last week and she said she got to talk to Randy at somebody's mission farewell. She gushed. She thinks the world of him. Also, another friend from BYU wrote me and said that one of my other friends is teaching theater at Clearfield high school. When I was at Davis, we did lots of stuff with Clearfield's theater group. Do they still do that? If so, I know the teacher, really well. I'd send this to Randy but I know he won't read it.
I felt like I had a lot to write about but now I can't remember anything.
We are staying pretty busy. I wish I had retained a lot of my computer skills I had before my mission. We are making and translating the Kobe no Kiseki which is the newsletter for the mission. We do it in Publisher and have to touch up some of the photos in Photoshop. I feel so helpless. Had I done this right at the beginning of my mission I'd be lightning efficient. Translating on paper is also a lot harder for me than translating speeches. It's almost like the adrenaline helps when you do that. In the office I just sit and think about all of the hundreds of way I could translate one sentence.
I can't think of anything else. We're going to Koshien today, where the Hanshin Tigers play. They're holding the high school national championship there now so we're going to go look.
Have a good week.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 4, 2012

I just realized that I haven't really taken many pictures this week so I just snapped a couple a few minutes ago. I think I've sent pictures of this before. There's two fridges in the apartment.

 We just went shopping and as you can see, the one on the left is just filled with drinks, mostly milk.

It's August.

It hasn't been too long. I'm sure there are a bunch of things that I could think of to write about.

We've been pretty busy upstairs in the office. Zone Leader council was this week and there's lots of preparation for that. Now we're getting ready for zone conferences at the end of the transfer. We've also had lots of new investigators coming through. We taught a guy right after zone leader council finished (which was really stressful time-wise; the zone leaders come upstairs and want to buy supplies at that time). He was a really smile-y happy guy, seemed really cool when we first met him. We took him to the church, he was still smiling, really happy, but rejected absolutely everything we said. He'd listen, but immediately explain to us how he thinks that we're wrong...all while smiling. I don't know what motivates people like him to meet with us. He said it was just because we seemed to be good people. It's really important to establish expectations with people early. I felt like we did that well, maybe he just ignored that part.

We played a big game of "Do you love your neighbor?" at 英会話 (English Class) this week. Do you know it? You sit in a big circle and somebody is in the middle. The person in the middle chooses another person and asks them if they love their neighbors. If they answer yes, the people on either side of them must switch seats. If they answer no, they must say that they love people with a certain characteristic (ex: white shirts), then everyone with that characteristic must switch seats. The person in the middle's goal is to get a seat. The goal is to stay out of the middle, sort of like musical chairs. The zone leaders picked up an investigator from the sister's area book and she showed up. She's very interesting. She played the game while wearing a shoulder bag and fanning herself with a sensu (folding fan). There was one other person in the circle using an uchiwa (traditional fan). She was asked if she loved her neighbors and she stared into space for about 10 seconds with her mouth open. Then she said "uchiwa." Of course everyone in the circle went "huh?" and the guy in the middle asked her again, and again, and again....she simply replied "uchiwa" every time. Finally the guy in the middle asked "do you love uchiwa を持っている人?" (people who hold fans?) and she nodded her head. Then the lady holding the uchiwa stood up, the guy in the middle took that seat, and she stood up, still staring into space, fanning herself with her sensu. We've been laughing about it ever since. I can't even hold an uchiwa without laughing.

We've had to split with the zone leaders a lot lately because either they've been double-booked or we have in the evenings. It's been fun. I got to teach one of the zone leader's investigators named John from Uganda. It was one of my favorite teaching experiences yet. A couple weeks ago there was video of Elder Holland in Africa. He talked about how the people of that continent have taken hold of the Gospel so quickly because they are just a naturally spiritual people. They know that materical goods won't make them happy, so the Gospel just makes sense to them. I felt like what Elder Holland narrates in those videos played out in that lesson. John said that he knows God exists and that he's prayed night and day for as long as he can remember. He said when he started high school, he knew he would study abroad in Japan. He didn't know why, he just knew that he would. He was very poor and said that he went to the worst school in his area. His mother lost her job so he had to take a year off of high school to work and pay for his school expenses. He said throughout the entire thing he prayed for help to be able to somehow get to Japan. After taking a year off and going back to school, he got to the top of his class and then studied really hard for the entrance exams for his foreign exchange program. He's now attending Kobe University with a scholarship. We taught him the Plan of Salvation. He'd heard the Restoration several weeks earlier. He said that he really loved hearing about the Revelation because he also feels like he doesn't know what church to go to. He said every church in his country was just a business trying to swindle people out of money but he feels really good about ours. I just couldn't believe how prepared and instinctively spiritual he was. I'm sure the work on that continent is remarkable. I felt like I was floating after that lesson.

Normally the office elders translate the mission training plan but we were told there was no need to this month. We found a language training plan that was just in English and figured that this month's training plan was just about learning Japanese which we thought was a really bold move. It turns out that that was just a little langauge training supplement (I don't know what to call it) and there is no new training plan this month, we're just using last month's. That probably sounds either really confusing or really boring, but it had us really worked up.

Yesterday we weren't in the office at all because between the zone leaders and us, there were teaching appointments to keep us busy for the entire day. That was pretty cool. I taught a recent convert. He's really great.  He's 27, still in school and not sure what to do with his life so he didn't feel like he had time to go to church when he should be thinking about his future. The missionary (Saito 長老, 100% Japanese, born and raised in Provo, Utah) who baptized him left last month and visited with him with his family and helped him. That was really neat, I thought.

I then taught S gain. He's still not putting things into his heart. We tried to teach him the Word of Wisdom. He committed to keep it, but we had to really try hard. He needs to get to church.

 Any questions?

I just found a bunch of pictures and video that other missionaries put on the computer from when I was here in this apartment a year and a half ago. It's sooooo 懐かしい

This pictures are from December, 2010, in Kobe

I can't believe these.

I was so fat.

All of the rest of these missionaries returned home long ago.

With President and Sister McIntyre.