Monday, September 24, 2012

September 22, 2012

I stole these two pictures off of Lee 長老's camera. They're from last transfer. Click images to enlarge.



I entered the MTC two years ago today.

Jacob asked me to answer these questions in my weekly email:

Q: Share an inside joke you had with one of your companions.
A: There's too many to remember them all. I can't think of a really good one off the top of my head. I think I wrote about T-san and the uchiwa (a fan) while playing "Do you love your neighbor?" I still giggle everytime somebody says uchiwa or holds one. By the way, she's getting baptized today.

Q: Describe each of your companions in one sentence.
A:
Elder Grady Bowman - The only human being I know that doesn't get tired.
Elder Mitsugu Matsukura - "焼肉夢だった!ざんねん!("It was only a dream about Korean Barbecue. Dangit!")
Elder Akihito Nishio - Has a skin disease and a lazy eye and is still the happiest little guy on earth.
Elder Wesley Schramm - 真面目(Serious)
Elder Malachi Anderton - Baby face that can quote any pop culture reference.
Elder Dustin Nukaya - American trapped in a Japanese frame.
Elder Jacob Maris - I made him like sushi.
Elder Craig Singleton - Blonde, always satisfied....and Canadian.
Elder Richard Bevan - Never frustrated and always carrying a Costco chocolate muffin.
Elder Kentaro Shigeta - Will always get the job done, even if he has to kill somebody.
Elder Shogo Shinohara - More sarcastic than most Americans and more cuddly than most stuffed animals.

The one sentence rule kind of turned this more into an opportunity to tease all of them in my head. They're all remarkable people though. I'm thankful for the time I had with each of them.

Q: What's the funniest thing that's happened to you lately?
A: Elder Batis and Elder Boice in the apartment are pretty hilarious. I don't know if I can describe any of their funny behavior.

Q: What has been your favorite area and why?
A: Marugame. It's just magic. The church is like a temple. People just walk into it. Plus there's a McDonald's next to it. There are lots of special people there.

Q: Which American food do you miss eating regularly the most?
A: Mexican food.

Q: What cultural thing will you miss most about Japan?
A: Oh gosh that's impossible to answer. I'll miss it all. It's not utopia though. There's certainly things I won't miss. All in all, I think Japan has really been permanently nailed into my blood. I mean, it should've been that way since I was born....it is half of who I am anyway. I feel now though that I truly have become "half-Japanese" not just a weird 80/20 mix I was before. One recent moment I had that I can think of: on the shinkansen (bullet train) ride home, there were two old people, I assume a couple. The man stayed on the train, the woman got off. She of course bowed about 6 times, then walked down the aisle and got off the train. She then, about a minute later, started knocking on the window that was on the opposite side from where her husband was sitting. The people next to the window leaned over, got the husband's attention, and then the couple continued bowing and waved until they were out of each other's mutual site. Beautiful.

It's been an eventful week.

Last week, there was a guy that passed the church twice with his eyes open wide and a huge smile across his face. We were waiting for another investigator and we just assumed he was a member that had shown up early for institute or something. When he passed the second time, we ran after him. He said he lives close and has always been interested in the building. He came to church on Sunday and seems really interested. We've taught him twice now. He's a really great guy. We'll have some challenges with tobacco and depression down the road, but we're shooting to have him baptized on the 10th. We'll see. He's coming to a ward activity and a baptismal service that will immediately follow today.

The Dalling's had us over on Sunday for dinner. Spaghetti, with very American ingredients. They eat a lot of Costco supplies. They're fantastic people. They're trying hard. It's so fun to see them so out of place in Japan. This is their first time out of the country. They've mostly stayed on the block they live on for their entire mission. They're very frank and there are things that they can't get used to, but they're always smiling.

 
We have a new companion, Elder Takeda (right) in the office. It's fun.


All of the district leaders in the mission came to the honbu (mission home) this week for training so that had us pretty busy.

We tried talking to Sister O about baptism this week with one of the zone leaders. She said she knows she'll be baptized eventually but wants to put it off. Not sure what her worry is. The scary thing is she could pass-away any day. She's healthy...just so old. Elder Lee pushed her pretty hard but she wasn't going to budge. Still thinking about what to do with her. President Zinke recommended taking her the temple edition of the Liahona and having her search it for answers since one of her biggest draws to the gospel is her dead husband.

Nishio 長老 who I wrote about above dropped by the apartment a couple nights ago. He goes to school in Tokyo but his family lives in Amagasaki right next to Kobe so he came to see me since he's home for summer. I've seen so many returned missionaries since being here...it's weird.

It cooled down drastically about two days ago. Stopped using air conditioning. It's really nice and I think a lot faster than last year.

President Zinke called us Thursday morning and said that if we had time, we needed to take Takeda 長老 back to Takamatsu to go straighten up the apartment and get it ready for sisters that are moving in today. Putting sisters there is a pretty bold move. They're putting a 5th transfer missionary and her 1st transfer companion in. They're both American. We ate Sanuki Udon on the way home. It was so perfect. I didn't think I'd get to eat it again.
 
The drive to Takamatsu. Maybe two at a time?

 
Crossing the Seto Ohashi Bridge into Sakaide and Marugame
 
 
Sanuki Udon from Kagawa Prefecture. Yum.
 

The poster says "Welcome to the land of Udon."
 



Yesterday we had to go look at a new apartment in Senri. You've probably noticed I haven't been in the office much this week. Lots of stuff is piling up. Gah. Stress.
 
I manage all of the referrals for the mission, as the recorder. I was sending one off to another mission the other day and noticed "Gladys Knight" in the drop-down menu for the first time. I laughed. I wonder how many referrals she generates.
 

Two missionaries that got released here in Kobe from the Tokyo mission told me that Shiozawa 長老 had gone home one transfer early for school. Also, his last area was Shibuya so I met his last companion. I wonder if the missionaries I met in the MTC even remember me....

Um, I haven't had even 6 seconds to think about what I'm going to pack. But I imagine I'll be throwing away a lot of these rags that used to look like clothes....especially garments. I'll need to go shopping for new ones as soon as I get home. Hopefully I'll have time to swing buy a post office and send some last minute things home.

The Assistants have been out for most of last week and for a lot of this week training zone leaders. President Zinke has come into my office a couple times and keeps talking about marriage. He's convinced my wife will be Japanese. Elder Johnson (also half) who I lived with at the beginning of my mission in Kobe and was the first Assistant President Zinke chose just got engaged to a girl from Tokyo. That is far way in the future, just in case you were wondering. Far, far away.

I'm starting to feel like my days are limited. It's really sad and makes my heart heavy. I'm trying not think about it. There are still lots of things left to accomplish. I really, really hated saying goodbye before my mission. I've been good at it on my mission, but I can feel this swelling within me that makes me really scared of the final goodbyes. I just feel like hugging my companions all the time.

I really want to observe mom's class. I don't know what to say, that sounds so difficult. I'm sure mom is aware of this, but really all you can do is just make sure that the kids know that you love them. I'm sure there's some that are so easy to love that it hurts and some that are so hard to love that it hurts.

Sam. Good grief.

I can't recall ever going on a walk with Clint. I assume we will have lots of time to spend when I get home. I wonder if anyone will take me in for work.

Well I think that's all for this week. This has been pretty long. Until next week...

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 15, 2012

These pictures are from last preparation day:
 
Kobe Harbor

 
Well, I guess it's been a busy week. We've tried to really focus on the investigators we have. There's an 86 year old lady that the sisters nearly had baptized two transfers ago. We couldn't really get with her last transfer and we're still struggling this transfer. She comes to church every week. President Zinke talked to us this week and he thinks she should be baptized as soon as possible. She has difficulty remembering things, but she's converted in her heart. Hopefully I can get that done while I'm here. Time is just so short being in the office. We'll need the member's help.
 
After church on Sunday, the second counselor in the stake presidency took us back into the house that the church bought behind the mission office. Pretty soon, every bishop in the stake was there and suddenly, Aoyagi 長老 & 姉妹 (Area Presidency) were there. That was a big surprise. Last weekend was the Osaka Stake 40th anniversary so a lot of major leaders and general authorities were in town.
 
We moved an apartment on Wednesday. It was the Okayama sisters. They were in a particularly old apartment before, which was a big surprise. They were literally jumping up and down with excitement when they saw their new apartment. Elder Shinohara did a great job. He was nervous, but we were fine. The zone leaders in the next area came to help so I wasn't too particularly sore afterwards. It's fun working with various missionaries in opportunities like that.
 
Elder Shinohara and Elder Low driving to Okayama for the apartment move. Elder Shinohara is a new driver for the mission.
 
 
At a gas station
 
Move the sister's apartment with Zone Leaders Elder Lythgoe and Elder Pharis
 
Moving the sisters apartment. In attendance: Elder Lythgoe from Heber, Utah; Elder Pharis from Pearl City, Hawaii (half-Japanese); Sister Rivers from Nashville, Tennessee; and Sister Kubo from Sapporo (Matsukura 長老's home ward).
 
Having lunch after the move.

Conveyor belt sushi. Note the conveyor to the left. You pay based on how many empty plates are left at your table.

Looks like this missionary is going to have a large sushi bill.
 
 
 
 
All of the 1st and 2nd transfer missionaries and their trainers had a conference this week. That also had us running around like crazy. It's been a stressful week if you can't tell yet. I don't think my mind is properly functioning.
 
Seems like things are going well at home. That's very interesting that Grandma and Grandpa are having their 50th wedding anniversary event on my two year mark.
 
The Zinkes also had some friends from home come in last night. I've forgotten their names already, but when they saw my name on the transfer board they asked if I knew the Treus. Apparently he was their bishop when they were first married.
 
I don't know what else to write about. I know I have less than a month left. It doesn't feel like that at all. I feel like I was in "go-home-preparation-mode" a couple transfers ago but now I have no time to think about it.
 
I think I'll send a couple more pictures. Have a good week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 8, 2012

We rode the cable car up 六甲山 (Mt. Rokko) last Saturday. It was really pretty up there.
 


Click to enlarge. The tall buildings in the distance are downtown Osaka.

 


 
It's been a crazy week. So first of all, I wrote last week about an investigator who had a baptismal date. Well, we taught him a couple times at the beginning of this week and he was completely solid to go through. Had tons of faith and a desire to follow. He felt like ever since he'd started listening to the missionaries, his life started coming together. He had a job, a place to live, everything was great. Well, on Tuesday night, when all of the zone leaders were over for zone leader council, some guy came knocking on our apartment window demanding to see him. We said we hadn't seen him. This guy was his roommate and said that our investigator had stolen all of his money and run away and couldn't get a hold of him. The guy was really weird, but it turned out that we weren't able to get a hold of our investigator at all that same day either. His phone was turned off. That really worried us and sent us on an emotional roller-coaster. We weren't sure who to believe.
 
The roommate showed up again the next day; this time his story was slightly different. He said he got into his apartment and all of his stuff was gone, but he refused to tell the police. That was a red flag, obviously. He also was saying stuff about how our investigator had said that he was about to become a missionary for our church and had been meeting with the 最高責任者 (the person in charge) who he demanded to speak with. We tried to explain that he had only been meeting with us and that we're not very important and would never encourage theft. He half-believed us but was super upset and told us to call him as soon as we saw him.
 
We finally met with our investigator that night and were really nervous. We talked with the mission president before-hand and he told us to go and trust our investigator. When we saw him, we knew he was innocent. There was still a light about him and we knew he had done nothing wrong. He had been sleeping outside for the past couple days and couldn't charge his phone. It turns out that the roommate does lots of pachinko (gambling), wins money, spends it all on alcohol, comes back drunk, and then wakes up in the morning forgetting that he had spent all of his winnings. Naturally, because our investigator now has a job, he thought he was stealing it.
 
He still had faith and wanted to go through with his baptism. We pushed it back and said we would go forward with caution. The next day, he showed up while we were eating lunch and said that he was going back to 大津 (Otsu) where he originally met the missionaries. It wasn't safe for him to be here anymore. It was sad, but it was the right thing. It was so touching to see how much compassion 篠原長老 (my companion) had for our investigator when he left. He's only on his fourth transfer, but I think I look up to him more than any other companion I've had so far. And I've only been his companion for two weeks. He's incredible. I could see that he loved this man like a blood-relative just looking into his face. We watched him drive away and then hugged each other, pretty naturally. It felt good. I'm sure the missionaries up there in 大津 will get him baptized. We were just blessed to teach this man for a short season and the two of us grew closer together because of it. It was one of the most spiritually uplifting moments of my life. I just felt good. I felt love, I felt loved, and I knew God existed. I love those moments.
 
As far as the rest of the week, we went to Costco on Zone Leader Council day which was Tuesday. That was an experience. I went to Costco once in Atsugi with Grandma and Grandpa. It's still the same. It's shocking how Costco here is exactly the same as it is in America. It's getting so popular too. When I got to the mission, there was only one Costco in the mission boundaries. Now there's four. 篠原長老 (my companion) only had a license for about a month before his mission so he was nervous driving, but he did fine.
 
I went to Costco for my first time as a missionary. The 本部 (Mission Office) stocks this stuff for missionaries to buy. We go buy it for Zone Leader Council each month. The zone leaders come over to the office after their meeting and all of it usually disappears. They take orders from their zone. Serious business.


Zone Leader Council is crazy. When they finish up they all come over and we start running around like beheaded chickens doing favors for them. It's fun though.
 
We've been busy up in the office. Keeping track of the baptismal records is stressful. The convert's salvation depends on those things. Pretty much I just have to be the bad guy and bug missionaries over and over to get them filled out timely and correctly. It's really bad when someone sends one in and they leave half of it blank. I nearly had a panic attack when that happened.
 
We were doing some translation on Sunday night when Elder Hasegawa who went home in March just walked into the office. That's happened a ton since I've been here. It's always great to see them, but is also really, really hard to focus for the next few hours.
 
 
We attended Ward Priesthood Leadership meeting this week since 篠原長老 is the district leader. It was really a good experience. I never noticed when I was here since it was my first area, but 神戸 people are so おしゃれ (stylish). The bishop showed up in business casual and looked really cool. There's also kind of an odd bond between the members and I. They all remember my face, some remember my name, but they really don't know me at all. They always seem so surprised when I open my mouth to speak. I wish I could stay longer and 知り合いなおす (get reaquainted with) everyone in the ward.
 
This morning, this monster climbed up the wall while we were trying to study. You can't really get a good perspective from the picture, but that thing's legs stretch further than the circumference of my face. Dead serious. We were all running around and screaming like little girls trying to kill it with spray. It. would. not. die.
Click to enlarge.
 
 
Pretty much our investigator took up all of our attention this week. I can't remember what else happened. I haven't got an email from you yet so I think I'll leave it at this, but I should be back later in the afternoon so I can reply to what you write. See you later.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 1, 2012

Transfers are over and I'm still here (in the Mission Office). I just realized that I haven't taken any pictures this week. Transfer week is absolute chaos in the honbu (Mission Office). There's no time to breathe, let alone take pictures. I'm sure there are a bunch on the mission blogs by now, those will give you an idea of what's been going on.

I just sat here and took a picture of my desk and my new companion、 篠原長老 (Elder Shinohara) at his.

 



 
 
 
I'm now in my last full month as a missionary. I came into the office only last transfer and knowing that it will end this transfer is kind of sad. I feel like I just started a new adventure, a completely different phase of my mission and it's definitely going to feel like I got jipped off at the end. Oh well. I'll just squeeze as much joy as I possibly can out of every last day I have left. No count downs.
 
The APs have been taunting us all week about transfers. Some things never change. They did that back when I was a first transfer missionary. I really didn't care; everyone else was biting their nails the whole week. Elder Batis and Elder Lee are still the Kobe zone leaders (have I ever written about them? Elder Batis is from Meridian, Idaho and Elder Lee is from Seoul, Korea), Elder Boice and Elder Vail (Seattle and Meridian, Idaho) are still the AP's and Elder Shigeta and Elder Bevan both transferred leaving me alone in the office. I was really not expecting that one. I thought they were just using me since there was an odd number of missionaries and they didn't want to make a three-some in the field, but I didn't think they'd let me take over here for my last transfer. I'll have to work fast to get things to a smooth operating pace so I can hand the job off to somebody else smoothly. Elder Shigeta is now companions with one of my favorite missionaries, Elder Wong in Habikino and Elder Bevan went to Kochi. Elder Shigeta and Elder Wong didn't transfer until this morning because Elder Shigeta had to train my new companion Elder Shinohara how to be the Commisarian. That job is much, much harder than mine.
 
What is my job exactly? Have I told you? I'm the Mission Recorder and my two biggest resposibilites are baptismal records and referrals. I manage all of those for the mission. Make sure baptismal records are filled out correctly, and then send them to Tokyo where they become membership records. Also, when anybody refers anybody or wants to refer somebody to the missionaries, it goes through me. There's a bunch of other office work that I do and I help the commisarian with missionary orders and stuff. You'd have to watch me for a day to see what I really do.
 
篠原長老 (Elder Shinohara) is awesome. Like really, he's already one of my favorite companions. He's maybe about 5'4 in height and always happy. He's only on his 4th transfer but is a very intelligent, responsible missionary. I'm really excited to work with him. He's from Shizuoka-Ken.
 
Elder Low and Elder Shinohara.
"True Disciples"
 
 
An investigator with a baptismal date was referred to us from another area and we're teaching him. He's solid and is probably going to go through in two weeks. It's been amazing to see how humble he is. He's a smart man, has had everything and lost everything in his life. He was homeless for the past couple of months and just got back on his feet, that's why he moved here. He's so prepared for the gospel. He knows that God exists and wants to follow him. We've met with him three times this week and he's been taught everything, we just need to follow up. Hopefully, he'll go through on his date (9th) but we may extend to let him get used to Kobe and the ward and also review everything he learned from the missionaries that taught him first.
 
We spent Monday and Tuesday in preparation for the new missionaries. They came in on Tuesday night. That preparation includes a deep clean of everything here and it's pretty exhausting. This building is really old.
 
The new group of missionaries was really great. It was fun being with them for their training in the Honbu. There were four elders and five sisters. I think everyone was most impressed with how....how do I say this....tough(?) the three American sisters that came were. The mission sometimes has problems with timid sisters, but these three are definitely not going to have those kind of problems. We played ultimate frisby for morning exercise with them, and one sister in particular was out-running, out throwing, out jumping, and out-doing the elders in any way you can imagine. When we finished, she smacked her companion on the back, said "let's go" and sprinted back to the mission home. They'll do good work. Two Japanese sisters and one Elder from Sapporo came as well and they were all great. It's exciting to see them at this stage and kind of sad that I won't get to see what they become on their missions.
 
The trainers came and picked up the new missionaries on Thursday and then the returning missionaries came in. In great contrast to last transfer's 17, there were only three missionaries going home this transfer, all three of them from Japan. 結城姉妹 (Sister Yuki)、平林姉妹 (Sister Hirabayashi) 、and, 神道長老 (Elder Jindo), all great missionaries. All three of them had their parents come pick them up as well. That was chaos. However, it sounds like the parents were all able to make really good friends. Usually it's a mix of Japanese parents and American parents that don't speak a word of Japanese over an awkward breakfast but President Zinke said they were all laughing and having a good time together. 
 
Sister Yuki drew this picture below before she left for home. She created an animated video before her mission that's pretty famous among members.
 
Sister Yuki drew cartoon characters of all the Mission Office Elders. Title: "Kobe's Soldiers." Elder Low is the bottom left corner. His description: "He even preaches to the deer! (referring to his time in Nara). A master at diligence." Click image to enlarge.
 
Nara became a sister area and Sister Yuki finished her mission there. The picture of me reading the Book of Mormon to the deer was on the DVD so everybody knows it. She got a much better picture than me though.
 
 
Well...I'm already out of material. Hmm.
 
Looks like a fun week at home. Mom's classroom is extremely nice. From your descriptions I always imagined this old, trashy, Japanese-looking classroom but that's way nice. Makes sense though. When I was on my elementary school tour at BYU with A Thousand Cranes, all of the inner city schools were the nicest. I'd love to sit in on her class some time.
 
I'm really excited to go to Sage Market. I'm excited to finally be HALF-Japanese for real now. No more poser half.
 
Well I guess that's all. Let me know if you have any questions. Have a good week!