Monday, October 8, 2012

October 6, 2012

This first batch of pictures were taken on last week's P-day visit to Kyoto. Click on any of these photos to enlarge and get a better view:

At Kinkaku-ji, "The Golden Pavilion"

The gorgeous Heian Shrine.

The famous Torii gate tunnel at Fushimi Inari Shrine

I don't really know what's appropriate to write this week.

There was a Typhoon on Sunday and church got canceled in some areas. It didn't get bad until the afternoon after church. 86 year old O-san still walked over with an umbrella. She decided to go home after Sunday School before it got too bad. 篠原長老 (Elder Shinohara) and I walked her home. I just felt really good about myself as a missionary at that point. This woman won't forget what she feels at church. I hope she'll be baptized soon.

On our way out the door for church on Sunday.

Sister Zinke made us delicious cookies.

Talking, working and planning in the office.

Going out to eat at a really cheap yakiniku place. It was ok. The company was great though.

We taught S-san on Monday night. He went on a spur of the moment trip to Thailand and Cambodia for his last week of summer vacation from graduate school. It was a pretty hilarious story. I'll have to tell it when I get home.

Quail. Takeda 長老 bought one. I had a taste. It was just crunchy.

Zone Leader council was this week so there was lots of crazy preparation going into translating the mission training plan, Kobe no Kiseki (mission newsletter), etc. and making copies. Then of course, as always, they come over after their meeting and stock up on stuff for their zone and we run around for a little over an hour trying to accommodate them.  It's fun.
Zone training yesterday. My last meeting.

We finally moved the Senri apartment. They needed it, their old apartment was really bad. This new one was nice, but on the third floor with no elevator. We were sore. Elder Hugo, who happened to help us move the Sakai apartment, got transferred to Senri right after it moved. I feel so bad that in two transfers he's had to move two apartments. I hope he gets to stay and enjoy this one. He was extremely helpful with both. Elder Vilchis is the other Elder in Senri and he was in my district in Ako. It was good to see them one last time.

In the truck, on the way to Senri.

Waiting for the moving van.

Eating a quick lunch at McDonald's.

All done, and holding some of the junk that was left.

The AP's picked us up from the rental car place and took us to the Burger Pit. Do you remember me writing about it the last time I was in Kobe? It's incredible.

Kobe beef burgers. Expensive, but totally worth it.

All of this going on and I still have to pack and get my suitcases sent off by Monday.

I suppose this is the last email I'll write home. For some reason I don't feel quite right about sending some sappy wrap-up. Do you need one? I figure what I've said every week is sufficient.

I'll attach the last president's letter I wrote:

President Zinke,

Well, in accordance with the exit letter I received at the beginning of the transfer, this will be my last letter. It's the end of the line. I don't know what I'm supposed to think, supposed to feel, supposed do, or supposed to say. To be honest it's kind of a scary place I'm in right now. I have no idea what's waiting for me on the other side. I have to leave everything I know and love behind...just like I did two years ago. I guess going on a mission and returning from a mission are very similar experiences emotionally.

It's hard for me to look at my mission as a whole. When people ask me questions like "what's the best thing you've learned on your mission?" or "what's your favorite/least favorite thing about a mission?" it's really hard for me to answer. It's so much more than a single experience. The time period is too long to measure as a single experience. I've spent two years of my life wearing Jesus Christ's name everywhere I went and testifying of him. The experiences, lessons, and memories are too many to review and too varied to sum up.

We use the terms "birth" and "death" to describe coming and going missionaries, and it's discouraged because we would hope that missionaries take everything they learned home with them and continue to be disciples of Christ for the rest of their lives. These two terms however, have taken on a very poignant meaning for me as I near the end of my mission.

I came on my mission proud. I thought I was strong. I thought I could handle anything. I thought that I was very specially prepared for my mission and that for some it would be hard, but for me it would come naturally. I laugh reading what I just wrote, but I really think it's true.

The MTC was a dreary, half-reality three months, but once I was in the mission field, it truly was about as close to being a new-born infant as I've ever been. I could do nothing on my own. I knew my purpose as a missionary was to invite others to come unto Christ, but I didn't know how to go about doing that. My language abilities were 1/10 of what I thought they were. My confidence was 1/100 of what I thought it was. Even beyond my purpose as a missionary, I needed to be nurtured as a human being. I even relied on a companion to feed me at the beginning of my mission.

There were miracles along the way. I learned some things quick; some things I never got used to. One thing that was consistent though were trials and difficulties. But it wasn't constant. I feel like there were times when I felt really good about my mission, and felt like it was the happiest time of my life, but I also experienced what I thought was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life....about five times over.

When I thought I had overcome the worst, there was always another bigger trial waiting for me.
I thought for a lot of my mission that it wasn't fair. I've felt like I could've done so much more had my circumstances been different; had I not been with that companion, had I not been in that area, had I served in that position, etc. I've regretted and felt like I wasn't given a fair chance. I've felt like I could've helped more people had I not been given such difficult challenges.

However, when I look at the big picture, the much bigger picture, it all makes sense. A very wise man (I'm guessing you've heard of this before) whose name starts with an Mc  related Mark 10:21-24 and Matthew 6:19-22 to an arch. To enter heaven, we must walk through a very short arch, almost akin to a camel passing through the eye of a needle. The arch is short so we have to kneel and if we're carrying anything, we won't fit. The arch we also have to build. The only thing it can be built with are Christ-like attributes: charity, hope, and faith being the crown jewels. Also, most importantly, the foundation must be humility. We cannot develop any attribute unless we are first humble.

As I reach the "death" end of my mission, I realize that I haven't won the lottery. I'm not taking home any flashy items, no glory, not anything that anyone would have need to be jealous of. I'm not the incredibly skilled, perfected person that I thought returned missionaries are. Rather, I've been brought to my knees, stripped of everything I have, hoping only that I fit through the arch to the other side. All I can carry is the knowledge in my head and the people in my heart.

That's what I've learned on my mission. "Treasures in heaven" cannot be held, they cannot be seen, and they cannot be bought. We can only earn them in wearing ourselves out in the service of our Savior. Taking His name upon us, throwing away everything we have, acquiring His attributes, and giving others every ounce of love that we have. Sometimes we're selfish and don't trust that that is the way to heaven so the Lord has to humble us through trials.

I'm so grateful for the opportunities I had to serve others; to teach them the gospel, to help them, to love them and to be loved by them. I'm grateful to have been chosen in the furnace of affliction (1 Nephi 20:10) on my mission. I'm thankful for each one of my companions. I'm thankful for my mission presidents. I'm especially thankful for the Man that made it all possible. I'm thankful for the covenant I've made to testify of Him for the rest of my life.

I guess this just sort of popped out. It would've been appropriate to give some investigator updates and stuff. If O姉妹 wants to be baptized before the end of this transfer, she will. The last time I saw her she said "I'll do what I can to get baptized as soon as possible." She's old so she may change her mind, but I pray that it'll be sooner rather than later.

We haven't been able to make too much contact with some of our others. I'll do what I can to make sure they're on the right course before I leave.

Thank you so much for everything. I don't know how to express that properly, just know that I'm thankful. I appreciate all of the time and thought you've given to the mission, especially for me individually. I'm certainly not worthy of any of it.

(Thank you for all you've done. Until we meet again . . .)

That's how I've felt lately. I'm really not ready to say goodbye to a lot of people, surprisingly. This last little bit of my mission has been a really nice finishing touch. I've been able to interact with the mission as a whole and made a lot more friends than I thought I would. I'll really miss my companions who are still in the field. I feel like I'll write to them, but who knows about letter writing when I get home. 篠原長老  (Elder Shinohara) has really been such a great support and example here at the end. I'm really glad that I got to end my mission with him. Really though, each one individually; the relationships I have with each of them is one of the biggest rewards I get to take home.
On top of that is the people. It hit me today when Elder Dalling took us to the grocery store in his car...just watching people walk around the streets made me emotional. I will miss these people so much. I know I will come back, often. I'm already trying to commit myself to be an EFY counselor here next year. This isn't just my 伝道地 (Mission Area), this is my other half that I've finally been reunited with.

I've been through the unspeakable on my mission. There were times when I really didn't want to look forward, just was satisfied with drowning in the pain, but in the end it was all worth it and I wouldn't be who I am today had I not gone through every single difficulty I went through on my mission. It wouldn't feel the joy I feel now.

See, this is cliche. 止めておくわ。(I'll stop.)

I'll see you all very soon.

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