Monday, December 30, 2013

12/30/13 email

Mom and Dad,
Last week for prep day, after all the normal stuff, we went to a big shopping center by the closest train station to see if we could find special gifts for our investigators. We had been planning on getting a small gift for them all, and we figured that was the best time. After prep day we attended a Christmas party at a member's house. This is the same family whose daughter and son we helped to finally decide to serve missions. It was a pretty great time!
The following day while we were studying at the church, a couple of the people from the ward who's children attend eikaiwa every week invited us upstairs for a snack party with their kids and the shimai. We joined in for a little while, then one of them invited the four of us missionaries to their house that night for dinner. Before going to dinner we had a lesson with the Filipino guy. He couldn't meet on Saturday because he had plans to take a trip to Tokyo for Christmas. The previous week, when we gave him a Book of Mormon, he had questions about what it is and where it came from, so we taught him the Restoration lesson. He was way interested. We told him how it has affected us and what it means to us and he opened up about his childhood. Apparently he went to Catholic grade school since then his parents sent him to a Protestant middle school. For high school, he attended a Catholic institution. He was very confused by all the conflicting doctrine and he definitely would like to know the truth. It was such a great opportunity to relate him to Joseph Smith and how he also was searching for the truth. We invited him to follow Moroni's promise, which he accepted. He was very interested in Joseph Smith's experience and how he, too, can receive an answer from God.
Wednesday: Christmas Day! No, it didn't snow. I'm yet to have a white Christmas. That morning we opened our Christmas packages, as well as all the presents the ward gave us. Holy cow, they gave us so much stuff! Mainly it was food--particularly snacks--and clothing to keep us warm. I got this cool hipster neck warmer that's gray, purple, and yellow striped. I'll fit right in with Portland when I get back! After studying, we finished everything we needed to get presents to everyone, then we biked all over the place to get them to the people. The Catholic family really liked the sparkling cider, especially since they don't drink alcohol. Most of the other presents were assorted chocolate. Christmas night we were invited over to the house of a member who's been a great at fellowshipping to the GC investigator. They also had that investigator over and we all had dinner together. It wasn't quite like our Christmas dinners, but it was still great! They even had some sort of jello pie! Nothing like jello salad, but it sufficed. The investigator was way genki the whole time and seemed really touched. He lives alone right now so he doesn't have a whole of people to keep him company.
Thursday: Christmas Day and Wednesday for you! メリークリスマス!As I'm sure you know, I talked with you guys on the phone in the morning. It was good timing because I had just finished my prayer for language study when you called. Pace Choro's family called a couple hours before you did. After study we had the normal weekly planning session. I'm sure Alex remembers all about it. That took us 'til the late afternoon, so there wasn't much time afterwards.
On Thursday I noticed I had a sore throat, so Friday I woke up a little sick. We then missed the bus to get to District会 by a few seconds because I took a few seconds to grab cough drops. So much for learning about marginal analysis in AP Econ. We had to wait twenty minutes for the next bus. While we were waiting an older lady came to talk to us and marveled that she was talking with gaijin. She made sure to express her amazement to every other person that trickled up to the bus stop. It was pretty funny. Overall we were only a few minutes late to District会, so no worries there. We then had District lunch at a restaurant by the eki and gave our yogen's about transfers. It was at this point I began feeling sicker and sicker. I also had an exchange that day, so by the time we got to the other area I was in bad shape. That companionship had a lesson that evening but the person called and cancelled, so Isaac Choro and I spent the whole time outside. It was probably 35 degrees and windy. It wasn't super bad but I was way sick and couldn't really think straight or dendo effectively so we went back the apartment and I crashed on the couch while Isaac Choro made dinner. We then planned quickly so I could get to bed early. I took some ibuprofen and was out for the rest of the night. Considering how sick I was, the DL should probably burn his futon to be safe when he returns. At least I slept way well that night.
The next day I woke up and I felt sooo much better. I still had a slight scratchy throat but comparatively I was ready to climb Mt. Fuji again. Isaac Choro and I had a lesson that morning with one of the area's seishinbyo investigators. He's one of the nicest guys I've met. He's come a long way from when we first started teaching him.
Sunday! This day was probably one of my most rewarding days in this area. In the lesson we had last night, we asked the investigator to do his best to listen to the talks and lessons without any distractions. Well, he did just that! He even studied the Book of Mormon and wrote notes on the talks! In addition, the investigator who works all the time also came and brought his 8-year-old daughter! After Sacrament Meeting, both investigators even came to gospel principles' class. For the GC guy, it was a surprise as he always takes off after Sacrament Meeting. The daughter of the other investigator rushed right off to primary since she loves it so it made it easier for him to stay. The third hour, instead of regular elders' quorum, there was a combined RS/EQ dendo discussion. The discussion we had went very well. He said again that he'd like to be baptized so we are trying to help him with any obstacles keeping him from that.
Looks like that's all there is for this week. Next week is the new year! I don't remember if I mentioned that New Years is actually a pretty big deal in Japan. Give everyone my best!

12/23/13 email

Mom and Dad,
It gets a lot colder here than I imagined, especially when you're riding a bike--particularly down a hill. Just thought I'd let you know.
Since it's the Christmas season and I'm currently serving in the greatest ward in Japan, there have been some really awesome events this weekend. I'm also going to try to make my emails a little shorter so I spend less time emailing--so we'll see how it goes.
I got another haircut from the awesome barber dude in the ward. I told him to make it cool. Well, what haircut is cooler than the one you've been sporting for 20 years? Long story get the idea. It's a way nice haircut, though. We had a lesson with the investigator who we've been trying to help get over his guilt and sadness lately. He's doing much better and said in our last lesson that he'd like to be baptized! We explained how baptism buries our sins and we come out of the water entirely clean and it gives us a fresh start.
We had some more bike issues on Tuesday so we had to take it out to the bike shop, which is a 40 minute ride away. I was hoping they could fix it on the spot but it turns out they have to wait for parts to get in, so we had to leave the bike and walk ALL the way back. That didn't leave us much time for dendo. At eikaiwa, I taught the word 'squirrelled' which is the longest word with one syllable. Explaining that in Japanese was way hard.
On Wednesday we rode out a little ways to visit a PI that really wants to listen. Last time we went, he said to come back when it wasn't raining. Well, I didn't think it was going to rain that day and it did. After that, we went to the Catholic family, that's way nice, to invite them to the ward Christmas party. They gave us Costco pizza, cookies, hot chocolate, ramen, and these awesome heat packs that stay warm for 12 hours!
Friday was district meeting, so we went to that. Our DL admitted that he was too busy to make a solid plan for it--so he woke up at 5:00am, prayed, and received some great inspiration. It was a way awesome district meeting. A lot of things that were said definitely helped the missionaries there. After returning, we went around to investigators and PI's to invite them to the Christmas party. We also had another meeting with the JW.
On Saturday we were finally able to get in a lesson with the family whose mother is very interested in eternal families! It was a great lesson that we prepared probably three or four times over and it went very well. After the lesson, the discussion turned to how she has read the Bible and would like to read more books about Christ that would accompany our lessons. Good thing I always carry a Book of Mormon around. We gave it to them and she and her 11-year-old daughter scheduled the next appointment.
Saturday night was also the Christmas party! It was way different from the Halloween party, but just as great. It was more of a bunch of Christmas-related performances, then refreshments at the end. The first performance was a simplified "Nightmare Before Christmas" put on by the youth, some young adults, and one nonmember. There are some real characters in this ward. There were also a couple of hand bell numbers, a skit about the symbols of Christmas, and plenty of Christmas songs. Then the refreshment time was just eat-and-chat time. Afterwards we had a lesson with the GC investigator, and he's really coming along with focusing on spiritual things!
Yesterday we watched the Christmas devotional in place of Sunday School. The GC investigator who always leaves after Sacrament meeting stayed this week to watch that--though he still studied engineering during it. Following church there was a planned activity to go caroling at a nursing home. So many people from the ward wanted to participate that we had to split into two groups and go at different times. It was cool to go and spread Christmas cheer to the people in the nursing home. They may be old but some of them are still way genki. After that was regular dendo, a Christmas meal with a member, and finished out the night and the week with more dendo.
That's it for this week! Have a merry Christmas, and I'll talk to you all then!
メーリー クリスマス!

Monday, December 16, 2013

12/16/13 email

It's already been 7 months?! I can't believe it!
Mom and Dad,
Time doesn't go slow on your mission. You two probably already knew that, though. Let's see what happened this week...
We were able to meet with the investigator who's daughter just turned 8-years-old and is very tired because of his hard work. We didn't actually have an appointment so I wasn't sure he would be able to meet with us--some members picked us up and drove us there--but, he let us in. We had a really great lesson. He's starting to understand repentance and feels better little by little and I feel we're making some great progress with him. We even were able to set up an appointment for today, and he said he'll come to church next week. It's wonderful to see what a difference it makes when you treat a person the way the Savior would treat them. He's been opening up and sharing things with us, and that makes it way easier to help him.
Tuesday wasn't very special. We had our normal weekly appointment with one of our investigators. He had forgotten about it and couldn't meet with us. I concerned about him since it's been a couple weeks since we've met with him. Other than that, I taught the word 'flabbergasting' to the eikaiwa students.
Wednesday had us biking out to Najio (that really far-away, hilly place we went to last Sunday) to find the other PI's around there. We ended up meeting quite a few interesting people, including one really chill guy who grew up in Nishiwaki and is a huge car enthusiast. He has some pretty awesome cars at his house. Going down one hill, however, the brakes on Pace Choro's bike went out and he hit the guard rail on the side and ended up tearing a small hole in his suit slacks. The front tire on the bike also got kind of bent. He's okay, though, so don't worry.
On Thursday we went out again to a really distant place (farther than Najio) Kashiwagi. There was a really solid-looking former investigator out there and I wanted to house the area since it had likely been a while. To our pleasure--and later, our displeasure--the ride there was almost all downhill. You can imagine coming back was a nightmare: 5 or 6 straight kilometers of going uphill... Anywho, the former investigator was way nice, but wasn't interested. We also found out that that neighborhood is very affluent--it is a secluded neighborhood on top of a hill. Every single house was HUGE--even by American standards--and each look completely unique. One looked like the Lincoln Memorial, one looked like a big concrete wall, one looked like the Hawaii temple, and one even looked like a yacht!
Friday was District Meeting, so nothing out of the ordinary. We also managed to find 3 PI's while housing, though 2 ended up turning us down. One of them is still a possibility to teach! We also dropped by the JW to have another discussion. We wanted to sit down with him and give him a lesson, but he is not ready to. He gave us a little piece of paper with some scriptures on it in English to explain what he was saying.
Saturday we had planned to be really busy with four lesson appointments. However, the family for one appointment wasn't home and another was a PI from the previous night. We ended up with two. One was with the Filipino who is way awesome and is getting even better. We taught lesson three and he understood it completely. The other was with the really smart GC investigator. I'm very glad to say that he's doing great. He's learned a lot of the lessons, since he has met almost every week with missionaries for almost a year now. We make lessons from scratch that are designed to help him gain that witness that everything is true. I think it's going great!
Sunday, as we were putting fliers for the ward Christmas party in the post of all the houses around the church, we came across two JW's that were doing some dendo themselves. The crazy part: while we didn't actually stop and talk with them, we're pretty certain one of them is the JW we've been visiting every week! But anyway, after that we went to a Christmas party the Ward Mission Leader hosted at his house. It was sooo fun! We participated in the gift exchange which everyone brought something $5 or less and swapped them around 'til they said 'stop'. I brought a homemade stocking with a Santa hat, beard, and Halloween garland stuffed in it. They loved it! I got a (small) pink blanket with a hood that has pink bear ears on it. I'm honestly pretty satisfied with it; it keeps my head and shoulders warm! That was pretty much my week! The home teachers shared a message, as did the missionaries. The message I came up with to share was from 1 Nephi 11:21-22. The angel showing Nephi his father's dream asks earlier if he understands what the fruit means. Upon responding 'no', the angel shows him the birth of Christ, and Nephi says how he then understood that the fruit is a symbol of God's love. I made the connection that the angel showed Christ to explain love because not only does Christ love everyone unconditionally, but He Himself is the single greatest, purest symbol for love as shown by what He did during His ministry. I then made the normal reminder that Christmas is really about Christ, though we may all like singing and eating and getting presents. It was kind of hard in Japanese.
 よし is spelled in English as 'yoshi', yes, but it's more of an exclamation like 'woohoo!'
I got the package today! It actually came yesterday, but we were at the Christmas party, so I got a slip telling me to call and inform them when we'd be home. I haven't opened anything yet; the box is sitting on my desk.
We actually don't skype for the Christmas call. You call us through our area cell phones since we have no other way of making international calls. The calls are supposed to be on Christmas day for you, so the 26th for me, and should only be 59 minutes. Those were the instruction we received in the weekly mission email today.
That pretty much wraps up my email for this week. You'll get another next week, and of course we'll be talking a couple days after that. Give my best!

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9th, 2013

Mom and Dad,
It was kind of a tough week because nothing worked out super well.
Monday was a normal pday.
Tuesday morning, we got a call from our investigator whom we planned to be teaching later that evening. He's really hard to understand in person so he's even harder to understand what he says over the phone. He said he couldn't meet with us that day. I asked about Wednesday, but he said he was on vacation. I told him I'd call just to set a time when we could meet, and he said that'd be fine. That night was eikaiwa again. I've been doing an exercise where I give the students a blank sheet of paper and have them write a few sentences about their week. They give the paper to me so I can correct it, and then I give it back the next week and they do it all over again. There's this one 19-year-old female member in the ward who comes every week, whose parents really want her to go on a mission. Last year, after the age change, I was told she went up during Fast and Testimony Meeting and said there was no way she wouldn't serve a mission. Her parents have been having us four missionaries give her and their 22-year-old son encouragement to serve missions. Well, what she wrote about was how she finally decided she will! よし! I later found out from her that her brother also decided to serve. Double よし!
On Wednesday afternoon, I called one of our investigators to see if he could meet that day. He said he couldn't. I told him if he had some time free up to give us a call and we'd meet. He didn't give us a call, so we'll meet with him tomorrow as scheduled. Other than that, we went to drop off the "dendo tackle box"--a small box with various items for members to use to dendo people they know. The members also report on any progress to the missionaries. The family that had it the previous week forgot to bring it back to church so this weeks member couldn't take it home. Fortunately, she lives close to the Viking restaurant. More tabehodai yakiniku! Again: よし! Then we spent the rest of the day housing in that part of town. We found a family from Khazakstan, who were really interested in eikaiwa for their kids. What amazed me most is how they, native Russian-speakers, and us, native English-speakers, communicated through Japanese! There are tons of little things and miracles like that that make me smile every time they happen. Something similar happened a couple transfers ago when I was in Miki with the DL--we talked to two Vietnamese women in Japanese. Awesome!
Now we'll go on to Friday, since Thursday wasn't exciting. We had ZTM in Kobe (again!). I guess the huge influx of missionaries in the mission really complicates Kaicho's schedule. Before the age change, there were about 120 missionaries. Now there are probably around 260! Crazy! Anywho, that Friday night we went again to the JW to talk more with him and hopefully have a lesson with him. We still were only able to talk for 15 minutes or so at his genkan, but maybe next week things will work out.
Saturday afternoon we taught the Filipino guy. It turns out he didn't show up last week because his relative in Osaka got hit by a car and he went to visit him. We taught him the Plan of Salvation since he showed a lot of interest in where we came from, why we're here, where we're going, etc. He understood and loved it all! Especially when we talked and testified about the Atonement and Salvation. He spoke up and commented on how "right" it sounded and how it all made sense. Though he's Catholic, he's never learned in-depth about the Atonement, it's meaning, and how Salvation works.
Later that night we met with the GC investigator. After last week, he was really understanding Christ, His Atonement, and His Sacrifice for us. I even mentioned last week that he said that essentially he's considering being baptized more than he was before. This week, to help him see and understand what baptism means for him and what he can gain through it, we wanted to teach him about eternal life and what that means. He understands the doctrine so the whole lesson became a testimony meeting with us and the members that were there. He also said that he wants to have eternal life, and will be baptized when he comes to learn that it is true.
Sunday. Exhausting. After church we rode out to a part of our area called "Najio". I learned that Najio is full of hills. Really. Long. Hills. The time I estimated it would take to travel around there pretty much doubled. We didn't have much time to dendo around there because of it and because we had a dinner appointment with a member. The member lives kind of far from the apartment: on the opposite side from where Najio is. Once we were at the member's place, she had us take out a huge, wooden dresser from her apartment. Her fourth floor apartment--in a danchi with no elevator and narrow stairwells. Let's just say that I probably ate a very good portion of the food that she prepared. I also slept really well that night.
Our one investigator that has a difficult time remembering is keeping a notebook of our lessons and he writes quite a bit during the lesson. We'll probably need to help him review it. It's also probably a good idea to look at what he writes
In just over two weeks I'll be calling home! I am really looking forward to it!

Monday, December 2, 2013

12/2/13 email

Mom and Dad,
Happy Thanksgiving! I'm sure you all enjoyed it (and the jello salad). Japanese people don't celebrate Thanksgiving, even though they made a word just for it--yet they don't have a word for Christmas. Pace Choro's family sent some Thanksgiving related dinner stuff, and we bought a couple of special things and made our own mini-Thanksgiving dinner! It was pretty good, although it could've used some jello salad. You'll have to tell me about your Thanksgiving.
Monday: Just a normal preparation day with the added activity of buying special things for Thanksgiving dinner. We also went out to track down some PI's--none of them were home. We shared our beliefs with a person who's Jehova's Witness and he is going to let us come back and tell him more about our beliefs.
Tuesday: We had Zone Conference (Zone大会, if you remember) in Kobe. It was SOOO good. It ended up going a lot longer than they planned and ended after 5 in the evening (it began at 10 in the morning). We ended up having to reschedule a lesson we had planned for the day, but everything worked out well. We got back to Kitarokko at about 7:30pm. 大会 was really good and everything President and Sister Zinke, as well as the Assistants said was really powerful. At the end, the missionaries returning home this transfer or the next transfer had the opportunity to bear a quick testimony. Both of the AP's are going home and bore powerful testimonies--it was really awesome!
Wednesday: Today we had the lesson we rescheduled with one of our investigators. I think I already mentioned this, but he's very concerned about showing faith and repenting before he is baptized. Last week, Hiratsuka Choro and I showed him how he can show faith and how he can repent. Last week, the lesson went great and he saw that he really was showing faith, and even seemed happier by the end. He still feels he has a lot more repenting to do. Later in the evening we went to track more PI's. There was one guy that talked to us at his front gate, but since it started pouring down rain he asked us to come back on a day with no rain. Long story short, we got pretty drenched.
Thursday: Thanksgiving! Yes, that means we had our dinner! Other than that, we went and visited a devout-Catholic PI family. The mom is actually from Texas so all the kids are half Japanese. They all are fluent in English and Japanese. They're all extremely kind, especially to us missionaries. They had just put in Despicable Me 2, but stopped it to just talk with us for and hour or so. They're really great people, and they gave us pizza (real pizza, not Japanese pizza), rye bread, special apples, Hershey Kisses, M&M's, bacon (real bacon, not Japanese bacon), and a book that the oldest daughter wrote based off her journal from when she did missionary work with some nuns in Taiwan for three months. All-in-all it was a pretty good day.
Friday: The only thing worth speaking about for Friday was we met with the JW from Monday. We only spoke at the genkan of his apartment rather than going in. We asked him about his beliefs then we shared the Articles of Faith. We asked if he had questions, which we answered. He didn't seem too likely to invite us back, but after he asked us about what we believe Jesus' name is and God's name is and talked about that for a bit, he said we could drop by next week. Alright!
Saturday: We had a lesson with the really smart GC investigator. During personal study, We just prayed and begged for answers about what he needs to learn to progress. I turned to the mission training plan. Upon reading the very first line, which quotes the first part of the missionary purpose, it struck me that he needs to know about Christ, why he's important, and how everything we do is in His name. As I continued to read the training plan, more idea's came, so I wrote them all down and we put together a lesson from those during companion study. That night, the lesson really had an impact on him. He may not be any closer to being baptized, but now he's actually considering it.
Sunday: Just the normal Fast and Testimony meeting. Also while going to a PI/PM-family, we ran into an old investigator that the current AP's taught lessons to a year ago! We were just stopped at an intersection in a neighborhood, it was pitch black, and I saw movement in the shadows so I looked over and saw her washing her car. I made a small remark about Japanese addresses being hard to find, and then she told me how to get back to the church from that spot. Naturally, I asked how she knew and I found out her story about meeting with the missionaries last year and such. It was pretty cool. I'm certain it wasn't just by chance. That night we also had dinner with a young family moving to Osaka in two weeks. They served us yakiniku!
I love this country!

Monday, November 25, 2013

11/25/13 email

Mom and Dad,
So yeah, time is going by way too fast. It feels like I arrived in Japan just last week. I also re-read my mission call letter and can vividly remember it. That was almost a year ago!
Monday: Hiratsuka Choro was transferring so he had to spend preparation day packing. After 6:00pm we went to visit a PI family a little ways away. They weren't home so we went on to house in a neighboring area. We had just started heading back when I had the feeling to visit them again. We went back and the 15 year old son was home. I feel like we were guided back there.
Tuesday: So at kids' eikaiwa, there's this non-member that brings her 2-or-3 year old son. This little boy looks at us while we're teaching and it seems like he's thinking "oh my goodness, what on earth are these two gaijin doing?" It's really funny. We also had a lesson with one of our investigators. When we extended the baptismal invitation last week, he rejected it because he didn't feel like he was showing faith or repenting, so naturally he couldn't take the nest step and get baptized. This week we taught him nothing but faith and helped him realize that he's showing faith little by little as he meets with us, prays, reads the BoM, etc. He really seemed to cheer up by the end, so I'm hoping he'll be more receptive to the idea of being baptized and following the Savior. Also, at eikaiwa, the word this week was 'supercalifragilisticexpialodocious'. They were all disappointed to learn that it's not actually a word. We also got cupcakes and a roll cake from members because Hiratsuka Choro was transferring out. I'm starting to like transfers. ;)
Wednesday: What a great day (you'll see why soon). Last week we dropped off the bike that lost the pedal at the bike shop: we went to pick it up today. The problem was it's a 40 minutes bike ride but we didn't have bikes. So...we walked all the way there. It's all good because we streeted as much as we could on the way. After getting the bike, we went and housed the entire area of new houses and young families that I have mentioned in previous emails. That took quite a while! Afterwards, since it was Hiratsuka's last day, we went to lunch at TABEHODAI YAKINIKU. New favorite food: yakiniku. Beef Wellington comes in a close second. Following that, we rode back to the church and had a lesson with the GC investigator. We taught a lot more about how prayers are answered and revelations are received. We gave him the talk "Spirit of Revelation" by Bednar Choro. I think I mentioned it last week: it's an awesome talk and very helpful in teaching about the spirit of revelation.
Thursday: Transfers! We headed down to Kobe to go our separate ways and meet our new companions. I finally got to see a lot of people that I was in the MTC with at the transfer spot. It was sooo great. There's one guy, Steers Choro, who was originally my trainer's MTC companion, but due to health and other things left after a week and a half. He then came out again and we were in the MTC together. He's a way solid missionary, and he's now a zone leader in his 4th transfer! That's how awesome he is. Anyway, I got my new companion, Pace Choro. He's18 years old and fresh out of high school. He turned 18 a couple weeks before entering the MTC. He's got plenty of energy to make it over the hills in Kitarokko. After taking him back to Kitarokko, we went out and housed since there were no other previous plans.
Friday: There was a lot of bike riding and housing. That pretty much was the entire day.
Saturday: We met with one of our investigators. All I can say is he is awesome! He has incredible amounts of interest in the Plan of Salvation and, as he said, he wants to "come around" to the faith he originally had growing up. I have a great amount of hope for this guy! We're meeting with him next Saturday. We would like to meet with him more but, since he works at the school, he's pretty busy and tired on weekdays. Saturday was also the first day I really felt the responsibilities of being senior companion.
Sunday: So I felt the stress today. After church, we had a couple of surprise things that came up that kept us from our original plans. We also ended up re-planning the day because we originally thought we'd be attending a priesthood fireside in Kobe, but it turns out that it wasn't for missionaries. We also took a long time to plan a lesson we weren't even sure we'd get to teach that night. BUT, after the ward mission leader got back from Kobe, he took us to the investigator we wanted to visit and we were able to have a lesson with him. We chatted and then started into the lesson we had prepared. A short time into the lesson, I had the prompting that we needed to just talk and show Christ-like love--something he doesn't have from anyone else. We testified, at the end, that the Lord loves him and wants him to return to Him. We thought that would help him more than the planned lesson--and it really did! He even gave us each bro-hugs after the lesson. Unfortunately, we went a little long and I got several calls from the district leader and zone leaders--they were beginning to think something happened to us because I hadn't yet reported in. It all worked out in the end.
That's all for this week. Next week is the start of December! I expect in 30 days or so I'll be calling home! Seeing how time has gone quickly, those 30 days will be over tomorrow.

Monday, November 18, 2013

11/18/13 email

Mom and Dad,
So, the end of transfers means the two shimai and I are staying, but Hiratsuka (who's been here for three transfers) is going to Tsuyama to work with a Choro who was in my MTC district, and to be a DL. My new companion as of this next Thursday will be Pace Choro. I have no idea who he is, but he must be younger in the field than I am because it says I'll be senior companion. Crazy! He's coming here from Yonago, which has had a great success, so I'm hoping he's willing to work the extra mile--mainly uphill.
Alright, so on Monday we visited the family that Hiratsuka Choro and the Choro that he exchanged with found. Close by there was also a PI we found that said we should come back when it was bright out (it was 7:30 and pitch black when we housed them). Unfortunately, nothing came of it. BUT, we'll still try.
Tuesday: We had kids' eikaiwa and regular eikaiwa. I taught the students hippopotomonstrosesquipidaliophobia. The week before was antidisestablishmentarianism. Other than that, we taught the investigator I mentioned in the previous email. He's doing a lot better with remembering what we teach, as well as saying his prayers. We invited him to be baptized on 1/11, but he feels he needs more time.
Wednesday: Hiratsuka's bike has been having some small issues with the front shifter and the parts needed to replace it finally came in. We made the 40 minute ride to the bike shop and waited while they repaired it. After that we housed a bit in the area Carver Choro and I went last week; the one with all the brand new houses and young families. We then had to hurry back for a lesson at 7 with the GC investigator. We planned out a way good lesson and mogi'd it tons, and it ended up going really well. We invited him to be baptized on 12/28. He shot it down but he feels he's not ready to be baptized. After that lesson we had to go to an eki to give the contact info of a returned missionary to a PI that he found way back in February. That guy ended up not coming and said he'd drop by the church on Sunday to get the info. WELL, on the ride back from the apartment, at 8:50-ish, the left pedal on Hiratsuka's bike fell off. It just fell off. That bike shop honestly has to be the worst bike shop in the world because they keep "fixing" things that end up creating "new" ones to be fixed.
Friday: District Meeting, and companion exchanges with the ZL's. The two of them both came to Kitarokko and left their companions to work together in Nishinomiya. I worked with Carter Choro, who was also trained by Bogedahl Choro, and Hiratsuka worked with Aono Choro, who's probably the most entertaining Nihonjin in the world. Right as the four of us left the apartment, there was a guy walking by that Aono Choro immediately approached. He's actually Filipino. He doesn't know much Japanese. He teaches English at the nearby middle school. It was cool talking with him and he even said he'd come to church on Sunday! Afterwards, as I was working with Carter Choro, I was using Hiratsuka's bike which meant I had to keep getting off and tightening the bolt that hold the pedal on. Well, eventually, the bolt simply just stripped. Don't worry, the bike is older (4 years old).
Saturday: We went hiking with one of our investigators and a member of the ward. We hiked to the top of Mt. Rokko and ate lunch together up there. It ended up taking way longer than we expected, so there wasn't much time afterwards. That extra time was spent getting a ride from a member to the bike shop who happened to be taking his son's bike in for repairs. We left Hiratsuka's bike there--which will soon be Pace Choro's bike--while they fix it, he's borrowing one from a member. After that the Bishop and his wife had us over for dinner. I shared a message about faith and enduring trials, using the Mormon Message video from President Eyring's "Mountains to Climb" talk, D&C122:5-8 and 2Ne12:2 (The house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains). Pretty much I talked about how trials (mountains) are there for our benefit and growth, and through the Atonement and Christ's power we can endure anything. Then I ended by saying how climbing those mountains not only makes us stronger but brings us closer to God (his house is established at the top). The Bishop and Hiratsuka both said it was a really good message.
Sunday: The Filipino guy came to church! He had a lot of questions about the service. We also made an appointment with him this Saturday to answer more questions. After church, we housed more in the area with all the new houses and such. Lastly, we had dinner at the Naganuma family's house. It was way fun and the four of us missionaries shared the message we planned using Elder Holland's "Lord, I Believe" talk to strengthen the resolve of the 22-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter to serve missions.
Yes, we heard about the typhoon in the Philippines from the members. The family of the Filipino guy is also fine since they're living in the northern part of the Philippines. He said the news is saying it's probably the biggest storm ever recorded in human history. He also remarked that there are lots of people like us (Mormons) from Japan and the Southeast Asia area helping out.
That's all I have for this week. For now, give everyone my best, as always.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Mom and Dad,
Wow, this transfer went by fast. I just hope I don't train next transfer--I don't feel ready!
This week was going on looking like it would end in a short email, but Saturday included a surprise that'll make it a little longer.
Monday: The Naganuma family wanted us to come by and share a message about dendo to strengthen their 22-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter's fire to serve a mission. We ended up not being able to, though, because one of their cars broke down, but it was still a pretty awesome day!
Tuesday: We biked up the foothills of Mt. Fuji again to have a last-minute lesson with the investigator up there before he went off on a trip for a week or so. November 1st was the start of suit season, meaning you should wear your suit whenever are outside. Well that day was actually surprisingly warm, so we took off our coats to bike up--but we put them back on before the lesson. Believe me, if you saw or experienced that mountain, you'd understand.
Wednesday: We had an exchange with the DL and his trainee. Instead of swapping companions, they both came to Kitarokko and we split up. I went with the DL and Hiratsuka went with the trainee. It went really well. I spent a lot of time with the DL going over additional training on how to be an effective missionary and a true disciple. He mentioned that the reason was because I need to be entirely independent--which really means "you'll probably train next transfer." Oh boy. After all the training I got from him, which I'm actually very grateful for, we went way out to find some potential investigators and to tract. We also received a text from the Protestant investigator that he doesn't want to meet anymore, which is very sad. His Protestant friends are giving him a difficult time. We planted the "Gospel seed" and hopefully he will nourish it sometime in the future and it will grow. It was still a pretty cool exchange. Hiratsuka and Isaac apparently found a family that seems to be interested.
Friday: District Meeting (finally).There hasn't been a District Meeting all transfer because of transfers, interviews, and the double Zone Training Meetings. The Meeting went really well: we learned a pretty crazy, new grammar point from one of the ZL's, and we also spent a lot of time learning/discussing the Mission Training Plan. After that, and after getting back to Kitarokko, we spent the rest of the day finding investigators.
Saturday: The day of surprises. Last Monday, there was a family that Hiratsuka and I found while housing, and the mother is really interested in the concept of eternal families and such. She invited us to come back on this day, so we did that. Turns out she couldn't meet just then, but we set up another appointment. After we got back, we were going to continue our daily study and eat lunch, when there was a surprise voice at the door. We went and found the two AP's standing in our genkan! They came by to go on exchanges with the two of us. We ended up not getting to finish studying because the AP's wanted to get to work. We went to lunch at a curry house, then the junior AP, Carver Choro, and I took off while the senior, Kershisnik Choro (the super-awesome guy who's been AP for 5 transfers), spent time with Hiratsuka. Honestly, if I took the time to write everything I wanted to say about what I learned, what we did, how much of a boss Carver Choro is, and how much I was intimidated to be on an exchange with him, etc., it would take A LONG TIME and the email would be REALLY LONG. Let's just say I couldn't be happier or more excited to do anything than to be a missionary serving in this mission at this time. I will say, however, that I was exhausted by the end of the exchange because of working so hard. I think I mentioned this, but the two of them served together in Kitarokko last year, so he was already excited to be back and see what's changed; in addition to his excitement to serve, made it all the better. The funniest part: they left before the day was over, so Hiratsuka and I had even more time to go out and work. Needless to say, I went to bed a little early that night.
Sunday: Sunday is always good. Right after church we went to visit a potential investigator that we found on Thursday. She actually told us that we should come by before noon because her husband has no interest in religion. Problem is that church ends at 1pm so the husband was there and he didn't want us to present a lesson. We also had the same investigator that came to church last week come this week, which was excellent. That night we went out with Asada Kyodai again to visit people. We went to visit one of our investigators and hopefully teach a lesson. We didn't get the lesson in, but we're going to keep trying. We decided to visit him every week.
Other than that, I have breaking news:
I just got an email from Bogedahl Choro. The lady we challenged to be baptized and was originally scheduled on October 13th, then the 27th, got baptized on Saturday! Unfortunately the awesome young man, that was suppose to be baptized too, did not get baptized.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 4, 2013

Mom and Dad,
Monday-Normal P-day: We ran around and got lots of miscellaneous things done.
Tuesday: Kids' eikaiwa in the morning. This week was my turn to teach. Let me say: it's way awkward standing in the front of a room full of kids and their mothers and teach English. Also, it's expected that you act silly and what not for the kids, so that makes it even more awkward for us. I decided that from now on the gaijin sister missionary and I will teach together so she can be silly and I can be a little more normal. Don't you love compromises?
We rang one of our investigator's doorbell twice and knocked, but he didn't answer. We were sure that he was there, so we called him. No answer. We rang again and finally he came to the door. He opened it only to shut the door and lock it. Hiratsuka and I had no idea what happened so we kind of stood there for a couple minutes. We then called him again. No answer. We rang his doorbell again and he answered saying he was sorry and that he had forgotten about the appointment and was in the bathroom. He added that he'd see us next week.
Tuesday is also regular Eikaiwa. I added a new dimension to our teaching. After I finish teaching that week's lesson, I play hangman with the students and teach them a really long English word. Last week was fluccinocinihilipilification. This week was pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis. They love it! This Tuesday will probably be hippopotomonstrosesquipidaliophobia.
Wednesday: we taught the young investigator who is Protestant. He had asked his Protestant friends about prophets and the priesthood, to which they said both no longer exist. Latter-day prophets and the priesthood are truths that are going to be difficult to teach him about because of those that do not have that knowledge.
Thursday: We biked up the foothills of Mt. Fuji again to teach one of our investigators. He's a way solid guy and understands spiritual things, but he has a couple of hurdles that are hindering him from accepting the Gospel. He is kind of along the lines of a philosopher. I always thought that teaching people with a Christ centered base would be easier because they would recognize the truth more readily--there's so much I have to learn!
That evening we also went to the house of an investigator with the sister missionaries--I'm going to refer to them as the shimai from now on. The investigator wanted us to be at a Halloween party she was holding for some elementary school kids she works with--to be an example for the kids and to help them with English. Well, there were probably twelve kids or so; all grade school boys except for one girl. It was a very long, very exhausting hour-and-a-half.
Friday: We had Zone Training Meeting, so we were in Kobe again. Awesome! I love Kobe and the honbu. ZTM was really great; our ZL's are way awesome. One of them was also trained by Bogedahl Choro. At ZTM we talked a lot about how to apply the new Mission Training Plan, and to prepare some special lessons plan for it. Compared to previous ZTM's, it was a little short--probably because we just had one two weeks before. Oh, I also bought a jar of Nutella from the honbu. Life keeps getting better and better! :)
Saturday: we rode way far out along a super narrow, curvy highway that had no space for bikes. Yes, if you saw it, mom, you would freak out. Our reason was to visit an investigator that hasn't been met with in awhile. I haven't met with him before so I didn't know a whole lot about him. The conversation lasted only about a minute and that was mainly Hiratsuka Choro was trying to get him to talk. While we were out there we did a lot of searching, then we headed back for a lesson we had scheduled with the really energetic guy we met with right after General Conference. It was a really good lesson and the member we had there was really helpful. We invited the investigator to come to church, but he declined. He doesn't quite see the need or importance of going to church.
Sunday: He came to church! Funny the way the Spirit works, huh? He actually showed up right after the Sacrament was finished, but was able to catch all of the testimonies that were shared. He went home after Sacrament meeting so he missed out on Sunday school and Priesthood. After church we went dendo-ing with Asada kyodai, the amazing hair-cutter. He probably has some of the strongest dendo fire in the ward. On Sundays (as often as he can) he takes the missionaries in his car and dendo-s with them. We visited a lot of less actives as well as several potential investigators; we also visited the guy who's super busy and, therefore, difficult to meet with. It was probably one of the most productive Sundays I've had in my life!
Lastly, do you remember Elder Holland's talk from April Conference entitled "Lord, I Believe"? All should read it and ponder it--that includes anybody reading this on my missionary blog!
It's a really great talk that has helped me. We are going to teach the principles in the talk tonight at a dinner appointment.
That's all I have for this week. I took a little more time this week since I had time to read and respond to two weeks worth in one email. Give everyone my best!

Monday, October 28, 2013

10/28/13 email

Mom and Dad,
Oct 14: Two Mondays ago was pretty awesome. One of the members took us to all-you-can-eat yakiniku! Yakiniku, as I said before, is sooooo good. We did that for lunch after all of our preparation. After P-day, we had a dinner appointment at the ward mission leader's place. Another family from the ward also joined in. The main reason for it was to get some help planning for our (the missionaries') part in the Halloween program, since we don't really have time to do it on our own. I'll tell you all about the party later.
Oct 15: Every Tuesday night in Kitarokko is Eikaiwa (English Class, if I haven't already told you that). Apparently in Kitarokko, they also do a kids' eikaiwa, so doing those two classes was pretty fun. Oh, and the other family that joined us for dinner the previous night has a 1-year-old daughter whose probably the cutest child ever born. The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure she's terrified of me. Whenever I'm around, she'll stare at me, then when I stare back, she'll turn away and look back again, except she'll be trying to hide behind whomever is holding her. It's hilarious.
Oct 16: We spent all day knocking on doors since our original plans didn't work out. We were also fed at the very end of the day by the bishop and his wife. This is the same bishop that took Bogey and I to drop off the music CD's. He gave us more A&W!
Oct 18: Zone Training Meeting. Kitarokko is in the Kobe zone, so I got to go back to the mission home! Following ZTM, Hiratsuka and I got lunch at a place nearby the mission home called "Burger Pit". Their burgers are half Kobe beef, half normal beef. It Was So Good. The burger literally melted in my mouth; it was so soft. I have to try straight up Kobe beef sometime.
Oct19: We biked way out--about 40 minutes--to find an investigator who hadn't been met with in 2 months. We went to his door but nobody was home. As we were about to leave, he pulled up in his car after having picked his daughter. We were fortunately able to meet at that time. He's apparently had a rough life and his family relations aren't super strong. He works at a hospital which wears him out every day. We were able to share a message with him.
Oct 20: We had dinner at the house of the member who took us to tabehodai yakiniku. On a couple of occasions he's also given us chocolate. His family is really awesome too. They're all very strong in the Gospel. Most of them can speak English pretty well and they're all super cool.
Oct 21: My second hair cut in Japan! Again, it was done by a member, but this guy cuts the missionaries' hair for free and he does a great job. Haircuts in Japan usually include a shampoo and massage. He also finished everything off by taking a straight razor and perfectly lining up the hairline (except for the front)! We also tried to find a place that sells Nesquik.
Oct 22: Eikaiwa again (and kids' eikaiwa).We also taught an investigator today who has some challenges. We pretty much went over the very basics again because he has a tough time remembering everything we teach. He's a really awesome guy. He even bought sports drinks for the two of us!
Oct 23: We taught one of our twentyish investigators today. He was a self referral that called in to the mission home and asked if he could get a copy of the Book of Mormon. So far he's really responded well to what he's learned. We searched in an area while it was raining. I put my hood of my kapa down since I love the rain. It was sooo nice.
Oct 24: There is a potential investigator who lives on the other side of what I think are the foothills of Mt. Fuji. Biking over the foothills was grueling. Hiratsuka said that the two times he's done it before, he has given up and walked the rest of the way. I wasn't about to let him do that, so I pushed myself to not walk and he ended up following suit. But anyways, this guy we met with went to a Catholic college when he was 18, and joined that church (probably around the same age). He's 70 now: he's such a God-oriented person. He grows vegetables and such in his garden and sells them to people for 10 yen. He wants to give them away but people insist they pay, so he asks for only 10 yen. He also thinks really deeply about spiritual things. We managed to have a lesson with him and he invited us back for more. After that we searched around in a neighborhood a little down in the foothills from where he lives. It was raining, but knowing me, you probably can guess that wasn't going to stop me. I'm not sure how much Hiratsuka enjoyed it, though.
Oct 25: Interviews. I had my first interview with the Zinke Kaicho--aside from the initial one when we all first got here. We also had training from the AP's about the plan that Kaicho put out. The two AP's were actually companions together in Kitarokko so we talked with them a lot about the area. The two of them are awesome. One is currently in his 5th transfer as AP--way solid missionary. Another solid guy: one of the office elders--commissarian, to be exact--Elder Asai. He's perfectly proficient in Japanese AND English, so he usually does all the translating for Kaicho. Anywho, he knows how much I love Nesquik, so this last P-day, he went and bought FOUR cans, just for me! I paid him back, of course.
Oct 26: Halloween Party! The missionary booth was balloon animals! Yes, I learned how to make some basic balloon animals! We, in turn, helped the kids and other make balloon animals of their own that they got to keep. There were SO many people at the party, non-members included. Our booth was the last out of 8. Since people here have a tendency to do everything in order--and because our booth was completely separated from the other 7--we got FLOODED with people at the end. But, it was super awesome. My costume was a super-panda-Santa-Oregon basketball player. You'll get to see pictures. Immediately after the party we had a lesson with an investigator who came to the party. We also had the father of the "other family" from before join in. It was a way solid lesson. The member is also a really awesome guy for doseki's. He's 30 or 31-ish, and he served in the Sapporo Mission. He's also really cool. I think because we planned the lesson so thoroughly and had such an awesome doseki, the lesson went really great.
Oct 27: So the guy from the ward that cuts hair for us for free also takes the missionaries out every Sunday in his car and will take them wherever they need to go. So, we planned for a very awesome day; however, he ended up sick. The only thing we really had time for after church, ward council, lunch and stuff was to bike way out again and visit the investigator again that hadn't been seen for two months. So, we did just that. By the way, the way summer and winter work here is one day it's summer, and the very next day it's winter--it happened to be Winter today. Although he had just made dinner for him and his 7-year-old daughter, we were pleasantly surprised that he invited us in. We waited and just talked with them as they ate. After they ate, we managed to transition into the lesson, but then his 23-year-old daughter came downstairs and asked him if he could give her a ride to Sannomiya (which is about 70 minutes away). We ended up not getting to teach him the lesson. It's alright though: at least we were able to visit with him.
All my clothes are still fine. My companionship is doing great; we get along and work together really well. Our investigators are few, but they're all great.
Okay, that's all I have for this week. Goodness, it's longer than I thought it'd be. As always, give everyone my best! I need to close because my companion has been sitting here for a while waiting for me to finish.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13th, 2013 email

Mom and Dad,
Last p-day wasn't very eventful since you're required to spend your time packing if you're being transferred.
Tuesday was disappointing because we had planned to meet with and teach quite a number of people, but almost none of them were home. We ended up spending a good amount of time knocking on doors.
Wednesday: We spent the afternoon meeting and teaching some investigators, and visiting ones we hadn't seen in a while. It was interesting, because when they said that they were looking forward to seeing us again we had to mention that I'd be leaving (the very next morning). In the evening, we went to visit a less-active family who are still faithful, they just don't go to church. The father had stopped us outside the grocery store to ask how some of the members were doing and he explained he was less-active. We've gone to visit them a couple times to see if they'd be interested in coming back to church. This time the father was home and we talked to the mother. Here's the 'eat pavement' part of the story: a neighborhood we have to pass through to get to their house is literally one giant hill and this family lives at the top of the hill. When we were leaving and going back down the hill, we passed a little road that goes off to left. There was another guy on the bike who emerged from that light, but from my angle I couldn't see his light until he was turning up-hill. All I could do was hit the brakes and try not to hit him. We weren't going super-fast down the hill because we're always told that speeding is the number one cause of wrecks. I managed not to hit him, but the bike's tires have practically no traction so I ended up sliding sideways and being thrown forward into the asphalt. I hit the road pretty hard and slid along for a short distance and ended up halfway in one of the rain chasms. My first thought was along the lines of "I don't feel injured or brain damaged...okay, stand up." Surprisingly, I actually wasn't hurt too bad. My left palm and right elbow got chewed up a bit, and my right ankle is pretty swollen, but miraculously perfectly fine. Missionaries really do have God's protection--though that's no reason to do stupid things. In fact, my helmet had hit the ground pretty hard but my head and neck are fine, and there's not a single crack or scratch on my helmet. Oh, I also managed to bend the front wheel to the point where I had to disengage the front brake so it could spin. I feel really bad for the guy that has to ride it now. There is a best part: we had a dinner appointment at the branch president's house. When they saw me they freaked out and took me into the bathroom and cleaned me up, even though I had literally just done that at a 7 Eleven. Bogedahl Choro got a pretty funny picture of them scrubbing dirt and a bit of blood off my shirt, and putting bandages on me.
Thursday was transfer day and I was in Kitarokko before noon. Because of general conference, I've already met a lot of the people in the ward. One: this is a ward of 120! Two: Kitarokko ward has the dendo fire. They are super great with the missionaries. I've already been fed 4 times or so and we have another appointment tonight!
General conference was spectacular, as usual. We didn't have any investigator's attend, but Bogedahl Choro told me over the phone they had a few that came. Oh, on Saturday, President Monson was wearing a tie almost identical to the red-square one I have! Sweet!
So yeah, that was pretty much my week. We just got back from being taken to an all-you-can-eat (tabehodai) yakiniku restaurant. It's seriously sooo good. When you come to Japan, you have to have yakiniku.
Kitarokko isn't in the same district as Kobe, but it is in the same zone. My new companion is Hiratsuka Choro.
Which talks did I like most? All of them, of course, but President Uchtdorf always has a knack for being number 1 in my book.
That's all I have for this week! I hope everyone has a great week. Everything here is good!

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013

Mom and Dad,

I'm being transferred to the Kitarokko area! I'm disappointed to leave Nishiwaki because things have really started to pick up and we also have three baptisms scheduled for the next transfer. It'd be nice to see our investigators progress even more. BUT, Bogedahl Choro was in Kitarokko before coming to Nishiwaki and says it is one of the best wards in the mission. I'm excited because it's a big city. My new companion is also Nihonjin (native Japanese), so I'll probably speak very little English the entire time I'm with him. I hope to be fluent by the end of my time with him.

Monday was pretty awesome. You could probably tell I was excited last week to be in Kobe for p-day. When you get off the train in the station closest to the mission home--Sannomiya--you step off in to a HUGE station/shopping center that has TONS of people. All of the stations in the area are like that. All of us from our mission district went to a tabehodai (all you can eat) Brazilian style joint called Brazilianos. It's a really popular place for missionaries to go. There were 6 other missionaries there, as well. I didn't know them, but Bogedahl Choro and my DL did.

Wednesday we had lessons with two of our three yakusokusha's (the 10/6 and 10/27 one). One of our Yakusokusha's new baptism date is 10/27. I'm disappointed that I won't get to witness their baptisms.
Thursday we met with the other yakusokusha; the awesome high school student. Our lesson with him went great. He is an incredible investigator and is going to be an awesome member.

Friday we had a lesson with the family that we had found. We spoke about the restoration of the gospel and the prophet, Joseph Smith. The 14-year-old daughter became really interested and stopped doing her school research to listen. At the end, we the offered the family a Book of Mormon. The mom said they already had one, but the daughter was eyeing it like she really wanted it--so we offered it for her to have as her own and she accepted it. She also committed to go to church yesterday, which she followed through with. I tell you, young people are absolutely the best.

Both of us popped our back tires. Thursday we went to visit someone quite a distance away. As we were going, my tire became flat. Upon inspection I found a small twig that had managed to embed itself into my tire. We walked back home from there. We fixed the tire the next day, then decided that same night we'd try to visit the same person again. We took a different path and as we got within a few kilometers of the place, Bogey had to stop. His tire had popped. He inspected the tire and found a nail that had punctured right through the tire, tube, and into the rim. We fixed his tire the next day but my tire had gone flat again. I pumped it up and it was fine though. Then his and mine were flat again after church. We realized we still had a bit of patching to do, so the last couple days there has been a lot of bike work. Bogedahl Choro says that the bikes in Kitarokko are not so good either, so I'm not too excited for that. However, as long as the bike is big enough for me and doesn't weigh a ton, I'll be happy.

We don't get to see conference until next week because they have to translate it all to Japanese, then we will watch it as a ward.

So that's all! Next week I'll be emailing you from Kitarokko. I'll have to get updates from Bogedahl Choro in order to know what's going on here in Nishiwaki with our investigators.

Monday, September 30, 2013

9/30/13 email

Mom and Dad,

So, this week wasn't all too eventful but we had some awesome successes!

Monday was interesting because there wasn't anything that needed to be done for pday in Nishiwaki, so we rode a half hour out to go to an Aeon Mall--which is a big shopping center in Japan. Well, since it's a small city, the mall was small too. The only thing we really looked at was the Daiso inside (Daiso's are the 100 yen stores) and I got a tie. That makes three new ties: two that I bought and one that was left in the apartment. We left the mall early and it turns out there's a singular Daiso right down the street. We checked that one out, too, but didn't buy any ties there.

Tuesday was Trainer/Trainee Training Meeting (TTTM), so we went down to Kobe for that. The meeting was really cool. We got to talk with Kaicho about our trainers and they got to talk about us, nothing negative, of course. Then we got together and learned more about Kaicho's Red Door-Blue Door analogy for the cleansing and enabling powers of the Atonement. Needless to say it was really spiritual. On the way back, I actually went on a companion exchange with the DL again, so I went back to Miki. We got back late. Oh, I'm also actually in Kobe right now because this could be any one of the four of us last week in the district, so we decided to come to Kobe for, possibly, our last p-day here. Right now, I'm at a weird media cafe where there are showers and tanning beds, and other non-media stuff.

Wednesday my DL and I prepared a lesson we were going to teach to an investigator, but, on the way there, he had the feeling that we shouldn't go. So we housed some apartments that were on the way. After that I went back to Nishiwaki.

On Friday, the only thing worth mentioning is that we had a lesson with our 17-year-old, shy/quiet high school dude. He has much more interest in Christianity than a lot of people, and we found out during that lesson that he knows a lot about Jesus Christ. Anyway, we had a really great lesson with him about eternal life being our hope and baptism bringing joy, and connecting that all in with the Gospel of Christ. Best part--he accepted a baptismal date! There are three yakusokusha's!

Other than that, I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting yesterday. We were actually supposed to talk last week, but the schedule got changed and nobody told us. So, I fortunately had time to polish a highly-rushed talk from the week before. People said they liked it and that they felt the Spirit.
It looks like that's all there is for this week. I hope everyone is well and happy. I'll let you know about what I want in the package probably next week. I'd also guess that it'd take about a week and a half to get here.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 23, 2013 email

Dearest Mom and Dad
This week was a pretty tough week to do a lot of work because of multiple meetings scheduled during the week. I think I told you about the dendo fireside in Fukuchiyama last Sunday. What I didn't mention is that Fukuchiyama is a 90 minute drive away. Well, this Sunday we had another meeting there, this time for all the priesthood leaders in the district. That took up most of the time out of our Sunday. At least Zinke会長 was there and we got to hear him speak.
On Wednesday we taught our two yakusokusha's, and those lessons went really well. I went on a companion exchange to Miki again. We got to Miki in the evening, so we didn't have much time. We did, however, teach a lesson to the one yakusokusha they have in Miki. He's actually a Brazilian named Brandon who can't speak any Japanese, but has really good English. Naturally, we taught him in English. That lessons went so well! He has a Catholic background and already has a strong relationship with God. Especially living here, working at a bread factory, he's turned to God even more. He even had this story to share about when he was back in Brazil: on three separate occasions he was upset and worried. He went on and said how during those three times when he was out in public, a stranger came to him; put their hand on his head; and told him that everything will be alright and that God loves him. He's never been able to find those people, nor find anyone who's heard or seen them, so he's convinced that they were angels or people sent by God. He's seriously ready to follow his Savior.

I think I told you about the 17-year-old girl whose interested in hearing the gospel. Well, Bogedahl and I both felt prompted to go way out and visit her again. We got to the house, but only her older brother was home--he was awesome. He said he'd like to learn more and he has his own car, so he'd be able to take his sister with him to church. Also, after we talked with him, we went and visited with neighbors. The mom came home as we were ending a contact with one of their neighbors. We're hoping she saw us interacting and smiling with the guy, as it'd be really good for her and her family.

I mentioned before that our Methodist investigator is coming to church every week all on his own. He was there again this week but the teachers for Gospel Principles weren't, so we ended up teaching. It was the perfect week because the chapter in the book we're on is the Spirit World, and that's probably what he's most obsessed about. He sat back and paid attention and feasted on the information the whole time. At the end he spoke up and asked if he could get a copy of the book, so we gave one to him. He also asked if he could get an English quad, since in Japanese you can't get a quad due to a company owning printing rights to the Bible here.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Dear Mom and Dad,

On Tuesday we taught the parents of a young family for the first time and they said they'd like to hear more, so they invited us back. We haven't taught any of the children yet. President Zinke wants every area to find a family by the end of the year, so we think we found ours.

Wednesdays have been crazy the last couple of weeks because we have regular appointments back to back with the investigator who committed to baptism on 10/6 and our investigator (that was Methodist) in the middle of study time. Both of those lessons went great and the best part is that the Methodist investigator also committed to be baptized--his date is 10/26. I may or may not be there for that depending on if I get transferred.

On Thursday evening we taught a young man who we met while housing. He goes to the high school down the street from the church so he said he'd meet with us on his way home. We weren't too sure if he'd show up because he didn't seem really interested when we talked with him. Well, he did! It turns out he's just a shy, quiet guy but he has a lot of interest, it seems, and really great questions. He's a new investigator this week, as well.

On Sunday there was a dendo fireside in the Fukuchiyama area that every branch in that district went to. It was really good and very spiritual. Also, one of the Japanese members of the Seventy, I believe, was there--he might be in some other leadership group. Everyone knows and loves him.

Today was pretty cool, getting to go to the outskirts of Kyoto and Nara. We had to drive through Osaka to get there so I saw a lot more of the industrial places and HUGE apartment buildings everywhere. The whole drive made me realize that Japan is a lot like Oregon when it comes to landscape. Also, on the way to the church to email real quick, a car, that didn't see me coming, turned in front of me and we collided. Since it had been raining (a typhoon passed nearby) my brakes didn't work very well. My bike has too much mass so I couldn't stop. I'm fine, and the car's fine, so everything's all good.

I'll probably respond to your emails next week, because we literally have 16 minutes left of p-day.


Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9th, 2013

Mom and Dad,

This week went pretty well. We achieved the first of our zone goals--have zero 0's by 9/8. Zero 0's mean that all of our person-oriented key indicators (people with baptismal dates, progressing investigators, people who attend sacrament meeting, and new investigators) for the week were greater than zero. Yes, that means we have a person committed to a baptismal date--a yakusokusha! Her name's Shindo, and her baptism is scheduled for 10/6. We talked with her yesterday during church. She said she prayed about it and had a calm, reassuring feeling that it's the right date.

Last Monday, I got my first haircut in Japan. Yes, it's been 8 weeks since having it cut. We went to the shop of a lady in the branch and she gave us a discount--only 15 bucks. Haircuts are super pricey in Japan. There are also salons and barbers EVERYWHERE. When I first got here, I just figured that a lot of businesses had barber poles since I saw so many of them. My trainer informed that they're all, in fact, barber shops. There are probably 10 barber shops within a 5 minute bike ride of the apartment.

Wednesday was the lesson where we extended the baptismal invitation to Shindo san. We had a really great lesson about eternal life and the Doctrine of Christ: we even drew a diagram on the whiteboard that depicts baptism as the gate to the path that is enduring, which leads to the sun-- representing eternal life. She was a little hesitant at first, but she said she'd commit to the date. The only issue is her father-in-law is hantai, but the husband is perfectly fine with it.

That same day we also had a lesson with the investigator who is Methodist. He really does seem to be trying to change Christianity in Japan. He does like learning about the Gospel because it answers questions he's always wondered about. He also loves coming to church. From this week on, he'll be walking 4km to a bus stop to take a bus to Nishiwaki and come to church--and he committed to this himself. We also gave him a copy of the Restoration movie that's 20 minutes long for him to watch at home. He ended up watching it 5 times because he liked it so much (he also watched it in English twice, but re-watched it in Japanese right after since the English was too hard).

On Thursday we had a lesson with the investigator who's everywhere (and yes, we've seen him around here and there). We showed him the video called "Did You Know" that gives a simple background of the Church and leaders. He seemed to like it but I'm not sure if he's any closer to accepting the Gospel.

On Friday we had Zone Training Meeting, my first one of my mission. It went pretty well, though it wasn't quite as exciting as Zone大会. We got to know all the people in the zone. One of the girls from my MTC district just got transferred to the zone and we have two brand new missionaries.
We've had a lot of thunderstorms around here, but not many right over us. Also, since typhoon season is starting we've had some crazy rain storms. There's a dinky little river that runs through Nishiwaki, and even though it's small, with a relatively big bridge spanning it, I've always wondered why. Well, we crossed over that bridge during a rain storm. The river had risen probably 50 feet and expanded another 30 feet because of all the rain runoff from the land is directed to the river. We also had a typhoon almost hit but it died down and redirected before coming too close to Nishiwaki. The weather was cooling down from all the clouds blocking the sun and the evaporating rain, but today it got back up to the high temperatures.

I mentioned earlier we have one yakusokusha. We have 14 investigators total, with 6 of them progressing (down from 7 because we haven't been able to meet with one for a number of weeks now). There are still a couple that we feel are ready and we're going to invite to baptism.

That's all I have for this week. I look forward to reading your emails next week. As usual, give everyone my best!


Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2nd, 2013 email

Mom and Dad,

I'm sad to say we didn't see as much success this week, though we did see some and are grateful for that.

Last Monday, we went way out after preparation day (so it was pretty dark) to visit a former investigator. She apparently teaches an English and math class at night for teenage kids, so she wasn't super concerned with talking to us at the time. As we talked with her a bit more, she mentioned her class, then had the idea to have us come in and introduce ourselves in English to the kids and talk with them for a while. She ended up really enjoying having us there, as did the kids. We've committed to come to a Halloween party she's throwing for her students and she's committed to come to the Branch Halloween Party, as well as meet with us.

On Tuesday, we planned to take the whole day and just visit potential investigators and newer investigators to see if we couldn't get a lesson in with them. Well, it turned out that we couldn't. We did, however, get a couple of referrals that look promising. At one point, we went to the apartment of the in-active man whose wife wants to learn about the church but has the opposing sokagakkai parents. Turns out, they planned on coming to church that Sunday, the husband wants to get active again, and the wife is considering baptism and really wants to learn. It's funny how these things work out, huh?

Wednesday, the lessons we scheduled didn't end up happening. Bogedahl had the idea of tracting these college apartments waaay out there. When we got there, one of the buildings was closed entirely and the rest of them had a combined three people that answered, and those three didn't really have interest. BUT, on the way back, we decided we had time to tract a little more, so we stopped at another huge apartment complex in town. Turns out it's a popular place for internationals and young people to live at. One of the first doors we came to was one of a prospective investigator. She's full-blooded Chinese but grew up in LA. She decided to move to Japan for a year, just because, and teach English. She's not liking where she's living because her friends aren't nearby; her friends hardly even speak English. The city is small (remember she's from LA) and she's not sure what to do right now; however, she's optimistic and every now and then she and her friends go down to Kobe to go to a Christian church. So, she was actually really interested in what we were telling her at her door and she gave us her phone number and said she'd like to check out the Mormon church more. BAM!

Thursday, a bike tire popped on Bogedahl Choro's bike. We were going to fix it but it turns out that the tire was filled with that goop that automatically repairs small holes. The hole was really big so the goop leaked out and got everywhere, making a patch-job impossible. His bike has weird tires so he couldn't find the right tube and had to order one; that tube will come in a week. So, for the day, we walked around to visit people, so our range was limited. But, we had a great lesson with an investigator. During companionship study, we decided exactly what we were going to teach him--which was stuff we've taught him before--and exactly how we were going to teach it. We're convinced that was guided by the Spirit because he committed to come to church (which he did!) and is progressing now!
There was a typhoon that was going to hit and I was super excited--but it ended up dying down by the time it got to us, so it was just a lot of rain. The last couple of days, we've had a TON of rain and a TON of lighting. It's been awesome. Going shopping earlier today, there was a "semi" that ran through a puddle and sprayed water all over us. Luckily we had our kapas on. Unluckily, my ear is waterlogged a bit. It was actually pretty funny.

I'm so happy to hear that everyone's doing well (Dad and his test, Jaron and his job, Garret and his surgery, etc). Give everyone my love and support, and let them know they'll be in my prayers.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 26th, 2013 email

Mom and Dad,

This week wasn't quite as eventful as some of the other weeks, but it was still great. We've been teaching many more lessons per week than have been taught in Nishiwaki over the past couple years. So, we may not make all Standards but we've certainly turned this area around in terms of how much success it's seen.

We started off the week well on Monday by getting a new investigator who was actually an old yakusokusha--investigator with a baptismal date--but ended up not getting baptized and stopped meeting with the missionaries because he's had a rough life and problems with the Word of Wisdom. It seems like this area has lots of people who were at some point yakusokusha but then dropped out. This time around, he seems much happier. He's another one of those people that's old and never married and lives alone or with their parent(s). There are actually quite a few people like that in Japan.

On Tuesday we had an appointment with a potential investigator that fell through, so we biked out to find a former investigator. He either no longer lives there or the coordinates in the navigation are wrong. We decided to knock on doors while we were out there and tract these nearby modern houses that stuck out because all the other houses in the area are traditional houses. We actually only ended up knocking on one door because the young woman came out and talked with us for a while. She's really interested in learning about the church and wants to meet with us, but her mother doesn't want her involved in anything to do with religion. The real point of the story is that when we did the companion exchange the previous week, Bogedahl and our DL had a lesson with a young woman who was really interested in the church. So, Bogedahl had been praying really fervently that we'd find a young person because the one he taught was really interested and the lesson was really great. Well, after all had been planned and not worked out, the very next person we talked to was a young person who had a lot of interest. Prayer works.

On Wednesday I popped my tire again... Don't worry! it wasn't as bad. I ended up running over a rain chasm because it was dark and I couldn't see; however, I ran perpendicular over it rather than parallel so my tires took a good knocking. This was actually in the same area I popped my tire the last time. This time it didn't all pop immediately. It made a small hole and as we were riding back I noticed it was unusually hard to ride. Then I went over a little bump and heard an audible popping sound and the air quickly escaped; however, my trainer was ahead of me and I couldn't get his attention. When he stopped at a light and looked back to see me, he didn't, so he waited and I caught up. Since we had made it that far, I said I was fine riding back on the flat, so we did. Which sucked. I kept my weight shifted to the front to not ruin the rim entirely, so my whole body hurt by the end of the ride. The next day when we patched it it was easy--so it's fine again. The rim isn't even in bad shape from riding on a flat!

On Friday we had another companion exchange, except this time I went to Miki and Bogedahl stayed here. The thing about Miki is it's never really seen success, even with Barney長老, whose an amazing DL, and his trainee. I was assigned with Barney. We set goals and worked hard to achieve them and we saw miracles. One was with a family who use to meet with the missionaries. When we visited them, the mother was very kind and accepted to meet with the missionaries again. While housing the complex we even had fun with these kids that we were hiding from because they remember Barney and wanted to bug him. Second-we ran into these two Vietnamese girls who were just walking by and wanted to speak in English. The two of them aren't good at English, but they're decent in Japanese. We ended up having to communicate in Japanese, which wasn't any of our first languages, and they accepted a teaching appointment! The Lord really does make anything possible if it's expedient for the progression of the Gospel. Also, while on the exchange, we could see a lightning storm way off in the distance over Nishiwaki--we saw all the bolt strikes and everything! When we met up again to exchange back, Bogedahl and Crook talked about how they had a lesson in the lighting. Cool stuff.

"Mata raishu"--また来週--is, effectively, "see you next week" or "until next week" and "dendo"--伝道--is "proselyting", so effectively missionary work. Hakujin--白人--is a white person. The sheep revelation is our ultimate goal and the other goals we set, as well as the Standards, are there to raise our vision and help us become the perfect missionaries, the makoto no deshi we can be.

One more thing I keep forgetting to mention: there are vending machines EVERYWHERE. There are literally machines at about every corner and building. They look a lot different from American ones, but it's actually kind of convenient when you need a drink. I don't know if they're all owned by their respective companies, or the government put them there, or individual people and store owners buy and place them for another source of income, but it's weird. Also, since it's not illegal here, a lot of cars have LED under glow or side glow or some sort of alternative lights of different colors for decoration on their cars. Even "semi's" have them. I put the quotation marks because even the semis are small. Most commonly the lights are blue or green. Some cars even have entirely different colored head lights. It actually looks pretty cool, especially on the cool cars.

In church yesterday, they mentioned a new thing about "super missionaries." Would any of you be familiar with that and if it's going on in America? If so, I'd like to hear more. But anyways, give my love to everyone!


Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19th, 2013 email

Mom and Dad,

Last Monday evening, after P-day, I had the dendo fire--the missionary work fire--big time. Having almost hit all the Standards of Excellence last week, I reeeally wanted to hit them this week. So, when we went out to knock doors at an apartment complex that night, I was praying in my heart that we'd say something that would interest at least one person to ask us to come back since part of the Standards is 3 new investigators each week. Long story short, that night we didn't find anyone new; however, we did end up having 3 at church  yesterday, so we again almost hit all Standards. This week is looking good with new investigators, and having 3 go to church.

On Monday, we went to visit the investigator of ours I think I've mentioned before, who's Methodist, and gave him a lesson. He lives way out in the boonies. He doesn't live as far away as the one who bought us McDonald's and other stuff last week, but at least that trip has shade. The bike to the Methodist investigator is through flat plains with nothing by the road to offer shade. That day was also particularly hot, probably almost 100 degrees! We made it to his house and he offered us popsicles. What I wasn't expecting was the flavor of popsicle. I already knew in Japan that anko--sweet beans--are popular, but I'd never imagine they'd make anko popsicles with pieces of anko in it. It wasn't the most satisfying thing I've tasted, but at least the lesson went well and he's getting more and more interested in the Gospel. He even comes to church regularly and is amazed by what he learns.

There's another guy, he's just a potential investigator right now, but our story with him demonstrates an important principle. This man lived in Utah for a while with his family, so naturally he was exposed to the church. When we initially contacted him, he said he wasn't interested and he knew about the Mormons. Well, Bogedahl長老 mentioned how he grew up in Utah and struck a conversation from that. After all that, he reconsidered and said we could visit him again and teach a message. It goes to show that many people are closed off to the Gospel because they don't know what the members are like. But, when you're friendly to them, they open up and start to realize that the Gospel can be something incredible.

We got a referral from the branch president for a man he started doing business with. This guy--he's actually a really cool guy and grew up around a Mormon family--owns a restaurant and lives in a small wood cabin next to the restaurant. Apparently, when there was a tsunami a while ago, he had a dream a number of months beforehand that there'd be a tsunami. Well, a little over three months ago, he had a dream where he was visited by two missionaries, one with golden hair, the other with black hair (FYI, being half-Asian, Bogedahl has black hair). When we first met with him, his wife reminded him of the dream, so he's been really excited to meet with us every week even though he's super busy with his restaurant. The Lord really does prepare people to receive the Gospel.

We also had a companion exchange this Friday and Saturday with the other companionship in the district. The funny part was they arranged the two first-transfer missionaries to serve together, and the two veterans to serve together. So, Crook長老 and I had some exciting adventures trying to communicate with people in Japanese. We even had a couple lessons planned for that day that the two of us had to handle. It actually went really well. Bogedahl長老 says miracles always happen on kokans, especially when it's the two newbies together. I'd say some miracles did happen.

I'll need to bring the notes from Zone Conference next time to share the most inspirational thing Zinke会長 said.
The AC isn't in the bedroom. It's in the study room, so we have to cool the bedroom down with normal fans anyway.
Part of the tall, white guy attention is probably from the fact that there are maybe 50,000 people in this city and adjacent cities, so hakujin's are a rare sighting.

That's all for this week. As always, give everyone my best! Also remember to help out the missionaries and try to get involved in dendo. Members really do make a huge difference in the work. That's one of the things they stressed most at the MTC, especially during in-field orientation.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 12th, 2013 email

Mom and Dad,

Tuesday was Zone大会 (taikai), or Zone Conference, so we traveled back down to Kobe for that (it's about a 2 hour trip involving two trains and a bus from the station to the mission home). We ran into a few other elders also headed there so we all got to chat while riding the bus. Zone Conference here involves three zones all meeting at the same time. The three for this one were Kobe, Kobe West--Akashi, and Fukuchiyama (mine). All-in-all there were about 30 missionaries present. The first half of 大会 was a couple of presentations from the medical and mental health advisers for the Asia North area. Then we had lunch and went on to the spiritual part of 大会 and the training. President Zinke's the man! The stuff he spoke about was great and after him we got to hear the testimonies of all the missionaries from those three zones who are leaving after this transfer or the next. Basically 大会 is super awesome. One of the new procedures in place is that the missionaries study every morning at the church. It's actually great timing because the AC in our apartment went out, so studying in the heat was awful.

Wednesday and Thursday went pretty normal. We have, however, been having tons more success in the area. We didn't do any intense 'finding' because we were busy teaching a bunch of lessons and visiting other potential investigators and referrals. One referral was really solid and we're teaching the two of them every week.

Friday started out REALLY fun. There's this singing group called Harmony that's popular in Japan. Apparently they sang at a hospital and one of the patient's dying wish is to get their CD's and listen to them. The hospital is in our area and the bishop of Bogedahl長老's last ward is friends with people in the group. So he called us up and we met him Friday morning to deliver the CD's to her son who also is in the area. Long story short, we drove WAY out far to where we'd never have time to bike to and delivered CD's to the son. Cool little tidbit: we delivered them to him at his workplace which is a sake factory. He gave us each an information brochure about the sake his plant makes. Then the bishop dropped us back off. He also gave us trail mix and A&W! Never did I think I'd get that in Japan! Thank you, Costco!

Then came Saturday. I'll be surprised if I have a better day at anytime on my mission than I had that day. The morning was normal with studying but, once it was afternoon time, it picked up. We had planned to go out and visit that one investigator that lives way out about an hour or so by bike. So, because of that, we weren't able to make time for anything else that evening and were pretty bummed, especially since 大会 was Monday and we had not been able to proselyte. We hit the road, stopped by a 7 Eleven (which are surprisingly everywhere) to get some drinks for the long trip. Our investigator had called us right before we left and said that there'd be another guy there who's interested in the church, so it became a referral contact as well! Then, as we were biking along, we stopped at a red light and a man on a bike came up to us. He was really excited and told us how he had met the missionaries a year ago but couldn't meet with them because he didn't have time, but now he has time and wanted to meet with us. A new investigator, entirely out of the blue! Overall, the long ride didn't even feel that long. Finally, at the house of the person we were visiting, we ate and drank the stuff they gave us to relieve us of the long ride, then we talked for a while, bore our testimonies, and the guy she had invited over said he'd like to meet with us and learn more. New investigator! Also, this woman and her husband are some of the nicest people ever (refer back to story of being taken to yakiniku restaurant). At some point the woman left the room, and all of the sudden she comes back in with two huge bags of McDonald's: she had gone and bought food for us all, and the two of us each gratefully received of a large Big Mac combo. So happy. They also ended up giving us the glasses from the McDonald's purchase, mats for our bedding that keeps it cool, and a large watermelon. We really got spoiled that night. But that's not all. While in the lesson, a former investigator whom Bogedahl also knew from his last area called us and said he wanted to take us to that night's まつり festival. When we got back to Nishiwaki, he was waiting for us with his car, and we went to the festival for a little while. After the festival, we had an impromptu lesson with him in the church and he said he'll meet with us more. Another new investigator! Just goes to show you that the Lord can do anything in any amount of time. If you sacrifice the time, He'll make it worth while. He'll even lead those who are ready to teach to you. Pretty big week. I'm excited for this next week.