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.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 5th, 2013 email

Mom and Dad,
To start off, I'll say that the week before last we started seeing some growth and success, as we've gotten to know the area, the members, and the investigators. Well, this week there was even more growth and there are a couple people we feel confident in inviting them to be baptized.
Last Tuesday was certainly a unique experience. We planned to work around the area then go to visit a part-member couple. We ended up leaving late so it was getting pretty dark as we biked a few miles down a highway (that's one thing I've forgotten to mention: it gets really dark really early--at about 8pm). So we're going down this overgrown sidewalk adjacent to the highway, dodging plants and garbage that we can barely see. Being human, I didn't see this one bush hanging over the railing and in the way of the path. It ended up swiping me across the left arm and cut me a bit, and left some really awesome looking scratches. I have pictures, so you'll see. We go on and visit this less-active man with an investigator wife. They really like the missionaries but the wife is afraid to associate with them because of her parents.

WEDNESDAY didn't go as planned mainly because of my bike. We had scheduled a lesson at the church in the morning with a couple members joining us, but the investigator didn't show up. We had to walk to get there and walk back. On the way back, we picked up a can of air that you push into a tie valve and fills it up. We were going to patch the tire and fill it in about 30 minutes. It turned out that the can actually fills your tire with air and some weird liquid. It was easy to find the holes with liquid spilling out of them, but it made a mess that we had to clean up. All-in-all it took about 2 hours and my tire was still flat.
THURSDAY we took our bikes to the church to look for tools to take the wheel off. There we found one of our potential investigators. He was in the parking lot spraying his car and the asphalt with a hose.We had an impromptu lesson with him in the church. After we finish and he leaves, we find a wrench to take the wheel off and take just the wheel and tube back to the bike shop. We get there and find that same guy from the church there, just chilling with the shop owner. He's everywhere, I tell you!

On Saturday we had a lesson at the house of an investigator who we knew from the area.We get to his house, way out, and outside his door are dozens and dozens of cigarette butts. No matter! We knocked on his door and he invited us in. We find dozens of cigarette butts on the floor, which are made of woven straw. He gave us brand new socks and a brand new box of laundry detergent. He's a really nice guy and seems to be ready to be challenged to be baptized, except the fact that he's struggling with quitting smoking.

Now a random paragraph of other little things: The milk here is really creamy. Even the low fat milk tastes like it could be whole milk. There are bazillions of cicadas. They're loudest in the morning but they chirp all day long. You rarely see them as they stay in trees and bushes for the most part. When we climbed the mountain during the last day at the mission home, we saw a giant centipede eating a cicada! Whoever designed the road-side rain gutters should not be allowed in the celestial kingdom. Essentially, on either side of the road, there's just a big, foot-wide, cement chasm that the rain falls into and flows through. For driveways, there are either secure, cement squares or loose, metal plates bridging the gap. If you were to be riding your bike and fell into one, it'd be a very bad day. Though there are tons of people that ride bikes, there's not much room, if any, on some streets. Main roads usually have wide sidewalks, though. The cars drive by a couple feet to your right and the rain chasms a couple feet to your left make it pretty nerve-racking, especially at night. I've been in some crazy spots on the road at less than desirable times of the day with less than desirable weather that would probably cause you to have a panic attack if you saw for yourself. I'm a big person in a place built for small people.Teenage and young adults seem to have never seen a tall, white person before; it's almost like I'm a celebrity.

I actually haven't encountered any strange food that I'd be less than enthusiastic to eat. Everything I've had has been delicious! My comma usage and sentence structure are fading since I'm around Japanese all the time. The word "eh"is just a silly thing that is equivalent to ending a sentence in Japanese with ね (ne), which they do a lot.

Everything is great. Investigators and prospects are looking good and we seem to discover a new one every day. My companion and I are getting a long great.The branch members are very kind. They're all so willing to participate in a lesson and every week there's some nice food left in the fruit box. The area is huge and it's a great landscape. We're actually surrounded be "mountains" that are really just large hills. The weather has begun to include much more rain and thunderstorms. I love it! Bogedahl Choro says he hasn't experienced a typhoon while in Japan. I probably won't see any this typhoon season since we're pretty far inland. I guess I'll have to hope I'll be by the coast next year!