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!