Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 15th, 2014

Mom and Dad,

This week was filled with Ako history! Last preparation day we went to Oishi Shrine and Ako Castle (my second time to the Jinja, first time to the castle ruins). A bunch of cool things had been set up in preparation for the upcoming Gishi Sai, so it was even cooler than last time. Also getting to see the footings of where the castle used to be was pretty cool. All throughout the week more things were set up as the time for Gishi Sai to begin drew closer.

Tuesday I went to Himeji for a kokan. Even in Himeji there was a lot of hype about Gishi Sai; it's definitely a big deal all throughout the area. Anywho, I feel like Takaku Choro is my second companion because Hayashi Choro kokan's so much with us and half the time I'm in Himeji!

On Wednesday we had a lesson with the guy who was referred to us by the member who had talked to him about the Restoration.We taught him about God and centered the lesson around 2 Nephi 26:24 and related it to him having had a lot of hard experiences in his life. He found it very touching and was even disappointed that the hour ended so quickly. He was happy to set another appointment!

Thursday we met with our investigator who goes to a Methodist church and who has a lot of questions. We had a short, simple plan prepared, but it ended up taking about 75 minutes to teach it because he had so many questions. We challenged him to focus more on reading the Book of Mormon because he really only enjoys reading the Old Testament;that lesson was on 2 Nephi 32:3 and connected it to the preceding 2 Nephi 31. I don't know if it was what we shared or the fact that we spent over an hour talking about one single verse, but he seemed much more interested in the Book of Mormon than before and was happy to commit to focus more on it.

The next day we met with the guy that takes us out to eat and with our shigansha. We pretty much showed the guy who takes us out to eat that he really does want to pray and learn from God that the Book of Mormon and this church are true. It took some effort to help him realize that is what he needed to do. We knew it all along, but he just had a hard time seeing it. Then, we taught our shigansha the Atonement. We relied heavily on the Book of Mormon to teach it in order to not only strengthen his faith in Christ but also his testimony of the Book of Mormon. It ended up to be a really great lesson. Over the last couple weeks he had been too busy to meet. When we followed up about praying and reading he admitted he hadn't been doing those two things a whole lot. It was definitely a very beneficial lesson for him.

Saturday we had another dose of pre-Gishi Sai! We went out with a former investigator who's really good friends with the missionaries and went to Oishi Jinja and Ako Jo again! There was sooo much stuff set up since Gishi Sai was the very next day. Every year on the day before Gishi Sai the staff at the Jinja open all the exhibits for free so you can go in and check out artifacts that the samurai in Ako actually wore. Then we went to the Ako Jo ruins for the yearly presentation. For the past couple of years they've built the frame of a castle tower and then light it up with Christmas lights at night on the couple weeks before Gishi Sai. Then every half hour they have a big presentation projected onto the rock wall that the tower frame is built on. It was a pretty cool thing to check out and I'm still chuckling that I've been lucky enough to be in several towns at the perfect time of year to see a very popular celebration.

Sunday was Gishi Sai! We went to the church at 9 in the morning and most of the missionaries in this zone were there to help out with a huge open house the church puts on every year during the matsuri. 18 missionaries in total! The matsuri started at 10 and there were missionaries standing on the streets inviting people in, some singing hymns and doing hand bells, and some inside doing the open house presentations. We did it all throughout the parade which lasted 'til 3 in the afternoon. At the very end, 47 people dressed up as samurai and march through the street. The person who played the part of the main samurai, Oishi Kuranosuke, is apparently a famous actor in Japan. It was a pretty awesome festival!
You can imagine how happy I was at the Heisman trophy announcement.

Alright, that's it for this week! Enjoy the days as they count down to Christmas! I still need to put up the paper tree...


December 8th, 2014

Mom and Dad,

Got my new companion fresh from the Rock (that's what we call Shikoku because it's basically just a really big rock right off the coast of Honshu). He's way genki and hard-working, so I have a good feeling this is gonna be a great transfer!

In a previous email I said that winter in Ako has turned out to be pretty warm, right? Yeah, forget it. The temperature dropped like a brick overnight. Last preparation day was about 15 Celsius, then the very next day it was 3 Celsius with strong, icy winds blowing all day. It's been around that temperature since, with mild winds still blowing. I asked around and people said we got a cold front that came straight from Siberia. Makes sense, ね? That was also Tuesday, the day we rode 20km out along the ocean to our kinjin, so it was particularly cold since there was nothing to stop the winds and what not.
Thursday was a terribly stressful day. The branch president came and helped us move the last couple big items from the house to the new apartment. I thought all of it was done, but I discovered several more things we had to bring with us. Then there was all the cleaning of the house and taking down of decorations that had to be done. On top of that, we discovered that the honbu was still sending mail to the old apartment. We found a slip from the post office saying they tried to deliver a package but we weren't home. So, we were wondering why the honbu still hadn't updated our address over a month after moving out and why they forwarded a package to us the week of transfers. We had to run around trying to get this all taken care of, and it was Duren Choro's package so we had to get it before he transferred the next morning. In the end, mission accomplished.

Following the transfer we had a great couple days! Got a lot of finding done and found a couple PI's, scheduled a couple appointments with three new investigators for the week, and finally got members to help in our lesson with our really old female investigator--she finally accepted a Book of Mormon! We also got our other investigator, the one who takes us out to eat, to accept a Book of Mormon when at first he wouldn't! It's gonna be a great transfer! Possibly my last in Ako, though; but, anything can be done when you just work and rely on the Lord!

Okay, that's my deal for this week. I hope everyone's enjoying the Holiday Season and not freezing! I know that freezing to me is really freezing to most other people.


December 1st, 2014

まぁ、everyone else is saying it's cold, so maybe I'm just crazy?

Mom and Dad,

On to transfer calls: I'm staying! Duren Choro is going to Abeno, right in the middle of Osaka! My new companion will be Morin Choro, a native French-speaking Canadian! Even though he's from Canada, I hear he hates the cold like Duren Choro. いいんじゃない?(Whatever!) Oh, and Ako is going to have four Choro's starting this transfer!

There seems to be a pattern of me going to tabehodai's on prep day, then later being fed tons of sushi. And by later I mean not long after. Remember in Shimogamo when we went to the $5 buffet, then went sightseeing with our two old investigators and they bought us tons of sushi? Well, last week after eating at the yakiniku tabehodai, we had a lesson with a woman and her mother, and they bought tons of sushi just for the occasion of us coming over!

We biked out to Mitsu to meet our kinjin investigator on Tuesday. Every time we have a lesson with him is awesome! We taught Christ's Ministry and the Great Apostasy and he understood it all immediately. The best part was when we were in the middle of teaching the Great Apostasy he asked who God called to be the next prophet! It clicks for him sooo well! We still have to figure out how he can get to church, but the couple of LA's that live out there seem pretty likely to be able to help out. Of course, we need to find them, as well!

Later in the week we had a kokan following district meeting.We taught a lesson to the guy who takes us out to eat every time we meet and this time we taught about God. Recently we discovered that he believes in spirits. We focused on teaching God around that belief he already has; such as, how God made our spirits, is our spirit Father, and gave us life. He understood it pretty well--instead of insisting he can't understand, he was insisting he can't believe! It sounds weird to be positive over that but it's a pretty big step up. He also gave a pretty good prayer at the end of the lesson-- another improvement!

I'll tell you more about the taikai at Christmas, but I'll just say for now that the church is making some really good movies these day!

Okay, so this week actually was a pretty short one, even though I didn't say it'd be! Funny the way that works, やろう?I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and enjoys the remainder of the great Holiday Season!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 24, 2014

Wait...Thanksgiving is this week?! I thought it was hard to keep up on holidays before they started switching them around. Don't tell me Christmas is actually in July... Wait: Thanksgiving is usually the third Thursday in November, right?

Speaking of Christmas, Welch Kaicho will be letting us skype home! I'm not sure what skype account we'd be using, but we still have a month to get that all figured out. If you still just want to do a normal phone call, just let me know. I'll understand if you don't. 

In other news, an investigator I taught a lot in Tottori got baptized! If you look through the pictures on my SD card (I still need that back if you want pictures of Kyoto), he's the big guy that's basically always wearing a doctors mask. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he got baptized! The church is true, and miracles never cease to happen! You have my guarantee!

Well, I don't have a whole lot of time to email today because some members are taking us out to eat (at tabehodai yakiniku!) and we still have to finish up the last parts of the move, so this'll be short and probably really bara bara (umm...sporadic? I don't know English anymore).

We had Zone Taikai this week! It was great! I still remember my first Zone Taikai last year in August. Things have changed a whole lot since that taikai! It was an awesome thing to attend, and we enjoyed this taikai immensely!

Wednesday we had another golden member-missionary moment. One of the shimai in the branch set up an appointment for us to meet with this man she knows who has started to believe in God more and more. The lesson was.......interesting (mainly because she is very enthusiastic about the Gospel and more or less "open[ed] up the windows of heaven and pour[ed him] out a [lesson] that there [wasn't] enough room to receive it." It was a very spiritual setting and he agreed to meet more with us and continue learning more!

Thursday and Friday: more bike problems! I'm not sure how much your prayers and fasts are helping that out, haha! I think this bike is just past the point of repair and needs to be resurrected already!

We met with our shigansha, finally! He's been pretty busy lately. He wanted to know more about the Fall, so we taught from Moses 3 and 4. We didn't just leave it at that; we connected it to baptism and how baptism enables us to receive of the full power of the Atonement and overcome the bad effects of the Fall and. I think his desire for baptism jumped up a decent amount through that lesson and the Spirit!

That's basically the gist of my week. Things started to pick up again! I'm certain it's because the move is almost over so we're not spending as much time with that, and we can feel the Spirit more abundantly since we're not stressed out of our minds half the time!

I may or may not be able to get cherry pie filling and sour cream. I talked one of the eikaiwa students to snag me some next time she goes to Costco, assuming they have it. Assuming, also, that she knows what it looks like! It took probably 5 minutes to explain what cherry pie filling was! I can get pudding here, so that's fine. Maybe a little more toothpaste--I'm almost out and Japanese toothpaste doesn't have fluoride in it. I also grabbed some slacks an old missionary left behind at the honbu when we ere there for Taikai, so I don't need slacks.

Grant's getting married already?! Honestly, I recently had two dreams about being done with my mission and getting married. Probably the two most unwelcome dreams I've had in a long while!

Nope, I didn't feel any earthquake. Where's Nagano?

Okay, that's all I have for this week! The days go by quicker and quicker and it feels weirder and weirder. Pray for them to go slower! And, of course, give my best to everyone and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving for me!


November 17, 2014

Six Months! That can't be right! I just got here! Right?

Mom and Dad,

I've passed the 3/4th mark. Doesn't feel like I have. I'm not old! Then again, my mission president told me I'm an old missionary last do many other missionaries. Duren Choro tries to tell me I'm old, but I remind him he's only one transfer behind me.
We taught the guy that lives way far away on Tuesday. This time we taught about prophets and dispensations, and the priesthood. He is so quick to understand and soak everything in! He told us he believes everything we've taught him, too! The only challenge is we have no idea how he can go to church. He lives way far from the two closest churches and doesn't have a car or anything for transport. We discovered a less active lives in that area so we're hoping he'll return to activity and hopefully be willing to bring this guy with him every week.

My back tire popped just before getting to his house so we were really worried about getting back to Ako. The investigator directed us to a nearby bike shop, so we went there. It's owned by this really funny old guy who is very difficult to understand even if you're native Japanese. He and his wife were way nice to us, and even did the work needed on the bike for free! That's not even the funniest part! While waiting in there, a middle schooler from the neighborhood sees us in the shop, comes in, and is absolutely awe-struck that there were two gaijin in front of him. He's been taking private English lessons since he was a kid, so he's really good and he LOVES America (and gaijin). I've never seen anyone as happy as he was.

Wednesday we moved a piano. A really big, heavy piano. No joke! It weighed probably 200kg. It's a super nice piano that was used in a popular music school somewhere in Japan, so it's made entirely of hardwood and dense, high quality metal. Crazy.

Friday, we had district meeting and I went to Himeji on a kokan! It's so much fun to dendo in the city! It's also way more fun to spend all your time talking to people on the street rather than knocking on doors. Oddly enough, all the Japanese missionaries like housing more, but that didn't stop us from streeting the whole time! He's fresh out of training (in Nishiwaki, like me!).

Saturday morning, we were doing study, then got a big surprise. Takaku Choro, the guy I was kokan'ing with, left the phone in the bedroom, so when he grabbed it we found several missed calls from Ako. Turns out the branch president called them that morning and said he was coming over to help us move stuff from the shimai's house to the new apartment. That all went on as the two of us rushed to Ako. Basically we spent the rest of the day taking in what the branch president left outside the apartment and bringing more stuff from the house. We can't really carry much on our bikes, though, so it was kind of a slow process. There are still things to grab and things to have someone move by car, but the new apartment is nice. We don't have gas or water yet, so we're practically sleeping and studying in the apartment, and eating and doing hygiene stuff in the house...which is literally half-way across Ako. So, it's been a really interesting weekend.

If you don't like brussel sprouts, I'll have to show you goya. It has a really bitter, pungent taste. Most Japanese people don't even like it, but I find it alright. Then there's nato, the fermented soy beans!

That's all for this week, it seems. Sounds like it's much colder there than here! Last year was probably the opposite: Kitarokko was pretty cold! Duren Choro thinks I'm crazy, but he's from California.Give my best to all!


November 10, 2014

Mom and Dad,

This week we were able to meet with the kinjin that lives on the other side of the area (in Mitsu). Apparently last week he was just sleeping so he didn't hear when we came to his house the first time, or the second time...or the third; however, we had a really good lesson with him. We taught him about God and prayer. When describing how making wrong choices separates us from God, he looked up and said, "what should I do for God?" It doesn't sound all amusing in English, but because of certain Japanese grammar points, it was way awesome. Basically it was along the lines of "what would be good to do as a favor for God?" Cool stuff!

We also had ZTM this week. It was a really good ZTM and one of the zone leaders was my district leader when I was in Shimogamo. After ZTM was kind of crazy because we had to get off the train before getting back to Ako to teach a lesson to an investigator living in Aioi. The man is really good friends with the branch president so we all went to drop by their house after having a lesson and going out to eat. I thought it'd be quick but they ended up talking for a looooong time, and we ended up getting back to Ako without time to meet with our shigansha. The lesson we had, though, went way great. We taught about our spirits and the pre-Earth life. He shared some crazy experiences he had as a kid. He definitely believes we have some sort of spiritual being inside us due to those experiences.

Lastly, we had the Primary Program in Sacrament Meeting. It's funny to see how all the different units do their Primary Program with a very limited number of kids and age range. They always get it to work out, somehow. It went pretty well. The best part was the two sunbeams sitting front and center that can't really sing or do anything, so they goofed around the whole time. Duren Choro and I had some good laughs.

It was a pretty tough week. My theory still stands that you always have really good weeks following a series of long, tsurai (hard to endure) weeks.

As for my Christmas package, I can't really think of anything I need or want (other than jello salad). I'm pretty well set. Maybe just one of the ties we wore to Brianna and Alex's wedding--yes, I've repented--turquoise is fine. You know how I've become with Christmas and birthdays the last few years--whatever's fine. Just don't spend too much because I know you'll send me a ton anyways!

I still have the cold pills you gave when I left. I haven't actually used any of them, though. Just a few ibuprofen. I'll be just fine, though.

For the Gishi-Sai back story, you can probably google the story of the 47 samurai. That's the reason they have the Matsuri--the Samurai were all from Ako.

Hey, it's been raining a lot in Ako! Duren Choro doesn't really like it; he's from the Bay Area.

まぁ、正直に、 Oregon should be ranked #1. On the way to ZTM, another missionary in the zone told me Oregon lost to Utah. I took the opportunity to clear up the difference between Oregon and Oregon State. He's also really into college football.

Give everyone my best and thank them for their love and support!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

11/3/14 email

 In terms of stress--holy cow, this was a stressful week. Now I understand why you weren't very excited to make the big move to Portland. I thought going to/from BYU and transferring was a hassle. Too bad we have to move again to our new apartment in a couple weeks...

Mom and Dad

We spent any time outside of planning, teaching, et al getting the move to the shimai's house done. We had little pockets of time here and there for finding, at least.

Last prep day we met in the morning with one of the shimai's investigators. It's a couple whose whole family is really good at English, including them! It felt weird to 1) be teaching a lesson in the morning, and 2) teaching a lesson on prep day. Neither happen all that often! It was a nice addition though, because all of prep day we spent starting prep for the move.

Of course, the next day we biked to the way far place again (Mitsu). We stopped in Aioi to visit another one of the shimai's investigators, with whom we were able to make an appointment with. Then we continued on to Mitsu to teach the kinjin we found. He wasn't home though so we housed in the area some more, returned to see if he was home, housed, visited, etc. We were never actually able to find him. We met some more nice people while housing and at one point a truck selling bread stopped in the neighborhood. In Japan, bread is a big deal. It's nothing like European bread but people really love it and make all kinds of different bread. I bought this chocolate and whipped cream bread that was probably the closest thing to a real donut I've had in Japan (aside from Krispy Kreme). The donuts here are shameful.

Thursday we did the move...for the most part. In the morning we had a man from Facilities Management come and take away the big things we can't throw away without paying tons of money. I thought he'd have a big truck, but when he rolled up in his van I was very worried we wouldn't be able to fit it all. Somehow, it all fit! Every single nook and cranny was stuffed, but it all fit! Then, the Branch President and his wife came to haul everything else to the shimai's house. They only had two hours available so we hurried to get absolutely everything. We got almost everything moved out, just some small stuff left that barely fit in the basket of my mamachari. Taking it by bike to the house was interesting and we got a lot of funny looks.

Friday ended up being like waking up from a nightmare! We had district meeting but in Himeji rather than Ako. Getting to the church is really hard because you either walk for several kilos or you have to figure out which of the dozen or so buses is the right one. We managed it just fine. It just meant travel time to get back would take a while, cutting our time to get the rest of the stuff out of the apartment very short. We got back and called a recycle shop to see if they could come take some big appliances before we headed out to Aioi for a couple lessons. They couldn't. That was scary because we were to have everything out of the apartment by November 1, which was the very next day. Kind of in a half-freaking out, half-reasoning it'll all be fine mindset went to Aioi. One of the people got too busy to meet, so we went back and I tried the recycle shop again. We only had a small window before our next lesson, then the day would be over. They said they could do it because they had some business to take care of in our neighborhood, afterall! We took care of that, then had the lesson with our shigansha. IT went pretty well, but I was kind of stressed out still, and I had caught a cold the day before, so it was an interesting appointment.

Sunday also was kind of disappointing because we weren't able to visit all the remaining investigators of the shimai we hadn't visited yet. The phone died and we lost the charger in the move, so we had to spend a while searching through every box and bag we moved trying to find it. IT was no where to be found. After a lot of effort we discovered the branch president took it back with him to Aioi, so we used a members charger to charge the phone while we visited the investigators. None of them really had any interest in continuing to meet, though. But....we did finally get everything moved, figured out, and everyone visited!

In Ako, the branch actually cancelled the Halloween party a while ago so they can focus on the upcoming Gishi-sai, a really big festival that takes place in Ako every year to commemorate a pretty awesome story concerning samurai that lived in Ako back in the day.
Okay, that's all I have for this week! I'm pretty excited to get back to a normal week of dendo with no dealing with moving and/or lost phone chargers! Give my best to everyone! Happy (late) Halloween!


10/27/14 email

...there's something to deal with lurking about. This week will be pretty interesting. The past week started getting pretty interesting.

Mom and Dad,

Update from last week: we won't be moving to the sisters' house. Actually, we will but temporarily. Basically, Kaicho heard that the floor of the old house was really weak and we could possibly fall through it if we weren't careful. So they cancelled the move, but we had to take all of the food out of the house. Since the Honbu already told the apartment owner we'd be leaving by November, we have to be out by November. They haven't found a new apartment for us yet so we'll be going to the shimais' house (with all the food we just took out) for the time being. You probably know but there's a lot of prep that has to be done. All this week before November 1st.

Last week, we went to tabehodai yakiniku! The closest one is far away, so I haven't been to one since I left Tottori.

Tuesday, we biked way far out again. We met with the guy we found last week. He's sooo incredibly kinjin! That means an awesome investigator--literally means gold person. We talked just very basically with him about the stuff we normally talk about the first time we meet with someone. He loved it! He asked so many questions to get to know more about what we talked about! I think we found the elect we were looking for! The weird method we used to find him seems to actually have worked! After meeting with him we kept finding and ran across other really nice, old people. They didn't have interest but were super kind.

Thursday was the day we were going to have the move but ended up cancelling. We went to get all of the food out, though. They had waaay more food that we anticipated so it took a little while. Then, later in the day we had a shokuji. The woman we had the shokuji with lives alone so someone else to be there. She invited her son to come along. That made for a very interesting night. It was s stressful night! We biked way out to her place but she got home from work late. Had the lesson. We went to eat at a restaurant in Ako, then we had to power bike back to the apartment before 9. I actually had also got my mountain bike back. It doesn't seem any more fixed than before, so riding out there and back was really exhausting.

The next day we had transfers and I met up with Duren Choro then went back to Ako. Being Friday, we had bunch of lessons so we got back, planned, then went to Aioi. After those lessons we went back to Ako. My bike proved to be in no better condition than when I took it into the shop. I'll just add that we went to study at the church the next day and the back tire was magically flat. One day I'll be in an area with a good bike!

Sunday we started running all over the place trying to meet the shimai's investigators and build a relationship with them so they don't just drop. We had to ask for a lot of help from the members since all their investigators are women and we can't meet alone with them. Over the course of the last few days, I've been on the phone with the Honbu a lot, figuring what to do with our housing and how to get it done. It's been an interesting week...

You have no idea-- the cabbage pancakes are sooo good! I promise! I'll make sure you eat some if you ever come to Japan. I've had them many times before. I even had them at Westview once when we took a day to make them in the kitchen during Japanese class!

That's all I have for this week. I would take time to write a bit more, but there're a lot of things to do while in prep day hours to get the move done. I'll write again next week and hopefully there'll be less things on my to do list!


10/20/14 email

Mom and Dad,

First off: transfer calls! Anderson Choro will be going to Fukuchiyama, an area that flooded a couple of months ago. My new companion will be Duren Choro. He's one transfer under me and he actually served in Fukuchiyama and replaced me in Kitarokko. One of the shimai here in Ako will be going home--yes, it's her time--and the other will be transferring to Kitarokko! So, they're closing Ako to Sisters for now and the Elders will be moving into their house! That's probably the biggest news of the transfer.
Last preparation day: Once again, the typhoon failed to impress me. There were decently strong winds and some rain but nothing like a hurricane. It was enough to force us to stay inside the whole day.

The next day was also supposed to have plenty of rain but we woke up to skies without a cloud in sight! Since we had no lesson appointments, we biked out to that really, really far place again! We found a guy that was very kind and seemed quite willing to listen, so we'll hopefully go out and visit him again this week.

On Thursday we had an appointment with a LA who lives in another distant place. This is the same one we couldn't meet with a couple weeks ago because my tire popped and we had to walk back. I was praying that we wouldn't have a flat or other bike problems. We made it quickly and problem-free to his house, thankfully, but he wasn't home.  We took the opportunity to visit another LA who lives close by, and then a former investigator that lives a little further away. Neither of them were home but we did talk to a family member. In both cases, neither seemed very open. Then we rode back to have a lesson with the guy who asks a lot of questions. This time, he asked A TON of questions.We tried inviting him to be baptized in January, but he didn't feel comfortable enough to accept it. 残念。

Friday we had a lesson in Aioi with the referral guy. This time we really helped him to understand prayer and God. At first he was resistant, but by the end he started to take it in. After going out to eat with him we biked back to Ako and met with our shigansha. Bad news: his parents are Hantai and he can't be baptized. Good news: he really wants to be baptized and will next May after he turns 20 and doesn't need his parents permission. Sad news: his birthday is May 19th, the very last day I'll have in Japan. Ugh!

Saturday night, following the weekly ping pong activity, a former investigator who's still really good friends with the missionaries and members, along with the help of some members, put together a shokuji for the missionaries! We made okonomiyaki! Don't know what that is? Cabbage pancakes! They're sooo good! You have to try it....really! It was kind of a bye-bye shokuji since one of the shimai is going home

Finally, on Sunday, the shimai going home and both of us had talks in Sacrament meeting. We're actually the only three that talked. I thought talking for 15 minutes in English was hard: It all went well, though. Also, the referral man and our shigansha both came to church! Following the three hours there was another shokuji put on by the branch. Again, kind of a bye-bye shokuji, but it had other purposes, as well. Basically we have TONS of left-overs to eat. It all was really fun. Then, while out housing later that day there were a couple pretty funny contacts we had. I won't go into detail because they're not all that important nor did any of them really have interest. Someday, though!

My legs are already a lot stronger! When we tried to go to Fukuchiyama, we were required to wear pants. Well, the jeans I brought don't really fit anymore around the thighs...

Still on the Mamachari. We went by to see what was up. They're still waiting for another part to come in. That makes it about four weeks now. They told me two.

K, that looks like all I have for this week. My prayers go out that everyone else has good weeks!


Monday, October 13, 2014

10/13/14 email

A lot of biking
Mom and Dad,

We biked far away a number of times again. I'll have to accept that it'll be a common occurrence and have to deal with not having my mountain bike even though the shop told me it'd be done a week ago.

Tuesday-Maybe the prefix 'tues' means something along the lines of 'bike riding' or 'distant travel' or 'is it bedtime yet?' Back story: Andersen Choro decided to use an elect-locating method taught to him by a member in a past area. So, we went about the locating method and praying. Long story short, The place it ended being is on the complete other side of the area. Plus they're plenty of hills/mountains on the way. Tuesday is when we went out there to start knocking on doors and scouting out the area. On the map it looks like a waaay inaka part of town. We got there and found it's actually quite developed; more developed than Nishiwaki! There are tons and tons of houses there, so it'll take a few trips to get them all housed. I was very tired when we got back to Ako. In addition to that escapade, we had a lesson with a student contacted by a couple earlier missionaries, who called us up and asked if he could meet now that he had time. Blessings come right when we need them!

Friday was sooo busy! We had four lesson appointments--two in Aioi. We had the first with the older Catholic man (in Ako). Then we had to ride out to Aioi to make the next appointment with the LA member. On the way there he called us up and had to cancel due to time constraints. So we went finding for a little in Aioi and went to the next lesson, being with the referral guy from last Sunday. Following the lesson he took us out to eat with the Branch President who had randomly showed up to his house to pull weeds. What a boss! Then we had to book it back to Ako for the last lesson of the day with our shigansha. I don't know how we did it (actually, I do!), but we made it on time to every lesson each one went very well. Again, that day I was very happy to go to sleep.

Aaand of course there was General Conference. I always say Priesthood Session is the best (because it is), but Saturday Morning session was pretty high up there. The Ako building is way tiny and there are no members that know English, so we had to set up the computer in the middle of the genkan for all to see so we and the shimai could watch without breaking mission rules. Then we found that we had no speakers, so we rummaged through the building to find some. We did, but the only ones were either incompatible or didn't have a power cable. We ended up using a pair of headphones placed on the desk in front of us with the volume turned up as loud as possible. Even then it wasn't loud enough. Sooo much work but definitely worth it. As always, my favorite speaker was Uchtdorf管長!

Oh, and the typhoon last week seemed to miss Ako entirely. That's okay, though, because there's apparently another one headed this way!

I miss having Tillamook Mudslide, period. There's nothing even close to it here!

That looks like all there is for this week. Kind of a short email, but しょうがない。 I'll have to let you know next week if the typhoon gets as bad as you've been hearing it to be. 100+mph winds?

Give my love to all and I'll email again next week!

Monday, October 6, 2014

10/6/14 email

In a couple of my last emails I've made mention of going to "Aioi" to dendo. In this area, there are two cities we mainly dendo in: Ako, and Aioi. Our apartment, the church, etc. is in Ako. Aioi is a bit of a bike ride away through big hills and across industrial land. Well, we made that trip 6 times this week. My bike is still in the shop, so we did the journey on my Mamachari (which are really heavy and not suited well for going through hills).

Mom and Dad,

It was a crazy week this week--like the first paragraph sort of explains--but I forgot to bring my planner, so I can't remember exactly what we did each day. You probably remember how on missions all the days tend to blend together.

Last week for prep day we did sightseeing in Ako: Ako Castle ruins and Oishi Shrine! It wasn't quite like in Kyoto but still great. We didn't look much at the footings of the castle ruins but we walked a bit around the shrine. They have a bunch of statues of warriors that fought to defend the castle and the shrine lining the main path to the shrine. It's a bit like the terracotta warriors, I imagine, except there are only two dozen-ish.

Tuesday we went out to Aioi; the first time that week. We mainly did housing all day and visited a member right before heading back. The funniest part was one of the last doors we housed. A young boy opened up and looked at us and we asked if his parents were home. They weren't, so we asked him to give a chirashi to them when they get back. After he goes back in and we turn around to house the apartment across from them, we hear the boy scream to his friends, "there are handsome gaijin at the door!" Nobody opened up the door we just housed, but when we started walking down the stairs we heard rustling at the door and looked to find the same boy peeking out. He sees us, yelps, and jumps back in. As we walk away from the building he and his two friends bang on the window and wave at us. They reacted like we just gave them the best surprise present of their lives.

On Friday we had ZTM in Akashi. Best part: Bentley Choro, my MTC companion, and Langford Choro were also there! The training itself from the zone leaders was great but reuniting with the two of them was pretty fantastic, too. Akashi, being on the other side of the zone from Ako, takes a long time to get back from. Right after we got back we had to rush out on our bikes to Aioi (second time) to have a lesson with a LA. The lesson went sooo well. Maybe because it was in English? Don't know but it was great. He had some concerns and we helped him figure them out using scriptures and experiences. We couldn't stay for too long, however, because we had to book it back to Ako for a lesson with our shigansha. It also may or may not have been raining and pitch black, but I'll never tell. That lesson, though we were quite wet and didn't have much time due to his busy schedule, went very well. We also had a member doseki for us and he helped out quite a bit.

The next day, we went out to dinner with the shigansha. We went to a yakitori (grilled chicken) joint by his apartment. The thing about yakitori, it's sooo good. Chicken doesn't really fill me up, but it was really good.

Sunday. Once again, we headed out to Aioi. We didn't actually plan to but at church the branch president gave us a referral, so we headed out to visit him. The referral is actually the older brother of a LA in the branch. He knows the missionaries and members so he invited us right in. He just retired. We talked with him for a while and got to know him. He has two ghost stories from his childhood that were fun to hear. He kept telling us he's very lonely and bored, so we testified a lot to him about how God's always there for him. He agreed to have us come back so we'll be going again this week. Seems like we'll be going to Aioi every week from here on out. Hopefully I get my mountain bike back.

THAT'S how dendo really should go, especially in those places that have a hard time seeing things get off the ground and take flight: build kankei and trust with the members and they will ask you to visit family and friends. Then you go and visit and they're willing to listen because they are fairly familiar with the church. Members and missionaries should always work together. That's how Zion is built! "And they called themselves Zion because they were of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness..."

The kind of ruined slacks are the lone slacks. Should be okay because suit season is coming up and I won't be wearing them anymore.

まぁ、 I guess that's all I have for now. Plus, time is a little short! Give my love to everyone!


Monday, September 29, 2014

9/29/14 email

Mom and Dad,

Last week, I wanted to buy some new slacks because it's still hot and it'd be nice to have lighter slacks; also, these have taken a bit of a beating. We went to a clothing store and all the slacks I could find were kind of thick--I missed the summer sale by a month. I asked an employee and she said it was all they had so I figured it'd be fine. I didn't know what size I was in centimeters, though. Actually, I don't know what size I am in inches, either! We kind of guessed what size, so I grabbed one with the right waist size (90cm) and tried them on. They were too short, so I looked at my current slacks, did the math, and determined a 91/91 would fit the best. Well, I go out and they have 91 waist but not a single pair comes anywhere close to 91 length, the closest being 80. It looks like I'll have to tough it out with these slacks.

Oh yeah, my bike was having issues so I had to take it into the shop. I'm using a different (more Japanese-sized) bike in the mean time.

The next day we spent in Aioi, about a 45 minute bike ride away from Ako. Let's just say that biking long distance and over hills on a bike much too small for you is hard.....and must look funny from someone else's perspective because I got quite a few funny looks.

After we finished our work in Aioi we just started heading back when my chain snapped. As a side note: I find it remarkable how every other area I'm in finds me having bad luck with bikes. I asked a couple people on the street if there was a bike shop near by. One high school aged girl I asked looked astounded that 1) a gaijin was talking to her, and 2) a gaijin was riding a Japanese-sized bike. Long story short, I could only use one pedal all-the-way back to the apartment.

Wednesday we had the taikai with Ringwood Kaicho, the Area President for Asia North! It was sooo good! If I went into detail I could probably write enough for 3 weeks worth of emails! He talked to us about a lot of really great stuff, and he was very spiritual about it all. Oh, and his wife is Elder Nelson's daughter!

One thing he taught us about was Lehi's vision and Nephi's dream, the significance thereof, and some differences between the two. The next day we had a lesson with our Shigansha. We had actually planned to teach a lesson from 1 Nephi 8! It ended up being a whole lot better with the new insights we received than it would have had we not received them.

Another thing that happened earlier that day was we were biking out to teach a lesson to a less active. He lives pretty far away and we were most of the way there when a small rock caused my front tire to pop so we ended up not being able to make it to the lesson, unfortunately. We had a really good plan for it, too!

The next day we had some time set aside to pass out fliers for eikaiwa and ping pong to the high school students as they were coming out of school. This is where another gaijin mondai comes into play. Many of those kids looked pretty freaked out when I called out to them and started walking towards them. I think they were too scared to not take the flier. Hmmm, maybe it was actually a benefit :)!

That's basically the majority of the outstanding things that happened this week.

Anderson Choro is my current companion. He's not from just one place because his dad works in the Army, so they've moved around a lot. He went to 8 different high schools. His mom is actually from Japan. His family is currently living in Germany. He's a cool guy and he studied Mechanical Engineering at BYU, too!

Our older investigator is a great guy. He keeps saying it'd be reeeally hard to convert--I imagine it would be: he's been Catholic for 80 years!--but he loves having us over and doing the readings we assign. I think once he really starts to feel and recognize the Spirit his progress will skyrocket.
This week at church was a normal Sabbath and next week is Fast Sunday. They wait to receive the translated copies of GC, which takes a week, then we get to see them the week following.

That's all I have for this week! Hopefully gaijin problems won't persist terribly! Haha, I'm not worried at all, actually. I'm used to it! Love you all!


Monday, September 22, 2014

9/22/14 email

Mom and Dad,

Here's the end of my first full week in Ako. We had a pretty good week! It was kind of busy with two kokans and other stuff, but it all worked out well.

Last week following prep day we had a shokuji at the branch president's house. It was a 'Welcome Wilson Choro, Congratulate Akira (the branch president's grandson who just became a deacon that week), and Fellowship Noel Kyodai (less active) Party'. That's quoting the branch president's description of it. They live far away in Aioi, another city in Ako area, as do basically all the members. So it took quite a bit of time to get to and from, but was really great.

Tuesday we had a kokan. Hayashi Choro came here to work with me. I discovered that there are indeed Japanese people that don't act Japanese at all. Hayashi Choro is kind of crazy, but waaay fun: he is way mellow and spiritual when he needs to be, though. It made for a really great kokan. Later in the evening we had a lesson with an investigator that recently got back from summer break. He had only been investigating a couple weeks when he left for break, but he remembered basically everything he was taught prior. The lesson wasn't planned super well because Anderson Choro took the plan we wrote to Himeji, but it was led by the Spirit and went very well.

The next day I met another investigator for the first time. He's up there in years--somewhere around 80, I think. He's been Catholic for a long time, but admitted he doesn't really understand what's taught at church and mainly just goes because his family's been doing it for a long time. He seems to want to join this church because it makes more sense to him and it's easier to understand what we teach, but his wife is super Catholic and won't likely let him. He also has a big responsibility every week at that church because the priest guy left some time ago.

Thursday we had two lessons. One with a former investigator who decided to start investigating again. He, too, is already Christian and likes to learn about other sects. He had tons of really great questions, too! I love investigators that ask questions since you can tell they're trying to learn, want to learn, and are actually involving themselves in the lesson. The other lesson was with the same guy from Tuesday. This time we taught with a thoroughly written lesson plan! At the end we extended a date and he accepted! He'll be working toward being baptized on November 1st!

Friday we had the second kokan and this time I went to Himeji. It's a pretty decent-sized city. It reminds me a lot of Kyoto actually: city-like, but not ridiculously so. It was nice to be in a city again! The best part of the kokan was that one of the four elders there was in my MTC district and the two of us have almost never seen each other in the field. After the day was over we got to chat and catch up about all the happenings. Oh, the zone leaders also came from Akashi to kokan, so we had six elders in a rather small apartment. The two of them ended up sleeping in the kitchen. I had to do that once in Yonago, so I probably can imagine how well they slept.

On Saturday, back in Ako, we had a lesson with another investigator. This time it was an old woman. She's probably one of the kindest, most sincere people I've met! The only issue is she likes to talk about WW2 a lot. To the extent that a 10-minute lesson plan becomes an hour lesson. We also had a ping pong activity to which our new shigansha came. Then after that we visited a family in the branch, shared a message, and they kindly gave us two referrals! THAT is how dendo needs to happen more often! Not only in Japan but all over the world. That's what Welch Kaicho has been stressing to us since he's come: work with the members to establish the church!

Lastly, on Sunday, the main thing that happened is our shigansha came to church! All three hours, too! In Ako, we actually do the hours in reverse order because everyone lives far away and won't make it to Sacrament Meeting if it's not the last hour. No matter, church is always great!

Responses to your question:
Some units in Japan have Primary Programs. Mainly just the ones that have enough kids to do one. Even then each kid will have to do two or three parts.

Okay! That's all I have for this week! Give everyone my best!

Monday, September 15, 2014

9/15/14 email

Mom and Dad,

I'm in Akou, now. It's pretty rural. It looks like it could be a decent sized city, but there aren't many people on the street to talk to. The part of town the apartment and church are in is also pretty small. I hear that basically every single door has been knocked on multiple times. There are other parts of town that are a lengthy bike ride away, so I guess we'll have to go out there to find! The branch here is sooo amazing! I've only had one Sunday, but I already have a way high opinion of them. Everyone is super happy and energetic and has good dendo fire. The branch president especially has way high dendo fire. When I called him after getting to the area, one of the first things he said to me was about working to make this branch a ward and get a new building! The one we're in right now is the first story of a two story office space. It's was tiny. Smaller than Tottori's building, even! One part about this area I really like is the fact that it's not very hot or humid. Not as much as the other areas I've been in, at least! I can actually eat lunch without sweating every drop of fluid I just drank!

Naturally, preparation day was spent packing since I was transferring. The next couple days were pretty crazy because we were had to write down all the information needed about investigators, members, etc for the two new elders coming in to take our places. We also were trying to meet with investigators to say bye to them and give them our meishi's. Not a whole lot of attempts worked out because we were pretty booked with getting everything done before Thursday. The transfers where transfer day falls on Thursday are the worst it you or you're companion (or both) are transferring since you have one less day to get in all the normal pre-transfer stuff. It all worked out fine, though.

We did manage to squeeze a few minutes in with the woman from last week who's way interested in Christ and several of her friends. She seems to be a guide that helps them out with Japanese and teaches them about Japan. They're all gaijin: Brazilians, Africans, Loatians, etc. It was kind of funny when we went to their place because we thought it'd only be a couple people, but once we got there they popped out from wherever they were to meet us one by one. There were maybe 15? I was certainly surprised. They're all way cool, and it's very disappointing we won't be meeting with them any longer.
Since arriving here in Akou, it's been a lot of finding. We have been re-visiting the people that hopefully will be ready to be taught and receive more. It seems a little counterproductive to me to house a place that's said by many to have been housed already a number of times before. Seriously, it has! Whenever we ask people if they've ever met missionaries before, they always say yes! That's never happened before in my areas even when we know the people were visited or met with the missionaries recently. I think we'll really have to put into practice what Welch Kaicho wants missionaries to do: work with the members and establish the church.

Nishiwaki is Fukuchiyama Zone, Ako is Akashi Zone.

That's all I have this week! Not sure how much time I'll have to email since we're going to work extra hard to find Christ's sheep.


Monday, September 8, 2014

9/8/14 email

Things are going by way too quickly! I'm transferring to Akou (that should be easy to remember)! I haven't spent enough time in Kyoto to transfer yet! Funny thing is every area I'll have been in will be in different zones, too. The Lord's putting me all over the place!

Mom and Dad,

This week ended on such a more astonishing note than previous weeks!

I'm transferring and have to pack so I'll try to keep this one short.

Last week we met up with the two Hikari investigators and they drove us around to different cool things around Kyoto. They also to us to a sushi bar and fed us sushi.

The next night we were out housing in a neighborhood we felt we got revelation to dendo in. We knocked on one door and this way old dude opens up, looks at us, then says 「ああ、めずらしいな~!」 (Aa, mezurashiinaa!), meaning something along the lines of 'Well! Isn't this peculiar!' I was almost speechless at the amusing-ness and confusing-ness of it! Turns out he had met the missionaries a few years back and went to church. He told us he'd go to church in two Sundays. Sounded pretty good to us! A couple doors later there was this 80-something-year-old man that talked to us for about 30-40 minutes without moving anything but his head and mouth. I don't know how old people in this country have so much stamina!

On Thursday we met with the Hikari people. We reviewed the Restoration and Book of Mormon with them. I don't know why, but they're literally amazed by what we teach and how we teach it every time we meet. They even made a comment how impressive it was that we'd teach something, assign homework anticipating what we'll teach next, and continue that the next week. Maybe it's just because I've been doing it day-in-day-out for almost 16 months now that I don't find it all that impressive. Anyways, they randomly said they'd come to church without us even inviting them to do so! The Spirit has a way of directing people to act on the good feelings they have!

Later that day we met with a person that actually became an investigator in the next area over, but lives in this area, which is closer to church. He's 23 or so and is way good at English. We had pizza together and gave him a tour of the church. He was amazed because the church building in the other area isn't much to look at; it actually used to be a sushi bar. This building, being the Stake Center, is pretty impressive. He also said he'd come to church.

Saturday was way fun! We had the private English lesson with the mom and son, and we got to share a message with them. The kid was surprisingly responsive to the message.

That night we had a Stake activity where all the missionaries and all the youth got together and did mogi dendo (role-playing dendo). The activity was to contact volunteer members pretending to be someone on the street or in their house. Right as me and my youth companion finished study we and another companionship asked if we could actually go outside for real dendo. They said we could go anytime. So, we looked at each other, cheered, and ran outside to contact people! We later asked if we could grab our bikes and dendo, to which they said yes. My companion became a super star among all the youth for getting on a bike and riding out to dendo with a real missionary! The youth in this Stake are so great!

Sunday was probably one of the most crazy days of my mission! First, all the people that said they'd come to church called and said something came up... BUT, the old guy from earlier this week came! Completely unexpected! He had a good time, too! It looks like he'll start investigating, even! Then, during church, by phone I managed to schedule two lessons for time after church. Both were with women, so I had to work with the dendo shunin (WML) to find some doseki's (members to come to the lesson). We found some and later went on with the lessons!

One lesson was with the lady in the lock-out apartment. During the lesson one of her friends came over to join in the discussion! Then, right as we were getting ready to leave, another one of her friends showed up! I don't know how it all happened, but they all want to meet again and talk more.

The second lesson was with a woman that randomly texted a couple weeks ago saying she still wanted to meet. She was apparently contacted by a couple missionaries earlier. We agreed on 5:00, but what she actually was saying was she'd leave her apartment at 5:00. Well, she lives quite a ways away from the church and doesn't have any means of transportation. She walked the whole way to the church. She was way nice! She has tons of interest in Christ, wants to learn more, and is even going to introduce us to her soccer club!  They're all Brazilian and African and American and are Christians! She said they'd all probably want to learn about the church, too!

So that was my week! Sunday especially was so ridiculously astonishing! Really, I have no idea how or why it happened the way it did! All I can say is that this really is the Lord's work! It was finally time according to His will to bless us abundantly, and He did. No doubt He is the one in charge of it all!

Okay, I guess that's all I have for this week! I'll be emailing from Akou next week, so we'll see what changes. All I really know for now is it's kind of inaka (rural) and is a fairly strong branch. I'm way excited! This could possibly be my last area (I only have 6 transfers left)!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

9/1/14 email

Mom and Dad,

Summer break is coming to a close next week/week after next so things should start picking up again. Too bad I had a dream where I was transferring to the Kawachinagano area. I'm sure you'd hate that because you would never remember the name of my area! All jokes aside, though, the dream was very realistic...

So last prep day we went to a place I've been wanting to go for a while now: Kiyomizudera. It's probably one of the most popular things to check out in Kyoto. In all of Japan, even! Especially for the missionaries it's really popular because right outside is a little stand where you can buy cheap rings and bracelets and such and get a free inscription. Every missionary that serves in Kyoto goes there and gets ring inscribed with 真の弟子 (makoto no deshi) meaning "True Disciples". We both got one and ran into two other shimai spending their prep day there who also got some. Now the only problem is I'm terrified of wearing rings... didn't think it through very well. But, there's also this shirt in another shop by the Kiyomizudera that sells shirts (and tons of other cool stuff, too) that say なんでやねん (nandeyanen). That word in and of itself symbolizes the Kansai region of Japan as it's the most well-known word in the Kansai dialect. Basically the ring and the shirt are sure proof that you served in the Japan Kobe Mission. The shirts a little small for a large, though...

Inside Kiyomizudera was also way cool. It's much bigger than a lot of the other places I've gone for sightseeing. Tons of staircases and paths take you all around the temple. At the very bottom there's a fountain with three trickles of water falling down. You're supposed to take a cup on a stick type thing, catch some water, then pour it over your hands and drink it. Each streams gives a different blessing, but I don't know which was which--they didn't say.

On Thursday I kokan'ed in Katsura, finally. I've almost been here two transfers and hadn't been to the other area in the district yet. We had a way great kokan. One guy called us and wanted to meet, so we were able to have a lesson. The man grew up in Japan but is Korean. He's sooo spiritually interested. He was talking about stuff that I haven't even thought much about.
Later that night as were were streeting before going to eat with another investigator, we stopped this younger guy--probably a college student--and he immediately just decided to give us this box of Okinawan donuts! No joke! We said hi and asked where he was going, and he gave us the donuts! Better yet, Dale Choro said "Let's trade!" and whipped out a Book of Mormon to give to the kid. He was probably more surprised than we were! It was a very interesting and amusing contact, to say the least.

Friday night the two of us went to the bishop's house to discuss dendo and working with members and such. The bishop of this ward is so amazing! He's still pretty young, but he has great faith, great heart, and great fire. We dropped by just for a quick chat but ended up talking about lots of really important stuff for 45 minutes or so. We would've stayed longer, but we would've been late getting back to the house. This ward has tons of potential to be such and amazing ward. We all really want to help everyone work together and build it up. Seriously, it's the stake center of Kyoto with the biggest ward in Kyoto Stake! Sooo much potential!
Yesterday after church we went out to visit several less-actives with Hohaia Kyodai, the big Maori man from New Zealand. He's such a great man with an incredible story. Just talking in the car between the houses of the less-actives is spiritually uplifting. He's also so loving of all the members; especially those who have fallen away from the straight and narrow.

The songs are all written in Maori, so I don't know how great they'd be to read. Plus, the book is one of only a few copies made that are circulating around New Zealand. He also left the book in New Zealand with his family because he didn't have room to bring it back.

That's really all I have for this week.

Monday, August 25, 2014

8/25/14 email

Mom and Dad,

You know about the typhoon that came and hit practically the whole mission? Well, just a couple of days after that another huge lightning storm came through the northwest part of the mission. There was probably more rain in Kyoto during that storm than during the typhoon! It's way natsukashii (that word's like hisashiburi, but used only when you're reminiscing--hisashiburi is used only when you're experiencing something from your past again) of all the lightning last year in Nishiwaki.

There's this one area in the mission, Fukuchiyama--actually in the same zone as Nishiwaki--that's prone to flooding. It flooded a bit last year when a typhoon came through that area. Since a typhoon came, followed immediately by a lightning storm, it flooded a whole lot more than last year. The elders' apartment was even affected. So, Welch Kaicho called for all the missionaries around Fukushiyama to go there and participate in a cleanup project lead by the city. Kyoto is considered close so we were included. Everyone was waaay excited! We had to be at the park in Fukuchiyam by 8:30am. The park itself is an hour walk from the eki (train station). We got up at around 4:00 in the morning to ride our bikes down to Kyoto Eki--about an hour bike from the apartment--to meet the other missionaries in Kyoto Zone and head to Fukuchiyama. The plan was to be back in the Shimogamo apartment at 8:00pm. Kaicho said we'd have preparation day on Tuesday instead of Monday!

Sadly when we got to the Kyoto Eki and asked which train was headed for Fukuchiyama the answer was none. No trains were allowed to go as far as Fukuchiyama Eki due to the flooding. The closest was thre eki's away which would be a several hour walk from the park--no way we could make it. We waited at the eki for the other missionaries to show up and told them the bad news.

I was wanting to go back to my first zone and do service, but we still had a fun day. All six of us Shimogamo missionaries went to Arashiyama to go to the monkey park. We got to hang around with monkeys for a while. Get it? Haha! There's even a spot where you can feed them apple chunks and peanuts. Some of them are way mean and would take it and just throw it down. We did saw a monkey fight and baby monkey that had it's snacks cruelly taken by an adult, jerk monkey.

After all this there wasn't much time to email. I had prayed the night before to have the energy I needed for the service we'd be doing that day since I hadn't had a lot of sleep the past couple days and was super tired. Well, even though we didn't get to help do service, I still wasn't tired at all! Then, after we finished the day at 9:00pm I was wiped out. Could hardly believe how tired I was. Prayer really works!

There were several birthdays in the ward, so just about everyday we went to a member's house and gave them cake and sang to them. It was way fun and so great to see how happy the members were to be visited by the missionaries on their birthday. One family had three birthdays, two of which were on the same day, so we saw a lot of them last week.

On Thursday we taught the Hikari people. This week we helped them to understand the Holy Ghost and how the Holy Ghost helps us recognize answers to our prayers. We had the man pray at the end of the lesson. We weren't sure but we think he was crying at the end. He's a way old fashioned Japanese man so he won't let anyone see his emotions so we were very touched by it.

Friday night was the anniversary of a couple in the ward. They live kind of far out so they don't get many visits from the members or the missionaries during the week. They were stunned to see us at the door that night. It was just the wife, at first, who saw me and one of the other elders. She was surprised at that, then even more surprised to see two more elders standing at the doorstep when she opened the door further. Then the husband came rolling up on his moped and he, too, was extremely surprised and happy. He's actually from Chile and is fluent in Spanish (and English and Japanese, though he won't admit it). His wife is too and the kids know Spanish and Japanese. They're a way awesome family. They invited us in to show us photos of their wedding and such. Simple things like visiting someone with a small cake and wishing them a happy birthday or anniversary really can touch them deeply. This is what Welch Kaicho is starting to unveil to us. His vision is to establish the church in Japan so it can take on lots of converts and keep them active. First, we have to build up the members we have and strengthen the member-missionary relationship.

On Sunday we talked a lot with Hohaia Kyodai, a member born and raised in New Zealand and served here in the Kobe mission--in Shimogamo even--twenty years ago. He was telling us all about his discoveries with family history, his ancestors, and how he's finding connections between the Polynesians and the Nephites, as well as the Japanese! He has sooooo many awesome stories and I can't possibly tell them so you'll have to wait! Seriously, though, it's awesome what he's found. The Church is true; tell your friends! :)

Speaking of the Jaredites, that's one thing that Hohaia Kyodai found. In this old book of songs passed down generations, for hundreds of years among the Polynesians--he said the songs are actually a lot like stories in the scriptures! There's one song that talks about their ancestors using glowing stones to see in the dark as they crossed the vast seas! Interestingね。

Thanks for sending the bullet points of my setting apart. I'll print them off and keep it with my patriarchal blessing and mission call letter.

Yes, the dendo honbu is making sure all the apartments have functioning fire and CO detectors--plus they'll be doing a checkup the start of every month. It's awful to hear about the missionaries dying in Taiwan, and we didn't even know about the family in Idaho.


Monday, August 18, 2014

8/18/14 email

Mom and Dad,

So I'll get right to the stuff since there's not much time. We had a crazy preparation day today. I'll tell you more about it next week.

Last week we ended up going to Nijo Castle! It was actually Eversole Choro's birthday and he wanted to go to a place called Arashiyama where you can chill with a bunch of monkeys. But, since the typhoon came through we figured it'd be very muddy. Nijo Castle was pretty cool, though. It's not much like other castles, it's rather the living quarters for the samurai Shogun's. There's one meeting hall that you can go into, but you can't take any pictures inside.

Tuesday I had a kokan with Muhonen Choro. We didn't have any lessons planned so it was an entire day outside contacting people. I've had plenty of days without appointments, but this was the first day I've spent every moment apart from study time and meal time contacting people. It was a pretty hot, humid day and not many people were on the street due to the recent typhoon. We managed to talk to quite a few but didn't have quite so many thorough contacts that talked with us and let us get to an invitation. I feel it was a really successful day, though! In the end, it doesn't matter how many new investigators you find or anything like that. If it's the Lord's will you spend 8 hours or so talking to people and not get a single appointment or phone number, and you DO it, then it's a successful day!

Wednesday we had Zone Taikai! Taikai is always the best! Kaicho talked to us a lot about baptism. hat was actually the theme of the whole taikai. He even gave US homework! I never thought I'd be more happy to receive and do homework in my life! OF course he also gave us great training, as did the AP's. The taikai took daitai (approximately) the whole day so we only had time for that and for eikaiwa.

Thursday we had a lesson with the Hikari investigators. We taught them about prayer and how to pray. We helped them understand it's a conversation with our Heaven Father, then we all took turns praying together. It went so well! Both of them felt the Spirit--though they don't know what the Spirit is yet--and the woman even said there was something special about the feeling! It's always the Spirit that does the real teaching.

Saturday we went to Daimonji with those two investigators. Daimonji is where they write big kanji and other simple pictures on the side of 6 different mountains using fire. The place from where we were watching was kind of foggy and there were tons of trees (and people) so we didn't see as well as we hoped. But, a pretty cool thing to experience.

The Hikari religion is kind of hard to explain, but basically they believe they have power directly from God. It's more along the lines of using to accomplish healings and cleansings and stuff like that.
Love you all and wish you the best!


8/11/14 email

Knowing you, you probably already know, but a typhoon came and hit just about every inch of the mission! More details to follow!

Mom and Dad,

This week was pretty level in terms of how it went. I mentioned at some point how all of our investigators and PI's are gone for summer we went and did A LOT of finding this week.

Last week we didn't end up going anywhere for preparation day. We were going to go to Nijou Castle, but halfway to the store to buy food I noticed a little metallic something sticking in my front tire. Somehow a thumb tack ended up on the road and into my tire. The air didn't actually leak out, though! We continued on, shopped, then found my tire to be flat. The worst part was we didn't have anything to patch it with! I ended up just grabbing a tube from a spare wheel and putting that in. The dimensions are slightly different than my wheel, but it's worked good thus far! Long story short: didn't go to Nijou-jou.

Thursday we had a lesson with the Catholic man and Hikari woman. Turns out they're actually both in the Hikari religion. And apparently it's not actually classified as a religion. We spent a good portion of the lesson just talking about them and their background. We didn't get around to teaching much, but it was no doubt a strong lesson. Towards the end we asked about their beliefs on God. We testified about our own beliefs and invited them to think about it. The main thing that they were surprised about was the idea that God has a body. When Eversole Choro and I were companions before in Tottori we taught pretty powerful lessons. We're trying to involve the investigators more and listen to what they say rather than just teaching. This lesson we didn't teach as much, but it was absolutely just as strong as any other lesson we taught in Tottori!

The next day something crazy happened! There are tons of apartment buildings around the house, but they're all "lock-outs--you can't get in unless you live there or someone living there lets you in. We came to this one odd apartment building that looked like a lock out.We saw that there was no closed door keeping people without the code out, so we went in and housed The first room we went to had this way interesting older woman that was way energetic and talkative. She talked right up 'til the time we had to go back to the house and put another hour on the rice cooker! She didn't say much about religion, but said she'd be more than happy to meet again and talk! She even gave us this book and her business card! After that we went back down to the lobby and out the doorway. Then I stopped to turn around and saw that there was a closed door--unlike when we first got there. I stepped to it to see if it would open and it didn't! It was a lock-out! We're more than certain that it was an opportunity sent from the Lord to meet that woman. There's no other way it could've happened: lock-out doors never stay open like it did when we first walked up!

Saturday it rained. A lot. It's great that I love the rain!

Sunday it rained a ton. Sunday was when the typhoon hit. church was actually cancelled, as well as the church in most of the areas around the mission! Through the morning and early afternoon there was quite a bit of rain and wind, but it really wasn't anything serious. We were able to go out and dendo while it was still going on since it wasn't very strong. We were hoping for service opportunities like cleaning up yards from debris and other objects that weren't there before, but there was nothing of the sort to be found... We did manage to find one really solid PI! As expected, he leaves for summer break this week and won't be back for a few weeks.

Everything is going fine. It's been a little frustrating having maybe a couple lessons a week and nobody new to teach. I've realized and decided recently that there's a lot I still need to change to be a better servant. Scott Choro says it really can be done in no time at all; it's all about commitment.

The area is awesome! I've said that before, most likely. There are lots of people to talk to, lots of different places to go, and lots of things to do. I've confirmed that Kyoto really is the best place in Japan.

The members are all very good! The bishop and second counselor are pretty young like in Tottori and have lots of fire. Everyone has good fire, actually! There are even a couple of youth that are prepping to serve missions right now. None of them are leaving soon but they're already excited!


8/4/14 email

I got to dendo with the zone leaders for three days while we waited for transfer day to roll around. It was a pretty awesome three day adventure.

Mom and Dad,

So, I've been in Kyoto for a transfer now and last week was the first preparation day where we just took it easy and relaxed. We wanted to go to the Abeno Harukasu--the biggest building (not tower) in the world, but the schedule just wouldn't work. So, we planned to just roam around Kawaramachi, the way tokai place in the area, and buy some things we needed.

After preparation day was quite an experience! The shimai gave us a less active's membership record review because they went to find him but he wasn't home. The place he lives in was apparently super sketchy for sister missionarie. That night Mineta Choro and I went, and they weren't kidding about the place at all. It was the strangest apartment building ever! The halls were super narrow and cluttered; there were tons of odd objects and decorations on the walls and doors; the doors were just thin slabs of wood with a handle and a latch; there were random bathrooms and washing machines scattered about; there were also a couple concrete sinks here and there in the hallways, some filled up with someone's "closet"; the halls and plants overgrowing into them; we found two weasels in the hall--no, not some deadbeats, actual weasels!; there was practically no lighting; the whole place was old and falling apart; we found some random plastic, handmade ninja stars and throwing knives upstairs. And that's just all the stuff I can remember off the top of my head. It felt like some weird dwelling place you'd find in Harry Potter or something like that. Point of the story: he wasn't home so we are going to need to go back and find him.

The next three days was my kokan with the zone leaders. It was so fun! I haven't seen that much progress in everyday dendo in a long time; we were on fire! Too bad that most of what we accomplished went to the zone leaders. At least it was a great witness to me what happens when your really do put ALL of your heart, might, mind, and strength into the work. It's easy to let things slip here and there, but when you keep it all up you get to see and do things far out of your own power. Gotta just make sure to keep it all up!

On Saturday we had a lesson with the guy from the street. He was reading in the Book of Mormon since our last visit! Funny thing is he was apparently reading in the Index--seiku gaido (meaning 'scripture guide') in Japanese. He got to the topic of love (愛--"ai") and found the scripture in Romans where it says that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in the Lord Jesus Christ.We explained it to him. We reviewed with him how God is his Father and no matter what He loves him. One of the few things in this world that will never cease is God's love. He was amazed! He told us how when he moved here to Kyoto and was walking down the street he got to thinking how many people there were and how all of them didn't care about him. He realized that if he just disappeared, none of them would even realize it. When he learned that God loves him no matter what happens or what he really lit up. He's actually going back home until mid-September, so I won't have more updates about him for a while, but I have a good feeling about him.

Now time for a strange story. We went to the Bishop's house last night with all the other missionaries. We elders all went together since only me and one of the zone leaders had a slight idea of where it is. We finally found it and we all piled inside. I was last in. When I turned around to close the door I found this white dude sticking his head in and peeking around! He asked what was going on in there with a goofy chuckle. I said we were meeting with some friends and he said "oh, alright!" and left. Not a single one of the other 7 people in the house saw what happened! I didn't even know what to think of it! Weird!
It sounds like you had quite a vacation in Florida! You think it's hot there?--try riding a bike across Kyoto in the summer! I thought it'd be cooler here because it's away from Toyoka and the very southern parts of Japan, but still near the water. Turns out I was wrong! Ma, iin janai?

Thanks for the emails this week as well as the prayers! I look forward to reading more about your vacation next week! Until then, 聖霊があなた達と共にあるように。


7/28/14 email

I've made it all the way to transfer 10 now. I'm getting to be really with Mineta Choro getting ready to go home in a couple days, it's really starting to hit me. Kind of freaky.

I'm going to be companions with Eversole Choro again. He's coming to Shimogamo. I'm kinda disappointed because I love getting new companions, but at least we already know each other's style. In the mission email this week it had a spot that talked about areas and companions and positions are carefully prayed about then assigned, so we should find why we're in the situation we're in for that transfer. Pretty good timing on Kaicho's part.
Mom and Dad,

This week was kind of scary-not for me but for Mineta Choro. Tonight will be his final three hours of dendo time. I don't know exactly what's going on in his mind, but I'm pretty sure it's not the happiest place. He really likes being on a mission, and was really wanting to see a miracle this last transfer. But he's finished his mission--unfortunately we couldn't quite make that miracle happen.

Last week we took a big trip to Nara. Mineta Choro was actually there for a transfer, but was with a super trunky companion so they never did anything out of the apartment on prep day. He was way disappointed because there are so many cool things in Nara and he really liked it there. We went to Shika Koen--translated that means "Deer Park." Yes deer--tons of them. You can even buy these biscuits and feed them. Mineta Choro was super scared! Probably one of the funniest things I've seen: a little Japanese dude running away from a bunch of deer. We also went to a  unique temple net to the park. Inside are these HUGE statues of Buddha or some kind of Buddhist figure. The temple itself is huge. We ended up running into one of Mineta Choro's old companions there, as well as several other missionaries. Nara is definitely a popular spot. Way fun prep day.

The next day we met with the Catholic man and Hikari woman. We normally meet on Thursday but due to interviews we wouldn't have time then. It was kind of a last-minute thing, so like all the other times the Spirit made up the slack. It was definitely boosted by the Spirit.

On Wednesday we finally got to meet again with our shigansha. He has no way for us to contact him, so if he can't make it to a lesson, we just have to wait for him to show up, then decide if he'll be there or not. He's also very busy lately because of school, but we finally got to meet him again. That was a pretty good lesson. We had to think a lot about what it is we should teach him because he hasn't met regularly and the things he's been taught by previous missionaries are kinda bara bara--uh, that means all-over-the-place. Another Japanese word without a solid English counterpart. Anywho, we actually had to extend his baptismal date (August 31st) because he's going home for summer break, so he won't be back 'til the end of September.

Interviews went way well. Welch Kaicho is an incredible mission president too. His style and viewpoints are different from Zinke Kaicho, but everyone in the mission is on board with him 100%. He's really personable and talks quite a bit--which means some missionary's interviews go over 30 minutes. There are 250 missionaries, so you can do the math. Some zones have ended interviews at 11 at night, with 4 or 5 people not getting an interview! This zone is 26 people, the largest in the mission. The zone leaders made sure to stress to everyone to not take too much time. Still, they were all finished at about 10 at night. Since Interviews for Kyoto Zone are in Shimogamo, the Shimogamo missionaries are interviewed last. Mineta Choro and I got home right before 9:00pm.
Saturday we had another lesson with the guy from my first day here. Actually, we didn't get to talk much because he was way busy. He came mainly to get a business card from Mineta Choro. We wanted to teach about baptism then invite him to be baptized. It was going to especially cool because the shimai had a baptism scheduled that night for two of their investigators, so we wanted him to go to that, too. Unfortunately he was too busy!

We got two investigators to come to church (the Catholic and Hikari investigators). It's pretty tough to get investigators to church in Kyoto since every one is so "busy" and when they're not busy they're checking out the cool stuff to see.

I've seen twice as many roaches this transfer than in two transfers in Nishiwaki. We have this way awesome "Roach Jet" spray that kills them pretty much instantly.

I think I've explained "yabai" and "zannen" before, but for the sake of not looking through past emails: "yabai" can be good or bad depending on the context and how it's said, but is mainly used in the bad sense; "zannen" means something along the lines of 'that's too bad'.

Funny story about rain. We were at the church waiting for members and investigators to show up before Sacrament meeting. WE looked outside and the rain began to fall. Then it noticeably picked up more and more. From clear skies at one moment then rain-- we watched the rain get progressively stronger and stronger for 2 minutes to the point of what I described as "Mother Nature puking on Kyoto." Then as fast as it started it went away. Unfortunately any rain means that Nihonjin are going to do everything possible to not go outside. We had about 6 people say they'd come to church. Only two of them did--but, I'm so happy about those two! And the rain, of course!

That's all I have for this week. It's a big one! We decided this prep day would be a relaxing one since we're on edge over transfers and ending missions. Plenty of time to email! Thanks for all the time to write quite a few emails this week and last!
Love you all!

7/21/14 email

Mom and Dad,
Last Monday we went to a place called "Fushimi Inari." It's way cool. It's a big Shinto shrine complex and behind it is this hike around the mountain/hill that's lined with thousands of the red shrine gates. One thing we weren't expecting was how long and step the hike was. We had a little time to do it and get back to our area, so we went really fast.

A lot of people cancelled their appointments or just didn't show up, S it wasn't 'til Thursday that we had the first real lesson of the week. It was with the two elderly people we've been meeting with for a couple weeks now. After the lesson, the man asked us if we wanted some neckties. We're missionaries and can always use neckties so we said sure. We thought it'd be just a couple, but he took out a bag full of all the neckties he's gained over the years. He said he's too old to really wear ties, so he gave ALL of them to us. Mineta Choro and I picked out the ones we liked, decided on how to divide the ones we both liked, then gave the rest to the other elders in the house. Mineta Choro also decided to throw in some of his old ties that he doesn't wear since he's leaving soon. I can now say that I probably have too many ties...

Friday was kind of crazy because of district meeting, kokans, and a baptismal interview. Mineta Choro was going to go to Katsura with Fukui Choro, but since Fukui Choro had a baptism mensetsu, Mineta Choro and I taught a lesson while that took place. There's this one Chinese investigator that was very excited to be baptized, but some friends of his told him it's be a bad idea to get baptized and that God doesn't exist. After that he kind of lost interest, but he showed up to the church one day and asked if we could have a lesson. Mineta Choro was well more than happy to. After that lesson (and the mensetsu) we started the kokan officially. Dale Choro and I taught a lesson right after, then went to the house to drop our extra stuff off. We found that Mineta Choro's back tire was flat, but because he weighs so little, nobody could tell. Dale Choro weighs about 200 pounds so it was very easy to tell the tire was flat. We had to fix the bike so we went to a bike shop and dendo'ed around there with what time we had left.

On Saturday, after the kokan and some finding, we had an activity with a few members, the Chinese investigator, and some of his friends. Not sure if they're the same friends as earlier or not, but they all seemed nice. We all went and played basketball! It's been too long since I've played it; it was so great. It's very different in Japan, though. The hoop's a bit higher, the balls decently smaller and lighter, the key is a trapezoid instead of a rectangle, and the 3 point line isn't the same distance from the hoop all the way around. There's a lot to get used to...

For finding time on Sunday, we had the idea to travel far away--to the point where our maps didn't show it. We had to go around a couple mountains and through a lot of hills to get there. When planning it, we didn't think about how tired we'd be from basketball the day before, so getting there was way hard. When we got there, we saw that there was literally no good place to dendo. It's more rural than Nishiwaki! We also realized that the member we wanted to visit real quick is in an area with almost the same name as the place we went to. To get to the member's place, we either had to go a long way around a big mountain or over it. We went over. Some guy on a dirt bike was kind enough to guide us along the way, but it was sooo tiring. The descent was even more steep than the ascent, so at some points we were easily going 40-50mph. Took 25 minutes or so to climb and maybe 5 to get down the other side. Kind of freaky but way fun.

Love you all and have a great week!

Monday, July 14, 2014

7/14/14 email

Last week I said how the Lord gives us breaks before trials, right? Well this one came rolling up fast. Basically, it's the Japanese equivalent of dead week. The end of the school year hass come and every single student has ridiculously cruel tests, projects, reports, etc. So, not only do the investigators we have now not meet or come to church for the time being, but all the young people on the street will tell us they have ridiculously cruel tests, projects, reports, et al. Unfortunately, it'll be a slow month. And a hot one--it's getting up to 90 degrees every day.

Mom and Dad,

Last week we went to Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion. I was surprised that it's not actually silver; in fact, when Mineta Choro pointed at it and said 'there it is,' I didn't believe him. Apparently silver was way way way expensive at the time so they couldn't afford to put the silver on it like they did the gold on Kinkakuji. There is a cool little nature walk around it and all the shops lining the street up to it were cool to browse. Mineta Choro bought a katana for another missionary who'll be going home at the same time.
We had a lesson with two of the investigators we found last week--the Catholic guy and Hikari woman. I was amazed at how open they were to everything! We taught about Joseph Smith, the Restoration, and reviewed the Book of Mormon. We were kind of worried how they'd react seeing as they're pretty loyal to their religions. But, they thought it was great that God and Christ appeared to Joseph Smith! The whole lesson they listened attentively and asked questions when they didn't understand something.

We also ran into some members from America while we were out dendo'ing in the city. We were just walking and heard "Hey, Elders!" One, it was weird because it was in English"--it was weird because that never happens. Fukui Choro honestly thought it came from behind us and I wasn't sure who in front of us it could've been. I took a chance and waved to the only people who were smiling at us and called back. The smile is what tipped me off; we don't really don't get smiles from people other than members....or middle/high school girls.

On Saturday we had the Shogi class again and the English lesson afterwards. I beat two kids, and was going to beat a third when time ran out! Don't underestimate them because they're kids. Some of them have been learning shogi for most of their 10 years of life! This week the mom and son we teach English to actually showed some interest in the Gospel! Apparently she had gone on to the church home page to find out more, so she had a few questions. It was way great!

We also had a lesson with the college kid we found on the street. It was a fairly good lesson. We got distracted a bit by one cockroach that creeped into my bag as I was about to grab my scriptures. Needless to say I ended up just using the Japanese ones I already was holding. There was another creeping around the room. We killed the one in my bag after the lesson, then actually killed the other one the next day. At least, we hope it was the other one...

Saturday was actually kind of frustrating because we had appointments scheduled to the brim that day. Most of them with people who weren't investigators yet. Unfortunately, all of them didn't go through.

Sunday, was much like Saturday in that way. We had finding time but we also had appointments for PI's to come to church. None of them actually came, though. It was raining pretty bad in the morning. Nihonjins really hate rain. They actually walk around with umbrellas even if it's just overcast. They even walk with umbrellas out if it's sunny because they don't want skin damage!
Oh yeah, the typhoon. Apparently it was way yabai. It was supposed to come and hit Kyoto last Friday--which I was way excited for, but Mineta Choro was terrified about--but it kind of died down and changed course, so it never did. Zannen deshita.

Kind of a short(er) email this week. I hope everyone is doing well.