Monday, January 27, 2014

1/27/14 email

Mom and Dad,
A lot of good stuff started on Friday. We had interviews with Zinke Kaicho. I love any time that we get to gather and meet with Zinke Kaicho. He seriously is without a doubt the greatest mission president there's ever been. I'm kind of disappointed he'll be released in the summer, but I'll do all I can to follow the next Kaicho's leadership--while still doing a lot of what Zinke Kaicho's told us, of course.
Before interviews started, the zone leaders gave everyone matching sock ties to wear since Kaicho once mentioned how he loved sock ties when he was on his mission. Have I already mentioned that one of the zone leaders was in my travel group and is the kid I had Writing 150H with at BYU. He was in Miki so we got to go on a couple exchanges together? Well, he is, and it's awesome to work with him again! The morning part of interviews was Kaicho's training. He always says exactly what everyone needs to hear and delivers it perfectly. Apparently he prepares individual training for each different zone. That's 11 different trainings! The AP's even said it's cool to see how different each training is from each other as they travel around to each zone.
I was the second person to have my interview with Kaicho. He mainly just asked questions about dendo. He asked me at one point if I had yet gotten over the idea that Kitarokko is a "hard area". I told him it's the best area even if it has been difficult. Fortunately the success has picked up slowly over the last while.
The afternoon part of interviews was training from the AP's. Most of what they talked about was really specific, great ways to plan and prepare awesome, powerful lessons. We even had a practical where we put together part of a lesson that we'd be teaching soon. Pace Choro and I worked on a lesson plan for the GC investigator, hoping that it be an opportunity to help him feel the Spirit .
Saturday was a pretty crazy day. We had a lesson at 6am. Yes am, not pm. It was with the GC investigator. He said he was busy that afternoon and evening last Sunday when we scheduled the appointment, so we decided on 6am. It was kind of funny. Then at 11 we had a lesson with the woman who's interested in eternal families along with her two kids. It was a pretty good lesson. I think the three of them really like us because they offered to take us to Osaka someday just to go and check out the city. The mom also asked if her daughter could do a homestay with us after I get back from Japan. The daughter is really interested in learning English, and is actually planning to do a homestay in Los Angeles right now. Something that can be discussed at a later time.
Later that day, the ward had a tennis activity going on that we hadn't planned on going to since no investigators were attending; however, during the weekly ping pong in the morning, the GC dude said he could go. We ended up changing our day's plans around and went to that.  I found out that I'm terrible at tennis. I've gotten pretty good at ping pong, though! Then later that night the ward had an "Outreach" activity. This time around it was a big FHE lesson followed by an arts & crafts activity where everyone made cards for people to invite them to ward and stake conference. They also served takoyaki. Mr. GC dude also came for that, but only the last little bit.
Sunday, we talked with the bishop for about an hour and a half while waiting for a reply from a less active to see if we could visit or not. We never got a reply but we had a way great discussion with the bishop. We talked a lot about how dendo's been so far and about current investigators. He also mentioned at some point how it's crazy that this is the biggest ward in the Kobe zone but only had one baptism last year and a couple the year before. He truly does have such a great, inspiring dendo fire. Everyone in the ward does!
Transfers are coming up. One: who would want to transfer from the best ward in the mission? A crazy person, that's who. Then there's the Filipino, who's current baptismal date is a few days after transfer day. Then there's the tired guy who wants to be baptized and I really want to see him through to it. Then there's an investigator that the elders in Kobe are teaching right now. He actually lives in this area, but is way closer to the Kobe church. Recently, with money and work, going to the Kobe church has been hard for him, so they were wondering if there were members that live by him that could take him to church every week. It's been tough, but the bishop, dendo shunin, and I have finally found a solution to it--the man will become our investigator. Best part: he also really wants to be baptized, so he'll likely be baptized very soon after he starts coming to this church. Oh, also: it's my birthday next week and the ward is giving me a presents--isn't that awesome of them?!?
I've learned that transfers are the hardest part of missions really are hard: it's not hard physically. It's mostly the challenges you face mentally and spiritually that make transfers difficult. Especially having to leave an area you came to love along with the people you come to love, after spending a couple months in it. Hopefully I'll be staying at least one more transfer in this area. Before coming to Japan, I said I would like to serve in Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto, and maybe even Okayama. Obviously, I'd have to transfer around a lot to serve in all those places. Now I just want to spend several transfers here in this one area, in the countryside. But if I transfer, I transfer.
It's been pretty cold here, as well. Just last night we were out housing in the snow! It wasn't piled up on the ground, though. Apparently some of the more northern areas have 2-3 feet stacked up right now! Lucky!
Mochi is not really the kind of rice cake you're picturing. It's special rice that's been steamed, softened, and pounded quite aggressively into a thin dough-like substance. You'll have to look it up somewhere else on the internet.
I guess that's all for this week. This next week and half should be full of excitement. My birthday is also the same day--and year!--as the daughter of one family in the ward. She's currently serving in Tokyo, so the dad said he'll have us over for a birthday celebration.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1/20/14 email

Mom and Dad,
Well, I'd say this was a pretty great week! Some things worked out--a couple things didn't, but overall a great week! One day last week, we took a train to a very distant part of the area and dendo-ed there all day. Since we took the train, we didn't have our bikes and it was all on foot. It was also raining. I guess I got a good humbling taste of what missionary work was like back in Samuel H. Smith's days.
Last week the GC investigator and the Filipino guy both came to the New Year's party! They seemed to really enjoy themselves. The GC dude still was studying physics and engineering--He even said that his biggest worry with joining the church is he might not be able to focus 100% on work/study and 100% on church. The New Years celebration was way great. You'll have to see the pictures and videos. Sadly, those are on the next memory card, so you'll have to wait a while longer. And yes, I'm trying to send off the current one.
That night we also had a lesson with our other investigator. He definitely wants to be baptized and was really interested to hear that other people have overcome tobacco, coffee, and job schedules to be baptized. We were going to meet with him yesterday at church but IT SNOWED, so he couldn't make it.
Tuesday was pretty interesting. We went to visit a potential investigator. When we went to his place, he came out and explained how he appreciates our concern and effort on his part and that he admires what we're doing, but he is unable to change faiths and join another religion.That was probably the nicest, most sincere rejection I'll ever have in my life. Later that day we also had a lesson with the Filipino investigator. We went in-depth about the Holy Ghost and how God answers prayers. He also committed to read and pray about the Book or Mormon. We sure were praying about him doing that so he could get an answer.
I'm not sure if I mentioned last week how after 大会 we got a call from a former investigator we visited and left chirashi with. The day we visited him was the day we were on foot. He wanted us to come back and have dinner with him, so that's what we did on Thursday. He explained how he's pretty set in his beliefs. He did have some interest and asked some questions though, so all-in-all it turned into a real lesson. He also loves English, so we told him about one of the programs--we go and teach English for 30 minutes then teach a Gospel lesson for 30 minutes. He sounded interested. We will see what happens.
Saturday was the best day, by far. We had another lesson with the Filipino. He said he prayed for guidance before reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. He went on and said he was flipping through the back and saw the writings of Mormon. Naturally, he decided to read in there since that's what we're called. The very first verse he read was Mormon 9:27. I can't possibly describe through email the atmosphere of the room as he told us this, but he said he read that verse and it had a tremendously huge impact on him. He said that he truly felt that it was written just for him. We explained how that's the Holy Ghost answering him, and he understood completely. He also went on and read Ether 12:27, about making weak things strong and how that also had an impact on him. He also came across Moroni 8 where it talks about infant baptisms. Being Catholic, he had questions about that. At first I wasn't sure how to respond, but then the words just seemed to flow into my head and out my mouth. I was saying exactly what needed to be said to help him. I knew it wasn't me saying it, but the Spirit. The whole lesson he talked about the impact some verses had on him and we explained them further and testified about it all. I really can't do it justice over email, or normal conversation for that matter. At the end we talked about how the Book of Mormon teaches all we've taught him so far and how it's evidence that it's all true. We then invited him to be baptized, and he accepted! His date is for February 16th, the week following transfers. He really understands everything at this point and believes it. I pointed out that he had a similar experience to Joseph Smith reading James 1:5 as when he read Mormon 9:27. I can't really put in to words what it was like. Following the lesson we went with him and had dinner at the American-style burger joint/hole-in-the-wall. I think I've mentioned it before. If not, they serve huge, American-style hamburgers. We loved it! Pace Choro went for the large-size "Super Dynamite Burger". That thing was huge!
The next day at Sunday, the Ward Mission Leader (dendoshunin) couldn't make it to Missionary Coordination Meeting (dendochoseishukai--DCS) due to the snow, so the Bishop conducted it. The Bishop is awesome; he has a very strong dendo fire! After seeing that we had a yakusokusha, he and everyone at the meeting was very excited and discussing the best ways we can help our yakusokusha, and all the other investigators, as well. This ward is awesome!
About traveling to the honbu: looking at a map, we aren't too far, but this area is called "Kitarokko" because 'kita' means 'north' and 'Rokko' is the name of the big mountain between us and the honbu. Getting there involves going all the way around the mountain. It's not actually that big. I climbed it with Hiratsuka Choro and the seishinbyo. The summit is 931.25 meters--the highest point in the mission!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

1/13/14 email

Mom and Dad,
Okay, so this email is pretty late so it's also going to be short.
So at the start of the new year, the mission has a New Years Taikai. It's a great taikai. It starts at 10 in the morning, but the activities-sports-start at 8am. Have I mentioned that it takes about 2 hours to get from here to the mission home? Well it does. So we had to get up quite a bit earlier than usual to make it by 8. We were a little late but so were all the other elders who came early-- so it all worked out. The sporting activity was dodge ball! I haven't played that in so long. The funny part is we played it inside the church in a smallish assembly hall. There were probably over 2 dozen missionaries there. It was very easy to hit someone at the beginning. I'm amazed at how sore I became, but so were a lot of other elders too. I guess biking up and down mountains day in and day out isn't quite an extreme enough work out. :)
Following dodge ball, Zinke Kaicho made a slide show of all the missionaries in the mission that look like they could be related. I wasn't on there, so I guess I really am a hipster! :) (True to the Portland spirit! :)) Then we watched the end of the year DVD with all the pictures that missionaries sent in. We also watched the slideshow of the baptisms for that year-- 204!
Then we had the spiritual part of Taikai. Zinke Kaicho introduced the new training plan. The theme of the Taikai, and the main doctrinal point in the training plan, is 1 Nephi 3:7, just like you shared with me last week! The training plan is all about relying on the Lord and doing all we can in our own power so the Lord can provide ways to accomplish miracles. Kaicho even said he's impressed how many missionaries had recently written him regarding that scripture and that he's glad so many of us are in-tune with the Spirit. I came out of Taikai with a really great attitude. Other Taikais have left me with a positive attitude too, but a little doubt if I or we could truly accomplish our responsibility. None of those thoughts were there this time. I also felt something really great during Taikai . I felt an absolute confirmation about one of our investigators entering the waters of baptism. I'm planning on giving everything I can and doing all in my power to help him do all in his power, so that the Lord can provide a way for that to happen and bless him. I'm really looking forward to meeting with him again!

Monday, January 6, 2014

1/6/14 email

Happy New Year!
Mom and Dad,
Well, this week was a rather rough week. I'm over my illness but I've had chest congestion from mucous as well as continuous coughing. It was kind of tough to work, especially with this being the hilliest area in the mission.

New Years is a huge deal in Japan!
Following prep day last week we had a shokuji with the first counselor in the bishopric and his wife. The GC investigator was also invited along, so it was way cool to spend some more time with him and help him make even more friends in the ward.
Last Tuesday, there was no eikaiwa again due to New Years. We did go out to this one part of town that's in the boonies and housed there. It was like being in Nishiwaki again! Most of the people were too busy to meet with us because of "oshou gatsu no junbi" (prep for New Years.) We headed back to the apartment to do work in the area book since that was probably the most effective thing we could've done. We had shokuji with a family in the evening.
Then on Wednesday, we had yet another shokuji--but lunch, this time--with a family. After eating together we went to the house of one of their friends who has interest in eikaiwa and a little in the Gospel. They weren't home but they left an eikaiwa chirashi and a note in the mailbox. First referral we've had in a looong time! After that, we went back to the apartment and did weekly planning. That's usually done on Thursdays, but since that day was New Years, we'd have an even harder time finding people to teach. Thus, we did it a day early. That night we had dinner with the bishop and his wife again (they had us over on the 29th). Following that, we all went over to visit a less active in the neighborhood.  He's an American that married a Japanese lady. They're both members but less active. I must say, mom, you would absolutely LOVE that woman. You two have a lot in common regarding government and the current issues they're facing with the water system in that area.
Thursday! We hit the road to go waaay out! We were able to find a member to take us to the bike shop and pick up Pace Choro's bike. Fortunately, the bike shop is a big jump in the direction we wanted to go, so we took my bike with us, picked up his, then we headed off. We housed out there all day. We found some pretty cool apartment buildings that weren't lock-outs even though they were ten stories high. We also biked a little further out to find this one PI. That place where the PI lives looks just like Nishiwaki. It was way cool to dendo out there. Flashback to my trainee transfers. We spent all day doing that then made the long ride back down a highway to the apartment. We kept up a pretty fast pace on the highway and it still took about and hour. I slept well that night!
On Friday we had one more shokuji for lunch. The family that had us over has a non-member grandfather that they want us to teach. He is a very funny grandpa. In Japan, a common phrase at meals is "serufu saabisu" which is just 'self service' with a Japanese accent. Meals are usually community dishes that you take freely from if you want more food. Well, this grandpa went to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of sake--Japanese rice wine--and said 'alright, my self service!' The meal was all traditional Japanese New Year food. It involves a lot of "delicacies"--you can probably imagine what I'm saying. It also involves normal sushi rolls, so I figured I'd eat a bunch of those. Unfortunately, the parent and the grandmother kept going 'do you know this? Have you had it before? Here, try some!' I ended up with a plate full of things that were "delicacies."
Friday night we had ANOTHER shokuji. We went to the house and we started out doing calligraphy, which was way fun. We then made a bunch of takoyaki--fried octopus in batter--and ate dinner. Takoyaki actually isn't that bad, but every time I eat it I always realize I'm chewing on octopus, and kind of start to feel a little sick. Just so you know mom, guinea pig has nothing on the things I ate on Friday.
Saturday we had a lesson with GC investigator. We talked about his reservations--he's pretty much worried he won't be able to focus 100% on work and church at the same time. We discussed it with him and he seemed to get the point.
Sunday. Well, it was Fast Sunday. That was probably the only thing out of the ordinary. Every month the missionaries in this mission send in a list of their investigators who have obstacles out of their control, and all of us fast as a mission for them. We fasted for the investigator who can't get work off. I sure hope that he can eventually. His story truly is a miracle.
I really like the sweater. I also started using a previous Choro's 100% wool sweater, and that one's a life saver as well.
Give everyone my best!