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.

July 7, 2014 email

Mom and Dad,

This week was sooo good. One of those weeks where everything just works out and goes well. It also went by way fast! It feels like last prep day was a couple days ago! Now we're on the edge of our seats because everyone knows when you have a really good week, God's just giving you a break so you can take what's going to come afterwards. Not too worried, though, we're both experienced and know (to some degree) how to let the unsolvable things fall into the Lord's hands.

So, last week we went to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion! It was pretty cool to see but there wasn't a whole lot to do there. We got a brochure that has a picture of the inside and now we both really want to go and check out the inside! Nobody's allowed in there, though. There's this one spot where the water in the pond surrounding the temple flows into a stream and it's just close enough to the fence to where you can reach down and touch the water. We also stopped by this import store and I bought a Milky Way, Cherry Dr. Pepper, A&W, and these way good habanero chips. They weren't that spicy, but I gave a little piece to Mineta Choro and he freaked out and rushed to the water fountain.

On Tuesday we went to the Times Square city-like place to street again. There actually weren't a whole lot of people walking down the sidewalk that day. Probably because it was way too hot. So, we took a quick walk over to another part of town (first time over there for me). It was insane. There were soooo many people. Last week or a couple weeks ago I said that dendo'ing in the slightly less city-like part was like dendo'ing in Times Square. I had no idea what I was saying. Doesn't even compare to this spot. It's called Kawaramachi if you want to check it out. So many people. So many buildings. So many floors on each building.

Thursday, Mineta Choro "received revelation" that in a white apartment building in a neighborhood a bit east of our duplex, in room 501, there would be an old lady that would invite us in for a lesson on the spot. He actually "got the revelation" on Wednesday, but we didn't have time to go. So, Thursday we went out there and decided which building it was, then went to room 501. It was actually 2 buildings, but the first one was this young mother who was more interested in Eikaiwa for her kids than the Gospel. The other 501 had an old lady living in it! She wasn't interested, though, but she told us that several of the residents in the apartment building are Christian!

Naturally, The next day we went out and housed it all! A few people were kind of interested and/or talked to us for a little bit, but nobody made any plans to meet. This one room, however, was way funny. We knock and this old guy threw the door open. This itself is weird because Nihonjin always open the door just a crack to peep out and see who's standing there. ....But this guy just threw it open! He was standing there wearing white underwear clothes and nothing else. He grinned at us then invited us to step into his genkan. Long story short: his wife was baptized into a Christian church a while ago, but he wasn't Christian. He talked about a lot of things and we asked him if he would accept a Book of Mormon. That's really all I can explain clearly and quickly.

We also had a taikai on Friday where we all got to meet Welch Kaicho and Shimai. They're both sooo awesome. I was worried that our new mission president wouldn't be as awesome as Zinke Kaicho and Shimai, but they absolutely are up to par. They've been living in Japan the last 16 years because Kaicho got a job offer that was only supposed to be a year. Then on his first day on the job, he got promoted to president of the small business because they had fired the previous guy just that day. So, he's had a lot of work in Japan, met some way famous people, been a bishop, and was president of the Tokyo South (I think) Stake for the last 6 years. Yes, his Japanese is incredible. So is his spirit and testimony. The both of them are really great and are just what this mission needs to continue to grow. 

Saturday was the day that made the week even that much better. After lunch we got a call from a PI whose mail slot we left a note in. She called us to have us over for a lesson with her and her friend. He's Catholic and she is some other religion--one of many in Japan--that's very similar to one called Mahikari. I can't possibly explain Mhikari so you'll have to google that one. But, they both are interested in meeting more!

Then we had a lesson with the guy we found on the street. The lesson didn't go very much according to the pla, but ended up going way well. We asked if he believes in God at the end. He said that honestly he doesn't but he really wants to believe us that God exists! We're convinced that he's elect. He even came to church yesterday and really enjoyed it!

After that lesson, we went to the guy in the apartment we randomly housed last week. It was kind of awkward because he wasn't sure exactly what we were expecting and we didn't know what he was expecting, but in the end we ended up walking to a nearby park for the lesson. Again, the lesson didn't go according to plan; in fact, we didn't follow the plan at all. We ended up just talking with him about our families and what not. He opened up a lot to us and told us all about his family and his relationship with them, as well as his desires and dreams in life. Way heartfelt. He, too, said we could come and visit him again. We were blessed with 3 new investigators that one day! Just goes to show what happens when you just work and focus on taking care of the few things you have control over. This is the Lord's work and there are so many things about it that only He has control over. When you just work faithfully and do what you can, He really does make up the difference.

Just a side not: It's funny when you send President Uchtdorf quotes because I can't help but read them in my mind with his voice.

There's my week! Yes, Mineta Choro is watching videos and it's really hard to fight the urge to watch it and continue emailing. But, I'm almost there! Just have to write my letter to Kaicho.

Have a great week! Give out my best!

June 30, 2014 email

Kyoto is the best dendo there is. Seriously.... there are so many ways you can dendo and so many people to dendo! I love the city way too much.

Dad and Mom (felt like I should switch it up a little bit)

This week was great! At the start we had a lot of appointments for lessons but most of them didn't work out, so we spent a lot of time finding. But, that's okay because Kyoto dendo is so great!

Last week, we went to some pretty famous places. First, Kamigamo Jinja--which is right by the apartment/duplex--then Shimogamo Jinja--which is right by the church; literally right there. They're these two way big Shinto shrines (jinja) complexes. I can already tell I'm going to have a lot of pictures while I'm here!

We did a bit streeting around Kyoto Daigaku--Kyoto University. That was actually way cool. We found someone who has some interest and we got to check out the daigaku while dendo'ing. It was kind of strange though since I've thought pretty seriously about studying there for a semester or two. It'd be a great experience and would look way impressive on resumes. It's the second best college in Japan.

Wednesday morning we had quite a fun time. We're teaching AB lessons to one of the recent converts in the ward. Naturally, there's a member present. That member is sooo funny! He always says or does something that you just don't expect from a Nihonjin. He's rather wealthy and generous because he takes the missionaries and members out to eat frequently and always pays for it. We went with him and the other member to a place called Shakey's. It's an all you can eat pizza place. The best part is that it's American-style pizza! If you ever have tried Japanese pizza, you'll understand why I was so happy.

Later that day, though, was kind of tough. We had two lesson appointments but both of them were cancelled. We ended up spending basically the entire day around the church. We discovered just about everybody around the church is older. Older people in Japan aren't usually very excited when they open the door and see Christians standing there. It was a pretty long day. Nobody really was interested. This one guy, however, talked with us for a little bit. He's one of those old, professor-type people. We left him with a Book of Mormon.

Thursday evening we had a shokuji with a family that is housing a BYU student who's here to teach English for a few months. First, I have to say that it was a very good shokuji. Second, the BYU student is awesome. He's way good at drawing and computer animation and he's pretty funny. He also served in the Houston, Texas Mission a little while ago, so we got to share tons of hilarious mission stories.

Saturday was way fun. In the morning we went to the community center to have one of those family English lessons. The son was in the middle of his Shogi--Japanese chess (I messed up and said "shoji" last week)--class. We went in and everyone there all shouted "gaikokujin!" (foreigner) and rushed to be the first one to play against me. I'm not good at all so naturally the kid that played me--who was way happy to--beat me. He's 10... BUT, I played another kid, and I actually beat him! He was too busy trying to capture my king with an all-out attack, so he didn't notice how I was making a move for his king with two very weak pieces. I was surprised it worked. He was too! After all that we had the English lesson with the mother and son. The son's young but his English is already very good. I was impressed.

Later we had a lesson with the one guy we found last week on the street. The one we had an unplanned lesson with. We were a little concerned because he said last week that he'd be by the church between 4 and 4:30, but he showed up at 4:27. We had a probably one of the best lessons of my mission. He said at one point that he didn't have all that much interest at first but that his interest perked up quite a bit while we were teaching. He said it could possibly be what he's been looking for by studying religion and theology. That's what lessons should feel like.

Sunday was waaay cool! First, one of my Sensei's in the MTC showed up to church! He's actually one of my favorite Sensei's! Apparently he served here in Shimogamo for 7 transfers. We were both way surprised to see each other. He was also surprised at how much better my Japanese was. Being able to talk to him in Japanese this time around was awesome!

After church, we walked around a lot on the streets to find more people. Nobody was particularly willing to talk. We also stopped to house an apartment building. No immediately good prospects from that. After finding we had to head to a members house for a shokuji with the other choro's and some members. We got close to their house a bit earlier than we expected so we stopped to house another apartment building. Nothing prospective was coming from that either....until the very last door. It's ALWAYS the last door. Remember a few weeks ago how I said on a kokan in Kurayoshi that we had a door contact (the first door, that time) in which we said things we don't normally say in our contacts, and were let into the apartment. Then I said we totally knew it was guided by the Spirit. That last door was just like that. We talked about things we don't normally do in contacts and did so on the spot. He said we could come back the next week! I think I'm finally starting to get this down!

And of course, the shokuji was great! My MTC sensei was also there, so it was even more special.

So my first full week in Shimogamo was pretty great! Maybe I'll end up like my Sensei and serve here for 7 transfers!

Shogi is kinda similar to chess in that some of the pieces move in similar manners, but when you look at it as a whole it's way harder. Biggest difference: you can put pieces you took from your opponent and use them. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of strategies!

Basically anywhere in the mission is hot and humid (100 degrees, 100% humidity) in the summer and cold and dry/drier (25 degrees, 60% humidity) in the winter.
That's all I have for this week. I've taken quite a bit of time because Mineta Choro only takes maybe 45 minutes to email then watches Mormon Messages and Bible Videos. He asks me to translate some since his English isn't perfect.

Thanks for all the spiritual thoughts and emails you've sent me over this last 13 months! I know you're all busy and could be doing other things, so I really am thankful! Also thanks for all the other many things you've done for me to get me here and since I got here! Give my best to everyone--and keep some for yourselves, of course!


June 23, 2014 email

Mom and Dad,

Being in the city again is awesome! Kyoto is one of the coolest places in the mission, and the Shimogamo area is right in the most city-like part of it! The church is close to a really big Shinto shrine and there are tons of other super famous shrines and Buddhist temples, including the Golden Pavilion. There's a famous castle not far from the church....and that's just in this area. Just outside this area in surrounding ones there're more way cool places to go to! Mineta Choro and I are going to be busy on preparation days, for sure! Fortunately, there are two computers at the church, so there's still plenty of time for email after all the fun outside. This place is the best!

There can be more talk of the awesomeness of Kyoto later, though. It'll take a while.

Last week, the bike problems returned! Actually, they returned while I was on the last kokan in Kurayoshi. Apparently they got back to the eki by the apartment and found the back tire to be flat. They fixed it, but I think they managed to create a billion other problems in the process. I got back and found that the back wheel wasn't quite straight anymore and had to take off the brake pads and try to get it in the straightest path for the time being. Long story short, last Monday, it popped again, but we had to go a whole bunch of places. Another long story short, the wheel became even less straight, and a lot more jagged around the rim. Finally, as we were taking it to the bike shop, the tube got caught in the gears. I managed to get it to the shop to take care of it all before I transferred out! No worries, especially now that I have a REAL mountain bike again that doesn't have ANY problems. Also Mineta Choro is using Bogey's old bike, interestingly enough!

The week was crazy again because when you transfer, you do all you can to meet with all your investigators. There are two that live waaay far away but don't really have ways of getting to the church. We were able to meet with one for a bit at the eki, but weren't able to have a lesson. The other we weren't able to meet with at all. Then, there are all the members that try to see you before you transfer out. There are lots of people trying to see the missionary before they leave.
Thursday we had to leave Tottori to spend the night in Okayama so I could make it to the transfer spot on time. That place is actually the previous honbu for the Japan Okayama Mission. There's also a ladder and hatch that leads to the roof-I think I've mentioned it before. What else would we do but sleep on the roof. It's actually pretty common for a few people to sleep up there whenever there're missionaries spending the night there. I did get a number of mosquito bites on my forehead, though, as did everybody else that was up there.

The next day was transfers! My first day in Kyoto! We got to the house at around 2. Oh yeah, the Shimogamo apartment is actually a duplex! Anywho, we had a lesson at 6, so between weekly planning, lesson planning, and teaching a lesson we couldn't get much else in. But, my first day was pretty great!

Saturday we finished up weekly planning and had some finding time before Stake Conference started. We went out and streeted in the most city-like place of the area. It was like dendo'ing in Times Square! The best part was the very first person we stopped and talked to wanted a lesson on the spot! He also made a return appointment so we have a new investigator! The city is seriously the best! After that we streeted a little bit more, then headed back for Stake Conference.

Naturally, Sunday morning also was Stake Conference. It was a special Japan-wide Conference, so every single stake around Japan was having Conference. The Sunday session was a broadcast from somewhere else--Salt Lake, maybe. The boradcast consisted of talks from Elder Walker of the Seventy, Presiding Bishop Stevenson, Sister Oscarson--YW General President?--and Christofferson Choro. Amusingly, Christofferson Choro mentioned his recent visit to this mission when he spoke to all the missionaries and members in the Osaka Stake! Pretty cool stuff!
Shimogamo is pretty flat, though not quite as flat as Tottori, but WAY more flat that Kitarokko. Once you start getting into the outskirts it's gets kind of hilly. The ward here is super awesome. There are about 80 or so active members and they're all way cool. Then again, if you live in Kansai, of course you're cool. There're also tons of gaijin! I mean TONS! I swear I see almost as many gaijin on the streets as I do Nihonjin! There are lots of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese! Kyoto probably has one of the highest gaijin per capita in Japan....behind Tokyo, if it's not the highest.

Mineta Choro understands English pretty well when he reads or hears it. He's from Hokkaido way up in the north where it snows from September/October to April/May. He's way cool and into really deep doctrine like I am. We've actually had a couple conversations about Revelations and Abraham and such. He also taught me how to play Shoji--Japanese chess. I don't know any strategies though, so I kind of suck at it still.

June 16, 2014 email

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's gone waaay to fast! I can't believe it...

In other news: I'm transferring! I'll be heading to Shimogamo this week to be companions with Mineta Choro--another nihonjin! Mineta Choro actually was in Nishiwaki right before Bogey and I went there. From what I've heard, he's pretty cool. Another cool fact: Bogey served in Shimogamo, as well! Bogey had been in Kitarokko right before Nishiwaki; Hiratsuka Choro was in Tottori before Kitarokko; Bogey was in Shimogamo

I think I didn't mention this, but a couple weeks ago we got a call from this couple that are former investigators. They got busy with their daughter and her newborn, but now that she's moved back to Kyoto, they're able to investigate again. One of the main reasons they want to meet with us is because they both love and are pretty good at English. You can never underestimate investigators: one such investigator is now one of the Assistants in this mission. He converted, baptized, then went to the temple and on his mission hardly a year later! But anyways, they picked us up at the church to take us back to their house for lunch and various discussions--in English, of course. They made us sushi, and it was way good! I pray that sushi in America is somewhat close to Japanese sushi... Anywho, they said they wanted to have us over again and talk about our church and other American things. They're two way nice people with a way nice house (it was pretty American-esque, if I remember whaat American houses look like).

I also had a kokan in Kurayoshi this last week. I picked the worst possible day to kokan because out of nowhere there was a hugh monsoon that came through. The road in front of the Kurayoshi church house was seriously flooded. It was kinda funny and sad at the same time to see high school students cross the street with water up to their knees. Naturally, the storm made it hard to dendo because there's virtually nobody outside, and those that are don't want to stop for even a moment to tell you they're not interested. It wasn't all that bad, though, because we had a lesson with one of their investigators that we had to plan for and teach. He's this way cool high schooler that seriously could be American. His English is great. He already has a strong dendo fire because he goes dendo'ing with the missionaries and tells people to listen to the Elders. He wants to be baptized but his parents won't let him until he's an adult. Here, the legal age is 20, not 18. He's only 16...

A couple days after that we also had a kokan with the zone leaders. It wasn't a long kokan, just from 11-ish in the morning to 4-ish in the afternoon. But, it was a way great kokan. The zone leader and I talked about how I can be a better district leader.

The last cool thing that happened this week was yesterday. It was a new experience and we have a new investigator, which is always nice. We had a "Free Family English Program" lesson with a less active woman's son. It's this program where we meet someone for 6 weeks and teach them a half hour English lesson, and a half hour Gospel lesson. The guy we taught--a 13-year-old middle schooler-- was also an investigator long ago, so he was pretty excited to learn English and more about the church. At the end of those 6 weeks, they can continue the program or drop it. If they want to drop just the Gospel parts and not the English, then the missionaries invite them to come to eikaiwa from then on. It's this program that most missions in the Asia North area are utilizing recently. It hasn't really taken off yet in this mission, but in Korea they've been doing if for a while and it brought considerable success. But, back to the point, it was cool to have this sort of lesson for the first time. His mom really likes the missionaries, so everything is working out well.
That seems to be all there is for this week! Thanks for all the love and support! Give my best to everyone, and I'll email you next week from Shimogamo. That's in Kyoto, by the way! I've always wanted to go to Kyoto!