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!