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.