I don't have a lot of time, but here goes nothing!!
We made sugar cookies with the relief society! Can I just emphasize how adorable the Japanese are? My companion and I are just smearing icing on our cookies and they are making intricate designs on each of theirs. It's like Feist family reunion all over again and Maressa makes the adorable rice crispie snow man and mine is an ugly smiley face. Even the five year olds' designs are cuter than mine.
It was Elder Merrell's birthday and we through him a surprise party! It was so fun, and it was just really nice to spend time with one of our investigators and hang with our fellow missionaries. Our investigator actually asked for a lesson which was a surprise since she hasn't been progressing for a really long time. Hopefully she wants to progress more and come closer to Christ!
Yeah... It was a weird day. In fact, nothing happened this day. It just wasn't right. Soooo moving on...
ZONE MEETING THURSDAY
Yeah today was great!! I got to see a ton of misisonaries from the MTC and we were trained all day by President Wada. Can I just emphasize how much of the best he is? He is really just THE BEST.
We went to Friend's Circle which is just like a giant preschool that the church provides as a service to the community. The kids are ages 2-5. Oh my gosh. They are too cute. Like, Japanese kids are literally the cutest things you will ever see. Then a miracle happened! One of the members brought her friend Fifi with her. She has never told Fifi that she's Christian or anything about her religion. Fifi started talking with us and when she found out we were Mormon missionaries she was totally down with it. She then offered to teach us how to make gyoza (potstickers) and we are making them with her on Thursday! Her friend was so excited that just by simply inviting her to an activity, she was able to know how comfortable she is with religion. It was a miracle for all of us!
Friday night we had a lesson with Hiroko and she is progressing so much!! She LOVES reading the Book of Mormon. She says it's a thrilling story, and she also feels peace when she reads it. By the end of the lesson I asked her if she would be baptized. She said no. But you know what? I'm not stressed about it because she wasnt offended. She still wants to meet with us and she still wants to read the Book of Mormon with us.
Sports night!! Elder Berube came and we played volleyball with some little kids! Just like old times at the MTC!
Inside missionary work. My companion was really sick so we stayed in the apartment all day and organized our calendar, sent emails, and made appointments. I felt useless. I can't speak Japanese so I couldn't make the calls. I can't write Japanese so I couldn't write emails. And she's in charge of the calendar anyways. It was a rough day
Akiko came to church! She is so powerful, and she really takes her conversion seriously. A lot of times, it feels like people talk to the missionaries because they like us, not because they want to come closer to Christ. It wouldn't matter what kind of person Akiko was meeting with. She is looking for the truth, and she's pretty certain she's found it here. She is honestly a golden investigator.
President and Sister Wada came to our sacrament meeting and it was so nice to see them! They gave such good advice and gave really great talks. In there talks they said great things about us and we could tell that it really boosted how much the members trust us. We scheduled so many appointments after church, and got 2 referrals! It's a huge sign of trust when someone is willing to have you teach someone they hold dear.
I also spoke in sacrament meeting. I didn't fail miserably. It was alright. People laughed when I said I lived on a pumpkin patch in Idaho.
We saw a huge miracle at the end of the night when we got 25 meaningful contacts in under 2 hours. That means we had straightup conversations with over 25 people!! God blesses us when we work hard!
Today: Relaxing Pday. Just gonna go shopping, finish my bento, and probably take a nap.
I love you all, God loves you, and this is His work! When we strive to follow the perfect example of Jesus Christ, we find ourselves getting a little better and feel ourselves becoming a little happier each day. The Book of Mormon is TRUE. I am uplifted by it's teachings every day!
Can I just say that Japan is the best? That being a missionary is the best? That I am so happy and I feel almost selfish for having this much joy?This week has honestly been a week of defining moments. But then, I guess that every day of your life can be if you decide it is going to be. Right? Sorry, that probably sounds super cheesey and doesn't make sense but that's how I'm feeling. Just really happy.
I've earned the nickname Barbie Shimai here as I am the only tall blonde with blue eyes in all of Shonandai. Someone asked to take a picture with me and people point and stare at me in the train stations. And then you should see their faces when I say O genki desu ka (how are you)? It's so much fun :) My trainer always says that the mission is the only time when you really get to feel like a celebrity every day :)
I think the theme for this week could very well be: Pink Bike. Back story... I hate bikes. Never liked them as a kid, probably haven't seriously ridden one in ten years, have NEVER ridden one in a city. But, they are an efficient way to travel and honestly they save so much time! So here is the adventure of getting my bike and riding it and other bike related things :) We planned a time to get my bike and had to get some of my money from an ATM. I was super stoked, so stoked that I forgot my personal visa. But we decided to still go to the bike shop to pick the bike that would carry me throughout my mission. When we walked into the shop I knew my bike right away. It was honestly love at first sight. Pink. White handlebars. White basket. Light blue lettering. The cutest thing I saw in my entire life. Oh, did I mention it was 200 dollars cheaper than I planned on spending. And it looked pretty hearty? This was the bike. So the next day, I go to the shop and start talking shop with the owner. By talking shop, I mean asking questions and my trainer translating since I have no idea how to speak Japanese. She explains that we move a lot and will have to take apart the bike. He said that the front wheel is too hard to replace and he tried to steer me to more expensive, more ugly bikes. No way. I know that trick. I've worked customer service. Plus, I'm not riding a red bike for the next 18 months. I wanted pink. So I ask him hypathetically, what I would need to do to take apart the bike. He said I would need a special tool and I ask him what it looks like. He pulls out a freaking monkey wrench. Does he think I'm an idiot? I know what a monkey wrench is. So right there, I get down on my knees and I take apart the bike to prove to him and my trainer that it's easier than they think. I also figured out the brakes and put it back together. Let's just say that he didn't try to steer me towards anything else. :)
So I'm riding my pink bike home from the church, it's my first time riding it and I'm terrified. It's like a video game! Try not to hit the other bikers, people, poles, or bushes! And figure out what the gears mean! As I was riding past a 7 eleven I was trying to figure out my gears and I see 3 people completely covering the sidewalk in front of me. My options were benches, people, or car. I chose the benches. My foot's a little bruised, but after apologizing to the benches and the people I went along my merry way.
Saturday was kind of one of the most amazing days of my life. We went to a big mission prep activity for the people in the Tokyo area. Then, we paired up with these single adults and went out and street contacted for a few hours. Both of my companions were Nihonjin and did not speak the Ego. I was so scared!!! Here I am, trying to teach how to be a missionary, and I can't even speak the language! One of them was actually a return missionary so she had a lot of advice for me. The other one is 19 and I think that she is interested in serving a mission now!! The Lord blessed me with the gift of tongues and I was honestly able to understand and communicate what was needed to be said. What a blessing! We talked to more than 15 people while we were out there and actually made a difference. There was one moment when we were walking down a street and it just didn't feel right. So I said, we need to turn around. We turn around and ended up walking down an alley between shops where lots of people were smoking. I wanted to get out of there so I didn't make eye contact with anyone and quickened my pace. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a girl crouched on the ground as I was walking past her. Right away the thought came to me: Talk to her. I turned around really awkwardly with my companions and I asked her if she was alright. We got talking about her life and started sharing with her what makes us truly happy in life. She wanted to know. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she gave us her phone number and we said we'd call her. It's funny, because I won't ever get to work with her because she's in a different area, but my heart is full thinking that maybe I brought a little bit of light into her life. It was a miracle.
On the train ride home, my companion and I were worn out. I literally dozed off while standing in the the train. But my companion started talking to someone about what we do and what church was like. Then I asked her, Do you think you want to come to church? She said yes! I can't really emphasize how random it is for someone to want to come to church when we first meet them. We then really started talking to her about the gospel and the Book of Mormon and she wanted to come! We gave her our number, but she doesn't live in our area either so we won't really know what comes of that talk. It's just amazing because right when you think you've seen enough miracles, God sends you another if your heart is prepared. I've learned that as I expect miracles, I find them.
God loves us. He really is our loving Heavenly Father and He sent us to this Earth as part of His eternal plan. Jesus is our Savior, and it is only through Him that we can return to God's presence. I think it's interesting how compared to God, we really are nothing. We need Him in everything we do. Even when I'm trying to serve Him, I can't do it without His help. Yet, even though we are nothing, He sees our potential to become so much more. And that really is why we are here. To become like Him.
My heart is full. I love the Japanese people, and I appreciate the people who are looking out for me here and at home.
Ai shite imasu!
You can't use your phone on trains.
Everything is takeout, and yet you're not allowed to eat while walking or standing. And there are hardly any benches to sit on (and yet I still find them to hit with my bike)
No trashcans for your takeout.
The Japanese like pumpkin and they put it in tons of foods. We have a lot in common.
Of course the first time I eat at a member's house they make sandwiches with mayonaise on them. of course mayonaise is the only food that I can't choke down.
The Japanese have perfected ice cream texture.
Mina San, Ai shite imasu!!!!
It has been two weeks since I last sent a letter, CRAZY. So much has happened, but don't worry, I'll try to share some of it with you. I think the easiest thing will be chronological order, so here goes nothing!!!
The MTC was such an incredible experience!! It's a little embarrasing, but I definitely cried like all the time. I hate saying good bye, and I really had an emotional attachment to everyone and everything. I had to say sayonara to the volleyball courts and friends which was honto ni muzakashii (very difficult). Our last lessons in the MTC were incredible!! Sousa San and Ishikido San were baptized on Friday and I started crying in our last lessons with them. It was just so hard to say goodbye!!
Let me just say that I loved General Conference. It helped me so much and I feel so spiritually rejuvanated. I actually got to watch it twice since it comes out a week later in Japan so I'm doubly blessed! I loved what Christofferson said about femininity. It really is a blessing to know that our attributes are divinely given to us from God. He loves us, and there is no such thing as better. Just different. And I like that because like Uchtdorff says, we need different! http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/come-join-with-us? lang=enghttp://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-moral-force-of-women?lang=eng It seems to me that femininity is looked down upon sometimes. But honestly, I love it! Love is why we are here on earth and it is what drives me to become better. As Elle Woods says on Legally Blonde the Musical: "Love, I'm doing this for Love!" That's why I'm serving a mission! I love this gospel and the joy and peace it brings to my life. I am grateful for it's influence and I love my Heavenly Father. I am serving because I want others to know of this love! To know the peace that the atonement brings to our lives. I just love love.
At the Sunday night devotional I gave the prayer. I was so nervous!! But I did get to shake hands with all of the members of BYU's Vocal Point afterwards... That was pretty cool :)
Monday, I left for Japan!!! We left the MTC at 3:30 in the morning. It took us a while to get our tickets and get through customs so I got on the plane right at the boarding time. Let me be honest in saying that I hate flying. It is taihen (a big problem). In fact, I'm not going to say anything else about it because it's the worst. It sufficeth me to say that after an 11 hour flight from LAX to NRT (Narita Japan) we were in Japan at 4:30 Tuesday!! I lost a day because of time zone blah blah blah.
President Wada and Sister Wada are pretty much the best ever!! I love them so much, like they are honestly so amazing. President Wada kills me with his jokes and then BAM spiritual powerhouse. He is amazing! I didn't get to see much of Japan but we did drive past Tokyo and it is so beautiful! Downtown Tokyo isn't in my mission so I don't get to see it but it seems nice?
On wednesday we trained and then we hit the streets and talked to people! What an experience! Sister Clark and I went together and we seriously were dying, we knew no Japanese! But people are so polite, that even if they don't want to talk to you, they will still listen! So I got to talk to a lot of people :) We were at Sunroad in Kichijoji. Apparently it's kind of famous? I don't know, but there were a lot of tourists from Taiwan there. Lots of people speak English and lots of people like practicing it with Gaijin (foreigners). What a coincidence! I am a gaijin who speaks English! I love talking to people!
We then taught Eikaiwa (English class) and one of the Japanese missionaries was telling me that he wished he was Gaijin like me. He said that people are so much more interested in me because I really do look out of place. I've gotten that a lot here and my usual response is, "Wait, didn't you know I'm Japanese?... Jodan!!! (Just Kidding)."
Now for the exciting part! :) On THursday we were assigned companions and areas!! Drum roll please!!!! I am serving in Fujisawa with Sister Grosland! Fujisawa is at the southermost part of the mission and is honestly so great. It's the smallest city but it probably has more people than the state of Idaho. Haha people love hearing that I grew up on a farm and that I am from the place that grows potatoes. Never gets old :)
Sister Grosland is so good to me!! I have lots of cultural and language questions that she is always ready to answer. She is patient, and it's funny because a lot of the time she doesn't remember English translation for things!! She has become Nihonjin! I really want to be like her when I get to the end of my mission. Slash right now. She reads all the Kanji and is so kind. This is her last transfer so I really hope that I make it a good one for her!
Fujisawa is something else. Since it's pretty far from Tokyo, the missionaries really are the only Gaijin here. Which leads to a lot of people simply staring a me on the streets. Like, when I talk with people and understand what they're saying, they get so excited!! I've also met a lot of people who are learning English and who love practicing with native speakers. I have had two people stop me on the street and ask for MY number! It's usually the other way around for missionaries right? But the 5'10" blonde is just killing it! :) People like me kind of, and I hope that I can start to better understand what's going on.
The past few days have been amazing!! We have 4 progressing investigators and we are hoping to commit some to baptism. I've had several incredible experiences with them while reading the Book of Mormon. It really does testify of Christ, and when people read it who sincerely want to improve their lives, things happen! The Spirit testifies of the truth of the restoration and we are able to help them come closer to their Savior Jesus Christ! It is such an incredibly satisfying work and I know that this is where God needs me right now.
The ward members are great! There is one lady who loves taking care of the missionaries. She feeds us, tries to shop for us, and gives us rides home from church!! She is also from Brazil, and so her Japanese has a Spanish accent and is impossible for me to understand. It's a good thing she gestures so much so I can laugh at the cued moments :)
The Lord has blessed me with the gift of understanding. I understand a lot of the gist of what is going on. I don't exactly know the specifics, but I do know generally what is happening, and it helps so much! I can't say much, and I don't really know exactly what people are saying to me, but I do know enough to say a simple statement every once in a while.
I was able to go to the temple today and it was honestly such a blessing. I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to have eternal families.
Some things that are way different in Japan than America:
The bathroom appliances. I could not understand how to use the toilet or the shower when I first got here.
There are vending machines quite literally on every corner.
No trashcans. So that plastic bottle you have from the vending machine? Keep it with you until you get home so you can organize it using the complicated trash system.
The Japanese love baths. Today, we started a bath from the kitchen. There's a button in here so that we can start a bath while also making dinner?
Our apartment is sick!! We have 3 rooms and there are only two of us here! Plus, it's a new area for sister missionaries so all of our appliances are new! Lots of pink chopsticks! :)
The humidity is honestly so crazy. My hair is unmanageble... But in a fun way that gets lots of attention :)
The food is good. They put soy sauce on pretty much everything so everything tastes pretty distinctly Japanese. I love the bakery bread here. There is this thing called a Melon pastry and it was decorated like a pumpkin so I thought the cream inside would be pumpkin flavored. Nope. Cantolope!! So weird right?
We sleep on futons. I'm kind of dying. But luckily this apt is meant for 4 so I get two futons. 2 is better than 1!! :)
I get to see my MTC district a lot because there are only four zones and we had a concert in Kichijoji yesterday! It was so much fun! We took our friend Momoko (it means peach) and watched Jett Edwards and Bless 4 perform. The concert was sponsored by the mission, which is why I got to go :)
I saw Elder Rollins there which was fun! He's doing well and it was nice to see a familiar face :)
I just realized that I use smiley faces a lot, but it's because I'm just so happy!!! I love it here in Japan. I work all the time, but it's in a fun way! I love you all and love hearing from you!
Ai shite imasu!
My view in the conference center, I know I did not have one close up or pan over. I´m in the top corner, because I´m tall... But the experience was amazing!!
Mina San (everyone)!!!
This is it. The final countdown. I leave the MTC on Monday in the wee hours of the morning. I will arrive in Japan on Tuesday at 4:25. There's like a time difference so that adds to the amount of time, but I'm honestly going to be traveling for a long time!! I'm so excited to go to Japan, even though I am honestly going to miss the MTC so much. It has been an incredible experience for me. I'm going to miss my district so much!
I did sing in the Relief Society General Broadcast. I didn't however get a pan over or a closeup. Apparently I'm pretty tall so I got stuck in the top corner which gets no screen time. But honestly, my level of stress over that is minimal. It was an incredible experience to add my testimony through song to that of a prophet of God. I know this is the true church, and I love our latter day prophet Thomas S. Monson. He loves us! I am so excited to hear from him at conference this upcoming weekend!!
Sadly, because of the broadcast rehearsals, I didn't get to play volleyball this week!! Devastating right?! But yesterday I did get everyone in my district to play together one last time which was really awesome. The Nihonjin elders (Japanese) played with us and I scared one of them when I spiked at the net. You could say I'm pretty intimidating.
An elder in my district is from Kaysville, UT and went to Davis high school. THere are a ton of people here from his high school so he' s always saying hi to people. The other day I went up to him and his friend and acted like I was from their high school. The elder bought it hook line and sinker. To this day, he still thinks that I graduated from Davis High a year before him and was a Student Body Officer there. I don't consider that lying, just having a little bit of fun! :)
On to more important things, our lessons with Ishikido San and Sousa San are coming to an end. They have progressed so much and are so willing to learn. It amazes me that even though these aren't real investigators, I can still feel God's love for them in our lessons. Our Branch President's wife came to a lesson with us and she acted as a member present! Her added testimony about family was so powerful and just what we needed :) If anyone has an opportunity to help the misisonaries and add your testimonies to theirs, do it!!! The Lord works through everyone as long as we are willing to live worthy of His guidance.
I've been really finding so much joy in reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a witness of our Savior Jesus Christ and through reading it and praying about it, we can come closer to him. This week, my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith has strengthened as I consider his work in bringing this restoration to pass. I know that it is through him that Jesus Christ restored His true gospel upon the Earth. I know that Joseph Smith endured unending trials in order to bring about God's work. His pure faith and knowledge of the Savior is what led to the First Vision. These are simple words, and yet I know that they are true!!
I'm reading "Our search for Happiness" by M Russel Ballard. Everyone else in my district has already read it, so I decided that it was my turn to find happines (thanks for laughing at my lame pun) :) If anyone wants to understand the basics of our religion, I highly reccommend this awesome read. It teaches the basics, and promotes understanding not conversion. He starts by saying that it is through understanding that wars can be avoided, disagreements are overcome, and social problems are solved. Those are some pretty serious promises! But do you want to hear a secret? It's true!! :)
There are new Japanese Missionaries in our zone. FROM JAPAN. They are so cute!!! They are really patient with my Japanese, and ask me for help with English. I love them so much!! Their testimonies are so strong and they help me realize that I can make it in Japan :)
In the end, I just want to say I love you all!! Everyday at the MTC I remember that God loves his children so much, and I feel that love for you all everyday. This gospel is one of love, which sounds silly but it's true! God sent us to this Earth because he loves us and saw our eternal potential. In turn, we chose to come to this earth because we love God and trust that we can return to Him. However, we can't do it on our own. So again, because of love, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. The atonement is Christ's ultimate exclamation of love and honestly, none of us can ever comprehend that pure love He put into it. Everyday as I repent of my sins and strive to be a little better, i am reminded of Christ's atoning sacrifice. He lives! And through him we might live with our families for eternity!
Mina San, ai shite imasu (I love you all)
Last sacrament meeting pictures!! We have almost 40 missionaries leaving on Monday which means that there will be only 30 missionaries left in our branch. Crazy right! The second one is us and the Japanese sisters. They are amazing and really patient with my broken Japanese!!
What my days are like and what planning is like.