Archive for June, 2012

A Pasta Sea! Waka Waka!

Dear Friends and Family:

Waht. Up.

Sorry I didn’t get around to doing an entry last week. Too much going on and I had limited time. I still do, but I thought I’d check in and let you know that I’m still alive.

Haha, alive. When our friends used to leave on missions, we would jokingly say that they died. Now, on the mission, missionaries use the exact opposite terminology. A missionary who returns home after his or her last transfer has [died]. The mission is likened to the period of our mortal probation. For example, right now I am a [bean]. My trainer is called my [dad.] My third transfer, I will cease to be a bean and my second companion will be referred to as my [mom.] So it:s not enough that I learn Japanese. I have to learn Missionary-go as well.

Okay, so let me give you the highlights of the last two weeks!

Well, today I busted out my rain gear for the first time since I got here. It has rained a little bit here, and has been a little bit hot, but we’re not in Suyu yet, so all in all it’s actually pretty comfortable.

Well, two Wednesdays ago I taught my first Eikaiwa (English conversation) class. That was actually pretty fun! Eikaiwa is a great way to give meaningful service wile on the mission and a really natural way to encourage interest in the church. We begin every Eikaiwa class with a song. Wanting to pick one that didn:t have a lot of weird words in it or crazy notes (since it:s sung in English with nothing but two tone-deaf gaijin for accompaniment), we decided on Joseph Smith’s first prayer. As soon as we finished, one man asked, [Excuse me. Who is Joseph Smith?] Bam! Where else are you going to get that in Japan?

We also met with our investigators that week. They’re awesome! It’s so fun to watch the transformative power of the Atonement of Christ take hold in peoples: lives. Guilt, pain, shame, and burden are replaced with light, joy, confidence and hope. The Japanese members and investigators provide such a great example to their friends and neighbors! They demonstrate that this whole fullness of joy thing isn’t something the weird white guys in the white shirts are making up, but it’s a real gift that their Heavenly Father offers them. Not everyone accepts that gift, but that’s okay.

We have district meeting every week. Our first was in Sennan, and for our second one we made the two Sennan companionships come down to Wakayama because we have all the good restaurants. Elder Wilcox is our District Leader. I’ll talk more about him later.

We get fed by the members a little bit, which is really nice. The Friday before last, we actually got fed by a non-member, which was way cool. One of our Eikaiwa students wanted to show gratitude for our teaching Eikaiwa for free every week, so he took us out for dinner. It was fun getting to know him! I could participate in the conversation more than I usually do because more than 60 per cent of it was in English ^-^ My Japanese is still mah-mah. He:s way cool! He doesn’t think he has much interest in the gospel, but you never know.

I got to participate in a confirmation last Saturday. It was a member baptism, not a convert baptism, but that didn’t make it any less meaningful to stand in a circle of Melchizedeck Priesthood Holders and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost on one of Heavenly Father’s children. I did not actually give the blessing, thank heavens. I know how to do all the essential elements, but the many gifts and blessings that Heavenly Father had in store for little Yuki-kun would be beyond my ability to articulate in Japanese. He’s a sweet kid. About the smallest 8-year old I’ve ever seen in my life. It brought back memories of my baptismal service. What a special experience that was!

Oh, I got my Gaijin card! It:s pretty! I’m now a semi-permanent legal resident of Japan. Until next month when they’re re-doing the resident requirements and I have to give them back the card. Zannen ya na!

Last P-day we went to a place called Wanpaku Kōen – the world:s biggest free playground. Biggest dry slides I’ve ever seen! …I hurt.

Endured my first Taiphoon. It was…weak sauce, actually. It was frustrating. I’m like, [we have to stay inside for THIS?! I could be out saving souls in this!] It reminds me of that [blizzard of the century] that Utah got last year.

Everything you:ve ever heard about Japanese toilets is true.

Last Wednesday we took the train back to Kōbe for a training meeting.

It was fun seeing my dōki again. And my senpai that left the MTC the transfer before we did. It was really more of a check-up from the president than it was anything else. We got some good counsel we could apply to our language study, since that is consistently what the beans are most worried about. Myself included. I’m hoping my prior language study will reduce the time it will take to become functional in Japanese, but as of now I’m really not that much better off than if I knew absolutely nothing.

Oh, and for lunch at that meeting we got real American Pizza from Costco. That:s a rarity here in Japan!

Friday we rode our bikes down to the beach and dendō:d there a bit.

That was fun. We were hoping there would be more people down at the arena, but there weren:t any events going on. Except tuna cutting. I got to watch a man butcher a 150 lb frozen tuna right in front of me.

That was cool. I have never seen a fish that big in my life. I think even my oldest neice is smaller than that.

That night we had Dinner with the Bishop and his family. They’re way cool! Thanks to the gift of tongues I could understand most of what was being said and actively participate in the conversation, even though I didn:t really know most of the words they were using. So that was exciting. Elder Cluff made me give the lesson, but again, thanks to the aid of the Spirit, it actually went pretty well. There:s a really stark contrast between the days we have the Spirit and the days we need to it more. This really isn’t a work you can do without the aid of the Spirit. At all. We have to be really dilligent in doing all the little things that keep the Spirit with us, or things like this miraculous lesson couldn’t happen.

After that we returned to our apartment where Elders Wilcox and Rasmusen were waiting for us. They spent the night so that in the morning we could do our district meeting and kōkan (companionship exchange). Companionship exchanges are fun, because you get to learn from someone different in a different environment than you are used to. Elder Wilcox is awesome! His dad is a BYU professor who has written several books, so Elder Wilcox always has a quote or a unique perspective on a principle from his father on hand. I learned a lot from spending the day together with him. We found some people that might be interested. That’s pretty vital at this stage in the work.

For any of you that are praying for me, please pray for finding opportunities. We:re fishers of men, but the catch hasn:t exactly broken our nets or caused our ships to sink. Yet. Miracles happen every day in the mission field.

Last of all, yesterday we had a Stake Conference in Sakai. It wasn’t a Stake Conference exactly, though. It was a regional broadcast, carried into all the Stake Centers in Japan. President Uchtdorf presided. We also heard from Elder Oaks of the Twelve, Elder Che of the Seventy, and Sister Wickson, the General Primary President. Elder Che is really cool! I met him once when he came to our ward early this year. Bishop Rife taught me how to say [Chongno Kamsahamnida] (Thank you, Elder). I shook his hand and, having heard about my mission call, told me of the love he has for the Japanese people and the experiences he has had which have led to it – much the same address he gave yesterday, in fact. All the speakers mentioned the Higashi Nihon Earthquake of last year – the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Japan.

They all talked about how amazing the example the Japanese have set for the rest of the world in pulling together in a time of crisis and helping out one another. And it’s absolutely true! The Church has done a lot to relieve the suffering of the people affected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami, but there remains a great deal of work and rebuilding that needs to be done. And of course, the spiritual needs of the people who are still grieving for the 20,000+ lives lost that fateful day in March must also be addressed. Again I implore those of you who pray regularly to remember this wonderful people in your prayers. I can testify that prayer is real. Prayers are heard, and when done in the name and after the will of Jesus Christ, they are answered. I pray for you always. I hope that each and every one of you can feel the sustaining influence of the hand of God in your lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name:s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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What do you get when you pour a big bowl of noodles into the ocean?

Minasan konnichiwa!!

First off, allow me to appologize. The keyboards here in Japan are shaped funny and spontaniously switch from English to

じゃぱねせ。居t:s員cれぢblyfるstらちんg! Soshite, there are probably going to be lots of spelling and punctuation errors in this and future blog posts.

You gramarians who follow this…suck it up. It builds character.

Second off, IM IN JAPAN!!!

It seriously took days to just absorb that fact. The APs were drivving us around the streets of Kōbe and every five or so minutes Id turn to one of my Dōki and say, [Hey Rassmussen Chōrō. Guess what?!]

[What?!]   [Were in Japan!!]   [I KNOW!!]

This is what happens to disobedient missionaries in the MTC

The great and powerful Merg

The tree smells like Creme Soda. We:re not sure how or why.

But Im getting ahead of myself. Let me give you the story.

The last thing they do at the MTC is called in-field orientation.

Essentially in the MTC you get X number of weeks (in my case 9)  of teaching study and practice. Then a single day of finding study and practice called In-Field orientation. It is slightly

ironic, because finding is what occupies most of your time as a missionary, at least in the area Im in now. So the Friday before our departure, we spent the entire day talking about how to work with members, how to contact, how to obtain referrals, etc. It was a lot of incredibly useful information jam-packed into one incredibly tiring day.

Saturday, we kept stealing back to our residence at every available opportunity to pack. Our branch presidency gave us an hour Saturday night to do laundry and to pack. I think someone forgot to tell them that it takes more than an hour to do laundry alone. But somehow we still managed to get everything ready to go Sunday night and even get about four hours of sleep before our departure.

Monday morning at 4am was final hugs and goodbyes time. It was an emotional evening, but one of great joy and hope. We went around and made sure we had everyone:s contact information in our little black books so we could stay in contact after the mission.

I took this picture hoping to get the name of Sister Stewart’s companion, which name had proven unnaturally elusive for several weeks. Zoom in to see how successful I was

All the way to the airport I was pointing out to my travel companions all the places I used to go and why they are significant. I realized that this was going to be the longest time I had ever been away from the shelter of my mountains. Inside I was feeling a slight trepidation for what I was about to do and the journey I was about to embark upon, but I didn’t know who to talk to about jumping ship, so I held my peace and got on the plane.I had a few hours to call my parents in Seattle. We also met a nice Japanese man whose daughter is on a mission in Japan right now. He bought us all drinks. In fact, at every leg of the journey we were greeted by excited members encouraging us to do our best in the service of The Lord.

The flight was long and bumpy. I got a little bit of sleep. We arrived at a little after 3pm, which was about my biological midnight.

Remember that I had been up since 4am that morning.

We were greeted by the Mission President and his wife at the airport, and the APs drove us to the mission home. We ate a delicious meal prepared by Sister Zinke, and then they took us out on a walk around Kōbe, mostly to keep us awake. We saw two beautiful Jinja:s (shrines) and talked with President Zinke about the symbolism, which I am CONVINCED descends from the pre-exile Israelite religion practiced in the northern Kingdom. I could go on to defend my position, but I don:t have the time to do so here. Suffice it to say that, while the Japanese lack a correct understanding of the nature of God as their personal Father in Heaven, the practices of their religion, which date back thousands of years, retain a true spirit of reverence and holiness that was all too appearant in this place.

Wednesday and Thursday (remember, I skipped Monday entirely when I crossed the international date line) we had some training. After recieving it, I can readily testify that President Zinke has been called by God to direct the work in this mission. Everything in the Japan Kōbe Mission is directed by revelation, down to ascertaining how many people in each area are prepared, right now, to recieve the restored gospel. Our focus is to seek out and find those people, because realistically in Japan we cannot baptize anyone that God has not already prepared. We lack the language ability to [convince] people to recieve saving ordinances, and are fighting thousands of years of strong and proud tradition when we try to do so. But The Lord has defined his elect as those who will hear his voice and hearken unto it (see D&C 29:7). At this very moment, there are over 1,500 people in this mission whom The Lord has prepared to recieve us.

President has the exact total with him at all times. The number was obtained twice, once by the zone leaders through prayer and fasting, and again after each area added up their individual numbers, also obtained through personal revelation by prayer and fasting. The next step is for each companionship to obtain, by revelation, when and where to go to find those elect, and what to say when we find them.

Some companionships have already pursued this course (to read about it, see President Zinke:s blog http://preachinghisgospel.wordpress.com)

After training, we met our trainers and got assigned our areas. My trainer:s name is Elder Cluff. We have been sent to the Wakayama area, which is southeast of Kōbe. We rode the train through ōsaka Station to get there. The true Japanese experience. Wakayama is incredible! It:s not a big city by Japanese standards, but it has a lot of really interesting people. And a castle.

We’re going there next week for P-day. Im excited for that.

Elder Cluff has been teaching me how to find people. How to Dendō.

It’s pretty great. I wish I could give you a full account of what we’ve been doing down here, but I’m out of internet time. I have many more pictures I want to show you,  but the email has a mb limit, so I’ve had to send you just a few of the best ones.

Thank you all for your continued love and support! The gospel is true.

Japan is the holy land. It;s time to build Zion.

Love,

Elder Tobler

トブラ長老

P.S.

I thought this was an advertisement for Men In Black III, but Elder Cluff said that Agent K has been the unwilling spokesman for Boss Coffee since the first MIB. Appropriate, no?

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What do you get when you pour a big bowl of noodles into the ocean?

Minasan konnichiwa!!

First off, allow me to appologize. The keyboards here in Japan are shaped funny and spontaniously switch from English to

じゃぱねせ。居t:s員cれぢblyfるstらちんg! Soshite, there are probably going to be lots of spelling and punctuation errors in this and future blog posts.

You gramarians who follow this…suck it up. It builds character.

Second off, IM IN JAPAN!!!

It seriously took days to just absorb that fact. The APs were drivving us around the streets of Kōbe and every five or so minutes Id turn to one of my Dōki and say, [Hey Rassmussen Chōrō. Guess what?!]

[What?!]   [Were in Japan!!]   [I KNOW!!]

But Im getting ahead of myself. Let me give you the story.

)509.jpg)

(This is what happens to disobedient missionaries in the MTC)

(513.jpg)

(The great and powerful Merg)

(537.jpg)

(The tree smells like Creme Soda. We:re not sure how or why.)

The last thing they do at the MTC is called in-field orientation.

Essentially in the MTC you get X number of weeks (in my case 9)  of teaching study and practice. Then a single day of finding study and practice called In-Field orientation. It is slightly ironic, because finding is what occupies most of your time as a missionary, at least in the area Im in now. So the Friday before our departure, we spent the entire day talking about how to work with members, how to contact, how to obtain referrals, etc. It was a lot of incredibly useful information jam-packed into one incredibly tiring day.

(538.jpg)

Saturday, we kept stealing back to our residence at every available opportunity to pack. Our branch presidency gave us an hour Saturday night to do laundry and to pack. I think someone forgot to tell them that it takes more than an hour to do laundry alone. But somehow we still managed to get everything ready to go Sunday night and even get about four hours of sleep before our departure.

Monday morning at 4am was final hugs and goodbyes time. It was an emotional evening, but one of great joy and hope. We went around and made sure we had everyone:s contact information in our little black books so we could stay in contact after the mission.

(517.jpg)

(I took this picture hoping to get the name of Sister Stewart:s companion, which name had proven unnaturally elusive for several weeks. Zoom in to see how successful I was)

All the way to the airport I was pointing out to my travel companions all the places I used to go and why they are significant. I realized that this was going to be the longest time I had ever been away from the shelter of my mountains. Inside I was feeling a slight trepidation for what I was about to do and the journey I was about to embark upon, but I didn:t know who to talk to about jumping ship, so I held my peace and got on the plane.

I had a few hours to call my parents in Seattle. We also met a nice Japanese man whose daughter is on a mission in Japan right now. He bought us all drinks. In fact, at every leg of the journey we were greeted by excited members encouraging us to do our best in the service of The Lord.

The flight was long and bumpy. I got a little bit of sleep. We arrived at a little after 3pm, which was about my biological midnight.

Remember that I had been up since 4am that morning.

(552.jpg)

We were greeted by the Mission President and his wife at the airport, and the APs drove us to the mission home. We ate a delicious meal prepared by Sister Zinke, and then they took us out on a walk around Kōbe, mostly to keep us awake. We saw two beautiful Jinja:s (shrines) and talked with President Zinke about the symbolism, which I am CONVINCED descends from the pre-exile Israelite religion practiced in the northern Kingdom. I could go on to defend my position, but I don:t have the time to do so here. Suffice it to say that, while the Japanese lack a correct understanding of the nature of God as their personal Father in Heaven, the practices of their religion, which date back thousands of years, retain a true spirit of reverence and holiness that was all too appearant in this place.

Wedensday and Thursday (remember, I skipped Monday entirely when I crossed the international date line) we had some training. After recieving it, I can readily testify that President Zinke has been called by God to direct the work in this mission. Everything in the Japan Kōbe Mission is directed by revelation, down to ascertaining how many people in each area are prepared, right now, to recieve the restored gospel. Our focus is to seek out and find those people, because realistically in Japan we cannot baptize anyone that God has not already prepared. We lack the language ability to [convince] people to recieve saving ordinances, and are fighting thousands of years of strong and proud tradition when we try to do so. But The Lord has defined his elect as those who will hear his voice and hearken unto it (see D&C 29:7). At this very moment, there are over 1,500 people in this mission whom The Lord has prepared to recieve us.

President has the exact total with him at all times. The number was obtained twice, once by the zone leaders through prayer and fasting, and again after each area added up their individual numbers, also obtained through personal revelation by prayer and fasting. The next step is for each companionship to obtain, by revelation, when and where to go to find those elect, and what to say when we find them.

Some companionships have already pursued this course (to read about it, see President Zinke:s blog

http://preachinghisgospel.wordpress.com)

After training, we met our trainers and got assigned our areas. My trainer:s name is Elder Cluff. We have been sent to the Wakayama area, which is southeast of Kōbe. We rode the train through ōsaka Station to get there. The true Japanese experience. Wakayama is incredible! It:s not a big city by Japanese standards, but it has a lot of really interesting people. And a castle.

(567.jpg)

(571.jpg)

We:re going there next week for P-day. Im excited for that.

Elder Cluff has been teaching me how to find people. How to Dendō.

It:s pretty great. I wish I could give you a full account of what we:ve been doing down here, but I:m out of internet time. I have many more pictures I want to show you,  but the email has a mb limit, so I:ve had to send you just a few of the best ones.

Thank you all for your continued love and support! The gospel is true.

Japan is the holy land. It;s time to build Zion.

Love,

Elder Tobler

トブラ長老

(561.jpg)

I thought this was an advertisement for Men In Black III, but Elder Cluff said that Agent K has been the unwilling spokesman for Boss Coffee since the first MIB. Appropriate, no?

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Yashashiibur: desu ne? (Long time no ocean)

Yashashiibur: desu ne? (Long time no ocean)

Sorry that it’s taken so long to get y’all another blog entry. A lot has been going on! Let me start by catching you up on all the news.

Well two weeks ago Elder L. Tom Perry and his wife came to talk to us about the Book of Mormon + The Restoration of the priesthood. Belnap Shimai and I finally go a chance to chat a bit at the meeting. Afterwards we had a Zone Devotional Review and Testimony meeting with our new Nihonujin. This group is a lot more shy then our last Nihoujin districts., but once the Ishikawa decided to be brave and bare his testimony, many more opened up to us. Let me tell you, there is nothing more moving than the testimony of a Japanese Latter Day Saint! After the meeting, the district leaders, zone leaders, and Rogers Shimia left to do some kind of orientation or training or whatever missionary leaders do. This left the rest of us with an hour to socialize and introduce ourselves to the Nihoujin. That was a lot of jun, and we finally got the chance to test our Jananese knowledge a bit! This group will depart the MTC at the same time we do, but more on that later.

On the following Wednesday, the Sinpai (senior) districts were assigned to host the incoming missionaries. Essentially what the entails is smiling as an SUV pulls up to the curb, greeting the family, helping with the baggage, and defusing mom’s anxiety, all while trying to get the missionary off and going in about three minutes. You then have about sixty seconds to build a relationship with the missionary because when you get him to 1M (the front building), you inform him that you will be taking two years of his possession and sending him into the building along to be injected, inspected, detacted, elected, selected and all kinds of stuff the they’ll be doing to him at the thing there. Okay, all the do is give him a name tag, ID card, and take his picture, but what do you do if you see a deer in the headlights? That’s right, you turn on the brights. (Kidding guys, Jeez, lighten up) Last of all you pick the missionary up on the other side of the building, carry their bags to the residence, take them to get their books, then drop them off at their classroom to meet their district (and to watch their face when they discover that their companion has the maturity level of a six year old, and his teacher doesn’t speak a word of English.)

So yes, hosting is a great experience, but it pretty much makes me useless for the day and the day following. Hosting takes the time of my personal study and gym time. Personal study is the time of the day where I can treasure up much needed scriptural nourishment, and gym time is where you trade your emotional exhaustion for physical exhaustion, emotional “detox” if you will. You see, you are trying to give all of your energy to the Lord, the people so when you don’t have time in your routine to recharge that energy, you become spent emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, rendering you entirely unable to focus on the your purpose. It’s amazing to me how much further you can push your body then you think you can push you will. This really illustrates to me the extent to which I rely on the Lord to sustain me. I miss one Book of Mormon study or a few jumping jacks and it’s game over. This is clearly not a work that I was meant to accomplish by my own power.

Well last week my Dojro and the other foreign missionaries go to go to the Salt Lake Temple and welfare square. The rest of us had to pack up own classroom and move out of 18M and into 7M, alternatively called the Heber C Kimball buildings, and alternatively called “the ghetto” . These buildings may have been new when my father used them in 1977, but they’re falling apart now. But on the other hand, not having to climb five flights of stairs eight times a day going to and from our classroom is nice. Plus we’re closer to the food.

Which reminds me, yes, I’m finally gaining weight. I had a good run eating healthily, avoiding soda, and doing P90X and jump training at gym, but the ice cream here is REALLY, REALLY GOOD!.

Had a devotional with President Daines of the Provo Temple. He’s awesome! He came to the Institute once last semester. He really knows his stuff! The thing I miss most about pre-mission life is . . . well, flirting with the pretty females, but second only to the that, I miss being able to research deep doctrine like President Daines was talking about, especially when it relates to the temple!

Our district hosted again last Wednesday. When we asked why we had to do it for two weeks in a row, we discovered that the missionaries who came in with us on April 4 have been here longer then any other missionaries (except for Elders Fernandes and Da Silvia, who came in two weeks before us to do an English program). I saw my aunt Lori while I was hosting. She had just dropped of her daughter Rachel, who I’ve seen a time or two since. It’s exciting to see this MTC family grow. Then shrink. Then grow.

Not that this is immediately relevant to anything, but sand volleyball is epic. And I’m getting pretty good if I do say so myself. Yesterday we went undefeated in a tournament. We beat the championship game 25-6. In the words of Ludlow choro, it was “redonkadonk!”

On Sunday we (all the departing districts) had a combined with the Branch Presidency where we addressed some practical concern about this week and going to Japan, Because, in case you have your own life and haven’t been keeping track, a week from now I’m going to be on the other side of the world. So, as you may expect, we had few question. I’ll be leaving at about 4am Monday morning hopping a flight to Dallas then Tokyo, and a connection to Osaka. Yeah. (Change in plans. I’m now going to Seattle and then directly to Osaka.)

This has been an amazing adventure, and it’s really only just beginning. It wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about it here, but suffice it to say that I have seen miracles in this place. And I’m not redefining the word “miracles” to suit my purposes. I have seen things here that can only be called the power of God . I have no doubt that the work I have been called to is the Lord’s work. I have witnessed His power’ I have felt His love. H pray that I may be a service to Him.

God be with you ’til we meet again.

Love,

Elder Tobler

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