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.
(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.)
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.
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
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.
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?