Dear Friends and Family:
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.