Archive for August, 2012
Dear Friends and Family:
I wish I had time to just transcribe my journal from last week. That is how cool it was. I laughed; I cried; I spoke Portuguese! Unfortunately, I do not have that kind of time, so I will try to touch on the highlights
On Tuesday I did a Kokan (companion exchange) with Elder Wilcox – our District Leader – in Sennan. It was actually a lot of fun. We had two awesome lessons where the spirit was present. I will tell you about one of them because it was a funny story. We met with a Peruvian-Japanese family – a mother and her two young daughters. The daughters speak Spanish in the home but naturally they are fluent in Japanese. The mother knew some English and is fluent in Spanish, but is a little shakey on her Japanese. She wants her daughters to practice English with us, but their English is pretty shakey. I don:t know any Spanish at all and my Japanese is still a bit shakey. Elder Wilcox lived in Chile for three years when his Dad was a mission president, and so his Spanish and Japanese is pretty good, and he even remembers English! Basically, he was the only one there that spoke all three languages. When we spoke English, the girls didn:t understand any of it. When we spoke Japanese, the mother didn:t understand much of it. And when we spoke Spanish, I didn:t understand any of it. So we had to keep switching between the three. It was a regular language soup going on! Even with the tripple language barrier, we had a lot of fun! I:m in love with the family already. I wish they lived in my Area instead. They have two copies of the Book of Mormon now – one in Spanish and one in Japanese.
Training Plans are awesome. I love them so much that I:ve started making them myself, and I will likely use them in one form or another for the rest of my life. I can:t really think of a good definition for a training plan, so I:ll describe them. They have several or all of the following sections: 1) Doctrines and Principles – Quotations from Scriptures and other revelations relative to the subject(s) of the training plan. 2) Objectives – Which changes ior improvements n attitude, thinking, or behavior the training plan is intended to fascilitate. 3) Action Plan – Activities for daily application of the principles. 4) Measurements. 5) Self-evaluation. It:s a really good way to focus study and personal improvement – ESPECIALLY when given by way of inspiration and revelation from above!
It:s really cool that I:ve been called to such an obedient mission. I think if we were less obedient, we wouldn:t get cool training plans – or if we did, their purpose would be to correct behavior, rather than raise our vision. Because we have mostly [graduated]というか from obedience-school, the windows of heaven can be opened far wider, the blessings poured out far more abundantly, our confidence in The Lord relied on far more completely, and the upper-bounds of our personal growth and selfless servicecan be elevated far beyond that of a mission whose missionaries struggled with obedience. Don:t misunderstand; I don:t claim to be perfectly obedient all the time, but I am always trying, repenting, and improving.
We had Zone conference this Thursday, which is where we got that new training plan. After the meeting itself, I got to witness the baptism of an Iranian man who was living in Mikunigaoka, where we were having the conference. He is really cool! His conversion has been a long, hard-frought battle, for himself, for his friends, and for the missionaries. He had to be sure it was what his Heavenly Father wanted him to do. Now, baptized as a Christian, he can never return to his homeland, or he risks imprisonment or even execution. But after five years of praying and reading the scriptures, his Testimony in Jesus has become firm. He knows what he is to do. And he did it. President Zinke got involved personally in his conversion, and it was President Zinke who baptized him. How powerful it was!
Now I want one. Me want baptism NOW! </cookie monster impersonation>
Oh, and I saw Da Silva Choro at zone conference. That was great! I love seeing my Doki!
Sister Belnap is in Akashi, which is over by Kobe.
We have begun housing in whatwe call the Super Secret Housing District of a Thousand and One Mysteries. We name apartments so we can keep track of where we:ve already been. Right now we:re working on: The Pinky, The Bran (leftern and rightern hemispheres – seperate buildings), the Blue Eyes White Dragon, Salmon, and Prince. And those were just the ones we could see from standing on the far street corner of the SSHDoaTaOM. That place will keep us busy all next transfer!
A lightning storm interrupted us on the last floor of the Pinky. Some poor lady heard me YELP in the middle of a door approach because the lightning strike RIGHT NEXT TO US scared me so bad.
M-san is being baptized! She passed her baptismal interview yesterday, and the service is scheduled for this Sunday. What a miracle!
The rain storm I mentioned caused a problem. W-san was not able to make it to our appointment, and without a phone, we lost contact with him completely. We scowered Wakayama looking for him, but it wasn:t until we began following Spiritual promptings that we were able to find him. We found the place that he is living right now and we were able to meet with him. He is doing well! The city is working with him to find him a real place to live, and his temporal needs are going to be looked after. What a blessing! He has finished the Book of Mormon, and is now on round two. He is in Mosiah, and he understands basically everything he reads. That:s incredible! I don:t even understand everything in the Book of Mormon yet, and I:ve had it with me a lot longer than the two weeks he:s had his.
Transfer announcements came this morning. Elder Cluff and I are staying in Wakayama again (yay!) and we:re getting two new Japanese missionaries in our District – in Tanabe!!! (yay! No more two hour train rides! Except for T-san:s baptism).
A thought occured to me, amidst the challenges of this week. I wondered if God wasn:t deterring me from serving a mission. What if everything I had ever learned was wrong? What if inviting people to come unto Christ was not the Lord:s will? I wondered howthis could possibly be true. But then, a comforting thought entered my mind. If God didn:t want me to on a mission, all He would have had to do was remain silent. If He hadn:t spoken to me with power and with glory, I never would have gone. For reasons that seem petty and obscure to me now, I did not want to serve a mission. Petty though the reasons were, they were paralyzing. I am on a mission now only because I KNOW that this is where The Lord wants me to be.
I know I:ve been super namakemono about getting you news and updates and stuff, so back by popular demand, I:ll spend some time on that stuff now.
I don:t know if you can get authentic Japanese Yakiniku in America, but if you can, do it. It is the most incredible-tasting food I:ve ever had. Bar none. Forget Tucanos. Yakiniku.
We did Taboo wih Eikaiwa. It was a hit! It works better with lots of people, though. And making the vocabulary cards takes forever because we have to do it by hand, think of all the words, and translate them all into Japanese for those students who can:t explain in English. Taboo is fun though. We don:t have a buzzer, so we use a paper funnel. When someone messes up the referee gets to say [bu-bu!] in the other person:s ear. It:s funny. Does anyone have any other ideas for English-related games we could play with Eikaiwa?
The last two months, all the missionaries in the mission have been studying the principle of faithfullness. As defined by our mission president, faithfulness basically boils down to four things – Work hard, be happy, don:t complain, and never give up. If anyone is looking for a cool study plan at the moment, this is a great principle to guide your study. Take a look at D&C 75:2-5 (and the rest of that section, for that matter) and the Christlike Attributes in Preach My Gospel – especially faith, patience, and dilligence. Also see President Zinke:s Blog (http://preachinghisgospel.wordpress.com/). I:m sure he:ll have something about faithfullness in there, probably under [training]. The more we rely upon The Lord, the more successful we will be in all our endevours. Remember that He does not ask you to have all knowledge or all power. He already has that. He just wants us to be faithful and rely on Him.
We carried some futons down to Tanabe. Carrying futons is incredibly difficult. But we got them to the apartment. So now we can go down and actually stay the night in Tanabe, which will greatly ease the burden of traveling down there. We dropped one of our investigators down there who likes missionaries but didn:t really have any sincere desire to come unto Christ. But T-san has been working hard, against mounting opposition, to be baptized. We:ve met with him twice this month, and have been calling him twice a day to encourage him and help him feel the spirit. For a while it was a bit of a roller-coaster with him. Misunderstanding after misunderstanding, fear and doubt and opposition from family all combined into a bit of a meltdown. We almost got dropped. But with help from the branch president and a lot of prayers, we were able to resolve his concerns, and now he is back on track. It has been an emotionally exhausting proccess for everyone, but God is faithful, and Tsuchiya-san is sincere. He is awesome. We just got back from Tanabe last night, in fact. We rescheduled his baptismal date. He knows what he needs to do, and he:s willing to do it. If he relies on the saving grace of Jesus Christ, he will be able to do it.
We also had to reschedule E-san:s baptismal date. Her husband is worthy to batpize her…but he broke his hand it won:t be healed until November. Bummer. But hey, now she and her son might be able to be baptized on the same day! That would be cool!
We did a Koukan with Sakai (the Zone Leaders). It was…interesting. We worked hard and we found a lot of solid P.I.:s. One of them has since become a new investigator. W-san. He:s a great guy. Right now he:s at a hard place in his life though. He is living on the street. He has a desire to learn of Christ, which is wonderful, and we will work with him and encourage that desire. That being said, we will be focusing on his most immediate needs first. We have been working with our District Leader to try and figure out a good plan to do that. We need to see what W:s thoughts are himself and ask how we can help. He is very smart! We gave him a Book of Mormon and he read through to 3rd Nephi in just one week! He understood way more than most people do, and had very insightful questions about it. With a mind like that, there:s no reason for him to suffer in poverty – of a temporal or a spiritual nature.
I bought an allan wrench at the Daiso and used it to salvage a drink-holder from one of the scrap bikes behind our apartment. Take THAT dehydration!
M-san came to church and is getting baptized in Sennan on the 2nd! I:m so excited and so proud of her! I hope I don:t transfer so I can go to the baptism! Words cannot express how happy I am that she:s finally made it into the fold.
Letting the Spirit direct where to send us during Dendou is really cool. This work was meant to be done via revelation.
Okay, funny story. Our last district meeting was a Zone takeover meeting. For that, the Zone Leaders asked us all to prepare five minute talks on the principle of faithfullness. This was not difficult for me, because our training plan has inspired a great deal of personal revelation. Formatting that into a talk or a lesson was just a matter of deciding which were the most important insights to share. When we got to the church in Sennan, the Zone leaders asked Baker-Choro, one of the missionaries in Sennan, to give his talk. Baker Choro is six-foot-six with bright red hair. He stands out in Japan. But he is also about the kindest, gentlest, most spiritual person I:ve ever met – right up there with his companion…who is six-foot-seven. Anyway, the talk was very spiritual. After Baker Choro sat down, Hugo Choro (one of the Zone Leaders) asked if there was anyone else who was just dying to go…which I kind of was. But I didn:t speak up. Neither did anyone else. So Hugo Choro asked again. [Is there anybody whom the Spirit is telling to go right now?] The Spirit told me to go, but I held back for some reason, like you do in fast and testimony meeting. And then Hugo Choro asked a third time: [Is there someone who theSpirit is telling to go right now, but they:re holding back for some reason, like you do in fast and testimony meeting?] Finally I raised my hand. [Okay, okay, twist my arm why don:t ya!]
So the work rolls on. We:re finding more effectively, we:re teaching more effectively, and we:re being faithful. That:s the jist of all this. It:s not always easy but it sure is enjoyable! The weather is still hot but I think it:s past the hot of the year. Perhaps as the weather begins to cool off, the Spirit:s light will begin to burn in starker contrast within the hearts of the people. I love all of you and I pray for you often. I hope you are all well. Stay faithful. The Lord will bless you.
P.S. But seriously, Yakiniku is the bomb. 焼肉はボンブです。
There is much in the way of stories and news and updates that I could share today, but I feel like there is something else that needs to be said. I am not certain exactly why, but I feel like I want to talk briefly about what I am doing in Japan as it relates to these exciting and tumultuous times in which we live.
The political and economic climate in the United States and worldwide has re-awakened a discussion, centuries in the making, regarding class, welfare, opportunity, charity, greed, and liberty. Opinions on this topic are varied, to say the least, and we could spend hours and longer debating these without ever coming to a satisfying consensus. That is not what I want to do today. Instead, what I would like to do is share a divinely inspired message of timeless truths which can help all of us – regardless of our opinions, views, or circumstances – be happy, healthy, and productive. As an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, I boldly declare the truthfulness of this message and urge all who read it to ponder it and apply it to your lives.
A disturbing report was recently released by the New York Times, stating that for the first time, “more than half of births to American women under age 30 occur outside of marriage” (Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise, “Unwed Mothers Now a Majority Before Age 30,” New York Times, Feb. 18, 2012, A1).
Perhaps there are some of you who read my remarks here who do not share my alarm at this frightening statistic. I urge you to reconsider your perspective! I could cite scripture, prophetic counsel, generally accepted societal practices, or an appeal to common sense in an effort to detail the host of societal ills, of both moral and practical character, that have and will continue to plague the society in which the traditional family is allowed to dissolve. But if there is no other argument which will get your attention, I will appeal to your pocket-books.
Most statisticians agree that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the United States. In the whirlwind of politically-charged discussion, the exact nature of the cause of this disparity becomes obscure. It is, however, a generally-accepted and amply-demonstrated fact that children born out of wedlock or raised in single-parent homes are less likely to obtain higher education and prosper in the workplace, and more likely to become involved in crime, drugs, and other pursuits which stress societies and further aid the disintegration of the honest work ethic. More than any other single thing, this ethic brings about personal financial well-being. Put simply, there is a direct relationship between the health of the traditional nuclear family and the ethical and economic prosperity of a nation.
This finding seems to agree with a divine promise given once to the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi in 1 Nephi 2:20, and afterwards repeated at least five times to his descendants, eventually becoming the central principle upon which the economy of that ancient civilization was established – Inasmuch as the people keep the commandments of God, they shall prosper in the land.
Prophets, ancient and modern, have made known to the people of the earth the divinely-inspired pattern for family living which The Lord has prepared for us. Far from being a dictatorial decree intended to compel us to a state of bondage and subservience, this pattern was given to promote happiness and prosperity, and to reverse the process of moral, social, and economic decay.
“…Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children…We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as Husband and wife…
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one-another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives – mothers and fathers – will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations…
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of The Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion work, and wholesome recreational activities…
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family: A Proclamation to The World.)
These warnings are grim, but the message contained in this inspired declaration is one of hope and change. The Lord has not merely revealed the cause of these calamities, but also the solution. We have spoken enough about the diagnosis. Let us speak of the cure.
In the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M Russel Ballard, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, made the following statement: “When people make family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.” (That the Lost May Be Found, By Elder M. Russell Ballard. April 2012 General Conference)
What are these “gospel principles” of which Elder Ballad speaks? They are the same as they have always been in every dispensation of time: Faith in The Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, the making and keeping of sacred covenants by means of ordinances such as baptism and marriage for time and eternity The Lord’s House, relying on the guidance of God through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and last of all, remaining true and faithful to covenants made with God and with each other despite whatever opposition may come.
Speaking of these covenants, Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the same Quorum of Twelve Apostles had this to say: “If you have made [them,] keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is still time.” (The Laborers in the Vineyard. By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. April 2012 General Conference)
It really is that simple. We know what we must do. We know how to do it. I cannot promise that it will be easy; nothing worth doing ever is. But I testify in the name of Him who called me to this ministry, that the blessings promised to the faithful and their families in this life and the next await all those who heed this call. You are loved. You are not so lost that The Good Shepherd cannot find you and carry you home to safety. If you remain skeptical, humble yourself, get on your knees, and pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Christ to know if these things are not true. You will come to know, with the same conviction I know, that The Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families, societies, and nations. This is my testimony, and I share it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Hey everybody! Juist wanted to drop in and tell you all I:m still kickin!
I:ll give you an overview of the news recently. Going to Tanabe so many times is starting to get kind of expensive (it:s about $40 round trip). But thankfully the ward continues to feed us.
We:re teaching a lot of Eikaiwa recently. We like doing that 🙂
The weather continues to get hotter. What we:ve been doing lately is going out to dendō in the morning, then coming home for lunch and study during the hottest part of the afternoon, then going back out in the evening. That way we miss the hottest parts of the day. We can:t do it every day, but it:s nice when we can do it.
I bought a power rangers hand fan to use in church meetings とか。Members are pretty jealous of my Super Sentai Swagger.
We went back down to Tanabe to teach our investigator down there and go to church with him. He:s doing great! He is living the word of wisdom and keeping all his commitments really well. He calls us a lot when he feels tempted to relapse, and we are happy to talk him through it. He:s awesome. We:re going to go down there one more time and teach him the rest of the material, and after that he:ll be ready for his baptismal interview, which we:ve already set up! He:ll be all set for baptism in about three weeks! We also have another investigator in Wakayama who will be ready in three or four weeks. She:s doing well and we actually started teaching her son, too! He:s a good boy and he likes meeting with us. I think he will be baptized soon, too 🙂
We did another Kōkan with the Sennan missionaries last week. This time I went with Rasmusen-Chōrō who is in my dōki from the MTC! We were in the same district there, too! We had some serious dōki chikara (same-class power) going on in our dendō. We struggled with the language, but we talked to lots of people and even got a P.I. out of it! We were pretty happy about that.
Cluff-Chōrō and Rasmusen-Chōrō both ate a king size at Suki-ya. I can:t tell you how disgusting that is. See the pictures below.
We biked out to a really cool beach last week way up on the northern tip of our area. We didn:t really find anyone with interest, but we did get to see a REALLY cool shrine. I:ll put some pictures of that, too.
I called Zinke-Kaichō about putting futons in Tanabe so we could stay the night when we go down there. He said he:d think about it. I asked if, while he was at it, he could send some missionaries down to Tanabe. He said he:d think about it. He told me to baptize our investigator down there quick in case he did put missionaries down there, because if we don:t baptize him before they get there, then they:ll get all the credit for the baptism XD Haha I love Kaichō.
Honestly I don:t care who gets the credit, but even so that baptism is going to happen this transfer.
We also biked out to Iwade-shi last week. Iwade used to be its own area, but the branch kind of died, so they closed it and merged it with the Wakayama ward, so the area got merged with it. Neither of us had ever been out there before and we needed to determine whether it was worth the two-hour bikeride to go dendō over there. I like Iwade.
It:s the stix. My kinda people. But that makes it kind of hard to contact people. Plus we got attacked by cicadas. And I do mean ATTACKED! Kamikazi:d! Have you ever seen a cicada? I have! One attacked me! Actually it was probably closer to about 300 that attacked me. It was…it was terrifying. So, yeah, probably not going back to Iwade again.
So, yeah, things are doing great out here! Sorry I:ve been a little slow in getting back to some of your letters recently. Things have been pretty crazy. I will get to them though! Thank you for all of your encouragement and support. I love you and I miss you all. I hope everything is well with you. May The Lord bless you. Remember Him in all your doings, and He will prosper you.