Long Time No Sea of Japan

Dear Friends and Family:

Greetings from Yonago. I know it’s been a while. I finally managed to find a few minutes and let you know a little bit about what’s been going on. Thank you all for being so patient.

Let’s start with the bad news. My beloved companion since Wakayama, my dear, sweet bicycle Anabelle rolled her last mile. She was a good bike, and if there had been an Asahi Bicycle shop in Yonago she would have survived. A spoke came loose, causing a horrible bend in the rim. Fixing a spoke is usually easy, but given the nature of the wheel, doing it would require deconstructing the entire gear box, which is beyond the capability of any bike shop in Yonago. The wobble in the wheel caused the axel to come apart. She limped her way across the river to the Aeon mall, where she will remain forevermore. Well done, thou good and faithful cycle. Enter now into the rest of the Aeon.

On the bright side, I am now riding Roxy, the bicycle which Allen-Choro left in Yonago when he went home. What I didn’t find out until this week is that he inherited Roxy from the legendary Lystrop-Choro, former Assistant to the President and universal Dendo Hero of all who knew him. He went home even before I arrived in the mission, but I have heard the stories. Before he was an AP he was a Zone Leader in Wakayama, as well. I seem to be living in his shadow.

By way of miracles, I will quote from my journal from my journal from Saturday, June 29, Sunday, June 30 and Tuesday, July 2:

29日6月2013年 – Saturday

Spent the whole day in Interviews with [Zinke]-Kaicho. He gave a good question-and-answer-based training. I translated again. It was hard. My head hurt. ぼうとした。

In my interview I got a serious beatdown on faith and giving 100%. I love beatdowns from Kaicho. They cut, but I always walk away from them feeling optimistic and hopeful. I know what to improve on, how to improve on it, and what it will look like when I do it. I would be a much better leader if I cold do that.

But I’m done holding back. I’m tired of fear. I want to believe. I want to work exclusively in the blue room, not hop in and out of the blue door from time to time. I want to baptize thousands and build Zion here in Japan! I want to save souls and rebuke the devil. Ammon did it; why can’t I?!

My faith is centered on the Almighty. With God, all things are possible. I’m ready. Let’s do this!

 

30日6月2013年 – Sunday

Sunday can often be one of the most stressful days for a missionary, but today was a day of miracles! Go figure; Saturday; beatdown on faith, Sunday; Miracle after miracle. The Lord has a profound interest in this work. I suppose that should not surprise anyone; He died to bring this work to pass. There is no work with more profound and far-reaching consequences than the work of salvation.

At Church four investigators showed up. We prepared several assignments for everybody to do in Sacrament Meeting because it is the most sacred and spiritual time and place in Yonago – therefore investigators are especially susceptible to answers to their prayers, etc. Well, every investigator did their assignment, and every one experienced a miraculous result. M-Kyodai focused in Church for the first time ever. As a result he opened up to the ward a bit more. He also agreed to keep the word of wisdom.

We had D-kyodai prepare a list of questions he wanted answered in his next meeting. Not only did he come up with some really good questions, but he finally agreed to start meeting us on a regular basis at the church. Up until now the only way to get lessons with him has been to conspire with his wife and then drop in “uninvited.” He:s really stubborn. But we’re gonna get him. You can only resist the Spirit for so long.

Best of all, O-Kyodai prayed to know if God was pleased that he came to church. He got an answer. All the trouble he’s been having with faith and with feeling the Spirit and with his testimony disappeared in one miraculous hour. Now he’s going to be baptized and complete another family in the church. (Wong-Choro and I already baptized his wife and three kids several transfers ago.)

Today we got to watch the worldwide leadership broadcast called “The Work of Salvation.” It outlined a fuller vision for member-missionary relations. It was powerful! It was personal! It was specific! It was detailed! It painted the picture a lot clearer and outlined roles a lot better. The timing of this couldn’t have been better! All of the new missionaries are just starting to arrive. There were something like a hundred and fifty some-odd mission presidents in attendance, which alone is spectacular, but the kicker is that they were all NEW mission presidents, all being trained in the MTC. That has never happened in this or probably in any other dispensation! And the missionaries! There must have been a thousand in the choir alone! It was downright moving.

This might be my favorite miracle from today. After the broadcast got out I got to talk with Sugimoto Ayaka-chan and her mother. Ayakachan was a yakusokusha [an investigator with a baptismal date] in Kurayoshi [the sisters area] when I first transferred to Yonago. Her mother was skeptical – borderline hantai. So to see what was up with this whole baptism thing, she attended one of Ayaka’s lessons. She left the lesson with a baptismal date – for Mothers Day. When Ayaka-chan was baptized, she wrote her testimony on a card and gave it to her mother. On Mothers Day, her mother was baptized, and on that occasion she wrote her testimony on a card and gave it to Ayaka-chan. The mother was the last of the original elect in the first-gathered sheep-number revelations. It was the following Sunday that the sister-missionaries Kubo-shimai (my Doki) and Tojo-shimai (her first transfer companion) fasted and prayed for a new revelation. On their first attempt, because of the depth of their humility and the strength of their faith they both received the same revelation, indicating how many of the Lord:s elect were prepared to receive them in Kurayoshi, “right now.”

That is the background of the Sugimoto Ayaka-chan conversion story. I told you all that background because I wanted you to understand the intensity of my reaction when Ayaka-chan announced to me after the broadcast that she is putting in her papers and intends to go on a mission! In a really embarrassing display of joy and astonishment I grasped and even started to cry a little. I didn’t mean to – certainly not in front of her. I couldn’t help it. Even now the thought makes me a little choked up. I can’t wait to tell Wong-Choro and Kubo-shimai at Mission Leader Council on Tuesday! I am way too excited for her! She’s a goofball, but she’ll make a great missionary! She had some good examples! Some AMAZING examples, even!

After the meting, a member dropped a referral on us. Another husband of a less-active member. Let this be a lesson to you all, the success of the missionary work in Yonago has come largely from the ward’s focus on families and building Zion in the homes first – including homes of part-member families and less-active members.

We had a few minutes to chat with the bishop after the broadcast. Up until now in this ward, the dendo fire has been strong, but has lacked a united vision and a strong direction. A big need has been the number of ward missionaries. Well, we asked the bishop, “What did you think of the broadcast?”

He responded: “Okay, here’s what I’m thinking. the ward needs to dendo. So I’m gonna call like a thousand ward missionaries, and you’re going to go out with them once a week and do community service. Then they can take over the less-active and recent convert work so you can focus on finding us some new people. How’s that?”

Miracle, miracle, and miracle.

Last of all, we were on our way to go follow-up with another Yakusokusha when we ran into this kid on his bike. He looked like he was about 18. We stopped him and started talking about God. The words came really naturally. We invited him to hear  message and he was down, but he wasn’t sure where the church was and almost started a panic attack about being able to find it. We calmed hims down and suggested that we just ride over and show him right then. so we did. Built some relationship of trust on the way over and showed him where the church was. We asked if he had time for us to show him around inside. He did. We tied a guided tour into a powerful “setting the table” lesson we’ve been preparing and the result was what an old companion Wycoff-Choro once called a “spiritual headshot.” He revealed to us some of the deeper desires of his heart and we easily connected these to the promise of Eternal Life. By the time we got around to connecting baptism to Eternal life, he was practically begging for a date. So we invited him to baptism on September First, but we’ll probably move that up sooner. We’re meeting him again tomorrow. We’ll probably teach him how to pray. He likes prayer.

I also gave a beatdown on accountability to my district leader and he has improved about 1000% since then.

Yep. I think I want to work in the blue room from now on. Every day should be full of miracles like this.

 

2日7月2013年 – Tuesday

Today we had a Mission Leadership Council all day. They used to call it Zone Leader Council, but now in addition to Zone Leaders, the new Sister Training Leaders also participate. Most of it consisted of a good, old-fashioned beatdown on faith, faithfulness, and relying on the Lord. I feel a great need to stretch, to change, to conquer, to face impossible odds and overcome.

Today was especially miraculous because of some news I received. Right now Miller-Choro is the zone leader in Akashi. In the MTC he was out of control. In the mission field he is out of control in the best possible way. He was on a companion exchange in Ako, my old stomping grounds, and one of the to-do-list items was to get permission for a teenage girl to be baptized. The mom was okay but Grandpa would not let the mom give permission. They all live together but as of yet nobody had ever been able to meet with the grandfather. Well Miller-choro went over to the house to get this taken care of. He met the mom and did some good BRT, but I guess she couldn’t talk for long, so Miller-Choro called George-Choro in Akashi and said, “We’re extending this Kokan. I’m not coming home yet, man.”

Well they went back the next day and rang the doorbell. Nobody answered. They rang again and knocked. Nothing. Miller-Choro peeked through the post box cover and could clearly see the grandpa was just sitting in the chair watching TV. Well, following a spiritual prompting as irrational as Nephi’s command to slay Laban, and summoning up enough courage to do the unthinkable, he opened the front door and walked into the genkan.

The grandfather was furious, naturally, and came running and yelling and screaming. But Miller-Choro held his ground. He wouldn’t back down until he had been heard out. When he had, the grandfather was still yelling and screaming, and they exited the house.

Still not willing to give up, they sat down and waited for the mom to come home. When she did, they just told her what was up. They told her what baptism is and why it’s important and why this girl needs it. Well the grandfather came out again and started yelling and screaming and they left, feeling like they had done everything possible (not everything reasonable, but everything possible). The next day Miller-Choro got a call from the Ako elders. The mom had signed the papers. Miller-Choro is never allowed back in Osaki-cho ever again, but the girl now had permission to be baptized.

I chose to include this second-hand experience because seven months ago I was in Ako. I was the one who found that girl. A former investigator brought her to us at Eikaiwa and told us to teach her about God. It was Eikaiwa time so we just taught her English instead, but we got Nana-shimai (the convert that Wycoff-choro and I had just taught and baptized) involved in fellowshipping her. Despite being thirty-years older, these sisters became good friends, having both had some dysfunctional relationships and other hardships, they bonded pretty fast.

Now, not only is she getting baptized, but two of her friends and another older investigator I found with Wycoff-choro.

My thoughts and prayers have been upon them lately. I also had Wong-Choro and Murakami-Choro follow up with my first investigator ever who is still investigating in Sennan. We need some more miracles like this and get her baptized too.

 

I hope you all are catching the excitement for the work that I was feeling when I penned these words. When I sat down to email today, the mission weekly email showed that Ako had a baptism this week. That’s a baptismal photo that I want a copy of. Apparently the work has been going so well over there that the Branch Presidnet has asked for four additional missionary companionship to be sent there. And last I heard, President Zinke is seriously considering sending them. I love it! I don’t want to leave this hemisphere until we have a temple in the Kansai region!

In other news, the mission has turned to Isaiah to teach us how to teach the gospel “Second Grade Simple.” President Zinke released a training plan which has us structuring our lessons chiastically. Chiasmus is a style of Hebrew poetry utilizing a unique form of parallelism in ideas which repeat themselves backwards. Look up Chiasmus on LDS.org if you want to know more about it. It’s pretty cool, and probably the single most indisputable internal evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Well, it turns out, it is also the best way to help an investigator’s mind glide seamlessly from one idea to another, connect the dots, and grasp the importance of each principle (all notoriously difficult in Japan). The teaching model looks like this:

 

1. Prayer

2. Commitment Followup

3. Testimony Development Review

4. 30-second doctrinal statement (Intro)

5. Heartfelt Testimony/Experiences

6. Main Content (doctrine, principle, scriptures, connections, invitations)

5′. Heartfelt Testimony/Experiences

4′. 30-second doctrinal statement (Conclusion)

3′. Review Invitations

2′. Review Homework

1′. Prayer

We’ve had a lot of chances to implement this and it’s worked miracles in our investigators understanding and progression. Go figure. Revelation works. Even some of our stubbornest investigators have begun to progress, due largely to a huge increase in their understanding. As Joseph Smith taught, is it impossible for any man to exercise faith without a correct doctrinal understanding of the principle in which he is exercising faith.

Speaking of Isaiah, we’ve been teaching a Bible Class as a finding tool. It hasn’t been great for finding yet, but one of our yakusokusha has been coming and we’ve been using it to sneak extra doctrinal teaching moments in between lessons. For example, we just talked about Jacob’s ladder and used it as a tool to introduce the concept of the degrees of glory. She’s got a baptismal interview coming up on Friday. Prayers onegaishimasu!

In Kurayoshi right now, we have two second-transfer missionaries. There aren’t enough sisters in the mission to be trainers, so their trainers are PMG, the Book of Mormon, and The Lord. We’re helping them out as best we can, but in truth it is a little bit redundant because…they’re just awesome. It’s incredible! They’re nearly leading the entire zone! I called it from the very beginning; The Lord is going to use Kurayoshi as a model to teach the rest of the mission once and for all that you don’t need skills or experience to be a successful missionary. You just have to be humble, love the people, have faith in Christ, live worthily, and rely on the Atonement. No one can doubt that anymore.

In closing, I would like to relate one more experience. A while ago there were two little girls we were trying to teach and baptize, but it was difficult working around their father’s schedule. Well, there were some problems with truancy at school and maybe some other legal problems, and the long and short of it is that Dad sent them to a special boarding school/group home/juvenile delinquency correctional facility. He said it was way hard, but the place is way good and he thinks it will do them some good. I told him how impressed I was with him. He really is a good father, despite the somewhat dysfunctional situation. He expressed some doubt in my analasys, given the situation with the girls. I took the opportunity to explain about moral agency, and how no matter how good of a parent you are, the children will always have the freedom to stray from good paths. As I did so, I experienced a fullness of the gift of tongues unparalleled by any other experience thus far on my mission, and for the first time I was able to communicate fluently in my mission language. I testified with all my heart based on my own experiences. When I strayed from the path, it was only the prayers and faith of my father that brought me back into the light. In some way or another, I think everyone feels like the parable of the prodigal son relates to them somehow. He expressed some desire to emulate the faith of my father, and perhaps re-look his outlook and views on life. I readily informed him that that’s all we do as missionaries. Now we plan on teaching him the gospel and helping him to find the only way to peace in the home – and that is to live life like the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ.

And that is my closing testimony. The miracles I have been able to participate in on my mission are all attributable only to the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior. I love him, and I love this work. In His name I testify that He lives, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Love,

Elder Tobler

トブラー長老

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