"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." -Alma 26:12

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

12/19/2016 Caroling in Japan

Hello everyone, and a Merry (early) Christmas to all!

I hope you are all doing well, enjoying the Christmas spirit, and eating lots of desserts and treats for me! We may not have egg nog and cookies and cakes like we do back home, but this time of year is absolutely the best time to be a missionary and share the light of Christ. Lately we have been bringing caroling to the people of Japan, and it has led to some memorable experiences. Japanese people still haven't adopted caroling as a Christmas tradition, and some don't even know that is a thing at all, but we got a few members together and went knocking door to door asking people if they would like to listen to us sing a Christmas song. We tried everything we could think of, from introducing ourselves in different ways, to asking them what they like about Christmas or if they have a favorite Christmas song, and even tried singing immediately as someone opened the door to us. One lady opened the door and became so surprised as we immediately burst into song that she quickly backed away, pulling the door shut behind her. We had a good laugh about that, and as we continued to try to find someone that would listen to us, we met an old man that came out of his front door to talk to us. He told us at first that he was too old to listen to our song (a response that seems to work for getting out of everything here), but at the insistence of a member, we started singing to him. As we finished our simple song, his demeanor was completely changed, and he told us how good we were (he really must have been too old, and his ears weren't the best). It was a small testimony to me that the light of Christ changes people even in small and simple ways.

That definitely wasn't the only change in people we have been seeing this week, and we are continuing to be blessed by God. We met with Marcos Kyodai and his wife Sachie again this week, and it has been astonishing how different our lessons have become. At first, Sachie had no interest in hearing what we had to say, but through the Spirit her interest level has completely changed and she is now willingly participating in our visits each time we go over. We planned to talk about the restoration of the gospel this past lesson, but we were surprised to find out that it was Marcos kyodai's birthday, and that a few friends were over. We ended up having a lesson with Marcos kyodai, Sachie, and a friend, and we talked about feeling the Holy Ghost through reading the Book of Mormon. They all had great questions and input, and all agreed to continue reading the Book of Mormon.

We also have another investigator, Wada san, that took us out today to visit a real ninja house! There were tons of trapdoors, tricks, and secret entrances. It was just like something out of my imagination, and it was way cool. The best part, though, was definitely on the ride home as we were able to talk about all the things he is learning from his study of the Book of Mormon. We ended up talking about the Plan of Salvation, and he felt so much comfort as we told him that we can see our family again in heaven, and that death is not the end of God's plan for us. Wada san still has some doubts about one religion being true, but I know that he is feeling the Spirit and enjoying the change it is making in his life.

These and other experiences of seeing everyone's faith grow, helps to remind me of my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know that we can draw closer to God through this book than through any other book written on this Earth today. It has helped me to learn of my Savior Jesus Christ, and my Father in Heaven. I am so thankful for the peace that comes from knowing that my family can be together forever, and I know that it is all because of the grace and love of Jesus Christ. He atoned for all our sins and made it possible for us to overcome the obstacles keeping us from returning to live with our Father in Heaven. I am becoming closer to my Savior with each passing day this Christmas season, and it gives me strength beyond my own, to face the challenges and work ahead of me each day. I know that He extends His help to each of us, and He looks for us to do the same for the people around us. I invite you all to follow the example of Christ in lifting the burden of someone around you in a small way, whether it is a family member, friend, or a stranger, doing something as simple as giving a smile, or something requiring more time like shoveling a driveway for someone who can't, and see how your happiness and light will begin to increase. The small and simple changes will astound you. Once again, merry Christmas, and to all a good night! (Or good morning, depending on what part of the world you are in and when you read this)

Ueno Castle
Fushimi inari
Elder Jones and Elder Wood from my MTC district!

12/12/2016 What is faith?

Minnasan Konnichiwa!

I feel so humbled every week when trying to decide what to write about, and what I can possibly say to help all of you awesome people, but I feel like I end up writing a few short paragraphs that never accurately describe what I am experiencing and feeling while in the service of my Heavenly Father. I hope that you all forgive my inability to put into writing all the things you probably want to hear, and I pray that you can find at least something to brighten your day, or remind you all of experiences you have had in the past as the Spirit brings all things to your remembrance (John 14:26). With that in mind, here is what happened this week!

This one started off with a real bang, because we had companion exchanges with the Omihachiman Elders starting Monday. My companion left for Omihachiman with Elder Salas, and I was to stay in Otsu with Elder Nevarez. It had been about an hour since we said goodbye to Elder Octaviano and Elder Salas when we got a phone call from Elder Salas saying he had lost my companion while biking to a lesson. We waited another five minutes or so and then got another call. Elder Octaviano had been found, but he had been involved in an accident with a car! The driver had opened the door of his parked car as Elder Octaviano rode by, and he was knocked off his bike as he swerved to avoid the door. We rushed over to meet them and went to the hospital together to make sure everything was all right. Only his hand was hurting, and it turned out not to be broken, so we were all incredibly relieved. I told him that he was never leaving our area again, because he couldn't even last one hour without causing mass-destruction all over Japan!

That was definitely the most exciting part of our week, but we were also able to visit with some members and their families, and we had some great meetings with other missionaries. We first had a meeting in Kobe with people from all over the mission, and then we had another meeting a few days later with all the missionaries from Kyoto zone.

In a visit with Marcos kyodai and his wife Sachie this week, we were able to talk about faith in Jesus Christ. As we asked them what faith was to them, they both answered that faith is trust. We continued to discuss and share experiences about faith, and my companion taught that faith and trust in Jesus Christ leads us to action. I was then able to testify about the actions I have seen taken to follow Jesus Christ in my life. I felt impressed to talk about my mother's example, how she tirelessly gathered us every morning before leaving for school to have family prayer. There were so many times when we didn't come willingly, and if she were me, she probably would have given up ling ago. But she had faith in Jesus Christ that daily prayer would strengthen her family, and so she patiently and diligently continued to bring us together. Thank you so much for your awesome example, mom, you are touching hearts in Japan more than I ever could! I felt the Spirit testify in my heart that this is why God gave us families, and that the power of a righteous mother can change the lives of everyone around them. Just as the two thousand stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them" (Alma 56:47), I too know that God will deliver us from every trial and tribulation that befalls us if we continue to seek Him. It cannot be a passive plea for help, or a faithless (action-less) cry, but a show of our devotion to put God first in our lives. And when we do that, I know that heavenly powers will follow, raising our potential and blessing us in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. There truly is no better time to seek God than now, especially in this Christmas season. I invite you all actively search for Him this year, and feel His love in your heart through the Holy Spirit. Look for a friend with a heavy heart, or a stranger in need of comfort, and see what you can do to brighten their day. Through following the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we will come to know our Father on an even more personal level.

I love you all so much, and wish you a big Merry Christmas season!


12/5/2016 Miracles!

Hello everyone!
As usual, time is short, so let's jump straight to the miracles! The biggest miracle of this week definitely goes to my companion, Elder Octaviano. We visited a member (Marcos kyodai) this Sunday, along with his wife (Sachie), who is not a member. They are both from Brazil, and incredibly friendly people. Even though we didn't have an appointment, Marcos kyodai called us into his home the moment he opened the door and saw us. Sachie also greeted us warmly, but as usual, she quickly disappeared to take care of some things around the house. We somehow got her back at the time we wanted to share a message, though, and my companion shared a simple scripture and bore powerful testimony of the power that the gospel has had in helping his family come closer together. Before we knew it, he had almost the whole room in tears, including Sachie. The Spirit was so powerful, and no one could deny its presence. We invited them to do a family home evening together with us, and they jumped at the opportunity.

Another of my favorite miracles from this week came when we invited one of our investigators, Seiryuu kun, to be baptized. He is 8 years old, and reads the Book of Mormon every day. The only reason he wasn't baptized before was because his mom was worried that he didn't understand everything yet, but when we invited him this time, his mom was completely ok with it. We set a date for the 18th of December, and we are so excited for him! We are most excited to see how this will help their family to be strengthened, and feel the love of their Heavenly Father.
These, and other miracles from this week have really strengthened my testimony of eternal families. I see these people that we are teaching every day, and I know that this is why so many missionaries left their own families, in order to help others to come to know their Father in Heaven, and that there is so much more to life than just suffering through trials and sadness all the time. Just as Lehi teaches in the Book of Mormon, I know that the purpose of life is for us as God's children to find joy. In one of the talks from this past General Conference, President Nelson taught that in order to feel this joy in our lives "we can start by 'looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith'". I know that when I fail to focus on the Savior, I feel more tired, less motivation to carry on, and more vulnerable to temptation. On the other hand, when I make a concentrated effort to remember Jesus Christ in all I do, I feel empowered, and that I am not on my own. I know that the same power and joy can come into the lives of any who choose to learn more about their Savior and Redeemer, and to make Him a greater priority. I hope everyone is feeling joy in their lives, especially in this amazing Christmas season! Love you all, do something to make a friend's life brighter this week!



Thank you all for the birthday wishes, you are the best family I could ever ask for! I hope everyone has a great Christmas this year, and if you haven't already seen this years #LighttheWorld video and calendar I highly recommend it. We are pumping the members of Japan up for it, and we are so excited to see what happens as we share the light of Christ!!!
Love you all so much!


11/22/2016 Winegar Choro turns 20!

11/20/2016 New companion, Elder Octaviano!

Minnasan konnichiwa,

That was my friend Tatsuhiro kyodai! He says 'hi' from Otsu! We had transfers last week, and it got a little busy, so I wasn't able to send an email, so sorry about that! I stayed in Otsu, but my companion Elder Kawajo transferred all the way to Okayama. My new companion is Elder Octaviano, from São Paulo, Brazil. I don't know why I keep getting Brazilian companions, but I sure am lucky. Elder Octaviano can do pretty much anything. He plays violin, guitar, piano, tennis, sings, studied physics in college, and is really humble. We are going to have a fun transfer here for sure.

We didn't have a whole lot of time last week since transfers were on Thursday, and then we had Stake Conference on Saturday and Sunday. It still was an awesome end to the week, though, especially since we got to hear President Welch talk. In the last meeting meant specifically for new members and investigators, we talked about the way we study the Book of Mormon, and I want to share what President Welch taught. He said that the first thing we must do before studying is to pray to God for help in understanding what we are reading. God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, so we have to seek his help in understanding His words. Second, it is not about how long we read, but about pondering on what we read, thinking deeply about what the scriptures mean, and how they apply to us. The real power comes into our lives when we focus on the application. I know that what President Welch said is true, and that when we study the scriptures with the intent to act we will begin to progress in our lives and feel a joy much greater than what we feel now. I know God loves each and every one of you so much, and just like Tatsuhiro kyodai said, '[you are my] best friend!' Tchau tchau!


11/7/2016 "Love is the center of all that we can do"

Minnasan Konnichiwa!

This week was fantastic, the only down side was that most of it was spent away from home. We had three separate meetings this week, two in Kobe with our mission president and his wife, and then a zone meeting in Kyoto. I learned so much to the point that my small head couldn't take any more, and I couldn't even begin to write it all here. One of the things that stood out to me, though, was the importance of showing love. Love is the center of all that we do, love for our brothers and sisters, and love for our Heavenly Father. If we aren't feeling the love and joy of the gospel, there is no way we can expect anyone else to do so. When we do have this love, it changes our obligations into opportunities to serve God and others.

I also got to see some long-lost friends at the meetings in Kobe! I got to spend time with both Elder Wood and Elder Jones, who came to Japan at the same time as me. They are still as awesome as ever, and are such great examples to me! I also got to spend a lot of time with Elder Matsumoto, and we even went out and worked together on Wednesday night since we were staying in Kobe. It was so much fun! So much has changed since last year when we lived in the same apartment, I almost can't believe it. Missions change people for sure.

Like I said, that was most of our week, but once we got back to Otsu we still had some good experiences. We had testimony meeting on Sunday, and I had an opportunity to bear my testimony. As I considered what I should share, I remembered something from studying the scriptures a few days before. It came at a time when I was feeling the stress of all of the small things and responsibilities we have to fulfill as missionaries. I was wondering how to accomplish all that was before us, when I read Mosiah 4:27. "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." I felt so much peace in that moment, and I felt in my heart that God knows me personally. He knows my abilities, my desires, and my situation. I knew that even though I am far from perfect today, as long as I am diligent in following His commandments and teachings, I can become like my Father in Heaven. I know the same is true for all of you, and I hope you feel the same peace as you search the scriptures. Love you all, see you next week!


10/31/2016 Halloween!

Minnasan konnichiwa, and Happy Halloween!

This week went by so fast, I don't even know what I should talk about today. I guess I should start with a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little sister Tessa. I can't believe you are 13 now. Just not right. But congratulations anyways.

We had a few Halloween parties this week, one for our English class, and one held by the church and put together by the young men. In our english class we talked about halloween, and played some games. I realized how little I knew about halloween when the students kept asking random questions about why kids ask for candy and what other things do we do besides trick or treating? We also didn't really have any halloween themed-games planned, but it was fun nonetheless. The halloween party put on by the church was mainly just a costume contest and dinner, but there was plenty of good food and fun.

One of the really awesome things from this week was that we were able to meet with two less-active members that I had been wanting to meet lately. The first, Corazon shimai, is really busy with work right now, and said we could meet on the condition that it was only for ten minutes. We readily took her up on her offer, and even though it was short we were able to introduce ourselves and share a short message from the Book of Mormon. She said that she felt good talking to us, wanted to meet more, and especially wants her children to learn more about God since they don't go to church much right now. We set up a return appointment, and will probably be able to meet with the kids as well next time!

The second less-active, Marcos kyodai, was baptized by my trainer, Elder Madruga, so I always wanted to meet him. He lives a little far away, so spent a good amount of time biking out to his house and finding the place. We expected to talk a little at the door, and then head back home. When he opened the door, he let out a laugh of excitement, and hurriedly invited us in. We spent almost an hour just getting to know him and seeing how he is doing. He has felt too tired to come to church lately, but has been feeling like he needs to go back. We then got into a discussion about the Book of Mormon, sharing our favorite prophets. He loves Alma for his boldness in teaching and testifying, and I could feel the joy he had from living the gospel and learning. As we left, he told us that he was so happy we came, and that he would be coming back to church!!!

The whole way home, I was feeling the same joy and happiness that he told us he was feeling. I know that the way to finding happiness and joy in this life is through true worship of God and having a sure knowledge that we are doing what He would want us to do. Any other happiness is only temporary, and cannot give us the sense of fulfillment we all desire. I testify that we can all find peace, safety, love and happiness in our Savior Jesus Christ. I love you all so much, have a sugar-filled Halloween!


Eating onabe.
Eikaiwa halloween party.

10/17/2016 Seeking Comfort through Jesus Christ

Minnasan konnichiwa!

This week has been full of blessings and tender mercies of the Lord. So many blessings, and always so little time to share them all. I'll just get right into it then!

As I said last week, I have been focusing more on my prayers lately, and we continued to see more miracles this week as my companion, Elder Kawajo, and I strove to put our trust in God more fully. There were almost two different, distinct types of blessings seen throughout the week. The first was a continual strengthening power, giving us energy to continue onward where we otherwise might have faltered and turned back from our planned course of action. One of those sources of strength was definitely Elder Kawajo. He fearlessly stops people to talk to them in the street, even when he doesn't know what he will say to them. He also is showing me how to love people more fully, caring about their individual needs more. And finally, he frequently just begins a task wholeheartedly when I am sometimes tempted to put it off until later, or wait for something until I am better prepared. He is teaching me a lot, and I am so grateful to have such a great companion!

The second blessing was one that had nothing to do with our own actions. Throughout the week on about three different occasions, random people began showing up at the church wanting to learn more or seeking some form of help or comfort. I know that our increased desire and efforts to show God how willing we are to work helped prepare us to see these miracles, but they really couldn't have been accomplished by our power and effort.

The first was a woman that lived nearby, and had always known the church to here, but never had any interest. A month or so ago, though, her youngest daughter passed away, and she remembered the church. She came looking to see if anyone was inside, and we happened to stop by just a few minutes later to look up an address of someone we wanted to visit that day. The guidance from God through the Spirit was so clearly visible, I couldn't even begin to deny it. We were able to testify that through Jesus Christ she and her daughter, along with the rest of her family, could be united together forever. She gave us her phone number, and agreed to meet again if she could get permission from her husband.

The next day we were studying in our apartment, when a phone call came from a member. He told us there was a man waiting at the church, and he wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon. We excitedly ran out the door and biked to the church as fast as we could, and were able to meet with the man and explain a little about the Book of Mormon before giving him a copy. He said he would read it, and contact us again soon.

Finally, as we finished church on Sunday, a man came in and began talking to one of the Sister missionaries. Many people had seen him at church activities before, and some even knew his name, but no one had ever taken much time to talk to him. As we sat down with him after church he told us that he was in a pretty tough situation with some people in another church. He wanted to get away from them, but each time he tried to sever ties with them they would become angry and almost violent. He came seeking our help, and asked over and over again if we would help him. We told him we would do everything we could, and he was so relieved.

All three of these meetings strengthened my testimony that no matter what problem we are faced with, the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal us and endow us with power to do things that we can't do on our own. We can find comfort from life's problems and unfairness, from infirmities, pains, sorrows, and even death. We can learn of the truth of our own potential and divine nature. And above all, we can learn of the love our Father in Heaven has for us. Truly, all things that are wrong in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the words of our Savior Jesus Christ,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

I know that we can find this rest unto our souls, and that only through Jesus Christ can we find the lasting happiness we desire. I love you all so much, but not as much as you are loved by your Heavenly Father and elder brother, Jesus Christ! I invite you all to learn something new about them this week, and strengthen your relationship with them!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10/10/2016 Transfer to Otsu, Japan

Minnasan Konnichiwa!
First of all, I have to apologize for not mailing last week. I promise this time I actually did write an email (I don't make that promise for past missed weeks), but internet was really bad where we were at the end of Preparation Day, and the mail wasn't able to send. By the time we hit another wifi spot it was too late, so I will just put that email in first this week!

This week is transfer week again, can't believe they keep coming so fast! My companion and I still don't know if we are going anywhere, but we likely won't get a call until later tomorrow. We did find out that our District Leader, Elder Nohagi, is going to be a zone leader in Shimogamo. I'm so sad that he is leaving us, but I know he is going to be an awesome zone leader.

I know everyone is finishing up listening to General Conference in America right now, but we won't end up watching it until this coming weekend, because of time difference and translation to Japanese. Luckily, we will be in a separate room watching in English, but we will still wait until then. In the meantime, we have focused almost all of our teaching on preparing our investigators and other members for General Conference. We especially focused on the role of prophets, and why we need them on the Earth today. I know that having a modern day prophet helps us and gives us necessary guidance to overcome the particular challenges that face us in our day. I am way excited to learn and study the counsel that our prophets and leaders have for us.

I am also seeing the power and effect this modern day revelation can have on the lives of those we teach. We are always seeking to help our investigators to create the best environment to feel the Spirit and receive confirmation directly from God about the truthfulness of our message, which usually involves invitations to church, to read scriptures, and to pray. Lately we have been hitting roadblocks in those areas, and our investigators just haven't been able to do those necessary things to receive their own answers. But with the invitation to hear the words of living prophets of God came an outpouring of heavenly blessings. Almost all of those investigators are looking like they will be able to come, and they are particularly interested in the opportunity to receive guidance for what they should do to improve the quality of their lives. I know that this change of their heart comes through the Holy Ghost, and I can feel the same Spirit testifying of the truthfulness of our words that there is a prophet on the Earth today, that he directly receives revelation from and communicates with God. If we follow their words, we will not be led astray. I love you all, and I invite you all to take some time to study this amazing counsel that we have available to us, and to apply it to your own personal situations in order to get closer to your Heavenly Father!

Ok, now that you all know that transfers came last week, here's what happened! (This is also going to show you how much of a sense of humor God has, as I'm pretty sure I said about three things in the above email that are about to be made false).
First off, I transferred! I got a call late Tuesday night from my new zone leader Elder Sedrick, telling me that I will be transferring to Otsu! It is an area on the other side of the mission, in Kyoto. First time I've ever been on that side of the mission, it's too big and scary for me! I am so excited to be here in Otsu though, especially since it is the first area of my trainer, Elder Madruga. Maybe now he will email me back! (Just kidding, I know he is busy trying to get married in Brazil).

I was so sad to have Elder Nohagi leave us, but now he is my new zone leader here in Kyoto zone! Also, we took Fujii shimai along with us, taking the three of us from the past district to Kyoto zone.
My new companion is Elder Kawajo, from Okinawa. He is full Japanese, if you count people from Okinawa as Japanese I guess. He also loves basketball, so I think we will get along well together. But that did change what I said last week about watching general conference in English. I watched about half in English on my iPad and the other half in Japanese. I will definitely be studying that half again, still not good enough to understand a conference talk in Japanese. Maybe someday.

I haven't had a whole lot of time to work in our area so far, because we went on missionary exchanges the day after I got into Otsu. I went with Elder Sedrick, one of our zone leaders, and I learned so much from him. It was just a day full of continuous revelation and opportunities to learn and grow. I can't even imagine what being his companion would be like, my brain almost exploded after just one day. Definitely one of the most humble, spiritual missionaries I've met so far.

Probably one of the biggest things I felt while we worked together was the importance of prayer. While I sometimes become casual in praying, I saw how much spiritual power comes when we choose to engage in sincere prayer, communicating with our Heavenly Father and committing to act on the things He reveals to us. General Conference was also full of talks and revelation about prayer, and I would like to share a small part of the talk given by Elder Juan A. Uceda. He said, "[God] hears our prayers and is sensitive to our needs... He is not one to say, 'No, I will not listen to you now because you only come to me when you are in trouble.' Only men do that. He is not one to say, 'Oh, you cannot imagine how busy I am now.' Only men say that." I know that same thing to be true. Even though I have failed many times to pray sincerely to Heavenly Father, or even to pray at all at times, He always hears my prayers. As I have made a greater effort to pray this week, I have felt a strength that was not my own coming into my life. My fears were lessened, my burdens lightened. I am still far from perfect, but I know that God loves me, and I know He loves all of His children equally. That same strength is available to all, and is given to us the moment we take hold of the outstretched hand of our Father in Heaven, and of His Son, Jesus Christ. They desire to hear from each one of you, I can promise that.

In the words of Elder Holland, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made … , or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

I would like to testify of the same truth. I know that "His arm is lengthened out all the day long" (2 Nephi 28:32), and that He will help us the moment we cry out for relief from our trials, our hardships and pains. If you have put off this help for any reason, don't do so any longer! Turn to your Father in Heaven, and see the eternal joy that will flow into your lives as you connect with the heavens above through sincere prayer. I love you all so much, and I hope you can feel the joy of this sacred truth in your lives!

P.S- congratulations to my cousin Brennan! Can't believe you are married! (Or getting married soon, sorry I'm not sure how time works anymore.) Can't wait to meet your husband!

I love this guy!  Elder Matsumoto
Last district Pday in Kurashiki

Monday, September 26, 2016

9/26/2016 "eventful last few Preparation Days!"

Minnasan konnichiwa!

It's been a while, and an eventful last few Preparation Days! Last week we were able to go to Kobe for Trainer Trainee Training Meeting, and so we were able to spend a few hours in Kobe with a lot of other missionaries coming to the meeting. I met up with Vui choro, one of my best friends from the MTC! We were able to catch up on a lot of stuff, and then we played basketball at a nearby park! It has been so long since I have played basketball, I was so rusty, but it was so much fun.

The week before we stayed in our area, but the other missionaries from nearby areas came and we visited an old Japanese-style village called Bikan jiku. We celebrated Allen choro's birthday by visiting a member's store for lunch and the Sister Training Leaders brought a cake!
That is a summary of our P-days for the past two weeks, now on to this week! We were out of our area for what felt like the first half of this past week, but we came back and were able to meet with some of our investigators. My companion and I have been trying to focus on teaching out of the Book of Mormon lately, and we are seeing the power it has to motivate and change how our investigators learn about what we are teaching. We saw this change in one investigator in particular, as we started out reading from the Book of Mormon. We told him we would like to read about 10 verses, and he let out an emphatic, "WOOOOWWWWW!!!!" Definitely the best reaction I have ever had from asking someone to read from the Book of Mormon. After we got him settled down he realized it wasn't nearly as bad as he first thought, and we were able to get into a great discussion. We read from Alma chapter 22, as Aaron went to the  Lamanite King to teach him the gospel. As the King learned of the truthfulness of Aaron's message, he said that he would give up his entire kingdom and all of his sins in order to know God. We asked him what he would be willing to give up to know God, and he gave us some answers of what he would be willing to give up. As we left the lesson, I continued to think about what I am willing to give up to follow God, and I would like to extend the same question to all of you. How much do you love God? What would you give up to know God or to follow His guidance more closely? I know that if you desire to deepen your testimony of God, to know without a doubt that He is your loving Father in Heaven, that knowledge can come through a study of the Book of Mormon.
I love you all, and love hearing from you all so much. Hope you all have a great week!

9/4/2016 Hot weather of summer is over!

Minnasan konnichiwa!

Congratulations! We made it through the summer! (At least in Japan, I'm not so sure about America right now) The weather is finally cooling down, and is now deciding to dump rain on us to cool us down after a blistering summer. It will likely rain on and off for the next week or so, really giving us a chance to dust off our umbrella's. But luckily for us, whenever we are showered with rain, it seems that blessings are poured out along with it. This past week didn't rain too much, but we were still lucky enough to see an outpouring of blessings in the work.

The first of those blessings was... Zone Conference! We were able to receive training from our Mission President and his wife, the Assistants, and the Zone Leaders. This was also the first time I got to see my new zone leader, who was actually one of the members in my MTC district, Elder Pagel! It had been a long time since I had seen him, so it was really great to catch up and see how he has been. I am so blessed to have such awesome zone leaders, especially since they are both some of my really good friends. We received a lot of really good training that day, especially about preparing ourselves to teach through our study. It was certainly something that I needed to hear, and I am excited to see how my study habits can change and improve now that I am applying the things that I have learned.

Another big miracle for the week came out of nowhere, when a former investigator, Yuuya, texted us. A few weeks ago he had told us he no longer wanted contact with the missionaries or the church, and it was really hard for me because I had come to be good friends with this young man. But earlier in the week he texted and asked if he could meet with us again! He came that night to the church, and we were able to catch up a little. He told us that he had recently gotten a new job, and he hadn't wanted to meet anymore because he was so busy. He still isn't willing to try and change his work schedule to meet with us more often, but he had some time on Sunday so he showed up at church. We still don't know what will end up happening, if he will continue to meet with us or not, but it was so good to see him again.

It is always sad when we lose contact with someone that we care about, or someone decides not to continue in the path to receiving all the blessings God is waiting to give them, but I have felt that even if they don't accept our words now, their hearts have been opened and they may accept our message later on, in another setting or with a second opportunity. I know that the Lord loves all of His children, and will not rest until we have all been given an opportunity to hear and accept His gospel. I know that this is true, I am experiencing that love every day. I pray that you all feel it as well.

Zone Conference

After district lunch meeting.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

8/29/2016 Staying in Kurashiki!

Minnasan konnichiwa,

I am again suffering from chronic "I-don't-know-what-to-say" itis (I'm not sure why this only seems to happen on Monday's), so here come some highlights of the week again!

First off- transfers. Every companionship in our zone had at least one person transfer, except for us! My companion and I will both be here in Kurashiki again this transfer, and I am so excited to see some awesome miracles. But that also means that this is my fourth transfer here, which makes it almost a sure thing that I will be transferring next time. Better make the most of my time here.

Since we didn't have to do any packing or traveling for transfers, we had a full week in our area to work. It started out a little slower than normal, but picked up towards the end. We spent a lot of that time in the beginning of the week trying to visit less-active members to find out if their addresses are still correct, and if they are still open to visits from missionaries. Most of the time we weren't able to get in contact with anyone, but as we were searching for an address, we were able to talk to the father of one of those members. He was sitting outside the house when we approached him, and we were almost expecting him to quickly turn us away, but he greeted us warmly and proceeded to tell us stories about his life and his experiences with church. He had never been to our church before, but he had been to some other Christian church when he was much younger. He also told us some harder things in his life, like how his mother had passed away when he was a young man. We then had a really special opportunity to teach and testify of eternal families, and how he can see his mother again through the power of Christ's atonement. He was excited by this, and told us he would like to come to church sometime. We couldn't believe our ears!

Around this time, his wife came home, and told us off for talking to her husband. She said that he didn't have a very good memory, and that there was no point in talking to him. When we asked about her son, the less-active member, she said talking to him would be useless too. I felt saddened by her desire to stop others from receiving help from God in their lives, but her husband once again cheered me up by his actions and mannerisms. His wife called him into the house, demanding that he stop talking to us, and he immediately cut her off, petulantly crying, "we'll be done in a minute. Just let me finish!" He probably would have stayed out all night and talked to us if we had wanted, but we thanked him for his time, and invited him to come to church if he ever has the chance. I felt so much of God's love for this man, and I know that he had been prepared to receive our message
that night. Even if his wife may not allow us to continue to visit him, he had a seed planted in his heart that day, and I believe that he will come to know the truth of our message, and that God loves him and cares for him.

Later in the week we had several opportunities to teach people on the street in a first contact, and we ended up having some really good discussions. We met one young man named Seiya, who talked to us about trials and pains in our lives. When we asked him if he had felt those things in his life, he replied that he definitely had them before, but now that they are over, it doesn't bother him any more. We were able to testify that this is how God works to help us grow- that through our trials, we gain experience and become the type of person that He knows we can become. He really liked the discussion, and we were able to give him a Book of Mormon and exchange phone numbers with him to set up a time to meet again.

I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have of these two truths- of the love that God has for us, and that families can be together forever. This knowledge has power to change lives, heal hearts, and overcome weaknesses. I can testify to that, because I have seen the changes it is making in my life and in the lives of those we come into contact with. I hope that you all can feel that love from God in your lives as well. If you don't think you are feeling it, or you want to feel more of it, I would invite you to kneel down in prayer to God, and just talk with Him. Tell Him how you are feeling, what you are struggling with, and especially what you are thankful for. I can promise you that He is listening, and will respond through bringing peace to your mind and heart. Prayer has definitely become that source of peace for me when my heart is troubled, and the way to bring me up to the next level when I am already feeling good. I love my Heavenly Father, I love this work, and I love all of you as well! I hope you have a wonderful, prayer-filled week!

Last week's P-day.  We may not be allowed to swim, but we still enjoyed the beach!
Eikaiwa class

Monday, August 22, 2016

8/22/2016 Highlight: watching Sapporo Temple dedication via broadcast

Minnasan konnichiwa,

This week is transfer week again and I am going to.... Actually, we still don't know yet, but I guess since we haven't gotten a call yet no news is good news, right? These last 6 weeks have absolutely flown by, I can't believe how fast it went. This past week was especially quick, most likely because we had quite a few events/activities all throughout the last few days.

It started on Wednesday, when we had missionary exchanges with the other Elders in our District. I was with Elder Nohagi, our district leader, and it was so much fun. I learned so much from him, and probably bombarded him with questions about everything. He was so patient with me, answering every question I had, whether it was about Japanese, missionary work, or just normal everyday life. My favorite part of being with him was just seeing how much he loves and cares about the people that he is around. With every single person we stopped to talk to, he took the time to make them feel important, asking about things they value and sincerely listening. There is definitely a lot I can do to improve in that area.

On Thursday, we went with a member, Takada kyodai, to go visit other members that haven't come to church in a long time. We were able to visit Komiyama kyodai, who is always friendly, but usually doesn't want to talk about church or the Book of Mormon. This time as we talked, though, he brought up the Book of Mormon himself. He said that from our visits he had started to want to read it a little, so he had read a few of the verses we had recommended to him. It wasn't a dramatic change, but it made me so happy to hear that he had chosen to read from the Book of Mormon like we had invited him to do so many times. It was proof to me that the Spirit can work wonders on the hearts of men, changing our wants and desires if we choose just to take small actions.
Saturday was filled with more activities, first with a ping pong party at the church. Not too many people showed up, but we were still able to have a fun time playing singles, doubles, tournaments, and any other ping pong games we could think of. Then later that night we got to watch the cultural celebration for the temple that is being dedicated in Sapporo. It was broadcasted over satellite, and we were able to watch it at the church in Kurashiki. The youth did an amazing job with various cultural dances, and a re-enactment of the history of the church in Sapporo. It was really fun to watch, and I felt the Spirit so strongly as they talked about the sacrifices made by those people to build the church to the point that they have a temple.
Then on Sunday we had probably the highlight of the week. We watched the dedication of the Sapporo temple, again by satellite. There were a lot of great talks, but it was really just great to feel
the peace and blessings that only come with temples. Since we don't have a temple in our mission, we don't have any opportunities to go during our two years here, but I am so excited to go to the temple
once I get home. This temple dedication just reminded me of that even more. I love the talk on temples, "See Yourself in the Temple", from the last General Conference, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to prepare to enter the temple, or even just to experience more of the blessings of the temple, to read this talk. I know that through temples we can receive the necessary ordinances to seal our families together, enabling us to be with those we love forever. I am so thankful for my family as well, they really are the best! Love you all so much!


Seto Ohashi (a really big bridge)
 Viewed Sapporo Temple dedication from mission office.
Dinner with Ootsuki kyodai

Sunday, August 21, 2016

8/15/2016 It takes effort.

Minnasan konnichiwa,

This week has been pretty busy. I think we have spent more time traveling than anything else, though, so it wasn't as tiring as normal. On Tuesday morning we caught a train to the next area over for companion exchanges. I was with Abarca choro this time, and it was a great learning experience for me. They are seeing a lot of success in their area from the little efforts they started a few transfers ago. They now have a service project helping members in their yards almost every week, and they also started a free English class for young kids I was able to participate in both of these activities, and I definitely want to find/create similar opportunities in Kurashiki. After that, we tried to visit some of the people Abarca choro had visited before, but none of them were home. While we walked between houses, we were able to have a really good talk about change through the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ. We reflected on the changes we had seen in ourselves, and it was a pretty eye-opening experience for me to see how God can take our small efforts and magnify them to accomplish much greater things than we could on our own.

The next trip we took was to Kobe, which was quite a bit further than just one area over. We had to go the night before and stay overnight, and I was able to see a lot of old friends from past areas and zones. Then the next day we had a training meeting for new missionaries and their companions. I learned so much from it all, so much that it will be a long time until I have learned to effectively apply all of those things. One of the focuses of the trainings given by President Welch was on patterns, and finding the patterns in the scriptures that will help us improve ourselves and our situation. God could obviously tell us exactly what we should do in order to find success in life, but He chooses not to. He teaches us how we should act, and allows us to experience successes and failures for ourselves. But when we rely on the words He has given us through His prophets and
through the Holy Ghost, we can be given that needed counsel and advice. Welch kaicho taught us that simply studying scriptures is not enough either. We first study to learn the principles, and then we have to put our own effort in. We do what we can to solve our problem, and as we do so, God provides the necessary assistance and strength to overcome the things we cannot overcome on our own. The example from the scriptures that he used came from Nephi, a righteous young man who was commanded by God to go back and get the record of his people from a wicked King Laban. Nephi went in faith, but failed twice in his attempts to retrieve the records that he needed to obtain. After he had exhausted all possibilities available to him, he prayed to God to help him in this task he had been given. He went a third time to retrieve the records, and God provided the way for him to do what he had been commanded.
I know that the same pattern that worked for Nephi applies to all of us today. If we are seeking to fulfill the commandments God has given us, it may take some effort and even some failure on our part. But in the end, God will always provide us with that necessary aid. We can always rely on His help, and on the power and grace of His son, Jesus Christ. I know these things to be true, and I invite you all to try them if you have something you wish to change in your life to align yourselves more fully with God's will. First, study the scriptures we have been given through loving prophets, and then commit to God through prayer what you will do in order to receive His help. I promise you that help will come. See you all next week, love you!


TTTM- Trainer Trainee Training Meeting

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

8/1/2016 Power of the Book of Mormon

Minnasan konnichiwa!
Sorry I missed you all last week, promise I still love you all! This week has been good to us, and we are still alive and healthy. My companion, Allen choro, is getting used to Japanese culture and food (mostly), so that's good too. This last week we were able to have some good lessons with investigators, and with some less-active members, too.

There seemed to be one thing in common with a lot of those lessons, and it was clear that God was trying to teach me something important through this pattern. The first of these lessons was with a lady named Nagase. She loves meeting with the missionaries, and really enjoys hearing our message about God. But she has told us a few times now that she can't do some of the things we ask her, because it conflicts with her beliefs. Specifically in this lesson, we taught about prayer, and then invited her to ask God whether the things she had been taught were true. She had no problem with prayer, but she told us her concerns about asking God for things like that. She had always been taught that we were only to give thanks, never to ask for anything, because that would be selfish. Once we understood her concern, we were able to share some scriptures from the Book of Mormon on prayer. We shared Alma 34:17-28, and began explaining that God actually wants, and even commands, us to pray unto Him for the help that we need. But while we started trying to explain this concept to her, she glanced down at the page, read a part of one of the verses there, and exclaimed that this was an exact answer to her question. My mind took a second to catch up with what she had said, still trying to explain the meaning of the scripture to her, and it felt like the Spirit gave me a little kick, saying "she gets it, you can move on now!" I think I thoroughly learned that lesson, that the Spirit can answer people's questions much better than we can.

The next day we had a lesson with another investigator, Nakahara san, and he has been seeking to know whether what we are teaching is truly from God. We have invited him to pray and read from the Book of Mormon, which he continues to do. He is such a great example to me in that. He tells us that he doesn't always understand what is going on, but that he enjoys the things he is learning from the parts he does understand. When we invited him to church, though, he informed us that his schedule is a little too busy. We showed him a short video about doing all that we can to receive the answer we are seeking, and then shared another scripture from the Book of Mormon, this time from 1 Nephi 3:7. We promised him that if he has the desire to come to church, God will provide the means for him to make time. We asked once again whether he would come to church, and he said he would ask for time off from his work so that he could come.

The last experience I want to share came from a lesson with Shinya kyodai, a less-active member. We taught him about the Plan of Salvation, but there were some parts that he didn't seem to fully understand. We decided it would be best to teach directly from the scriptures, and we opened the Book of Mormon to a scripture that we thought would help him. I honestly don't remember what we shared, but as we read, he sat back and said that it answered a question he had about the Plan of Salvation in the past.

From all of these experiences, I have really come to see how the Book of Mormon answers questions of the soul. If you are desiring to strengthen your relationship with your Father in Heaven, or with your family members here on Earth, the way can be found in the Book of Mormon. If you want to know why God would allow us to pass through pain, trials, and heartaches, the answer can be found in the Book of Mormon. And most importantly, if you want to know more about our Savior Jesus Christ, and what His Atonement means personally for you, I can testify that this can be found all throughout the Book of Mormon. I know that this Book is true, and I know that God wants me to make a greater effort to study it daily and find the answers written by His prophets. I invite all of you to read this amazing book as well, and find what God has waiting for you. I love you all so much, but not as much as your Heavenly Father loves you! Hope you can all feel that love this week.

District meeting! Nohagi choro had the excellent idea to have us draw all of our faces, rotating the pictures every little while. Remarkably accurate, right?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Minnasan konnichiwa,

This week is transfer week again, and my companion and I have been together for two transfers already, so one of us is almost surely moving to a new area. We will likely get a transfer call within the next few days, but until then we will be praying and maybe packing a little, too. Today, though, we are going to try and make the most of our (possibly) last P-day in the area. We are going to a nearby city to see Okayama castle and a famous park/botanical garden type-place. Because of that, time is going to be pretty short today, but I just want to let you all know that I love you and that you are all the best!

This past week we had companion exchanges, and I was with Elder Abarca. I learned so much from him, from Japanese (he has an amazing vocabulary) to deep doctrine about the gospel, and just how to show love to people in everything we do as missionaries. We were able to talk to some cool people, but one of my favorites was a young guy we met unexpectedly in the streets. We talked about prayer, and asked him what he would want to know if he could talk to God about anything. He
said that he doesn't think God should tell us everything, and used a really cool example to explain why he felt that way. He said that if he asks someone for directions on how to get somewhere, there are two responses he might get. One, the person might tell him exactly how to get there, turning here and there, following such-and-such street, and just giving really specific instructions. In that case, it would be really easy to forget the instructions and end up lost again. The second response would be to give him a map and teach him how to use it. Then, even if he gets lost again, he will have the tools and knowledge to find his way again. I thought this example was way cool, because that is exactly what God does for us. He doesn't tell us exactly how we should live our lives, what job to get, or what things we should like to do, but rather He provides us with the map, that when we follow His teachings, we can find our way to happiness. I know that the "map" to happiness is contained in the scriptures, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and that when we study them, we will never
have to wonder where we should go to find joy in life. 

Later in the week we were also able to go to our zone training meeting, which was also a great experience. I learned so much, but this meeting had a kind of a new twist to it. Normally these meetings are in English since there are so many American missionaries, but in our zone there are a pretty good amount of Japanese missionaries, at least compared to other zones in the mission. Because of this, the zone leaders decided to hold the meeting almost entirely in Japanese. It helped us be a little more unified, because everyone was trying harder to make their comments in Japanese, even if they didn't know exactly how to say everything. I think that it really helped the Japanese missionaries, who usually have to rely on translation, and it showed me how a little effort on our part to show love to others can make a big difference.
I can't wait to hear from you all, and also to let you know where I end up next week. Hope you have a great week, and that you are able to feel the love from those around you, and especially the love of your Father in Heaven.

Monday, July 4, 2016

7/3/2016 Elder Tanaka is feeling better

Minnasan konnichiwa,

How is everyone doing this week? Hope everyone is doing well. My companion, Elder Tanaka is finally better, so we are pretty happy about that. He was sick from Monday until Thursday, and we were stuck in the apartment for most of that time, so I don't have a whole lot of shareable experiences from this week. It was an awesome time for me to reflect and think about my life, though, so in a way it was definitely a blessing from God.
The rest of the week was pretty full considering it was only three days, though, so that was great.

On Friday we had a combined district meeting with the Tsuyama district missionaries. In all, there were about 14 missionaries there this time, and I learned a lot from everyone's ideas and comments.

On Saturdayy, we had a pretty cool experience. We had a lesson planned for Tuesday, but because Tanaka choro got sick, we had to reschedule it. We changed it to Saturday, a day we normally don't go out to the part of the city where this person lives. As we were biking over to his house, though, we ran into a guy that we had talked to on the streets a few weeks ago. He actually lives pretty far away, about five hours by car, but occasionally comes here for work. We thought we wouldn't ever see him again, but we were able to meet him again and have a short conversation. He is still really busy, and will only be here for the weekend, so we never would have seen him if we had been able to go to our lesson as usual on Tuesday. That was just one more confirmation to me that God knows us, He knows His children, and He wants to help us. If we trust Him and His knowledge, we can receive the help and guidance we need.

Sunday, was also pretty fun, since we were able to go on missionary exchanges with the Zone Leaders. I was with Elder Madruga again, so good to catch up with him about his experiences, and also to hear about how everyone in Izumo is doing. Elder Matsumoto went with my companion, but it was so good to see him again too. He has changed a lot since we were in the same apartment in Kouchi, and is such a good example of showing love to others. It was great to catch up with him as well, even though they were only around for the day.

This week felt pretty different from most weeks on my mission so far, but we continue to see miracles just the same. I have really been reminded lately that God loves me personally, and that He loves each of His children. It is in the small things that I am learning to recognize this love, and I promise anyone that wants to look for these small evidences that God loves you, that you will find them. And when you notice those things, I would like to invite you to express your gratitude to God through prayer. Tell Him how you are feeling, what you are struggling with, and especially what you are thankful for. It's an awesome experience. I'd also like to thank you all, family, friends, everyone, for all that you mean to me. Your examples keep me striving to be better, and to learn more. You are all the best!


Cycling activity- apparently this entire hill that we are on top of is a gigantic tomb (kind of like pyramids in Egypt).  At least I think that's what they said.  My Japanese vocabulary still doesn't include things like tombs and such, totally just going off context here.
Cycling activity part 2- a nice big pagoda.
Dinner with the Mukaitani and Okamoto families.

Friday, July 1, 2016

6/20/2016 Happy Father's Day!

Minnasan konnichiwa!

I'm going to keep it short today as a father's day gift to everyone. Happy Father's Day! Hope everyone did something special for their fathers, and hope all you fathers had a special day. Shout out to the best dad in the world (yeah, I am talking to you, dad), thanks for everything you do for me and our family.

This week went by pretty fast, and was packed with some pretty awesome experiences. On Tuesday, we were able to go on exchanges with the other two elders in our district from Fukuyama, Abarca and Olsen choro. I was with Olsen choro again, and I learned so much from him. He is such a great example to me in teaching through the Spirit, and really connecting with people through their interests and concerns. We also saw several miracles that day, some even following the same pattern. Throughout the day, as we called out to people on the streets or knocked on doors, there were three or four instances where people had met the missionaries before and had really good relationships with them. One lady confused us for the same missionaries that had talked to her the previous year, and we talked with her for almost 10 minutes before she realized that we were not the same people. We were confused at first why she was so friendly, but we just went with it. We eventually got it all sorted out, properly introduced ourselves, and had a great lesson with her. She invited us to come back sometime, and it was such a cool experience. The whole day was really just a testament to us that none of our work as missionaries is wasted. People see our actions, and remember the Spirit they felt as they talk to us. I am so grateful for the efforts of all the previous missionaries that allowed us to see some awesome miracles.

On Saturday we were able to participate in the young men's cycling activity and barbecue! No other explanation necessary, right? Just good food, and good fun. One of our investigators came with us, and loved it. We biked about 10 kilometers while stopping a few times to see some cool landmarks and take some pictures (I still don't have those pictures yet, so sorry, maybe next week). Then we went back to a park by the river and played frisbee and badminton, and had a barbecue. We left a little late, and were worried that we wouldn't make it back to the apartment before we were supposed to be back, but by a lot of help from Heavenly Father, we made it home with even a little time to spare.

Sunday was a special stake conference and satellite broadcast to all of Japan, which was so good! The highlight was definitely hearing from Elder Bednar, one of the 12 apostles. His talk was so straightforward, not leaving any doubts about what we should be doing with our lives. We should be 100% committed to God and our savior, Jesus Christ. If we are not, it is time to re-evaluate our lives. I felt that his words very much applied to me, and that I can do so much more with the things I have been given to build up the kingdom of God. One of my favorite things from this talk was what Elder Bednar said concerning faith. He said, "faith ALWAYS leads to action." If we truly have faith in Jesus Christ, then we will act upon that faith. We will use our skills and talents to help bring joy into our lives and the lives of those around us. And if we do so, we will continue to grow in light and knowledge, becoming like our Father in Heaven. I know that President Bednar is an apostle, and that he was called by God. I feel the Spirit confirm his words in my heart, and I know that they are true. I know that not all of you were able to see this broadcast, but I know that his words apply to all of us. I would like to invite you all to evaluate where you are in your lives right now. What do you value most? Where do you want to go from here? Are you becoming the person you want to be? Whatever you answer yourself, I know that if you rely on the Lord, you can take the necessary steps and make the essential changes to get where you want to be. That is God's promise to all of us. I hope you all have a great week!


6/30/2016 Rainy!

Minnasan konnichiwa,

First off, sorry I wasn't able to send an email on Monday, Tanaka choro got pretty sick late Sunday night and we didn't get out of the apartment until today. He still isn't feeling so good, so I'm going to have to be short today.

This past week has been a wet one, raining on and off almost every day. One thing that I re-learned this week is that when the Lord gives us trials or hard times (rain), He follows them with an increase of blessings and help. Wednesday was a particularly rainy day, and we had to work hard to keep our spirits up. Nearly everyone we visited wasn't home, and for obvious reasons no one wanted to stop and talk on the streets. On top of that, my companion's rain jacket is getting pretty old, so he was completely soaked pretty early in the day. He finally gave up on his old rain jacket and bought a new one, but he was already pretty wet by that time. We eventually made it through the day, but we hadn't seen much success, and hardly talked to anyone.

The next day is where we saw the increase in blessings. It was a bright, sunny day, and we were able to talk to a ton of people throughout the day. Not all of them were interested in what we had to say, but most were polite enough to have at least a small conversation with us. The last person we talked to, as well as the nicest, was an 18-year old kid named Hosome. We talked all about God and families, and he told us how he cares a lot about his own family. We were able to set up an appointment to meet again on Saturday, and talked more about God's plan for us, and what we are expected to do in this life. He is really busy most of the time, but took the time to meet with us
despite his crazy schedule. Right now he is in school and working, and is right in the middle of a bunch of tests. Because of that, he may not be able to meet very often in the future, but every once in a while we will likely meet again so that he can learn more.

Love you all so much, hope everyone has a great week!


6/12/2016 Hot and Humid

Minnasan konnichiwa,

I hope everyone is doing well, and that life is treating you alright! It's getting hotter and hotter here every day (except when it's raining), and I miss good old Idaho summers. I thought they were hot before, but this heat and humidity is something different altogether. I guess that's enough about the weather, on to the week.

Not too many new developments this week, but we did have an awesome zone training meeting. The best part was that Elder Madruga and Elder Matsumoto, our zone leaders now, gave the training. They both lived with me in kouchi when I first became a missionary, and it was so awesome to be together with them again, especially since they are now companions. Now all I need is to be companions with Elder Matsumoto and I'll be set. They taught about the new vision for this transfer, and it was all about happiness. We are all about working hard as missionaries, as we should be in such an important work, but it is also so important to find happiness and joy as well. After all, that is God's purpose for us, "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). I know that when I am happy, I tend to work harder and better. I also know that true happiness comes when we center our lives on Christ. When we do so, our happiness changes from a temporary feeling to one that can last through any trial. It doesn't mean that we won't have hard times, but it does mean that we can find joy in all stages of our lives, through relying on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

That is pretty much all I have to say this week, because I know that it is one of the most important things in life. There is no need to continue to be unhappy when we can rely on the Lord to help us. He can take away our pains, our heartaches, and our concerns, if we will only ask Him. He will also give us strength to face those trials that we have, and stand by us as we overcome them. I know that He loves us, and will never leave us. The choice is completely in our hands whether we will ask Him for help, or push him away. Please don't push Him away, though; I invite you all to give your hardships up to Him, His love is all-encompassing, great enough to fill each one of us. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Zone Training Meeting

6/6/2016 Staying in Kurashiki!

Minnasan konnichiwa!

This week was transfer week and.... I didn't go anywhere! I am still in Kurashiki, and so is my companion. Heavenly Father knows I need a lot of help to learn this language, so He is giving me two transfers with a Japanese companion. I am so blessed!

Since we didn't have transfers, we were able to stay in our area the whole week and just get to work. It was pretty normal week for missionary life, but of course that means we saw miracles every day. One of the simple miracles we saw this week came as we were having an activity at the church. It was getting close to 9:00, and as missionaries, we have to be back in our apartment by that time. Everyone had just started eating, and my companion and I both really wanted to stay, especially since we hadn't eaten yet (typical Elders, right?). But we decided that we needed to be obedient, wolfed down a little bit of food, and began biking furiously to get back to the apartment on time. It really isn't that far; maybe about 5 minutes at our best. This time, though, we had only left ourselves about 3 minutes. But as we continued on as fast as we could, we mad it home to the apartment just in time. It was just a small testimony builder for me that as we have righteous desires to obey God's rules, He will provide us with the strength and e way to follow them.

One of the most unexpected experiences of the week came while we were housing around trying to talk to new people, and we made it to the final house of the apartment building we were at. We rang the doorbell, got an answer, and were told to go away by a woman. We started to walk away, but before we could go far, she opened the door and called us back. Her husband decided that he wanted to talk to us, and find out what we were doing visiting people's houses like this. He invited us inside his home, and told us about his life and his beliefs. He had a lot of interest in our religion, and what makes us different from other churches. As we tried to answer his many questions, he just kept firing more questions at us. Finally, we told him about church, and he said he would like to try to come. He is normally really busy with work, but promised that if he has a day off, he will come. We weren't able to make a return appointment for the same reason, but it was such a cool experience for me to see that there are so many people out there seeking the truth. The only thing that is stopping them from embracing that truth is that "they know not where to find it."

I am so thankful for the knowledge I have that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He loves us. He wants what is best for us, and has promised that anyone who will ask Him for help or for answers in faith and through the name of His Son Jesus Christ, that thing will be given unto them. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ,


5/30/2016 Transfer week

Minnasan konnichiwa,

This week is the dreaded transfer week, but my companion and I are holding out that we will be staying together for another transfer. We won't know for sure until tomorrow, which means I won't be able to let you all know what happened until next week. But for now we will keep praying to stay in Kurashiki.

This week felt pretty normal compared to last week having Elder Stevenson come to talk with us. We were in our area the whole week, and we were able to teach a lot of lessons. A lot of them were with random people on the street while trying to find new people to talk to, and we met some pretty awesome people. One boy we talked to told us how he kind of had a rough life growing up, and that he physically fought with pretty much everyone around him. He realized that what he was doing wasn't good, and decided to change. Through a lot of work, he became a much better person, and it was visible in his countenance as he spoke with us. He also told us that as he went through this change, he began to believe more in God, or at least in the possibility that God could be real. This young boy absolutely amazed me, having basically repented without even realizing it. And now he is so much happier for it. Sadly, his mom told him he couldn't continue to meet with us, which was really disappointing for us, but his experience really reaffirmed my testimony of repentance. It is not something scary, but rather a process through which we can change our lives and once again realign ourselves with God's will. Anyone that desires to change their lives and experience this joy can do so, and can come to a greater knowledge of their loving Father in Heaven, who will provide help for us throughout this journey. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves us, and He will not leave us alone to face our trials. Every time we turn to Him, He will be there for us.

Love you all so much, and I hope you have a great week! Don't forget to ask God for help this week!

A cool bridge in the woods.
A cool parfait in the woods (just kidding, that isn't really a parfait)
Braziliano's (with a lot of missionaries)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

5/23/2016 Elder Gary E. Stevenson!

Minnasan konnichiwa!

This past week feels like it has been spent in areas all over the mission, with two short days in our area, companion exchanges in Izumo, zone conference, and the amazing opportunity to hear from an apostle, Elder Gary E. Stevenson. I hope I never forget the sacred spirit we felt as an Apostle spoke to us. I know that he and the other Apostles, along with the prophet, are called by God to lead this church. They receive revelation to help us in our daily lives, and they know how to assist us in our trials and struggles as well. I don't have much time to write today, so I won't specifically share much about what I learned, but one thing that stood out to me was that, in preparation for this meeting, I wrote down 3 questions that I was looking for answers to in my own life. Elder Stevenson talked only for a short time as he was on a tight schedule, but as he continued his talk, I received specific answers to each of those questions. I know that when we prepare ourselves to receive those answers we are seeking, God will always provide them for us.
That was absolutely the highlight of this week, but there were plenty of other cool things I was able to be a part of and experience. On Thursday we received training from our mission President, Welch kaicho, and he basically led an entire 3 hour discussion based on 3 chapters of the Book of Mormon. He definitely knows his stuff, and I feel the Spirit testify of his words powerfully when he speaks as well. Finally, we were able to go to Izumo, my last area, and go on companion exchanges. I was with Madruga choro again! We were able to visit one of the members that has basically become the missionaries' best friends, because she speaks English and just loves to brighten our days with her simple acts of kindness. It was just like old times, and lifted my spirits to see some of the people that I have come to grow and love.
Sorry that I really don't have much time this week, but I love
you all, and I hope that you have an awesome week!


Mami Shimai, the member we visited last week.