"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

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?