I apologize for the lack of frequent emails lately, luckily today we are heading up to Kobe for a meeting tomorrow and found ourselves with a good chunk of time on the train to make up for past weeks. Since coming to Wakayama, we have been pretty busy with trying to find new people to meet with us, as well as continuing to build up our other friends we have been meeting with. This past week was spent similarly, and we had some really great experiences come out of that.
Starting from Monday, we went early in the morning to a nearby zoo and did some volunteer work, raking leaves and picking up trash. From there, we biked over to a yakiniku restaurant (literally "cook meat" restaurant) with some church members and had lunch. Needless to say, we enjoyed that.
The next day, we met up for the second time with a new friend, Uzeki san. We first met him on the street, and he told us how he came from China about a year and a half ago, and loves to learn English. He even watches movies and tv shows in English. As we introduced ourselves and our church, he told us that it was destiny that we met that day. We agreed that it was definitely part of God's plan for us, and we got his phone number so that we could meet up again later. This second time we met up with him, we talked more about God's plan for us, comparing it to his life and how we are all searching for happiness. He loved it all, and when we invited him to church he said he would come if he was able to.
We then got to celebrate the birthday of the Bishop's wife, Vi shimai. She invited us over to her house on Wednesday, and we ate some delicious food from the Philippines with her. She and the Bishop kept us well entertained with jokes and fun the whole time we were there.
Another highlight of the week was meeting multiple times with Okamoto san. Since he lives in a senior citizen's home, we can meet with him pretty regularly, and he has really started to brighten up and change visibly from the time he was first met up until now. He knows that God exists, and that Jesus Christ is his Savior. He still has trouble understanding the Book of Mormon, but he really has faith to do what God wants him to, and he especially wants to feel forgiveness for past mistakes and sins in his life.
Finally, at church on Sunday we participated in the young men's class. They are all preparing to go on missions someday, and were all pretty confident in their ability to do everything that entails. We challenged one of them to teach everything they know about the Atonement, in 5 minutes or less. He started out pretty confidently, teaching how the through the power of Jesus Christ we can be forgiven of our sins and mistakes, and return to live with God. Then after about a minute of stalling and filler words, he realized he had nothing more to say. As he made it to a grand total of 2 and a half minutes, we asked his friend to continue for the next 2 and a half minutes, expanding on what was said already. He too stopped after about a minute, out of things to say. We talked about how it was unexpectedly difficult to teach about these concepts, even more so when someone has never heard it before. But then we asked the last young man what he thought about the exercise, and he bore a simple, sweet testimony about what he has been learning about the Atonement in his daily life. The Spirit was so present, all joking was put aside, and every person in the room was listening intently. It never ceases to amaze me the power that can come from following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the peace that will come to our hearts.
I want to leave you all with my own conviction of this principle, that through the Atonement we will be blessed with strength beyond our own, to become more than we ever could have on our own. The power of the Atonement saves us from our sins and mistakes, but also enables us to actually act as Christ would act, even to become as He is. I notice a profound difference in the times when I pray in faith, acting on the knowledge I have, in contrast with the times I doubt what I have learned to be true. I can say without a doubt that an effort to learn more about the life of Jesus Christ, followed by an application of what you learned will always provide greater access to this spiritual strength. I invite you all to try it and see if it isn't true!
Until next week,
|Okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes, better than it sounds in English) with the fam|
|Service at the Zoo|