Monday, April 6, 2015

What I learned from "Cutting Vegetables"

Entitling this email: "What I learned from My Mission" seemed like an overwhelming subject, so I decided to start instead with a very small (very, very small) part of my mission that I learned a lot from. 

I have learned more than I even realize now from the things that I did Every. Single. Day. Of my mission - things that don't hit the spotlight when mission stories are told about the golden investigator that was found in a dark apartment building right before curfew, when we were about to give up and go home - and we saw the Lord work a miracle in the life of another human being. Granted, I learned a lot from experiences like that on my mission too. But, most of what I learned on my mission was things that I learned from my companions - people that I spent 24 hours a day with anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 1/2 months. 

Lesson Number 1: 
One of the most valuable lessons I learned I call "cutting vegetables." You may not realize that every person in the world seems to cut their vegetables differently. Everyone likes their vegetables in certain shapes and sizes, and everyone cuts their vegetables in a way that makes sense to them.
Maybe I started my mission out with a really weird way to cut vegetables. 
But, all of my companions seemed to have a new (and maybe better) way to cut vegetables, and they felt that it was vital that I learned this new way. At the beginning of my mission this left me very confused. "Why on earth does anyone else care about the way I cut my vegetables? Don't vegetables taste the same no matter what way they are cut?" Sometimes, I was even silly enough to get a little irritated after being told by a loving companion, who was probably just trying to help me NOT cut my fingers, yet another way to cut my vegetables.

And then transfers would happen, and I would learn yet another way to cut vegetables. 

So from this, I have learned some very valuable lessons.

1. Lots and lots of different ways to cut vegetables. And, also ways to cut vegetables where my fingers are safe from the blade of the knife. I wouldn't consider myself a vegetable cutting pro, but maybe I am getting pretty close. (I might still be on the slow end though when it comes to cutting vegetables). 

2. I learned that I might have maybeee had a pride problem if someone helping me cut my vegetables was bothering me at all. 

3. I learned how to listen. Small things like listening to a companion's new way to cut vegetables can actually help strengthen a companionship - plus, in the end I just benefit by learning a new way to cut vegetables. 

4. I learned how to not sweat the small stuff. At some point in my mission I became an old missionary. And I started having companions straight from America. Who had never really cut vegetables before, nor did they know how to cook. I will never forget one time asking my companion to cut some vegetables.  Then turning around after I had finished cooking most of the soup to see a very disfigured pile of vegetables on the table and her beaming face asking if she had cut them right. I looked at her pile of cabbage that was supposed to become a salad, and I looked back at her smiling face...and I smiled and said: "Ya, that is great!". And we ate the weirdest cabbage salad full of very large chunks of pretty hard cabbage that I have maybe ever eaten. (That companion is now quite brilliant at cooking.) The next time we cut cabbage I said: "Hey, lets do this together!" And we both learned how to cut cabbage. 
The point of this lesson - cutting cabbage is very, very tiny in the fabric of eternity. The salad might have been a little hard to chew, but ultimately it tasted the same, and my companion was oh so proud of her first cabbage salad. That joy meant a lot more than the fact that I never would have cut cabbage in the same way. Because, in reality, cabbage is the small stuff. 

5. I learned how to be wrong. I know this one also sounds really silly, but I really hate being wrong. And I really like being right. Even about the really small stuff. This is the pride in my heart. But, I had to face the fact that maybe the way I cut my vegetables was actually not the best - but, my companions might actually all be gourmet cookers and I had a great opportunity to learn how to cut vegetables from the best of the best. So, I learned how to be humble and let someone teach me how to not be right about cutting vegetables. 

Mostly, this is not about vegetables at all.

But the small lessons that I learned on my mission are the things that I have taken and applied to my companionship's in much bigger ways. Like, maybe when I ACTUALLY do something wrong, not just cut the carrots weird, and I needed to learn to stop and accept my mistakes. That is one way that I grew on my mission.

Lesson Number 2: 
Ichikawa Shimai and Grundvig Shimai

I learned this one largely from Ichikawa Shimai, because she is the one that actually voiced it. But, all of my companions were brilliant at this one also, it just took me a while to catch on.
Ichikawa Shimai always says: 

"It is easy to love your companions strengths, but it is loving their weaknesses too that make or break the companionship." 

I think that this might just be the key to any successful relationship throughout the history of the world. 

I have a million and one weaknesses, we all do, that is part of the reason that we are human beings. We have weak points so that we can rely on the Lord. But, my companions loved my weaknesses...they loved me despite my weaknesses and maybe the things that I did 24 hours a day that drove them crazy, and because they loved me, I grew. 
It is easy to love the things that people do perfectly and that they do well...but learning how to really love the things that are irritating is a completely different story. Learning to love the hard things about people can really only be done through the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Lesson Number 3:

What I learned from tissues.
In case you have never been to Japan, I will inform you that if you go during the winter you will probably receive a lot of tissues. Most likely these tissues will be packaged up in tiny little packs that are homemade out of cute fabric and prepared to be given on an occasion when a quick gift is needed. 
Japanese people love to give gifts. They love to show that they love people through little tiny things. I have received a lot of packages of tissue wrapped in home-made tissue covers on my mission. This lesson is actually entirely not about tissues, but is entirely about love.

On my mission, I learned how to love people. I mean, I REALLY learned how to love people. When I left on my mission I thought that I understood what it meant to love people. 
I had no clue. 

In my first area I thought that I knew how to love people. I had no clue. 

I really learned how to love in Tokushima. I attribute that mostly to Payne Shimai and Palmer Shimai. And when I figured out how to LOVE these people in Japan a lot of miracles started happening - not only in the lives of the people that I was teaching, but also for me.
Suddenly, I started learning the language much, much, muchhh faster. I started understanding the people. Missionary work became SO FULL OF JOY and I finally understood why this was the happiest work on earth. 

Love is the Motive. 

I will tell a story from this weekend that emphasizes the way to love. We started teaching a lady last transfer. She is amazing.  People had never really loved her before. She had a really hard life. She came to the church building one day after sacrament meeting. We were packing up and gave her a quick tour. At the end of the tour I gave her a hug and a smile and said that I hoped we could meet her again. The next day we received a call saying she wanted to be baptized. So we started teaching her the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I watched over the next few months as this lady changed. Her heart was completely transformed. She started to overcome the hard things that had happened in her life because of the atonement, and she felt loved for maybe the first time in a while. Her birthday was last week. The members made her a cake and gave her a few presents and she cried. I don't know if she had experienced anything like that before. This weekend I said goodbye to her. She walked up to me with one of the members, and then turned around and walked away, and then came back, gave me a hug and just said: "Arigatou." (Thank you). And then she started to cry. And I started to cry. I really love this woman. I love her because she is a daughter of God and He feels every pain she has felt in her life. He knows what she has experienced more than I do. And, I am so happy because now she knows the joy of the gospel. 

I grew from the love of these people. I grew from every single package of tissues that I received from them, because it was a symbol of their love. 
Slash, maybe I am coming home with a lot of tissues. 

I have a million more stories that I would like to write, but I can't because I have no time. 

Lesson Number 4: 

The Savior Lives.
He loves me.
He knows you.
He loves you.
He knew every single time I was out biking in the rain. He heard me testify about Him on the streets of Japan. He saw all of the lessons that I taught. He felt every "kekko desu" just as deeply as I did - even more. The Savior lives today. And, because of Him, anything is possible. Because of the Savior of the world we will all live again. We can all overcome anything that life might throw at us, and we can grow. We can change from who we once were to the person that the Savior knows that we can be. 

I like the words to one of my favorite hymns in the whole entire world:

Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

I felt that more than anything as I walked the streets of Japan. As I taught people about the Savior and as I testified of Him. 

D&C 76:22-24

Grundvig Shimai

Monday, March 30, 2015

Technological Trainwreck

I am writing this from an iPad.
I learned this week that I have forgotten how to use technology. So this is good practice. The Japan Kobe Mission is now one of 41 missions in the world using iPads and it is all still in the test mode. But, we aren't using the Internet to do dendou (teaching) for a little while - so that won't actually happen until I go home. However, I have really enjoyed using the iPads in lessons and I have discovered the magnitude of Gospel Library.

 This week was crazy busy because we were traveling a lot. On Monday, we left early in the morning to go to Kobe and spent preparation day in China town with Daniels Shimai and Crofts Shimai. Tuesday was MLC (Mission Leader Conference) in Kobe. It was the biggest technological train wreck of my life and we managed to crash the hombu and the Kobe church's wifi. It took all day to set up the iPads and MLC deteriorated into taking pictures on the hombu couch with Welch Shimai. It was the most not MLC feeling meeting of my life, but it was also quite a lot of fun. On Wednesday we traveled to Marugame to help distribute the iPads and help everyone set up their technology with all the missionaries on Shikoku. Then on Thursday we went on a koukan with the Matsuyama sisters, and so we spent very little time in our own area and had to cram a lot of lessons into not very many days.

This week one of the less actives we have been teaching returned to activity!
She has been coming to church for a while and working hard to regain her testimony, and received a calling yesterday!

We had a powerful lesson this week with one of the 15 year old girls we are teaching. We forgot everything we needed for the lesson, including the Restoration Video - so we taught the restoration simply and powerfully to this young girl. The spirit is always really simple and sweet when the restoration is taught. And this girl is very pure and believed the restoration as she heard it taught to her the first time.

(The restoration Video)

Niihama is so beautiful right now. I don't know how to send pictures from my camera using an iPad. But, the cherry blossoms have started to bloom!

Lastly, this week the "Because of him video" was released. We watched it with a family we are teaching. The three kids are less active, and the mom is preparing for her baptism. As we have been working with them they have started to come back to church - this Sunday the whole family came and it was wonderful! But, we watched  Because of Him Easter video and talked about the Savior and the spirit was so sweet.

The 11 year old son, after watching the video promised to help his mother as she prepared for baptism and to help get his family to church. He might be the coolest 11 year old I know.

The Savior lives! And because of Him, we will live again.
 And in Japanese:

Grundvig Shimai

Monday, March 23, 2015

Broken Bikes and Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree

I am currently in Kobe- Ichikawa Shimai and I traveled early to Kobe this week so that we could spend the preparation day in China Town with Daniels Shimai and Croft Shimai before MLC. I also brought the Mint Oreos that I received for Valentine’s Day to share with everyone - because I realized my taste buds have become very accustomed to Japanese sugar levels...not American sugar levels, and my tolerance for sugar has significantly decreased. (But, thank you for the Oreos mom :) )

Every week is amazing.
The cherry blossoms have started blossoming and I sing "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree" all of the time. It turns out that this song does not exist in the Japanese Primary Songbook, and so Ichikawa Shimai was very confused. I attempted to translate the lyrics, and realized yet again how little Japanese I actually know. But - she understands the basic idea of it now (I think).

Elder Nelson came to our mission this week. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE HEARING AN APOSTLE OF THE LORD SPEAK. It was perfect timing, because I received a lot of much needed direction for my life. It was also really neat to see the entire Japan Kobe Mission gather together.

We had a lot of miracles that happened this week, largely not according to the plans that we set...but that just shows how much Heavenly Father is in charge of our days and how we do about zero of the actual work, but are simply tools in the Lord's hand.

One story from this week illustrates this principle really well.

On Saturday we had a day planned full of lessons. We arrived to the first lesson on time. It went smoothly. We left our appointment and stopped at a conbini to go to the bathroom. It was windy. Outside of the conbini our bikes toppled over, and Ichikawa Shimai's bike got stuck to my bike and tore the cord that connects my gear shifter thing to the gears. However, because the wire is covered by a plastic coat - I didn't notice.

We went to our next appointment. The investigator had forgotten and wasn't home.

So we went to our next appointment, At the top of a mountain. I was going up the mountain - when my leg muscles were really tired of being in the top gear....when I discovered my gears would not shift down. So I gamon-ed for a while, and then called out to Ichikawa Shimai asking if we could stop and look at my gears. We couldn't fix it, so a grandpa stopped to help us. He couldn't fix it either and mostly just pulled on parts of my bike for a while. So, we continued up the mountain in a very painful gear.

And then our investigator wasn't home.

So, we asked her neighbor if she knew of any close bike shops. She said that there weren't any - but that her son did own a bike shop. She called her son and set up an appointment for us. The bike shop was in a really weird place that neither of us had ever been or would probably have ever thought of going. The lady also was really nice and said we could visit again.

So then we biked to the bike shop. We met her son. He was really nice. While he was fixing my bike (it turned out the wire had rusted inside the plastic coat and when it fell, it snapped), we went housing around the area.

And we housed an apartment complex that we would never have housed if we hadn't been stuck at an abandoned bike shop area. And we met a family. The mom has two children, no husband - and time to learn about the gospel. We talked with them for a while, taught a lesson about the Plan of Salvation- and set up another appointment. It was one of the weirdest experiences because the whole contact she acted like she had no interest - and then out of the blue started saying yes. And wanted us to come back. That is the power of the spirit.

Ichikawa Shimai and I pray every day - many, many times that we can find the people (who in Ichikawa Shimai's adorable English words) "People who are having a problem and need the message of the restored gospel." This week was a fulfillment of that prayer over and over and over again.
Plus, my bike was fixed - and he didn't even charge us tax.

We also started teaching an amazing 13 year old girl who is adorable and wants to know how to be kind to people and not gossip in middle school.

One of our other investigators is working to stop smoking.

Another one is attempting to help her family find the joy in the gospel, prepare for her baptism and strengthen her less active kids. Her daughter came to church this week and testified about how she wants to come to church from here on out because there has been something missing in her life.

One older lady we are teaching committed to be obedient to all of God's commandments.

Another 14 year old girl said a heartfelt prayer, started relying on the Lord and felt the spirit's influence for the first time. Also - ever since meeting with us her test scores have sky rocketed and she is feeling the power of the gospel.

I wish that I could write about everything that is happening, and how much the Lord is guiding His work. But, I don't have time.
The Lord works through miracles.
And sometimes, He performs those miracles through us.

Have a great week! And preform a miracle for the Lord - He uses us if we let Him :)

Grundvig Shimai

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Return to Bizan!

It was a beautiful week in Niihama. On Monday it rained A LOT and Ichikawa Shimai and I both got really wet, but we also got to eat Okonomiyaki at a members house, so it made the wet worth it.

We had a lesson this week with one of the families that we are teaching. It was just the 14 year old daughter and the mom this week, but the mom asked us SO MANY QUESTIONS. It was probably one of the most fun lessons of my mission because we explained prayer and the importance of true conversation with our Heavenly Father. The mom had so much interest that she fired question after question at us about receiving answers, as well as wanting to hear all about our own experiences. I don't know if I have ever left a lesson with an investigator who was more excited to pray. We testified of the spirit's influence and there was a sweet spirit of truth in the room with the two of them. The daughter has been praying for maybe two weeks now (we taught the daughter prayer first) and she said a beautiful prayer to end the lesson. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about helping investigators to have their own experiences through prayer and how important it is to help people understand why the gospel has personal meaning to them. This can really only be accomplished by discovering the questions that they carry in their hearts and teaching them to find the answers to their questions by themselves, through the gospel. Finding answers themselves requires that they know how to pray and use the Scriptures. These seem like really simple things to missionaries, but I think that when investigators don't understand them, then that is where they fall.

After that lesson we had 30 minutes, so we decided to go house around their neighborhood because Ichikawa Shimai had felt prompted that we should. So we did. We knocked on three houses and taught another lesson to a 14 year old girl, who we are going back and meeting with again next week. Recently we have been finding so many people prepared for the gospel that my testimony of the Lord preparing people has just been skyrocketing.

On Friday to Saturday we went back to Tokushima for a companion exchange! It was wonderful. I can't write how amazing it was, but I was able to meet with a lot of my old investigators and I had some of the most powerful lessons of my mission with them I think. I was with a second transfer missionary, Sister Buckner, who is amazing and had one of the most amazing stories about how she ended up being able to come to serve her mission in Japan. We went finding together at a park in Tokushima and met a family who had a lot of interest in the gospel. She bore a rock solid testimony (I was really blown away by her Japanese even though she is only a second transfer) and the family was excited to meet again. One of the hardest things for new missionaries is learning how to talk to people - even when it is super awkward - like jumping off your bike to stop someone, or walking up to someone that looks busy in a park, but by the end of the exchange her confidence had grown a lot and she was feeling a lot less nervous about stopping people. It was neat to see that growth in only a few hours. We also talked a lot about the power of just saying hello and helping people to smile. Although helping people smile is a really small thing, it is one of my favorite parts of missionary work I think.

Friday night was game night and I loved seeing a lot of the members <3. On Saturday morning Nakamura Kyoudai wanted us to all go climb bizan together because he thought that it was necessary to return to the mountain where we had met during the summer. It was a really foggy day, so the sunrise was not really visible - but it was so wonderful to go back to that mountain because I never thought I would be at the top of it again! We didn't have hiking clothes we drove to the top which was a little weak...but it was still really fun. We almost missed our bus, but through some brilliance of Nakamura Kyoudai and the members and two investigators we made it on time and returned our rental bikes. Small miracles.

Niihama continues to be amazing. This week Elder Nelson is coming to the mission and so Ichikawa Shimai and I are staying at the mission president's home in Kobe on Thursday night. We will also be receiving training for the iPads...which it looks like will be coming a week or so before I return to America hahaha. So....maybe I will have no iPad, but, it will still be really amazing to meet Elder Nelson.

Grundvig Shimai

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Charity is a Journey

I think every week is just increasingly becoming the busiest week of my entire life.
I maybe spent three nights in my own futon this week, and the rest of the week I spent in three different areas.

On Monday we traveled to Kobe for MLC (Mission Leadership Council). And I met Daniels Shimai, Mackenzie Shimai, Croft Shimai, Stevenson Shimai and Ichikawa Shimai <3 who are all some of my favorite people in the entire world. It made my heart so happy. It was also Stevenson Shimai's birthday, and Daniels Shimai made cake, and so we all ate chocolate cake. MLC was amazing and I received so much revelation and I always learn so much from Welch Kaicho and the Assistants. Daniels Shimai bore her "final testimony" and I cried. (I am lucky and I am bearing mine at the next MLC). We talked a lot about prayer at Mission Leadership Council and everyone had so many inspired comments that I wish I had time to write, but one of my favorites was from one of the elders who talked about how prayer is a way to prepare us for judgement. I had never really thought about prayer that way, but it makes sense because it is through prayer that we develop a relationship with our Heavenly Father. As we pray sincerely, when Judgement day comes we will meet our Heavenly Father and find that we already know Him. 

MTC district (see back here. and here ) picture at MLC
We arrived home late Tuesday night. On Wednesday we ate sushi with one of our investigators and her boyfriend. She is amazing and it has been incredible to see the change in her countenance over the past few weeks since she started investigating the church. She has become so much lighter and happier, it brings me so much joy. Her and her boyfriend are working towards a temple marriage and it makes my heart so happy. Plus, the sushi was delicious.
Croft Shimai and Grundvig Shimai's run up the mountain at MLC
A lot of other really amazing lessons happened that I don't have time to write about. BUT. On Friday I went on a Koukan with the Imabari Sisters, and we did a lot of housing in the rain. And we met so many amazing people. We met this 12 year old girl and taught her how to pray, and it was one of the moments as a missionary where you don't really know what you are doing but the spirit takes over - and you can tell that the person listening to you has no idea why they are listening to you, because you aren't fully making sense...but for some reason they can't quite close the door. It is those moments when I can just feel happiness radiating from my face and I love missionary work more than anything.

On the same koukan, Ichikawa Shimai was here in Niihama and I MISSED THIS LESSON - but, they had an amazing lesson with one of the families we are teaching. The mom cooked okonomiyaki for us because she knew it was my favorite and I felt so bad that I wasn't there (we forgot to tell her I wouldn't be there...) but, in this lesson the mom told Ichikawa Shimai that she hates religion and never wanted to listen, but then she saw the sister missionaries and thought to herself: "Why are they so happy?" So she came to our English class. And now her whole family is investigating the church. Her heart has softened so much, and she even told us if her children want to join the church, she would be OK with that. It made my heart very happy again when Ichikawa Shimai told me about that lesson.

Then, this weekend we spent a lot of time with Welch Kaicho (see here, scroll down to bottom to see Welch Kaicho) because of district conference. He is an amazing mission president and the conference was so fulfilling. I also had my final interview, and that made me realize that there is no "Transfer 13" for American Missionaries.

So. it was a very eventful week, spent mostly in Kobe, Matsuyama, Imabari and a tiny bit in Niihama. But I realized driving back from Matsuyama to Niihama on Sunday how much I love this area with all of my heart. I have been praying to love it ever since I got here and I can feel that love just overcoming my heart now. Like it says in Moroni 7:46-48: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ...." Maybe Charity has been the biggest journey of my mission. Ichikawa Shimai always says: "The key to companionship is to love their weaknesses." But, that is a lot easier said than done. We can't do that on our own, only through our Heavenly Father can we be filled with His love. His love is "bestowed upon us." It has come gradually, but I think I finally understand the look that my MTC teacher had in his eyes when we all asked him as eager MTC Missionaries: "What was your favorite part of Japan?" And he said really quietly: "The people." I saw that and I had heard people say it a million times, but I thought to myself: "I want to be able to say it LIKE THAT. Because he REALLY means it."

Anyway, Charity is a journey. And, it is a really joyful one.
Grundvig Shimai

The Tokushima socks I always wanted

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Closing the Umbrella

I read in the Liahona this week a short quote from President Uchtdorf about how we often get ourselves confused about why we have commandments. He talked about how we sometimes think of commandments as "If we do this, THEN God will bless us." Whereas in reality, God is always showering blessings down upon us and commandments are the way that we "remove the umbrella that blocks the shower of blessings." Meaning that when we keep the commandments we are putting ourselves in the right places and circumstances that we can receive the blessings that Heavenly Father so wants to give us. I learned a lot about that this week.

Heavenly Father is really showering blessings upon us in Niihama right now. It is making my heart really, really full of gratitude. There are a lot of very good things happening in Niihama right now, and a lot of them are just barely beginning, the seeds are just barely being planted, and the fruits will come in the months after I leave Japan. I thought about that a little bit this week, and it was making me feel a little bit sad to think about not being here in late April, May and June. But then I received some very necessary revelation that I think is probably really important for all of life. Last night Ichikawa Shimai and I were biking down out of the mountains in Niihama after an amazing lesson, the sun had just set and we were going by rivers and run down Japanese buildings that are classic to Inaka Shikoku, and my heart just sort of overfilled with gratitude for the amazing week that we had had and for the thousands of blessings that I have received on my mission and for just how AMAZING my mission has been. In my prayer of gratitude, my thoughts turned a little bit to: "But, why is it going to end? Especially at this point in Niihama, where everything is just turning into beautiful potential?" And a very clear and distinct thought came to me: "Be grateful for all that you have been given, and use what you have with the most efficiency that you can - and miracles will happen." It was an amazing revelatory bike ride and I learned a lot, but I think perhaps what I pulled from that was 1) how much the Lord has His hand in all things, how He knows what is good for us and how His plan is better for us than ours ever could be - so just trust Him. and 2) To just use all my time as wisely as possible and then, although I may still want to be here to see some of the wonderful events occurring in the next few months, it doesn't really matter all that much whether or not I am in the area- because the joy will be the same. For me, closing the umbrella meant to just put everything into the now and not so much think about the future, because the Lord's plan is a whole lot bigger than mine.

On another note, this week was probably one of the most amazing weeks of my entire mission. I owe that largely to Ichikawa Shimai. We sat down at the beginning of the week and set some really, really, really high good goals. Or at least I thought they were high until Ichikawa Shimai shared some of her vision with me and then the goals got even higher. Some of the details of "helping these big visions to occur" meant that we had to change some of our little every day actions. We started with our prayers. And when our prayers changed, everything...EVERYTHING changed. Ichikawa Shimai changed her prayers first to make them deeper and more heartfelt, and then we talked about that and changed our companionship prayers and I changed mine too. I don't really know how to explain how everything has changed, but I think it is mostly that we just feel the Lord guiding us a whole lot.

To illustrate why, I will share what happened on Saturday:
We had planned out a very effective day full of visiting lots of investigators and less actives and we had all of these brilliant plans, largely hanging on how long the morning "You worked hard!" party went. (An Elder who served in Niihama came back because he had finished his mission this week - he was also born in Niihama so there was just a lot of really amazing ties in there) but, he came back to visit the ward and it took longer than we planned and the whole day turned into a crazy fast biking adventure to get to the appointments we had. And, we missed a lot of them. (The morning party thing though was amazing and worth every bit of time that it took because it was so unbelievably powerful). BUT, despite the craziness of the day we were really, really led by the spirit. The last appointment we ended up having of the day we had originally planned for 3 pm. We were running very behind and we made it to the appointment at about 5. But, at the time that we made it to the appointment the mom was outside with her baby and her husband just happened to pull up at the exact same time that we did. He was excited to meet us as he had not yet (they are actually our neighbors and we had been working to set up an appointment with the mom for a while), apparently she had been telling her husband about us (we brought her cake one time and she loved it), and the timing just worked out so perfectly that they invited us in and we taught a lesson and the whole family became investigators. And I love them SO MUCH. Seriously, this young family is adorable. Afterwards we said gratitude filled prayer and I had such a strong confirmation that the Lord is really the one guiding our plans everyday, and just guiding everything and that I am a really tiny piece of this whole work.

In other news, I literally closed the umbrella on Sunday and I forgot my raincoat. It poured rain a lot and I got very wet, and there is nothing quite like biking through mountains in a skirt on rainy days. I think those might be some of the most treasured memories of my mission.
Also some of the cherry blossoms have started popping out early in Niihama, because, it is Ehime Ken.

The church is true.
I love being a missionary :)
Grundvig Shimai

Ichikawa Shimai and Grundvig Shimai in Niihama

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Power of Prayer

It was a beautiful week in Niihama!

First of all, I received my last transfer call of my mission and Ichikawa Shimai and I are both staying in Niihama! I AM SO HAPPY. I am probably one of the luckiest people in the entire world to have a Japanese companion for my last transfer, and especially because that Japanese companion is Ichikawa Shimai and she is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. The sad news is that Chapman Shimai is transferring from Tokushima :( and so I will not be able to go on koukan with her.

Something that I have been thinking about a lot this week is the power of prayer. Recently, Ichikawa Shimai and I have been teaching about prayer a lot and hearing a lot of first prayers. One of the things that I love most about my mission, and particularly about serving a mission in Japan is hearing people pray for the very first time. Most Japanese people have never looked at prayer the way that I look at prayer - as a conversation full of gratitude and my own thoughts and then onegais for the things that I need help with as well. Particularly the idea of giving gratitude through prayer is really mind blowing for a lot of my investigators. This week we taught one family about prayer, and the 7 year old daughter prayed the sweetest little prayer I have ever heard - full of gratitude that her family met us and that we are teaching them. It melted me heart. Another lady we are teaching - the girlfriend of one of the members in Niihama, who has had one of the hardest lives of anyone I have ever met - prayed her first prayer and it was so sweet! She was really nervous, but had the same sort of gratitude filled prayer and there was a strong spirit of peace in the room.

This week was full of so many wonderful moments that I wish I had more time to record...but I ate a lot of udon, hiked a mountain in Niihama, bought a very Japanese poi skirt that cost less than a dollar, biked a lot of different places, memorized the area as much as I could in-case Ichikawa Shimai transferred (luckily I dodged that bullet...), taught some powerful lessons and felt the Lord guiding His work!

We have been focusing on working with the members in Niihama and my love for them has grown so much this transfer. I think that is one of my favorite parts of working with the members, as I learn about them I just love them more and I also learn more about Japan and the culture and my heart just expands a whole lot. But, the branch president's wife teaches a class in her home (an after school cram class) and every week we volunteer in her class. The kids are hilarious and it has been way fun to teach them English. But, this week she asked us to spend the first hour of the class just teaching them about missionary work and what we do. We explained who we are and told them about our backgrounds, and then showed them our  profiles, and then after that showed them some of the Japanese members Japanese  videos. It was a super success and the branch president's wife was so grateful. As a result, most of the class members are planning to go to youth conference and they came to the church hiking activity this weekend. They are all 13 and they remind me of Japanese versions of Ethan.

Love you all!
Love Grundvig Shimai