Wednesday, December 25, 2013

奇跡ですね

It has been a really cold, rainy week...which is a little rough.  And I am less excited about the very large rain suits than I was when I first got here.  Also it is SO COLD.  But, summer is typhoon season, so riding a bike in the cold sounds significantly better than riding a bike through a typhoon.  One night, Dean Shimai and I were on our way back from an appointment and it just started POURING.  And we decided it was not worth it to put on our rain gear because we were just heading back to our apartments anyway...we got completely SOAKED.  But we had so much fun with it. We sang Christmas carols the whole way home and made our own little parodies. We looked completely dignified, I am sure.

Results of no Rain Gear...Soaking and dignified

A great Reunion at Trainer/trainee conference
On Tuesday this week Dean Shimai and I went to Kobe for a trainer/trainee training and it was so awesome. I learned A LOT.  It is amazing to me how much I thought I understood about the gospel...and how little I actually understood.  I learn so much new doctrine all the time about the very simple doctrines.  It was SO good to see Daniels Shimai, Black Choro and Lake Choro. They are just the best.  It is obvious that everyone has been working so hard - and everyone was so excited to share stories and miracles with each other.  In a month every single one of us has made so much progress, but it is a lot easier to see it in each other than in ourselves. Just...the very countenance of these people has changed.

Ward Christmas! Love the Japanese
Children
CHRISTMAS IS SO SOON!  This weekend was INCREDIBLE!  On Saturday we had a baptism!! R-Shimai, our Philipino investigator, was sooo happy after she was baptized.  I just love her!  The ward members on Sunday (after her confirmation) came over to Dean Shimai and me and told us that they could see a very clear change in her countenance.  They said that she looks absolutely beautiful and it is obvious that the power of God is REAL!  I also gave a talk on Sunday.  Which was the most terrifying thing of my entire life probably.  I worked all week trying so hard to finish my talk, but translating is soo difficult!  The romanji preach my gospel  (Missionary study guide) was the best thing.  But, I was still a little bit nervous when I stood up that my pronunciation was just going to murder my talk on Christmas and Jesus Christ...or that my grammar structures were incorrect...but it went SO WELL! I felt so good while I was speaking, and the spirit was able to carry my simple Japanese words to the hearts of the members and our investigators. After my talk, Imanashi 巨大 came up to me and told me that it was absolutely perfect Japanese.  It just made my life, basically. There was an incredible Christmas program at Church and the ward pulled the missionaries up front, and had us speak a bit about Christmas and then they gave us these bags FULL of presents!  It was the sweetest thing!  I can't even explain how much I love this ward!  I did not have the Japanese words to express my appreciation to them.  They are getting more and more excited about this work and we have such a good relationship with them right now. Gah! They are just the best.
Generous Ward Christmas Gifts!
On Saturday night we had the Ward Christmas Party and I just loved it! The Osaka Orchestra played...and one of the Eikaiwa Students stood up and started playing the electric guitar and singing all these English songs.  Oh my goodness it was so funny.  He forgot the "Christmas" part of the program and the members just looked absolutely mortified.  The missionaries sang with Irie Kyodai and the spirit was so strong.  We sang about his conversion story - and Japanese can be really beautiful.  I didn't understand all the words to the song, but I understood the message.

Christmas really is a time of miracles for this work - all over the world.  The Lord is hastening his work and I love that I get to be a part of it!  Merry Christmas!


Grundvig 姉妹



Our Wonderful Christmas!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Power from the Scriptures

Last week we had a Zone Training Meeting. It was fantastic. During part of the meeting we discussed ways to aid one of our investigators that has asked us to help her stop smoking.  She is from the Philippines and it is difficult to teach her because we can only speak to her in a mix of simple Japanese and English...because she is much better at Tagalog. She’s been very interested in coming to church and learning the gospel but it’s been really hard for her to understand everything (because of the language barrier). 
Thanks to Dean Shimai's family for
 great Decorations!

The Sisters met her a week or so before I came into the area. Sister Dean and her companion saw her on the side of the road and felt like they should turn around and talk to her.  As they began teaching her they slowly helped her to smoke a little bit less (she had been smoking at least one cigarette an hour) and when I met her in November she was smoking one cigarette every three hours.  During the Zone meeting we discussed ways that we could help her stop smoking and ways that we could help her learn the gospel given the language barriers. There had been a lot of helpful suggestions - packs of gum with scriptures on them (that she could chew when she felt like smoking) or a notebook to help her remember what was taught...etc. but I definitely was feeling discouraged, and wasn’t sure how effective these things would be for her.

Despite the difficulties she faced, she has been able to overcome these challenges.  She really faced a huge challenge to stop smoking in a short time after years of this addiction.  I don’t believe she could have stopped on her own and there was nothing that I could have done to help her stop by my own power.  But someone else could. Christ died for her. Christ died for me! Christ died for YOU. There are so many things in this life that we cannot overcome by ourselves. Addictions, sicknesses, heartbreak, . . and any other sort of trial that life throws at us. But over 2000 years ago in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ atoned for each and every single person on this earth.

The truth is that a day does not go by out here where everything goes the way we planned. There is not a day that I don't get some weird look because I am a little girl riding a bike in a skirt talking about Jesus Christ in a country where that is often a strange concept.  Every day someone turns down this message that could change their life. Every day I wake up at 6:30 feeling completely exhausted, and realize that I still have 16 more hours before I can go back to sleep on my futon. Every day I ride by signs that I can't read, or have people speak to me and I have absolutely no idea what they are saying.

But all of that and more is worth it! Everything is worth it when I see people like this wonderful Filipino woman whose life is forever changed. She went from a lady who rarely smiled, and had no one that cared about her - who smoked a pack of cigarettes on her futon every single day, and suffered for decisions that she had made early in her life...to a woman who smiles regularly, who laughs at my silly dance down the hall in the church, who sings Christmas carols and wears pink sweat suits. 

Her transformation is only possible through the power of God. Maybe that is hard to believe unless you see what I had the privilege to see - to watch.  But I believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Not only have I seen this power work in my own life, but now I have watched it work for someone else. 

This week we made a jar for this woman. We filled it with pieces of chocolate wrapped with a Book of Mormon scripture, and labeled it "Get ADDICTED to the Book of Mormon!" She thought that it was so funny. One of the happiest moments of my entire life was when we got a phone call from her the next evening right as we were going to bed. She said: "I’m eating chocolate! And reading the Mormon Book!" On Friday she had her baptismal interview and she is so excited to be baptized on the 21st of December. 
 
I also ate more curry this week than I think I have ever eaten in my life. For Dean Shimai's Birthday we went to this delicious curry place called Bindu - and then a lady in our ward invited us to go to Bindu again, and we had more curry from CoCo's curry after District Meeting on Friday...we are not planning on eating curry for a while (even though it is SO delicious) because we got a little sick of it. I had no idea that the Japanese people love curry so much. And I also didn't realize how delicious it is...especially in the cold weather. 
At Bindu 


It is Christmas time! It doesn't feel a ton like Christmas because Christmas is not a very big deal in Japan. But Dean Shimai's parents sent her some Christmas decorations, so our apartment is much more Christmas-y now and it is wonderful! I have been asked to speak in Church on Sunday for our Christmas program. I started writing my talk this morning...and started translating it during language study. These are the moments when I realize how very limited my Japanese is. But, the language will come. As I was reminded this week - "doubt your doubts before you doubt your fears." The enabling power of Jesus Christ's atonement has absolutely no boundaries - from overcoming addiction to helping me learn Japanese. 




I saw this guy pulling this cart as we were biking an hour to one of our investigators houses, so I jumped off my bike...and yanked my helmet off and got a picture with him. I have never felt more like a part of Kung Fu Panda in my life

Note from Ariana's Mom:  Ariana has asked that friends and family send hand written letters through the postal mail.  She would really love it!  She checks email only once a week, and would really enjoy mail in her postal mailbox during the week.  Send to this address: (Same as address on "Write me" Tab)

Ariana Grundvig
Japan Kobe Mission
4-6-28 Shinohara Honmachi
Nadu-Ku, Kobe-Shi, Hyogo-Ken
657-0067 Japan

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Smile - Zero Yen

Time on the mission is so strange. Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, the day ahead of me feels so daunting...and I am just so tired all the time!  So, then all I want to do is go back to sleep on my futon, or futons. We have centuries of missionaries old futons all stacked up in our apartment, which is nice because then we each sort of have a bed.

My Japanese is improving slowly. I am usually able to understand the topic of talks, and a little bit of each talk in church. Although, it is more like, when I catch a word that I know in a talk I get really excited. This week all the missionaries sang in Church. A member of our ward, Irie Kyodai, who is kind of a big deal, liked our song so much that he asked us to sing in the Christmas Concert. There is a Christmas Concert at our building every year with the Osaka Orchestra. Irie Kyodai is a really well known singer, and he has an incredible conversion story. He wrote a song about it, and this is the song that he wants us to sing. It is so pretty! And I am rather surprised that he thought we sounded good...because my companion and I struggle a bit when it comes to singing in key...however the elders are very good. The Osaka Orchestra uses our church building to practice, so every year they have a big Christmas concert for the members for free.

At the train station
So, on Thursday I had my first really embarrassing Japanese mistake...or at least that I know of. We went to visit one of our investigators that live really far away and we didn't have time to bike, so we took the train. On the way home I was sitting next to this guy...and I felt like I should talk to him. He told me that he was 19 and a bunch of other stuff, and I was actually able to have a real conversation with him...so this was a big deal! And then the point came to ask if he would exchange phone numbers with us. Unfortunately, the word for dinner is rather close to the word for phone number (or at least it was somewhere in the crevices of my brain) ...and the word for marriage (kekkon) is very similar to the word for exchange (kokan). So I actually asked him if it would be alright if he married me over dinner...instead of asking him to exchange phone numbers. So my trainer is whispering to me out of the corner of her mouth that I did not say the right thing...and I realized what I had said...so I stumbled through the rest of the contact. He decided that he did not actually want to give us his number at this point (he was looking a tad bit uncomfortable) and it took all of my self-control to make it off of the train without laughing hysterically. However, he did put our number in his phone.

Grundvig Shimai and Dean Shimai

Friday - was a day of MIRACLES! Kiseki desu ne! We had a Zone Training, and the meeting was so powerful. The Zone Training was in Nara, and after the training the entire Zone went out finding for an hour. When we left the church building Dean Shimai and I said a prayer that we would be guided to the Senmine. And we left. As we were walking I looked down this completely deserted street and I just really felt like we should walk down it. But I didn't say anything at first because it just didn't make any sense. And the thought kept coming back to me. We walked a few more feet and then my trainer said "hey if there is any particular place you feel like we should go, let me know." And I said: "Ok, I think we need to go down that street." And she looked at me like I was crazy (understandably so) and then said are you sure? And I said "Ya....I think so..." So we went down this street, and out of nowhere came two high school girls. And they were interested in the purpose of life! Let me just say - that doesn't really just happen. You don't just ask people if they are interested in the purpose of life in Japan, and then have them get excited and say yes. And then they gave us their phone numbers. We kept walking and Dean Shimai said: "Ok, you are leading the way today...where next?" So I said...lets go...left. So we went left.


And then we turned right. And then we turned left. And we saw this girl standing by herself. Y-Chan. And we started talking to her. At this point a big group of high school girls came. And they all wanted to talk to us! So we invited them all to walk with us to the church and we would give them a tour. So they all came. It was such a neat experience! They were so excited to hear that they are each children of God! And I talked with this little girl, Y-Chan, the entire time. She was so cute. I knew that girl before this life. I just felt something really special about her. She was 15 and we both loved to read. On the walk to the church we talked about all of the different things we liked to do, and our families, and what books we like to read. Mostly we talked about Harry Potter (because she liked those books a lot too). During the Church tour I saw a Book of Mormon sitting on a desk, and I felt like I should give it to her. So I pulled her aside - oh side note - I have no idea whose Book of Mormon this was. So I am still hoping it was just an extra copy...anyway, I gave her this Book of Mormon, and told her that this was my favorite book. She was so excited to look through it, and there was a really special feeling as she leafed through the Book. I told her how much it meant to me.

We walked with the girls into the chapel and we sat down with them and said a prayer. We bore testimony of the church and of Christ and that they are God's daughters. The girls were so cute - and the spirit was so strong. In one hour we found nine people in Nara. That is a miracle.

Later Friday night we had two lessons lined up. We were at the Church waiting for our second lesson, and our phone started ringing. It was the guy that I talked to on the train. Yes - the one that I accidentally proposed to. And he is supposed to come to English Class this week. That doesn't happen either. We laughed so hard after we hung up with him. My trainer forced me to talk to him when he called. Most of the phone conversation I had no idea what he was saying...and I am pretty sure most of the things I said also did not make any sense in context. So...that is good.

I was so happy on Friday. I understand so much more what it means to be happy out here. There are way hard days...but then I have days like Friday. And I am just SO happy to be a missionary. I am just so HAPPY to be in Japan...teaching these people! And becoming their friends! I have learned so much in half of a transfer....it is really hard to wrap my mind around the idea of being here for another 15 months or however long it is. In some ways that feels so long and in so many other ways...there is never enough time to do this work.

On Saturday, Dean Shimai and I were focusing on what it means to be a true disciple, and we decided to focus our entire day around Christ. It was incredible. Oh my goodness I loved it so much. We had so many interesting conversations, and we learned a lot about Christ just because of the conversations we were having. We bore more powerful testimony, and the things that are usually hard or tiring or dull were easier and more exciting because we were really focusing on the reason we are out here - because Christ died for me! And for every single person!
"smile" for -zero Yen- on the McD's menu


I love so much about this place. I love the old men in the park who play chess together - it is so adorable - little Japanese men playing chess. Does it get any more Japanese than that? I love the old Japanese style houses. I love putting on slippers when we go into our investigators homes. I love that "smile" is on the menu at McDonalds for Zero Yen. I love the way our street looks early in the morning. I love hanging our futons out and banging them with hangers. But more than anything I love watching people start to change. I love the realization that God loves them, that they have a purpose in life. I love the people that we are teaching. And I know that I don't even love them half as much as God does.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving in Japan

Our Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes
As it turns out, Thanksgiving is an American Holiday. So, Thanksgiving was an entirely normal day here. We tried to celebrate it...and actually remembered that it was Thanksgiving. On Friday we had zone conference, and mostly everyone else had forgotten about Thanksgiving. It was surprisingly not sad to miss Thanksgiving though...because I love being in Japan. It was probably the best Thanksgiving ever, because what better way to be grateful than to be serving people on the other side of the world?? My companion and I made mashed potatoes though...we told our investigators we were making mashed potatoes and they were so intrigued by the idea of smashing potatoes.

We have been SO busy. I have only been out finding twice because we are so busy planning lessons, contacting investigators, teaching investigators and visiting investigators. This week we made a few presents for our investigators and stopped by to see how they were doing - and it is amazing how the Lord prompts us without us even realizing it. One thing I have come to learn  is that sometimes it is good to just really develop a strong friendship with investigators. We now have a new investigator, the sisters in this area have been friends with her for a really long time - and this week she asked us to teach her children about God. They are the cutest little kids ever! We do the family English program with them, and teach English for thirty minutes and then we teach a lesson for the next thirty. Initially, she was not interested in learning about the gospel, but because of a friendship with us, her heart has been softened. I have come to love our investigators so much more this week. I loved them last week, but each time we visit them or pray for them or plan for them, my love for them grows! I LOVE my job as a missionary in Japan. In this part of the world, I don't have to correct ideas of God (well, a little bit) but I also get to completely FORM the idea of God in our investigators mind. The children we teach have no idea that they are a Child of God. They don't know how to pray - and the change that takes place, or even just starts to take place as they learn that they are sons and daughters of God is incredible. Each night when we go to bed my companion says: "Don't we just have the best job ever?!" And we do! Plus I am in JAPAN. I don't think I have fully comprehended that yet, because I have to remind myself every morning. 

I LOVE riding my bike down this street!
On Friday we had Zone Conference [All the missionaries in the area come together to receive training]. My companion and I went into the conference with the attitude that we could receive revelation for our area and with the attitude that what we were hearing was going to change our missions -and we received so much direct revelation. Zinke Kaicho [Mission President] is an inspired man. I am so grateful for his guidance. And for the way he leads us. Our mission is a very obedient mission. And the weirdest part about it is that we NEVER talk about obedience. I don't even know that the word obedience was mentioned once in the entire conference. There is sort of a feeling in the mission that "if you aren't obedient...how dare you." I can't even imagine someone NOT being obedient, it is just so obviously wrong here. There is a higher expectation. At the very least you had better be being obedient, but that is not even close to true discipleship. Our mission theme is "True Disciples - One and All" And that only BEGINS with being obedient, but it is so much more than that. As each of us strive to be true disciples, we rise above the expected and push to do what the Lord really expects of us. And that is to bring others to Christ. And to love the Japanese people.

Kansha Sai
On Saturday we had a ward party - the Kansha Sai. Possibly the best Thanksgiving ever. We didn't have time to go home before it, so I didn't have my camera...which is a bummer. It was the strangest mix of foods though....there was a lot of Japanese food that I hadn't tried before, so I got to try all of that. And then we made mashed potatoes. A lady in the ward made some pumpkin pie...it was a very Japanese pumpkin pie. And we had an Apple pie, which was also very Japanese. I don't really know how to explain that very well. It was made from a real pumpkin? That sounds silly...but it was very fresh or something, but also very delicious. Pumpkin is something that they eat a lot here, and I actually like it. The Kansha Sai was so amazing. Miracles happen! And we see them all the time. I just love it! My companion and I keep a list of all of the miracles that we see every single day on our fridge, because as we recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives, it becomes easier to see how He is helping us...and He will also bless us more. 

Yesterday was fast and testimony meeting. Our ward is so tiny, so my companion and I both bore our testimonies. One of our investigators wanted to hear us bear our testimony - so we did. As I was speaking, I realized that my Japanese has already improved from last week. It is hard to recognize progress when it seems like there is so much that I don't know. The ward member who bore his testimony after me talked about my testimony...which was chotto awkward because I have no idea what he was saying. I heard "She came to Japan last week and she is already skilled at Japanese!" People say that all the time, and it really means...you are not skilled at Japanese...but the thought is nice. 

Higashi Osaka
I love Japan. And I am so excited for CHRISTMAS! We listen to Christmas music as much as we can in our apartment. And it seems really weird that it is already December. My companion is already halfway done with her mission. Mission time is on hyper-speed I think. One thing that is really stressed in our mission is that we ONLY have 18 months or 2 years. That is not a lot of time - so while we are here, we give our all. A mission is so tiring, but so worth it. I have learned SO MUCH in two weeks. I can't even imagine how much I am going to learn in months of being here. Oh, also, I am dreading the idea of ever being transferred anywhere because I already love this area too much. And our investigators. And the ward members (when I can understand them at least). 
Funny things all over Japan!  I love it!
 [The best way to contact Ariana, now that she is in Japan, is through email (see her mission email address under  "write me" tab).  If you would like to send her a letter or package, send by United States Postal Mail and send to the Mission home address noted under her "Write Me" tab.]



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

First Week in Japan!

I am serving in the Osaka Higashi district :) Apparently, this is the ghetto part of Osaka, but I wouldn't really know because I don’t have much to compare it too. 


Dean Shamai and Grundvig Shamai
Companions!
My companion is Sister Dean and I absolutely love her. She is from Utah and she is on her fifth transfer. Her Japanese is good (even though she says it isn't) she at least understands what people are saying! She tells me that my Japanese is good for only having learned Japanese in the MTC...but I still don’t really know what is going on. I can follow conversations better than I can speak though. And, the language will come with time. Yesterday at church I had to bear my testimony in Japanese. Before Church I met a ton of the members, and the first lady I met...I really stumbled through introducing myself politely and stuff. Bearing my testimony went well, and after church she came up to me and told me she was impressed because she had expected my Japanese to be worse after meeting me the first time. At least, I am pretty sure that was what she said. She was so funny. The ward is so cute. It is small, but strong. I love how strong the members are here, there aren't many of them and this is not an easy place to be Christian...but they are so kind and so willing to help us. My companion has worked hard and built up this area a lot. And so have the Elders. I am so blessed to be in it! I have an incredible trainer, a strong area, a lot of investigators - we have taught at least one lesson every day since I have been here - and we have three investigators with baptismal dates. 
Me and my Bike!
Zinke Shimai and Zinke Kaicho









This mission is incredible. I loved meeting my mission president.(What is a Mission President?  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mission-president ) He is SO inspired. Zinke Shimai and Zinke Kaicho are so wonderful. They put so much work into this mission, and that is part of the reason that the missionaries are so obedient and successful.
The Missionary Group that left the MTC together

So much has changed in one week! The night we left the MTC all the girls in the branch sang hymns together in the hall (in English - last time I will do that for the next 16 months) and then traveling to Japan was nice. I had time to do all the things I hadn't had time to do in the MTC. And I studied Japanese a little bit with Fuller Choro, because he was next to me on the plane. I have never seen Fuller Choro and Eversole Choro so happy as when we landed in Japan. Eversole Choros trainer is a Nihonjin and they bounce around together like little bunnies. Fuller Choro spent the entire flight looking at the map of the airplane getting closer and closer to Japan, and he was so excited. It was my favorite thing ever. 

On the flight, Daniels Shimai and I talked to a few people about the church. They were mostly interested in why we were going to Japan, and they told us that the Japanese people would like us because we are small and blonde. And they wouldn't even mind that we dressed weird probably! (Seriously, one guy told us that...sometimes in the MTC I forgot that most people don’t wear long skirts all day every day).

Rainpants!
In front of our apartment.  
There are so many things I love about Japan. I love that the toilet paper is pink and scented. I love the pretty trees. I love all the packages that food comes in and that they are so brightly colored and cute. I like sleeping on futons. I love the way the food smells wafting out into the streets as we ride our bikes by. And I am so excited to share the gospel with these people- because I can just see it in their faces. They NEED the gospel. They need this message. They need the happiness that it can bring them. 

Aishite Imasu!


Grundvig Shimai

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Butterfly Cocoon Parable

Daniels Shimai, Violette Shimai and I sang in church last week. So that was fairly terrifying. And new. I sang the first line all by myself, which is something that I have never done before. I think that is one thing that is SO great about a mission - I go out of my comfort zone in so many things, that I am just forced to change and learn a lot.

This week I was thinking about everything that I have learned since coming to the MTC, and how much I have changed. I was trying to decide what it is about a mission that makes it so difficult, besides the obvious and I was reminded of the Butterfly cocoon Parable. When a butterfly emerges from it's cocoon it has to squeeze through a tiny, tiny hole.  It is very painful.  However, if it were not to do this, it's wings would not work and it would not be able to fly.  Yes, I leave my family and friends for 18 months. Yes, I can't date for 18 months. Yes, I wake up every single morning by 6:30 or earlier...for 18 months. Yes. I can hardly communicate with the people that I love. Yes, I live very high standards and wear dress clothes for 18 months. Yes, I am learning an entirely new language that I would never have had an interest in learning...all of these things are difficult, and true, and hard. But these things are not what makes a mission hard. These are the surface level aspects of a mission. These are the things that we recite off to our friends back home when they ask what we do as a missionary. These are the things that we wonder if we will be able to handle as we walk into the MTC, lugging our heavy green suitcases and smiling at everyone that shouts: "Welcome to the MTC!" as we walk by. 
What I have come to realize is that giving up most of these things...or even learning a new language/ learning to teach, is all expected. These are the "normal hard things." These are not the things that change us as missionaries. As a missionary, we each recognize that we give these things up for the Lord. These are all things that we say: "I am willing to give this up to get something better in return." We turn to the Lord and gladly put our time, our social abilities (yes, I mean abilities...it would appear that something about sticking this name-tag on my chest made me forget how to talk to anyone of the male specimen - which is probably a blessing, actually), our EVERYTHING to the Lord for 18 months or 2 years. What we do not anticipate is that our very nature will be challenged and changed.

Missionary work - even the MTC - brings out every inadequacy and weakness in me. I see myself through new eyes. I see more of what I am, and more of what I want to be. That is what is hard. It is hard to humble yourself enough to say: "You are right, I am not good at this...and I need to be better." It is hard to recognize that I am not perfect, and that I never will be. And then all at once, this is the beautiful and wonderful part of missionary work. As I came on a mission, I knew that I was giving up everything temporal for this work. (My might and strength). What I have come to recognize is that the Lord also wants us to turn over our heart and mind to Him as well. This is the hardest part. It is easy to go through the motions. It is easy to "do the work." It is easy to live the missionary lifestyle. But to live it in your heart and mind? That is another story. This is something that I will work on for my entire mission, I am sure. But as I have learned this, and begun the process I have discovered something amazing. As my will becomes the will of the Lord, everything about me is strengthened. I can learn a language, I can last through the long days... I can love more, I can do more, I can BE more. The Lord always sees what we can become,("The Butterfly")-and we do not. He sees that one day we can become perfect. We do not. As we turn ourselves over to Him, He makes us more than we can be.

In other news...this week was my last week at the MTC. It was fantastic and sad and wonderful and I cried more than I was expecting. We had our last lessons with all of our investigators. I cried at the end of all of them. Because I loved them SO MUCH. AND THEY AREN'T EVEN REAL INVESTIGATORS. Do you understand how much I am going to cry at the end of each transfer? #sistermissionary #sasaga 

Sisters in our Branch
On Tuesday for our last devotional we had Elder L. Tom Perry come. So we ended that with a bang. We were all pretty stoked. I loved our district devotional afterwards. The Chorotachi are just such STUDS. Every single one of them is going to change SO many lives in Japan. It was incredible to hear the difference of each person's testimony from the first week...until now. Honestly, I am so happy that I was at the MTC for 9 weeks. This place works miracles, but in 9 weeks, it can work more miracles than in 2. Personal opinion. However, it is a true personal opinion :) 

Eversole Choro tried out for a special musical number and was selected to play for all of the new missionaries. He is the most talented person that I have ever met. It is incredible. The first week he was terrified to share his piano talent...and his confidence has grown SO much at the MTC. He talked about that a bit with us this week, but it is so evident in the way he talks, plays, and just interacts with people. He is going to be an incredible missionary. The Lord has so much in store for him in Japan. He already spoke a lot of the language, and he is basically fluent. Not to mention that every Japanese person that hears him play the piano will just fall in love with him. I can't wait to see all the good he does in Japan. 

National Pickle Day!
Twins
And some fun things...it was National Pickle Day on Thursday. I didn't get pictures with everyone that wore green...but I basically convinced the whole branch to wear green. No big deal. We loved it. Also, all of the Kohai Sisters decided to match with us on Tuesday. That was a blast! They are SO ADORABLE. And I am going to be so sad to leave them.

It is so hard to leave...I love this place so much. I am excited to stop eating MTC food though, it is fine and all that...but it is not the same food that they have in the cannon center (on BYU dorm campus). And I can't wait to eat the Japanese food!

And teach the Japanese people...that too ;)

Love you all!! My next letter will be from Japan. So get excited for the goofy things I say in this language over the next week. You know it will happen. As so wisely put by Wight Choro last night: "I know how to ask where I am...but I don't know how to understand where I am."
If you hear about a little white girl wandering around Japan speaking an unidentifiable language, you know where I am at.

Aishite Imasu! 

Grundvig Shimai
(my name in katakana is: gurandobigu)





Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Week of Hope

This week has been a week of hope, and recognizing success.  In the MTC, progress is extremely rapid, and learning is an accelerated process.  Besides learning Japanese, I am also learning SO MUCH about the gospel - and how to teach the gospel.  However, a lot of times I don't recognize this progress because I am so focused on the language, and what I don't know how to say, or teach or do. 

Grundvig Shimai, Violette Shimai, and Daniels Shimai
Our Awesome Distict!
This week, our district was chosen to host and to usher for a devotional AND Daniels Shimai, Violette Shimai and I were chosen to represent "How to Begin Teaching" for all of the new missionaries on Wednesday night.  Our teachers had recommended us, and it was an incredible experience.  I didn't know how far I had come, until I got to see all of the new missionaries teach.  It was so hard to watch - I recognized the investigators needs, and how to teach them...and I have learned so much from when I was in that room full of new missionaries teaching one investigator.  Our job, as the "example missionaries" was to come into the investigators "home" and demonstrate the beginning of a lesson. We got to know them, and directed the lesson to the very perfect point (the point where we realize exactly what we need to teach and how to teach it).  At that point, the director/ moderator says: "Pause."  That was the most frustrating thing ever, because this is where the new missionaries would take over.  No joke.  One time, we were talking to the investigator about his goals in life, and we asked him if his life had a purpose.  And he said: "you know, I hadn't really thought about it..." He proceeded to tell us about his goals in school, but he also discussed how he didn't know what his long time life purpose was.  So, right as I am about to say: "The purpose of life is...." the moderator paused us.  I made an audible huffing sound into the microphone and the entire room of new missionaries laughed.  It was incredible, though, to see how much the new missionaries learned even from one lesson to the next. They were able to understand all of "the how to begin teaching principles" in a few hours, and by the end of the night, one of the investigators was so touched from their lesson, he was moved to tears.  It was incredible - and a bit like stepping back in time to my first night at the MTC. 

I also LOVED hosting this week!  They asked for a host who could speak Japanese, at least a little bit, and I volunteered.  I hosted a girl who was from Japan. She didn't speak very much English, and she told me that my Japanese was very good.  I think that she was just flattering me...because I was so excited I wasn't saying very many things that made sense...but it was so awesome that I was able to understand anything that she was saying, and that she could understand anything that I was saying. Sometimes I feel like I am learning a fake language in the MTC...so when people who actually speak Japanese (besides my teachers) understand me, I get really excited.  We also did Skype TRC on Wednesday (yes..Wednesday was a VERY full day.  We taught like three lessons, hosted, and did "how to begin teaching" and we went to about 500 meetings.  So, no big deal). I LOVED Skype TRC! The lady that we skyped was in Kobe, and she also told us that our Japanese was good (I think that maybe she was actually being sincere?) but it was a neat experience.  I love speaking Japanese! It is hard, but I am excited to go to Japan and be completely immersed in the language.  Or at least, more immersed. 

In other incredibly exciting news - WE GOT OUR TRAVEL PLANS.  Our Chorotachi all made fun of me because I was super excited that we are going to Japan...they said: "Where did you think we were going..." and they thought they were sassy and stuff.  But, sometimes I feel like Japan is not a real country and I will be in the MTC for the rest of my life...so it is crazy to think that I leave this place in 9 days! I also think it will be very strange to not be in the MTC...and see...like cell phones and stuff. And sometimes maybe hear music?  The other day we had to walk to the health center and we saw a movie poster.  I forgot that movies were still coming out, so, that was weird. 
With Branch President and his wife
Anyway, we fly out at 2:30 in the morning on the 18th...so that should be fun!

I love the MTC! And the time here has FLOWN by.  Ah! It is crazy! I love the new girls in our branch, they are just the sweetest ever.  We visit each girl and talk to them every night (this is part of our Sister Training Leader Duties) and the other night we were a little late coming to their rooms - and they came to visit us!  It was so sweet!  We get really excited that they like us so much!  Ah!  I just love them! 

This week has been spiritually uplifting in so many ways- Wilkes Kyodai, and some of our other teachers have started sharing stories with us about Japan.  And it has just made everything feel so much more real.  In two weeks, I will be riding a bike around Japan, speaking Japanese with Japanese people.  Do you know how legit that is?!  I love it!  Wilkes Kyodai has really been pushing us to work our hardest these last few days in the MTC - but also to recognize that even though we do not have perfect Nihongo, we can make a difference the moment we get to Japan.  I know that the Lord will put people in my path for me to reach, because this is His work, - and I am His servant. This is the work of Salvation, and it will move forward! 
 
Aishite Imasu!

Grundvig Shimai





Monday, November 4, 2013

The MTC Halloween Experience

Princess Leah, Quigan Jin, and Anakin
Halloween at the MTC was a completely regular day. And most people forgot that it was Halloween. Which was really sad to me. My companions and I did NOT forget that it was Halloween. And we did our very best to dress up like star-wars characters. I was Anakin, Daniels Shimai was Quigan Jin, and Violette Shimai was Princess Leah. Honestly, she is the only one that really pulled off the costume well...but, because she looked good...and we are required to be with her all the time...people generally understood what we were. Also, one of the Elders in our district has some chopsticks that look like light sabers - which is the coolest thing on the planet - so he let us borrow them for our costumes. One of our teachers told us that she found some Harry Potter wand chopsticks in Japan on her mission...and I WILL find those chopsticks while I am there. I don't think I can come home without those fantastic chopsticks now, actually. 
 
In other news, we now have more progressing investigators. I think that there is a shortage of 
teachers, so, we are each others progressing investigators. We no longer teach Iida San (Hansen Kyodai) because he teaches another district. But, he committed to baptism on November 19th. Takenaka Kyodai has also committed to baptism and we are working on teaching him the commandments right now. It is interesting to teach each other...sometimes it is really hard to stay in the roll, especially because our Japanese is not as good as our teachers. It has been an eye opening experience though, to be an investigator in a full length lesson, and see what would be confusing, what is effective and what is not. It is also nice because we give each other more feedback than our teachers are allowed to. We had a really neat experience last night while preparing our lesson for one of our investigators, Kazume Shimai (or Sister Clark - our teacher). In one of our lessons a week or two ago, at the very end, I had felt prompted to share a scripture with her from Doctrine & Covenants 76 http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament?lang=eng. In the English version of the scripture there is absolutely nothing about the Lamb of God. Apparently, in the Japanese version, instead of using a pronoun, "Lamb of God" is used. So when Kazume Shimai asked us if Christ was a lamb (and none of us knew the word for lamb) we were incredibly confused. And so she acted out being a sheep...and our lesson went ten minutes long as we struggled to explain that this was figurative and that Christ was a person, not a sheep. I was really confused about WHY I had felt so strongly that we should share this scripture with her! In preparation for the lesson that we are teaching her tonight, we went over the reading we gave her from the Book of Mormon at the last lesson. In 2 Nephi 31 http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/31?lang=eng, it talks about the Lamb of God. I remembered the experience that we had had a few lessons ago. Although the scripture we shared with her then may not have been incredibly pertinent to her testimony, 2 Nephi 31 was. These scriptures will help her strengthen her faith in Christ, and her desire to follow Him. If we had not had that confusing lesson with her, and struggled to explain the Lamb of God, a lot of the meaning in 2 Nephi 31 would have been lost. "Through small and simple things shall great things be brought to pass." And the Lord works in mysterious ways.

This week I also had the opportunity to host new missionaries! It was so fun to see the new sisters go to their dorms for the first time and to their classrooms...and watch them have their first impressions of the campus and of their districts. Even the most confident ones seem a little confused, and I loved being able to show them around and bear testimony that the MTC is a magnificent place unlike any other on earth. It was also really strange to see families with cell phones...and like...music playing in their cars. It is interesting to see outside of the MTC bubble...it is like...I forgot that the rest of the world was there or something. Sometimes it feels like I have been at the MTC for my whole life. And other days it feels like I have only been here for three seconds. Time at the MTC is a very interesting concept and I am convinced that it defies at least sixty laws of science and physics and all of that good stuff. Anyway, with all of the new missionaries this week we also had six new Shimaitachi join our branch! They are all super awesome, completely level headed, and they settled in very quickly. I was so impressed. Their districts are incredible. And one of the girls is way good at Japanese. Sometimes she says things to me in Japanese and I just pretend that I know what is going on. This is a skill I have developed here. 

Grundvig Shimai in front of "The Map"
The Tuesday devotional this week was incredible. The speaker was Elder Carlos A. Godoy http://www.lds.org/church/leader/carlos-a-godoy from the 70. He is a convert from Brazil and he spoke to us in English. And the spirit was so strong! At one point he couldn't remember a few English words and so he said: "So for all of you missionaries learning another language...don't worry about it, you will be better than my English!" Or something along those lines. It was adorable. He just had the best little accent ever! He showed us pictures of himself when he converted at 17. He had long hair. Honestly, probably longer than mine right now. He spoke powerfully about how important it is to talk to EVERYONE. Not just the people that already look like they would be interested, because sometimes the people that we judge and think 'they would never accept this glad message' would be interested! We are doing the work of Salvation! And there is no one that should be denied this message! Everyone in our district absolutely loved that, and it was the highlight of our testimony meeting afterwards. He also talked about how the Sister Missionaries that taught him are "his angels." He talked about how we may have many contacts, but how the people that we teach will only have one set of missionaries. Those sisters are HIS missionaries, and he loves them so much. It was humbling...I can be that for the people of Japan! I GET to be that for the people of Japan. His message helped me to refocus and to remember my purpose - to bring others to Christ. It helped me to remember WHY I need to be 100% focused all of the time...because I never want to miss that person that the Lord placed in my path for me to find. I don't want to make them wait another 20 years to receive this glad message. 

It has been a powerful week...full of a refurbished vigor and vim towards being exactly obedient and following promptings as they come to me. And I leave for Japan in TWO WEEKS. That is unreal. Sometimes I am not sure if Japan is actually a real country, or if I will just be at the MTC for the rest of my life!

Aishite Imasu



Grundvig Shimai


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Osoroshii vs. Yasashii

As my Japanese gets better (slowly but surely) I have discovered that there are quite a lot of words that sound incredibly similar to each other,  even if they don't look like it.   For example: yasashii and osoroshii.  I am pretty sure an elder meant to tell Clark Shimai that she was kind, instead of terrifying.  But switching a few letters makes a big difference.  The Japanese grammar structure is also incredibly backwards...so I keep telling our investigators that "If you feel the spirit, in order to read the Book of Mormon before next week?"  Instead of:  "In order to feel the spirit, will you read the Book of Mormon before next week?"   I also accidentally told one of our investigators that Christ was a lamb...and then I corrected myself and told her that Christ was both a lamb and a person.  So teaching false doctrine all over the place...but, at least I know what my mistakes are now!  I have also found that my ability to speak in correct English is slowly deteriorating.  As well as my ability to write well...which isn't saying much since I only have twenty minutes or so to write these emails each week...but I'd imagine that my English will continue to get worse and worse, which is both exciting and frustrating all at once. 
Grundvig Shimai's  District

Despite challenges with Japanese, I LOVE the MTC!  I love the language (in all of its oddity), I love my district!  I love my branch (and branch presidency) and half of the time I love the food.

This past Sunday I was called on to give a talk in church!  I hadn't expected it to be that hard, because I can usually come up with the things I want to say in lessons...but coming up with a talk on the fly is a little bit different.  I had written out a partial talk, but that only lasted about a minute, so the last three or so minutes of my talk I had to come up with at the pulpit.  I was speaking on Faith in Christ.   I shared the scripture in Alma 57:21 about the stripling warriors - who were faithful AND obedient, and through their faith and obedience, miracles were wrought.  I related this to us as missionaries and talked about how we can have miracles if we are faithful, continue to strengthen our faith AND are obedient.  The message was very straightforward and simple, and in partially correct Japanese...but I felt so good as I struggled to speak!  Sometimes I have to come up with creative ways to say things, but as I struggle to speak in Nihongo, I can feel the spirit working through me.  After the talk, one of the Elders from my district came up to me and said:  "So, I was way excited when you got called on because I thought I would be able to understand the talk this week...but I still didn't understand it, which means that you did a good job."  The older group of Elders all told me that I did well too, but I'm pretty sure even if I had only spoken jumbled Japanese for five minutes, everyone would have said that anyway.  Regardless, it still boosted my confidence after speaking (because really - it was far more terrifying than I had ever imagined), and now I probably don't have to speak again for the rest of my time at the MTC! I was the first one in my district to speak, which means the next few weeks I am sure the rest of them will be called on.  This will be a lot of fun for me to watch :) 
Coolest Orthodontist office ever!

This week I had the most exciting trip to the orthodontist that I have ever had.  Violette Shimai needed a new retainer...so we all got to take a field trip off of campus.  We took pictures to document the exciting adventure!  The orthodontist gave us some yummy mango slushees (and they were pretty melted...but hey, it wasn't cafeteria food...) and we studied Japanese in a room that had MULTIPLE WINDOWS.  Our first classroom had no windows at all...which makes the day go all crazy on you.  Our new classroom has one.  It has a fantastic view of a brick wall.  But the orthodontist windows had the view of a parking lot! Woo!!

On Monday, Daniels Shimai, Violette Shimai and I spoke in only Nihongo.  This was hard, somewhat frustrating, and turned into a lot of charades.  We know a lot...but we also don't know a lot.  Speaking in only Nihongo helps us to figure out what it is that we need to work on...and I think it prepares us for when we go to Japan and ALL DAYYY EVVERRY day we are speaking only Japanese.  So...a bit frustrating, a lot of fun, and definitely good practice. 

Tuesday we had one of the best devotionals.  I loved it!  Lynn G. Robbins http://www.lds.org/church/leader/lynn-g-robbins, of the Quorum of the 70, came and spoke about opening our mouths, and how the Lord will put people in our paths that we are supposed to teach.  Even if we don't know the language, we have to find them!  And we can find them....with or without the language.  Miracles happen EVERY DAY in the life of a missionary, and so who am I to think that this wouldn't happen to me?  Sometimes, "success is moving from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm."  A mission is supposed to be humbling and hard.  The Savior's life was difficult, salvation is not cheap.  So why would the work of salvation be an easy one?? (Elder Holland).  It wouldn't be.  It shouldn't be, and it is not.  I am working and living on the Lord's time. These 18 months are the Lord’s...and so when I don't focus, it is not my time that I am wasting...it is the Lord's.  After the devotional we had an incredible testimony meeting with our district.  Lake Choro shared a powerful thought: 'Our Nihongo might not be the best, but our feelings should be."  We should always have the spirit with us.  We should always love the people.  That is the part of missionary work that really matters!  I bore my testimony about a quote from the devotional:  "This battle is not mine - it is the Lord's." I am on the Lord's side of the battle, and I know that His side will win - but just as this time is not mine, this battle is not mine either.  Just as I am spending my time for the Lord, He will spend His time for me.  He will help in this battle because it is His! He will strengthen me, and He will help me find those that I need to teach - or He will help them to find me. 
With Taylor Shimai and companions

This week we had a speaker come and talk to us about the work that we will be doing in Japan, and part of the reason why serving in Japan is such an exciting call.  He was understanding about the language, and passionate about the work.  What a wonderful time it is to serve the people of Japan.  Prior to this meeting I had been feeling terrified that I only have 3 1/2 more weeks here...because my Nihongo is not perfect...and I so desperately want it to be.  But this meeting helped me to grab hold of some of that passion, not only for the work, but for JAPAN.  He shared a quote with us from Heber J. Grant from when Japan was dedicated as a mission: "I have an abiding faith that this is to be one of the most successful missions ever established in the church.  It is going to be slow work at first but the harvest is to be something great and will astonish the world in years to come."

There is a reason that so many missionaries are being called to Japan right now - and this is it. This is the time for this gospel message to be brought to the Japanese people. Their hearts are turning to the Lord! And I am lucky enough to be a vessel of this beautiful message.

Kokoro Kara Aishite Imasu!
Grundvig Shimai



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Praise to the Man

This week Elder Dallin H. Oaks  https://www.lds.org/church/leader/dallin-h-oaks came and spoke to us for the MTC Devotional on Tuesday night. I was singing in the choir and I love it so much! We sang "Praise to the Man" (see this link for a video of a MTC choir in 2012 performing this song http://www.lds.org/general-conference/music/2012/04?session=2&song=13&media=video) and the words penetrated my soul. The hymn has become one of my favorite songs. The thing about participating in the choir in the MTC is that it is not just singing. It is singing and learning and being spiritually edified at every rehearsal. The choir director helps to make the song personal to us. He tells stories that help us understand that this song ties in with our missionary purpose! This song is a testimony that we bear to the world. He pulled out one line of the song for us: "Wake up the world..." because that is what we are doing! I am going to Japan to wake up the world and bring them to a knowledge of this gospel and the gospel that Joseph Smith restored to the Earth. There is no greater work than the work of salvation. I am bringing salvation to souls! Is this really even a sacrifice? In our devotional, Elder Oaks said if people understood the blessings that come with missionary work they would be lining up to serve. His wife also spoke and said that our personal joy is directly proportional to the amount we immerse ourselves in this work. I can see that on a large scale, and on a daily scale. The days that I am most immersed and most focused are the days where I am most joyful. These are the days when I can feel the spirit with me every time I make a decision - even so simple as what section of preach my gospel to study. 

Daniels Shimai, Grundvig Shimai, Violette Shimai and
Elders from District
Also...I think that I maybe have a third investigator? Somehow, it seems like this is something that I should know...but I am not sure if Iida San is a temporary investigator or if he is our third progressing investigator! He started out as a "one time lesson" but then the lesson went so well that our teachers have let us teach him a few more times. This week we taught him the First Vision  . I guess I had never really thought about the first vision in depth until I had to teach it. I have known it is true, but more by default than by personal prayer and experience. I have a strong testimony of Joseph Smith, but teaching of him is such a powerful experience! I have started memorizing the first vision in Japanese (memorizing things in Japanese just is generally harder than in English) but I love it so much! There is such power in the words written by Joseph Smith: "Watashi wa jibun no maue ni...." (Joseph Smith History 1:16-17). There is power in these words because they are true, and when we teach true doctrine the spirit will testify. 
  http://josephsmith.net/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=497679179acbff00VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD

Wednesday this week was a little bit of a hard day. Violette Shimai had been struggling to sleep every night, and so Wednesday she was a little frustrated because she felt so tired and couldn't stay awake during lessons and during study time. For class in the evening, Wilkes Kyodai had us turn to each other and teach each other. We were focusing on "teaching people, not lessons," so he said teach your companion as themselves. They won't be a "fake investigator," they will be themselves. Teach to them. Pray for the spirit to know how to help them. I don't know if our Chorotachi loved this as much as we did, but I learned so much. It is hard to know if I am teaching with the spirit, or by my own desires and thoughts. This lesson helped me to know- absolutely- that the spirit can teach through me. Each of us was taught something entirely different by our companions, but it applied so personally. During Daniel Shimai's lesson, she shared a few things that were bothering her. I felt like I should open to D&C 50. As I opened up to D&C 50 I saw verses 40-41 http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/50?lang=eng , which I had not remembered. I shared a thought and then had her read the verses. Tears came to her eyes (and mine) as we read the verses together. Heavenly Father is aware of each of his children. He puts us in places every day where we can touch someone else, where we can be an answer to a prayer. Daniel Shimai and Violette Shimai shared 1 Chronicles 28:20 http://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/1-chr/28?lang=eng with me - which is basically a better version of Joshua 1:9. I am convinced that Nike snagged their logo from 1 Chronicles 28:20....but it was such a strong reminder to me to just do what I can NOW. I can't worry about if I will be fluent in Japanese in four months...or if I will struggle to understand a word my investigator is saying, all I can do is trust in the Lord, forget myself and work. And that will be enough. 

Daniels Shimai and Grundvig Shimai
Friday, Daniels Shimai started feeling sick, so we went back to our room after the first hour of class so that she could sleep. It was really weird to be in my room during the day...I liked having time to study what I hadn't been able to on other days, but it also helped me to appreciate my hours of class. I am not self-motivated enough to teach myself this language. I read through about 30 pages of a grammar dictionary before realizing that this was a dictionary...and not meant to be read straight through. So I stopped that idiocy and started studying some of our other workbooks. The whole day was different - but really incredible. Brother Willes, a member of our branch presidency, happened to run into me when I walked back to our classroom with a few other shimaitachi to grab some of our study materials, and he asked if Daniels Shimai needed a priesthood blessing. After Meg woke up, we walked back to 7M to find Brother Willes and he gave her an incredible blessing. She hasn't had a headache sense, and she was blessed that she would know how to handle her headaches. This morning she pulled out one of her headache medications that she hasn't been taking as regularly and looked at it for a second and said: "I think I should be taking this every morning from now on." It was really neat. And we all laughed a little bit about getting a spiritual prompting about taking pills - but our Heavenly Father is so aware of us! He knows exactly what we need! There are so many tender mercies every single day that testify of this to me! 

Aishite Imasu!!!

Grundvig Shimai





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The value of a week!

I think that this week was the fastest week of my entire life...and I am really struggling to remember everything that happened.  We are so busy, and we work hard...but there is also a lot more that I can do to be more productive!  I finally figured out a better "language study plan," which is incredibly helpful.  I feel less like a tiny fish in a sea of Japanese.  Now I am a shark in a sea of Japanese. I love the language A LOT. I don't know why, but in my brain it makes a lot more sense than English does to me.  I think that the Japanese words sound a lot more like their meanings than the English words do. It is very difficult to explain this...but, for example, the Japanese word for "hot" is "atsui."  Does this word not sound more like the thing of being hot than the word hot does? I think so.  Is this the Gift of tongues at work in my brain?  Probably yes.  One thing that has helped me with the language a lot is to not compare English and Japanese...they are too different.  If I think of them separately, than I am much more prone to understand what is going on and to use the correct sentence structures. 

Watching General Conference over the weekend http://www.lds.org/generalconference/sessions/2013/10?cid=HPFR100413113&lang=eng at the MTC was a wonderful experience.  I absolutely loved it.  We had a lot of time, which was weird.  We never have a lot of time.  But we used it up to study and write letters...so it was more that we had a lot of time, where we weren't speaking Japanese.  On Monday, we all felt like our Japanese had flown out the window, but it came back quickly.  On Saturday night, after we watched the Relief Society Session https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/relief-society-meetings?lang=eng - our district had a fantastic testimony meeting. It was the most powerful thing of my life! Everyone opened up their heart and soul in a way that I have not experienced.  I had a really powerful impression during the second Saturday session of conference that I had not been planning on sharing during our testimony meeting -- and then Black Choro asked me to open up the meeting.  I said a quick prayer in my head and I had an unmistakable impression that I needed to share what I had experienced during Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng#watch=video. So I did. This opened up the testimony meeting in a way that allowed everyone to delve into the deepest part of their souls and talk about things that needed to be shared, and testified of.  Our district grew closer than we were before, and I think it was the hardest thing of my life not to hug all of the Chorotachi. Sometimes I just want to hug them so badly! On Saturday night Morin Choro (our fantastic French Canadian Elder) stood up in the middle of the testimony meeting and said: "Elders. Don't be afraid to cry. I see all of you sitting there trying to hold back your tears. Just do it.  It feels very good!" or something along those lines...plus it was in a French accent, so that was just awesome.  At that moment I wanted to laugh and cry and hug this elder all at the same time.  But exact obedience, so I don't do that. :) 

Another fun thing this week!! We have four new sisters in our branch!  Our branch is very small - I have heard that they are trying to slowly turn the building we are staying in into an all Elders building. It is currently two floors of Elders, an empty floor (that used to have some sisters in our branch on it) and a floor of Sisters. The sisters in our branch are just wonderful!  Each of them is excited for a mission and is eager to learn as much Japanese as possible.  As Sister Training Leaders, we welcomed them to the MTC and did a little training for them, and we also gave them a tour around campus. This was hard because I am directionally challenged and I can hardly find my way around campus.  All of the buildings look exactly the same, so this is really a flaw in the architecture and not a flaw in my brain J.  It was interesting to see how much the new sisters look up to us...and expect us to know what is going on.  It was also interesting for me to realize that I actually do know a lot of what is going on, and compared to where I was three weeks ago....I know a ton of Japanese!  I can actually understand almost everything my teachers say in class, and I can communicate in lessons.  Although, what I say is often not correct grammatically...I just throw a lot of nouns together and then the investigators piece it together...but I am working on that.  Because somehow, I don't think this approach to speaking will work out as well in Japan.  The new sisters are adjusting well, all four of them are going to Tokyo.  Actually, their whole district is going to Tokyo and they seem awesome. 

This week we also had an INCREDIBLE lesson from Clark Kyodai.  Our Sensei was gone on Thursday evening, so Clark Kyodai substituted for him.  He is such a funny teacher...but sooo good!  He teaches us how we are taught to teach investigators.  He finds out what we want to learn, what our needs are, and then rolls forward with the spirit.  We read the Book of Mormon together (in Eigo) and then we learned grammar for like two hours.  Best two hours of my life. Why? I don't really know....but it was so good.  He was incredibly clear, and I understand Japanese a lot better now!  We hadn't really learned any grammar (more complex sentence structure at least) up until this point, so it helped our whole class a lot.  He also threw chalk at some of our Chorotachi, which was really enjoyable to watch.  He was able to pull in all the members of our district, even the ones that struggle with focusing on a regular basis.  I was so impressed.  I sort of wish that we could have a third teacher, and it could be him.  (But I wouldn't want to lose either of our other two teachers....because they are just so wonderful too).  We asked him if he would come teach us sometimes/ if he could just be a third teacher and he got really serious and said, "I wish...I love this district."  And it was a really sweet moment.  Actually, there was a strong spiritual witness at that moment, for me at least, that my district is special, and together for a reason. We help each other, we push each other, we build each other up...and sometimes we distract each other...but mostly we all work hard, although, there is always room for improvement. 

Last night we had a district meeting led by Black Choro (who won't be our district leader for much longer) and we went through our district goals.  We re-evaluated them based on our progress, and we changed some of our language goals to make them more advanced, as we have all pretty much mastered praying in Japanese and we have memorized our purpose in Japanese (plus we say it together twice a day). We are now focusing more on grammar and memorizing our "bunpo card" which means "grammar card."  It is this little green card that we carry around with us.  This may not sound very difficult...but it really is, so it is a great goal.  Our whole district is excited about it.  I think Wight Choro said,  "This is so sick" about 50 times after we made the goal. 

This week has been uplifting, wonderful and spiritual, and sped by unbelievably fast!  I learn so much in a week....that sometimes I can't believe it has only been a week.  But at the same time, I feel like I have not been in the MTC long at all.  Time is a very strange concept inside my mind at this point in my life. 

I love you all!! Aishite Imasu!!

Grundvig Shimai