Monday, September 30, 2013

District 71D

When I came into the MTC, I was told that my district would become my family. We were put in a room with a bunch of 18 year old guys...and I was not entirely sure that I would ever feel like these people were my family. This week, they really did. 

Grundvig Shimai, Daniels Shimai, and Violette Shimai
Sunday was incredible. A spiritually uplifting day - we saw a video of a talk given by Elder Bednar (Elder David A. Bednar: A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ...see this link ) in the MTC one Christmas, called Character of Christ. It was incredible. My perspective on life, and particularly missionary work has changed. Elder Bednar testified to us in very bold terms that what we are doing is NOT about us. I needed that message Sunday night, because I knew that my wonderful companion needed my support -- just as much as I needed hers. My companion left the MTC early Tuesday morning. After a lot of thought and prayer, she decided that a mission was not the right thing for her at this point in her life. But I am so grateful for the week that we were companions. We joked that I was both her best and worst companion of her mission, but truly, I am so grateful for her! I learned so much from her and I think that she will look back at her time in the MTC as a time of true conversion and growth. I am now in a trio with Daniels Shimai and Violette Shimai and they are both such incredible examples to me! Violette Shimai studied abroad in Jerusalem this past summer and her experiences were incredible. Listening to her talk is uplifting! Both of them have incredible testimonies and we all work together to become stronger in the gospel and in learning Japanese.  

But the rest of the week -- on Monday night our district pulled together and made some district goals. On Sunday we were told that our classroom always seems to have "celestial districts." And that the BEST missionaries come from room 208 in building 7M. We all sat and listened to our branch presidency member (Brother Willes) tell us this...feeling somewhat awkward and inadequate. I was thinking of the times that we had lost focus instead of studying the language or the gospel. We all had A LOT of work to do. After our branch president member left we had sat in silence for a while and then discussed how...almost chastised? we were feeling. We felt like we had so much work to do! But that is why we are here! To learn and grow and change (Seicho!! In Japanese) to become the best that we can. On Monday evening we made a long list of district goals, and then condensed them into five main points: 

1. Look Outward and Serve Others -- Strive to have a Character of Christ. 
2. Use our time effectively and be EXACTLY obedient. Obedience brings blessings. Exact obedience brings miracles. 
3. District Prayer in Japanese - "Nihongo Inori." 
4. Uplift and Edify  - Have district unity, speak kindly, eat our meals together and be one in Christ. 
5. Speak Japanese often. SYL (Speak Your Language). Learn at LEAST five new words/ characters a day. (This has easily been surpassed every day -- at this point, I have learned far more in Japanese than I did probably in my first 3 years of German...and maybe more than that). 

Grundvig Shimai and Daniels Shimai near Provo Temple
These goals have made ALL the difference. Our district studies together and we carry such a strong spirit. We have become soo close. We have SOO much fun. We laugh together, we pray together, we eat together, we joke together. We memorized our missionary purpose together in Japanese in two days (but really -- only in two hours). A quick story behind that -- this week we taught two lessons, and then our investigator -- Takanaka Kyodai -- became our new teacher! We now have two teachers who are both wonderful. Takanaka (Wilkes) Kyodai just returned home from Kobe, Japan a few months ago. On Wednesday night this week we were all feeling a bit discouraged in the language and we were trying to set study goals. One person mentioned that learning our missionary purpose would take us the whole two months in the MTC. Wilkes Kyodai stopped speaking Japanese -- he was frustrated with our lack of faith -- and said "Stop. You can only do this if you have faith. The gift of tongues is REAL. I have seen kids in the MTC teach more powerfully than missionaries who have been in the field for a year, but you have to have FAITH. Kamisama (God) expects much of you. I will not lower my expectations of you, I will expect what Ten  no Otosama (Heavenly Father) expects of you. Because you can do it. But you must have faith (Shinko). Two months to learn your purpose? No. You can do that in two days. And so, yesterday morning we stood and recited it to him. The power we had together at that moment was so real and so fantastic. 

I can do things here that I could not have done before. I can sit through six hours of Japanese class and simply LOVE it. I can memorize forty (or more) new words in a day! I can hold a conversation in Japanese (sort of). I can say long prayers in Japanese and bear my testimony of the gospel -- and I know that I can only do this because of the gift of tongues (igen no tamono). I can read the Japanese hymns! These things I can do because of the strength that my Heavenly Father has given me! 

Daniels Shimai, Violette Shimai and Grundvig Shimai!
My whole district is going to Kobe, I believe that we are the only Japanese district here right now that is all going to the same place -- and this is inspired. All of the missionaries in our district are incredible. We have different life stories, but somehow are similar in many ways that make us perfect to teach the people of Japan. We strengthen each other. We edify each other. I have learned so much from all of the Chorotachi (elders). Last night we had a little party during our planning period and we brought down a ton of food from our room and one of our Choro brought some food too. We all ate food together, showed pictures of our families and talked about our lives. I know a lot about them, yet at the same time so little...yet I love them so much!! AISHITE IMASU!!! 

I love the mail that I have been getting -- keep sending it! And I will respond when I get a chance! 

Aishite Imasu,

Grundvig Shimai 

P.S. I joined the MTC Choir! What a marvelous experience to sing at devotionals!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Dekimasu in Japanese is the verb for "can do" and it is pretty much the slogan for my entire district. The first day in the MTC is not a slow day whatsoever, but I actually really enjoyed it. We learned a little bit of Japanese, and even though it is hard to learn -- and teach in the language -- I have only been here for three days and I can already pray in Japanese and I have already taught a 35 minute lesson (which only needed to be 20-30 minutes). I am not very good at the language, however, my companion is.  My companion, is from Hawaii, and is incredible. Our personalities are different, but that doesn't matter because we are both here to serve the Lord!! The MTC has a spirit unlike any other place on earth. Everyone is so welcoming and so helpful. We are united in our cause, instead of competitive in our cause. It doesn't matter who is good at the language and who is not, because we all teach each other. My companion took five years of Japanese in high school and she remembers more and more of it every day. I think that it is good that she knows a lot of the language; we are good for each other. We balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

With Brynne T.
Just before entering the MTC
Daniel Shimai (Ariana's close friend from BYU... who was also called to serve in Kobe, Japan) is in my room. It is the hardest thing EVER to call her "Daniel Shimai" instead of "Meg." But we are slowly getting accustomed to it! There are four sisters in my room, my companion and me and then Meg and her companion. It has been such a comfort to have her here! I have found that even though all the people in our district have different personalities, (and there is a definite difference between the 18 year old Elders and the 19 year old Sisters) we all get along well and just love each other so much because the task at hand is so HARD and so OVERWHELMING! That sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh and sing Called to Serve in Japanese. 

I love learning Japanese and the gospel simultaneously...we have to go back to the basics of the gospel because we can't say anything complicated at all!! I am able to say "Kamisama wa Watashitachi no aishte imasu..." and then variations of that in our lessons. (This means God loves all of us). Another funny thing is that my German seems to be coming back to me - and I have heard that there are a lot of German speaking people in the Kansai region of Japan, so I believe that there was a reason that I took German in high school. Although by the time I go to Japan I will have learned far more Japanese than German, I will be able to use my German at some point. 

I just LOVE the MTC. It is not easy, but that is only because it is a lot of work, study and effort -- but with this effort and study comes great rewards. I know that through Christ and the gift of tongues I will be able to do this! I have already seen the gift of tongues manifest in many ways -- sometimes I just KNOW what people are saying. Although I can't reply, I can just feel what they are saying. And I know what they need to hear, but I can't necessarily say it. I am also able to sit through over six hours of Japanese lessons per day -- days in a row -- and I still love it! And I am still able to focus! I would never have been able to do that in high school or without the spirit! Miracles happen every day. I have so much to learn, and I know that I can improve a lot as a missionary -- but I am so excited for the future and for the rest of my time at the MTC! I am so glad that I am here for nine weeks because I just can't imagine having to teach real investigators in this language takes a lot of faith (SHINKO!) to know that I will one day be able to teach in this language...but then I see the missionaries who have been here for six weeks and they can do it! My teachers (who all served missions in various areas of Japan) did it once too, so through the Lord, this is possible. 

I love you all! Aishte Imasu! 
Grundvig Shimai 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

And so it Begins!

Ariana entered the MTC (Missionary Training Center) Wednesday Sept. 18th!  She was excited and definitely ready.  If you have any questions about what the MTC is, click here You can even see other MTC's throughout the world here

One of the BEST ways to send correspondence to her right now is through (See the "Write Me" tab and "Dear Elder" tab above). She can receive these Monday through Friday and will have a chance to respond via email once a week.  These letters will be printed, closed and put in a mailbox (no worries! no one will read it except Ariana).  She would love to receive letters this way (and of course through regular postal mail, see address on "Write Me" tab).

Hope you enjoy the journey with us!
Danita (Ariana's Mom)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Farewell I (sort of) Gave

To start, I have a story. Once upon a time I was asked to speak in front of all of the youth (and their parents) in the stake before we all left for Youth Conference. This year, youth conference was trek. I wrote the best talk EVER. Man, it was so good. I was so proud. The only problem was...that it was really long. I didn't want to take anything out of course, and I just figured "it is all such a good message! Everyone will just love to hear it!" So I left my talk incredibly long.

I gave that talk. And as I read from the pages I could see my audience drifting away. But my talk was so good! Why wasn't anyone paying attention? I have a tendency to talk fast. In my not so humble mind, I just think to myself: "well, I talk fast, and that is because I think fast. And if everyone else can't keep up that should not be my problem." However, when I am speaking from the pulpit it is my problem. 

In reality, I do not think fast. I just read fast. And then the words come out of my mouth fast. And I sped through my talk. I was already worried about time that fateful day when I was asked to speak before Trek, and this did not help my "speeding" problem. I sat down after speaking. Frustrated. From that moment, I resolved never to write out a whole talk again. 

When I made that decision, I was able to speak more from my heart! When I had to think about what I was going to say before saying it, everything came out at a normal speed. A speed that human ears can catch and then the mind can process and comprehend. I was very conflicted when writing my talk before leaving on a mission -- I wanted to write it out because I wanted to feel completely comfortable when I was speaking. I also wanted to be able to post it on this blog (because, isn't that part of the fun of a missionary blog?) and I wanted to send it to my friends who were already out and serving missions! I wanted to have a written copy! 

In my heart, I knew this was a terrible idea. I knew I would speed through it. I knew I would not really be talking with the guidance of the Lord...and I also knew that speaking from a written talk just really doesn't work for me at all. I hadn't written out a talk in two years, and I didn't want to start now. I came up with a compromise. I would write out my talk, and then transfer it into bullet points. Bullet points allowed me more freedom, and then I would have to think about what I was saying as I was saying it. Bullet points also allowed me to use my scriptures, and truthfully, speaking without a written talk is just what works for me. 

So what I have below is the talk that I was planning to give, or at least a similar form. And my talk was  similar to this, in many ways. But in many ways, it was also very different. When I wrote out my talk, I noticed that I wrote like I was writing a short story or an essay for an English class. I write like I am me...and I write like I am not me. When I write, I am "writer me," and so "speaker me" does not speak like I write. Obviously, there were some differences. However, the message is essentially the same. (And hoorah! You get to read this at your own speed!) 

The Farewell Talk I (sort of) Gave:

Over the past few months I have been asked countless times why I decided to serve a mission. I have given many answers. At first, my answer was that I’d felt prompted to go and that I knew the Lord needed me on a mission for the next 18 months of my life. I knew that I was supposed to set aside a year and a half of school and any study abroad that I had been contemplating to serve a mission.
                My answer changed. I told people that I was planning to serve a mission because I wanted to share the gospel. I wanted to bring people the truth that had blessed my life more than anything else. I wanted to spread this wonderful light with whoever I served.
                This summer, as I have prepared for a mission, I have learned something.
                I learned that I am serving a mission not only because I know I am supposed to, or because I want to share the gospel that has blessed my life (although these are very good reasons) but I am serving a mission because I love God. I love my Savior. I love my family. And I already love the people of Japan, although I am sure that this love will grow.
                But perhaps more incredible is that I know my Heavenly Father loves me. I know that he loves each and every one of his Children. He sent his son to die for us. In John 3:16 we read “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This sacrifice always amazes me. My Heavenly Father loved me enough that he sent his son to die for me! I am not a parent, but I am able to guess that letting a child of mine die would be incredibly hard – probably even harder than making the sacrifice myself.  The song lyrics of “He Sent His Son,” testifies of the immense love behind this action: “How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?  He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness. How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go? He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know. How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death? He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath. What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say? Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way. What does he ask? Live like his Son.
                I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. And how does he show this love? He gives us commandments. This concept can be confusing –
You’re telling me that God loves me? So he has commanded me to not to dress immodestly, or to drink alcohol, or lie, or break the Sabbath?
How can love correlate with so many rules?
To answer this question, I have a little story. This past summer when my parents were driving me out to college we first drove to California. My family loves to go hiking and backpacking. We had planned to visit Yosemite National Park, and hike half-dome. The night before leaving for Yosemite we stayed at a friend’s home near San Francisco. When he heard that we were planning to go to Yosemite, he proceeded to tell us several stories about various people who had died in the Yosemite waterfalls, including one of his nieces while visiting Yosemite with a group of friends from BYU. While she was hiking up to half-dome with her friends, she had decided to stay behind the BYU group at the top of the waterfalls with a friend. While waiting for the group to return they had started jumping from rock to rock, not close to the waterfall of course, because the water level was high and they didn’t want to fall. She thought that she was safe because she was far from the top of the falls. The rocks were slippery, and she fell. The current was strong, and dragged her under where she was stuck under the rock and drowned. As he told this story I noticed that I was receiving many frustrated and anxious glances from my family members.
I would not consider myself a reckless (or terribly clumsy) person, but my mother and brother might tell you differently. Somehow, I seem to end up injured more than anyone else in my family. I have a track record of visiting the emergency room on a yearly basis, and I thoroughly enjoy cliff jumping with my cousins while back-packing, never mind how cold the water is.
After hearing this story from our family friend, I received countless warnings from my lovely mom, and from my brother Clayton about not trying to climb around the waterfalls or anything of the sort.
And why did they give me this warning? Because they loved me. And because they knew my nature. Inherently, I seem to be unable to avoid injury that is primarily self-inflicted and after years of raising me, my mother was determined to deliver me safely to BYU without harm. After a safe trip in Yosemite, my mother warned me again before I left for college: “Don’t go running late at night by yourself…don’t go hiking by yourself…don’t get lost in the mountains…don’t try anything reckless.”
Our Heavenly Father gives us commandments for the very same reasons. He loves us. He knows our nature. The Book of Mormon teaches us: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19). Truthfully, through keeping the commandments of God we become more like our loving father in Heaven and we experience true happiness and joy. We are given more freedom by obeying the commandments of the Lord.
While studying for this talk, I happened upon a talk given by one of the leaders of the Church in a 2002 General Conference, Elder Claudio R.M. Costa, entitled “Fun and Happiness.” He made a very essential point – fun and happiness are two very different things. Fun is found in play, pleasure, moments of enjoyment or teasing. Happiness is defined as contentment, joy, delight and satisfaction. When I say that freedom and happiness are found through living the commandments, I do not mean that living the commandments will always be fun. When I find the cutest dress at the store that is not quite long enough, I am in no way having fun. When I can’t play the final game in a tournament on Sunday I am not having fun. When I pull 10% out of the money I earned at work over the summer I am not having fun. However, when I look back on my life of 19 years and the decisions that I have made I find that I am truly happy. I see that I have been immensely blessed from keeping the commandments of the Lord and that my happiness could not be matched by any item of clothing, any amount of money or any athletic activity on a Sunday afternoon. My happiness is not of this world because it is beyond this world. My happiness comes because I love God and I know that He loves me. In Mosiah 2:41 we read: “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
The parable of the Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker applies a similar principle. “An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it. The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican Fisherman how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, senor.” The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.” Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.” The fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?” To which the American replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then?” asked the Fisherman. The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.” “Millions, senor? Then what?” To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
This parable teaches us what the most important things in life are. No amount of money could buy the Mexican fisherman what he already had – a family that he loved and cared for. I would only add that we also spend our time studying the Gospel with our families, and maybe instead of sipping wine, we have a little sparkling cider. The happiness that the gospel brings is the same as the happiness that this fisherman found with his family. No amount of money or things of worldly value can substitute the true happiness that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings into our lives.
Heavenly Father asks us to keep many commandments. We are asked to sacrifice our money, talents and our time for the Lord’s work. Why do we do it? The answer is love.
We are promised that when we give of ourselves, we will be blessed. We are blessed in this life and we will be blessed eternally. We are blessed with happiness, but we are also blessed with specific promises that correlate with the commandment given. An example of this is found in the word of wisdom. We are commanded to eat healthy food, to eat meat sparingly, not to drink alcohol, coffee, tea or partake of tobacco and other harmful substances. As a follow up to this commandment, we are promised that: “…All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen” (D&C 89: 18-21).
One of my favorite blessings, particularly as I embark on a mission to Japan, is found in D&C 84: “And any man that shall go and preach this gospel of the kingdom, and fail not to continue faithful in all things, shall not be weary in mind, neither darkened, neither in body, limb nor joint; and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed. And they shall not go hungry, neither athirst…behold I send you out to reprove the world of all their unrighteous deeds, and to teach them of a judgement which is to come. And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
                In high school when I attended early morning seminary, one of the first scriptures that I memorized was John 14:15. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” At its very basic, love is the message of the true and restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We keep the lord’s commandments because we love him. I call this a “love-covenant.” Heavenly Father says to us: “I love you, so here are a list of commandments.” We say “I love you, so I will trust you. I will keep these commandments.” And Heavenly Father says, as stated in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:21: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
                I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the commandments that have blessed me. I am grateful for the love I have for my Savior, for my God and that I know He loves me. I know that He loves each and every one of his children. He loves you. He loves your family. He loves your crazy uncle. He loves everyone. I know that this gospel will bring everlasting happiness to those who allow it to bless their lives.