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. 

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Five Loaves of Bread and Two Fishes

This week has been...a week of challenges, improvement and blessing. We now have two progressing investigators. Both of our Sensei (Teachers) have become investigators for us and Violette Shimai, Daniels Shimai and I taught three lessons this week. Takenaka Kyodai (or Brother Wilkes..our teacher) is definitely the harder of the two investigators. He is fresh off of his mission, and super passionate about the work, which is awesome...but sometimes I am just terrified going into our lessons! Ok...maybe not terrified...but, he can be intimidating. He works us hard, which is good, because I know that I am improving and being put in a real life situation...but sometimes I feel incredibly frustrated because I can't say what I want to in Japanese. 

On Tuesday we taught Takenaka Kyodai. We had planned to teach him the first vision. This did not happen. We walked into our lesson - asked if he had any questions for us, and followed up with him on our commitment. He hadn't kept the commitment (to read Mosiah 14) and he had a million questions which we couldn't even understand...and I couldn't remember how to speak any Japanese. It was SO frustrating. I wanted to tell him why we were teaching him, that we cared about him and why our message was important but the words just wouldn't come! (For the record...I actually do know how to say these things, so it was entirely my brain struggling and not a fault in how I am being taught, if that makes sense). He asked us question after question for about 45 minutes...we hadn't even had the chance to say an opening prayer, and we struggled to answer his questions. Finally...after we weren't understanding he stood up and started drawing stuff on the board. First he drew a calendar day. Then a week. And then a month. He was trying to ask how long we would teach him. He then said - in English "What is the POINT?" We were frustrated. He was frustrated. At this point I had decided that if I said anything it would most definitely not be with the spirit - plus, I couldn't remember how to speak Japanese - so I just didn't say anything. Daniels Shimai tried to answer him. And then Violette Shimai interrupted (in very perfect and wonderful English) to say "I don't know how to say this in Japanese, but I just feel that I need to say it. We are here because we are representatives of Jesus Christ. We are here because we love you and because this message is true. It will bless your life. We are here to help you have Salvation. We are here because God loves you and is the Father of your spirit. You are a father, you can understand that love. We are here for as long as you want us here and for as long as you will be taught because we love you." (It was something along those lines). By this point I had started crying and Violette Shimai had started crying...partially because the spirit had distilled upon all of us, and partially because the lesson was going into the ground and I just didn't even know what was happening. We sat there quietly for a moment and then Takenaka Kyodai mumbled something "...eigo..." (that he wished he could speak English - which we know he does because he is our teacher), and then Daniels Shimai said: "...inori?" which means prayer. We prayed and got up and left. I was still crying. Violette Shimai was still crying...and Daniels Shimai thought that the lesson wasn't too bad.

We got back to our chorotachi (missionaries in district) after a ridiculously long lesson, still in tears, and they all talked to us for a while and told us that they wished they could give us hugs! And that they were sure it wasn't too bad. That night was incredible. We had an amazing devotional. We had an amazing testimony meeting. My companions and I started a fast (because we had to teach Takenaka Kyodai AGAIN on Wednesday). Our Branch President came and spoke to us, and talked a lot about learning the language. He assured us that if we brought our five loaves of bread and two fishes -- or even our loaf of bread and half a fish -- to the lord, and offered what we had, he would magnify us. It was so wonderful. Then he turned to us, and out of the class he looked right at me and said "Grundvig Shimai, in nine weeks you will be sitting on an investigators couch and they will speak to you...and you won't understand what they are saying. But you will pick out a word here or there. And then the Lord will magnify you so that you can speak Nihongo enough to help the Spirit touch their hearts." I don't know why he chose to say that to me, but it was wonderful. And I started crying again (apparently the MTC makes me cry a lot or something...). 

On Wednesday we had to teach Takenaka Kyodai again. We had been going into our lesson with either just a few or no notes at all, so that we could rely on the spirit more. We had all felt impressed that we should teach him "the point" because that is what he had asked about, so we decided to teach the plan of salvation (see http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-06-03-we-lived-with-god?category=topics/plan-of-salvation and http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-06-04-we-can-live-with-god-again?category=topics/plan-of-salvation ). And we didn't know how to do that in Japanese, so we had to bring in a few notes. We wrote our investigator long letters (in Hirigana - which took FOREVER) bearing our testimonies and testifying of our message, of God and of His love for Takenaka and his family. They were wonderful, and although we couldn't quite say it, we could write to our investigator how much he meant to us. The lesson went really well! Partially, I think because we had fasted and prayed A LOT about how to help him. We even invited him to be baptized! Although, we didn't have time to explain what baptism is...so we just told him we would teach him more about it next week. But now there is a point. And we are working really hard! And after all, that is all we can do -- or in other words, that is my crumb of bread and tiny piece of fish. 

In other news, we have been called as Sister Training Leaders. The Sister Training Leaders were released on Sunday, and they are heading to Japan on Monday! I am going to miss them so much because I just love all of the sisters in our branch, but they are so ready to be missionaries! Being a Sister Training Leader is just a few more responsibilities, and we help train the new people when they come in. I don't know how in the world I am supposed to do that because I don't really know anything.  Also, the three of us are the first "Kohai" *(Kohai means that we are the new and inexperienced MTC Missionaries) to be called as Sister Training Leaders that our Branch Presidency knows of. They said that there is a reason we were brought into the MTC, and this is part of it. The group before us didn't have any Sisters in it, so they didn't really have any option but to call us because all of the other sisters are leaving for Japan! So we are trainers over the girls that came in with us...which is strange. This calling has helped me to get to know all of the sisters in our branch more! And I love it! I have also become increasingly more grateful for all of the Elders in my district because they are all so wonderful...and now I know a lot more about the other Sister's districts. I have been so blessed to be a part of my district! Our Elders are examples to me every single day. I don't even know why I love them so much...but I do.

Black Choro and Grundvig Shimai
Last night we had an incredible bonding experience with all of our Chorotachi (Elders, or male missionaries). Eversole Choro plays the piano BEAUTIFULLY! So well! I don't think I have ever met someone with the talent he has. He can hear a song, and then make up his own version of it in an instant. He played a ton of songs for us last night and our district sang with him. The spirit as he played was incredible. He truly puts his emotion and heart into everything he plays. His companion, Black Choro, is an incredible singer and we are trying to get them to try out for special musical numbers during devotionals. They said they might if we sing with them. So we will see how that all turns out.

I love the MTC! And I love you all! Thank you for your love and support!