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
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).

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!
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