Wednesday, December 25, 2013


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
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.]