Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Smile - Zero Yen

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

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

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

Grundvig Shimai and Dean Shimai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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