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 obedient...how 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 pie...it 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 means...you 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.]

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