Monday, January 27, 2014

"Through small and simple things, great things shall be brought to pass."

My companion and I have been working to look for the small miracles in our life and in the work, because we are definitely in a faith-building period right now. We are constantly working to rely on the Lord and to see His hand in all things. Even though this work is not easy, and the city seems full of A LOT of people that don't really want to speak to us...we are finding small miracles.
I love these construction cones in Japan!

After a long day of biking in the cold, we came home and we were REALLY hoping that we would have some mail. We walked up to the door and Dean Shimai said "We could REALLY use some love right now." We didn't have any mail. But, we had an ad that said "Jesus Loves You!" with a big heart on it. It was hilarious. And we kept it. 

One of our investigators asked us to come over to her house, and she made us a delicious Japanese meal. It is nice to feel loved and see the people that we meet here that I can't imagine NOT having in my life...but without the Lord's help and the mission experience, I never would have met.

Today while we were outside hitting our futons, a man walked by and started talking to us. He wanted to know about the church and we set up an appointment at the church with him tonight! 

Sometimes the days are long, and sometimes it feels like not much good is coming from our efforts. There is a line in Preach My Gospel that talks about how important it is to continue onward, because we never know what the fruits of our labors will be. I read a story in the Liahona (The Liahona, published in up to 47 languages each month, is a magazine for adults, youth, and children.,+book+of+mormon,+40+years+later ) the other day about a man who placed a Book of Mormon on his mission, and the boy he gave it to moved to Bolivia shortly thereafter. 40 years later, this missionary met a young man while teaching at the MTC who related to him the conversion story of a man in his stake, who had been given a Book of Mormon before moving back to Bolivia after college. There is a lot more to the story, but it is the principle that is important. It may be a week from now, a year from now, or 40 years from now that we see the fruits of our efforts, but the important thing is that the fruits will come, and we have no idea how many people the fruit will feed.

Much love!
Grundvig 姉妹

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hard week (Jan. 20th)

From the Doctrine and Covenants this week, there were two verses that lifted me up. These verses, written by Joseph Smith when he was confined in Liberty Jail for six months - separated from the saints, his wife and family, are some of the most beautiful verses of scripture ever recorded. "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high..."

After the trials, come the miracles.

Dean Shimai and I experienced a lot of trials this week. A LOT of trials. I can say without a moment of hesitation that this was the hardest week of my entire life. On Monday, I decided that it would be a good idea to pray for some Christ-like attributes. Including humility and that our faith would be strengthened. The JKM is focusing on relying on the Lord, and this starts with faith. We were humbled...and our faith was strengthened REAL fast.

After a LONG beginning of the week with none of our investigators responding to us, canceling on us, and a lot of streeting in the freezing cold...we went to visit our Philipino convert. She usually answers her phone, so it was weird that we had not been able to get in contact with her. We brought her hot chocolate, and stood outside her apartment in the cold trying to call her and knocking on the door. We thought we could hear her TV on, but we eventually left. We wrote her a note and stuck it on her bike. On Thursday night we went back to her apartment and the note was still there...and we still couldn't get in contact with her. I tried to look through her mailbox slot, and started rattling around the mailbox trying to see into her apartment. My rattling knocked the mailbox down, which made a huge crashing nose that terrified both Dean Shimai and me. We jumped back and the spirit was immediately gone. Her apartment is in a REALLY sketchy neighborhood in Higashi we said a prayer for comfort. After the prayer we looked at each other and decided that we needed to get home immediately. And we felt that we should not look through her mailbox slot.

On Friday morning we had district meeting. After district meeting we called the two elders in our area (they were on a 股間) ... (a companion exchange). And they met up with us because we didn't want to go to our convert's apartment alone. We looked through her mail slot, and her apartment was completely empty. Though the note from us was still on her bike. As we left her apartment, a lady pulled up and asked us if we were the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...and then she told us that our dear friend had died. They had found her in her apartment earlier that morning. It was a sad moment...and the poor elders just did not know what to do to comfort two crying sister desperation one of them said: "Uhm...I had a potential investigator die once...and I only met her once..." It was heartbreaking to know that we wouldn't see her at church anymore, or that she wasn't going to need anymore 'Book of Mormon Chocolates.' But, her story is a testament that the Lord knows when His children need to be found. And because of this gospel, we know that she is happy and that she is working alongside us now. This was also a testament to me that the Lord does protect his missionaries. We received a strong warning from the Spirit to leave her apartment the night before, and if we had not we would have been the ones to discover her in her apartment. I don't know if that was the only reason that we were warned that we needed to leave her apartment, but I know that finding her ourselves would have been more overwhelming and traumatic than it already was to have someone that I loved and cared about so deeply pass away so suddenly.

Later that night we had MORE appointments fall through. And then Saturday we had some appointments fall through. And then we had a few investigators tell us that they had decided "The Church was not for them, because they would rather find their own way through life."

Sunday morning, our Yakusokusha came to church to return her Book of Mormon and everything that she had learned or been given by us. With tears in her eyes, she told us that she couldn't be baptized, and walked out. She didn't explain why, she just said that she couldn't see us again.

The pain of all of these things is so difficult to explain, and something that I could never understand when I heard about it from other missionaries. I thought that I understood why missionary work is hard - because we are hard on ourselves, because we are away from our families, because we have to change ourselves in order to do this great work, etc... I learned that this is not why. It is hard because sometimes we see people reject Christ. We experience the atonement on a very real level. We feel the pain to know that they do not really know what they are missing out on. We feel the pain that we have brought them this great, eternal truth, and that now they have rejected it.

There is agency and opposition in all things. When we begin teaching someone, it is an exciting and terrifying thing. We know that their road to conversion will not be easy. We know that they have a lot of hard choices ahead of them. We know that these hard choices will lead to their eternal happiness. We also know that we can't make these choices for them. We know that these hard choices are the best choices they will ever make, but they have to make them first. I read a talk by Elder Holland this week that explains what we feel as missionaries incredibly well:

"Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?

You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

As a missionary, I have already experienced the joy of the atonement. I experienced this joy as I watched our dear friend receive baptism. I watched her life change from a mess of mistakes, to a clean slate. I saw happiness and joy flood into her life, and I watched as the very last month of her life became the very best month that she had ever had.

And I have now experienced the flip side of that - because there is opposition in all things - (ironically, this week in Eikaiwa, our English Class, we talked about "opposites" and had our students come up with opposites for every word. The overarching theme was that there is opposition in all things). I have now felt much more acutely what it is like to watch someone not turn down me, or my church, but our Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for all mankind. That pain is like putting your hand on a hot stove, and burning it severely. And then watching as a friend, despite all of your warnings, insists on touching the stove themselves to see if it is really hot. This is the pain of the atonement, the pain of knowing and watching as others turn away in ignorance.

After the trials come the miracles.

I trust that "all of these things shall work together for thy good" (D&C 122).

I will end by quoting Elder Holland from a devotional that he gave at BYU: "I call out, Remember Lots wife. Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the high priest of good things to come.

The mission is the happiest and the saddest that I have ever been, all at once. Every day is a little bit of an emotional roller coaster. We face rejection, we rejoice when the gospel is accepted, we cry when someone accepts Christ, we cry when someone rejects Christ. We cry from joy when we find investigators, and from sadness when we lose them. But the happy moments make every single sad moment worth it.

Grundvig Shimai

We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it. (Roald Dahl) Jan. 13th

I keep hearing that your mission goes by SO fast and that the first transfer is the slowest . . . .  I did not think that was true because my first transfer was the fastest six weeks of my life...but this transfer is nearing halfway point...and it is definitely going by faster than the first.  I have been thinking a lot about how fast the mission goes by, and I pulled a little quote from Pinterest and then made it my own. "What you do today is important - because you are giving up a day of your mission for it...which is a lot more than a day of your life, because your life is a lot longer than your mission." This week we had a New Years Taikai, and as part of the Taikai there was a video presentation with TONS of missionary pictures. Even though my doki was not in it a lot because we just got here, there were a lot of missionaries that I have gotten close to in the two months that I have been here...and I LOVED seeing all the pictures.  Being on a mission puts everything in perspective, in a way that I have never experienced. The important things become more important...and everything else just does not matter as much. 

At a Festival
There is nothing quite like teaching the people of Japan and walking around Japanese street festivals trying to convince everyone to come to our Free English class....(I am convinced that if we were to tell people that we were teaching English for a dollar, more people would come because they would think, Wow! What a great deal! But because it is free, everyone assumes that there is some sort of catch. And there is nothing quite like biking across town in the pouring rain in the most attractive rain suits I have ever seen - to visit an investigator who does not know you are coming - just to show up at her house and have her say: "I can not believe that you are here. I was just cleaning my living room and thinking about you and your message...and then you showed up at my front door!" There is nothing quite like trying to navigate the trains in Japan. There is nothing quite like relying on the Lord for absolutely everything that you do, and trying so hard that you collapse on your futon completely exhausted each night. 

The Lord knows each of us. This is something that I have come to know with absolute surety as I labor in Japan, in a language that I really do not know, and teach people who have never even really heard of God. If this message were not true, the things that we are doing here would be absolutely impossible. Because they truly are impossible for me. My calling is impossible. But for the Lord, all things are possible. 

Grundvig Shimai

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas and New Year's in Japan

December 30

Sukiyaki and Christmas in Japan

As it turns out, Christmas in Japan is not really existent. The day was another day of work.  We woke up early so that we would have time to open our presents, and it was so fun to have some stuff from AMERICA!  And American candy!  I love Japanese candy and food, but, the American candy is a little piece of home.  Irie K. had us over for dinner!  He taught in the MTC and went to BYU after he converted - and he LOVES missionaries.  He made this incredible American meal...turkey and everything.  You don't get turkey in Japan.  Not a big turkey, at least.  It was amazing.  I just love these people!  I just love this WARD!
Christmas Morning

This week Dean Shimai and I saw a lot of miracles together.  It is getting harder and harder to put my thoughts into words to email home as I am out here longer and longer.  It is like...the more my heart, mind and strength and might go into the work, the less I can figure out how to explain what I am experiencing.  I guess this is because many of the moments of a mission are very personal experiences which make them difficult to explain.

For example, this week we were invited over to a member’s home for lunch.  We ate some of her famous spaghetti (she is from Korea, and it has an interesting Korean twist to it).  Her daughter is sixteen, and thinks that we are "the coolest sister missionaries she has ever met."  So she invited her friend over to meet us.  We were obviously stoked but it is difficult to fully convey why it is so meaningful.  It is hard to describe the joy that comes when an insecure sixteen year old Japanese girl confides in you.  It is also hard to fully explain the feelings that come with simple things such as the view from the top-of-the-building apartment, the light snow in Osaka, the tiny little alleys that we park our bikes in, the tatami mats underneath our investigator's futons, or the strange trees...that I still don't know what they are called.  I can't adequately put JAPAN into words.  I experience Japan and these people's lives in a way that can only come from working with the people on a daily basis.  We are welcomed into people's homes...maybe for just a month or two...we meet people on the street.  And they open up to us, in part, because we have a message that is unlike any other.  I am so lucky to be a part of this work.

Last night we went to another ward member's home for dinner.  We had sukiyaki - and I loved it!  But it was incredibly Japanese, probably the most Japanese meal that I have had so far.  You crack a raw egg into a bowl, and then put some tofu, and meat and cabbage and other cooked vegetables on top of it.  It is so delicious, although, I have heard that it depends on who makes it.  I love going to members homes.  I love sitting seiza and eating from low tables on the floor.  It is an exciting reminder that I am in JAPAN!  And, my chopstick abilities are slowly improving.  I think I am slowly starting to look like a native chopstick-eater.

Transfer calls came this morning.  That is another part of a mission that is difficult to explain or prepare for!  There is so much apprehension packed into one email - letting you know if you will stay for another six weeks...or head somewhere completely new. Dean Shimai and I are both staying!  I am so excited because I know that there is so much work for us to do in Higashi Osaka still.  We are not finished with the work of Salvation here!  

Much Love!! I hope you all enjoyed your American Christmas...I will never take Christmas for granted again, that is for sure.
"If not us - then who? If not now - then when."
‾ A daily quote in the apartment of the Higashi Osaka Sisters

Grundvig Shimai

January 5
Japanese New Year 
During New Years...Japan shuts down. The country goes into a week long slumber.  No one is out, and the ふんき is just incredibly relaxed.  I would probably have loved it...except that I am a missionary...and so we are not incredibly relaxed or laid back and it is kind of important to find people to talk to.  We went out finding a lot more this week because the people we are teaching seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet during new years...but, I think that my Japanese improved more just because I absolutely had to talk to a lot more people and try to get them to want to listen to the American girl that doesn't really know what she is saying.  All things considered, we had a lot of success!  And we have some appointments set up this week as a result of our efforts.

Our drawing of ourselves
We try to be "artistic"
With the beginning of a transfer, we also spent a lot of time planning and preparing ourselves for the next six weeks.  We spent a lot of time praying about Higashi Osaka - and I am so excited to be here for at least another six weeks with Dean Shimai.  To brag about my companion - for a little bit.  She is just so wonderful.  We have so much fun together, but we also work incredibly hard.  We can laugh when people pretend they can't hear us...even though they obviously can.  We go running in the mornings.  We recite the Japanese language together.  We make fun of each other when neither one of us can really bike because we have so many layers of tights on...and our legs are still cold.  She pushes me to be better, to work harder, to be more diligent.  Our companionship is so united in doing the work of the Lord, ergo, the work of the Lord moves forward.  As we have grown more united and stronger in our teaching together we find more people to teach, our Japanese improves, our goals are set higher and higher and we have a lot more fun.  Also, she has helped me figure out how to cook some Japanese meals and use all the Japanese ingredients.  It is the best. 

Also...because it was new years, many of the members of the ward wanted to invite us over for meals.  I decided that this week was a week meant to bring the members closer to Christ.  I got to eat A LOT of Japanese food this week.  And my chopstick usage improved drastically.  I am excited to astound all of my friends and family with my ability to wield a pair of chopsticks with incredible precision when I return from Japan.  On New Years day we went over to Irie K.'s parent’s home His parents are not members, and they are the sweetest Japanese couple ever. We had some food that I don't think I ever want to eat again...but it was a good cultural experience. Each food item meant something for the new year- I wish I could remember them all. We had bamboo, some sort of carrot, dried tofu, fish eggs, seaweed...soaked in something...mushrooms, soaked in something, various other kinds of roots...some sort of fish cake? A giant fish...the list goes on and on.  For dessert we had bean soup.  For anyone that knows me...they know that I absolutely hate beans.  This soup...was a struggle.  But, I finished it all.  My reward was a very American Chocolate Cake that Irie K. brought for the missionaries because he knew that we would want something...more familiar...after that meal.  It was very delicious.
Main course (Quite delicious)
New Year's 
Love you all!  Sometimes, the Lord just wants us to be faithful...and that means even when we can't see the improvement that we continue pushing onward. 最後までたえしのぶ