Monday, August 25, 2014

Tokushima Rivers

Hello everyone!

This week was super amazing! And I love Tokushima, and my companion and our investigators! There were so many miracles and I just really don't have time to write about all of I am really sorry about that. Ask me all about them in April and I will recount the amazing miracle to you that was my mission...that I just really can't actually accurately describe in words. The good news is that I am keeping a very detailed journal :) 

So instead I am just going to write about this amazing conversation that my companion and I had this week. This is a little analogy that she came up with because she loves teaching through tatoes. 

Sometimes, actually all of the times, people have weaknesses. We just are not perfect. And we are given the opportunity to see our weaknesses, our mistakes....all of it... and sometimes those things just feel really overwhelming. And sometimes we can get a little weighed down by...just problems. So in Tokushima there are A LOT of beautiful rivers. In Japan there are just a lot of beautiful rivers. But especially in Tokushima. We bike over a lot of bridges and I just see this gorgeous body of water and I love it with all of my heart. And sometimes there is a little bit of trash in those rivers. Those rivers are like us, and the trash is like our mistakes, or our weaknesses. It might spot the river a little bit, but in reality, you can only see it if you get really close. And the river is still absolutely beautiful! And it is so easy to simply pick up that trash, and then dispose of it properly by sorting your trash into plastics, bottles, cardboards and regular trash (welcome to the Japanese trash disposal system :) ) And every river has rocks that have been shaped and shifted by the rushing water and by passing time. And these rocks, the changes that nature has pulled on the river, just make it even more beautiful! 

We are like these rivers. The trash is like our weaknesses. The weather-beaten rocks are like our experiences. In the end, our experiences just strengthen us and make us more beautiful, and all of that trash can be removed through the atonement of Jesus Christ. And the river ends up being more beautiful than we ever could have imagined. 

I love you all :) Have a great week!
Beautiful River

Us with our District President and Family, and also our investigator!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Awaodori and Sushi Cake

Dancing in the Festival (Grundvig Shimai and Payne Shimai in middle)
This week was probably the best week of my entire life. InTokushima every single year there is this enormous dance festival - Awaodori! Which is one of the biggest (if not the largest) dance festivals in Japan. It started on Tuesday and ended Friday. I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY PEOPLE. People come from all over the world and they start preparing a week or two in advance and set up bleachers all along the streets. And then they close off all of the roads, and there are tons of food booths...and then people just dance in the streets all week long. It was so much fun! There were just people dancing everywhere. And we got permission to dance, so we went with an investigator and rented these outfits to dance in and we danced Awaodori. And we were not very jouzu (Skilled). But, it was ok because they were so excited that there were three Americans and one Brazilian dancing that they announced us at the festival and we may have ended up on Japanese TV. When we signed up to go dance, we didn't realize we were going to be part of the groups actually dancing down the street...but it was really awesome. Also, we got to see our Branch President perform because we just happened to be walking down the street when he danced by with his sons, he was pretty good. So usually this week in Japan is kind of a dead week because it is a week of remembering ancestors, but in Tokushima it was crazy busy and there were just people to talk to everywhere and loved it. 

Happy Birthday! With Friends
Sushi Cake
Also, on Friday I had a super fun crazy birthday. Basically, my companion is amazing and made me a delicious breakfast. And we also made a cake. And we went to the giant festival and talked to tons of people. And then we met this lady who bought us lunch, and talked to us for a really long time, but then had to leave immediately...but she was super sweet and really just needed people to listen to her. But that whole experience was one of the most interesting of my life. And then in the evening we went to dinner with friends at this delicious sushi restaurant. And I didn't know that they even knew it was my birthday. But we got there and then the restaurant people brought out this huge cake made of sushi! And everyone sang happy birthday and it was just really nice and heartwarming. And I didn't even know that sushi cakes existed but it was delicious and the nicest thing ever probably. And then we also had to eat lots more sushi and I thought my stomach would burst, and I was able to try fish eggs again which were awful the first time around...but the second they were better. But I would still probably choose not to eat them because they are just far too crunchy. And they are expensive. So why pay for extra crunchy fish eggs when you could just eat the much cheaper avocado, mayonnaise, and shrimp? And, we got to meet the less active and we will probably see her again this week! She was the cutest girl, she joined the church about four years ago somewhere else in Japan, and now she lives kind of far away from the church building. 

Mormon Helping Hands Project
   On Saturday we ended up going to the very far part of our area, which was hit really bad by the Typhoon. All of the missionaries in the Zone went and we got to be part of a Mormon Helping Hands project! Which I have basically wanted to do my entire life, so all of my life dreams have been fulfilled this week.....eating sushi cake, dancing in a huge Japanese festival and participating in a Mormon Helping Hands project...and we helped clean up this lady's house who had had a lot of water damage and her floor had basically turned into mud. She was older and difficult to understand, but she was just so grateful and so helpless on her own. It warmed my heart so much. She was so happy when we gave her hugs, and we really want to go back and visit her again since she lives in our area but it may not be possible because it was about four or three hours away by bus....but it was one of the best things ever! She just looked so happy and so grateful and when we left she was significantly more genki (more energetic, vigor) than when we arrived. I guess we were just literally able to see hope come into her eyes again :) Her life did not look easy. Also, I got to see our zone leaders break dance for the entertainment of all the Japanese people....they were waiting at the little base to begin serving/ receive counseling/ whatever it is and all of that stuff. It was a very rare opportunity. 

Slash, also we saw some amazing miracles this week. And we were able to find some new investigators who are the family of a less active! And their hearts are changing and opening to the gospel! The only problem is they keep feeding us lots of treats and I will probably become fat. But, the good news is they live really far away by bike so probably all will end well when it comes to eating their delicious Japanese treats. 

I love you all lots! I hope that it was an amazing week!

Grundvig Shimai

p.s. I found a super cheap yukatta but I ran out of room on my camera so I can't send a picture of it.
p.p.s. A yukatta is essentially the same thing as a kimono, but for wearing in the summer so they aren't as hot. And mostly they are cheaper :) 

Dancers at Awaodori Festival

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When it rains, it pours!

The flooded rice field, or is it the path?
It rained SO MUCH THIS WEEEK! And we also had a Typhoon. I think one of the most memorable rain experiences of my entire mission...or life actually...will be our adventure coming home from our zone training meeting this week. We left immediately after the training meeting so that we could catch our bus because we had a lesson with an investigator. When we arrived back from our two hour bus ride it was still down pouring (it had been down pouring when we left). And we went to get our bikes. We discovered that Payne Shimai's bike was not where we had left it. We thought that her bike had been stolen, because mine was still there...but it turned out that we had just parked in a place that was dame and for some reason or other the city of Tokushima only took Payne Shimai's bike. So, at this point it is 4:30 in the afternoon, it is down pouring and we had left our rain suits in Payne Shimai's bike. (Or rather...I just forgot my rain suit, and Payne Shimai's rain suit was in her bike). So, we walk to the police station and discover that her bike is being held captive at a place that is 45 minutes away walking...and this place closes at 5 pm. And if we don't make it there by 5, we can't get the bike back until Monday. We sprinted through the rain with one bike, and balancing our bags full of important books (always good in the rain :) ) all the way to this place (they were kind and waited a little bit for us). I think we laughed the entire way there. I was biking, holding all of the stuff in my lap and wearing Payne Shimai's bike helmet, while Payne Shimai was running beside me. And she would look at me and start laughing because I looked so ridiculous, and then, I would look at her and we would fall into uncontrollable laughter. The adventure ended with us looking incredibly pitiful and being wetter than I have ever been in my entire life. And I was also freezing. After we retrieved her bike, we biked to the church, wrung out our clothes and then met with an investigator to go to dinner. She told us that she had never seen people look so wet, but she got a good laugh out of that was a positive thing. Also, we drank delicious hot chocolate after we got home to our apartment that evening (after game night and such) and then, I slept with so many sweat shirts on... and it was wonderful.
We also had the most amazing lesson with a less active and it was basically the biggest miracle. But, the moral of the story is that God can work miracles and change people's hearts and anyone can repent and have eternal life. This lady is super old and struggles with remembering much of anything. But we showed up this week and all of a sudden she had decided that she wanted to be active again and receive eternal life and stop smoking and drinking tea and drinking coffee...and basically she just didn't obey any of the word of wisdom, but now she does! And she desires to be active again! It was amazing! And she remembered how to pray which is a small miracle in itself. But, Heavenly Father answers our prayers. 
Trying to dry everything out!

Also there was a Typhoon and church was canceled, which was sad because we had quite a few less actives who had committed to come. But, we had an eventful day of biking through rivers that used to be rice fields...or maybe actual biking paths...I don't really know at this point, and it was quite eventful. But, even a Typhoon doesn't stop missionary work. It was a really good opportunity to try and help people clean up outside of their houses and just talk to people as we were biking around after the storm. 

It was a week of miracles and it is amazing to feel the spirit guiding this work :) I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I just can't really put into words what it is like to work with these people and hear their prayers, and pray your heart out for them, and laugh with them and sometimes cry with them. And try to speak their language. And eat strange Japanese foods. And talk to people who you never thought you would meet in your entire life, but then, in an instant they change my is amazing. I love it so much. 

I love you all!! And also thank you for the happy birthday wishes :) I hope that everyone has an amazing week!

Grundvig Shimai
Visits to one of the Temples

Monday, August 4, 2014

What if you couldn't pray?


So one large event of this week was a Typhoon which resulted in a lot of flooding. Which was a lot of fun to bike around in! But, we survived. The church survived. (We had gotten stuck at the church when the district president showed up to try and make a sand wall, so we tried to help with that...however due to a lack of sand we were not successful...) 
The car that was stuck

This email will probably be a little short because Payne Shimai and I have spent our email time laughing and talking and so that was a fail. 

But, this week was amazing and full of lots of rain and miracles and delivering thank you cards to people who helped us overcome our various injuries, and also Books of Mormon to those people, and ultimately all of these injuries will result in conversions to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and everything happens for a reason...even falling into rice fields and various surgery experiences...etc. 
With Payne Shimai in our Kappas, after our day of biking through the Typhoon
But, a quick thought on missionary work! My companion is a little bit old in missionary years. You can count down the number of weeks that she has left on your two hands, and it is basically the most heartbreaking thing ever. And mostly we just don't talk about it. But, when you hit a point on your mission when you have less transfers left than you have already completed...or when your companion has hardly any weeks just start thinking about where you want to be and what you have already done. In reflecting on this, I remembered a quote...from went like this: "You won't be a missionary forever, but you can always pray the way you did when you were a missionary." 

I can't count the number of times on my mission (or in my life) that I have been promised that my Heavenly Father hears and answers my prayers. That He really loves me, and that He is aware of me. I also can't count the number of times before my mission where I said a quick prayer before bed that had about zero heart in it so that I could say a prayer before I fell into bed exhausted. (I know - missionary confessions :) ) But, on my mission I have REALLY learned how to pray. My prayers have become a revelatory time, a real conversation between me and my Heavenly Father. I don't get to devote all 24 hours of every single day for the rest of my life to missionary work...that just isn't how life is supposed to be. But, I can always pray the way that I do now. Anyone can pray the way a missionary prays. Anyone can give thanks to God for their blessings, plead with Heavenly Father for the help that they need, pour out their heart and soul in prayer...and then listen as heavenly direction is delivered in the form of guidance, quiet thought and feelings that enter our hearts or promptings that come throughout our days. Our Heavenly Father speaks to us, I have an undying testimony of that. 

A few weeks ago our zone leaders did a presentation for the Takamatsu District. In the presentation they posed the question: "What if you couldn't pray? What if you didn't know that you had a loving Father in Heaven?" What if you didn't know? 

And that in a few words summed up why I am here.

What if I didn't know? 

I know why I am here, and I know who called me here. I know whose work this is. I know who it is that I represent. It is all because of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

And because I know. I am here.


I love you all! And always pour out your hear to the Lord. Miracles will happen beyond what you could ever imagine!


Grundvig Shimai!

The second week of CRAZY

Recent Rice Field

Transfer calls came! And I am staying in Tokushima for another transfer with Payne Shimai! We are super excited...we were both pretty sure that one of us would transfer because we are just way too good of friends, but gratefully the area still needs us together and so we get to stay :) 

This week was crazy. And we are really hoping that the next transfer does not involve as much craziness as this transfer did. Let's just do a quick count (including the crazy things that happened this week...) of this transfer (ok I guess it was mostly the last two weeks...):

- A bike accident with a rice field.
- Multiple running injuries.
- An infected running injury.
- A trip to a hospital.
- A flat bike tire.
- A second trip to a hospital...which turned out to only be for old people.
- A third trip to a hospital, where Payne Shimai finally got surgery.
- A bike accident with a car... (that one was also Payne Shimai). 
- Oh and also my camera broke :(

So...this week we went to a few hospitals, and then Payne Shimai had to get surgery on her hand and then she also got hit by a car. Luckily her bike and herself and the car were all fine, but the driver felt really bad. 

This week was so hectic that it felt like we weren't able to get very much done in our area. We had a language test to take, and then multiple trips to a hospital...and it is amazing how stuff like that just sucks up so much time. 
Payne Shimai and Grundvig Shimai in Yukatas

But, we were able to build some really good relationships with some of the Less Actives that we visited which was great - it is just so fun to meet with them and talk with them and strengthen relationships and bear testimony and I just love missionary work. We really do have the best job ever. When do you ever have time like this again in your life? Never again is the answer to that question. Unless you serve another mission, but that is beside the point. And we also taught some really powerful lessons and I just LOVE those moments where out of the blue the spirit just tells me what to say and then I can SAY IT. In Japanese and it is a very magical feeling. We had a lesson with one Less Active this week, and I felt really prompted to share an experience from high school. So I just opened my mouth and started talking, and at first I had planned to share it very simply, but I surprised myself by being able to share the story in much more detail than I had been planning. And that moment changed the tone of the entire lesson. We really are given what it is that we need to say in the moment that we need to say it. (And if we aren't, than our companion is, and thus is the beauty of missionary work). 

With some of my favorites!
One funny experience this week. Our French speaking investigators birthday was yesterday, and so she invited us to her barbecue birthday celebration. And in Japan foreigners have a tendency to find each other. So, at our investigators house (who is from the Congo) we met people from France, Poland, Indonesia, The Congo, Portugal. Belgium, China...and I think that is it? But, there were just so many people speaking French everywhere and I picked up a ton of French vocabulary, so that was great. I have learned enough vocabulary to slightly guess what people are saying. And it is mostly just guessing - lets not all go thinking that I have picked up French here because I can't  really speak French at all - but, we had a lot of fun trying to speak French with people and having our investigator translate for us, and then learning French vocabulary words. Something that I learned - French pronunciation is ridiculously hard and most of the time I feel like there is just something dying in my throat when I try to speak French. 

So that was my week. We had a ton of super fun things happen and I will send pictures of them...and then hopefully I can get my camera fixed today...that would be ideal. But, I will send pictures home of us trying on Kimonos (actually they are yukatas) with my favorite people ever and visiting some Buddhist temples (which we did this morning during exercise :) ) and our other adventures this week. I love you all!! 

Grundvig Shimai

Visit to Buddhist temple