Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From Tahiti to Japan

This week...has probably been the fastest and the craziest week of my entire mission.

Last Monday night Payne Shimai and I traveled to Takamatsu. We met some members at the Train Station before leaving and ate dinner with Kawano Shimai, and then said goodbye....and left for Takamatsu. It was sad. I teared up as we drove away...those three transfers were truly wonderful. On Monday night I met my companion for the week - Stevenson Shimai. Her dad is American, and her mom is Japanese, but she grew up in Japan and doesn't speak English! She speaks Korean though, which is awesome. BUT! We had SUCH A FUN WEEK! I love her to pieces and I am really excited to see her at Zone Training Meetings and stuff. We learned tons together and spent lots of time trading ideas for how to help both of our areas and she is super awesome and humble and we became great friends and I hope that one day we are able to be companions :) PLUS it was so fun to speak Japanese all week. It made me really, really hope that I have a Japanese companion one day soon.
On Thursday night Stevenson Shimai and I took a bus to Okayama, and then from Okayama we went to Akashi where I stayed the night. On Friday morning I woke up early and we took a train to Kobe...where I was reunited with Violette Shimai and Daniels Shimai! Which was wonderful! AND I met my new companion!

As a preface....I was nervous to be a trainer. I was actually nervous to just become a senior companion. And that was when I thought that I would be training someone who spoke English or Japanese. life as a trainer is absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be. Or what I had prepared for!

My new companion is named Sister Chapman. She is the cutest girl, she has more faith than anyone I have ever met...and she is from Tahiti! And she doesn't really speak English or Japanese. When she entered the MTC she started learning BOTH English AND Japanese. HOW AMAZING IS SHE?? And I can definitely say that the gift of tongues is REAL! It is so real! She learned enough English and Japanese in 9 weeks to communicate enough with me....that we can do missionary work. And her language skills just keep getting better. But, it is definitely a huge adventure.....and I have recently started learning French. And I have to give a shout out to the most amazing District Leader and Zone Leaders in the world who are helping more than anything, and to a district leader who is going to learn French with me so that we can help her learn how to be a missionary. It is kind of a lot of pressure to know that I am helping someone to build the beginning of their mission when I don't speak their native language. But, I know that the Lord will provide a way for us to do ALL that He has asked!!

Miracles are real. We have seen so many miracles just in these past few days. I can't even explain it. I have suddenly developed an ability to remember more kanji and read all the ones that I really need to. And I can also understand a heck of a lot more Japanese than I should probably be understanding. And I can speak more fluently than I could four days ago. On top of that, everyone we see seems to be drawn to us. We have had TONS of good contacts. We were able to teach a surprising amount of lessons in two days....and this morning we got a call from a man and his wife who I met two weeks ago who want to meet with us today and learn about Christianity. Heavenly Father is pouring the blessings of Heaven upon us because this is the hardest thing that either I or Chapman Shimai have ever done.

I can't even express my love for Chapman Shimai enough. She just looks at me and says: "Sister, I want to speak Nihongo. I want to understand. I want God to smile down on my hard work!" And I say: "Sister! He IS smiling down at your hard work! You WILL learn Nihongo! AND English!" And then we laugh and ride off on our bikes into the sunset...but really though. She is so amazing. She has SO MUCH FAITH! To go to the MTC without speaking English OR Japanese! I can't imagine it. She has more desire than anyone to be a missionary! And another quote from her: "Shimai...I can't speak...but the important thing to me is that we wakachiatai!" (The important thing to me is that we want to share!" And I say: "Alright! Then lets talk to everyone!!" And then we do! And it is so good! And it is amazing how many people want to talk to us :)

Anyway...I am out of time....but....all I have to say is that the Lord lives. He WILL take care of you. He KNOWS the hard things that you go through. Anything. And He WILL help. I know that is true. Always, always, always be grateful for the blessings that you have received!
Grundvig Shimai

Friday, October 24, 2014

Transfer 5 in Tokushima...reflections on the last three...and I am training!!

Payne Shimai and Grundvig Shimai

"Senkyoushi toushite, watashitachi wa ichinenhan no katsudo wo shite imasu....Ima, watashi wa ichinenhansugiru shite imasu...." (Payne Shimai).

One of the benefits of being a missionary in the Japan, Kobe mission is that when Zinke Kaichou chose the return dates for all of the sister missionaries after the transfer schedule changed due to the MTC time period being shortened, he decided to lengthen all of our missions by a month instead of shortening them by a few weeks. As such, the Japan Kobe Mission Sister Missionaries serve a mission for just under 19 months. The blessings of serving in Kobe :)

But...those 19 months come to an end. Often on the street people ask why we are in Japan...and how long we have been here. Payne Shimai would then say that we come to Japan for 18 months as missionaries. Which almost always resulted in the follow-up question: " long have you been here then?" To which she would reply....Oh....actually...over 18 months. Which resulted in a lot of really confused people. But even after hearing that over and over again...the idea of not being a missionary never really seems real.

It doesn't seem real when your companion says goodbye to investigators.
Or when the she gives her farewell talk in church.
Or when you look at the calendar and see that it is almost October 20th.

It only really starts to feel real when on Sunday night at 9:30 you are running around like chickens with their heads cut off...trying to pack and clean up the apartment. The good news is....even though we packed up her stuff the night before she left, we managed to fit everything and get her suitcases under weight. (The other thing is that my wardrobe has just about tripled in size). Hard things to explain are feelings of sitting on your futon the night before your companion leaves for Kobe...and talking about your three transfers together. The miracles we had seen....the sad things we had seen, the hard times, the best times...everything! It can be hard to explain the feeling of watching her write out her mission evaluation, and knowing that that time ACTUALLY comes, when my life is no longer the missionary schedule straight out of the white handbook and days of talking to lots and lots of people as I bike the streets of Japan. It is a very surreal feeling.
With Payne Shimai, participating with Mormon Helping Hands

But. What I can explain is what I have learned during these three transfers with Payne Shimai.

The first Sunday we were together she greeted every single person at church with the biggest smile and an even bigger hug.
I was surprised. The members were surprised. Who was this girl that already loved them? She was met with some apprehension, and slightly anxious hugs.

The next Sunday the reception was a little bit warmer. And this time I followed suit! I wanted to show the members how much I loved them too!  We greeted as many members as we could with huge hugs.  I watched our reception become just a little warmer every single time we met with a member. We heart-attacked their doors, we made cookies and left them on door steps. We wrote notes to the kids in the primary. We made more crafts than I have ever made in my life, early in the morning or at night after planning, before plopping onto our futons exhausted. And, we always greeted everyone with hugs. Everyone felt her love, and I wanted everyone to feel my love too. We both worked SO HARD to show everyone how much we loved them. And slowly...but surely...all of those members started seeing us at church and their faces would burst into a smile. They would stretch out their arms and run and hug us. They would laugh and tell us all about their lives. And then slowly, we also started receiving some referrals. Love is the essense of the gospel. That is what we are really about as missionaries.

On Thursday night this week we went to dinner with one of my favorite couples. They are prime examples of service and just pure Christlike people. As we talked about Payne Shimai's mission and their lives, the wife stopped us and said something that I will never forget, that melted my heart forever. She very quietly said - "Ever since you two became companions, Tokushima has changed. This branch is different." I held back my tears...but then I looked at Payne Shimai....and we both teared up. The couple just smiled at us and thanked us for our work. There is nothing like the joy of having a positive impact on people.

Welch Kaichou once said: "If you are in control of yourself, the world around you changes..." Or something along those lines. I might be misquoting this...but that is the general idea.
"The world around us changes." In Tokushima we have seen more miracles than I could ever write about.  There were people who rarely came to church, who after a little bit of love came every single week. And continue to do so.  There were families who became more active.  There was the 92 year old who worked to stop smoking.  There were baptisms.  And the branch became even more of a family.

Anything is possible. The environment we are in can change depending on our attitude and the help of the Lord. The world around us can change.
With Payne Shimai at Japanese Dance Festival - Awaodori

A very profound quote that I once found on pinterest said: "The ones who are crazy enough to change the world are the ones that do." I thought of this the other day as I reflected on my transfers with Payne Shimai. She is an amazing missionary, and will continue to be an amazing missionary for the rest of her life. When she arrived in Tokushima she had a determination to help weaknesses become strengths, good things turn better...and for everything to improve. And oh, how it did. This is what happens when a consecrated missionary like Payne Shimai arrives somewhere. The world around them changes. We may not have changed the world by working in Tokushima, but we changed the world of at least a few people. This is the beauty of missionary work.

Payne Shimai changed my life. She changed me as a missionary. One of the members this week was talking to me and she said: "What have you seen in the past three transfers? Everything has changed since you two became companions, I think, do you think so too?" I smiled. And then I explained that I felt exactly the same way. The area had grown! And I had grown too. I am more loving, more Christlike...and my Japanese is a whole heck of a lot better. A consecrated missionary does not only affect the members, the people they meet on the street...but they have a profound impact on their companion. I can testify of that.

This week was amazing. I had the opportunity to see everything that had happened in these three transfers in real fast review.  It was very, very cool.  We had the opportunity to see who we had touched without even realizing it - and the opportunity to see how many people had touched us. The mission experience is the best.

And so these three transfers in Tokushima come to an end. Payne Shimai is moving on to the next phase of her life. And I move onto the next phase of my mission.....(where I will continue to hug every single Japanese person that I can :) )

SO on that note...I AM STAYING IN TOKUSHIMA FOR TRANSFER NUMBER 5! AND I couldn't be more excited! ANDDDD I am training a brand new missionary.
I am only slightly terrified.
But, as we rely on the Lord anything is possible. Plus, brand new missionaries bring miracles and so, I am so stoked.

I love Tokushima.
I love Payne Shimai to pieces. We will be friends throughout the eternities...because that is definitely supposed to happen.
I love being a missionary.
I love this work.

And I had an awesome quote that I was going to include in here...but I forgot it in the apartment so that is always good.
But, it suffices to say that I love my Heavenly Father. :)

Love you all!
Grundvig Shimai.

Slash P.S. I got this hilarious email - shout out to Camille Helmick - but, I am glad to know that everyone and their dog really enjoyed the story about how I fell into a rice field Back here.....what a great thing to be known for as a missionary!

"Congrats on reaching your one year mark! I love reading your blog! So I was at the Provo Temple the other day and these four sisters came over to me and my friends and asked if they could bear their testimonies in Japanese to us. It was so cool! When they finished I was telling how they should be happy if they get you as a companion! And guess what?!?!? They knew exactly who you are. I guess they'd all read your blog about getting stuck in a rice field. So yeah, I thought that was super awesome!!!  - (Camille Helmick)"

SLASH P.S. DANIELS SHIMAI IS A SISTER TRAINING LEADER IN KOBE! And I am not in her Sister Training Leader Area...but I am really hoping that one day I will get to go on an exchange with her at some point! Yay!! She will be the best sister training leader ever!!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

When the storms are raging...


It has been a great and busy week. With Payne Shimai leaving we are just working as hard as we possibly can during these last few days. This week is her last one and so we are planning lots of super great dendou activities and I am really excited. Her strong desire to continue on as hard as she possibly can is amazing and I love it. 

We also got to watch General Conference this weekend! It is always kind of funny to watch it a week behind the rest of the world...but it is still just as amazing and inspiring and I love it just as much. One of my favorite talks was by Elder Scott. I loved everything that he said about prayer and scripture study and family home evening and going to the temple...and no matter how well we are doing on each of those things, we can always make some improvements. There is always something that we can do to improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father! 

One neat experience this week was on the train to a lesson with an investigator...we started talking to these girls who were 19, and explained that we are missionaries. They asked us if we knew how to pray. We said we did. They asked if that meant we got to talk with God. We said we did. One of the girls eyes turned so wide and she looked unbelievably excited to hear more. It made me so grateful to be a missionary and be able to share that knowledge with everyone. I LOVED the message from Elder Bednar in conference about why we do missionary work! Because we have a light! If you had the most wonderful solution, something that made you feel better than anything else...wouldn't you also want others to experience this too? I love that I get to do this every day with the gospel, that this is the light I get to share with other people.

In other news there is currently an enormous typhoon and I am a little bit nervous because I think the wind is moving the building a little bit. And we were very nearly blown off of our bikes this we are emailing as fast as possible so we can make it home safely...and so this email will be very short.

The most important thing is that Tokushima is doing well.
I love being a missionary.
Jesus Christ lives.
Heavenly Father loves you.
And through the Lord's power, anything is possible!

Love you!
Grundvig Shimai

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Japanese Funeral

Ahhh, delicious Japanese candy.  A gift from church members!

It was a week full of new experiences! It felt like we didn't have a lot of time to do actual missionary work this week because other things kept happening.

The construction to expand the church building is finished, and so we are able to study at the church in the mornings again...which is wonderful, but also means a 15 minute bike ride to the church before study. On Thursday, when we were studying at the church before leaving for Interviews with Welch Kaicho, we got a call from a less active member. He asked for the branch president's phone number, so we talked to him for a little bit, gave him the phone number and didn't think much of it for the rest of the day. After interviews when we made it back home, we got A LOT of phone calls from every member...basically. This less active's father had passed away, and they were having the funeral for him on Friday. So, I had the opportunity to attend a Japanese funeral. It was much more of a church funeral, so a lot of the traditional Japanese stuff wasn't done. But it was still an interesting experience. The less active family wanted all of the missionaries to sing, and so we sang Hie to Kolob at the funeral. The entire experience made me really grateful that we have the Plan of Salvation. Like any funeral, it was a little sad, but it doesn't feel like an end, it feels like "eternal beginnings" (like President Uchtdorf said in the April General Conference) because we know of our eternal destiny and Heavenly Father's plan for us.

On Saturday I was able to watch the General Women's Broadcast in Takamatsu! And then after the broadcast, which was amazing, we traveled back to Tokushima and went to this incredibly fancy hotel for a branch dinner....because a less active is the chef at the hotel! The food was delicious and the less active told us that he would be seeing us at church soon! 
So, between Interviews, a funeral and the General Women's Broadcast...we only had a few days to dendou. But, Heavenly Father provides for us and helped us to find the people that are prepared for the gospel. We also had a lesson on Friday night after the funeral with two of my favorite investigators in the entire world. We found them by housing right next to our Branch President's house last transfer, and they have been progressing really well! This week we taught them about the Plan of Salvation and they loved it! They are just so eager to learn, and this 12 year old girl and her mother have the best relationship ever and they are so cute and laugh together and make fun of each other...and if one of them doesn't do their reading assignment, then they teach it to the other one. The good news is that they are very good at keeping commitments :) They see the joy that comes from learning about their Savior, Jesus Christ...and they are just so much fun to teach. I have really come to LOVE teaching the gospel as a missionary.

Anyway...all in all it was a very good, eventful, busy week...even if a lot of the busy was spent doing very unusual things. But, the Lord brings those who need to find the gospel to us. I have a testimony of this :)

Also, one quick thought from Interviews that I have been thinking about - I talked with Welch Kaicho about charity, and developing Christlike attributes. He pointed out that if we are to be like the Savior, we must be perfectly obedient as the Savior was 100% obedient all the time. And as we are obedient, we develop more Christlike love, charity, faith, hope, humility...etc. He expounded John 15 and D&C 4 to me and talked about how we can abide in the Savior's love as we are obedient, and become more Christlike, and then more obedient...and it all just spirals. He also pointed out how until we are given the opportunity to develop these christlike attributes...we can't really develop them. For example, if we never have a humbling experience, we will not be humble. This is so much of what my mission has been. Faith building experiences, love building experiences, humbling experiences...
I also thought about the way that the Savior looks at all of us. He loves us all fully. Granted, He knows what is in our mind and hearts...but He had the ability to love us all perfectly. If we remember how much Heavenly Father loves each of His children, and how much the Savior loves each and every one of is not possible to be angry at the people around us. That Christlike love makes up for all of it.

Grundvig Shimai
 American goodies!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A mission is not easy, but it is not difficult.

One of my absolute favorite moments of this entire week was on Sunday morning! We were asked to sing with the Elders in church, so we spent some time practicing and actually sounded pretty good...and for the first time in this ward, I actually received some compliments on the song after sacrament meeting! I think usually....we sound a little rough. But, Payne Shimai and I sang the first half together, and then after we sang our part and the Elders started singing - she nudged me and said "Sakiyama Shimai is here!" And I looked towards the back, and saw that a less active we are teaching had come to church! She hasn't been in ages, but her face was glowing and the members were so happy to see her and she looked so nice. I felt so much joy and it was an amazing moment! 

It has been a super crazy first three weeks of the transfer...the transfer is already halfway over...and I don't know where the time went. Payne Shimai currently has three weeks of her mission left, We have been so busy! Teaching, finding, and being missionaries. But, our relationship with the members is really good! We have spent the past two preparation days out exploring Tokushima with the members and it has been so much fun! Two weeks ago we went to this really old rope bridge (and had a fun adventure complete with a flat tire) and then last week we went to the Naruto Whirlpools...which are supposedly world famous, so I would suggest googling them? I had never heard of them before, but maybe I am just uninformed. 
Rope Bridge

Last week I hit my year mark. Which is a time of reflection. A year ago I was in the MTC! A year ago I was learning how to form a basic Japanese sentence and wondering how on earth I was going to be able to teach the gospel in Japanese.

It has been a year since that time.

I am not fluent....but I can teach the gospel in Japanese. I have seen how it is the small and simple actions over a period of time that add up...and then one day, we are able to do those things that we never thought we could. Setting goals, then little by little, working to fulfill them. 
I was told before I left on my mission that this would be something harder than I could have ever imagined. (Imagine being told that the day before you depart for Japan.) The truth is, this is the hardest thing that I have ever done. But it is also the most joy filled thing that I have ever done. 
After being a missionary for a long period of time you forget that the things you are doing are not normal. I forget that I used to listen to music besides the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. That there was something called a date. That I didn't always have another person attached to my hip. I forget that I didn't use to stop every single person that I see to ask them if they have ever met a missionary before...or heard about Jesus Christ. I forget that I used to be able to chose what time I wake up and what time I go to bed. But the other thing is....that I wouldn't have this any other way. A missionary life may be incredibly difficult to explain in concise and effective words. But, it is truly the most joy filled thing that I can explain. Every sacrifice, every door closed in my face...or rather, the doors that never even open...are worth the ones that do. Or the people that see a light in us. 
Our newly purchased Yukatta's

Yesterday Payne Shimai and I were walking around the Tokushima Castle Park. We stopped a man and his wife on a bridge and started talking with them. He surprised us by slipping into decent English. We had a conversation with him about his life - and we found out that he had once stayed with a baptist man in San Francisco. He talked about the service that this man had given him because he believed in Christ. He then wanted to know why we were in Japan. I watched as this man's face changed completely as we explained who we are and why we are here. That we are not payed. That we save our own money, and that we want to simply help and serve the people of Japan. That this message has brought us joy. He looked at us and then he said: "Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for what you are doing." He looked down at his shoes and then back up at our faces. "Japan needs people like you. The country is changing." The spirit testified to my heart in that tender moment. There are always people out there prepared and ready for the truth. There are people who really recognize a light in us.

In the words of President Holland - "A mission is not easy. But it is not difficult." My mission has not been easy - it is not supposed to be easy. If it were easy, how much would  I learn? But, I have also found so much joy in every single day of my missionary service. I have learned, or rather begun to learn, that as I rely on the Lord, my trials are much less of trials...but learning experiences. Every new challenge is an exciting adventure. An opportunity to grow my faith and really rely on the Lord. I have learned from companionship (I mean, you are with the same person that you did not choose... every single day, 24 hours a really learn how to get along with people...especially when you spend over 100 days with that person). I have learned from the members...who so sweetly serve everyone around them, and sacrifice so much for the truth that they know. I have learned from my mission president and his wife. Both Welch Kaicho, Zinke Kaicho, Welch Shimai and Zinke Shimai, have changed my future...And set an amazing example of faithful families in the Lord. 

Over the past year I have worked so hard! I have seen things change around me. I have seen the blessings of my work! Sometimes the effort I put in takes a long time to pay off, and sometimes I may not even see the pay off...but I have received countless blessings from the Lord. When I look back on the person that I was a year ago, I see where I have changed. It fills me with a sense of accomplishment - and also a sense of excitement for the six months that I have left to really give my everything! With a companion who is finishing her mission, I can really see where I want to be next April. There is so much growth that we can always do in life. As a missionary, there is growth in the language, in my ability to teach clearly and simply, to become more natural at talking to people on the street. But then, beyond that, there is growth that will come in the person that I am. I can serve more, love more, become more humble and charitable. Full of faith and hope. As a missionary, I have learned to accept the Lord's will. He knows what is going on. He has a plan for me. I am His daughter. I may not understand why....or when...or where....but He does. And His plan is a whole lot bigger and better than mine. 

I love this work so much. I love being a missionary...and I love being a missionary in the Japan, Kobe Mission. Being a missionary in Japan is not easy....but it is not difficult :) It is the experience of a life time. The world around us can change when we change our attitude. 


Grundvig Shimai