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.
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 day...you 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.
I LOVE YOU ALL!!!