Thursday, November 27, 2014

Moving forward by Miracles

Our recent hike to Bizan, which has become a weekly activity for the Ward

The work in Tokushima is moving forward by miracles!
I don't really know how else to explain everything that is happening. This week was amazing.

As a missionary there are a million and one different things running through my head, all of the time...and so there are an unfortunate amount of times where I am thinking about the lesson we are on our way to teach...or how to teach Japanese to my dear companion who is also learning English..or how to help an investigator keep their commitments.....when, all of a sudden I see someone that I need to talk to...and I abruptly stop my bike and say the first thing that flies into my head. Which is usually awkward and sometimes strange Japanese. Therefore, it is always amazing when I hear awkward words coming out of my mouth, and the person I am talking to does not run away from me, but instead looks incredibly interested and continues to listen. This happened quite a lot of times this week and we found a few people around Tokushima who have now commited to read the Book of Mormon after being stopped by two girls on bikes who might have said a lot of Japanese sentences that didn't fully make sense. The good news is that the Book of Mormon speaks perfect Japanese, even though I don't.

Some of the other miracles we saw! Nathalie is doing awesome! She LOVES having Chapman Shimai teaching her in French. And Chapman Shimai is a rockstar teaching her all of the lessons as a brand new missionary. I have very little idea about what is going on during those lessons...however, I did say a prayer in French. Nathalie laughed at my pronunciation (French accent is impossible). Although, when Chapman Shimai and I sing in French my pronunciation gets much better and Nathalie says that she thinks I will one day become very, very good at French. I look forward to this day.....though it may be very far in the future.
Recently, we have also started teaching these two AMAZING girls who are college students in Tokushima. I love them so much! They are two of the sweetest girls, they are absolutely hilarious and we have become great friends. They are very patient with me and Chapman Shimai's Japanese. They are very good at using Japanese that we 100% understand, which is really nice. They are both very nice, incredibly intelligent, and they both play soccer at their college! They are studying psychology and I am pretty sure that we were great friends in the pre-earth life. There is just a bond between the four of us that is difficult to explain. Although all four of us come from different backgrounds, we have connected like we were the best of friends before the world was....which I think that we were. Even more than soccer, or what we are studying in college....there is just an unbelievably strong bond that we truly are sisters and daughters of God.  Teaching them and watching them feel God's love is one of those experiences that I dreamed about before my mission...Meeting that best friend that I had promised, before I came to earth that I would find, and teach. I feel in my heart that these two girl are two of those people, and it has been a joyful reunion.

Beautiful Tokushima
And in closing, I will quote a scripture that I read last week and loved. 1 Nephi 20:10: "For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction..." Our trials do not define us, but they refine us. Is missionary work easy? No. Is it supposed to be easy? Also no. But, through the furnace of affliction the Lord prepares the way for not only His work to move forward...but for us to move forward in our lives and in becoming who we want to become. I am grateful for the hardest times, because it is in the hardest times that the Lord's hand descends upon us and raises us up from the things that hold us down.  

Grundvig Shimai.

p.s. We went to the zoo last week and I have never seen anyone as excited as Chapman Shimai was to see all of those animals. It was the best thing of my life. 
At the Zoo

p.p.s. OH MY GOODNESS I ALMOST FORGOT! There was another miracle that basically made my week! On Friday I realized that I couldn't find my USB drive....which has the Restoration Video on it and some other tools. But it also has ALL OF MY MISSION PICTURES, up until four weeks ago on it. So, I called the Elders and they hadn't seen it anywhere. And I searched my desk and I couldn't find it. So then I said a prayer with Chapman Shimai. While we were praying, I remembered that two weeks ago we had gone to a 7/11, and I felt like we should go to that 7/11 and ask if they had my USB drive. We did so, and they immediately pulled it out! They had held on to it for two weeks and I was able to find my mission pictures. Thank goodness Heavenly Father cares about the small my mission pictures :) I felt very blessed and it made Saturday an even happier day!

Chapman Shimai and Grundvig Shimai

Friday, November 21, 2014

Divine Intersections


The highlight of our week was Sunday! We had two girls come to church who are 20 years old and are so much fun! We had met them on the street a few weeks ago, talked to them for a bit, invited them to game night - which they came to this week, and then we invited them to church and they came! They stayed for all three hours and liked it...and at the end they asked us if "maybe it would be OK if they came to church every once and a while?" And we happily told them that that was definitely OK. The members were great at fellow shipping them and it was one of those moments where you feel super happy to be a missionary. Also, a less active member we have been teaching came to church on Sunday and she just looked super happy and it made my life. It was just a great Sunday. I had been very stressed out because I was teaching the second hour of class and part of the third hour....and my Japanese is not good enough to be teaching that many classes in one day (plus I thought I was speaking in sacrament meeting....but that turned out to be a mistake and I wasn't) ...but what began as a rather stressful Sunday turned into a super powerful Sabbath day and the Lord took hold of my language abilities and helped me to teach everything that I needed to in Japanese....and I think that the lessons went well. :)

Yesterday we had Zone Conference and it was amazing! I love Zone Conferences, and this one was even better because Morin Chourou who was in my MTC District and is from Canada was able to translate into French for Chapman Shimai. She was SO HAPPY. And at the end of it she turned to me and said: "It is SO NICE to be able to understand!" I can't even imagine how hard it would be to be a missionary and really not understand a large percentage of the things going on around you every day. Well....I can imagine because I didn't speak Japanese...but I can't imagine not even being able to understand your companion OR anything around you AND learning two languages. The magnitude of what she is doing just blows me away every day!

Anyway, at Zone Conference we talked a TON about using the Book of Mormon and we did lots of Mogis with using the Book of Mormon. AND that was super fun because my mogi companion ended up being Weigl Shimai and she is a super great missionary and it was way natsukashii to mogi with her! It was like a piece of home...but not...all at once because we are in Japan and neither of us is the same person that we were before we came to Japan. On another note, her Japanese is really good. And she promised to say hello to everyone for me when she arrives home in Virginia in just a few weeks. Crazy how fast that time went. Anyway, I learned lots about the Book of Mormon and was reminded of how very powerful of a tool it is. As we have focused on trying to use the Book of Mormon more, as we dendou these past few weeks, we have started to see a lot of miracles. There is a power that comes from that Book! "A man will get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other Book..." (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). 

Another cool focus of our Zone Meeting was seeing how the gospel blesses people’s lives...and sort of seeing the "after story". It was way cool. We watched some follow up videos to the district and some other videos that showed a few families conversion stories and how their lives were impacted...and what happened to them years after they joined the church. My favorite was of a man named Erik from the district. He joined the church in California, and even as he was preparing for baptism he was really struggling with the Word of Wisdom. He had been an alcoholic, his family didn't talk to him and his life was just hard. He was baptized. He completely overcame his drinking problem...and now, just a bit down the road...he fixed his relationship with his children. They served missions. He remarried, and now has a large happy family. The biggest change was in his face. There was a completely different light in him now. It was one of the coolest things. There are moments that happen in life...."divine intersections",  there are people we meet...and one day we will see what happened because of all of those divine intersections. I am excited for that moment.

ALSO! This Friday was National Pickle Day and so our district all wore green and then we went and ate shabushabu and it was delicious.


Grundvig Shimai

p.s. today we are going to the zoo and my companion is so excited because she has never seen elephants or giraffes and the like!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The name tag miracle

Due to lack of email last week...I will try to fit all of the amazing miracles that happened last week into this weeks email!

Chapman Shimai is amazing. I love her to pieces. She is the most fun person to train in the whole
With Chapman Shimai, lunch after softball

Enjoying sushi
world probably and we get along really, really well....despite absolutely hilarious language lapses. We were planning on the bus home from Zone Training Meeting the other day and I had written that we would "ride the bus" from 2:30 - 4:00 and she looked at it and said: "What is the signification of 'ride the bus'?" (Meaning "what does ride the bus mean?")  When she understood what it meant we laughed for a while. I don't know why it was so funny...but it just really was. Another really enjoyable quote was that for the longest time she would say: "I'm scary" when she was nervous to do something (instead of "I'm scared"). When I explained that one we laughed for a really long time too. She is super awesome and willing to laugh at her mistakes, and keep trying over and over again....and she is learning Japanese (and English) really quickly. My French progression is significantly slower...but I have started to actually understand the daitai of what she is saying in French just from hearing it so much. And also because she is really good at body language. Probably, mostly the body language is helping my understanding more than anything....but...every day is a super,crazy, fun adventure.

The name tag miracle
This week on Monday we played softball! There was a tournament in Takamatsu and as a result we didn't have any time to email when we got back. Instead we bought Black Thunders, the most delicious Japanese chocolate bars ever, ate those in a parking lot and then went over to a members house for Family Home Evening. The Elders and I were all very sunburned from the softball games...but my Tahitian Companion remained sunburn free :) Anyway, it was a crazy busy slightly stressful Monday and we didn't end up having time to buy groceries...or really do anything besides eat our chocolate bars (I think the Elders actually lived on rice the entire week...and maybe some packages of ramen), but after our crazy day on our bike ride to the members house for dinner and FHE, Chapman Shimai got run into a large bush by a group of Japanese Middle School Students on their way home after school. So, after picking herself up out of the bush we continued on our way until we made it to the members house. At the members house, Chapman Shimai realized that her name tag had disappeared and she was really, really worried. And, it turned out that she thought that she wouldn't be able to get any more name tags if she lost hers (which I didn't understand at the time, but anyway, she was really nervous about it). So, she wore one of the Elders name tags for the night because that made her feel better, and we said a prayer together that we would be able to find her name tag. The next day we had to bike by the same place she had been run over the night before on the way to one of our lessons, and we found her name tag! It was sitting next to a drain along the side of the road completely untouched and unscratched. She was so excited. We stopped right there, said a prayer of gratitude and continued on our way. My favorite part was the testimony that she bore to me afterwards: "I know that my name tag was protected because it is not just my name that is written. It is because Jesus Christ's name is on this tag, and His name is bigger than mine. This is why Heavenly Father helped us to find my tag." It was super sweet, and I love her powerful testimony. I have learned from her how little the words we say actually matter...because her testimony in Japanese or English comes with amazing power, despite the words being simple or jumbled. Her testimony has touched my heart many, many times in the past two weeks. Her faith is magnificent and tremendous to witness every day.

Last week we had the opportunity to teach one of our investigators about prayer!! And it was a super great lesson :) Chapman Shimai shared an experience in English during it (this investigator is from Taiwan) and it was SO POWERFUL. The gift of tongues is real because I had never heard her speak English like that before. But, she told her a story about when she arrived from Tahiti in California. She was in the airport, she didn't know where to go, she couldn't find her bags and no one spoke her language. She was terrified. But, she sat down and said a prayer. When she opened her eyes, her bags were in front of her and a police officer walked by and asked her if she needed help, and he was able to help her make it where she needed to be. The story was really amazing, her testimony of prayer was super powerful, and I know that it touched our investigators heart! 
Visiting Referrals with Nakamura Kyoudai and elders
This week we also focused on teaching more through the Book of Mormon, and we have been using the Book of Mormon more during street contacts and as a result more light has come into our work in Tokushima. We have been finding more people to teach, our testimonies are being strengthened, and our investigators are progressing more because of the Book of Mormon. The Sister Training Leaders came to do a koukan with us this week on Thursday and they both powerfully used the Book of Mormon. We loved it and have tried to apply the same principle, and found a few great potential investigators as a result, and started teaching a few less actives through the Book of Mormon. Also, the Japan Kobe Mission has set a goal to read the Book of Mormon together by March, and everyone received a new copy in their native language to read. (This was cool because in our zone there were people receiving Books of Mormon in French, English, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese - our zone is very diverse). We are all super excited about this because the Book of Mormon brings GREAT POWER into the lives of those who read it. It truly testifies of Christ and strengthens our relationship with Him. Anyone who would like to join us in reading the Book of Mormon by March, please do :) I promise that if you do, you will learn of Jesus Christ and His mission and Atonement. The Book of Mormon is the foundation of testimony, if it is true, Joseph Smith is a prophet and he truly did restore the church! Through the Book of Mormon, we can gain our own witness of these things. And that is why I love the Book of Mormon. :)

This weekend we had a District Conference in Takamatsu. (We spent most of our week in it was kind of crazy) BUT I loved the district conference. The district presidency was released as the old District President is moving - which was super sad, because I have really grown to love him and his family during my time in Tokushima. But, it was neat to gather with all of the people that I have been working with her for the past six months...and to see the changes that have happened since the last District Conference in June. There have been a lot of baptisms, and in this conference some of the recent converts spoke. It was one of the most powerful things of my life and it made me so happy to be a missionary. That is one of the best things ever - seeing the changes that happen in peoples hearts. Because it is not just the changes in investigators, but it is changes that happen in members and recent converts and less actives and companions and everyone around us. Change is accelerated times a billion as a is really quite fun. But, I really loved the conference because I just really love these members in Tokushima with all of my heart and I love this island and I love Shikoku. And Shikoku is a super special place....seriously...I don't know what it is about Shikoku but every missionary that comes here feels it. Japan is special, but there is something different about Shikoku. It is a different feel than the rest of the country and I love it with all of my heart and I would like to stay here for the rest of my mission...but that is maybe not possible...kamoshirenai desu.

Tokushima at night.  I love this place!
SO! It was a good, full two weeks :) I love being a missionary. I LOVE the members here! I LOVE Tokushima. I LOVE Shikoku. I LOVE my companion. And I never want to leave :) 

Make it a great week!

Grundvig Shimai

WEIGL SHIMAI is in my zone! That was a hisashiburi reunion! I am sad we never got to be companions, but this is her last transfer which is the craziest thing ever. She is a super good missionary and she is way good at Japanese and she is such a cute person.