Monday, April 6, 2015

What I learned from "Cutting Vegetables"

Entitling this email: "What I learned from My Mission" seemed like an overwhelming subject, so I decided to start instead with a very small (very, very small) part of my mission that I learned a lot from. 

I have learned more than I even realize now from the things that I did Every. Single. Day. Of my mission - things that don't hit the spotlight when mission stories are told about the golden investigator that was found in a dark apartment building right before curfew, when we were about to give up and go home - and we saw the Lord work a miracle in the life of another human being. Granted, I learned a lot from experiences like that on my mission too. But, most of what I learned on my mission was things that I learned from my companions - people that I spent 24 hours a day with anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 1/2 months. 

Lesson Number 1: 
One of the most valuable lessons I learned I call "cutting vegetables." You may not realize that every person in the world seems to cut their vegetables differently. Everyone likes their vegetables in certain shapes and sizes, and everyone cuts their vegetables in a way that makes sense to them.
Maybe I started my mission out with a really weird way to cut vegetables. 
But, all of my companions seemed to have a new (and maybe better) way to cut vegetables, and they felt that it was vital that I learned this new way. At the beginning of my mission this left me very confused. "Why on earth does anyone else care about the way I cut my vegetables? Don't vegetables taste the same no matter what way they are cut?" Sometimes, I was even silly enough to get a little irritated after being told by a loving companion, who was probably just trying to help me NOT cut my fingers, yet another way to cut my vegetables.

And then transfers would happen, and I would learn yet another way to cut vegetables. 

So from this, I have learned some very valuable lessons.

1. Lots and lots of different ways to cut vegetables. And, also ways to cut vegetables where my fingers are safe from the blade of the knife. I wouldn't consider myself a vegetable cutting pro, but maybe I am getting pretty close. (I might still be on the slow end though when it comes to cutting vegetables). 

2. I learned that I might have maybeee had a pride problem if someone helping me cut my vegetables was bothering me at all. 

3. I learned how to listen. Small things like listening to a companion's new way to cut vegetables can actually help strengthen a companionship - plus, in the end I just benefit by learning a new way to cut vegetables. 

4. I learned how to not sweat the small stuff. At some point in my mission I became an old missionary. And I started having companions straight from America. Who had never really cut vegetables before, nor did they know how to cook. I will never forget one time asking my companion to cut some vegetables.  Then turning around after I had finished cooking most of the soup to see a very disfigured pile of vegetables on the table and her beaming face asking if she had cut them right. I looked at her pile of cabbage that was supposed to become a salad, and I looked back at her smiling face...and I smiled and said: "Ya, that is great!". And we ate the weirdest cabbage salad full of very large chunks of pretty hard cabbage that I have maybe ever eaten. (That companion is now quite brilliant at cooking.) The next time we cut cabbage I said: "Hey, lets do this together!" And we both learned how to cut cabbage. 
The point of this lesson - cutting cabbage is very, very tiny in the fabric of eternity. The salad might have been a little hard to chew, but ultimately it tasted the same, and my companion was oh so proud of her first cabbage salad. That joy meant a lot more than the fact that I never would have cut cabbage in the same way. Because, in reality, cabbage is the small stuff. 

5. I learned how to be wrong. I know this one also sounds really silly, but I really hate being wrong. And I really like being right. Even about the really small stuff. This is the pride in my heart. But, I had to face the fact that maybe the way I cut my vegetables was actually not the best - but, my companions might actually all be gourmet cookers and I had a great opportunity to learn how to cut vegetables from the best of the best. So, I learned how to be humble and let someone teach me how to not be right about cutting vegetables. 

Mostly, this is not about vegetables at all.

But the small lessons that I learned on my mission are the things that I have taken and applied to my companionship's in much bigger ways. Like, maybe when I ACTUALLY do something wrong, not just cut the carrots weird, and I needed to learn to stop and accept my mistakes. That is one way that I grew on my mission.

Lesson Number 2: 
Ichikawa Shimai and Grundvig Shimai

I learned this one largely from Ichikawa Shimai, because she is the one that actually voiced it. But, all of my companions were brilliant at this one also, it just took me a while to catch on.
Ichikawa Shimai always says: 

"It is easy to love your companions strengths, but it is loving their weaknesses too that make or break the companionship." 

I think that this might just be the key to any successful relationship throughout the history of the world. 

I have a million and one weaknesses, we all do, that is part of the reason that we are human beings. We have weak points so that we can rely on the Lord. But, my companions loved my weaknesses...they loved me despite my weaknesses and maybe the things that I did 24 hours a day that drove them crazy, and because they loved me, I grew. 
It is easy to love the things that people do perfectly and that they do well...but learning how to really love the things that are irritating is a completely different story. Learning to love the hard things about people can really only be done through the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Lesson Number 3:

What I learned from tissues.
In case you have never been to Japan, I will inform you that if you go during the winter you will probably receive a lot of tissues. Most likely these tissues will be packaged up in tiny little packs that are homemade out of cute fabric and prepared to be given on an occasion when a quick gift is needed. 
Japanese people love to give gifts. They love to show that they love people through little tiny things. I have received a lot of packages of tissue wrapped in home-made tissue covers on my mission. This lesson is actually entirely not about tissues, but is entirely about love.

On my mission, I learned how to love people. I mean, I REALLY learned how to love people. When I left on my mission I thought that I understood what it meant to love people. 
I had no clue. 

In my first area I thought that I knew how to love people. I had no clue. 

I really learned how to love in Tokushima. I attribute that mostly to Payne Shimai and Palmer Shimai. And when I figured out how to LOVE these people in Japan a lot of miracles started happening - not only in the lives of the people that I was teaching, but also for me.
Suddenly, I started learning the language much, much, muchhh faster. I started understanding the people. Missionary work became SO FULL OF JOY and I finally understood why this was the happiest work on earth. 

Love is the Motive. 

I will tell a story from this weekend that emphasizes the way to love. We started teaching a lady last transfer. She is amazing.  People had never really loved her before. She had a really hard life. She came to the church building one day after sacrament meeting. We were packing up and gave her a quick tour. At the end of the tour I gave her a hug and a smile and said that I hoped we could meet her again. The next day we received a call saying she wanted to be baptized. So we started teaching her the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I watched over the next few months as this lady changed. Her heart was completely transformed. She started to overcome the hard things that had happened in her life because of the atonement, and she felt loved for maybe the first time in a while. Her birthday was last week. The members made her a cake and gave her a few presents and she cried. I don't know if she had experienced anything like that before. This weekend I said goodbye to her. She walked up to me with one of the members, and then turned around and walked away, and then came back, gave me a hug and just said: "Arigatou." (Thank you). And then she started to cry. And I started to cry. I really love this woman. I love her because she is a daughter of God and He feels every pain she has felt in her life. He knows what she has experienced more than I do. And, I am so happy because now she knows the joy of the gospel. 

I grew from the love of these people. I grew from every single package of tissues that I received from them, because it was a symbol of their love. 
Slash, maybe I am coming home with a lot of tissues. 

I have a million more stories that I would like to write, but I can't because I have no time. 

Lesson Number 4: 

The Savior Lives.
He loves me.
He knows you.
He loves you.
He knew every single time I was out biking in the rain. He heard me testify about Him on the streets of Japan. He saw all of the lessons that I taught. He felt every "kekko desu" just as deeply as I did - even more. The Savior lives today. And, because of Him, anything is possible. Because of the Savior of the world we will all live again. We can all overcome anything that life might throw at us, and we can grow. We can change from who we once were to the person that the Savior knows that we can be. 

I like the words to one of my favorite hymns in the whole entire world:

Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

I felt that more than anything as I walked the streets of Japan. As I taught people about the Savior and as I testified of Him. 

D&C 76:22-24

Grundvig Shimai

Monday, March 30, 2015

Technological Trainwreck

I am writing this from an iPad.
I learned this week that I have forgotten how to use technology. So this is good practice. The Japan Kobe Mission is now one of 41 missions in the world using iPads and it is all still in the test mode. But, we aren't using the Internet to do dendou (teaching) for a little while - so that won't actually happen until I go home. However, I have really enjoyed using the iPads in lessons and I have discovered the magnitude of Gospel Library.

 This week was crazy busy because we were traveling a lot. On Monday, we left early in the morning to go to Kobe and spent preparation day in China town with Daniels Shimai and Crofts Shimai. Tuesday was MLC (Mission Leader Conference) in Kobe. It was the biggest technological train wreck of my life and we managed to crash the hombu and the Kobe church's wifi. It took all day to set up the iPads and MLC deteriorated into taking pictures on the hombu couch with Welch Shimai. It was the most not MLC feeling meeting of my life, but it was also quite a lot of fun. On Wednesday we traveled to Marugame to help distribute the iPads and help everyone set up their technology with all the missionaries on Shikoku. Then on Thursday we went on a koukan with the Matsuyama sisters, and so we spent very little time in our own area and had to cram a lot of lessons into not very many days.

This week one of the less actives we have been teaching returned to activity!
She has been coming to church for a while and working hard to regain her testimony, and received a calling yesterday!

We had a powerful lesson this week with one of the 15 year old girls we are teaching. We forgot everything we needed for the lesson, including the Restoration Video - so we taught the restoration simply and powerfully to this young girl. The spirit is always really simple and sweet when the restoration is taught. And this girl is very pure and believed the restoration as she heard it taught to her the first time.

(The restoration Video)

Niihama is so beautiful right now. I don't know how to send pictures from my camera using an iPad. But, the cherry blossoms have started to bloom!

Lastly, this week the "Because of him video" was released. We watched it with a family we are teaching. The three kids are less active, and the mom is preparing for her baptism. As we have been working with them they have started to come back to church - this Sunday the whole family came and it was wonderful! But, we watched  Because of Him Easter video and talked about the Savior and the spirit was so sweet.

The 11 year old son, after watching the video promised to help his mother as she prepared for baptism and to help get his family to church. He might be the coolest 11 year old I know.

The Savior lives! And because of Him, we will live again.
 And in Japanese:

Grundvig Shimai

Monday, March 23, 2015

Broken Bikes and Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree

I am currently in Kobe- Ichikawa Shimai and I traveled early to Kobe this week so that we could spend the preparation day in China Town with Daniels Shimai and Croft Shimai before MLC. I also brought the Mint Oreos that I received for Valentine’s Day to share with everyone - because I realized my taste buds have become very accustomed to Japanese sugar levels...not American sugar levels, and my tolerance for sugar has significantly decreased. (But, thank you for the Oreos mom :) )

Every week is amazing.
The cherry blossoms have started blossoming and I sing "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree" all of the time. It turns out that this song does not exist in the Japanese Primary Songbook, and so Ichikawa Shimai was very confused. I attempted to translate the lyrics, and realized yet again how little Japanese I actually know. But - she understands the basic idea of it now (I think).

Elder Nelson came to our mission this week. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE HEARING AN APOSTLE OF THE LORD SPEAK. It was perfect timing, because I received a lot of much needed direction for my life. It was also really neat to see the entire Japan Kobe Mission gather together.

We had a lot of miracles that happened this week, largely not according to the plans that we set...but that just shows how much Heavenly Father is in charge of our days and how we do about zero of the actual work, but are simply tools in the Lord's hand.

One story from this week illustrates this principle really well.

On Saturday we had a day planned full of lessons. We arrived to the first lesson on time. It went smoothly. We left our appointment and stopped at a conbini to go to the bathroom. It was windy. Outside of the conbini our bikes toppled over, and Ichikawa Shimai's bike got stuck to my bike and tore the cord that connects my gear shifter thing to the gears. However, because the wire is covered by a plastic coat - I didn't notice.

We went to our next appointment. The investigator had forgotten and wasn't home.

So we went to our next appointment, At the top of a mountain. I was going up the mountain - when my leg muscles were really tired of being in the top gear....when I discovered my gears would not shift down. So I gamon-ed for a while, and then called out to Ichikawa Shimai asking if we could stop and look at my gears. We couldn't fix it, so a grandpa stopped to help us. He couldn't fix it either and mostly just pulled on parts of my bike for a while. So, we continued up the mountain in a very painful gear.

And then our investigator wasn't home.

So, we asked her neighbor if she knew of any close bike shops. She said that there weren't any - but that her son did own a bike shop. She called her son and set up an appointment for us. The bike shop was in a really weird place that neither of us had ever been or would probably have ever thought of going. The lady also was really nice and said we could visit again.

So then we biked to the bike shop. We met her son. He was really nice. While he was fixing my bike (it turned out the wire had rusted inside the plastic coat and when it fell, it snapped), we went housing around the area.

And we housed an apartment complex that we would never have housed if we hadn't been stuck at an abandoned bike shop area. And we met a family. The mom has two children, no husband - and time to learn about the gospel. We talked with them for a while, taught a lesson about the Plan of Salvation- and set up another appointment. It was one of the weirdest experiences because the whole contact she acted like she had no interest - and then out of the blue started saying yes. And wanted us to come back. That is the power of the spirit.

Ichikawa Shimai and I pray every day - many, many times that we can find the people (who in Ichikawa Shimai's adorable English words) "People who are having a problem and need the message of the restored gospel." This week was a fulfillment of that prayer over and over and over again.
Plus, my bike was fixed - and he didn't even charge us tax.

We also started teaching an amazing 13 year old girl who is adorable and wants to know how to be kind to people and not gossip in middle school.

One of our other investigators is working to stop smoking.

Another one is attempting to help her family find the joy in the gospel, prepare for her baptism and strengthen her less active kids. Her daughter came to church this week and testified about how she wants to come to church from here on out because there has been something missing in her life.

One older lady we are teaching committed to be obedient to all of God's commandments.

Another 14 year old girl said a heartfelt prayer, started relying on the Lord and felt the spirit's influence for the first time. Also - ever since meeting with us her test scores have sky rocketed and she is feeling the power of the gospel.

I wish that I could write about everything that is happening, and how much the Lord is guiding His work. But, I don't have time.
The Lord works through miracles.
And sometimes, He performs those miracles through us.

Have a great week! And preform a miracle for the Lord - He uses us if we let Him :)

Grundvig Shimai

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Return to Bizan!

It was a beautiful week in Niihama. On Monday it rained A LOT and Ichikawa Shimai and I both got really wet, but we also got to eat Okonomiyaki at a members house, so it made the wet worth it.

We had a lesson this week with one of the families that we are teaching. It was just the 14 year old daughter and the mom this week, but the mom asked us SO MANY QUESTIONS. It was probably one of the most fun lessons of my mission because we explained prayer and the importance of true conversation with our Heavenly Father. The mom had so much interest that she fired question after question at us about receiving answers, as well as wanting to hear all about our own experiences. I don't know if I have ever left a lesson with an investigator who was more excited to pray. We testified of the spirit's influence and there was a sweet spirit of truth in the room with the two of them. The daughter has been praying for maybe two weeks now (we taught the daughter prayer first) and she said a beautiful prayer to end the lesson. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about helping investigators to have their own experiences through prayer and how important it is to help people understand why the gospel has personal meaning to them. This can really only be accomplished by discovering the questions that they carry in their hearts and teaching them to find the answers to their questions by themselves, through the gospel. Finding answers themselves requires that they know how to pray and use the Scriptures. These seem like really simple things to missionaries, but I think that when investigators don't understand them, then that is where they fall.

After that lesson we had 30 minutes, so we decided to go house around their neighborhood because Ichikawa Shimai had felt prompted that we should. So we did. We knocked on three houses and taught another lesson to a 14 year old girl, who we are going back and meeting with again next week. Recently we have been finding so many people prepared for the gospel that my testimony of the Lord preparing people has just been skyrocketing.

On Friday to Saturday we went back to Tokushima for a companion exchange! It was wonderful. I can't write how amazing it was, but I was able to meet with a lot of my old investigators and I had some of the most powerful lessons of my mission with them I think. I was with a second transfer missionary, Sister Buckner, who is amazing and had one of the most amazing stories about how she ended up being able to come to serve her mission in Japan. We went finding together at a park in Tokushima and met a family who had a lot of interest in the gospel. She bore a rock solid testimony (I was really blown away by her Japanese even though she is only a second transfer) and the family was excited to meet again. One of the hardest things for new missionaries is learning how to talk to people - even when it is super awkward - like jumping off your bike to stop someone, or walking up to someone that looks busy in a park, but by the end of the exchange her confidence had grown a lot and she was feeling a lot less nervous about stopping people. It was neat to see that growth in only a few hours. We also talked a lot about the power of just saying hello and helping people to smile. Although helping people smile is a really small thing, it is one of my favorite parts of missionary work I think.

Friday night was game night and I loved seeing a lot of the members <3. On Saturday morning Nakamura Kyoudai wanted us to all go climb bizan together because he thought that it was necessary to return to the mountain where we had met during the summer. It was a really foggy day, so the sunrise was not really visible - but it was so wonderful to go back to that mountain because I never thought I would be at the top of it again! We didn't have hiking clothes we drove to the top which was a little weak...but it was still really fun. We almost missed our bus, but through some brilliance of Nakamura Kyoudai and the members and two investigators we made it on time and returned our rental bikes. Small miracles.

Niihama continues to be amazing. This week Elder Nelson is coming to the mission and so Ichikawa Shimai and I are staying at the mission president's home in Kobe on Thursday night. We will also be receiving training for the iPads...which it looks like will be coming a week or so before I return to America hahaha. So....maybe I will have no iPad, but, it will still be really amazing to meet Elder Nelson.

Grundvig Shimai

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Charity is a Journey

I think every week is just increasingly becoming the busiest week of my entire life.
I maybe spent three nights in my own futon this week, and the rest of the week I spent in three different areas.

On Monday we traveled to Kobe for MLC (Mission Leadership Council). And I met Daniels Shimai, Mackenzie Shimai, Croft Shimai, Stevenson Shimai and Ichikawa Shimai <3 who are all some of my favorite people in the entire world. It made my heart so happy. It was also Stevenson Shimai's birthday, and Daniels Shimai made cake, and so we all ate chocolate cake. MLC was amazing and I received so much revelation and I always learn so much from Welch Kaicho and the Assistants. Daniels Shimai bore her "final testimony" and I cried. (I am lucky and I am bearing mine at the next MLC). We talked a lot about prayer at Mission Leadership Council and everyone had so many inspired comments that I wish I had time to write, but one of my favorites was from one of the elders who talked about how prayer is a way to prepare us for judgement. I had never really thought about prayer that way, but it makes sense because it is through prayer that we develop a relationship with our Heavenly Father. As we pray sincerely, when Judgement day comes we will meet our Heavenly Father and find that we already know Him. 

MTC district (see back here. and here ) picture at MLC
We arrived home late Tuesday night. On Wednesday we ate sushi with one of our investigators and her boyfriend. She is amazing and it has been incredible to see the change in her countenance over the past few weeks since she started investigating the church. She has become so much lighter and happier, it brings me so much joy. Her and her boyfriend are working towards a temple marriage and it makes my heart so happy. Plus, the sushi was delicious.
Croft Shimai and Grundvig Shimai's run up the mountain at MLC
A lot of other really amazing lessons happened that I don't have time to write about. BUT. On Friday I went on a Koukan with the Imabari Sisters, and we did a lot of housing in the rain. And we met so many amazing people. We met this 12 year old girl and taught her how to pray, and it was one of the moments as a missionary where you don't really know what you are doing but the spirit takes over - and you can tell that the person listening to you has no idea why they are listening to you, because you aren't fully making sense...but for some reason they can't quite close the door. It is those moments when I can just feel happiness radiating from my face and I love missionary work more than anything.

On the same koukan, Ichikawa Shimai was here in Niihama and I MISSED THIS LESSON - but, they had an amazing lesson with one of the families we are teaching. The mom cooked okonomiyaki for us because she knew it was my favorite and I felt so bad that I wasn't there (we forgot to tell her I wouldn't be there...) but, in this lesson the mom told Ichikawa Shimai that she hates religion and never wanted to listen, but then she saw the sister missionaries and thought to herself: "Why are they so happy?" So she came to our English class. And now her whole family is investigating the church. Her heart has softened so much, and she even told us if her children want to join the church, she would be OK with that. It made my heart very happy again when Ichikawa Shimai told me about that lesson.

Then, this weekend we spent a lot of time with Welch Kaicho (see here, scroll down to bottom to see Welch Kaicho) because of district conference. He is an amazing mission president and the conference was so fulfilling. I also had my final interview, and that made me realize that there is no "Transfer 13" for American Missionaries.

So. it was a very eventful week, spent mostly in Kobe, Matsuyama, Imabari and a tiny bit in Niihama. But I realized driving back from Matsuyama to Niihama on Sunday how much I love this area with all of my heart. I have been praying to love it ever since I got here and I can feel that love just overcoming my heart now. Like it says in Moroni 7:46-48: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ...." Maybe Charity has been the biggest journey of my mission. Ichikawa Shimai always says: "The key to companionship is to love their weaknesses." But, that is a lot easier said than done. We can't do that on our own, only through our Heavenly Father can we be filled with His love. His love is "bestowed upon us." It has come gradually, but I think I finally understand the look that my MTC teacher had in his eyes when we all asked him as eager MTC Missionaries: "What was your favorite part of Japan?" And he said really quietly: "The people." I saw that and I had heard people say it a million times, but I thought to myself: "I want to be able to say it LIKE THAT. Because he REALLY means it."

Anyway, Charity is a journey. And, it is a really joyful one.
Grundvig Shimai

The Tokushima socks I always wanted

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Closing the Umbrella

I read in the Liahona this week a short quote from President Uchtdorf about how we often get ourselves confused about why we have commandments. He talked about how we sometimes think of commandments as "If we do this, THEN God will bless us." Whereas in reality, God is always showering blessings down upon us and commandments are the way that we "remove the umbrella that blocks the shower of blessings." Meaning that when we keep the commandments we are putting ourselves in the right places and circumstances that we can receive the blessings that Heavenly Father so wants to give us. I learned a lot about that this week.

Heavenly Father is really showering blessings upon us in Niihama right now. It is making my heart really, really full of gratitude. There are a lot of very good things happening in Niihama right now, and a lot of them are just barely beginning, the seeds are just barely being planted, and the fruits will come in the months after I leave Japan. I thought about that a little bit this week, and it was making me feel a little bit sad to think about not being here in late April, May and June. But then I received some very necessary revelation that I think is probably really important for all of life. Last night Ichikawa Shimai and I were biking down out of the mountains in Niihama after an amazing lesson, the sun had just set and we were going by rivers and run down Japanese buildings that are classic to Inaka Shikoku, and my heart just sort of overfilled with gratitude for the amazing week that we had had and for the thousands of blessings that I have received on my mission and for just how AMAZING my mission has been. In my prayer of gratitude, my thoughts turned a little bit to: "But, why is it going to end? Especially at this point in Niihama, where everything is just turning into beautiful potential?" And a very clear and distinct thought came to me: "Be grateful for all that you have been given, and use what you have with the most efficiency that you can - and miracles will happen." It was an amazing revelatory bike ride and I learned a lot, but I think perhaps what I pulled from that was 1) how much the Lord has His hand in all things, how He knows what is good for us and how His plan is better for us than ours ever could be - so just trust Him. and 2) To just use all my time as wisely as possible and then, although I may still want to be here to see some of the wonderful events occurring in the next few months, it doesn't really matter all that much whether or not I am in the area- because the joy will be the same. For me, closing the umbrella meant to just put everything into the now and not so much think about the future, because the Lord's plan is a whole lot bigger than mine.

On another note, this week was probably one of the most amazing weeks of my entire mission. I owe that largely to Ichikawa Shimai. We sat down at the beginning of the week and set some really, really, really high good goals. Or at least I thought they were high until Ichikawa Shimai shared some of her vision with me and then the goals got even higher. Some of the details of "helping these big visions to occur" meant that we had to change some of our little every day actions. We started with our prayers. And when our prayers changed, everything...EVERYTHING changed. Ichikawa Shimai changed her prayers first to make them deeper and more heartfelt, and then we talked about that and changed our companionship prayers and I changed mine too. I don't really know how to explain how everything has changed, but I think it is mostly that we just feel the Lord guiding us a whole lot.

To illustrate why, I will share what happened on Saturday:
We had planned out a very effective day full of visiting lots of investigators and less actives and we had all of these brilliant plans, largely hanging on how long the morning "You worked hard!" party went. (An Elder who served in Niihama came back because he had finished his mission this week - he was also born in Niihama so there was just a lot of really amazing ties in there) but, he came back to visit the ward and it took longer than we planned and the whole day turned into a crazy fast biking adventure to get to the appointments we had. And, we missed a lot of them. (The morning party thing though was amazing and worth every bit of time that it took because it was so unbelievably powerful). BUT, despite the craziness of the day we were really, really led by the spirit. The last appointment we ended up having of the day we had originally planned for 3 pm. We were running very behind and we made it to the appointment at about 5. But, at the time that we made it to the appointment the mom was outside with her baby and her husband just happened to pull up at the exact same time that we did. He was excited to meet us as he had not yet (they are actually our neighbors and we had been working to set up an appointment with the mom for a while), apparently she had been telling her husband about us (we brought her cake one time and she loved it), and the timing just worked out so perfectly that they invited us in and we taught a lesson and the whole family became investigators. And I love them SO MUCH. Seriously, this young family is adorable. Afterwards we said gratitude filled prayer and I had such a strong confirmation that the Lord is really the one guiding our plans everyday, and just guiding everything and that I am a really tiny piece of this whole work.

In other news, I literally closed the umbrella on Sunday and I forgot my raincoat. It poured rain a lot and I got very wet, and there is nothing quite like biking through mountains in a skirt on rainy days. I think those might be some of the most treasured memories of my mission.
Also some of the cherry blossoms have started popping out early in Niihama, because, it is Ehime Ken.

The church is true.
I love being a missionary :)
Grundvig Shimai

Ichikawa Shimai and Grundvig Shimai in Niihama

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Power of Prayer

It was a beautiful week in Niihama!

First of all, I received my last transfer call of my mission and Ichikawa Shimai and I are both staying in Niihama! I AM SO HAPPY. I am probably one of the luckiest people in the entire world to have a Japanese companion for my last transfer, and especially because that Japanese companion is Ichikawa Shimai and she is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. The sad news is that Chapman Shimai is transferring from Tokushima :( and so I will not be able to go on koukan with her.

Something that I have been thinking about a lot this week is the power of prayer. Recently, Ichikawa Shimai and I have been teaching about prayer a lot and hearing a lot of first prayers. One of the things that I love most about my mission, and particularly about serving a mission in Japan is hearing people pray for the very first time. Most Japanese people have never looked at prayer the way that I look at prayer - as a conversation full of gratitude and my own thoughts and then onegais for the things that I need help with as well. Particularly the idea of giving gratitude through prayer is really mind blowing for a lot of my investigators. This week we taught one family about prayer, and the 7 year old daughter prayed the sweetest little prayer I have ever heard - full of gratitude that her family met us and that we are teaching them. It melted me heart. Another lady we are teaching - the girlfriend of one of the members in Niihama, who has had one of the hardest lives of anyone I have ever met - prayed her first prayer and it was so sweet! She was really nervous, but had the same sort of gratitude filled prayer and there was a strong spirit of peace in the room.

This week was full of so many wonderful moments that I wish I had more time to record...but I ate a lot of udon, hiked a mountain in Niihama, bought a very Japanese poi skirt that cost less than a dollar, biked a lot of different places, memorized the area as much as I could in-case Ichikawa Shimai transferred (luckily I dodged that bullet...), taught some powerful lessons and felt the Lord guiding His work!

We have been focusing on working with the members in Niihama and my love for them has grown so much this transfer. I think that is one of my favorite parts of working with the members, as I learn about them I just love them more and I also learn more about Japan and the culture and my heart just expands a whole lot. But, the branch president's wife teaches a class in her home (an after school cram class) and every week we volunteer in her class. The kids are hilarious and it has been way fun to teach them English. But, this week she asked us to spend the first hour of the class just teaching them about missionary work and what we do. We explained who we are and told them about our backgrounds, and then showed them our  profiles, and then after that showed them some of the Japanese members Japanese  videos. It was a super success and the branch president's wife was so grateful. As a result, most of the class members are planning to go to youth conference and they came to the church hiking activity this weekend. They are all 13 and they remind me of Japanese versions of Ethan.

Love you all!
Love Grundvig Shimai

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Valentine's Day in Japan!!!


Also, I only spent about 2 1/2 days in my area...but THIS WEEK we are not going on any companion exchanges because we have finished all of our koukans and so we only have to leave Niihama once. And so maybe I am super selfish, but I am really, really, really excited for a week of normal missionary work.

So, some highlights of the week.

1. I KOUKANED IN TOKUSHIMA WITH HIATT SHIMAI!!! Hiatt Shimai is an amazing sister and she came with me to Japan. We actually sat next to each other on the plane. Also, because she did half of Mills Shimai's training and half of Chapman Shimai's training and I did the other halfs of their training it was so much fun to talk with her. She and Chapman Shimai are working miracles in Tokushima. It was really neat to see the growth in Chapman Shimai's English and Japanese, and I think part of that is due to Hiatt Shimai's amazing humility. I learned a lot from her example of just quietly relying on the Lord.

Also, the koukan was a little bit crazy. I was able to teach some of my old investigators and it just filled my heart with joy. I loved biking those streets and seeing the beautiful Tokushima rivers.  I love those rivers with all of my whole heart.

Our path was also super directed by the Lord and we just happened to run into tons of people on the streets that I had met during my time in Tokushima. One of them was a 16 year old girl and her twin sister that Payne Shimai and I had met and written notes to. This girl saw me and got really excited, she pulled out a note that she had written to me and told me that she had been carrying it around in case she ever ran into me again. And, she may become an investigator soon!

At the end of the koukan we had a miraculous experience with public transportation that I wish I had more time to write about...but we may or may not have ended up at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere with no idea how to get to the train station at 9:30 at night....and then miraculously we met a kind lady who drove us to a train station. And we arrived in time to catch the very last train that we possibly could have caught. The story is a lot more elaborate than that, but, in the Lady's car we explained what we do as missionaries and gave a brief lesson and delivered a pamphlet :) And now I am praying for that kind lady.

It basically suffices to say that I am not super great at figuring out transportation for these 
koukans...but it all worked out OK in the end.

2. On Valentines day we went to a baptism in Tokushima! It made me SOO happy to see all of those people that I love. Also, the baptismal service was amazing and we sang "Midaso My Friend" which is a song that I love. The spirit was beautiful and it was really wonderful to hear Makiko's testimony of the gospel and see how happy she is. I think one of the best things was teaching her...and then leaving..and then coming back to see her baptism because I could very clearly see how much she had grown.

Also, I was able to see Nathalie and Nakamura Kyoudai who have also grown since their baptisms and they are doing SO WELL. I am so proud of them.
The same day there was a wedding in Tokushima and the Branch President was really excited to tell me about it. I love that family. 

3. We received a call from one of the young single adults in the ward on Monday saying that his girlfriend wants to be baptized and would we please teach her?

Yes. We can do that.

So we started teaching her this week.

4. We are working really hard to strengthen our relationship with the ward and my love for Niihama is growing and I love these people so much. And great things are happening...but I don't have time to write about it, but one day I will show you all my pictures and explain the stories and it will be a wonderful time.

Elder Aoyogi
5. Elder Aoyogi from the Presidency of the 70, in the Japan Area, came and gave a mission tour. Also, I was super lucky and I was able to have an interview with him!!! It was in Japanese and so I was really nervous, but he also speaks fluent English and so when my Japanese got all confused I could speak English :) I learned a lot from his incredible inspired words. Particularly about following the spirit - and relying on the Lord. I think sometimes I rely on my own power too much, and so I was reminded that I need to be humble because it is really only the spirit that can teach and invite, but not me.

So...among these five tiny things, lots of other fun, hard, crazy, learning experiences happened this week and I wish that I could just dump my brain onto this page...but these emails don't work like that.

Grundvig Shimai!

Slash fun Japanese culture tip - in Japan on Valentines Day only the girls give the boys chocolate and so people kept asking "did you give anyone chocolate?" and I just thought it was really funny......because of culture differences.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Costco Pizza and Sushi and also Earthquakes

This week was the busiest week of my entire life and I am just exhausted all the time but I love it!! Apparently, when you are a missionary in Niihama...sometimes there are weeks when we just don't really spend a whole lot of time in Niihama. Also, travel on Shikoku is expensive I am learning.

With Stevenson Shimai and Daniels Shimai
On Monday night we took a bus to Kobe for MLC (Mission Leader Conference) and I got to stay with the Kobe Sisters! Which meant that we had basically a giant sleepover with Daniels Shimai (see post here)and Stevenson Shimai who are two of my favorite people ever. It was SO GREAT to talk with Daniels Shimai. We talked for soooo long and it was neat to hear about her mission and everything that had happened and to get a quick lowdown of every transfer and hear about everything that we just don't have time to write in the emails home every week. I love her so much and she is such a good missionary and such a kind person and an amazing companion and also performs miracles because she has solid faith and charity. Also, I love hearing her speak Japanese because she sounds like a Japanese person.

MLC was mind blowing and even though I was a little bit sick it was such a spiritually uplifting meeting and I learned so much from President Welch...And also this couple that came to do some training on stress from Tokyo. We talked a lot about working with members and I received lots of new amazing ideas that Ichikawa Shimai and I are really excited to implement in Niihama. Also, they fed us Pizza from Costco which was amazing because Pizza from Costco is pure American pizza...which means it does not have corn or mayonnaise or potato or other strange things on it.  The bus rides from Kobe to Sannomiya to Niihama are really we didn't get home until about
Eating a long roll of sushi, a certain direction
10:30 on Tuesday night, but we enjoyed eating sushi on the bus because it was a Japanese holiday where you eat a long roll of sushi facing a certain was difficult to face the right direction because we were on a bus, but we did our best and figured we were probably facing the right direction at some point along the way. Ichikawa Shimai teaches me lots of amazing Japanese traditions and I love it. Also she teaches me funny Japanese words.

On Thursday we had this super powerful amazing lesson with one of our investigators...who has been progressing really slowly, but she set a baptismal date! It was a really neat lesson! We brought a powerful doseki (member) with us who used to be Shinto and they shared their conversion story, and then afterwards our investigator said that she wanted to get baptized in the spring. Also, her husband`s heart is softening a lot (he is also an investigator but has not really been progressing at all) but now his interest is spiking up. Thursday night we took the train to Takamatsu and it was SO FUN to be back in my old zone. I was super, super, super excited. Maybe like a small child on Christmas. We went on a koukan with the Takamatsu Shimai and helped to teach ZTM with the Takamatsu Zone Leaders. Even though I have only been gone for one transfer every single missionary transferred out - EXCEPT for all of the Tokushima missionaries. So, it was a lot of fun to see all of them. After the meeting, they updated me on everything and in two months there have been funerals, weddings and new babies born and some old investigators came back and they are working with tons of less actives and it was the most fun thing ever to hear about it! Also, next week I will get to koukan (train) in Tokushima and so I am super excited about that. During ZTM there was a small earthquake and so it was really funny to hear sirens start going off and then all of the missionaries drop under the table. The earthquake went by really quickly and then Chapman Shimai jumped up from under the table and did a little dance shouting "IT IS MY FIRST TIME!" She is hilarious and me and her companion just burst out laughing. Also, her Japanese has become amazing as well. She said the opening prayer, after which I was basically radiating joy and all of the Tokushima Elders laughed at me because they have all been able to see her growth since she first arrived in the mission until now, and so they really enjoyed my excitement.

My koukan in Takamatsu was sooo fun! I was with a 6th transfer missionary from Hawaii! She was super fun and we got a long really well, really quickly, so we were able to have a lot of fun conversations. I think that has been one of the best things about koukaning (training) is just learning lots about lots of different sisters and making lots of new friends. She is a really solid missionary and really loves the Japanese people and they are preforming miracles in Takamatsu. I was super impressed by her hard work and ability to do missionary work and find her way around Takamatsu even though she has only been there three weeks, because my direction skills are not up to par there.

Saturday and Sunday were also really fun in Niihama! We had some of my favorite lessons ever since coming here. We recently started teaching a family who has been coming to English Class and they are the cutest family. I think their brains about exploded when we told them that we believe that God has a body of flesh and bones and that He created us. The mom was like "WHAT? No WAY? Really?!?! I have NEVER heard ANYTHING like that before!!!" And so that was fun. Also they gave us chocolate. Then it snowed and we were really, really cold. 

Sorry, I feel like these emails are becoming long lists of things that I did during the week and I will try to make them better, but there are just so many things that I want to dump onto these papers to tell all of you about and there is just not enough time to make it creative....
but I love you and Niihama is wonderful and Ichikawa Shimai is the BEST! I want to write an entire email all about her, because she is the most humble and kind person ever I think.

Grundvig Shimai

Still myself!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Happy Groundhog Day!

With the mountains in Niihama, SO Beautiful!
Happy February! I think that today is Ground hog day? But I am not actually sure if I am remembering the date on that one correctly. 

I am currently incredibly hungry, and so this might be a really quick email because I really want to eat something. There is this really delicious takoyaki stand (Octopus Pancake Ball? How on earth does one translate takoyaki into English I do not know) by the eki and so we are going to go eat it. But, takoyaki is octopus fried in batter and it is one of my favorite Japanese foods ever. When Chapman Shimai (see post ) and I ate it she thought it was super weird and kept saying: "Do you not think of the many legs?" And it was absolutely hilarious. Takoyaki is delicious and I highly recommend it to anyone who will be vacationing in Japan soon. 

This week was really cold here. It snowed in Ehime Ken! Which is really rare. Ichikawa Shimai and I did a major evaluation of our teaching pool - because we had so many people we were teaching, but not a lot that were actually progressing - and as a result of that a lot of progression happened in Niihama this week! 

On Wednesday we went to Matsuyama for Interviews with Welch Kaichou. And interviews were amazing. I realized as I was preparing for the interview and figuring out questions to ask that I have grown a lot from my first interview, and maybe I might be a little bit more humble. My first interview I really struggled with coming up with questions to ask, and this interview... I had to narrow down my list. Why? I certainly know a lot more about missionary work now then I did when I was a month into my mission...but I think I have realized that the ability to say 'I don't know, but I want to' is a whole lot more important than knowing all the answers. Because, the reality is, I mostly don't know any of the answers, but the Lord does know them all - and also mission presidents give really good answers too. 

On Friday we had district meeting and companion exchanges. I kokaned (taught with another missionary, while my companion taught with that missionary's companion) with a 5th transfer missionary named Furusawa Shimai. She is from Sendai, Japan and she is training a new missionary this transfer! It was SO MUCH FUN! Furusawa Shimai is hilarious and she had so many good questions, that mostly I didn't know the answers too, but we learned the answers together and so then we both just learned a lot from the kokan. Also, we ate a lot of curry because we bought curry for lunch and then that night a member invited us over to their house for dinner and they fed us curry too. And also these weird radish-y pickle-y things that were not made correctly according to Furusawa Shimai and so they were a really strange texture and we struggled to eat them, but we laughed a lot at each others attempts to eat them afterwards. The kokan was powerful and miraculous and the whole day was guided by the Lord. One thing I was nervous about when I became a Sister Training Leader was that whenever the Sister Training Leaders would come on Koukans with me... I would always expect something amazing to happen. And, I know that I can definitely not preform anything amazing - but I knew that the sisters that I kokaned with might have that same expectation. What I have learned is that amazing things happen because the Lord wants them to happen, and that as we have faith we will see those miracles. Kokan-ing in Imabari was a lot of fun and we saw how the Lord will use us as tools in His hands. At the very end of the kokan we had a really powerful contact with a man who we housed. As soon as he opened the door it started to rain on us. He seemed really confused about the sudden rain, and we simply explained who we were and what we do. After which there was a really longgggg period of silence where no one said anything. Usually, I think I would jump in and fill that silence, but I felt like I shouldn't, so I didn't. And finally he asked us: "But....why? Why are you out here doing this?" And we started teaching him the message of the Restoration, because that is what missionaries do and we bore testimony and I think Furusawa Shimai was maybe glowing and he invited the missionaries to come back and teach his family. 

On Saturday we had a super crazy busy day and we were biking all over Niihama. For whatever reason, Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days ever in Niihama, which I love, but it is funny because all of my other areas those have kind of been the dead days. But, here they are super busy! And we were able to teach a high school girl who has been reading her Book of Mormon and praying and progressing really well and I love her a lot :) 

Ichikawa Shimai and her fish (see desk)
The funny moment of the week was when Ichikawa Shimai started eating dried fish, that had eyes still in them, like they were potato chips. She didn't understand why I thought eating a bag of dried fish that still had eyes was strange. But, I promised her I would try them eventually because she says they are very delicious. 

Love you all!
Grundvig Shiami

p.s. We also ate delicious sushi this week and I love sushi.  Ichikawa Shimai and I have the same favorite sushis and so I think our companionship match was maybe made in heaven. That is all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mikan Cake :)

It has been quite the week in Niihama. We are busy ALL THE TIME here. And so it is a lot of fun, but time goes by really quickly. Plus, because it is really, really Inaka (country) and everything is far apart we are also spending lots of time biking which also sucks up time way quicker than I think it will. 
The Niihama ward members Heart Attacked us!

I was able to meet most of the investigators in Niihama this week. They are all really interesting people, and understanding most of their Japanese is really difficult and so every day I am learning lots and lots and lotsssss of new vocabulary words because a many of the things our investigators talk about does not fit into my current vocabulary range. Luckily, Ichikawa Shimai understands Japanese and so she can answer some of the questions we have been hearing. I am also learning a lot about loving people with not my own love, but with the Lord's love because this area is just really difficult to explain in words, but these people are not like anyone that I have met before! They are all really loving and kind people, and the members here are amazing and probably some of the most accepting people I have ever met. Which I think has some very strong correlation to why the branch in Niihama has been growing so much in the past year. 

Cute Mikan Cake
We spend a decent amount of our time teaching recent converts because there are a lot in this ward. It has been really fun to get to know them and hear their testimonies and their conversion stories. One of them makes us little cakes every time we visit her and it is the sweetest thing ever. This week the cake looked like the Mikan Character because Mikans are yume in Ehime Ken. It was super cute. 

I also went on my first koukan (worked with another sister missionary for the day) this week! I was a little bit nervous, but it ended up being a lot of fun! The sister I koukan-ed with is from Canada and she speaks both French and English. She was actually in the same stake as the elder from my MTC district who is from Canada. It was really fun to be with a first transfer for a day because it was like training again! It also made me realize that I am kind of an old missionary because she had lots of really good questions about what it was like to be an 11th transfer. It was all very interesting because I feel like my heart is still a first transfer. 

Our koukan started by me getting us dreadfully lost for about an hour just trying to find our apartment from the eki. I was kind of embarrassed. But we talked to a lot of people along the way, and we found two people who might meet with us later this week. They also helped us locate our apartment complex. It started getting dark outside while we were looking for the apartment, and eventually we said a prayer that we could find it. After praying I looked up and realized that the apartment was right across a rice field right in front of us and that I had basically been leading us in circles for an hour. So that was good. After coming home we went out housing for about an hour and we found three people who invited us to go back. It was a really fun experience and the faith of first transfers always brings miracles :) Also, we ate pizza together which is always a lot of fun. 

Ichikawa Shimai and Grundvig Shimai in Niihama
Yesterday we had a super miraculous day. We didn't have any time to eat food, but we were able to meet with a TON of people. Also, we met with a girl who is a recent convert but has gone less active and didn't really seem to want to talk with missionaries. But, we talked with her and then built a relationship with her and she ended up letting us into her house and we had a really powerful lesson and she opened up to us a lot and I think she will start coming back to church. It is so fun teaching with Ichikawa Shimai because she is an AMAZING teacher and listener and really understands the hearts of the people that we are teaching. She seriously was guided throughout the entire lesson and it was just a lot of fun. Also, yesterday we had a terrifying experience where a crazy man came up to us on the street and kept grabbing our arms, and he wasn't really speaking he was just sort of...frothing. And we were both really terrified. But then - in Niihama where there is never anyone on the streets - out of nowhere this huge group of boys all showed up and noticed that something interesting was happening and so they all stopped to see if we needed help, and then at the same time a member drove by and stopped because they also noticed that we might need help. So, the Lord really does protect his missionaries. 

I hope that you all had a great week!
I wish that I could more accurately describe the events of every day and missionary life and everything that we do....but here is just a tiny snippet of everything.

Grundvig Shimai 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I am safe and I have arrived back to Shikoku!!! 
It was a crazy week and it is almost like my transfer in Ibaraki was a dream because I left so quickly and I just popped back to Shikoku. It was so fun being able to call Hiatt Shimai and Chapman Shimai on the phone and talk to Chapman Shimai. Apparently they have been really sick, but Chapman Shimai told me that she prayed me back to Shikoku. I love her so much she is just so hilarious. Also - fun thing - I got to hear about all of the investigators and they are doing well and those wonderful college students are preparing for their baptisms! I was super full of joy to hear that. 

It was very sad to leave Ibaraki! We had some amazing lessons the last week. We had some investigators who contacted us out of the blue and started meeting with us again and are progressing super well.  I think the next few months are going to result in a whole lot of success in Ibaraki. We also started teaching this amazing girl who is golden and so that was a little bit heartbreaking to leave so quickly...but it is the Lord's will and so I am here and happy :) I think one of the highlights was a lesson we taught to a lady who was a former investigator, me and Mills Shimai started teaching on Christmas Eve. We stopped by and visited and taught her a lesson.  She told us that she had been praying ever since we had taught her prayer and that she had felt something she had never felt before. It was a powerful experience. We gave her a Book of Mormon with our testimonies and extended the invitation to read, and so I am excited to see where that goes for her. 
With Daniel's Shimai, see post from August 10, 2013

This week was crazy busy getting ready to leave Osaka - but I got to spend transfer day in Kobe and dendou with Daniels Shimai!! It was definitely all through the Lord's hand and I was super happy. Ichikawa Shimai (my new companion) was in Tokyo for the day because of some stuff that happened with her college and so she had to leave for an interview (it sounded really taihen). So I was in a trio with Daniels Shimai and Croft Shimai for the day! It was so much fun to dendou with Daniels Shimai, and she is such a good missionary! I just love her and I wish I could have talked to her forever, but it was fun to talk to people on the streets together and hear her speak Japanese because 12 months ago, or whatever, we couldn't really speak this language at all. Also, we taught a lesson to this lady from Pakistan and it was way cool, she was super sweet and plus... it was just fun to teach with Daniels Shimai. 

With my new companion...Ichikawa Shimai
Niihama is AMAZING! I love it here! It is by far my most Inaka area. OH MY GOODNESS IT IS SO INAKA (out in the country, countryside). There is absolutely NO ONE on the streets and the stores are all really far apart and it is so quiet all of the time, but it has a magically fresh feeling. There is something special about Shikoku and so I love it with all of my heart. The members here are amazing, I can't really explain them in words, but they are just special. And Ichikawa Shimai...OH MY GOSH I LOVE HER TOO! She is so sweet, probably one of the most Christlike people I have ever met and she is so humble. I have learned a lot from her in just three days. She is a really thoughtful person and so kind to me. Plus, she is Japanese and so she helps my Japanese a lot. She is basically fluent in English and she wants to learn more English, so we switch off every other day speaking Japanese and English. Today is a Japanese day :) We have a lot of things in common and so it is really easy to get along. She thinks about life the same way I think so, so far our companionship is just super great and I love it. I still don't really know a whole lot about Niihama, but we have been pretty busy these past few days and so it has been fun to be biking out in all of the rice fields again. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL HERE! And I haven't really taken any pictures...but I will next week!

Love you!
Grundvig Shimai

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


At the Red Arches in Fushimi, Kyoto
I have been trying to decide how to word this email all morning because there is this strange combination of excitement and nervousness that is flooding all around my stomach and so I am not really sure how to deal with that quite yet. But, in case you didn't read the title of this email SURPRISE I AM TRANSFERRING. Which is super sad because I LOVE THESE PEOPLE IN IBARAKI! And also because I DON'T LIKE PACKING. But, thus is the life of a missionary. 

So, I am transferring BACK TO SHIKOKU!! Woohoo!!! I love that wonderful little island. Turned out, all those tears I cried leaving it...were not completely necessary. I am transferring to the area of Niihama, where I will be Ichikawa Shimai's companion. I will also be serving as a Sister Training Leader, which is exciting and also makes me super nervous, because I don't really have any idea what to expect when it comes to being a Sister Training Leader - but I am sure that it will be fun, and, even though I am gypsing Ibaraki I know that the Lord wants me back on Shikoku and that He has work for me to do there! 

I was really surprised to transfer...because I definitely expected to be in Ibaraki until the end of my mission. AND It is really sad to leave Mills Shimai (this whole one transfer companion thing I am not a very big fan of). 

In Kyoto
Ibaraki and Takatsuki were super wonderful, and I have grown to love the people a whole lot more here in just six weeks than I thought was possible. There are lots of good things that are going to happen here in the future I think, and there have been a lot of seeds planted this transfer. It has been neat to be here for just....a snapshot...I guess of time and learn to love the people, and then also see the work progress just a bit further. I felt like because I was here for such a short time I was really able to feel how large the Lord's plan for every area, and every single person is, and how we all play just a tiny little piece in the Lord's master plan. I am excited to see how both Ibaraki and Takatsuki will grow from here on out. I wish I could be here to see it, but, I have made some friendships here that I hope last on into the eternities. 

One cool miracle from this week! Mills Shimai and I had decided that we would start calling all of the members in both Ibaraki and Takatsuki on their birthdays! So, we had been meaning to do this for about two weeks or so...but because missionaries are busy, and we were slow in starting...we didn't actually start until this week. On Monday after getting home from Kyoto and doing some dendou, we came home and then called all of the birthdays that had passed in January. The last man we called - whose birthday was actually on Monday - answered the phone and was SO SURPRISED that we had called! He has been less active for about 8 years and told us that he hasn't received any contact at all from the church in 5-7 years. He wanted to know who told us to call, and finally believed us that no one had told us to call. I ended up having an amazing hour long phone call with him, where I was able to teach him a lot about the Atonement and Forgiveness and how he could find comfort through Jesus Christ, no matter how lost he felt that he was. He told me that he was really lost at the moment and doubted God's existence, or that God cared about him at all...and then we called. Also, no one had told him happy birthday because he is lonely and lives by himself...and so he didn't think that anyone knew about it. And so, thus is life as a missionary. 

I love this work. I can't believe I am heading into my 11th transfer....and these transfers sort of just keep whipping by faster and faster and faster and I don't know why that happens....but, I do know that it is only as a missionary that I get to try and share this wonderful happy message with as many people as I come into contact with everyday...and it is wonderful. 

ALSO! This week Mills Shimai and I got to participate in Mochitsukikai!! Which is where you pound rice with a large hammer to make mochi and it was so fun and we made the most delicious mochi, and I got to eat it warm and it was wonderful.  

Have a great week! LOVE YOU ALL!

Grundvig Shimai

p.s. I apologize to anyone who has written me letters and that I have been terrible at responding. I fully intended to write everyone back today, but now I am transferring...and so I have to pack.....but I promise I still love you all.