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.