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