Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We went to the Daibutsu!

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 5


The transfer is winding down, and that is both scary and exciting. This past week, Sister Honda and I both decided to come home at the end of our 11th transfer in order to prepare for school, so next transfer will be our last. Time goes by too fast!

I can barely believe that one week has passed already, but it was full of amazing miracles, just like every week! I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father helped us see so many miracles!!!!! Last week, we had appointments with 2 high schoolers (1 is a less active member and 1 is an investigator) but they both had to reschedule to this week. They were both huge miracles though! And they both happened on Saturday.

Making cookies
So the first miracle of Saturday is that we were able to go with 2 Young Women all the way to Mitsukaido (its a really long drive) to finish making Sister Honda's cookies with a Less Active Young Woman. We had so much fun and we were really able to build our relationship with her and get to know her better. She is such an amazing girl and I love her so much. When I first started coming to Ushiku for the Portuguese Sacrament Meeting she was the first person I met, so it breaks my heart to see her drifting away from the church. The Young Women that came with us though did an amazing job of fellowshipping her and just being her friend and inviting her to come back. They are amazing.

Cute pond
Then later that night, those same 2 Young Women joined us for a church tour with our high school investigator. She is so kinjin!!!!!!!!!!!!! She had so many amazing questions about the church like why there isn't a cross in the chapel and why our church is different from other churches. We explained how we believe in a Living Christ, the Christ who was resurrected, and the Restoration and she was so excited to learn more. When we gave her the pamphlet, she started flipping through it right away. She really really really wants to come to church too. Ah it was so amazing!!!! I wish we could meet her more often!!!!

Another miracle from this past week happened at Kodomo Eikaiwa, the kid's English class that we teach. Because we are halfway through the curriculum, we decided to have a party and it was amazing! The kids were so excited because it was their first party (schools in Japan don't do parties) and so we had a few games and some snacks. The best part though was that we were able to talk to the moms and explain what we are doing here in Japan and two moms in particular started to ask Sister Honda a lot of questions about Jesus Christ. Well, both moms ended up becoming new investigators and it was such a miracle. We haven't seen a lot of success with using Mission School (especially Kodomo Eikaiwa) as a dendo tool here in Ushiku, so this was a huge miracle.

We also had the chance to work with another Less Active youth. She is Brazilian and although she comes to church almost every week, we are trying to strengthen her and her family. This past week we went to her house to teach her piano. At first, only her grandpa (not her mom) was home, and so, according to missionary rules, we could not enter. So we just stood outside for 40 minutes making origami together until her mom got home. We taught a quick piano lesson then jumped on our bikes and biked really fast to be home on time. The miracle was that we were originally supposed to teach the piano lesson and then have dinner with the family, but because of all the confusion, we only had time for the lesson. Sister Honda and I were totally okay with that, we were there to help her, we weren't there for the food. However, they wouldn't take that and so just as we were leaving, they surprised us with some food! We didn't eat dinner until 9:30 that night, but it tasted so good.

Last but not least, we had Half Day Exchanges and I got to be with my amazing former companion Sister Shim! We biked all over, heart attacked a member's house and did a lot of finding. Ah I just love Sister Shim so much. She has the funniest stories and she always makes me laugh. When they first arrived in Ushiku, she noticed that I was stressed (she says that I have a "stressed laugh" that I make ???) and she just tried to help me smile and not be stressed. She is one of my best friends! I love her so much! We didn't see any huge miracles from our exchanges, but it felt good to finally be able to go explore and house around an area that Sister Honda and I just recently discovered. Ushiku really has so so so much potential, if we just take the time to discover it.

I think this is true in our lives as well. One thing that I have really learned on my mission is that Heavenly Father has big plans for us, but we have to be patient and work towards that potential. We can't always see what exactly that potential is, but if we take the time to slowly grow towards it, we can reach our potential, However, if we try to rush ahead and grab it, we won't be able to. I've learned so much on my mission, and I know that Heavenly Father needed me to be here to learn these things and become the person I am now. I also know that Heavenly Father needs me home on a certain day so that I can continue to grow to the potential he has for me. Luckily, Heavenly Father sees our eternal potential, not just our earthly potential.

I am so grateful to be serving as a missionary here in Japan. It is such a blessing to me. I am so lucky to be able to work with the amazing members and people here. I love them so much.

Just today, one of my favorite members here drove Sister Honda and I to the Ushiku Daibutsu (the largest standing Buddha statue in the world) and then an outlet mall. It was such a miracle because we had really wanted to go, but because of time we didn't think we would be able to go together before someone transferred. She didn't go in with us, but she really wanted to thank us for all our hard work. It would have taken us so long to go all the way there by ourselves, but she was so sweet! I am just so grateful for the amazing generosity of everyone here.

I love this work so much. I love my Heavenly Father and I am grateful for the guidance he gives me every day to help me reach my eternal potential. I know that whatever comes with Transfer Calls next week, he knows where I need to be.

I love you all so much! Have an amazing week!


Black Shimai

Baby Buddha

Toe of the Daibutsu

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Priesthood is Real

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 4


We had a fun mixture of spiritual moments and funny moments, energetic moments and dying moments this week, it truly was a mixed bag. WHEEEEE!!!!
Hi-chew - really sour

So on Tuesday, we were doing some free talk during our Eikaiwa class and Elder Kooyman asked everyone "If you could go to any other country in the world, where would you go?" Everyone answered (including the Bishop) and then the Bishop's wife walked in so we asked her. She mumbled something softly about just wanting to be in Japan and the Bishop turns to everyone with the most shocked face ever and says really loudly in perfect English "SHE HAS NO DREAM!!!!!" We all died!

Haha and then the next day we went over to the Bishop's house for lunch and we had a very powerful lesson about the Atonement. I remember at the beginning of my mission how I fell in love with the "Because of Him" video, but recently I have been loving "He Lives." (Highly recommend, please watch). We shared that video with them and then talked about how the Atonement has helped us in our lives. I recently found a scripture in in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 4:12

"And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ...?"

That is a powerful statement. Why shouldn't we talk about the Atonement of Christ? It gives us the opportunity to be released from all our guilt and pain, we can be forgiven of our sins, why shouldn't we share that with everyone? That is a beautiful, powerful gift. We had an amazing discussion with the Bishop and his wife about it and it was truly the perfect message to share with them.

Supposed to taste like shaved ice
- not so good
I remember the morning before that lesson so perfectly. During personal study, I kept thinking "How can we inspire the Bishop of the Ward, the most dendo fire couple I have seen in a long time, to do even more dendo?" Then I found that scripture. The Spirit truly guides those who listen to him. He has guided me so many times this week to say things that people needed to hear and to go places where I was needed. I am so grateful for the gift of the Spirit.

We also had the chance to visit a soon-to-be YW who just moved here from Mexico. She is starting 6th grade, and although she can kind of speak Japanese, she cannot read it at all. She is really struggling with her homework because she can't read any of it, and no one is helping her. We helped her download an app that we use as missionaries to learn Japanese and look up words and we taught her how to use it. She was so grateful for that little thing. I wish that we could have done more. As missionaries though, we barely know how to read any more kanji than she can. AHHHHH! It was so amazing to see how just 1 hour of our time changed her countenance and how grateful she was for such a small thing.

Then on Thursday we had an amazing mogi lesson with Anai Shimai. She is the only member in her family and we felt really inspired to mogi the Book of Mormon with her and just practice introducing it. We hadn't planned it, but at the end of the mogi the Spirit inspired us to invite her to read Moroni 10:3-5 which promises everyone that if they will read the Book of Mormon and pray sincerely to know if it is true, then they will know through the Spirit that it is true:

"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
Japanese school children wear these hats every day

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

When she finished reading, she told us that even when she took the lessons from the missionaries, she never actually tried this. From the very first moment, she just knew that the Book of Mormon is true, but that day she felt like she should actually ask God for a confirmation. She gave herself the commitment to do it and we are going to follow up! It was such a testimony to me though that this promise is true. This promise wasn't just given to people who are reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, it is given to every single person. Whether you are not a member of the church, or have been a member your whole life, I urge you to take this challenge and pray for yourself to know if the Book of Mormon is true or not.

This Sunday we also had an amazing Stake Conference and guess what? Elder Choi came and spoke to the whole Matsudo Stake! For those of you who might not remember, Elder Choi is in the Area Presidency for Japan and Korea and he visited our mission a few months ago. His words of wisdom sparked the missionaries in the Japan Tokyo Mission and there has been a drastic increase in new investigators, baptisms, desire, and overall work ethic. Before his visit, we were by no means lazy missionaries, but since his visit, we have realized that we have more potential and we have grown a lot. He was also the Mission President of the Mission that I lived in back in Seattle, so it is always a treat to see him.

Tacos - Sister Honda's mom sent the mix
Anyways he talked about finding happiness in this life. He compared happiness to a butterfly, how sometimes we try to reach out and grab it, but the butterfly always flies away, but when we stop trying to catch it and just focus on working our hardest, it will land on us. When we focus on trying to catch happiness, we can never be happy. It is only when we forget ourselves and our desires, serve the Lord diligently, and focus on giving our all that happiness will come to us. This has been so true on my mission. The times when I have been working my hardest and not worried about anything else outside of that, those were the times when I was happiest.

We also had an amazing miracle last night. Portuguese Church had been cancelled, but no one told me and Sister Honda, so we went to the church anyways. We then found ourselves with an extra 2.5 hours that we had not been planning for. We received a miracle phone call though from a member who asked us if we could go with her that night to stop by a Chilean Less Active. Of course we said yes! Member Missionary Work is the best missionary work.

Well, we got to the member's house a little early (we were going to drive together to the Less Active's house) so we decided to do some housing, but we didn't know where. Then a car drove past us with a middle school aged girl in the front seat. I turned to Sister Honda and half-jokingly said "Let's follow the sweet spot!" (Sweet spot=15-25 year old people who are a big focus in this mission). Well, we followed the sweet spot and amidst this huge neighborhood of really old houses, that probably held lots of old people, we found 5 houses with young families. It was a miracle!

Visiting the Less Active was also a miracle. I always feel so grateful when I visit her. Every time I talk to her, she just proves to me that she is so prepared right now to change her life and come back. Heavenly Father truly knows each of his children. He knew exactly when this Sister would be prepared to come back and he knew that he needed to send me to help open Ushiku right now because this was the time in which she would be prepared. It is amazing to see Heavenly Father's plan come forth.
Guacamole for the tacos

I just have one last miracle to share. As you can tell, the numbers are going up on my number of transfers. Lately, my body has also been telling me that I am starting to become an old missionary. This past week, Sister Honda and I both hit a humongous brick wall. We physically could not get off our futons one morning. It was really bad. We had the prompting to ask our District Leader for priesthood blessings and I am so glad we did. Our blessings were so incredibly different. It was very very clear that Heavenly Father was speaking to each of us directly and he told us exactly what we needed to do. It was a powerful blessing.

I cannot even begin to explain how grateful I am for the priesthood. I know that I have shared experiences similar to this before, but truly, the priesthood is a real power from God. I am so grateful to have Elders who are worthy priesthood holders who are always willing to help me when I need a blessing. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who always guides me. After that blessing, I felt a renewal of energy and I knew exactly what I needed to do every day in order to receive God's help.

I know that this is the true Church of God. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that I am called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ right now. I know that this is God's work. This is not the work of man, man cannot do this work, only God can.

I love you all and I hope you have an amazing week.


Black Shimai

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When you can't even say your own name

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 3


This past week was full of things! My brain won't work at this point. I can't think of a better word than things. Haha ^^

Zone Conference
We went to Matsudo twice this week (twice the nostalgic feelings...sorry normally I would use a really common Japanese word here instead of nostalgic, but so that all of you can understand I will stick with nostalgic). We had both Zone Conference and Exchanges so yay!!!!!!

Zone Conference was amazing! Sister Nagano gave the best training about the different tactics that Satan uses, everything from lies to manipulations to fear. It was an amazing training and something that is really relateable to missionaries. As missionaries, we don't have access to a lot of the normal ways that Satan tempts people, such as through books or TV or friends, but because Satan never gives up he finds new tactics to try and stop us from doing the work. I have definitely felt him use these tactics in my time as a missionary and so I really related to the training.

Sister Missionaries at Zone Conference
I think that one thing that really stood out to me was how easy it is for Satan to twist our good actions and thoughts and turn them into things that harm us. One thing that I have noticed in my own life is that I love to serve others and do little things that will make them happy, even if it's just writing a note, or doing a small chore that they normally do. One way that Satan has twisted that for me is by sometimes making me feel like I have to do everything for everyone else and I can't let others do things for me. Satan takes our good intentions and twists them just enough that they are no longer what Heavenly Father wants for us. However, when we can recognize the tactics Satan uses, we can change and stay on the path that Heavenly Father wants us to be on. I am so grateful for Heavenly Father and his plan for us! He truly just wants us to improve. He just wants us to use our time here on Earth to learn and grow and do our best to become like him.

It was an amazing Zone Conference!

Sister Honda and I also had the chance to do the musical number. We decided to do "His Hands." Sister Honda sang and I played the piano and the Spirit was so so so strong. I almost started crying while playing the piece. Heavenly Father really blessed our abilities. We did not have much time to practice beforehand, so he blessed us to be able to play and sing, but even more important than that, he blessed us so that we could bring a special Spirit to the meeting.

Ai Shimai
Two days later, we returned to Matsudo and had exchanges! One miracle from exchanges was that I had the chance to teach an AB (after baptism) lesson to Ai Shimai!!!! I taught her as an investigator and went to her baptism and it was so amazing to continue to see the changes she is making in her life after baptism. This is the first time on my mission that I have had the chance to teach a recent convert that I also taught as an investigator, so it was a special experience for me.

One other miracle that Sister Fernelius and I saw was while we were waiting for the train. We decided to go talk to a high school girl and we found out that out of all the people we could have talked to, she was the one person who did a homestay in PROVO and HAS BEEN TO BYU and WENT TO CHURCH!!!!!!! She totally knew the church and even asked us if we were on missions right now. IF THAT ISN'T A MIRACLE I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS!?!?!?!?!?!? Heavenly Father led us to her! She wants to go to college in California and study Business, so it was the perfect match. We exchanged Facebooks and when she comes to America (she wants to visit her homestay family) we are all going to meet up at BYU. YAY! That was such a kiseki!!!! (Miracle...sorry...I can't English anymore.)

As for some cute and random things:

On Monday night, we were biking home and we saw some construction workers on our street getting ready to do some road work at night. They had a bunch of giant lights that looked like mushrooms and each had its own generator and we were just dying! I tried to take a picture because they were so cute, but it isn't super clear. They were amazing though.

I bought a pack of hi-chews and I started opening them from the bottom, but then I realized "This is Japan, there has to be an easier way" and sure enough, on the other side there was a little tab to pull and it opened. I love Japan. They think of everything. Sister Honda died when I told her. Let it be known, in Japan, there is always an easier way.

Birthday Party after church
On exchanges, we stopped by McDonald's for dinner. I'm not the biggest fan of McDonald's, but they had a Black Thunder McFlurry and I died!!!!!!! It was so good!!! I love Black Thunder. Fun fact, I can't speak Katakana which is funny because Katakana is basically just saying English words with an Asian accent, but I am the worst. So I am trying to order this McFlurry and I'm supposed to say "burakku sundaa" but I just couldn't do came out too American...I ended up just pointing at the picture because I couldn't do the katakana. I was half hoping that the girl at the cash register didn't read my name tag and realize that my name is also "burakku" (katakana for Black) so essentially I can't even say my own name. ^^

We had an Eikaiwa party!!!! It was super fun! The 2 Brazilian girls even brought Brazilian food and I died, I was so happy.

Miyake Shimai's birthday
This week was also Miyake Shimai's birthday. She is the Peruvian who comes to both the Japanese and the Portuguese wards and she basically loves me because I can understand everything that she says in Spanish. We made her this cute banner and surprised her on her birthday by coming to her house and singing Happy Birthday in Spanish. It was so cute!!!

Murakami family
Then on Saturday we had a huge kiseki!!!!!! Yay MIRACLES!!!! So Sister Honda has a lot of relatives that live in this mission and she has met many of them throughout her mission, but there is one family (the Murakamis) that I worked with in Urayasu who she has always wanted to meet. They are her second cousins. Well, Saturday morning Murakami Shimai called us and invited us to dinner in Ushiku. They were coming all the way here from Urayasu just to eat with us!!!! We said yes and were so excited.

However, throughout the whole morning, we both felt a little iffy about it because we had a large chunk of time blocked off for it and because they weren't an Ushiku member family we felt awkward about it. We counseled about it and called her back to tell her that we would only have 1 hour (that's how long we have for dinner) to be with them. Normally with members we would do a lesson and be able to stay for 1.5 hours, but we didn't feel good about it. She was completely fine with it and as soon as we got that all squared away, the Spirit came right back into our companionship.

Well that night, we met for dinner and it was amazing! I missed the Murakamis so much!!!!!!!!!!!!! They got to meet Sister Honda and I got to see them again, and the two oldest daughters both wrote me notes and I just died, I was so happy. As we biked away, we were both very grateful for the commitment we made to being obedient (only 1 hour for dinner) and we were able to have the Spirit with us as we went housing that night.

Nao Chan did our hair at the party
I can testify that obedience is key to missionary work. Obedience is not annoying, it is not something that we should play around with saying "I don't have to keep the rules" it isn't something we can just do 90% on. 100% obedience brings blessings. That night, as we were housing we came to an apartment with the door open so we called in "Excuse me!" And this adorable family came out. We sang "I am a Child of God" to them and the Spirit was so strong. I hope that it was an experience that those two little kids would never forget. I won't forget. The Spirit was amazingly strong and I know that if we hadn't been obedient earlier that day, we would not have been able to have the power to sing like that. Obedience brings blessings.

I am so so grateful to be here in Ushiku. I can't even begin to tell you how crazy busy this past week has been and I won't even try to explain what happened yesterday (long story short we had two churches, I went on splits with 5 different members in one day, we almost set a baptismal date and went to a birthday party). I love it here and I love the people so much.

I am grateful every day to be a missionary in the Japan Tokyo Mission. Thank you all for your love and support!!!!!


Black Shimai

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Sister Black will understand me!"

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 2


This week has gone by way too fast! I really can't believe it. I remember hearing something in the MTC about how weeks feel like days here, and it is so true.

We saw some amazing miracles this week though!

We only had a little bit of finding time this week, but during that time I was really trying to be in tune with the Spirit. At even the slightest poke or thought, I would change directions and it led us to this one house where we were able to talk to a girl in Junior High. It was so amazing though because she used to play basketball at the basketball court we have in the parking lot, so she totally recognized what church we were from and she was very friendly. It was a nice little miracle for that short finding time that we had.

We were also able to meet with a Less Active. She is so sweet! She has a hard time reading small font, so she has this journal where she writes thoughts and scriptures and it was so organized and beautiful. She has such a strong testimony and it was so amazing to get to talk to her and learn from her.

Another miracle less active that we met this week was a Sister from Chile.  Her husband is from Brazil. We went with a member who used to have a lot of contact with her a few years ago, and it was amazing. She really opened up to me (in Spanish) about some of the problems and struggles she had been having recently. She really wants her sons to come to Primary and learn about God and Jesus Christ and we really want to help her and her family! At the end of the lesson, I was prompted to share a scripture with her. We brought a Spanish Book of Mormon with us just in case and I was so thankful that we did because her Book of Mormon was packed away. We shared Mormon 9:21 with her and it says:

"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth."

Taking pictures while bowling
When she read this scripture, she started to tear up. I know that this was a scripture that she needed to hear. I am so thankful for the Spirit and Heavenly Father who guided me to find something that she needed to hear. I had only been talking with her for 30 minutes. I didn't know everything that was going on, but Heavenly Father always knows what is going on and what we need. There was a powerful Spirit in the room as she read and pondered on the scripture.

I was so so thankful for the opportunity to visit her. It really was a miracle that we were able to find and visit her. About 3 week ago, we were asking all the Spanish members in the ward about what they knew about her, but no one really had any information. Then we went to Koike Shimai's house for lunch one day and she brought up this sister to us! It was amazing! We were able to organize a time to go with her and that led to this amazing experience. I am so grateful for all the guidance we received from Heavenly Father to find her!

Then right after we saw another miracle! Last week we found the high school girl named Nodoka-chan. Well this week we met her! We waited for her at the train station for 30 minutes, but she still hadn't come. The only reason that we kept waiting was because we had talked on Line and she was really excited to meet us. She had even messaged us to say that the original meeting time didn't work for her, and could we change to earlier? So we knew that if she wasn't coming, it was because something else happened. We decided to make the 15 minute walk (in the super super hot weather) to a nearby 7/11 even though we were already dying because it had been a long day. I'm so glad we did though, because sure enough, when we got there we saw that we had a message from her saying that the train was delayed. We were able to meet with her and it went so well!!!!

So flashback to District Meeting 2 weeks ago. We had a training on listening while finding and Elder Kooyman (who was giving the training) gave us all situations to do role plays with. Well, our person was a girl who lived near a church, had never gone, but always wondered what church was like. It was a good role play and we got some good tips on how to improve.

Now back to Nodoka-chan. We were able to really BRT with her and talk about some of the things we do as missionaries, and then she told us she LIVED NEAR A CHURCH!!!!! AND HAD ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE WHAT CHURCH WAS LIKE!!!! As soon as she told us that, my mind went straight to the role play and the tips we had received. We were able to invite her to church and she is going to come next week! She is so excited and we are so excited for her!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY! We were honestly in so much shock after that lesson because she was just so prepared. Yay for prepared people!

The other exciting thing from this week was that on Saturday we went bowling with Nao-chan, our other young investigator. It was a lot of fun, and surprisingly we all did really well. I managed to start 2/3 of my games off with a strike. Nao-chan had so much fun too and we were really able to build a relationship with her. We also gave her a list of our favorite Book of Mormon scriptures. We were going to read some of them with her after church the next day, but then she didn't come and we were so sad. School starts back up in Japan next week and she won't be able to come to church anymore because she has study school. We were devastated when she didn't come, but we have faith that we will be able to meet her even when school starts and help her continue to progress and grow.

Lastly, as always Sunday was crazy. Since we are in charge of the Japanese and the Portuguese ward, our Sundays are always booked. Well in the Portuguese ward, the two sisters who were giving talks actually spoke Spanish and I was shocked that I understood so much of what they said compared to normal. (Although Spanish and Portuguese are very similar, they are just different enough to make Portuguese much harder to understand for me). It was such a blessing to be able to hear the talks in a language that I know very well. It was funny because one of the members who gave a talk is from Peru, and she always tells everyone that I speak really good Spanish and that I understand more Spanish than Portuguese. Then she started her talk by saying "I could try to translate this into Portuguese for all of you, but for the sake of Hermana Teresa [the other Spanish member] and Sister Black, I will speak in Spanish. They will understand me." I DIED!!!!!!!!!! I almost lost it right there, I was trying so hard not to laugh. But I did understand and that was such a blessing to me.

"We" - a new character I learned
Heavenly Father really does bless missionaries. I know that many of my emails over the past 14-15 months have mentioned the gift of tongues, but I have a very very strong testimony that the gift of tongues is a real gift. I have been studying the gifts of the Spirit recently and one thing that stood out to me is that every person receives different gifts, but they also receive those gifts at different times for different lengths of time. Spiritual Gifts come to us and they leave us. I know that I have not had the gift of tongues with me for every single day of my mission. However, it's times like this when I can almost feel Heavenly Father physically hand me a gift to help me. Heavenly Father has brought so much Spanish to my remembrance. I don't think anyone, not members, not my companions, no other person can understand how big of a miracle this is, for me to remember how to speak Spanish as fluently as I can right now. I repeat myself, but Heavenly Father knows exactly what is going on in our lives, he knows exactly what we need.

And here it is on a sign
I am so so so grateful to know that I am a child of God and that he loves me and cares for me and always always wants to bless me. I know that he loves each and everyone of you as well. I know that he knows us, our situations, our triumphs and our trials. He knows it all and he will guide us and help us every day.

The scripture that we shared with Tabe Shimai, I know that that scripture is true. No matter who we are, or what situation we are in, if we pray to Heavenly Father without any doubts, he will help us.

I am so grateful to be a missionary here in Japan.

I love you all!

Black Shimai

Monday, August 28, 2017

When you lose everything

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 1


So this week we lost everything ˆˆ


So the first thing we lost was the pin that we dropped on our maps for a member that the Relief Society wanted us to visit. BUT we remembered the general location and we remembered that they said something about a log house. As we were searching for this house we started to worry that maybe a log house meant something different to Japanese people than to Americans, but then, just as we were about to bike past, I looked to my right and I SAW A REAL LOG HOUSE!!!!!! Yep! We found the member! She is super amazing! She picked a watermelon from the ground and ate it with us. She also was one of the missionaries that taught our Mission President's wife, Sister Nagano, so if that is the coolest thing ever, I don't know what is.

Cute name plate
Thursday was a really interesting day. We went to visit a Less Active that we found a few weeks back and it was such a good appointment. She really opened up to us and we know how to better help her now. She is super sweet and her daughter is so cute! She was making one of those rubber band things on the loom (Rainbow Bandz? I don't remember) and she figured out how to do it all on her own. She is only 6! Eventually we had to leave that appointment though because we had an appointment to meet a new investigator, who is a high school student, at the train station...except she never showed up. So we lost an investigator. We decided to do a bit more finding and after a little bit, I said that maybe we should try the other side just for a little bit before going home for dinner. The very first person we talked to on that side became a new investigator!!!!! She is also in high school!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!! And she exchanged Line with us and is super excited to meet with us next week!!!! YAYAYAYAYA FOR FINDING NEW INVESTIGATORS!!!!!

Getting ice cream
Then we had Saturday. It was the first Saturday in a while where we had a completely empty schedule, so we decided to go to Ryuugasaki (a place with lots of young people, but it takes an hour to bike there so it usually takes a whole day). We had plans to visit 3 former investigators and do some finding around each of their areas. None of the former investigators were home (they either moved or just weren't home) so we did a lot of finding.

Nicole from Oizumi
We were so invested in our finding, that all of a sudden it was almost 2:00 and we realized that we had totally forgotten about lunch. Whoops! We stopped by a mall for some ice cream before heading to our next place because we were planning on having dinner soon anyways. Well, while getting this ice cream, Sister Honda lost her bright pink rain coat. We immediately prayed and then spent 40 minutes retracing our steps, asking random people on the streets if they had seen the rain coat, and then finally going back to the ice cream place and asking the workers if there was a lost and found. The biggest miracle of the day???? WE FOUND THE RAIN COAT!!!!! It was in the lost and found!

During this whole experience, I wondered why Heavenly Father led us to retrace our steps for 40 minutes. We had to bike a lot to go all the way back to where we last remembered seeing the coat. It reminded me of a story that an Apostle shared about how he and he father had to choose between 2 roads. They couldn't remember which one led home. They prayed and were prompted to take one road. They took that road and after a little bit came to the end of the road. They had to drive back and take the other road. They realized that Heavenly Father had blessed them. Because they took the wrong road and were able to receive confirmation that the other road was right, they knew for sure that they were going the right way in the end. If they had chosen the right road from the very beginning, they would have questioned their decision for a long time and may have tried turning back, wasting more gas and time.

Is this the right way?
I realized that Heavenly Father had done this for us. He had us retrace our steps so that we could know for sure that the coat wasn't there. We had to wait a few minutes for the ice cream shop workers to try and find the Lost and Found and I know that if I hadn't known that the coat wasn't where we had been before, I would not have been as patient. We might have left to go look on the roads and taken even more time. Instead Heavenly Father really led us and helped us. Yay!

Another interesting aspect of this trip to Ryuugasaki was Google Maps. Now, Google Maps is usually pretty good and helpful. Japanese addresses don't make any sense, so Google Maps is super important. Well, when we were coming back from Ryuugasaki, Google Maps led us to a completely closed road, some rice fields that were golden to harvest (hehehehe that's the name of our quarterly goal right now, Fields Already Golden to Harvest, so we thought it was pretty funny) and finally into the wilderness. There was literally no road, just some car tracks. We were like the pioneers!!!!! We eventually found the street we needed to turn down, but it was quite the experience. ˆˆ

Sidenote: Google Maps also took us all over the place, and we passed so many 7/11s. We felt like we found all the 7/11s in our area ˆˆ

Golden Harvest
When we got home from that daylong expedition in Ryuugasaki, we both just died. We are not as young as we used to be hahahaha. It was a miracle filled day though and I am so glad that we were able to go there. We see a lot of potential in Ryuugasaki!!!!

Then a miracle from Sunday! A new Sister just moved into the ward with her 11 year old daughter and I had the chance to meet them after Relief Society. The 11 year old girl speaks really good English because she was born in America and then lived in Mexico for 11 years! Yay for Spanish!!!!!! She is super cute and doesn't speak super good Japanese, but we invited her to the Young Women event we had today and it was so fun! It was such a nice little miracle that we were able to meet her and talk with her. I hope she likes it here in Ushiku!!!

Making cookies with the young women
Today we made cookies with the Young Women for them to give to their friends. Sister Honda's mom sent her cookie making ingredients from America with orders to make them with the Young Women and we were finally able to do it this week!!!!! They had so much fun!!!!! They loved the cookies and loved making cards with their favorite scriptures to give to all their friends. It was so fun to watch how excited they were while making everything.

I love Ushiku so much! Have a great week!


Black Shimai

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Living Life Dangerously in Tokyo Japan

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 6


Memories from Matsudo
The last week of the transfer is always a time of miracles! Yay! Sister Honda and I saw many many miracles, the biggest one being that we received transfer calls on Monday and WE ARE STAYING TOGETHER!!!! We will have one more transfer together here in Ushiku and I am so excited!!!!!!!

The only person in our district who is transferring is Elder Price. He will be going to Urayasu!!!! The happiest place on Earth! Yay!!!!

Let's start out with a funny story. Hehe. So on Monday night, I felt my allergies acting up a bit so I decided to take a Benadryl before going to bed. What I didn't know is that if you haven't taken Benadryl for a while, you might have some side effects which one nice Sister called a "Benadryl Hangover." So the next morning, I expected to wake up well rested, but instead I was so tired that I almost fell off my bike while we were going to find a former investigator. Luckily it wore off later, but I never want to have a hangover of any kind ever again. Bye bye Benadryl.

Onto the other miracles:

On Thursday, the Sister Training Leaders came and I got to work with Sister Fernelius. We finally had a big chunk of time to do finding, and as a result we were able to find 2 new investigators! It was such a miracle. We also tried this new thing where we went to an Eki and walked around asking people if they would take a survey. We then asked them different questions about God and their purpose in life and we were able to have some really good conversations. The others sisters found another new investigator through that and we were so excited. There is just something about good old fashion finding (streeting, housing, talking to people) that gives you such a rush of energy. I felt more energized and ready to work than I have in a while.

Haha, then we had a really small but meaningful miracle. We finished the survey dendo and all 4 of us got on the train. Sister Honda and I were getting off in just 1 station, but the Sister Training Leaders were going to ride it all the way back to Matsudo. We said goodbye and got off the train at our stop, but right as we did, I asked Sister Honda if she had my bike key (she and Sister Shim had used our bikes during the exchange). Sister Honda gave me horrified look and started running to the train even though the doors were already closed. We desperately tried to run alongside the train as it pulled away, but of course it was useless. We quickly texted the Sisters and they said they would change trains at the next station and come right back.

The only problem? Their train would arrive at 6:27 and the train to Matsudo left at 6:28. We told them this and then told them to just throw the key at us and run to catch their train. When the moment finally came, I can honestly say my heart was racing. I was so scared that they would miss the train. They ran up the stairs, threw the key at us and ran down, barely making it on the train on time. It was such a small miracle, but it was really needed so that they could be back in Matsudo in time for their meeting and we could be at our lesson on time. Whew. We like to live life dangerously here in the Japan Tokyo Mission. 1 minute train connections and all that.

Then on Saturday, the Elders' investigator, Luigi, got baptized. It was a beautiful service and it was so amazing to see the change that he went through as he got baptized. I have never been to a baptism for someone else's investigator yet, so I was surprised by how strongly I still felt the Spirit. The day after, at church, he was a completely different person. He was so full of light and hope and faith. It was amazing. He is really going to be an amazing member and help for the Portuguese Group.

However, his baptism was another example of us living dangerously. I am the only missionary in this area that can play the piano, and there was no one else at the baptism that could play the piano, so I was playing. However, the baptismal service was changed from 10 to 10:30 that morning and we had a lesson appointment at 11:30, so it was cutting it close to begin with. Then the service started 10 minutes late and there was a lot of talking and so it was 11:40 and we still hadn't sung the closing song yet, but I couldn't leave!!!! It was so nerve-wracking. Sister Honda and I kept looking at each other and the clock, then finally we sang the song. We grabbed our stuff, rushed to shake Luigi's hand and congratulate him and then rushed out of the church at the speed of life (many members were laughing as we ran out) and we made it to our appointment only a little late. The investigator was totally fine with it though (thank goodness)!

I managed to stay reasonably safe and not dangerous for the rest of the week (with the exception of some really delicious ice cream...dangerous? Yes. Delicious and worth it? YEP YEP!).

At the BBQ
Sunday and Monday I received some really amazing sweet surprises! On Sunday, the Ouichis (from the Matsudo Ward) and the Killians (from the Urayasu Ward) were both visiting Ushiku! It was so sweet to see them (especially Ashely Killian, one of my favorite Young Women from Urayasu) and although we didn't get to talk much, I was beaming all day. It was such a sweet surprise. I was so thankful to Heavenly Father. Then on Monday, we had a huge Brazilian BBQ and tons of people came. The biggest surprise came when I looked across the street and I was like "That looks like Miki from Oizumi...???? WAIT THAT IS MIKI FROM OIZUMI!!!!!! WAIT IT'S EVERYONE FROM OIZUMI!!!!!!!" And then I almost started crying right there. I was so happy. My favorite members and friends from Oizumi had all driven 2 hours to come to the BBQ. I know it wasn't for me, but it meant so much to me that I could see them all again and hug them and talk to them.

As a missionary, I sort of accepted the fact that every time I transfer, it is really really likely that I may never see any of the friends I've made ever again in my life. It's a hard thing to accept, but it's true. I don't know if I will come to Japan many times during the rest of my life. So these little moments when I get to see people that I worked with 6 months ago, a year ago, and to have them still remember and love me as much as I love them, it means so so much to me. I feel so blessed to have seen some of my best friends from every area I have served in on my mission so far over the past two days. It has been so so sweet. I'm almost crying just writing about it. AHHHHHHHHH

As for the rest of the BBQ, it was so so so amazing! A little big of background, on Sunday I was asked to give a talk in Portuguese for the Portuguese group and I was terrified. However, I wrote it all out and translated it and it was all good. I really felt like the Spirit was speaking through me and helping improve my pronunciation to help everyone feel the Spirit as I spoke. However, another blessing that came from this talk was that on Monday, there were a lot of Brazilians. Thus, I had the opportunity to talk to many of them. I talked to this one 14 year old girl and because of the talk I gave on Sunday, I felt enough confidence to not only talk to her, but to make lots of mistakes and we ended up becoming really great friends.

I also had the chance to talk to the daughter of a recent convert in Abiko (the neighboring area). She really wants to be baptized and she loves Sister missionaries so much (Abiko doesn't have any Sisters). We had so so so much fun together and I love her so so so much!!!! I can tell that we will be eternal friends! It was so great to be able to talk to so many people at the BBQ yesterday. It was such a success. Everyone was talking to each other and fellowshipping each other and the members were mingling and everyone had a really great time. Yay for BBQs!!!!!!

Well, this is it. I am entering double digits now. Sister Honda and I are both Transfer 10 and it is scary. We really want to make this the best transfer ever.

One thing I learned as I was writing my talk for Sunday was that the most important way that we can make Sundays more meaningful is to listen to the Spirit, to really focus on it as we go to church and learn. I think that this is true for all areas of our lives. I've been doing an activity in PMG about recognizing the Spirit. I've been reading many scriptures about different ways that the Spirit speaks to us and then recording any experiences that I have had with those feelings and it has helped me to realize that I have felt the Spirit so many times in my life and just haven't attributed those experiences to the Spirit. I know that as I really focus on the Spirit and what he is guiding me to do every day this transfer, I will truly be guided and I will be able to make the most of each day.

Transfer 10. I truly never believed that I would make it this far. Two of my amazing mission friends (one of whom is Sister Atkinson, my trainee) are going home early this week for medical reasons. I truly feel blessed to be here in Japan, to have been here so long doing the Lord's work. It feels like I have been here for just a few weeks, but it is crazy to me that it has been 1 year already. I really feel blessed that Heavenly Father called me to serve in this amazing mission. I am so so grateful for every day that I get to wake up and say that I am a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is truly a blessing.

I love you all!


Black Shimai

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

365 days in Japan

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 5


1 year in Japan
We are officially in August which means that Sister Honda and I have been in Japan for 1 whole year!!! It doesn't feel like I've lived in Japan for a whole year, but at the same time I definitely know a lot more than when I first came here.

To celebrate our 1 year mark in Japan we bought ourselves a feast of some of our favorite Japanese foods and some things you just have to have when celebrating in Japan (aka strawberry cake ^^). It was a party :)

We also had interviews with President Nagano this past week and what he told me really hit me. At first he told me that the only other Portuguese speaking missionary in the area was being emergency transferred out and so I was naturally a little distracted because I didn't know what I was going to do, but then President Nagano told me

"Sister Black, you need to give yourself more credit. Are you listening to me?" I will admit that I was a little distracted, but I focused a lot more on what he was saying after that. I am so thankful for the opportunity that we have to have interviews with our Mission President. I know that he was guided by Heavenly Father to say exactly what I needed to hear in those short 10 minutes.

Favorite Costco chicken
Ushiku has been an amazing area and I love it so much, but it has also stretched me in many ways. President Nagano told me the things I needed to hear to be able to continue on and push myself to do better.

Right after the interview, as we walked back to the train, we ran into Ai-san (the recent convert who just got baptized on Saturday) and we were able to give her hugs and say hi to her really quick. That made my day! It was such a small tender mercy from Heavenly Father. It was so sweet to be able to see her again, even just for a few moments because it isn't very likely that I will see her again while on my mission.

This week we also finally had some time to do finding!!!!! This whole transfer has been full of crazy appointments and running all over the place so we haven't had a lot of finding, but we finally had a big 3 hour chunk where we could just find and it was amazing! We had a list of less actives and former investigators that we wanted to visit and so we headed out.

Girls from the ward

Our first stop was a Less Active named Nagata Shimai. She sounded promising in Area Book, but when we got there we found out that it was the mom's house and that she had no interest. However, as we were walking back to our bikes, we met Nagata Shimai's younger sister, Imamura Shimai (who is also a less active). She was surprised that there were Sisters in Ushiku and she really really wanted us to come visit her. She said that out of her whole family, she was the most open to the church. She really likes the missionaries, but it was hard in the past because there were only Elders and they couldn't come in. She gave us her address and phone number right there on the street and we invited her to Kodomo Eikaiwa the next day. I mean, that was all a huge miracle, but then she actually came to Kodomo EIkaiwa!!! And she loved it!!! And she knew a bunch of the moms there!!!!!!!!! They kept asking her how she found out about the class and she told them that she used to come to this church when she was younger. It was amazing!! It really was an amazing miracle.

This week we also had a chance to go to a baby shower for a Brazilian member. It was a great opportunity because there were many Less Actives and Investigators there so we were able to spend a little time building relationships with them. There was also this one really cute Japanese girl who came with her Brazilian co-worker and she really wanted to learn Portuguese and English, so we showed her the Eigo-no-tore and she was so excited! She and her co-worker started doing it together to learn Japanese and Portuguese and it was so fun. Both of them have so much potential and I really really hope that we get to see them again soon!

Nao Chann and her brother Kota
One thing that was pretty hard for me this week was when some members started talking to me about my Portuguese and how its mostly Spanish and one Sister asked if I used Google Translate to write my messages to her. Normally none of this would affect me, but for some reason it really hit me this week and it made me almost wish that someone else had been sent instead of me. But then I realized, it was literally a year ago when I started studying Portuguese and I only studied for 3 months. I studied Spanish 3 years ago, it is amazing that I am able to communicate with these amazing people at the level that I am. It astounds me when one of the members starts speaking to me in really fast Spanish and I actually understand what she says. What is even more amazing is the fact that I can't use my language study time to study Portuguese or Spanish, so this is all from memory and Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father is blessing me every day and of course there will be hard times, but we can't let those hard times keep us from recognizing the amazing blessings that we have.
One year celebration dinner

I think that the number 1 thing that I have learned in my last year in Japan is that Heavenly Father is always there for me. He has a perfect plan laid out for me and it is nothing like the plan I have for myself. He sees the bigger picture. He sees what I can and will become. He knows the path I need to take to get there. If I could have chosen exactly how my mission was going to be, there is no way that I would learn nearly as much as I have learned. Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves.

One last little miracle. Back in January, Sister Bede showed me this cute little video about the Plan of Salvation. It was so simple and clear and I loved it so much. Sister Bede actually found it when she first came to Japan and when she went home she wanted to make a Japanese version, but she wasn't able to. Well, we decided to write down the entire video so that we could translate it. Eventually that project got forgotten because we both didn't have time.

District Lunch made by Sister Tobe and one of our investigators

Fast forward to today. I recently found that notebook and flipped through it. Today we were supposed to have a lesson with an investigator and we wanted to teach the Plan of Salvation really really simply, but we were having a hard time with it. Then I remembered this video and because we don't have wifi in the apartment, that script saved our lives! In the end, the lesson got canceled, but I was so so grateful to Heavenly Father for preparing that video to come back into our lives before this lesson. I have been wanting to simply my teaching even more and the Plan of Salvation is the perfect place to start. I am so grateful for all that Heavenly Father has done to prepare me throughout my mission. From the little things like this video script to the big things like Portuguese. I am so so grateful that I have a Heavenly Father who I can turn to in times of need. I know that he sees the big picture. I know that he loves me enough to guide me. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me.

I love you all so so much! Have an amazing week!


Black Shimai