Monday, October 16, 2017

My Heart Will Forever be in Matsudo

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 3

Konnichiwa!

This week we did a lot in Matsudo and I realized that a piece of my heart will always be there. I already feel it breaking every time I go back because I know that eventually I won't get to go there 3 times every 6 weeks. I guess that is what happens when you stay in a zone for half of your mission, it becomes a part of you.

Matsudo Zone
On Tuesday we went to Matsudo for Zone Conference and it was amazing! There was one training/mogi where we were talking about asking "Questions from Heaven" aka asking questions through the Spirit. In our companionship we had one person who was the investigator and the other missionary was the missionary and they had to really seek the Spirit to ask questions from heaven. The interesting thing was, when I did it I really felt the Spirit guide me as to when I should be quiet, when I should ask a question, and when I should testify and it was so powerful! We were doing it in English too, so I was able to use the exact words that I wanted.

A young woman drew this picture of me
On Wednesday, we were back in Matsudo for Exchanges!!!! I was with Sister Zundel and we had a blast! We went to Matsudo Eki and did a kubarikai (handing out flyers) and it was just so much fun! We were singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and just being super genki and I loved it! I've never done a kubarikai on my mission (wow Sister Black, Transfer 11 and you've never done a normal kubarikai? Haha yeah, too many Free English Challenges) but it was really fun and I want to do some here in Ushiku!

Then came the part that broke my heart. We went to go teach Eikaiwa and I got to surprise all the students! Even students who I hadn't talked too much were excited to see me and it just warmed my heart. One of my favorite students Kimiko, somehow found out that I was coming and brought more of her amazing smoked duck! Then a huge miracle happened! A Less Active Young Woman who I worked with a bunch when I first came to Matsudo decided to come to Eikaiwa for the first time in about 4 months that Wednesday! She kept saying "It's a miracle that I came today and got to see you!"

At the end of class she found out that this was my last transfer and that I probably wouldn't be able to see her again and she started crying so hard and she wouldn't let go of me for 30 minutes. I'm going to miss her so much! And then I had to say goodbye to Ayako-san one of my favorite investigators/Mission School students and it was the hardest thing. I love them both so so so much. I started crying too. AHHHH MY HEART!!!!!!!!

We also saw some cool miracles in Ushiku!

On Friday we messaged the Relief Society President to see if she would go with us to visit an older Less Active. Later that night, we were near her house so we stopped by to share a quick message and say hello and she told us that she was just about to message us saying that she couldn't go but since she saw us in person she just couldn't say no. That was a miracle! The next day we went together and it was great! She loved it so so so much! She was so excited afterwards and even though we had planned to only visit the one person, she asked if there was anyone else so we went to visit another Less Active.

We later found out that she actually messaged the whole Ward Council to tell them about her experience and how much fun it is to go out with the missionaries and since then we have had 2 other members come up to us asking us to go visit Less Actives with them. It's amazing!!!! I'm so glad that we were able to make it a good experience for her :)
Part of the Portuguese church group

Saturday night were our magical splits! Last week we found a new investigator and the only time he could meet was 7:00pm on Saturday...the same time as Mission School. So we set up some splits. Originally I was going to go teach him, but at Zone Conference I received a prompting to ask Sister Savage if she would ask Heavenly Father if she should go. A few days later she felt prompted that she needed to go, so she prepared and practiced and went with the member to visit him and it was amazing! They caught him just as he was running inside to grab his bags so he had a few minutes to talk. He felt bad for not reading the chapters we asked him too, but he said he would and that we could come back again next week! Afterwards Sister Savage and the member (the amazing Kawasaki Shimai) talked for a while and set up times not only to go visit the investigator, but also to go visit a bunch of Less Actives in a car! MEMBER MISSIONARY WORK WHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

I also had some amazing splits. I stayed at Mission School and had the chance to really bond with a Young Woman that is pretty quiet so that was great! I loved talking with her and helping her with her English. I just love Mission School and Youth! I LOVE MISSIONARY WORK!!!!!!!!!!
Sisters of Matsudo Zone

To round out a pretty amazing week, today we went bowling for Zone P-day. I love the Sisters in this Zone so so so much! I loved having the chance to talk with them and bond with them. I look forward to each opportunity that we have to see each other. I really love this Mission and all the amazing missionaries in it. I feel so blessed to work with such talented and humble and hard-working missionaries. I love the Matsudo Zone so much. I really feel blessed to have been in this zone for 9 months.

I truly know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us. He knows exactly what we need. I didn't know that I needed to be in this Zone for this long, but I can see how this Zone and these people have influenced me and I can see a bit of how I influenced them. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father loves me and cares for me enough to create a plan for my growth. He knows what I can do to help others and he knows who I need to interact with to grow myself. I love my Heavenly Father and I am so glad that I have the chance to share this love with all these people in Japan.

I hope you all have an amazing week! Love you all!

Love,

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai

Monday, October 9, 2017

All the Adventures!

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 2

Konnichiwa!

Well this week was just full of adventures! Hehe :)

This week we did a lot of Less Active visiting. We would pick a part of the area and try to visit all the members and Less Actives there. We don't have a list of all the Less Actives, so we were basically just visiting anyone whose name I didn't know...which led to lots of Less Actives. It was quite the adventure though.

The first day that we did this we found the house of a Brazilian PI that I met at a baby shower last transfer (her daughter, who I recognized, was peeking out of the house when we passed by), we also found a Less Active who clearly did not remember that she had been baptized and she rather forcefully told us that she was Buddhist, and we found a Less Active who actually wants to meet with us! It was getting pretty dark when we talked to her and she told us that her house was pretty messy, but we asked her what was her favorite thing about the gospel that she could remember, and she said that it was that Jesus Lives! YES! That is the best thing to remember! We asked if we could come back next week to share a little video about that and she said yes! Then she called us 20 minutes later (not quite sure how she found our phone number) to change the day because she had another appointment!

So lots of fun miracles!

Super yummy lunch
The second day we did it was filled with some more fun! I think my favorite though was when we visited this really old lady and she invited us to come in, let us sit, and then started talking about how she was really sick and couldn't clean her house. She did not remember at all that she had been baptized a long time ago. Well, as missionaries, we love to serve! So we offered to come and help her clean (bringing along a member of course)! She was really skeptical like "Is this your part-time job? Do I have to pay you?" Why no, you do not. We are volunteers. Then came my favorite, "I just don't want you to try and convert me or anything." Well, no problem there, you were already converted! Haha, she doesn't remember it, but we feel very fortunate to have found her. She was clearly in need of help spiritually and physically and we look forward to coming with a member and hopefully helping her bring the light of the Gospel back into her life.

Helping to translate
On Saturday I also had the chance to go to the dentist with a Peruvian Less Active. Wow, the gift of tongues is real. They were using a lot of really technical dentist language in Japanese and I had to translate it into Spanish for her. We made it though! And she fed us a really good lunch and we got to talk to her non-member daughter who lives in Peru over Facebook. Yay!

Those were just a few of our Less Active Adventures. :)

As for some Investigator Adventures:

We tried visiting a new investigator that we found last week and she wasn't home. It was pouring rain and we were not prepared at all, but we had planned to do some finding around that area. We wandered a little aimlessly, but the Spirit led us to a few apartments. The second person we talked to told us that his father had recently passed away and he really wanted to know where he went. He accepted both a return appointment and a Book of Mormon! It was a perfectly timed miracle because we had just been talking about success as a missionary. Sometimes its hard to see if you are doing the right thing as a missionary. Sometimes you wonder "Am I listening to the Spirit and he is just leading me to those neighborhoods that are hard and have no one who wants to listen or am I not listening hard enough to the Spirit and I'm just trying to do this on my own?" We were talking about these things and then all of a sudden we found this really prepared person. Neither of us had felt really strong promptings from the Spirit to go to this apartment, but he led us there anyways.

Success as a missionary isn't measured in anything except for yourself. This ties into a lot of the things that I loved from General Conference that we also watched this week. One thing that really stood out to me from General Conference was the talks about perfection and the Atonement. As a missionary, there are a lot of rules and there is a very clear image of what the perfect missionary is (maybe its someone with endless amounts of energy whose testimony is strong enough that when they talk to someone on the street the person begs to be baptized). If that is the image, then clearly none of us can every reach perfection. God asks us to be perfect, but it's not something that we can do right now. It's something that we slowly build towards. As we do our best every day, and use the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can slowly grow and come closer to reaching our eternal potential. Through the Atonement we can be made perfect, but it takes time.

Now what does this have to do with success? In my mind, a lot of times success and perfection appear to go hand in hand. To be successful, you have to be perfect. They do go hand in hand, but in a different way. As we strive our best each and every day, to work our hardest, to serve and do good, we will be successful. At the end of our missions we will feel that we did all that we could do. That was true of the night that we found that new investigator. We did all we could do and it wasn't the fact that we found a new investigator that made us feel successful, it was the fact that we went out and used every minute of our day as effectively as we could have and we listened to the almost silent promptings of the Spirit that led us to that particular apartment.

Success isn't measured by the number of apartments you knock on or the number of people who are baptized, it's measured by your commitment to do everything that is asked of you (all the rules and the promptings from Heavenly Father) even when it seems to amount to nothing.


I just want to end with one last experience from this past week.

We met with Nodoka-chan for our first lesson this week. It was the night before her Eiken (a huge English test, like the ACT or SAT) test and it was in a food court. My Japanese was all over the place and we couldn't hear each other too well. Despite all these factors, it was one of the most powerful lessons I have been a part of. She had read the Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlet and as she read about Baptism she though "Hmmm maybe I want to be baptized." We taught her the Restoration and she has the strongest desire to learn more about Jesus Christ! She was overjoyed when we gave her a Book of Mormon and at the end of our lesson, she prayed without hesitation. She has the most sincere desire to learn and to truly know if this church is true and when she does she wants to be baptized.

From the moment that we met her, Nodoka-chan has been in the hands of God. Nothing that we do stops her from having her desire. During this lesson, my Japanese was probably the most scattered, poorly executed that it has ever been, yet through the Spirit it made perfect sense to her. I am so grateful that I am not doing this work alone, that me and Sister Savage aren't doing this alone. We have a powerful force on our side, Heavenly Father. He will never let us down! He will always make up for our weaknesses!

I love this work so much and I love Ushiku!

I hope you all have a great week this week!

Love,

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai

Monday, October 2, 2017

New Companion

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 1

Konnichiwa!

Welcome to the new transfer! Featuring my new companion, Sister Savage!!!!! It's weird not having Sister Honda here to reflect on all the things we did the past week as we write our emails, but she is having a great time in Yachiyo so it's all good!

During Sister Honda's last few days, I was still recovering from my really bad cold, so we spent the days sleeping and packing (I slept, she packed). However, we also had the chance to go say goodbye to some of her favorite members.

On Tuesday, we had the chance to go eat dinner with the Koikes and the Matsubaras and it was so cute and sad at the same time! Koike Shimai made us a really good dinner and we just talked about their mission experiences and our mission experiences and it was so great. Also, I brought a lot of Disney stickers with me on my mission and I wasn't quite sure what to do with them because I still had a lot so I decided to give them to Koike Shimai's two daughters, Mi and Leah, and they were over the moon! They were ecstatic. It was the cutest thing ever!!!!!!!

We also had the chance to go to Eikaiwa in Ryuugasaki. This Tuesday our Kodomo EIkaiwa class in Ryuugasaki was canceled because there wasn't room for us, but because it was the last Tuesday of the transfer we wanted to go so that Sister Honda could say goodbye to Nao-chan (one of our investigators that goes to Eikaiwa in Ryuugasaki). That was also sad, but there was also a miracle that happened!

So, we always start and end Mission School classes with a prayer and so on Tuesday we decided to play Rock Paper Scissors to see who would pray. There was only us and the Elders, a few members, Nao-chan and her older brother Kota, who is also an investigator. Nao-chan won and she gave a great prayer! But then, at the end of class she was like "I said the opening prayer, so Kota you have to say the closing prayer." He was a little shy about it and said that he didn't know how, but Nao wasn't having any of that. She taught him how to pray using the same hamburger analogy that we used to teach her almost a month ago!!!! And then he prayed!!! Wow! She remembered and then taught her brother! That was a really cool miracle. We are so proud of her! <3
Graduation

We also had another miracle this week! Because some of the new missionaries coming in had visa problems, they couldn't come until Wednesday which meant that Transfer Day was moved to Thursday! This meant that both Sister Honda and I were able to be at the Graduation for our Eikaiwa Basic class! They were so sad last week when they found out that one of us would be transferring and might not be there for the Graduation, but when we were both there, they were so happy!

Miyake Shimai - like my mom, but Spanish
The Graduation was really great! We gave them all certificates and then gave a presentation about graduations in America and they all loved it. It was such a blessing to be able to see them all grow over the past 2 transfers and really rise to the challenge of moving onto the next level. I love them so much! Over the next 5 weeks, Sister Savage and I will be doing a lot of finding to find students for our new Basic class starting in November. We are excited!

This leads to Transfer Day! It was so sad saying goodbye to Sister Honda. Even though it's only for 6 weeks, I already miss her! <3 Hehehe

The morning of Transfer Day it was raining so so hard and my new companion's train got delayed. Well, Sister Honda had to leave on her train and through a series of events I ended up waiting with the Elders for an hour until my new companion came.

Sister Savage
So a little bit about Sister Savage! She is from Highland, Utah, loves singing and art, is a Transfer 3 missionary (she has only been out 3 months) and is amazing! She has so much energy! It has completely reenergized me. I don't know how it happened. In fact, sometimes I feel a little selfish because I feel like I'm stealing her energy, haha :)

We have seen so many miracles together already! The main miracle day was on Saturday. Our amazing investigator Nodoka-chan was supposed to come to both the Women's Conference and the YW activity right afterwards, but she caught a cold that morning and couldn't come. So that changed all our plans for the rest of the day. We ended up watching the Women's Conference in Spanish with a YW who just moved in (well I watched in Spanish and Sister Savage read it in English on her tablet) and then we went out finding.

The actual finding time was just full of miracles. We were talking to this one college student at her apartment when all of a sudden her cat ran outside. We spent like 10 minutes trying to help her catch the cat and she was really grateful for our help. She studied Christian religions at school so she took a pamphlet, but doesn't really have time to meet. However, her neighbor (a family of 4) said that we could come back next week!!!! Yay!!! Miracles!!!

Mission School
The biggest miracle of all though was that we stopped this one girl on the street and started talking to her in English. Her English was way good and she was a middle school student so we invited her to Eikaiwa. Well, the next day, we got 2 calls from a random number and when we finally called back, it was the girl's mom! Apparently their whole family used to come to Eikaiwa a long time ago. When the girl gave her mom the flyer we gave her and talked about how cute we were and nice and how we complimented her English, the mom recognized the church and gave us a call to find out more about our classes! They are really really interested in coming back and she wants to meet us! Her daughter has some confidence issues and other things so it meant a lot to the mom that we were able to boost her confidence and make her really happy.

We had no idea when we stopped her that all of this would come of it. I remember stopping her and just thinking "I don't want to scare her!" I just wanted to help her and invite her to English. I am so glad that we stopped her though and talked to her. God has a plan for everything. He needed Nodoka-chan to get sick so that we would change our plans and be put in the path of this girl. I really hope that we have the chance to meet her again soon!

Bowling
There are just so many miracles from this week. I think Sister Savage brought the miracles with her from Narita because on Friday we saw another huge miracle! We went out bowling and to lunch with a PI. She is Nao-chan's brother's girlfriend and she is just the cutest! We love her! Well, in the car ride from bowling to lunch we found out that she loves choirs and so we invited her to come listen to General Conference and to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She was so excited! She really really wants to come! She even said that she would bring Kota with her which is even better!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHH ALL THE MIRACLES!!!!!!

It has been a great week here in Ushiku and I can't wait for this next week as well! We have a lot of great plans for this transfer and I'm excited to see them be put into action!!!

I love you all! Have a great week!!!!

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai

Katsu and Karaage - two of my favorites

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Last Transfer Call

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 6

Konnichiwa!

Well this is it. Today marks the start of my last transfer as a missionary. It is a little surreal, and I'm not sure that I actually fully realize that it has started.

Making Tempura
Today we received transfer calls and its sad to say, but Sister Honda is transferring to Yachiyo. We knew for sure that one of us would be transferring because we can't be together during our last transfer, but it was still sad. My new companion is a Transfer 3 Sister (she just finished her training) named Sister Savage! I'm so excited! Also I will get to finish my mission here in Ushiku!

Other good news is that Sister Shim got transferred to Tsukuba so she is still in the same zone as me and I will get to see her every now and then until the end of the transfer. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!

It was also my last transfer call. Oh no!!!! So much stress! We had absolutely no clue who would transfer and who would stay, so it was really nerve wracking waiting for the call. The next time I get a transfer call, it will just be for my companion. Ah!
Tempura

Today we had a lot planned and it was a good thing too because it allowed Sister Honda to say goodbye to some of our favorite people! We had a lesson with Kazumi-san and after doing English and the message, she taught us how to make tempura and it was so fun! And delicious!!!!!! Then later we got to go out with a college student who is a PI. We were planning on going to this cute little village-like place where you can do crafts and such, but we got there 1 hour before it closed so everything was already cleaned up. We took a lot of cute pictures though and had a fun time. Yay!!!

The Young Women of Ushiku
Speaking of college students, this was the week of college students! On Saturday we met up with another PI who is in college and had a great English lesson with her too. Right now we have a lot of college student PIs who have a lot of English interest, we just have to find out if they have gospel interest too. But yay for the sweet spot! Sister Honda and I have been really focused on finding and helping the sweet spot (15-25 year olds) since we came here and this past week we realized that all that hard work has paid off. We have a lot of young investigators and PIs and we've built some really great relationships with the Young Women. It is really different teaching young people, but we are slowly learning and adapting.

One thing that has really helped us recently is that the church released The District 3 and a whole new Chapter 8 to Preach My Gospel. What does this mean? We received a lot of training on how to plan more effectively and use our iPads to better help our investigators! We have already started using social media more effectively and it is really helping our investigators to stay in contact with us. Also, as missionaries, The District and Preach My Gospel are basically our life, so receiving these 2 new things was major! We come in at night and during personal time we get so excited to watch the new videos. ^^ Missionary life! <3

On Tuesday we had a cool thing happen in Ushiku. We had a Zone Blitz! All the missionaries in the Zone came to Ushiku and split up to go to different parts of the area to find. I was with Sister Fernelius and it was amazing! We saw 2 really big miracles.

1)  We found a girl with really bright red hair right outside the train station who wants to meet us this week! We saw her hair as we got off the train and we just knew that we had to talk to her. It was a miracle!

2)  On our way back, we stopped another high school student and started talking to her and it turns out that she just moved here from New Zealand 3 years ago and is Catholic. She has faced bullying in the past because of her beliefs and we just had a really good conversation about standing up for what we believe in. It was an amazing conversation and really symbolized to me what we are here to do as missionaries. We aren't here to tear down anyone's beliefs or tell them that they are wrong, we are simply here to help people and to add on to what they believe. As we talked to her, I could tell that we were strengthening her. The presence of fellow Christians who have faced bullying and persecution like that really helped her receive strength. She opened up a lot to us even just in our 10 minute conversation and as she walked away she told us that she hoped that she could see us again. It was so amazing and strengthened my faith of just opening my mouth. You never know what good you can do when you just open your mouth and talk to one more person.

We had another tender mercy, sweet little miracle this week when we had a lesson with a less active member. We knew that we wanted to share a General Conference talk with her about the Restoration, but as I was looking through recent talks, nothing stood out to me. Then this tiny voice told me to look in April 2016. So I did, and I found what I thought was the perfect talk. It was Elder Gary E. Stevenson's "Where are the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood?" talk. In the lesson, as we started to introduce the talk before watching it together she told us "Oh good! I've never really understood what the priesthood was."

It turned out to be the exact talk that she needed to hear. I am so grateful for that small voice of the Spirit that told me to go look there. That talk was so perfect.

Recently, I finished an activity from Preach My Gospel which involved looking up various scriptures about the Spirit and how we recognize it and then write down all the experiences I have had that relate to that specific way of recognizing the Spirit. There were many scriptures and it took me 2 transfers (3 months) to complete. It took a long time, but I learned so much and I really feel like I better understand how the Spirit feels and communicates with me. I still have much much more to learn and study, but I have realized that the Spirit really does guide our every action. He knows what will bring us the most happiness and joy in life and when we follow him, we will be happier. It takes a lot of work and concentration to hear and focus on the Spirit, but the rewards are infinitely better than when we ignore his promptings.

The rest of the week was a bit rough because I got really sick on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm still fighting it off a bit now, but it was pretty bad early on. Despite being sick, we went to 2 short appointments on Friday and 1 appointment on Saturday. The rest of the time was spent resting.

Eating Kimchi
On Friday, one of our Eikaiwa students took us out to really nice sushi and taught us how to eat it correctly. It was so nice! And really good. I love sushi!!!!! Then we went to teach Ueda Shimai at her family's home. Her parents passed away semi-recently so she has been slowly packing up there things. We were admiring a lot of the really beautiful crafts that she had there when Shigematsu Kyoudai told her "You know, they are both going home in 1.5 months. You should give them something." Ueda Shimai was like "Ah perfect! I don't have anyone else to give these too!" And that is how I walked away with many many beautiful handmade dolls. ^^ It made up for the terrible mistake I made in going to that lesson when I was sick. ^-^ Hehehehe one day I will learn.

That was the week I guess. It was really busy and full of miracles. I still can't believe that it is already Transfer 11. In many ways, I still feel like a Transfer 3 missionary and in other ways I feel really old. It doesn't feel real. I'm just excited to have one more transfer here in the beautiful city of Ushiku. I love it here and I look forward to seeing what blessings Heavenly Father has in store!

Love you all! Have an amazing week!

Love,

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai

Cute Village

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We went to the Daibutsu!

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 5

Konnichiwa!

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.

Origami
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.

Daibutsu
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!

Love,

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai


Baby Buddha

Toe of the Daibutsu

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Priesthood is Real

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 4

Konnichiwa!

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.

Love,

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When you can't even say your own name

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 3

Konnichiwa!

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 it...it 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!!!!!

Love,

ブラック姉妹
Black Shimai