Tuesday, December 27, 2016

You can never have too many Christmas miracles!

Merry Christmas!!

Our District
It must be Christmas because we saw so many miracles!!!! Christmas miracles!

There have literally been so many miracles that they can't all fit in this email, but I will do my best!

The beginning of this week was rough because we had to walk everywhere until Sister Bede's bike came and we also needed to do a lot of caroling prep including making posters about our message and practicing our songs. We had plans to carol with the primary kids on Saturday and the Single Adults on Friday so we needed to be ready. Therefore, the first half of the week wasn't very exciting, but it was all in preparation for our Christmas miracles!

The start of the miracles happened when we went to Meikai University this week and found three people who are interested in studying English with us. Two girls even invited us to their English Speaking Society Christmas party. We couldn't make it, but we hope to meet with them soon!

Sotodate Shimai and Christmas Eve Crepes
We also started having our member meals this week. Basically the Urayasu Members are the nicest people ever! They signed up to feed the missionaries lunch and dinner until Jan 3rd. So every day we get fed two meals and it's really dangerous because they like to feed the missionaries a lot...good thing we have been doing some crazy biking lately!

The biggest miracle we saw this week happened on Christmas Day. We had the craziest morning because Sister Chinain and I both Skyped our families before church and we ended right before church started. We were having a special musical program and the missionaries were asked to sing a song. Well, Sister Chinain also had a baptism in Chiba at 11:15, church was from 10-11:30, and we had a lunch 30 min away at 1:00. How was this all going to work? We decided that right after our song, Sister Bede and Sister Chinain would leave and go to the baptism and I would stay and go on splits with a Young Woman and hold down the fort in Urayasu.

So, that's what happened. They left and I stayed in Urayasu and it was crazy! I was all by myself (with Aoi-chan as my companion) and I had about 10 different people I needed to talk to after sacrament and it was insane. What made it even crazier was that the moment Sacrament ended, every one started handing presents to each other. It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. But the good news? I was able to talk to everyone I needed to, set some appointments, and taught a few lessons, all on my own! Then Aoi and I left together to go to her house for lunch (her family was the one feeding us). We arrived late and the other sisters weren't there yet and we couldn't get hold of them. They were super late too and I thought it was going to be a disaster because we still had to go all the way back to the church to make it to the next meal on time. I was super stressed about it all, but then Yamagata Kyoudai offered us a ride to the church! That was the start of this huge miracle.

Christmas lights in Japan
Well we get to the church and we decide to use the bathroom before getting on our bikes and going to the Yoshihashi's for dinner. Well, while we were in the bathroom, Aoi-San showed up! She thought our lesson was at 4:00 instead of 7:00. So I walk out of the bathroom and the Elders are talking to someone and I go up to introduce myself and she says "I'm Aoi Shimada" and I just freaked out. She is so nice! We invited her to come with us to the Yoshihashi's for dinner and she said yes, so we headed over there and we had the most fun time. Aoi had so much fun too. She opened up to everyone and was telling stories and talking and we all just had so much fun. I'm so glad she showed up and that everything worked out so that we were at the church right when she showed up so at she could come with us. We weren't able to have the lesson we planned, but she was able to bond with the Yoshihashi's and have a really good Christmas dinner.

(Side note: I was personally dying because we had just come from a meal and I was so full. The food was delicious, but yeah, it's a rough time because everyone just wants to feed us! Then everyone gave us even more food at Sacrament Meeting to take back to our apartments! It took all three of our baskets to get it all home.  The ward members are so generous.)

The other huge miracle happened yesterday. We had plans to meet Jessica and Shan Shan (from Meikai) to go to lunch because it would be the last time they would see Chinain Shimai. Well, they told us a few weeks ago that they wanted to go to church, but they had work so we planned to do a church tour for them. However, they came late and so we didn't end up giving them the tour.

With Shina San
However, later that same day we had plans to meet Shina-San. Sister Chinain met her on the bus about 1.5 months ago and gave her a meishi (business card) and a few weeks ago she emailed saying that it was so funny that they had the same name and she wanted to meet! Well, we met at the Eki and went to Starbucks together. We weren't expecting much since Shina-San and Sister Chinain had talked about Tahiti and nothing about missionary work/our purpose so we thought she had the wrong expectations. But to our surprise, our conversation turned to our purpose as missionaries a bit. Then she mentioned that she loves to play the piano but doesn't have one at home. We mentioned that we have one at the church and we asked if she might like to go see it and she said yes! So we went to the church and gave her a church tour and she was so impacted by it. Apparently she's always believed that God existed and has been praying to him since she was little even when her mom and grandmother said it was weird. We gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and she started tearing up. She was so excited!!!

I know that for both of these miracles, Heavenly Father was really looking out for us. He trusted us to be in the right spot at the right time and to do what we came to Japan to do. The day Chinain Shimai met Shina San she had been sick so it would've been so easy to have not talked to her. It would have been easy for us to have not invited Aoi to dinner but because we were prepared, we were able to see amazing miracles!!!
Christmas Eve Lights

Now for my Japan Christmas experience.

It was a crazy time!

Christmas Eve, we went caroling with the Primary kids at nursing homes and it was so fun. The little obachans and ojichans were so cute! They would sing along and play the little hand game with us and they gave us all candy and juice. It was so fun!

The primary also asked Elder Richards to dress up as Santa. We had to bike to the last nursing home and so all the missionaries lined up behind Santa and we did Santa dendo, aka ringing bells and yelling Merry Christmas to everyone we saw. It was so much fun and we made so many people smile! I really felt like I was helping to bring these people a little bit of joy. Christmas is not a big holiday in Japan, but I feel like we were able to help bring a little bit of the Christmas spirit to some people by doing Santa Dendo.

Later that night we Santa Dendo-ed to the Eki where we caroled and handed out flyers. We had just done it the night before with some of the single adults, but Christmas Eve we had a lot more success (maybe because we had Santa?). We just sang fun songs and Christmas hymns while handing out flyers and ringing our bells. It was so much fun and there were so many people who walked away smiling. The point of caroling was not to convert anyone or to look for new investigators, it was to bring a little bit of joy to the people of Urayasu on Christmas Eve and I think we did just that.

Disneyland on Christmas Eve
Funny story: earlier when we were Santa dendo-ing, we met two girls on their bikes who thought we were hilarious. Fast forward to that night when we were caroling the Eki (30 min away from where we were that morning) and the same girls come barreling towards us! It was so funny! Haha

After caroling, Sister Bede, Sister Chinain and I biked to Ikspiari and ate crepes with a member for our Christmas Eve dinner. She showed us all the beautiful lights too and it was amazing! On the way back home we stopped and watched the Disneyland fireworks and it was just so perfect.

Disneyland Castle
Christmas Day was filled with all those huge miracles that I already told you about. I felt really blessed to Skype my family as well. I felt so much joy as I was able to talk to them and see how happy they were. It was sad to say goodbye, but the moment I entered the sacrament meeting and saw the Ward, the investigators, and all the people I've gotten to know and work with here in Urayasu, I was filled with so much love.

Skyping with my family
Christmas is a time for love and joy and I definitely felt that this year. Thank you all for your cards and your love. I can't write everyone's names here, but I put all your cards up in front of my desk and every time I look at it I feel your love. This will be the only Christmas I have on my mission here in Japan, but it was perfect. I feel so lucky to be serving in such an amazing place, sharing this amazing gospel of Jesus Christ.

It has been a crazy, miracle filled week and I am so grateful for my calling as a missionary. I love Christmas so much and I'm sad it's over, but I know that I have the special chance to continue talking about Jesus Christ and the amazing gift he gave us all year long.

I love you all and I hope you had an amazing Christmas!

Black Shimai

Monday, December 19, 2016

Losing your voice as a missionary isn't fun


Our New Companion Sister Bede
Well, we have some big news! We are now a trio!!!!!!!! Today, Sister Bede returned to the mission today and she is with us in Urayasu! She is such an awesome missionary and she has so much energy. She is from Hawaii and is so fun.

Today we had a Zone P-day, so we all went to Koiwa to play volleyball and eat sushi. It was really fun to see the whole zone and just have fun and get to know Sister Bede as well.

On to the rest of the week. We had interviews with President and Sister Nagano this week in Koiwa. Sister Chinain and I decided to go a little early so that we could eat lunch there. We decided to go to the same restaurant as zone lunch and we joked that we might see President and Sister Nagano there. Well, we go in, and guess who is sitting right next to us? President and Sister Nagano! It was so funny. When they left they told us to take our time and that they would see us soon.

Zone P-day
The interviews themselves were really good as well. President Nagano told me that there are a bunch of Spanish investigators in Narita right now and he asked me if I could teach Sunday School in Spanish and I was like "Well...I mean I could" haha! He and Sister Nagano both assured me that I would be fluent in 4 languages when I got home, so I guess there might be more Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese in my future?

On Wednesday, we saw a huge miracle. At the end of Eikaiwa, President Nagano called us and told us he had a referral for us. Apparently, Elder Sasaki (who served 3 transfers in our mission while he waited for his visa to go to America) Skyped his friend from high school and taught her the Restoration and she was really interested so now she wants to take the lessons and she lives in Urayasu so we get to teach her! It was such a miracle referral! We called her right away and she was so excited to meet us. We were then able to call her over Facebook yesterday and she was still excited! She has such a desire to learn and know for herself what this church is all about. It was amazing.

Lots of Decorations at Rainforest Cafe
This week we also went to Meikai University again and we saw more miracles there as well!!!!!!! We met with Jessica again and she said she was planing on coming to church! We've barely talked about church, but she wants to come just to see what it's like. In the end, she wasn't able to come because of work, but the desire was there, and that's the important part.

After Meikai we decided to try and visit the Itou family and we got to the right area, but we could not figure out which apartment it was supposed to be. Luckily, the post man drove by and stopped just down the street. He was happy to come and help us. He found the apartment so fast, it was amazing. Well we knock on the door and a random lady (definitely not Itou Shimai) answered the door. Turns out the Itou family moved about a month ago. Well, as any good missionary does, we started to share our message with her and she was super interested! She is Chinese but had gone to Christian churches before and was really interested. She even took a pamphlet and said she would come to church. But then, she saw the picture of the Book of Mormon on the back of the pamphlet and just said "Mormon? Dame!" (Mormon? Absolutely no, that's forbidden). She said she couldn't explain why in Japanese and tried to give us everything back, but we just let her keep it and went on our way.

I don't feel well
Our next stop was Shogi Shimai. We gave her a little card and a cute picture of us and she was so happy! She gave us so many hugs. It just made my day! I have never seen her so happy to see us before. There was just pure joy on her face, and that made me so happy! Ah I love Japan!!!!

Then came the hard part of the week. I got really sick on Thursday so I had to stay home and rest. I basically slept the whole day. However, we had a lesson with the Nemoto family at 5:30 so Sister Chinain spent 3 hours contacting everyone to find two Sisters to go on splits with us. Aiko Shimai stayed with me (but I was sleeping the whole time) and Sakamoto Shimai went with Chinain Shimai to teach the lesson and apparently it went really well. I'm so glad everything worked out, and I felt a ton better afterwards. I really felt the love of the ward because they were willing to help us. Aiko Shimai brought me medicine and all sorts of things to help me heal and Yoshihashi Shimai brought us dinner. Japanese people take sickness super seriously, so when they heard that I was sick, they were ready to help.

At Rainforest Cafe
Friday, we had District Meeting and District Lunch which was good because it allowed me to rest a little bit more. For District Lunch, we biked all the way to Ikspiari (again haha) and ate at Rainforest Cafe (this was Chinain Shimai's last district lunch and she really wanted to go). It was great! We ordered a volcano cake and pretended it was Elder Kenley's birthday so that they would sing to him. All the Elders left the table to go to the bathroom when we ordered the volcano and the waitress asked us if it was anyone's birthday so Sister Chinain and I said it was Elder Kenley's. She then asked if it was a secret and we said yes, so it made it super funny when they came out and sang to him and all the Elders were so confused. It was a great District Lunch.

Saturday was the CHRISTMAS PARTY!!!!!!! It was so fun! We helped make paper chains before the party and it took so long, but we had some help from some primary kids so they made it fun. The actual party was great too! There were three sections.

The first part was a musical program. The missionaries sang a few songs first. We had been practicing for the last few weeks because Sister Chinain had some great ideas. We did a medley of "Jingle Bells," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" then we sang "Joy to the World" in Japanese with some of the youth and lastly we did "Mary did you know?" It was really fun and everyone loved it! We even had jingle bells for the fun songs. After us, the primary kids sang a few songs and finally one of the members is a part of this gospel choir and they came and sang some really fun songs too. Everyone was clapping along and having a really fun time!

The second part was some minute-to-win-it games. We were divided into teams to play a few different games. At this point, one of our Eikaiwa students that I have been talking to a lot recently came and she had so much fun. The kids were just running around crazy and it was great. We were on the same team and our team actually ended up winning! Whooooo!!!!

The last part was the food and Santa Claus. All of the kids got Happy Meal toys and the adults got macaroons and cute cards. It was adorable. I had the chance to talk to a lot of members, investigators and our Eikaiwa student, Keiko too. She is so nice! I invited her to the Christmas Sacrament Meeting too and she said she might be able to come. She really enjoyed the party and meeting some of the members, so it was a good experience.

Overall the whole party was way fun and it was a great way to help fellowship some of the investigators and help them meet more members. They all had a good time and the missionaries did too.

I actually sang and talked so much that because I hadn't completely healed from my cold/sore throat, I completely lost my voice the next day. So I basically just sat through church on Sunday and whispered to people. It was so hard! I just wanted to talk to them and teach them and help everyone, but I couldn't say anything! It was especially hard during call-in summary report because I couldn't say anything, I just had to sit and listen. That's okay though, my voice is back now and I'm ready to share the gospel!!!!!

This week is Christmas and I am so excited! We have a special Christmas Sacrament Meeting planned with singing and telling the Christmas story about when Jesus was born. I am so excited to be able to share this Christmas Spirit with the members and people of Urayasu. Please take the time to really enjoy the spirit of this season. I have the chance to share the Spirit of Christmas to people through song, video, and messages about Christ and it brings me so much joy. Please enjoy this time that you have to be with friends and family and to show your love for them and for Jesus Christ. Christmas is all about him and the sacrifice he made in coming to Earth and becoming our Savior. I am so grateful for his example and the love he showed for us. This is a season to remember him and to feel and show his love to every one we meet.

This week I also received a package from my mom containing a bunch of Christmas cards that many of you wrote for me. Thank you so much! Every day I open 1 card and it really brightens my day to see all of your support and love. I have not opened them all yet, but thank you to Sister Jones, Sister Toborg, the Shin Family, Sister Frederick, Sister Anderson, Sister Schwaikart, Sister Teeny Jones, Sister Rowe, Sister Nelson, and Sister Mellor. If I forgot anyone, I am so sorry! But know that your words mean so so so much to me. Thank you for taking the time to do that for me.

All the Christmas Cards
Last note, next week is Temple P-day so my emails will be a little later.

Merry Christmas every one!

Black Shimai

Monday, December 12, 2016

Shinamon and Black Pepper


Can you believe I'm transfer 4 now? I've been a missionary for 6 months!! What is this?!?! It is so crazy! Time flies so fast!
A view of the water nerar our apartment

This week was the start of the new transfer. Usually missionaries transfer on Wednesday, but this transfer they moved on Thursday. Why? The missionaries coming from the MTC missed their flight from Seattle to Japan so they had to wait a day. Oh well! That meant that we had one extra day with Elder Akagi and Elder Kooyman!

On Thursday, the new Elders came.

Elder Richards is Elder Kenley's new companion. He's actually one of my adopted Kohai from the MTC. He was in a different zone, but one day he came over to talk to Sister Hill and I and from then on we would talk to him every now and then. Now he's in my district!

Elder Barraclough was at the MTC the same time as Elder Richards, but I don't think I ever met him. He's a really good pianist though. We now have a super musical district, good since we were asked to sing at the Christmas party, the Christmas Sacrament Meeting, and while Christmas caroling with the primary kids on Christmas Eve.

This week wasn't as busy as previous weeks, but it definitely had some spiritual highs and some hilarious moments.

Studying at Meikai University
First of all, we decided to go back to Meikai University on Wednesday and study/eat there. Well, we got our food and sat down by these super nice Chinese girls and they invited us to their TOEIC class (side note: TOEIC is an English test many Japanese people have to take to get jobs/keep their jobs, as missionaries we offer TOEIC tutoring as part of mission school). So, we hurried to eat and go to the class.

Well the professor comes in (and I'm feeling really weird because I am a missionary sitting in a college class and it's so strange) and he starts taking roll. He finishes and looks at us and says in English "And who are you?" We explain that our friends invited us, then the girl explained that we were volunteers. The professor was just like "Ummmmmm" so we said we could leave if that would be best. He said that would probably be best since we weren't Meikai University students.

And that is the story of how I got kicked out of a college class while on my mission.

On the bright side, one of the girls exchanged Facebooks with us and told us to message her. Yay!

We also finished our study outside and it was a beautiful day.

Dinner with Kawamura Shimai
Second spiritual and funny thing. On Wednesday night, we went to Kawamura Shimai's house for dinner. She is a recent returned missionary and a newly wed and she is amazing! She loves to help us and talk to us. Anyways, we went for dinner and to plan for a lesson she was helping us with the next day. She had some amazing ideas and it was so cool to hear about her mission and some mission ideas she had. She has so much dendō fire! It's so great! She also made us a super delicious dinner!

Anyway, the funny part is that she was telling us that the night before, her husband asked her what she was planning on making us for dinner. Flashback to a few weeks ago when we were texting her and we said "You're awesome!" And we got a reply "I'm not awesome Shinamon" (like Cinnamon) and 5 min later we got another text "Sorry, that was my husband." Well, apparently the day before we met with her, her husband told her she should feed us "Shinamon and Black Pepper." We died laughing! For those of you who might be confused, my companion's name is Sister Chinain, pronounced Shi-na.

Teaching Bernadette
Good times...they are the cutest couple though!

Third, we also had Zone Meeting this week, but it was super last minute because everything had to change because transfers were on Thursday instead of Wednesday. So...2:30 the day before the meeting we got a call from the Zone Leaders asking Sister Chinain to do a musical number. She and Elder Payne were able to pull together an amazing musical number.

It was a really great Zone Meeting. My favorite thing was the 40 day fast. It's based on this amazing talk that is about a missionary who gave up anything that would take even a tiny bit of the spirit away from him for 40 days and how he completely changed. It's a little hard to describe, but it was really inspiring, so Sister Chinain and I decided to try it.

The Single Adults made this nativity in the
windows of our church
It is hard. There are lots of little things that I can be better at doing that could help bring the Spirit into my life more. However, at the same time, they are also things I've been planning on working on, so this fast gives me the chance to improve in a lot of ways and see the difference it makes in my missionary work. It is super hard, but part of the fast is praying and reporting how you are doing to Heavenly Father every night. This reflection has given me a chance to really reflect on my day and how I can be better for tomorrow. It's like our ward mission leader says "Forward progression." It's all about constantly improving even if it's just by a little tiny bit.

The funny part? We all went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch and it was super fun, but no one remembered what they ordered so almost everyone paid for the wrong things. It all worked out though! Sister Yamashita (the only Nihongen in our Zone) talked to the restaurant and got it all figured out. She is amazing! And she trained Sister Barton, so you know we had fun talking about Sister Barton and how amazing she is!

Lastly, it was Stake Conference this week. On Saturday, we went to the Nakano Ward for the new converts meeting and for the Saturday session with Hitomi Shimai. Two things happened:

Christmas companion picture
I didn't really understand anything. I got bits and pieces, but that was it. Was that important though? No. I was able to receive a lot of personal revelation as I heard these bits and pieces. The main thing I learned was that as missionaries we have to teach with the Spirit. The Spirit will do all the teaching and even if the people don't understand what we are saying, they will feel the Spirit. Well, it's the same for me. I might not understand anything that's being said, but I can understand that I am feeling the Spirit and when I tune into the Spirit, I can still learn. It might not be what the speaker is talking about, but I will still learn and my testimony will grow.

My Nihongo is way better than it was a month ago. I was able to actually talk to people, real conversations, by myself! It was crazy!!! As we walked from the Eki to the stake center (15 min walk) I had a whole conversation with Kawamura Shimai in Japanese, and I actually understood what was going on! Yay!!!

A Christmas box from my family
The Sunday session was much the same. I listened to the spirit and learned about the importance of Members in missionary work. Members do everything! They are so important! Missionaries move every 6 weeks, but Members stay much longer. They are the ones who really make or break converts' experiences. They help them feel loved and included. Members are so so important. We have really been trying to work with more Members these past few weeks and it has definitely helped the Ward open up and help our investigators, less active members, and recent converts.

It was a weird week, but I still loved it. Every day is an adventure!

I love Urayasu so much! I'm so thankful to be here another transfer. Today we are having a chill p-day eating Takoyaki, watching Meet the Mormons (great movie, please watch it!) and putting up the Christmas decorations my mom sent us.

Hopefully we will be able to see more miracles this week! Have a great week everyone!

Black Shimai

Monday, December 5, 2016

6 months older and wiser too!


It has been a crazy crazy week. I can barely remember what happened. However, I do know that there were many many miracles!

Last District photo
Also, let's get the important information out of the way. This week was transfer calls, and guess what? I am staying in Urayasu! And so is Sister Chinain!!!!! We are so excited that we get to spend Christmas together. She is going home on December 30th though (during week 4 of the transfer) so who knows what will happen to me. On the other hand, Elder Akagi and Elder Kooyman are both leaving. I will miss them! They are both great missionaries and I have learned a lot from them. This is the second time I have said good bye to Elder Akagi. We are convinced though that we will be in the same district again during our missions.

Onto the week! We started out this week so well (in terms of meaningful contacts). Because it was the 6th week, Sister Chinain had me lead the whole week. That means that I had to figure out how to get to places and I was the one stopping people on the street and starting our contacts. It was a little scary, but also fun at the same time. Those first few days, we stopped so many people! It was crazy! We were talking to everyone and it was great. All that talking led to our Miracle Wednesday:)

On Wednesday, we started out with a
Our companionship
great lesson with Bernadette. She is totally opening up to us. We brought her an advent calendar that we made last week and talked about Christmas and she loved it. Because it was December 1st we did the first thing with her which was sing a Christmas song. She showed us her favorite Filipino Christmas song and we sang it together. It was quite an interesting experience seeing as Sister Chinain and I don't speak Tagalog, but it was fun. She is so sweet! Ah! I get so excited every week when I see her at church!

Then on the way back to Urayasu, we talked to this woman on the train named Rio. She was super interested in our TOEIC classes and she really wants to come. It was so amazing. We get back to the church and we hop on our bikes and the first person we talk to is also named Rio! Coincidence? There are no coincidences in missionary work! She has been looking for a Christian church to attend for a long time. She even went to a cathedral in France because she just wants to go to church so bad. We told her that everyone is welcome to come to church on Sunday and she said she would love to come! (She didn't come this week, but who knows, she might come in the future!). So two Rios in one day! I know that Heavenly Father was blessing us for doing our best to talk to everyone.

Lunch with the Yamamotos
Then we headed to Mizue Eki (train station) to meet Nemoto-san and her daughter Rinka. We met them a few weeks ago and last week they texted us to set up a time to meet to do some tutoring. When we talked to them, they wanted to learn English and Spanish, but we weren't quite sure which one they wanted to learn today. Well, turns out they wanted to learn Spanish, so I had to dig really deep into my brain (because in Oizumi, even the Spanish speakers understood some Portuguese...so remembering the Spanish phrases was a little rough). Also, teaching Spanish in Japanese is a little difficult, but it's all good because Sister Chinain also took Spanish in high school so she was able to help out. It was a really fun lesson! Then we got to the spiritual thought. Usually for mission school/tutoring things we do a little video that shows a little bit about some of the things we believe in. That day we showed "Our True Identity" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf which talks about how we all have the potential to become beautiful and only God knows our true potential.

After the video, Rinka starts talking and it is the most amazing thing. She tells us about how her grandpa was searching for the true church to join, but died before he could, but because of his example, she is searching for the truth as well. We told her that we knew someone who had the same question and his name was Joseph Smith. We invited her to read the Restoration pamphlet and we taught her how to pray to feel God's love. Then we asked her to pray and she got so nervous and excited. Her prayer was so amazing though. She told Heavenly Father thank you for sending the Sisters and to help her know if this is the true path that she should follow. When she finished she was overjoyed and she said she felt "Happy!" It was amazing! She has such a strong desire to know and I am so excited that we will be able to work with her and her family more. She is truly a miracle!

On Saturday, we basically had a crafts day. It was Bishop Sakamoto's birthday, so the missionaries got together and decorated his office door at the church. It was great! We also had the idea to make little Christmas presents for the ward with some chocolates, 2 flyers for the Ward Christmas Party, and a little missionary work quote with an invitation to every family to invite one friend to the Christmas party. We really want to help encourage everyone to do some missionary work and to help introduce their friends to the gospel. It was a chaotic time though, trying to put those bags together. We ran out of bags, then the printer stopped working, then the Elders took a long time and came back with the wrong bags. In the end, Sister Chinain

and I ran out to the 100 yen store, bought bags, and sprinted back so that we could leave on time for our lesson. It was crazy, but everyone seemed to like the gifts as we handed out on Sunday. I love this ward so much! I feel so lucky to be staying here another transfer! Urayasu is a great area, seeing so many miracles. It's going to be another great transfer, I can feel it.

Sunday was also amazing. Because it was Fast Sunday (which happens on the first Sunday of each month) we had a night-time sacrament meeting as well and both Miki Shimai and Kei Shimai came! I have never met Kei Shimai, so this was my first time and she is adorable.

Miki Shimai
I have met and taught Miki Shimai a few times. Throughout the meeting and afterwards (in talking to her) we realized that she really just needs to feel our love. We showed her as much love as we could, and all three of us ended up in tears. She is an amazing member and we love her so much. She is so strong and so caring. We haven't talked much, yet I feel so much love for her.

I honestly believe we aren't called to serve in countries, we are called to serve people. Elder Bednar said once that apostles aren't sent all over the world to talk to people (although they do that too). They are sent to find the one. I feel the same way. I feel like missionaries are sent to find the one, and then to find another one. There are people prepared for us. There are people prepared for me. There are people that I am supposed to love and to help. I don't know who those people are, but Heavenly Father does and he will guide me to them.

I Love Japan
This week I hit my 6 month mark. It honestly shocks me that 1/3 of my mission is over already. Seeing Sister Chinain in her last 2 months of her mission has helped me to really relish the time I have here. Time is short, but I want to make the most of it. I can barely believe that it is December, let alone believe that I have been a missionary for 6 months. So much has happened and I feel like I have become a different person. I know that there is a lot more in store for me over the next year though. Today we went to Odaiba to eat lunch with Kei Shimai and the Sister Training Leaders, and as I looked out across the beautiful water, I reflected on these last few months a bit.

Biking with a big suitcase
A little over a year ago, I would have never imagined that I would be serving a mission, but it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Every day, I have the chance to share this beautiful, joyous message with others. I've been studying joy a lot recently, and I realized that this gospel is joy. It isn't just happiness, it is the ultimate happiness that we can feel. It is pure joy. I have come to feel a little bit of this joy every day as I serve the people of Japan.

There are honestly so many things that I have learned in these last 6 months, but in the end, it all comes down to joy. There have been hard times for sure, but no matter how hard the day was, when I was out doing missionary work, it was impossible for me to be sad. I could only feel joy. I don't know what is going to happen over these next 12 months, but I know that I will be able to feel more of this joy.

Urayasu is honestly amazing. I couldn't imagine spending Christmas anywhere else, or with any other companion. I feel so much love from everyone I meet and I am doing my best to show them how much I love them as well. I was so scared today as we waited for transfer calls because honestly anything could have happened. However, now I am just excited to get to work again and see some Christmas miracles.

Thank you all for your love and support! You are all amazing!

Black Shimai

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I'm grateful for earthquakes and snow


My advent calendar
Lets start with the crazy earthquake that happened Tuesday morning. Sister Chinain and I were at seminary and all of a sudden the whole room starts moving like a roller coaster, but everyone else was super calm and didn't do anything, they just acted like it was normal (which in Japan I guess it is). I just kept thinking "I was taught to get under a table or something when there's an earthquake. Why are you all just sitting there?" It went on for a while, and when it finally ended the members asked us it this was our first earthquake. I've been in 1 other one, but it was a lot smaller. Turns out there was a 7.6 earthquake about 300km away from Tokyo that morning. Nothing too bad happened, but people were talking about it for a few days. There was another on Thursday morning, but I was asleep so I didn't really feel it. Welcome to Japan. :)

With Sister Doll
Tuesday we also went to Koiwa for exchanges with our Sister Training Leaders. We were supposed to do it a few weeks ago, but it was the day that Sister Chinain was super sick. Well I was with Sister Doll and she was just starting to get sick so her throat hurt really bad. Did that stop us? Of course not! We stopped every person on the streets and we had some great lessons with less actives. It was way fun!
Care packages when we were sick

Wednesday we came back to Urayasu and we were running really late, but we still wanted to go back to Meikai University and study and eat there to see if we could meet any other students. Well we get there (talking to everyone of course) and we are wondering why there aren't any students around. Then we get to the cafeteria and there this unclear sign that just says the cafeteria is closed. That's when we realized it was a holiday, Labor Thanksgiving, so the university was closed. We felt pretty silly, but it was all good because we got to talk to even more people!

In Japan, Thanksgiving isn't big at all. Labor Thanksgiving is just a day off of work for them. However the members here know about Thanksgiving so we had some nice surprises.

Sushi bento boxes
Firstly was Liu-San, one of our investigators. We had dinner/a lesson planned with her on Thursday night and the day before she texted us asking if we had any plans for Thanksgiving. We told her we didn't. Well, for dinner that night she bought us sushi bento boxes and it was the cutest and most delicious thing ever. She is so sweet! We had an amazing lesson too. We found out that we really need to help her get to know Jesus Christ more before she will feel prepared to be baptized. She really wants to know him and we are excited to teach her more about him! That's why we are here, to teach about Jesus Christ and his amazing example to us. She is such an amazing person though. She really believes and really has a desire to have a strong testimony.

At the end of the lesson, we had about 10 min before we had to leave and she decided she needed to give us dessert so she really quick boiled some water and made these sesame mochi balls that were so good. We had to eat them so fast though to leave and be home on time. It was so bad, but so good!

Our second surprise was on Saturday. We started out the day helping the Ward clean the whole building (they pulled out everything in the closets and it took up the whole chapel. They threw away 200 kilos of trash). Then we rushed 30 min to Shin-Urayasu to meet with Kei Shimai, but she was late. She arrived right when we needed to leave to go to Suzuki Shimai. We had no choice, we had to leave. We were so sad to leave her. Then it took an hour to bike to Suzuki Shimai so we were late for her lesson too, but it turned out okay because the Yamashitas came and helped with the lesson. The lesson went all over the place, but the Yamashitas really helped. Their testimonies helped Suzuki Shimai make the goal to come to church at least once or twice a month. That's amazing . So that was a Thanksgiving miracle as well!

Some of my favorite youth - Sakura, Hannah,
and Momo
The ultimate Thanksgiving miracle came after Suzuki Shimai. All the missionaries were invited to the seminary FHE on Saturday night. We didn't really know what to expect, but it turned out to be so amazing. All of the seminary students bore their testimonies and it was so powerful. I didn't understand much of what they were saying, but I could feel their testimonies. These kids are really amazing. They not only have to struggle with being the only Mormons at their schools, they are also some of the only Christians in their schools. They juggle school, bukkatsu (after school activities) and extra tutoring and yet they still make church a priority. Japanese teenagers have such busy lives, yet these kids still go to activities and seminary. They have such strong testimonies and I loved feeling them.

Thanksgiving Dinner
After the testimonies, the teachers surprised everyone with a real Thanksgiving feast! They had a turkey, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, even sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top! It was delicious! Turkey has never tasted so good! (I also learned that turkey is expensive in Japan so this was really special). We had more time to bond with the youth which is always fun. Sister Sakamoto (the bishop's wife) later told us she was really impressed with the connection we have with the youth. Just 2 years ago the missionaries weren't close with the youth at all, but she can see such a difference now. I love working with the youth. They are so fun! They really are going to be the next generation of super strong stake presidents and relief society presidents. I'm grateful that President Nagano encourages us to work with the youth because I know that through the youth, we can really strengthen the rising generation and the future of Japan.

So my Thanksgiving turned out pretty well. I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm a missionary, I have an amazing family and great friends who support me, I'm serving in an amazing Ward that has so much dendo fire, and I am lucky enough to be living in Japan. I am grateful at I have the gospel in my life, and that I know about the happiness that comes because of Jesus Christ and the Atonement. That is a beautiful gift that I will forever be grateful for. There are so many more things I am grateful for, but we would be here all night. Just know that I am grateful for every single one of you. I can feel your love and prayers from Japan and I appreciate all of your support.
At the temple

Some other things that have happened this week:

On Sunday we had FHE at the Andersons with some investigators, recent converts, and less actives and I TAUGHT LESSONS BY MYSELF!!! I understood what people were saying and I was able to talk to them and share my testimony. It was amazing. I really felt the gift of tongues working in me. I was shocked as people would talk to me and I was actually able to respond. One thing I have really learned on the mission so far is patience with myself. I have to be so patient with myself as I learn new languages. I just want to jump in and be fluent, but that's not how it works. It takes time and work, something I am constantly reminding myself.

My companion and I at the temple
On Thursday we had another miracle. IT SNOWEDDDDDDDDD!!!!! Sister Chinain and I had actually heard it was going to snow, so we set an alarm to wake up at 1 am just to see the snow. Well the alarm went off and we didn't wake up. 6:30 am rolls around and the alarms go off and so I pray and start getting ready.  I hear this "ITS SNOWING!!!" We ran to the window and it was a mix of snow and rain but we didn't care, we were so excited. We ran outside and played in it a bit then we came in (it was so cold) and just sat in front of our window for 20 min while listening to Christmas music. It was beautiful. We got distracted so many times because we kept looking out the window. We didn't want it to disappear! Luckily it didn't and we even got to bike in the snow a bit. Yay snow!!! It made me so happy! I love snow so much!

Entrance to Asakusa
Today we went to the temple and it was just what I needed. I felt so much peace there. It was interesting. We actually went early to do some initiatories and we met Elder Kenley's grandma! Turns out, she tries to be in the same session as him every transfer to see him. She was super funny and she gave Sister Chinain and I cards afterwards. She was so sweet! I also saw a member that used to go to Oizumi even though she doesn't speak Portuguese and it was so nice. Ah, I love the temple!

After the temple we went to Asakusa. We met a guy who did a homestay in Portland with a Mormon family and a man who went to BYU and wanted a picture with us. It was so cool! People see our name tags and immediately know who we are! It totally made my day! So, if you ever see missionaries, please say hi to them! At Asakusa, there was a shrine and a lot of little shopping booths. We had so much fun looking at all the cute little things and taking pictures. We didn't have a ton of time, but it was still so fun. Ah I love Japan, it's just so cute!

So yeah, we are seeing little miracles all over the place and I love it! Heavenly Father blesses those who are working hard. We are working our hardest to help the people of Urayasu and we have definitely seen lots of small things.

One of these small things is the influence of the spirit of Christmas. This year, the church has the initiative to #LighttheWorld by following Christ's example and doing small acts of service every day of December until Christmas Day. I love it! They also put out a video (along with videos for each day of the month with ideas about how to serve) and we have been showing it to everyone. I love this video so much. Earlier I said that I've really been feeling the gift of tongues in my life, well this is part of it. I've been testifying about this video and the light and example of Christ a lot lately and when I do, I feel like the Japanese comes easier. That's 100% okay with me because the most important things I need to say are about Christ. If I can't say anything else, my testimony about Jesus Christ is enough. I love this video (if you want to watch it, go to Mormon.org/Christmas). I know that as we follow the example of Christ and work to light the world, we will not only feel more light in our lives, but we will help others feel more light as well. Truly, when we serve others we feel more love and joy. Right now I am serving others 24/7 and I feel so much happiness. I know that as we each strive to be more like Christ we can feel immense joy every day. Christmas is my favorite time of year and I am so excited to spend it in Japan this year, lighting the lives of others.

Thank you again everyone for your support and love. Have an amazing week ! See miracles and light the world!

Black Shimai

Monday, November 21, 2016

Disneyland? Almost.


This week went by crazy fast! How are we already done with Week 4 of the transfer? Someone told me that as your mission continues it goes faster and faster. I didn't believe them, but it really does! Ahhhhh!

At Mission School, Sue-chan and I made origami
of  flowers and the Tokyo temple
We decided to try something a little different this week. We heard about other missionaries visiting universities in their areas to find their English clubs to see if they could help them out and maybe interest them in Mission School. So on Tuesday, we went to Meikai University for lunch and to find the English Speaking Society. It was interesting. First of all, we ran into one set of the Elders (Elder Payne and Elder Akagi) who just so happened to do the exact same thing at the same time. That didn't stop us though. We ordered some food (it was interesting, I just picked something random because the ramen I wanted was all out) and sat next to a girl who was all alone. Turns out she is here studying Japanese and she is from Taiwan! She was so sweet and talked to us a little bit before leaving for her class. We want to go back and see her again soon! We were able to find an English club, but we aren't sure if we can join yet...we are waiting to hear back from the professor in charge.

This week we were also able to have a really good lesson with Liu-San. She invited us over for dinner, but that day she was running a little late, so we got there and she was still cooking. We were able to help her a bit while talking. She is such an amazing investigator! Her sister is a member and so when the Sapporo Temple was being dedicated, Liu-San was able to go to the open house and see the inside of the temple. We talked a little bit about temples, and I showed some pictures I have of the Sapporo Temple and she was like "I've been there!" It was so cool! One day I'm going to go to the Sapporo Temple! I want to see it so badly! We were also able to give a really good lesson about the priesthood to her and about why we need to be baptized with the restored priesthood, the right authority. It was such a spiritual lesson. She is really progressing well and I love watching her learn. She has such a strong desire to learn and follow the gospel!
Our Mission School is getting so big

On Friday we had Zone Conference and it was the best thing ever! Why? Many reasons.

Reason #1: We received some amazing training. I really learned so much from this conference and it was all about things that we have been struggling with as a companionship. For example, making sure we have study every day and don't overbook ourselves with lessons...or making sure we have a full p-day and don't overbook ourselves with lessons...or making sure we take the full hour for lunch and dinner and don't overbook ourselves with lessons. Are you seeing a pattern here? Yeah, we got the message pretty clearly. President Nagano actually told us specifically three times that we need to take a full P-day...people just keep wanting to set appointments on Monday! We are doing better though, don't worry!

With Bernadette
Another thing they taught us about was teaching in unity, especially with an inexperienced missionary (aka me). It was so helpful because that's something we have been trying to work on. They gave us some great ideas in how to mogi and practice. It was so helpful!

Reason #2: They gave us Thanksgiving dinner for lunch! They had turkey, cranberry sauce (sorry mom and dad, it was the one from a can), gravy, rolls, and mashed potatoes. Since I'm in Japan, I don't think I will be getting a Thanksgiving dinner this year, so this was a nice surprise. There wasn't any pie, but they did have Costco cake. When it came out Sister Pourre just turned to me and was like "Remember the last time we saw a Costco cake" I just died laughing. The last time we saw one was the Halloween party in Kiryu, the last day of our sugar fast. Good times.

Struggling with Hangers
Reason #3: No I didn't make a typo, SISTER POURRE WAS AT ZONE CONFERENCE!!! So this is a funny story. Flashback to the start of Transfer 2, right after transfer calls when Sister Pourre and I found out we were both staying. At that time we thought that at the end of the transfer Sister Pourre would be leaving so we decided to make plans for where she would go. I think I might have told part of this story before, but stick with me.

Basically my guesses for her were that she would either go to Urayasu and be with Sister Chinain, or that she would do whitewash training in a Japanese area. (This means she would be going to a completely new area without Sisters and train a new missionary. Therefore she wouldn't know the area and neither would her companion.) She thought I was crazy. Well, it turns out I wasn't because I was sent to Urayasu to be with Sister Chinain, and guess what happened this week? 3 new missionaries came to the mission from Brazil. One Elder went to Oizumi, one Sister went to Oizumi, and the last Sister? She went with a Sister Pourre to a brand new area in Chiba. So, it turns out I was right! Sister Pourre is whitewash training in a Japanese area! When she sent me that email last week I almost died laughing... many times.

Well, because it's the middle of the transfer, Chiba already had their Zone Conference, so President Nagano told Sister Pourre and her companion to come to our Zone Conference instead. So imagine my surprise when Sister Chinain tells me to turn around and I see my amazing trainer standing right behind me! We had so much fun catching up and talking about what's happened in the last few weeks. It was amazing to see her again! Ah, she is such a strong missionary, She's going to do great things in her new area! So proud!
P-day at Ikspiari

And that is my long explanation about why Zone Conference was the best!

Today for P-day we went to Ikspiari which we thought was going to be this super cool place that was like "an authorized Disneyland" but it was not. Cry! It was a cool little shopping mall and there were lots of little shops and places to take cool pictures. We also saw the Disney store (so cute! They are obsessed with a Alice in Wonderland and Ariel here) and a girl doing a dance/hula hoop show.

Also fun fact, this place was right outside Disneyland. The same station as the one you go to for Disneyland. We passed by the Disneyland Hotel on the way there. I could almost touch Disneyland. We were so close, yet so far. Don't worry, we still followed the rules. We just watched other people go to Disneyland instead. :)

One more crazy story. Sister Chinain and I have had a goal all transfer to reach the standards of excellence for lessons taught per week (20 lessons) and meaningful contacts (100). The first few weeks were rough because of lots of craziness, then last week we taught 21 lessons and had 89 meaningful contacts. Well, this week because of Zone Conference (which took all day on Friday) we got to Sunday and we only had 8 lessons and about 45 meaningful contacts. So in one day we needed 12 lessons and 55 meaningful contacts, and we had the faith that it would happen.

We talked to everyone that day. It was insane. On the streets we talked to so many people my head started to spin. Then we came home and did some calling to the Less Actives, Recent Converts, and Investigators that didn't come to church. At first no one was answering and we were really worried. We needed 6 more lessons and it was close to the end of the day. Then all of a sudden people started answering, then people started calling us back! We would be on the phone with one person and the next person would call. We would finish then call the next person and then another person would call and it just kept happening! It was insane because we were calling people back until literally the moment before we had to turn the lights out, but we hit our 20 lessons! Even more importantly though, every single person we talked to has been someone we have really been focusing on and they all weren't able (for some reason or another) to come to church. I really feel that these short lessons we had with them helped each of them to feel our love. They knew that we couldn't talk long, but we still took the time to see how they were and share a special message with them. I felt so much love for each person as we talked even just for 10 minutes. I know that we don't need a lot of time to show others how much we love them, it just takes a little bit of effort on our part.
Pie face - cute idea, difficult execution

This week we saw so many miracles! I've learned so much since being here in Urayasu, especially about how to show my love to others through the little things. I love the people here and I love being a missionary here. We are seeing so many miracles and we are seeing the area change so much! I love Japan and I love this work! Thank you all for your support and love!

Have an amazing week! (P.S. Next week is Temple p-day so I will be emailing a day later!)

Black Shimai

Princess staircase
And a secret garden