Monday, November 6, 2017

For the last time

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 6


Fall day in Ushiku
I will be honest and say that I am a mixed bag of emotions right now. My suitcases have been packed and sent to the airport, I've written many cards to all those I've worked with here, I've given goodbye hugs and said more goodbyes than I can count. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve these amazing people. I am grateful for all they have taught me. I cannot put into words how much my mission has meant to me.

Halloween Party
I realized this past week that it was almost exactly 2 years ago when I was sitting in my college dorm room, feeling the Spirit prompt me to go serve a mission. What a crazy 2 years it has been since then. I could have never imagined what that decision was going to do to change my life.

I have learned so much about love. About how our capacity to love just keeps increasing and increasing as we let more people in. I have learned about change. We can all change no matter how impossible it may seem, if we rely on the Lord and truly desire to change, we can and we will. I have learned more about the Spirit. I am so grateful to have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit guides me in everything I do each day. He has guided every single step of my mission.

Sushi feast with the Takanishis
Just this past week we went out Streeting and it was the most chaotic thing. We had no idea where to go so we started flipping a coin to decide if we would go left or right. Ultimately the Spirit directed us the opposite way the coin did and it led us to a high school girl who is the friend of a member and she became a new investigator. We felt so aimless as we were walking, but the Spirit was guiding us straight to a super prepared person.

The Spirit has comforted me so many times. Just like all missionaries, I've struggled with doubts, fears, sickness, frustration, and lack of faith. The Holy Ghost has always been there to comfort me and help me pick myself back up and press forward.

I have also gained a much stronger testimony that this church is true. There is nothing that brings me more joy than knowing that this is the true church of God and sharing that with everyone else.

Thank you all for reading 18 months of Sister Black's emails. I'm sure sometimes they were long, and disorganized, and I used the word "miracle" waaaaaaaaay too much, but it means a lot to me. My parents have told me that many of you have enjoyed reading my blog. I hope that you were able to feel a bit of the joy and Spirit that I have felt on my mission. I look forward to seeing many of you in the upcoming weeks.

Before I close, shall we go through the crazy miracles from this past week? ;) (MIRACLES)

On Tuesday we had the chance to go to an English class with Mei and Ryouka-chan at their school! We got to do a bunch of conversation with them. Their British English teacher came too and I think he was so excited to be able to speak to native people again (aka people who would understand his jokes) that he kind of took over. Whoops! They had fun anyways and on Sunday, Mei came all the way to the church to give me a goodbye letter, it was so sweet!
Meal with the Matsubaras, Koikas, and Matsumotos

Wednesday was the start of our new Eikaiwa Basic class. We took a break all month to do finding specifically for this new class and all of us (including the Elders) were really excited. We set it all up, had new name tags ready and everything and one came. Not even one person. We were so sad. We waited and waited and waited and prayed that even just one person would come. Then in the last 15 minutes, 4 boys came in looking for ping pong. Well we don't have ping pong on Wednesdays, we have English so we invited them in and we had a short English lesson. Miracles!!! People showed up! And they said they would try coming again in the future! Yay!!! Heavenly Father answers prayers!

Young Women of the ward
This week I also had my exit interview with President Nagano. We went all the way to Nakano for a 45 minute interview (it was supposed to be 35 min but we arrived 10 min early so he just started right away). Despite having that interview, I still didn't really feel like my mission was ending. Despite packing every night this week and worrying about weight restrictions and why I have so much stuff, it still didn't feel like the end.

That night we went over to a member's house to eat lots of yummy sushi and teach her nephew about baptism. I don't know how many of you have tried to teach a 7 year old boy something but it was way hard. We all rejoiced when we finally got through to him and he told us that "Yes I do want to feel the same happiness that I feel when I play video games every single day of my life." Whew.

Birthday Party
I guess this week kind of turned into the week of meal appointments because on Friday we went to Eimi's (a young woman) birthday party and got fed a lot of yummy Peruvian food from Miyake. She even made Tres Leches cake and it was amazing. We had two more meal appointments on Saturday so lots of food. Haha. This week we have a lot of meal appointments as well. :) Fun times fun times!

Sunday is a day that I will never forget. Because it was fast Sunday, the Bishopric couldn't ask me to give a talk, but they did ask me to be the first one to bear my testimony. I got up there and I lost it. I just couldn't believe that 18 months had passed already and that I had been lucky enough to serve in this amazing ward. I tried to bear the most sincere testimony that I could and I really felt the Spirit. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone after that as well because this time feels more final. I have loved serving in Ushiku Ward so much. I have been working with people in this ward for over 9 months now and it holds a special place in my heart.

Party with the Portuguese branch
Then came the Portuguese Sacrament Meeting. After Portuguese church ended, Miyake Shimai (who I love dearly) pulled us into the kitchen to talk about when I was leaving and then she led me into another room where everyone had set up a surprise party for me. I was so shocked! I had thought we were having a party for all the November birthdays that had just happened, but they had put this all together for me. It really meant a lot to me. This group is so special to me and I'm just glad that they felt of my love. I was so touched that they had all planned this for my last Sunday. Apparently the Elders and Miyake Shimai planned most of it and they told Sister Savage who kept it a secret from me since Wednesday. It was such a sweet thing to do and I will always treasure that memory. We had a chance to eat more Brazilian sweets and take lots of pictures and say goodbye. I will miss them so much!

As you can see, it has been a very blessed week. It was truly an amazing week. I only have a few more days here in Japan, but it will always be in my heart.

わたしはこの教会が真実だと知っています。神様が皆さんを愛していることを知っています。この一年半の間にわたしがその喜ばしいメセージを分かち合いました。そのことによってたくさん幸せを感じました。日本に伝道の機会に心から感謝しています。イエスキリストはわたしたちの救い主だと知っています。キリストの贖いによってわたしたちが毎日より良い人々になることができます。(I know that this church is true. I know that God loves everyone. During this past year and a half I have shared this joyous message. Through this, I have become more happy. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve in Japan. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that through his Atonement we can become better people every day).
My desk

Eu sei que O Livro de Mormon é verdadeiro e que nos podemos buscar mais felicidade quando nos lemos este livro todos os dias. Eu sei que o profeta Thomás S. Monson é o profeta para nosso tempo. Está igreja é verdadeira. (I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we can find more happiness when we read it each day. I know that the prophet Thomas S. Monson is the prophet for our times. This church is true).

I know that it is through the power of Heavenly Father that I have been able to serve this mission. I know that he loves each one of us personally and that we can find greater joy and happiness through living his gospel.

I love you all so much. Thank you for joining me on this 18 month journey. I will see you soon!

For the last time...


Black Shimai

Monday, October 30, 2017

11 Day Miracle

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 5


Some favorite members from Matsudo
Well, this is my last full week in Japan. Next week will be my last email to all of you from Japan and I will be arriving home on Friday, November 10th. It's been a crazy year and a half, but it's not over yet!

This past week was full of crazy miracles and I am still amazed by how much we were able to do!

On Tuesday we had interviews with President and Sister Nagano. My companion had an extra long interview with President Nagano so I got to have a long interview with Sister Nagano and it was like an exit interview with her. I was so happy to have a little extra time with her. That was my last interview with her!

Haha she and President Nagano both mentioned several times in their interviews with me that I only had 2 weeks left and I just kept thinking "AHHHHH I KNOW!!!!!! WHY IS IT GOING SO FAST?!?!?!" I really can't believe it. I realize that it is coming, yet it also feels like I'm just doing normal dendo and nothing will change. Yep...

Our neighbor gave me an orange
Moving on. On Wednesday, the Sister Training Leaders came to Ushiku and Sister Fernelius and I got to have 1 last exchange! We were planning on heading up to Hitachinoushiku to do some finding, but when we got there I felt really prompted to go try and visit a less active that we haven't visited all transfer. On the way there we actually ran into one of my favorite Kodomo Eikaiwa moms and it was great!

Then we arrived at her house, and we weren't really sure what to expect. She welcomed us in and told us her daughter would be home in about 30 minutes and then she could give us a ride back to Ushiku (because it was pouring rain). So, we had the chance to talk with her and just build her up a little bit. She is having a baby soon and her youngest son broke his arm and her life has been a little difficult lately, so it was such a miracle that we were led to talk with her. I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father always leads us to the people who need us the most. That visit may have derailed all of our plans for that exchange, but I didn't mind. We helped someone who really needed to be helped.

Nabe - a soup with vegetables and tofu

I also remembered something that Sister Tobe once told me "We [normal people] receive so many blessings when we serve the missionaries." I thought about that phrase a lot while we were with this less active. She offered to give us a ride back and despite the fact that it ruined our plans, I knew that she would receive some important blessings from Heavenly Father for serving us. As we left her, we saw how much happier she was and we were so grateful for the chance we had to meet with her.

Then on Thursday we had another fun adventure! We had a Zone Blitz where half of the Zone went to Kamagaya to do finding and half of the Zone went to Tsukuba. Tsukuba is our neighboring area so we biked there :) It was a beautiful, very long 1.5 hour bike ride. Super fun ^^

Sister Fernelius

During a Zone Blitz all the companionships get mixed up and we go out finding for 2 hours. It's a great way to unite the faith of the zone. Well, I was the very grateful recipient of a tender mercy from Heavenly Father because my companion for this Zone Blitz was Sister Shim. I almost cried tears of joy at the chance to work just one last time with her. During those 2 hours, I learned so much from her and we saw so many miracles. At one point we were trying to decide which way to go to return to the starting point and we both felt that we should go down a street that normally has fewer people. Well, just 15 minutes later, we stopped a middle school student who really wants to learn more about God and BECAME A NEW INVESTIGATOR!!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!! MIRACLES!!!!!!!!!

That was a long day with a lot of biking, but it was such a blessing to be able to see both Sister Shim and Sister Van Pelt just one more time. I love both of them so much!

The miracles didn't stop there though!

With Sister Shim and Sister Van Pelt
During weekly planning on Friday, Sister Savage and I were talking and we had heard about a lot of miracles around the Zone and they really inspired us. At that point, I only had 11 more days in Ushiku, so we decided that we were going to see an 11 day miracle. What miracle did we want to see? We had no idea, but we knew that if we just gave it our all and showed our faith to Heavenly Father that he would help us see a miracle.

The very next day we saw not 1, but 2 amazing back-to-back miracles! The very first person that we stopped on the street became a new investigator! This is huge because lately we have had a hard time having conversations with people on the street let alone finding new investigators.

Singing for the talent show
But then, we had an even bigger miracle! We had an investigator that we gave to the ward a few months ago because she just didn't seem to have any desires and just wasn't progressing. Well, we decided to give her one more chance and set an appointment to meet on Saturday. She was 30 minutes late to the appointment (her bus never came, so she walked back to her house and then biked to the church, amazing) but when she came she told us very clearly that she wanted to know if this was the true church or not. She wanted to know whether this or her other church was true and if this was true she wanted to join. She said that she feels so much light here and she's been thinking about joining and we were just amazed. To help her receive her answer and really try her best to know, we decided to set a goal together...yep WE SET A BAPTISMAL DATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She picked the date herself after we talked about what baptism meant and how we would work together to achieve the goal. She is going to be baptized on November 19th!!!!!! ALL THE MIRACLES!!!!!!!!!!!

And that is how our 11 day miracle started :)

I don't really know how to follow up that huge miracle. Haha, I guess the miracle from Day 10 (aka yesterday) was that there was another typhoon but it was raining lighter than last week so we decided to go out and house...except it was rainier than we expected so we got completely soaked. What was the miracle? That we didn't get sick!

Halloween party
One more fun thing from last week was that on Friday we had a Halloween Party for one of our Kodomo Eikaiwa classes and it was so fun! Earlier in the day we decorated the room with the Primary Presidency and it looked amazing. We taught the kids a bunch of Halloween words and taught them how to trick or treat. It was so cute!!! We have one more Halloween Party tomorrow (on real Halloween) and I am so excited!

I realize that I still have one more email to reflect on my mission, but I just want you all to know that I am so grateful for every single experience I have had on my mission. You have all only received 1/100th of everything that has happened here and everything that I have learned. I just can't write about everything in the 90 minute email time that I have. I love this gospel so much. I love the joy it has brought me and the joy I see it bring others every single day. I know without a doubt that this is the true church of God. I am so so so grateful that I decided to serve a mission.

I love you all, and I look forward to writing you all one more email.


Black Shimai

Monday, October 23, 2017

Typhoons Destroy Plans...and lead to miracles

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 4


It has been a wonderful and rainy week here in Ushiku! As you may have heard, we had a pretty big typhoon hit us on Sunday, but don't worry, we are all safe. There was just a lot of rain and there are some really strong winds right now so we are staying inside just to be safe. :)

Dinner with the Tobes
Yesterday the rain was getting so bad though that the Bishop came in and told everyone to leave during the 3rd hour, so everyone left pretty quickly and all of a sudden all of our plans for the day were canceled. Granted, when we made our plans for the day we didn't know that a typhoon was coming. We were still able to have a fairly effective day preparing for our big Talent Show on Wednesday and going to a dinner with a few less actives and the Tobes. Yay!!!

As for the rest of the week, this was the week of miracle Kubarikais!!!!!!! I don't know what a kubarikai is in English...handing out flyers? Because of the rain, a lot of our plans got canceled so we ended up doing quite a few kubarikais and they were really successful! We are trying to build up our Mission School in Ushiku and we have a new class starting next month, so we've been trying to advertise it to young people especially.

Just a few miracles:
Sakura water drain in Tokyo

A ridiculous number of High School boys would walk past us and be super interested in English so we handed out a lot of flyers to them. I don't know where all the High School girls went, but the boys seemed to have a lot of interest. Please bring your girl friends!!!!! Or girlfriends....either or ^^

One day we only had 15 minutes. It was ridiculous. But we decided that this was going to be the most miraculous 15 minute kubarikai ever. And it was! With only a few minutes left, I spotted an American man walking past and I just said "Hi" because clearly he didn't need a flyer. Well, he stopped and came over and started talking to me about what we were doing and I explained that as missionaries we are doing service and teaching free English. He told me that he was an English Teacher at a nearby high school and that a lot of his students are looking for an English class to practice and improve. He then told us that we should come back from 7:00-7:30 in the morning to catch all the students on the way to school. It was so helpful and it gave me a lot of hope that all those students I'd been giving flyers to really did have interest and wanted to come. We are going to try that early time next week and hopefully we will be able to help a lot of students. Yay!!!

Mei-chan and Ryouka-chan
Another fun thing from this week was that we went with Ryouka-chan and Mei-chan (two college student PIs that Sister Honda and I met) to their school festival. It was raining pretty hard so there weren't a ton of people, but we got to listen to Mei-chan sing in her acapella group! She was so good! And she said that she is going to come preform at our talent show too (perfect since we didn't have many people lined up to preform). Yay!!!! We walked around and talked a lot and it was great, but then we sat down to eat some of our food and they invited us to come to their English Circle at their school. They really want to practice speaking with native speakers and Mei thought that it would be perfect to ask us if we could come. I want to go so badly!!!!

Zone Conference
It was so sad, I asked what they normally do at English circle and she said that around holidays they will try to search on the internet for things about the holiday and try to do their own presentations about it. They really really try, there just aren't many English speakers to help them. This is perfect though! We are so excited to help them out!!!!!

Also, another fun thing about the school festival. We were at a pretty small college so everyone knew each other and they were all freaking out because "THERE WERE TWO AMERICANS" walking around and speaking English and Japanese. So many people called out "Hello!!!" And there was even a girl who wanted to take a picture with us. We got to start a lot of conversations with people in English and I'm sure we made their day. Haha, it was so cute! I've never been stared at so much in my life :)

Those are just a few of the highlights from this week. We were also able to do a lot of work with members and we had several members come up to us asking if they could help with anything. For example, Sister Tobe had a friend from Russia come and stay the weekend and she really wanted to help us dendo, sadly because of the typhoon and terrible weather in general, it didn't work out, but it was so nice of her to want to help!

Biking with Anna
We also taught Anna-chan how to ride a bike!!!! She is a Young Woman who moved here from Mexico a few months ago and will be staying here until March at least. Because almost everyone in Japan has a bike, I thought that it might be nice to give her mine when I leave and she was so excited! The only catch? She didn't remember how to ride a bike, so we helped her. Yay!!! She is so cute!

That's all from this week! It's just been a great week of dendo and we are loving Ushiku and all the miracles here.

Have an amazing week!!!!!


Black Shimai

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Heart Will Forever be in Matsudo

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 3


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!


Black Shimai

Monday, October 9, 2017

All the Adventures!

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 2


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!


Black Shimai

Monday, October 2, 2017

New Companion

Ushiku Transfer 11 Week 1


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

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!

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!!!!

Black Shimai

Katsu and Karaage - two of my favorites

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Last Transfer Call

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 6


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!

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!


Black Shimai

Cute Village

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We went to the Daibutsu!

Ushiku Transfer 10 Week 5


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Black Shimai

Baby Buddha

Toe of the Daibutsu