Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Living Life Dangerously in Tokyo Japan

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 6


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

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

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

Onto the other miracles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you all!


Black Shimai

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

365 days in Japan

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 5


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls from the ward

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

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

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

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

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

District Lunch made by Sister Tobe and one of our investigators

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

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


Black Shimai

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Normal Weeks Don't Exist in Japan

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 4


This was definitely a one of a kind week.

This week we went with Sister Tobe to go be on a Radio Show. Every week, Sister Tobe has a 30 minute English show on the radio, so this week she invited Sister Honda and I to come and be on it. We recorded 2 shows, each 30 minutes, and they will air in September. For the first show, Sister Honda helped do some English teaching and then I did an interview. It was so scary! She asked a lot of questions in Japanese and then I would answer in English. We had a chance to talk about a lot of different things though, like how my parents have influenced me growing up and a little bit about missionary work too. It was a really good exper

For the second interview, we switched so I did the English help and Sister Honda did the interview. It was such an interesting experience, but it was really fun. Hopefully, we will get to do it again sometime soon :) Haha, I never ever thought that I would ever be on the Radio in Japan. ^^

Another fun thing that happened this week was that we went to visit the Kijimas. They are a couple who just moved into the ward (the same time we did). They built their own house in the Ushiku Ward and we were the first ones to visit. However, it was a little tough getting there because Kijima Kyoudai came by himself to come pick us up from the train station, but as part of missionary rules, we can't be in a car when there is only 1 man and no woman. So instead, he helped us find a bus and he picked us up from the bus stop with Kijima Shimai. The only scary part was that the bus stop that we got off at was in between these two huge fenced off areas with people in army uniforms guarding the entrances. I learned from Sister Shim that Japan doesn't have an army, but we were still nervous to be standing there anyways. After a few minutes the Kijimas showed up and all was fine. ^^

We went to their house for lunch and a mogi lesson and it was amazing. They were so nice and we were able to really bond with them and learn about their lives. The most amazing thing though, was that the moment we walked into the house, we felt the Spirit so strongly. It was so peaceful and quiet and still. It really felt like a temple. They left us for a little bit so that they could finish preparing the lunch, and all we could do was stare in awe. When we were in this home, we really felt like it was as the prophets commanded us, to have a "house of order" and to make our homes temples.

Saturday was by far the craziest day though. Why? BECAUSE AI-SAN GOT BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I almost died on Monday when I found out that she was being baptized on Saturday. Ai-san is an investigator that I taught in Matsudo, who was just so prepared when I met her, and then after I left, she started progressing so fast. On Saturday morning, we woke up early to go to Matsudo for the baptism and it was just so amazing. We were able to sit with Mami-san (another investigator that I worked with and love so much) during the whole service and the Spirit was just amazing.

With Ai-san
When Ai-san bore her testimony after she was baptized, I could just see a light around her. She was so happy. Afterwards she told us that she couldn't describe how she felt, she just felt warm and happy. I am so so so happy for her! She is amazing and I love her so so so much!!!!

I truly feel so blessed that Heavenly Father has put me in the paths of these people. There are so many prepared people in the world, and I know that as I work hard and do my best every day, I can find those people who are prepared for the gospel. Ai-san was so prepared and she has truly changed as she has chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I am just so so so happy for her! I almost cried! All the missionaries sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" for her baptismal service, and I just felt the Spirit testifying to all of us that this was true. This church is true.

After the baptismal service we had to rush back to Ushiku for a meeting and then we got ready for the Kappa Matsuri!!!

Little Turtles
Background: A Kappa is a mythical creature that is really famous in Ushiku because he supposedly lives in the swamp here in Ushiku. He has a turtle shell and a little plate on his head and there always needs to be water in the plate or else he will die. He also really likes cucumbers.

Every July there is a big festival (matsuri) in Ushiku called the Kappa Matsuri. There is tons of games and food and a huge parade that schools and clubs and workplaces can sign up to be in. There was a young woman who was going to be in the parade so we made plans to go with her family to watch her in the parade and then a potential investigator also wanted to go with us, so we ended up going to the festival for 4 hours and just building relationships with all these amazing people. It was so great. It was a really really good way to build relationships with both our PI (and her mom and son) and the member's family.

The young woman and her family are actually Japanese and Peruvian so they speak Japanese and Spanish and they help a lot with the Portuguese Sacrament Meeting. I have become really close with them since coming here to Ushiku, so I was excited to go with them to the festival.

Another fun thing about Japanese Festivals, is that a lot of people dress up in traditional Japanese attire. So, yes I got to wear a yukata!!!!!!!!! (A summer kimono). The member that we went with took us last week to buy our own yukatas and so Sister Honda and I were really excited to wear them. Luckily, Sister Honda knows how to put them on, so she was able to help me. We saw a lot of really beautiful yukatas that day. It was just an amazing experience to really live Japanese culture and bond with the youth.

By the end of Saturday though, we were exhausted. :) It was a crazy, but amazing day.

The last big event of this week was that on Sunday, Elder Tokuzawa of the 70 came and visited Ushiku. We had several investigators come and it got a little crazy. Sister Honda and I were running around the whole time. President and Sister Nagano, as well as many stake leaders were there too (which means that I saw a lot of Matsudo members ^^). At one point, Sister Honda and I were talking to President and Sister Nagano for a little bit and then we had to quickly go on splits. Sister Nagano started dragging Sister Honda away and we were like "But who will be Sister Black's companion?" Everyone else was in class, so President Nagano was like "I'll be your companion." And that is how I ended up being companions with the Mission President for 10 minutes. (The rest of the background is way to complicated to explain in an email, sorry ^^).

Elder Tokuzawa and the Stake Leaders also came to the Portuguese Sacrament Meeting which made things interesting, because we had to translate it all for them. Then on top of that, Larissa (an investigator) brought her 3 NIhonjin friends who also needed translation (there are only so many of us who can understand Portuguese and Japanese). In the end, Elder Price translated for Elder Tokuzawa's talk, another member was translating for the Stake Leaders, and I translated for the 3 Nihonjin girls. I was praying so so hard the whole time that everyone would have the gift of tongues. It all worked out though and the Spirit was really strong. For the 3 girls I was translating for, this was their first time in a Christian church, so I'm sure it was overwhelming for them, but they paid attention and seemed to enjoy it all. There was a special Spirit during that meeting and I'm glad that I was able to be a part of it.

So many things happened this week, it's crazy to think that it's only been 7 days. Ushiku is seeing miracles and I love being a part of it. I am so thankful for this area, this ward, and the love and support I feel from all of you.

Thank you so much!!! Have an amazing week!


Black Shimai

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tender Mercies

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 3


Summer Festival
This was a crazy week! We started our week with a Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) at the church on Monday and so many Kodomo Eikaiwa students came. It was so fun! We got to build better relationships with many of them. They also had a Brazilian food booth so I got to drink Guarana again and I almost died. They gave me an extra can at the end of the festival and it made my day.

Brazilian Hot Dogs
One little miracle from that festival, was that we went upstairs where all the games for the kids were and a Kodomo Eikaiwa student's grandma was sitting just watching everyone so I started talking with her and we had a great conversation. At the end she said she really appreciated me coming and talking to her because she felt pretty sad that she couldn't join in because her back was really bad. It was just a small thing, but I am glad that Heavenly Father was able to work through me to comfort one of his children.

Tuesday and Wednesday were crazy days because we went to Matsudo for Zone Conference and Exchanges. Wow, it was so weird being back. It almost felt like a dream. I'll start with Zone Conference.

President Nagano gave a really important training about having the Spirit with our companionships always. Sister Honda and I were talking about this afterwards and so we decided to do a 40 day fast, basically 40 days where you give up anything that would cause the Spirit to leave you such as reading emails during the week (even though it is allowed) or exact obedience to specific rules. We started on Saturday and on Sunday, during a lesson that we were losing control of, Sister Honda suggested that we sing "I am a Child of God" and as we did the Spirit was so powerful, more powerful than any other time that I have sung that song. It was amazing. I really appreciate this training that President Nagano gave because it gave us the push we needed to become even more consecrated. Since being together, Sister Honda and I have marveled a lot at how fast time goes. We know that it will only go faster and we really want to become the most consecrated missionaries we can be so that the Lord can work through us and really help his children.
Zone Conference

Another miracle from Zone Conference was a short conversation that I had with Sister Nagano during lunch. During that 5 minute talk, she said 2 things that really really helped me.

We don't expect you to see miracles right away. She doesn't, the Assistants don't, President Nagano doesn't. That really just took a lot of stress off of my shoulders. When we were setting up our apartment the first two weeks, I felt a lot of stress because I felt like everyone expected us to find all of these prepared people right away. I wanted to prove to everyone that there was a reason why the Ushiku Sisters needed to be opened. But it isn't like that at all. We really are laying the foundation. We are laying the foundation for the relationship between the Sister missionaries and the ward and the foundation for how missionary in this area progresses.

Training at Zone Conference
They could have sent any Spanish speaker, but they sent you. This past week we had a long conversation with the Assistants about the boundaries and limitations for the Ushiku Sisters. The Ushiku A Elders have many exceptions so that they can travel around and teach Brazilians and Spanish speakers, but the Ushiku Sisters do not have those same exceptions. So it kind of made me wonder why I was here if I couldn't do much to help Brazilians or Spanish speakers. I think I learned a lot though from Sister Nagano's simple phrase. I am by no means the best Portuguese or Spanish speaker, I am still struggling a lot with both (especially now that Japanese is fairly natural now) but Heavenly Father doesn't need me to be here to find and teach all the Brazilians. He needs me here to support those Spanish and Portuguese speaking members and investigators and help them feel the Spirit at church so that they can continue to follow Christ. He didn't need a fluent speaker here to do that, he needed me.

So yeah, that Zone Conference really helped me.

And then we went on Exchanges. Oh my goodness, it was probably the funniest thing ever.

So I went on exchanges with Sister Shim, my former companion, in the same area that we worked together in. Hahahahahahaha it was so nostalgic. (Sorry it sounds better in Japanese... natsukashii)

A member gave us mango popsicles
The first fun thing was that we went and taught MISSION SCHOOL!!!!!!! It was so funny sitting at the front desk and greeting everyone and each student would come in and say hi and grab their name tag and then they would do a double take because Sister Black was back! I really wish I had taken a video of their reactions. They were so funny! I laughed so hard! It really meant a lot to me though that everyone was excited to see me. I love them so much and it means so much to know that I mean something to them too.

After Mission School, I got to surprise a member too. :)

I think this exchange was really hard for the Elders, both sets of them. They would keep seeing Sister Shim and I together and their first reaction is "Oh year, Sister Black and Sister Shim, that's totally normal" and then they always had to do a double take as well. Ahhhhhhh I just love Matsudo so much!!!!!!!!!

On the second day of exchanges, we were planning and Sister Shim just turned to me and said "So Sister Black, who do you think we should visit today? Who needs to see you today?" I was a little surprised, but I thought about a less active Young Woman, so we tried to visit. She wasn't home, but we were able to do some good finding together.

I loved being companions with Sister Shim again. She helped me so much with some things that I had been struggling with. It was so weird but nice to be back in Matsudo for a short time and I walked away with more energy and desire to help Ushiku improve too. Ushiku has so so so much potential! It can do it!!!!

As for other miracles this week.

Sister Tobe and Kazumi-san
We went to lunch with Sister Tobe and one of her friends, Kazumi-san (who Sister Shim and I actually met about 2 months ago when we were helping Sister Tobe out) and it ended with her becoming an investigator! She wants to study English and said she would be willing to listen to the lessons too. Yay! Sister Tobe has been praying for this day for 16 years, so she was so so excited. After dropping us off at the church, she came in and asked if we could all pray together. She started crying in the middle of her prayer because she was so thankful. We are really excited to start working with Kazumi-san too, she has so much potential!

The last miracle of the week.

I taught Gospel Principles class...in Portuguese. Oh it was rough, but Heavenly Father helped me. Let's give this some context. I studied Portuguese for only 3 months, then went on to speak Japanese for 9 months, including having a companion that I spoke almost all Japanese with. I have not studied or spoken much Portuguese since. So I was a little scared going into this lesson, because now when I speak Portuguese a lot of Japanese accidentally slides in and it makes my speaking really slow.
I caught two fish on P-day, but released them.

However, the Lord provided a way. I split the class into groups and they each presented about their section and it was great, then at the end I shared a little analogy that they all loved. During this whole class I was praying in my heart so hard that if nothing else, the students would be able to feel the Spirit. There were 2 investigators there and I just wanted to teach them and help them understand everything and it was frustrating that I couldn't. However, at the very end I bore my testimony and as I spoke I prayed so so so hard that they would all feel the Spirit. As I bore my simple testimony, I felt the Spirit fill the room. I know that if nothing else, they felt the Spirit and that is the most important thing. I am an imperfect person, but with the Spirit, I can do anything.

It was an amazing week. I can feel the Spirit more strongly in our companionship and I know that we will continue to grow and become better every day.

I am thankful for all of you! Have an amazing week!


Black Shimai

Monday, July 17, 2017

Debt is bad.

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 2


Week 2? It's going so fast! Ahhhhh!!!

Ward Missionary Pictures
So this week started off a bit rough. On Monday, after writing emails, we decided to go to Nitori (the furniture store) to buy Carbon Monoxide detectors and try to return some 600 yen (about $6) blinds that we didn't need for our apartment anymore. Well we got there and all was going well, but then they tried to swipe Sister Honda's card. It turns out that instead of just giving us the 600 yen back, they voided the entire transaction and were trying to charge us for the entire transaction minus the blinds again. The only problem was that the transaction was about 17000 yen and Sister Honda only had 88 yen on her card left. This led to a lot of confusion as they kind of tried to explain this to us, but not really. They called the credit card company, and we called the Commissarian to talk to them (but they just ended up asking him to come from Tokyo to pay for the transaction) and in the end, we had to pay for it with personal and emergency fund money. Luckily we had exactly 18000 yen between the two of us. That was a miracle. (Just that morning I decided to pull out 10000 yen in personal money even though I wasn't planning on buying anything. I had no idea why I did it, but later at Nitori I was very glad that I did).

I learned an important lesson that day. Don't get into debt.

I mean we had money, we weren't in debt, but when we got reimbursements over the next two days it was a pain to have to divide up what was actually personal money and what was emergency fund money. Just don't get in debt. Nothing good comes from it. Debt is bad. Even if you do it so that you can have plates and lights in your apartment. Don't do it. ^^

So that was our practical lesson learned from the week. :)

Natsu Masuri (Summer Festival)
This week we also tried to visit a college that is in our area. There are tons of young people over there and there is so much problem. The only drawback is that its really hard to get there by train, and biking takes 1 hour, with almost no one on the streets. And its now summer. The day we went, we were just trying to find an English club of some sorts and we didn't have much success. I was getting a little down thinking that maybe we had wasted our whole day. Then, as we were leaving, a student on his bike passed us and asked "Are you from the Mormon church?" Turns out that he is a Less Active member who comes to church every now and then. It was nice to just talk to him and here a little bit more about the college. We told the Elders later in the day and they decided to try and contact him again, so little miracles came from it. Yay!!!

Later that same day, we decided to do some housing and we saw so many little miracles! We were able to give away quite a few pamphlets and have face to face conversations with many people. Usually people just talk to us through the intercom doorbell and don't actually come out, so it was great to talk to people in person. One dad that we talked to kept straightening up in surprise whenever we mentioned Jesus Christ. It was pretty funny. It felt really productive though so that was good.

Our District
Right now, we are in a big finding phase because we only have 1 investigator. We are trying all sorts of things to find investigators. We tried the college, some housing, we talked to the Relief Society President and the Young Women President about people we can visit and who we can help, and most recently we went through the Elders' old investigators. We found all the females and sent them to ourselves. Many of them have a lot of potential, and the only reason they were dropped was because there were no Sister missionaries and the Elders were focusing on men. We sent almost 100 former investigators to ourselves, so we are excited to go through and see miracles from that.

One amazing miracle that we saw this week though was that we met this woman on the street who actually knew a little bit about the church. She remembered going there when she was really young and playing with the missionaries while her parents took the lessons. As we talked to her, I just saw so much light and potential. She lives in the Tokyo South Mission, so we could only give her a flyer and hope that she finds the missionaries, but I really really hope she does. I really felt like she was prepared for the gospel. I hope that she takes the chance to find the missionaries and open her heart to their message.

Another miracle happened on Sunday. In between the Japanese church meetings and the Portuguese church meetings we had 2 hours stuffed with lessons and meetings and talking to members. We hadn't planned for lunch so we were starving and Sister Honda was so hungry that she started searching through our fruit basket for food. Well we had one last meeting with the Young Women President and when we walked in, they were having a shoukujikai (potluck party) and they started giving us tons of food. It was such a miracle. I was so grateful.

Also, we had a dinner appointment at some Brazilian members' house and I got to eat Brazilian beans and rice and salgados (fried dough filled with meat)!!! Then today at our Summer Festival they had Guarana (Brazilian soda) and I almost cried. I was so happy!

Putting furniture together (cabinet took 2 hours)
Lastly, this week our futons, desks, table and chairs and kitchen cupboards all came, so we spent a lot of free time and meal times building furniture (luckily Sister Honda is an IKEA expert). As we built the furniture, we listened to some Conference CDs from 2010 that we found in the things that the Honbu Elders brought us. One talk that really hit me was one about pride and the priesthood. I don't really remember anything specific, but I do remember thinking a lot about pride.

I had many expectations when I came to Ushiku. I expected to work hard, but I also expected that Heavenly Father would have everything set up for us an that this would be just like any other area, with many investigators already and waiting for us. That was not the case. It is definitely a challenge to not be finding anyone. It's hard to feel like you aren't being successful, that your day may not have been effective because you didn't find anyone. It's hard to see the progress being made and feel proud of everything when there aren't many tangible fruits of your labor.

However, that being said, I think I came with a lot of pride. I thought that I could do this all on my own because I knew just a sliver of what Ushiku was like. Truthfully, I don't know much. Sister Honda and I are both just figuring these things out together. Of course there are going to be mistakes. Of course it's going to feel like we aren't being effective, it is because we aren't. We don't know enough to be effective yet. Heavenly Father doesn't expect us to know enough to be effective.

This past week had its rough patches, but I think that those challenges were necessary to help us to learn about the area and find the resources to be more effective. After that rough day at the college, we called some of the past Elders who had served in Ushiku and worked at the college and we received a lot of valuable information. Would we have done that if we hadn't had a subpar day? Trials are truly there for a reason. Heavenly Father knows exactly how to teach and help us.

One thing I recently learned about the way Jesus Christ taught was that he sometimes let people make mistakes so that they could learn for themselves. This is something I have a really really hard time with. All my life, I've known a lot of things, useful things, random things, important things, things other people don't normally know. I have always struggled with wanting to just tell people what to do and why they should do it. But that isn't how Christ taught. He let people make mistakes and from those mistakes, they were able to learn so much more. It is something I have been trying to work on not just in teaching investigators, but also in the way I try to teach others around me. Most importantly, I'm trying to apply it to myself. Making mistakes isn't a sign of failure, it is a sign of progress. If we didn't make mistakes, we wouldn't be using our agency to make choices and thus would not be fully embracing our Heavenly Father's plan for us. So embrace the mistakes!!!!!

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


Black Shimai

Monday, July 10, 2017

From Your Friendly Apartment Moving Expert

Ushiku Transfer 9 Week 1


Welcome to Ushiku!!!!!!!!! It's a magical place full of miracles!

I started out the week in Matsudo, doing a lot of packing. So much packing. I have too much stuff. I'm so sorry :)

However, on Monday we had a Family Home Evening with some members and mission school students and it was so powerful. We ate a bunch of really good food then Sister Shim and I shared a video called "The Hope of God's Light" and bore our testimonies. The Spirit was so strong and right before our eyes we saw a Mission School student whose heart had been really closed to the gospel, open up just a little bit. I then had the chance to share why I decided to serve a mission and I felt the Spirit so strongly. I am so grateful that I chose to serve a mission. Nothing has changed my life more than serving here in Japan.
Last night in Matsudo

On Tuesday, we had to spend a lot of time packing and doing last minute things, but we did have a chance to walk through the pouring rain after Mission School and go to a dinner appointment with Mami-san. We went to the Watanabes' and they were so cute! They even made a 4th of July Cake which was great since all of us had forgotten that it was the 4th of July. Whoops! I will miss all of them so so so much though!!!!

Wednesday was a special day though because usually transfers happen on Wednesday, however because Sister Honda and I were opening an area and didn't have an apartment, we had to stay the night in Matsudo. So I got to go to one more Eikaiwa!!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYYAYAYAYAYYAY! However, having gone to one more Eikaiwa, I realize why we transfer on Wednesday mornings. That last Eikaiwa was so hard, I didn't ever want to leave. Many of the students found out that I was transferring and wrote me notes, we took lots and lots of pictures, and some of my favorite members came to say goodbye. I was so sad. I am going to miss Matsudo so so much!
Last Eikaiwa in Matsudo

Before Eikaiwa on Wednesday though, we saw a huge miracle. Hitomi Shimai (a recent convert from Urayasu who moved to Matsudo and stopped coming to church) called us! I was able to talk to her for the first time in months and it was so good. She really wants to come back to church and I hope the sisters are able to meet with her. She is so sweet and adorable and I was just so so happy to talk to her.

Thursday was the day, the day we went to Ushiku.

We got to the eki (train station) on time, then the Ushiku Elders called us telling us that the Honbu Elders were closing the apartment in Mito (about an hour away) and were going to be late. So we made this huge list of questions for the Elders since we had no idea about anything in Ushiku.

Some of my favorite mission school students
Eventually the Honbu Elders came and we made it to our apartment where both the Bishop and his wife and Shigematsu Choro and his wife (the senior missionary couple who got released a little while back) were waiting. It was such a big surprise to see all 4 of them there! We thought it was just going to be us and the Elders. It was such a blessing though.

All of our furniture came from the Mito Elders' old apartment, so we had the chance to go through all the things we wanted and didn't want. There wasn't much to begin with, but we were able to get appliances and some shelves. Currently we are waiting on futons, a table, desks (our chairs arrived yesterday), and a washing machine. :)

A Sister in the ward found out that we didn't have futons and were just sleeping on some blankets on the ground and she came by with some futons for us to use. Ushiku members are so sweet!!!

We were also lacking a lot of important things, so on Thursday and Friday we went shopping with the Bishop and his wife. We spent so much money...like we had to go into our emergency money and personal money because we had to buy dishes, pillows, curtains, and lights (lights are so expensive). It was bad...but we are getting reimbursements so, we will be fine. The whole time we were shopping we just kept saying to ourselves "We are investing in future sisters."

I think I can safely say that I am an apartment moving expert now. If they ever need to move apartments somewhere else, I know exactly what to do. ^^

Since Wednesday, our apartment has improved dramatically and we are so so excited to be working here in Ushiku. We have had the chance to do some normal dendo and this area has so much untapped potential. It's amazing.

Some favorite Matsudo members
On Saturday, Sister Tobe invited us to a seminar she was teaching to talk to some of the moms and we met a mom who actually comes to Kodomo Eikaiwa and she is so sweet and has lots of potential. Masuda Kyoudai, a ward missionary from Matsudo, was also at the seminar and I almost cried when I saw him. I miss Matsudo already! But that's okay because I'm still in the same zone so I will see them again soon.

The funny thing about Ushiku is that I know a lot about Ushiku, but I know nothing at the same time. For example, I came to Kodomo Eikaiwa in Ushiku last week and met some people and knew a little bit about how it was run, but that didn't make it any less confusing when I actually went this week and had to teach. It was chaotic. Another example was the Portuguese Sacrament meeting. I know many of the people who come and they have all seen me at least a few times, but now this is my ward and I really need to get to know them and know how to help them. It's a small difference, but it's an important adjustment that needs to be made.

Side note: Sister Honda and Elder Kooyman (the other new Ushiku missionary) were both so confused during the Portuguese Sacrament Meeting. It was the funniest thing. At one point, they were talking about visiting teaching in different countries and Elder Kooyman thought they were arguing about Japan and America and Brazil.

The Elders here have been a huge help, they have referred many of their female investigators to us, so we aren't starting with nothing. One potential investigator came to church on Sunday and somehow I was thrown in a room with her and a member while Sister Honda and another member went in another room with a less active during the third hour of church. We were so confused. I just tried to build a relationship with the potential investigator and learn about her needs and desires and in the end I invited her to take the missionary lessons and see how they can help her in her life. Heavenly Father really blessed us this week to find this investigator. He knew that we were moving into a new apartment which didn't even have the basic necessities and that we knew nothing about the area, but he still helped us to progress the work forward this week.

I'm really excited to be working here in Ushiku. It's weird because I feel like I know a lot, but I know that I know nothing, but Sister Honda and I are so excited to work together and see lots of miracles this transfer. The transfers are starting to feel shorter and shorter and now more and more missionaries that I know are going home. It's getting real. Time really does fly on the mission and that is so scary. This transfer, Sister Honda and I will hit our 1 year in Japan mark together and that is insane.

Now for a few funny things, because you know there will be funny things when you have to go shopping for everything in an apartment:

1-Star pot for the apartment
So we had to buy a pot for our apartment because we had no cooking utensils whatsoever. We found a pretty good one, bought it and brought it home. Then as we were unpacking it we noticed that the package literally says that it is a 1 star pot. 1 out of 3. They didn't even try to hide it. We absolutely died (probably because it was the end of a really really long and tiring day) that of all the pots we bought the "1 Star Pot". Good times.

Second, so usually in Japan, when you move, the Landlord will give you this big complicated sheet explaining how to separate your garbage and what days the different garbages are picked up. Well, we never got this vital piece of paper, so the Elders' helpful suggestion was for us to go house our neighbors and ask when the garbage gets picked up. (Housing/tracting is when missionaries knock on houses to share the message about the gospel...however instead of sharing the gospel message we would be asking about trash).

Last. Let me just preface this by explaining that sometimes Portuguese, English, and Japanese hymns have slightly different melodies. One of these songs is "I Believe in Christ" where English and Japanese have the same tune, but Portuguese is different and Spanish is different from all the rest. Naturally, the branch decided to sing this song at sacrament meeting and I'm the poor pianist trying to play this song which people singing in Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese and it was just all wrong. Afterwards, everyone got into a big argument about this hymn and why we couldn't sing it and it was just a big disaster. The funniest part though was that Sister Honda and Elder Kooyman didn't understand what they were arguing about at first, then I told them that they were arguing about the hymn and they died. Well, naturally, they decided that we needed to try again so they sang it for Sunday School and Elder Kooyman decided to sing in English just to mess it up. It's the little things I guess.

This week wasn't really dendo heavy, but we were the recipient of a lot of help and miracles from the members. They really helped us out with moving, futons, buying us some food, and just helping us to jump right into missionary work. The ward is so excited to have sisters and we are so excited to be here.

Love you all! Have a great week!!!!


Black Shimai

Monday, July 3, 2017

Egg ood mother


First of all, to explain the title. We taught English to this old lady this week and she brought her friend along, and she was trying to show off her English skills a little bit by doing this elaborate self-introduction. Her English was really good, but then we got into the lesson and I said something like "Is your daughter a good mother?" (The original sentence was "is your father a math teacher?"). Well, this woman starts going on and on about the different pronunciations of "a" and how she couldn't understand what I was saying and all she could hear was "egg ood mother." It was pretty funny.
Pizza for transfer calls

Also, it reminded me of my amazing mother who had her birthday this week. My mom is egg ood mother and I love her very much!

Now, onto the Transfer Call announcements. The biggest news is that I WILL BE COMPANIONS WITH SISTER HONDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It finally happened!!!!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! (For those of you who may be wondering why this is a big deal, we've been friends for a long long time, reconnected when we both got called to Japan and have been hoping to be companions since Day 1).

It's actually kind of funny, because the email with the rosters came and Sister Shim and I were so confused because we hadn't received our transfer calls. We just got a bunch of emails that made our phone buzz and made us all nervous as we waited for our call. Well the roster came and we still didn't have our call, so we actually had to call the Assistants. Haha, they felt really bad. But yeah. I called Sister Honda right after and we are so excited!!!

The second big news is that we are actually whitewash opening Ushiku Sisters!!!!!! This means that there is no Sister in the area that has worked there before, so we will be starting from scratch. There haven't been Sisters in Ushiku for a very very long time, so we will be opening the area! Haha, we actually are moving into a new apartment (again ^^) on Thursday so we will spend Wednesday in Matsudo still. It will definitely be a challenge though. We will be starting with no investigators and very little information about the area, and it is a Portuguese and Japanese area so I will need to get all my Portuguese back.

This announcement wasn't a big surprise to me, since at interviews President Nagano told me that they were opening Ushiku Sisters soon. Since I've worked in Ushiku a little bit in the past (with the Portuguese sacrament meeting) I had a feeling that I might be going. I'm so excited to see Ushiku grow though! They are seeing so many miracles and it will be so great to work with Sister Honda!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

As for this past week. There were 4 major things that happened.

1. We weren't able to set a lot of lessons this week, so we finally had time to find and visit all the Less Actives that the ward has been asking us to visit. Wow, it felt so weird but good to have time to do all of that. Usually we are so packed that we barely have time to eat, so this was a change. Our investigators are still doing really well though and we have plans to meet with them this week.
From Bulgaria

2. We found out that Shizuko San's family is pretty hantai (against the church) so she is feeling really stressed and she feels like she needs some time, so we have dropped her baptismal date for now. She has a desire to still know if it is true, so we will continue to pray for her.

3. Culture Night!!!!!!!! Over the past 2 weeks we have been planning this Cultural Celebration activity for Wednesday after Eikaiwa. We asked two members (one from Bulgaria and one from Austria) to come and give short presentations about their home countries in English for the students. It went so well! The ward really came together and it went perfectly! The presentations were perfect, fun, and the students loved it. After the presentations, we had some snacks and tons of members came and talked with the students. Almost every student was talking to a member and when it came time to end, no one wanted to leave. It was such a good opportunity for students and members to mingle. We hope to hold more activities like this. What really amazed me was how simple it was. The activity was so simple, and we planned it so quickly, but it worked so well. It was truly a miracle. The members were really impressed too.
Sister from Austria

One thing that really hit me though was at the end when one member came up to me and said "Thank you for asking me to do this. I feel like my family doesn't contribute much to the ward, so I'm glad you invited me." She doesn't speak much Japanese and requires English translation at all of our church meetings so I can understand why she felt like she didn't contribute much. The amazing thing though was that her name was the very first one that popped into our heads when we started planning this activity. I'm so glad that we were able to incorporate her and her family into the activity and help her feel more like a part of the Matsudo Ward Family.

My bike and its twin
4. Lastly, IT WAS SISTER SHIM'S 21ST BIRTHDAY!!!!! Yep! We celebrated both of our birthdays this transfer! Yay! It was so fun! We had church that day so tons of members came up and said happy birthday to her (there was even one little boy who came up to me and said happy birthday, so I quickly redirected him to SIster Shim, it was so cute!). Some of the primary kids made her a card too! AHHHHH! For dinner, we brought an investigator and her friend to a member's house for dinner and it was great! The member was Yukimoto Shimai who is Korean so she made all sorts of traditional Korean food including a special soup they eat on birthdays and it was so so special. I tried to make it special for Sister Shim too by surprising her with a cheesecake and decorating her desk. It was a great day and she said she really enjoyed it. I'm so glad! I love Sister Shim so much!!!!!

Shinto shrine
This has truly been a crazy transfer. It flew by so fast! We are already in July and that is insane to me. We did so much this transfer, we saw so many miracles. I will really miss Sister Shim! She was an amazing companion and I learned so so much from her. She is such a strong missionary. Hehe I'm excited to go on exchanges with her this transfer ^^ Yay for still being in the Matsudo Zone!!!!!!!

There is one last experience I would like to share with all of you.

Over the past 2 transfers I have really been struggling with myself. Just knowing that I have so many weaknesses and feeling powerless to overcome them and become not just a strong missionary, but a strong person. It has been some thing that I have really been studying and trying to work on and overcome these past two transfers.

On Sunday, a Primary teacher asked us to come and be a surprise guest for her class of 4 year olds and talk about being missionaries. Well we walked into the classroom (filled with the cutest little 4 year olds ever!!!!) and they were just so excited to see us and hear us. As we introduced ourselves, I just felt a simple joy. There was something about telling these children that I was here to share a happy message with everyone I met, that just made me so happy. It truly is the little things.

BYU student who also knows my brother
After our little visit, we went over to the Young Women and they were singing one of the Youth Songs for this year called "Ask of God." We can't listen to EFY music, but I've sung this song in Young Women's several times since being here in Matsudo and it has come to be a very special and powerful song for me. As we sang, I could see the light from these beautiful daughters of God and it gave me hope.

Joy and hope. Heavenly Father really knows how to help us. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. I am so grateful to have a loving Heavenly Father who cares for me.

I hope you all have an amazing week. Please remember that you have a Father in Heaven who loves you.

Love you all!

Black Shimai

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ai Love or Ai Blue?


We are nearing the end of the transfer, I can't believe that already! I swear the time goes faster and faster. We found some soda that Sister Nicholes told me Sister Bede bought, and then I realized that Sister Bede was here 6 months ago. I have been in Matsudo almost 4.5 months! Time flies so fast!
With girls running a Vietnamese booth at a school festival

This week was no exception to that either. I swear this week was only 1 day.

We had the chance to have interviews with President and Sister Nagano this week and it was a welcome opportunity to just talk with them and feel their love. They really helped me with some of the things I've been struggling with. I love President and Sister Nagano so much! I can't imagine any other Mission President.

This week was also the last of the exchanges for the week. We went to Tsukuba!!!! On the rainiest day ever! Luckily I brought my rain jacket and my more waterproof-ish bag (some pamphlets still didn't survive though :( ). I was back with Sister Van Pelt, one of my favorite missionaries ever! We went to visit some members and they were so sweet. We got completely soaked though (even with the rain coat). The funny thing is that even though the rain was pouring, no one was on the streets, and we couldn't even enter the homes of the people we visited because we were so wet, I was overwhelmingly happy. When we are on the Lord's Errand, doing his work, we will experience disappointments, but we will always be able to feel more joy.

The next day, we truly saw a miracle. We had a lesson with Ai-san, who we have only met a few times, but she has been coming to Mission School for a while. We didn't have a lot of time to prepare for the lesson, so we decided that we would read the pamphlet together, every paragraph, just like we have been mogi-ing in Zone Conferences. That was when the miracles came. Ai-San started asking the most amazing questions, and then there was a part in one of the paragraphs that we don't normally use in our lessons that just resonated with her. She really really wants to know if this church is true, and if it is, she wants to act on it. So, we were able to SET A BAPTISMAL DATE WITH HER!!!!!! She completely understood that the date helps us to work hard together to help her receive her answers. A baptismal date is so important because it gives her a real goal to work towards. Without a goal, what motivation do we have to do anything? She is really excited to work towards this goal, and we are excited to work with her as well!!!!! We love Ai-San!!!! (Hehe, Ai in Japanese means love, but Ai-San's name actually means blue which makes for some funny jokes :) )

The Ogawa's
Our other miracle lesson from this week was when we randomly stopped by Shizuko-san's house. She's our other investigator with a baptismal date. She's been struggling with the Word of Wisdom lately and remembering

why she wants to keep it, so we gave her a CTR ring (one of those green ones that kids always have) so that she can wear it and whenever she looks down she can remember why she is trying to keep these commandments. She loved it and it was such a powerful lesson. We were just standing at the door and testifying, but the Spirit was so strong. She has so many temptations right now with work and family, but she is really trying to overcome.

This week was seriously so jam packed with things (we went to 3 different areas this week for exchanges, District Meeting, and helping another ward) and there were so so so many miracles. It is impossible to share everything with you all, but the work in Japan is really hastening. I have never had so many progressing investigators and I have never had 2 people with baptismal dates on my mission, but I know that the Lord blesses us as we work hard and strive to be obedient. I am so blessed to be working in Matsudo right now. I don't want to leave! Next week are transfer calls though, so who knows. :(

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!!!!!!!!

Black Shimai