Monday, January 30, 2017

You're American so you know how to eat Pixie Stixs


This was a crazy miracle filled week!

Yamashita Shimai
On Tuesday, even though the transfer has barely started, we headed to Koiwa for exchanges and it was so fun. This time I was with Sister Yamashita who is one of my favorite sisters in the whole mission. She is so amazing and sweet! She is also Nihonjin so I got to speak Japanese all day and I realized that I actually know a lot more Japanese than I thought I did. :) We went to a college in Koiwa to see if they had an English program that we could help with. We found the cafeteria and sat by two really nice girls, one of who had met one of the Elders a few months ago. A little while later another girl came and we asked if she was Nihonjin and she said "I'm actually Paraguayan." I got to break out my Spanish again and we had so much fun talking in Spanish. She really wants to learn English too so that is awesome! It is so crazy how handy Spanish is in Japan. It was just another testimony to me of why I needed to serve in Oizumi. I feel like every day, Heavenly Father gives me more and more confirmation that this is the mission he prepared for me.

The college where I used my Spanish

Another example of this was on Wednesday when we had a mogi lesson with the Relief Society President, Yoshihashi Shimai. We decided that we wanted to mogi the Plan of Salvation. As we were teaching, the Spirit just became so strong. Yoshihashi Shimai started crying and testifying and we were just feeling the Spirit testify through us. That lesson was probably one of the most powerful moments of my mission. I really felt the Spirit speaking through us to Yoshihashi Shimai's heart and helping her to feel the truth of our message. Our Japanese is by no means amazing, but the Spirit doesn't need us to be fluent in order to speak to the hearts of others. It was such an amazing lesson!
View from our apartment

Thursday we texted Nemoto san and asked her if there was anything we could do for her. It was kind of a random text since we were going to visit her that night anyways, but she said that she really needed some help with a costume she was sewing for her son's Peter Pan play. Perfect! We called Yoshihashi Shimai (who we now had a super strong connection with after the mogi the day before) and quickly found someone in the ward who could help. This is one of the things I love about being a member. There is a huge family of people with all sorts of skills and backgrounds that are always there to love you and welcome you and help you. No matter where you go, members of the church will welcome you with open arms, even if you can't speak the same language. It really is one huge worldwide family and I love it!
District Lunch with Tsukushi and indo curry

On Thursday we also watched a Worldwide Missionary Broadcast that many of you might have heard about. The missionary schedule is now a lot more flexible where we get to pick when we study based on what fits our schedule best. This allows us the flexibility to dendo more in the mornings if that is more effective, and study in the afternoons when it is harder to visit people. It is definitely and adjustment from what I have been living up to this point, but it is inspired. This new schedule also gives us a little bit more time at night to get ready for bed and write in my journal!!!!!!!!!!!!! YESSSSS!!!!! I am finally staying up to date on my journal, a goal I have had since day 1. It really helps me to clear my head before going to sleep and focus more on the people I want to help here.

Friday we helped Yamamoto Shimai, a member, make miso soup base. We boiled soybeans, mashed them up, then mixed in a ton of salt and fermented moldy rice. We got to roll it up then throw it in a bin and it was way fun. Japan is such a cool place :)

Cleaning the beach
Saturday was a way fun day! We started out the day by going to Maihama Beach and cleaning up trash there. It was so fun and although we only made a small difference, the man in charge has been coming for 5 years and in that time he has made a huge difference! I think it's the same with the gospel too. It might not seem like we are doing much now, but as we read the scriptures and pray every day, in 5 years who knows where your testimony will be. Imagine if this man hadn't cleaned the beach though...5 years later it would have been even worse. That's the same with us. Part of the reason that the missionary schedule changed was to help missionaries develop more freedom and practice using their agency to make study a part of their every day life, a skill they will need after their missions as well. Daily spiritual nourishment is so important!

Then after the super fun beach clean up, we all headed to the church for the mochitsuki!!!! We got to pound rice into mochi and eat it! It was so fun and there were so many new people there that we got to talk to. We ate so much mochi too, it was delicious!!!! I decided that from now on I can spend Christmas in America and then came to Japan for shogatsu (New Year's) and eat all the mochi ^^

Mom's Monchhichi
It was such a fun activity and we were able to talk to so many ward members and investigators and visitors. Ward activities are such a great way to give people a chance to see the church, meet Mormons and see that they are cool normal humans too, and it gives the missionaries a chance to create relationships with everyone. Please invite your friends to ward activities!!!!!!!!

Sunday was the miracle of all days. At church the Bishop presented his ward vision for the year and I had the chance to translate for Bernadette. It was really hard because I didn't know a lot of the words, but I felt like it went pretty well and she seemed to really like it. She is starting school today and I hope she likes it and does well! Ah!

After church we had the chance to go to Karin Shimai's house with Kei Shimai and Kawamura Shimai. They are basically 3 of my favorite people ever and we had so much fun. We got there late because we had some other things we needed to finish first, and when we got there, they were trying to figure out how to eat pixie stixs and honey sticks. They were dumping the pixie stixs in water, it was so funny! When we got there they were like "Yes the Shimaitachi are here! You're American, teach us how to eat these!" We taught them and it was so funny to see them get all hyped up on sugar. We were also able to share a really good message about 1 Nephi 3:7 and how it (and the rest of the Book of Mormon) applies to each person differently depending on what stage in life they are and what situation they are in. Honestly, this is why we have to study every day, because every verse in the Book of Mormon has different meanings to us on different days based on what we are going through. It is constantly helping us improve, so we can't stop studying it! I love the Book of Mormon so much. This week I had the chance to write my testimony in Portuguese and put it in a Book of Mormon to give to Alexander (a Brazilian investigator of the Elders) and it gave me the chance to reflect on the Book of Mormon and how it has affected my life. I don't know what I would do without the guidance it give me every day.

We ended the day with a great member mogi with the Enomotos and we were finally able to get in contact with Liu-san!!!! We set an appointment to call her again next week and I am so excited. I have missed her a lot and I hope that we will be able to help her come closer to Christ!

This really was an amazing week. Today we went to Odaiba and went to the Takoyaki museum. It wasn't really anything special, just a bunch of takoyaki that you could buy, but it was relaxing and nice. We also had the chance to eat with the Shibata family and their son is the cutest thing! He is 3 and has so much energy and he loves the missionaries so much. We had so much fun! I love this ward so much!!!!

Thank you all for your love and support! See you next week! Also, this week is my Grandma's birthday so Happy Birthday Grandma Black! I love you!

Black Shimai

At the Takoyaki Museum

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The bean-chan is here


This week was just full of flashbacks and memories.

I only had one day with Sister Bede before she left for Matsudo and I went to get my bean-chan. It was so sad! We went and said goodbye to the Nemotos and they were really sad that she was leaving too. Ah! It was so hard to say goodbye to her and the Elders.
At the mission home with the new missionaries
 Wednesday was insane! We were running a little late so we literally had to sprint past the Elders who had come to the Eki to say goodbye to us to get on the train, and we just barely made it.

We took a few last selfies, then parted ways in Koiwa. I headed to Honbu, and she headed to Matsudo. She was such an amazing missionary! I will miss her so much.

New Missionary Training was the strangest nazakashii feeling (like looking back at memories fondly). Everything was the exact same as it was for me 5 transfers ago. It was so weird. It was so fun though because Sister Mitchell was there and SISTER ATKINSON!!!!!!

For those of you who might not remember, Sister Atkinson was in my MTC district, but she went home about a week before we came to Japan due to illness.  But now she is back!

The funny thing is, when she left the MTC she told us "You better hurry up and get trained so you can train me when I get there." And guess what? I AM HER TRAINER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We were so excited when we found out! AHHHHHH It's so funny because we are such different people from when we were in the MTC, we've gone through different trials, and learned different things, but it still feels the same. It's definitly a weird feeling because we are doki, but at the same time I'm 4 transfers ahead of her, but it has been way fun. She completely jumped into dendo right away and her excitement and energy has made me more excited and energetic.

With the mission president and his wife
Our first day together was completely insane. We had so many appointments set up. It would have been a crazy day for two normal missionaries. I felt a little bad since she was still brand new and I remember how that felt, but it all worked out. She worked hard and did her best. That's another way weird thing about being a trainer. It's weird to now be the one who knows more Japanese. I have to lead the lessons and help connect everything and make it all make sense. I'm realizing that I know a lot more Japanese than I thought I did, but there is still so much more to learn! Ganbatte!!!!

She did a great job though. Since being together, we've started finding some very cool people who are really interested in Mission School. Maybe Sister Atkinson is a lucky charm or something. Every person we've stopped on the street or talked to on the train has been really interested in Mission School. We have had some amazing contacts together. There was one girl who is going to cooking school and loves English and we also found a girl from Thailand (!!!!!!!!) who is basically fluent in English and wants to come and make some new friends. AHHHHH!!!!!!

The cute shopping cart
At Mission School, we saw some other cool miracles. Kazumi, an Eikaiwa student, came to Mission School because she just wanted to practice talking. It was way fun! We actually asked her if she had an interest in learning more about the gospel, and although she doesn't right now, we want to ask her if we can at least try to do some mogis (role plays) with her to practice our Japanese. She is so cute and so fun! She was trying to help us plan things to do on P-day and we ended up making plans to go eat Shaba-Shabu together in 2 weeks. I'm excited! She even stayed for Spanish class and she had so much fun! Teaching Spanish is way hard because I know Portuguese better now and sometimes I forget some of the words and can only think in Japanese, but luckily Alexander (the Brazilian) was there and helped me out a bit.

At Saturday Mission School, we had another little miracle. Core, a Chinese man that comes to learn English, came and he started asking me all these super hard English grammar questions. It was so hard! But we worked together and in the end we were able to answer all of the questions. He also has a lot of potential to become an investigator. Haha, he was getting so excited every time he figured something out, it was way funny.

Now for the most miraculous part of the week, SUNDAY!!!!!!

On Saturday, we had visited a family that just moved into the ward named the Futamis. Sister Futami was actually so happy we came because she wanted to go to church but she wasn't exactly sure how to get there. We told her we could meet her at the train station and walk together. Well, we got there on Sunday and she was running a little late. The first miracle of the day was that we all arrived at the church right as the sacrament was being passed, so we all got to take the sacrament. The sacrament is such an important, sacred ordinance, I am so glad we were all able to make it.

Second. We had a lesson planned with Aoi chan on Sunday night about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and through some crazy coincidences, we were able to practice the whole lesson throughout the day. We practiced half of it with the Young Women in a last minute lesson and the other half in a mogi with Sai Shimai. That night, our lesson with Aoi went really well. The Spirit was so strong! We had practiced and gotten out all the bad, so all that was left was the good and she really connected with it. We had a member there too and she was perfect. Her testimony and explanations really helped make the lesson amazing. Aoi really has a strong desire to come to church and that is so amazing! She has to work Sunday mornings, and that's really hard for her, but she is super excited to come to our night Sacrament meeting in February. She is such an amazing investigator! I am so lucky to be teaching her! She soaks everything up and isn't afraid to ask lots of questions which is amazing. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (I know I've said that a lot in this email)

Training is stressful, it's true, but it's also so fun. I get to show Sister Atkinson what real dendo is like and how much joy we can feel every day as we help even just one person come one step closer to Jesus Christ.

This transfer is going to be amazing. I can just feel it! We are going to see so many miracles together and it is going to be amazing!!

I will see you all next week!

Black Shimai

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

*drumroll* Transfer calls!

Transfer calls were today!!! It was so nerve wracking because no one got calls for the first hour. If you don't get a call in the first hour from the Zone Leaders, you know someone in your companionship is transferring. Well, President Nagano calls us and because we were all together with the Elders doing district study at the church he told us everything all at once.

So what is happening to Urayasu?

Korean dress up
Elder Payne is staying.
Elder Richards is staying.
Elder Barraclough and Elder Kenley are transferring (I'm so sad! They were great missionaries here!)
Sister Bede is transferring.

And I am training a bean-chan (a trainee). On Wednesday, I will go to the honbu and pick up my trainee, fresh off the plane from America. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

I'm still freaking out a little bit, but it's going to be super fun. I'm super excited! Also, Sister Atkinson is coming back to the mission and I will get to be the first one to see her! I'm so excited!!!

I'm sad to say goodbye to Sister Bede because she was an amazing companion for the last 4 weeks, but I'm super excited to be staying here in Urayasu. We saw some crazy miracles this week and I'm excited to see even more this transfer....oh dear. I'm transfer 5 now. Time flies by so fast!!!

We had a great last p-day together though. We met up with Kei Shimai, one of our recent converts, and the Chiba sisters and went to Kei Shimai's old university. She showed us around a little bit and took lots of pictures. There they have all these little areas for different countries where you can try on clothes and take pictures so we chose Korea and it was so fun!

Onto the miracles!

This week we did cookie drops to all the members that fed us during the Christmas and New Years holidays. We made about 80 cookies last week, so we frosted them, packed them, wrote notes, and hand-delivered them to members, less actives, recent converts, and investigators. At first I thought it was going to take a lot of time and not be effective for our dendo, but I was so wrong!

Each day we picked an area to go to and we would just talk to everyone on the way. We were able to talk to so many people, hand out flyers, and we even gave out a Book of Mormon! It was so good, and it was really nice to have finding time again. We found some people that are really interested in Mission School and Eikaiwa too! Yay!

Taiju-Kuhn made a picture for us.
The biggest miracles came on Tuesday night when we decided to take cookies to 2 less-actives that I have been trying to visit since I got to Urayasu in Oct, but they were never home. However, on Tuesday, when we brought them cookies, THEY WERE BOTH HOME! We were able to set up a phone appointment with one and the other one just didn't seem like she wanted to talk, but we were able to share our love with both of them and it was amazing. These are people that I have never met before, but in those few moments when we were able to meet, I felt so much love for them. To think, we would have never talked to them if we hadn't been doing these cookie drops.

On Sunday, many of the members came up to us to tell us how much they appreciated our cookies. I love doing service for others and I'm so glad that I get to be here in Japan serving 24/7!

Ping Pong at Mission School - just like home
Then on Friday at Mission School, we had another miracle. You might remember Alexander, the Brazilian Eikaiwa student, from my past emails. Well, he came again and Elder Barraclough and I were working with him during Mission School. I was teaching Alexander English as he taught Elder Barraclough Spanish. It was pretty fun! But then all of a sudden he started bringing up things with the Word of Wisdom which led to us talking about the purpose of life. Alexander is not afraid to talk about God and his beliefs and we were able to testify to him many times.

View at a park.  Almost looks
like southern California
In the middle of this conversation I received the strongest prompting telling me that I needed to ask him if he wanted to take the lessons with the missionaries and learn about the gospel. It was so strong that I couldn't ignore it at all, so I asked him and he does want to learn! We spent the rest of Mission School talking about God and parts of the Plan of Salvation. It was amazing and I didn't want it to stop!

There were so many things that could have kept me from asking him if he wanted to take the lessons, but I did and I was blessed.

Ferris wheel at the park
I really feel like I have been super blessed with my interactions with Alexander. It would have been so easy to forget all my Portuguese because I wasn't speaking it or practicing it for 3 months, but since I first met him, it's come back. When I was testifying on Friday, I really felt the gift of tongues, because I was definitely not doing the talking, the Spirit was. It was a very interesting conversation because he would talk in Portuguese, then I would respond in Portuguese, then I would translate to Elder Barraclough who spoke in English then I would translate that to Portuguese and it kept going around and around. It was perfect though because Elder Barraclough said all the perfect things too and I was able to translate.

Heavenly Father really does have a plan for each of us. That is one of the biggest things I've learned on my mission. At the beginning, I might not have understood why the Lord needed me in Oizumi, learning all these new languages, but now I can see that I have been blessed so much because I did, and because I didn't give up.

In the Rainbow Tunnel
If there's one thing I want to teach my trainee it's that. Never give up. There is always a bigger plan. I will not be a perfect trainer. I'm not a perfect missionary now, but I don't give up. There are days when it gets hard, and sometimes it gets really hard, but if you take it one day at a time, soon you will be a transfer 5 missionary realizing that almost half of your mission is over and you have become someone so different.

This week during our District Leader call-in summary report Elder Kenley said that he has seen me grow so much in my short time here in Urayasu. It is hard for me to see the change in myself, but as I reflected on it later, I realized that I have changed a lot. I can't completely describe it, but there is a difference.

I don't know what will happen this transfer, or who my bean-chan will be, but I am so excited to be working in this amazing area for another transfer! I love Urayasu!!!

See you all next week!

Black Shimai

Visiting Chiba

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bringing back the Portuguese

I hope everyone is adjusting to real life once again after the super fun holiday season, I know it was a little hard for me. Because New Year's is huge in Japan and it's super hard to dendō we had 3 days where we weren't supposed to do dendō. You might remember that last week on Sunday we read the Book of Mormon then Monday was normal p-day. Tuesday was our big cleaning day and we were supposed to basically deep clean the whole apartment, but we also had two meals with members that day, so we cleaned the best we could with the limited time. It was really fun! (Even though we basically only finished the kitchen and beating the futons which was way fun.) We listened to Vocal Point and Nashville Tribute Band and cleaned everything super well.

Tuesday was also our last day of regular member meals. The Urayasu Ward members have been so nice it's been crazy! They fed us so much food and it's been hard readjusting to normal food again. Our very last meal was with the Yamagatas and they fed us traditional Japanese New Years food including white miso soup, mochi, and other fun things. It was a good experience, and I'm glad I got to try it all. There were some really different foods in there though, haha!

Baking cookies
On Wednesday we didn't get to do much dendō either because we were baking cookies all day as thank you gifts for the members, investigators, and less actives that we teach/that invited us to their homes during this holiday season. It was so nice of them to open their homes to us, feed us some delicious Japanese food, and let us be a part of their family for a while. We figured out how to use our microwave as an oven but it's so small that we could only bake cookies in batches of 4! Ahhhhh! It took all day, but Heavenly Father blessed us, because that night at Eikaiwa we got a new student, Shihomi! She is so cute and she loved learning English with us. Hopefully she comes again next week!

Gloves I borrowed from Sister Griffen

Thursday, we were in Koiwa on exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders. I was with Sister Griffen and we had a great day. We were able to talk about the importance of keeping the Sabbath with Mei, a Chinese investigator, and it made me so pumped to teach more people about the blessings of church attendance. Many of our investigators haven't been able to meet with us recently because of Shogatsu (New Year's) so I have not really been able to teach. I miss it! We also did some house contacting which I haven't done much of since Oizumi. We found some people interested in English. It just felt good to get out and share this happy message with people even if they didn't want to talk further.

Dinner with members

Then on Friday we were able to see Bernadette for the first time in several weeks. She was able to get her visa extension so she gets to stay in Japan for 3 more months. We are really focused on helping her talk now so that in 3 months she can apply for and receive a student visa and start school here. She is so smart though, I know she can do it!

We also had Mission School twice this week. If you can remember, we used to have Mission School every Friday for 3 hours at night where we taught English, Spanish, guitar, piano, etc. Now, the Bishop wants Mission School to be on Saturdays so for this first month we are doing Friday and Saturday as a transition period.

Friday, not many people came, but I was able to teach my first Spanish class. It was just Makoto, but she really enjoyed it. She loves learning languages and she always has super good questions. On Saturday, Sister Bede and I taught the Kodomo Eikaiwa class (Kids English class). We taught two kids and it was so fun. We were doing directions so we put out a bunch of chairs and they had to guide one person through the maze using only their words. It was super fun! Usually the Elders teach Kodomo Eikaiwa, but maybe we will start teaching too because it was way fun! Haha, at night one of our new Eikaiwa students came and I taught him English.

His name is Alexander and he is Brazilian! Two weeks ago he saw the Eikaiwa poster outside the church and called the number. He talked to the Elders and ended up showing up to Eikaiwa that night. It was the first time I'd spoken Portuguese since Oizumi, but I did an okay job and by the end of the night he was a lot happier. Luckily his Japanese and English are also pretty good, so even if I accidentally said something in one of those languages, he still understood. Anyway, he came to Mission School for the first time this week and I did some English tutoring using the Restoration pamphlets in English and Portuguese. It was funny because I would ask him if he understood and although I meant "Do you understand the English?" He thought I meant the gospel doctrines so he would say yes then go on a tangent talking about the doctrine, not that that's a bad thing at all. We had a super good discussion about God and how we can be happy when we follow him.

Jam Session
He stayed for the last part of Mission a School too when we had a Jam Session. We brought out the guitar and drums that we have at the church and some members came with their guitars and everyone just played and it was super fun! Another newer Eikaiwa student, Kazumi, came too and she was rocking it on the guitar.

I'm so happy this Saturday Mission School was a hit. A lot of our regular people came and it was a big success. We still have a lot of work to do to build it up, but it is a really good start!

Yesterday, we weren't able to meet with Aoi San because she was sick, but we did have a really good lesson with Kei Shimai. She basically talked for 2 hours straight and we figured out her needs a lot better. She isn't able to come to church because of her job, but she told us all about her dreams/life plan and how she doesn't understand the Book of Mormon very well. From all of our conversation, we were able to learn her needs a lot better and now we have a plan to meet and study the Book of Mormon together every week! I'm so excited! She has so much potential and I'm happy that I get to be here to help her!

Today is P-day and it has been super fun. I got a much needed hair cut! The person cut way more than I was expecting, but it's all good. It looks a lot healthier now and it hopefully won't get as tangled. Wow, my hair got so long. The lady was sweeping up my hair and there was a grandma next to me and they were just like "So much hair! It's like a fluffy dog! That must be so hard to wash" haha it was funny. Sister Bede also got some acupuncture then we went to Sky Tree!!!

The Pokemon store

It was so pretty! We saw all of Tokyo all lit up at night and it was beautiful. We were also able to do a little bit of shopping and it was just really fun. It was such a cute little adventure! I loved going into Tokyo a bit and seeing some of the sights!

Lastly, today was also a holiday here in Japan called Coming of Age day. All the young people who are turning 20 this year dress up in traditional Japanese clothes (kimonos for girls) and go to the temple and get advice. 20 is the age of adulthood here so this is a big deal. Sadly, even though I'm turning 20 this year (that's scary) I don't get to be in the ceremony because I'm a missionary. I hope I get to see some people dressed up though! Kimonos are beautiful! I think it's so amazing how the Japanese celebrate becoming an adult though. It's a very serious, traditional celebration and it marks becoming an adult. Japan has the most amazing traditions. I love it! I'm excited to see and participate in more traditions coming soon!

Next week is transfer calls, so we will see what happens to Sister Bede and I! Ahhhhh!!!!

Black Shimai

Tokyo at night

Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcoming in the New Year!

Happy New Year!

It's so crazy to think that it's 2017 right now! One year ago I was still uncertain about serving a mission. I was filling out my papers and just going one step at a time and trusting that Heavenly Father had a plan for me. I had no idea that he had this plan in mind for me.

View from a bridge
I received my mission call in February, finished the semester at BYU in April, entered the MTC in June and arrived in Japan in August. I have learned three languages, read the Book of Mormon 3 times, talked to countless people, and seen hundreds of small miracles. I have truly been blessed this year to meet amazing people from all over the world and to hear their stories. I have been through so many highs and lows, but I have come out stronger than before. I have learned so much, but most importantly I learned about the power of the Atonement.

I know that no matter how low I am, I can always rely on Jesus Christ to know how I feel. He is always there to help me up. Missionary work is hard, but knowing that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are always there for me gives me strength. I am never alone. I know that when I see miracles they are right there cheering alongside me. This is Heavenly Father's work, he rejoices with every little success just like we do. These are his children that I am helping. He loves each of them just like he loves me and he wants to help them all feel eternal joy and happiness. I am so so grateful for the Atonement that allows each of us to overcome our trials and our mistakes. It is such an amazing gift that everyone has, whether they know it or not. I love being able to teach people about the power the Atonement can have in their lives!

As for the rest of the week:

Dinner with the Itou family

It was weird this week to be celebrating the holidays without my family, but the Urayasu Ward showed us so much love. We had so many member meal appointments this week and I felt like I was a part of each of their families. I might have gained like 20000 lbs from all the meals (lunch and dinner basically every day) but it was worth it. We had the chance to talk to a lot of members about mission school and get to know them better. It's been so fun! I also feel like my Japanese is getting a lot better because I'm starting to understand more and more of the conversations that we have.

Wednesday was a really cool day though. So all week the Elders, Sister Bede and I and Yusuke (an Eikaiwa student/investigator) have been planning this suprise party for Sister Chinain's last Eikaiwa. Somehow she had no idea even though Elder Kenley kept calling us and saying he couldn't talk about it over speaker phone.

Lunch with Enomoto Shimai
Anyway, at Eikaiwa we had normal Eikaiwa and a new student came. He saw the poster outside the church, called the number, then came that night. And guess what? He was Brazilian! So yeah, I spoke Portuguese for the first time in 2 months. He really enjoyed it though and talking to me. Oh goodness, it was so rough at first though and I kept mixing Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese, but eventually I got more into the swing of it.

Anyway, after the class, we usually have a game, so we went down to the first floor in the elevator and when it opened all the lights were off. Then we turned on the lights and blew streamers and it was such a great surprise. Yusuke brought cake, flowers and a super nice card that we all had written in and it was such a nice way to say goodbye to Sister Chinain. She really loved and appreciated it! I'm glad the Elders and Yusuke were able to plan something so special. I really wanted to do something special for Sister Chinain, but it's hard since I'm with her 24/7 so it's hard to plan surprises, so I'm so glad they were able to put this together!

On Thursday, Sister Chinain went back to the honbu (Mission Home) and on Friday she flew home. It is definitely a weird feeling to know that she is no longer a missionary and that she has finished her mission.

With the Kawamura's
That Thursday, we went to one last meal as a trio with the Kawamura couple. We had so much fun talking, watching some of The District (missionary training videos haha, both of the Kawamuras served missions recently so we all had fun with that) and eating lots of nabe (basically soup with lots of noodles, vegetables and meat that basically everyone has been feeding us since it's cold and it's easy). They even gave us all little presents. It was the perfect way to end Sister Chinain's mission because she loves that couple so much (I do too! They are so cute!).

After lunch we took her to the train and said good bye. Sister Chinain was such a fun companion. She really taught me how to be confident, to just open my mouth and talk to people, and how to study to receive personal revelation. We had so much fun dendoing together. I'm so glad I was able to learn from her! She was such an influence on me. I learned that dendo (especially finding) can and should be fun. There is so much joy to be found in missionary work and I feel like we were able to feel a lot of joy together.

New Years Eve Dinner
The scary thing now? I'm the area senpai so I'm leading! That's so weird! I am the one with all the information about the investigators and the area. It's weird because Sister Chinain knew so much and now that she's gone I feel like I don't remember as much as I should have. Sister Bede and I are working so well together though. She is an amazing missionary as well. She has so much enthusiasm and we have a lot of the same ideas for how to help Urayasu. These member meals have really been helping too because we are getting to know many families in the Ward a bit better.

The day that Sister Chinain left we were doing study when the Nemotos texted us. They had canceled their lesson with us the day before, but said we could come now. We had a meal appointment later that night, far away from their house, but we decided to roll with it and go visit them anyway. We ended up having a really great lesson. It just goes to show that when we do all we can to help our investigators, even when it makes it harder for us, we will see miracles. We could have just stayed where we were and justified that it would have taken too long to visit them, but instead we went and we saw miracles!

Because it's New Year's, which is huge in Japan, we have a few days where dendo is dame (forbidden). Yesterday, Jan 1, was our Book of Mormon reading day. We went to church then came home and read the Book of Mormon until we went to the Weatherstone's for dinner. It was so nice to just read! I wish we had more time to do it. I love the Book of Mormon, it really is my favorite book. I could read it for hours (and I did ^^). Dinner was so fun too! More nabe!!! It's such a simple dish, but it's so good.

Studying Hard

Today we have a normal p-day, but tomorrow is our big cleaning day so we aren't supposed to dendo either. Sister Bede and I are planning on deep cleaning for half the day then baking cookies as a thank you to all the people who have fed us. We are super excited! Tomorrow is also the last day of meals, I'm both sad and happy, haha.

My New Year's was pretty normal. We went to dinner at the Kawaminami's and their whole extended family was there. It was super fun.

Funny story, we actually got there like 20 minutes early (all 6 missionaries) so we just split up and did housing for 20 min. Twice, the family came home just as we were ringing the doorbell so that was really awkward.

Anyway, their family was so nice and they kept pulling out these traditional Japanese desserts. We would finish one then they would pull out another and another, it was crazy.

Happy New Year
When we got home we decided to set an alarm for 11:59 so that we could ring in the new year, oh my goodness, haha we woke up at 11:59 and originally we were going to drink some Martinelli's apple juice that members gave us for Christmas, but we were so tired that we just said happy New Years super sleepily then fell back to sleep to the sound of the Disneyland fireworks. We took a picture with the apple juice yesterday to be festive.

That was my New Year's celebration though :) It was fun!

Thank you all for making the last year so amazing! I am super excited to spend another (almost full) year in Japan! So much has happened during the last 12 months, but thank you for all of your examples and love. You really help me become a better person every day.

Have a great 2017! See miracles!

Black Shimai