Monday, March 27, 2017

Tamago ga nai hito!!!!!


This has been a crazy week filled with exchanges. We had full day exchanges with the Tsukuba Sisters and half day exchanges with the Kamagaya Sisters. I barely dendoed with my own companion this week :( I missed her.)

On Tuesday, I was on exchanges with Sister Mitchell, who is actually my Senpai from the MTC. She's from New Zealand and she is so amazing! She has done so much for the mission in terms of helping Mission School move forward. She served in the honbu for half her mission and had so many great ideas about how to help the mission including new Mission School flyers and pamphlet cards that have the Missionary Pamphlets in English, Japanese, and Romaji (romanized alphabet) on them to help the missionaries. She is so great and so creative. We had so much fun together!

We also saw an amazing miracle. We went to teach Mission School and a new student came named July. We actually found July last week while doing the Free English Challenge and she came this week. Sister Mitchell is a master teacher so she led the class and I learned a lot from her about how to teach a really effective class. July loved it! She learned so much and she is so excited to come back next week. What was even better was that after the class she really opened up about her beliefs in a greater being, but how she wasn't sure if it was God or not. She had a lot of questions about prayer and it was so amazing. We were able to share more about the gospel with her and she is just such a kinjin, she wants to learn more so badly! Miracles!

Later in the week we had half day exchanges where we went to Kamagaya (about an hour away) and dendoed there. I was with Sister Keiser and because we didn't have bikes we had to walk...except we got lost...then walked to the wrong train station...yeah. It was rough, but I probably burned a lot of calories! So much walking. We did another Free English Challenge with them and we saw a lot of miracles. Lots of kids and moms wanted to take the test and it was really good exposure for the Mission School.

With Shizuko and Miki Shimai
When I finally got to be with my companion again, I was so happy, and the miracles didn't stop!

We had an amazing lesson with Shizuko. She's been an investigator for a long long time, but this week was the first time when she said we could meet at the church. We went through the "Who is God?" Pamphlet with her and the Spirit was so strong from the very beginning. That was probably one of the most powerful lessons I have been in. The Spirit was testifying so strong and you could tell that she felt it. She laid out her desires for her family and the church and she really began to understand who God was. God loves each of us so much. He really is our Heavenly Father. He wants to hear from us no matter what we have to say. I know that my dad likes to hear what I have to say, it doesn't matter what I'm talking about, because he loves me. Heavenly Father is the same way. This is such a powerful truth and it was amazing to watch Shizuko realize it in her own life.

St. Patrick's Day activity
That night we had another powerful lesson. We had a Restoration mogi lesson with Ishimori Shimai. Once again, the Spirit was so strong. It was a last minute mogi, so we didn't have time to prepare it, and Sister Nicholes and I have never taught the Restoration together before, but it was powerful and the Spirit was so strong.

Those were some powerful lessons. I'm so glad that I was able to be worthy and prepared to help invite the Spirit to touch the lives of these amazing people.
Making okonomiyaki

After that mogi, Ishimori Shimai and her husband made okonomiyaki with us. Okonomiyaki is basically a cabbage pancake (but they added seafood and meat) and you put sauce, mayo, fish flakes, and seaweed on top. It was so good!!! They are such a funny couple too! They told us so many funny stories. Haha Ishimori Kyoudai works at PBO (the Church offices in Japan) and he told us "I'm not supposed to tell you, but the honbu started looking for a new apartment for you." He was so funny. He tried to keep it a secret, but not really. I'm so glad he told us though! Our apartment is so moldy, I've been sick for the last week. The fans in the shower and bathroom don't work so the water never dries and it's nasty. But yay for change!

The final product
Then on Sunday we helped with the Primary Easter Activity. Oh my goodness, there are so many kids and they are adorable! They all had name tags and I joked that they needed the name tags all the time because there are so many of them! How am I going to learn their names?

It was a fun time though. We did some easter relay races, including one awkward but really fun one where you had to jump across the gym with a balloon between your knees (a nice challenge when you are wearing a skirt). We also decorated Easter Eggs with the cutest stickers and there was one little girl who kept trying to sit on my lap and I felt bad that I had to keep lifting her off. She was so cute!!!!!! Lastly, there was an Easter egg hunt. Japanese kids are so nice! They were told that each kid could only get 1 egg, so they would get their egg then start shouting "tamago ga nai hito!!!" (People who don't have an egg!) to give them another egg. So nice, so obedient to the rules.

It was a fun week :) I can't believe we are starting week 5 already. This transfer has gone by slow, but fast The days feel slow, but then I blink and all of a sudden it's Saturday! Time passes by so fast.

After basketball
This week I just wanted to share a little something I learned over the past few days. I've been reading in Alma 54-57 about the Stripling Warriors and they have inspired me in a way I never thought of before. Lately there have been a lot of days where it is hard to have the desire to work hard. I can work hard, but it isn't the hardest I could be working, if that makes sense. I was reading in these chapters and I realized that they had no doubts, they put their complete trust in Heavenly Father, completely focused and as a result were blessed with "magnificent power....and mighty strength." I realized that the way that I can achieve more desire is to trust Heavenly Father, and get rid of any doubts I have. Doubts don't have to necessarily be a conscious thought, they can just be shown through your actions. If you aren't putting in 100% effort into something, you are showing doubt. If I am only talking to 90% of the people I see, then that last 10% is doubt. Doubt doesn't lead to miracles. I then read a talk about becoming a consecrated missionary and a quote that stood out to me was "God expects immediate progress, not immediate perfection." My earlier realization about doubt was great and all, but also overwhelming. It is hard to get rid of all your doubts and become consecrated to the Lord. This quote brought me a lot of peace because Heavenly Father just wants to see me try and do my best. He will bless those efforts and magnify them.
Dinner with Hana-chan and her mother

I really love the Book of Mormon and the prophets. They really do guide us and teach us. Every single person can read their words (multiple times) and learn new things that can completely change them. After studying those chapters and the that talk, I started implementing the things I learned and I have already seen a change. I am so very thankful for this gospel and the many blessings it has given me, for all the guidance and comfort it has given me.

Thank you so much for all your love and prayers!

Black Shimai

Monday, March 20, 2017

Baptism, Bap-baptism


Let me explain the title. There is this funny rap that two missionaries made in the mission and at one point they are just saying "Baptism bap-baptism" over and over and it's so funny. However, it was so true for this week! I saw 4 baptisms on Sunday. It was crazy!

The first three baptisms were for three 8 year olds in the Matsudo Ward. All three of them were so cute and so prepared to be baptized. One of them, Hina-chan, was someone I met my 2nd day here and she loves the missionaries so much. She gave the cutest testimony and it just made my day.

Aoi-chan's baptism
The last baptism was something so so special for me because Aoi-chan (my investigator from Urayasu) was baptized. Sister Nicholes and I had permission to leave church early to go to Urayasu and be a part of the baptism. The moment I got to the Urayasu church Sister Atkinson ran up to me and attacked me with a hug. Haha, I love her too. Then I basically did the same thing to Aoi ^^ I hug attacked her. I was just so excited to see her! She was so beautiful in white and she was so prepared for baptism. We took so many pictures with her and I just couldn't stop smiling.

I was so lucky to be in Urayasu with Sister Chinain when President Nagano first called us saying he had a referral for us. I had the chance to teach Aoi with 3 different companions and to see her progress almost right up until her baptism. She was so willing to change because she knew that this was the truth and that it would bring her so much happiness. She has such a strong testimony.

This was such a special baptismal service because her friend Elder Sasaki (the one who first taught her and then referred her to us and who is currently serving in Utah) Skyped in for the whole thing and he even gave a really beautiful talk. It was so special!

After the service, when Aoi had the chance to bear her testimony, I could not keep the tears in. She was so ready for the gospel. She knows that baptism isn't the end and she is so excited to have the chance to continue learning and coming closer to Christ. She is amazing and I love her so much! She has grown so much since I first met her and I know that she will continue to grow. It was such a special opportunity for me to be able to go and see her baptism too. For the rest of the night, I just couldn't stop telling Sister Nicholes "Aoi got baptized today! That actually happened!"
I don't really know what would have happened if I hadn't decided to serve a mission. But I know that Heavenly Father had a plan for me and I'm so glad that he has led me every step of the way. Aoi has forever changed my life and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to be a part of her life for just a few months.

I really can't express everything that I felt yesterday at the baptismal service. There just aren't enough words in Japanese or English. I can say though that I know that I have found one of my eternal friends.

Sunday really was the highlight of my week. It overshadows everything else because it was just so bright and full of light. I had the chance to talk to some of the Urayasu members and give lots of them hugs and I just miss that ward so much. They really became a home to me. I love Matsudo though too!

On the way back from Abiko
there was no one on the platform.
We waited 10 minutes and then
checked the schedule again and
found out the train was coming in
another hour.  We hurried over to
theexpress train.
This week we spent a whole day in Abiko (the neighboring area) because they don't have any Sisters and a member asked us to come visit some Less Actives with her. It was really fun and she was so prepared! She had set up appointments and prepared materials and everything, so it ended up being really productive. It was such a fun day because we didn't have to worry about anything except bringing the Spirit and helping to find these Sisters' needs.

The next day we had exchanges with the Mito Sisters and I got to be with Sister Akers. I met her a few weeks ago when I was at follow-up training with Sister Atkinson because Sister Akers is also a trainee. We had so much fun together. Ah! She is so smart and fun. It reminded me of how fun it was to train Sister Atkinson. Then I got to see Sister Atkinson again on Sunday and that was even more fun! She has grown so much and it's only been 3 weeks. On a side note, she told me I looked more mature too and I just don't know where that came from...I've barely been gone. Haha!

Manhole covers in Matsudo have a pattern
At District Meeting this week we talked about Facebook and Line some more and after some other things that happened this week I realized some things. This mission is very blessed to be given so many tools to dendo with, and I think Heavenly Father really trusts us with these tools because he knows that we will use these tools effectively while still following the rules. We have had a huge focus on consecrated obedience since I got here and I am grateful for that focus. I have a personal goal to make sure that my mission is 1.5 years completely given to the Lord. I don't want to spoil that sacrifice by breaking rules to do things that seem fun. I didn't come on a mission to go to a foreign country and just have fun and do what I wanted to. I came because Heavenly Father asked me to and I knew that by coming I could help people find joy and happiness. Being obedient is a huge part of that sacrifice and when Heavenly Father sees that we are being obedient, he wants to bless us. The missionaries in the Tokyo Japan Mission are amazing examples to me of obedience. The missionaries here are always focused on the work and how to help the people in their areas. It is amazing and I am so proud to be a missionary in this mission.

I'll just finish up with a few random things. :)

We met with the new Bishop this past week and originally it was just supposed to be him and the missionaries, but it turned into the Dendo team and his counselors too. We got a lot done and I really feel like this ward is getting on board with the Mission School. That's so great! Once the ward is on board, it will really get going and then it will be amazing. I can see so much potential here!

We made kanji for tree (ki=木)
Today we helped a member with a St. Patrick's Day activity. It was kind of funny because I don't own much green so everyone is wearing bright green and all I have is this pastel green shirt and my bird skirt. Hehe :) I didn't get pinched though! I also didn't realize that March is already 2/3 of the way done. Sister Nicholes only has 3 more P-days!!!!! WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?! I'm not ready for her to leave yet! We have a plan though, I'm going to sew a doll that looks just like her and it's going to fool President Nagano so he will send the doll home instead of Sister Nicholes. Perfect. Foolproof.

I just want you all to know that I really appreciate your love and support. I can feel your prayers helping me throughout the day. Thank you so much!!!

Black Shimai

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"I Mean We've Practiced it Once..."


This was my first real week of that even a word? Haha, this week we had both Mission Leadership Council (where all the Sister Training Leaders and Zone Leaders go to honbu to receive training from President Nagano and the Assistants) and exchanges!

With Mikumi Shimai
MLC was so great! I GOT TO SEE SISTER POURRE AGAIN!!!!!!!! Aka the best trainer ever. ^^ She is a Sister Training Leader back in Kiryu, my first zone, and I was so happy to see her! I also got to see Sister Bede again. So basically, half of my former companions are Sister Training Leaders too, so it was one big party. I was also asked to play this song called "I'll Find You My Friend" and it is a beautiful song and everyone sings it a million times on their mission, but this was my first time, so I was sightreading it, but it was beautiful and very nice.

Also funny story. So flashback to about 6 months ago. Elder Merrill (who was in Maebashi at the time and I was in Oizumi) calls me the day before Zone Meeting and tells me he has been asked to do a musical number and asks me to accompany him. He says the song is "Lead, Kindly Light" so I say okay, even though it's super last minute. Well, this week, 1 day before MLC we are having a meeting with the Zone Leaders (the same Elder Merrill and Elder Lewis) and he says that he has been asked to do another musical number. He said he would get back to me about what song though because I told him I could accompany again. That night we call and he says "Well, since we've already practiced it once, we can do Lead Kindly Light again." All I could do was laugh. We had practiced it once...6 MONTHS AGO!!!! It went well though. :)
At the temple

MLC was amazing. There was such a focus on keeping our faith high as missionaries to continue to see amazing miracles. We have set an Easter baptismal goal as a mission and we are working to help keep the faith in the missionaries high so that we can reach the goal. I loved hearing everyone's ideas. One thing that really helped us have a lot of faith during the White Christmas goal was when we used lots of creative dendo. President Nagano is all for creative dendo. We don't just do the normal streeting and housing in this mission. He is always encouraging us to get creative and to get people excited about the gospel.

Some things we've been doing include Mission School, playing basketball with the youth and their friends, planning lots of activities, using Facebook to dendo, visiting colleges, getting involved in other Eikaiwa classes outside of our church, doing service all over the community, and the Free English Challenge.

This week was the first time I've ever done the Free English Challenge even though missionaries have been doing it since Christmas and seeing a lot of success. Basically, we print out some simple English tests (just 4 questions) and go to a crowded area with lots of youth and ask them to take the test. If they get it all right they get a candy, and regardless we get to promote our English classes. We also have a huge photo frame that they can take pictures with, that we post on our Facebook page. It is really fun and the youth love it! Back in Urayasu, we actually got 2 new students because of it.

More Free English Challenge

I love being in this mission where there is such a focus on the youth and on creative dendo. We really want to be effectively using our time and President Nagano really emphasizes helping people pull the gospel into their lives through their own questions and interest in who we are as missionaries and what we teach, instead of us trying to push our way into their lives.

Another big game changer that was announced at MLC was that LINE was approved for our mission! LINE is a lot like Facebook Messenger, but in Japan almost everyone has it! This is such a game changer! In the past we would try to get contact information especially from youth that were interested, but they never had Facebook, only LINE, but we didn't have LINE. Now we can get in touch with them!!!!!! YAY!!! We spent a lot of time at church on Sunday getting all the youth's LINEs ^^

I also had my first set of exchanges as a Sister Training Leader. I was with Sister Fossa, who is an awesome Sister from Italy and she was actually companions with my MTC companion Sister Hill. <3 She is an awesome missionary and we actually did the Free English Challenge together and met a lot of cool people.

We also visited Rosa this week. She is so sweet!!! She always says that we are her daughters and she gives us really good advice too.
Seeing the temple from a nearby park

On Sunday we had some miracles happen! We weren't 100% sure what to plan for after church, so we made some kind of half plans and then headed to church where we were invited to YW New Beginnings and to a member's house with our Recent Convert for dinner. Such a miracle! I got to work on memorizing the Young Women's names some more, talked to some of their parents, got to know the leaders, and build relationships with the ward. It ended up being a perfect Sunday. We were really able to help the ward and I am slowly starting to feel a little bit more like this is my ward now. Last week was a little rough since it was Stake Conference and I was meeting people from all over the stake, but this week I was just meeting Matsudo members and that helped me focus. Yay! Matsudo is seriously amazing though. There are so many members who are slowly getting more and more dendo fire. I love seeing the change as they realize the important role they play in missionary work and then actually take action to fulfill that role!
Cherry Burger

Today was Temple P-day and it was an amazing opportunity. Last transfer, we weren't able to go, so this was the first time in several months and it really felt like coming home. I felt the Spirit so strongly, and it was really special to be there. I love the temple so much! We even met a missionary who went home last year and is now visiting with her family. That was really cool!

Sakura Frappuccino
We spent our P-day at a gorgeous park near the temple and we ate these amazing cherry burgers at Burger Mania. It was so good. It was a pretty relaxing p-day. Hehe...and we got Sakura Frappuccinos (i don't know how to spell that, sorry) from Starbucks. I am so excited to see the Sakura (cherry blossoms) soon!!!! We saw some ume (plum) blossoms but no sakura yet.

Thank you so much all for your love and support! Have a great week!

Black Shimai

Plum Blossoms

Monday, March 6, 2017

Hello from Matsudo!!!!


I will miss you Urayasu
Hello from Matsudo!!!! Only 45 minutes away from Urayasu (by train) but so different! The church building is 5 stories tall, there are 300 members, it's way more country than Urayasu was, and we live behind a Pachinko Parlor (aka a huge casino ^^).

So we live really close to the church, which is right next to the Pachinko, so as we walk to the church we like to look between the church and the Pachinko and just say "Zion, Babylon, Zion, Babylon" it's way fun.

Let's start with my last few days in Urayasu. It was a hectic mash of packing and visiting members. We set a last minute appointment to visit Sotodate Shimai and originally I was thinking "Ehhhh do we really need to visit her?" But we did, and it ended up being perfect. Just an hour before our meeting she was hit with some news that really gave her a hard time and she said that the only thing that got her through it was knowing that she would be meeting us. She said our visit was perfect and helped so much. I love the Spirit for guiding us to be there in her time of need!
Sotodate Shimai

We also helped Abe Shimai, who is pregnant, with her grocery shopping then had an amazing discussion about the Priesthood. I regret not working with her more while I was in Urayasu, but I know that Sister Atkinson will definitely use her to help!

Lastly, we visited the Kawamuras, my favorite people ever! I will miss them so much! Kawamura Shimai has made so many days even better. She is always a light!
Girl's Day decorations

On Wednesday, Kei Shimai met us to walk to the train because she wanted to say goodbye. It was hard to leave Urayasu because I have come to love it so much. The people there are amazing and it truly was a home to me. I love you Urayasu!!!!!!!!

Then came the 45 min train rides by myself...always an interesting experience. It's weird to be alone when you usually have a companion. I tried talking to this one girl who had a bag that said Seattle on it, but she was not having it. That's okay ^^

I arrived at Matsudo and got to see Sister Bede before she left! Sister Bede was my last companion before she moved to Matsudo and Sister Atkinson became my bean-chan. It was so good to see her! I love her so much! I also got to meet my new companion, Sister Nicholes!!!

My new companion, Sister Nicholes
A little bit about Sister Nicholes: She is half Japanese, she is adorable, she lived in Japan for all of elementary school and is fluent in Japanese and English so she has no idea what to do during language study. This is her last transfer in the mission, she is amazing, and so strong in the gospel. This week has been so amazing with her. I'm so glad I get to be her companion!!!! She also bikes way I feel like I did back in Oizumi where I am like 600 ft behind her...hehehe I've gotten out of shape in Urayasu. There are so many more hills here than there were in Urayasu.

A cool wall in Matsudo

And a little bit about Matsudo. There are a lot of people. There are a lot of names. There are a lot of meetings. I actually have a goal to memorize peoples names here because there are so many. Ahhhh!!!!! Also, since I know exactly when I will become Area Senpai (at the end of this transfer) I also know that I have a deadline to learn everything that Sister Nicholes knows. Yay! It's been good so far. One step at a time. Sadly, I am terrible with names, but it will get there. All the members I've met so far have been amazing and I love them already! They are so sweet and there are so many families here. They really do fill up all 5 stories of this church!

One investigator that I started working with right away was Rosa, a Filipino, whose sister is actually a Less Active that I was working with in Urayasu. Crazy! She is amazing though. They set a baptismal date with her about a month ago, then lost contact. They finally got contact back last week and I came in just in time to start teaching her most of the lessons again. We decided to try to do daily contact with her by teaching her half the days and reading the Book of Mormon the other half of the days. As the week went on, I started to see the change in her. She started smiling more and she had the light of Christ. It's so amazing to watch that change in people. I am so excited to help her come to baptism and come unto Christ.
Promoting Mission School

We are also trying to establish Mission School here in Matsudo. It's nice to know that areas all over the mission are experiencing similar problems that we were in Urayasu with establishing Mission School. I'm looking forward to helping Matsudo's Mission School grow really strong. I truly believe that Mission School is the future for dendo in Japan. It's an amazing tool to help the youth and young adults here learn and grow both in their English knowledge and their spiritual knowledge. Even if they aren't going to be baptized, they are being surrounded with good influences that will help them stay away from the Babylons of the world.

This week has definitely been a time of growth for me. There are many responsibilities that come with being a Sister Training Leader, but the best one is getting to know the Sisters and how to help them. I am so excited for this transfer. Matsudo is amazing! I love it here!

I will see you all next week!!!

Black Shimai

Spinning Fake Food
Costco in Japan - doesn't it look familiar?