Monday, April 24, 2017

If you don't like it, like it

Easter Activity
Every week I watch the number of transfers and the number of weeks go up and it gets scarier and scarier! It hit me this week that I am Transfer 7 now and it scared me so bad! Time goes by too fast! Sister Shim then reminded me that this transfer is Mother's Day and we get to Skype home, and I just thought "Hmmm no i distinctly remember that Christmas was like 1 month ago, it can't be Mother's Day already." Time goes by too fast, but there is still so much more good I want to and can do!!!!!

AHHHHHHHHHH This week, the start of the week was pretty hard because we had a lot of appointments to finish our moving process. We had to have someone move the air conditioners (but they can't install them into our new apartment until the end of May) and our stove, and that took all day. :(

But then on Thursday we had the chance to go to Urawa to participate in a special conference with Elder Choi who is in the Area Presidency. It was an amazing opportunity! I learned so much!

First of all, he told a lot of stories about when he was a mission president. The whole time I was just thinking "So that's what the missionaries in my ward had to do..." It was really funny because I completely understood the context of his mission because I lived there! For example, it was a mission rule that all missionaries had to sing in the shower. If they didn't, their companion would call the Mission President "President, my companion isn't singing." Hahaha

On a more spiritual note, I did learn a lot from him. Elder Choi is an amazing example of following the Spirit at every opportunity. I could tell that he had prepared things for us, but that he was speaking by the Spirit to address our needs. When he first started speaking he told us that as he shook each of our hands, he gave us a little interview in his head. He was able to tell who were the strong missionaries and who was struggling a bit. His words were addressed to us specifically. One thing that really stood out from what he told us was that we must open our mouths at every opportunity and "If you don't like it, like it." (Side note, he would tell that to his missionaries in Seattle when they said they didn't like the rain haha). Talking to people can be hard, it can be overwhelming, it can feel impossible to tell who is prepared, but as long as we do our best, Heavenly Father will make sure that prepared people are sent our way. He trusts us to be talking to everyone and not miss that opportunity to help that person.

With Elder and Sister Choi
After the conference, we had a special session with just the Mission Leaders. As the rest of the sisters left the room, the Elders sang "Ye Elders of Israel" and it was powerful. The Spirit that comes with music is so powerful. That is why I am so so grateful that my mom really emphasized that she wanted me to learn to play the piano so that I could play hymns. I have seen my talent to play the piano bless many lives here in Japan and it has helped me as well. Music has a special spirit that cannot be replicated in any other way.

We had a short break and during that time I was able to talk to Sister and Elder Choi a little bit and tell them that I was from Seattle. They wanted me to say hello to the Cougar Mountain ward for them, so Cougar Mountain Ward, you are loved by the Chois! They also talked to my companion (who is also from Korea) and loved her too. After everything was over, they wanted to take a picture with the two of us, so we were able to spend a few extra minutes with them.

Exchanges with the Mito Sisters
They have such a special spirit around them. It's a spirit that you can just feel when someone has dedicated their whole life to the Lord. As a missionary, that is one of the daily struggles, to really give everything up to the Lord. I don't want to just be a normal missionary who can only give up 50%, 75% even 90%. I want to be a full-time missionary who gives it all up to the Lord. That's hard, but I know that as I strive to do that, I will be even more blessed. Now that we are done moving and dealing with all of that, I can really focus on once again giving up every minute to the Lord and making this 1.5 years a real gift to him.

After that amazing conference, we had exchanges with the Mito Sisters and it was so fun! I was with Sister Van Pelt this time, she just came to Japan a week ago! It was a throwback for sure. To think that that was me 9 months ago. I feel like time just flew by! I was telling her all these stories (and introduced her to Japanese Ice Cream YUM!) and I had to give her a disclaimer saying "It probably seems like I've done a lot, but really it feels like I just got here yesterday. Time flies so fast!"

Sister Van Pelt
We had a great time though. All of our plans fell through so we made some new plans and met some interesting people. Sister Van Pelt has amazing faith though, I loved working with her. She has so much energy and desire to learn as fast as possible and it was great to be around that again.

Lastly, yesterday I went to Ushiku for the Portuguese Sacrament Meeting again. Because of a lot of scheduling issues, I went by myself and met a member in Ushiku and stayed with her the whole time I was there, while Sister Shim stayed in Matsudo with another member. It was so weird to be alone on the trains! It was a great meeting though! I had to leave pretty quick afterwards to make it back in time for a dinner appointment, but I wanted to stay! The members did too!!! The youth and the members and the investigators ,AHHHH I just want to stay with them forever! We are trying to figure out a way to make it work so that I can go every week. I can really feel that even just my presence (as a Sister Missionary in addition to the two Ushiku Elders who speak Portuguese) helps. There are a lot of single sisters who come and young women too, and I can feel that my example is helping them. I just want to do more for them! I love them so much!

The dinner appointment went really well though. There were 5 families there and we had so much fun. I love getting to know the members because they are really the center of the work. The message we shared focused on sharing the message with our friends and bringing even just one soul to Christ. Most of the members there were return missionaries and we talked a lot about their missions which I think reminded them of the importance to continue the work. We challenged them to think of their friends that they think need this message and we could see in their eyes that they were thinking of people.
My new companion

Ah I love seeing people change so much! Members, investigators, people on the street, people in Mission School! We have one Mission School student named Ayako that we went out to dinner with this week and she is just so bright and full of light and it is beautiful to see. I am excited for the miracles of the next week!

See you all next week! Hopefully it's starting to feel more like spring where you are, it definitely is warming up here. Yay summer.

Black Shimai

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Guess what? I transferred!

To a new apartment!!!! Yay!!

Eating Shabu Shabu which you cook in the pot while you eat
Don't worry, I'm still in Matsudo. I'm a little further away from the church, but closer to a 7/11 and to one of my favorite members, so it's all good.

This week was a week full of packing and more packing and then some unpacking.

Early in the week, Sister Nicholes was doing a lot of packing because she finished her mission this week. Because her stuff was everywhere it was a little hard for me to start packing up the rest of the apartment.

Saying goodbye to Nicholes Shimai
It was so sad saying goodbye to Sister Nicholes. We had a super last minute, last lesson with Kikuchi Shimai together just 2 hours before her train left and I think that was when it really hit both of us that she was going home. It was very different to be around Sister Nicholes when she ended her mission and Sister Chinain when she ended her mission. Both were hard, in very different ways. Sister Nicholes was hard because I was taking over a huge area, a huge ward, and training a new STL when I barely knew anything about the area, Ward, or being an STL. It really hit us that she was going home and it was so hard. We walked all the way to the station together. I had to go to Kamagaya to wait for Sister Shim to arrive so we got on trains going in opposite directions and waved goodbye as the doors close.

If that sounds sad, it's because it was.

It's hard to be with missionaries ending their missions because you know you won't see them until you finish your mission and that's scary to think about. I have passed my halfway mark, I'm in my 7th transfer and I now know that time goes by so fast on the mission. Before I know it I will be going home and I'm just not ready for that. There's so much more work that needs to be done! There's so much more good that I need to do! Whew. I still have a solid 6 transfers though, so I will definitely make them count.
A traditional Japanese meal

Kamagaya was fun. I got to dendo with two of my favorite people, Sister Keiser and Sister Kunishi! Then I got a phone call from a public phone and it turned out to be Sister Shim! She got to the station earlier than we expected, but it's so funny because she is from Korea but she is fluent in Japanese and was able to figure out the payphone in Japan to call me.

Now let me tell you about my amazing new companion Sister Shim! She is from Korea but she studied Japanese before her mission because she loved manga and anime. She understands a lot of English so we speak mostly Japanese with some English in there. It's so fun! I can feel my Japanese improving so much. She has explained so much to me! Haha and yesterday I explained to her what fruitcake was, she doesn't want to try it ^^
Cones to protect the ice cream on the way home

Anyways, most of our week was spent packing up the apartment. We spent as much time as possible packing because on Saturday the Elders, the Commissarian and his companion (the Commissarian is in charge of apartments) and some people from the Ward were coming to help us move. I had to pack all my stuff in my suitcases so I joked to Sister Shim that it felt like I was being transferred.

On Friday we had to go, with a member to help, to get the new keys to our apartment...and we had an apartment orientation. Everything went over my head, it was so bad. Luckily Yukimoto Shimai and Shim Shimai understood. They would translate the questions to me (since I know the most about the apartment) then translate back. It was a good system.

Well Saturday came and we literally woke up, got ready, and started packing more. No time for breakfast! The Ward Mission Leader, Orito Kyoudai said he would get some people to help us move and he did an am amazing job, I was shocked. At 10:00 the night before we texted the Relief Society President that we needed some more boxes and at
8:00 in the morning the Bishop, the Ward Mission Leader and 3 other Brothers showed up to help us move. Add to them 4 Matsudo Elders and the 2 Elders from Honbu and there were 13 of us total in that tiny apartment packing the reminder of our things and loading up the moving truck. We got more done in 45 min that Sister Shim and I were able to do in 3 days.

As we packed we found a lot more mold so I am very glad that we have left that apartment. We had to throw away lots of old moldy futons and curtains so we have to buy new ones and it is expensive. I have a new testimony about the importance of cleaning the apartment every week.

At about 11:00 almost everything was moved out and I was mentally preparing to clean. I had no idea how we were going to do it with all these people and our limited cleaning supplies, but then I looked out the door and it was the most beautiful sight. The Relief Society was marching up the street with all the supplies and they were literally like a cleaning army. They came in, put on their slippers and gloves and got to work. I have never been so grateful in my entire life. They knew just the right sprays to use for each thing (and let me tell you, Japan has some magic cleaning sprays, there is a spray for everything and it just takes everything off) and they knew what to do. It was beautiful and so helpful because Sister Shim and I had to go to the new apartment to organize everything.

The new apartment is so beautiful. So clean and nice and it feels like a hotel. There are still tons of boxes so I'm sorry you won't get any pictures of it this week, but I will send some soon! And the Bishop bought everyone drinks and little racks so our futons won't get moldy and it was just so sweet and nice I wanted to cry.
Sister Shim

The Ward really came in and helped us and I can only thank the previous missionaries for leaving a good impression so that they were willing to help us since we are both new in the Ward. I felt so much love for Matsudo as we worked with them to move all of our stuff.

We didn't finish until 1:00 and a member volunteered to take us shopping for new curtains really fast before we had to be at an Easter activity at 2:00. We only had time to eat a little bit of potato salad that Orito Shimai made us (she brought us lunch because she knew we wouldn't have anything and it was so sweet!) before sprinting off to the store.

It was truly an insane day. We helped with the Easter activity then came home and felt no guilt about spending 1000¥ on dinner since we hadn't eaten all day. Now we are in the process of unpacking, almost harder than packing. It's been hard because we haven't had much time to really get out and visit and teach and find because we have been packing and unpacking (also we don't have a stove's still in the old apartment but hopefully tomorrow!) but we will get to soon! We have both received revelation that this is a time for us to prepare. Something big is going to happen, we can feel it, and we need to be ready. I guess that includes unpacking the bazillion boxes we have.

Today was temple p-day! It was so nice to be in the temple again. The Tokyo temple will be closing in October for 2 years for renovations so I don't want to waste a minute of being in this beautiful temple. I will only have a few more visits before it closes. I also had the chance to see several of my Kohai from the Tokyo South Mission again as well as some missionaries I've worked with in the past. It's like little reunions all the time! I love it! I can't imagine having never met these amazing people.

I have had the chance to make friends with people literally from all over the world. My mom recently mentioned that I have had very global companions, which is true! I've had companions from Brazil, Tahiti, Hawaii, California, Utah/Japan and Korea. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to work with such amazing people from all over the world. There is a one in a million chance that I would have been able to meet them if I hadn't served a mission. I am thankful every day for the guidance Heavenly Father gave me to choose to serve a mission. I have received so many blessings because of it.
At the temple

This week we have the chance to hear from a member of the Area Presidency, Elder Choi who is also from Korea. He served as the Mission President of the Washington Seattle Mission (my home mission) from 2012-2015 and I had the opportunity to hear him speak a few times then. I am excited to hear from him again!

See you all next week! I hope you all have an amazing week!

Black Shimai

Monday, April 10, 2017

Hide and Go Seek

First things first, TRANSFER CALLS!!!!! Sister Nicholes tried to convince them to let her stay haha, but no luck. She is still going home this week. I am so sad!!! She has been an amazing companion!

My new companion is........Sister Shim!!! She is from Korea and is super fluent in Japanese. Two funny things about this transfer call:  two transfers ago when Sister Shim and I were both at the honbu to pick up our trainees (that's when Sister Atkinson became my companion) I told her I wanted to be her companion! I meant that we would be companions together in Niigata (I really want to go to Niigata, but Matsudo is great too!)

Lots of boxes

Just this morning I told Sister Nicholes "I had a dream. What if Sister Shim is my next companion? That would be so fun!" And she is!!!

I am so excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The rest of Matsudo is staying the same, except for Elder Lewis who is leaving to Koiwa for his last transfer.

In other news, this Saturday we will be moving into our new apartment! Yay!! The Honbu Elders are coming all the way to Matsudo with a huge truck and the Elders are going to help us move all our stuff into our new apartment. It will be exciting for sure. Today we had to go find some boxes to start packing...I had to balance them on my bike to get them back home. That was quite an adventure! There was this one corner that I just could not get around and two people walking by stopped to help. So nice! :)

Dinner with the Bishop and his family
Because this was Sister Nicholes' last week in Matsudo (she has been here 5 transfers, that's 7.5 months!) we had a lot of meal appointments. I got to know a lot of members and she got to say goodbye. It was so nice! The members here are the best! One day we went to eat with the Relief Society President, Yukimoto Shimai. She's Korean and made us super good Korean Sushi. It was so nice! She's super excited that Shim Shimai is coming.

Yesterday we and the Elders went to Bishop Nakanishi's house. Their kids are so cute! We had dinner and shared a really good message, then we played a game together. It was so fun! The kids have so much energy though. They just wanted to keep playing games, so we played hide and go seek with them. It was so fun! I love building relationships with the members because it helps them become so much more excited about the work. Members are so important and it is so important to know them (especially the leaders). This week was a really good opportunity to meet many of those members that we need to work closely with.

We also went to MLC again this week. Once a month, all the STLs and Zone Leaders in the mission gather for training from President Nagano and the Assistants. We learned a lot about faith in this meeting, especially faith to continue finding new investigators. At lunch we sang the EFY Medley and I felt the Spirit so strongly. Whenever I sing that song I just want to cry. It was so powerful to hear a group of missionaries sing it though. The EFY Medley is such a powerful song, I can always feel the power and love of Heavenly Father when I sing it.
MLC (Mission Leadership Conference)
At this MLC, Sister Nicholes and I were also selected to do a mogi (a role play) lesson in front of the whole MLC...and it was filmed for all of the mission to watch. I was so nervous! The moment I sat down, all my Japanese just flew out of my head. However, the Spirit really guided me to the things that I needed to say. I am so grateful for the Spirit which testifies of truth and guides us.

This past weekend at General Conference (I was lucky to have the chance to watch all the sessions in English this weekend) the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ were huge focuses. I love it! The Spirit is such an amazing gift that Heavenly Father has given us. He loves us so much and through the Spirit we can feel comfort and guidance and know that what we are hearing is true. When we follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ and really strive to know him, we will truly find true happiness.
Kumon Shimai with a Layton, Utah jacket

This General Conference was so perfect! On Saturday, we taught out investigator, Ami-chan about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End). Then when she watched General Conference she told us "I recognized so many of the words! They were talking about the Spirit!" It was perfect! She is really progressing so fast! We were able to meet her several times this week. She is only 17, but she is starting to see how the gospel can really change her life and bring her so much more happiness.

Yukimoto Shimai
I guess this week was all about the Spirit. We had a lesson with Shizuko-san where we just read lots of scriptures from the Book of Mormon about the Spirit and she told us "Wow, I guess I have felt the Spirit before!" For an investigator who has been off and on for a while, this was huge progress.

We are seriously seeing so many miracles in Matsudo! I'm excited to have another transfer here!

One last miracle! Last week on p-day when Sister Nicholes and I were taking pictures by the Sakura, a random lady came up and offered to take a picture of us. Then right before she left, she took a selfie with us. Well yesterday, we had just left our apartment to go to church and we saw a lady walking past us. We said "Konnichiwa" and she said "Oh!!!!! Sakura shasshin!! (Sakura picture)" It was so crazy to run into the same lady 1 week later and have her still remember us. :)

ALSO at General Conference, they announced a temple in Brasilia Brazil and I am so excited!!! My trainer Sister Pourre is from Brasilia Brazil and I am so excited for her and her family!!!! She told me about how she had to take an airplane to go to the temple before her mission. This is such a blessing! Yay!!!!

I am excited to be here in Matsudo. This is going to be a great transfer, I can feel it! Thank you all for your love and support! I hope you all have a great week! Enjoy the spring weather! The sakura is starting to fall here, which is sad, but it's being replaced by lots of green!

Love you all!

Black Shimai


Monday, April 3, 2017

Ohisashiburi Portuguese


Or Ola! I guess :)

It is time for Sakura blossoms in Japan
This week we had Zone Conference and Interviews with President Nagano. During my interview, I told him that at the beginning of this transfer I got a prompting that I should start studying Portuguese again, but I wasn't quite sure how to fit it into my study because I only have 1 hour of language study per day and I still feel the need to study Japanese. His response was "That's funny that you brought up Portuguese, because the moment you walked into the room I thought about the Portuguese Sacrament meetings they are starting to do in Ushiku every week." He gave me permission to go to Ushiku any week that I feel prompted to go, so that I can help with the Portuguese Sacrament meeting. Right now it's being run by Elder Correa (one of my senpai that is from Brazil) and a lot of Brazilian members, less actives, and investigators come. Many of them are women, so President Nagano thought it would be good for a Sister to be there.

Well, yesterday we went. :) It was so good!!!! I was conducting all the songs and singing in Portuguese and I bore my testimony. It was really really rough because it's been 6 months since I've really spoken Portuguese, but it was also refreshing. I understood a lot of what was being said. It was really ohisashiburi to Portuguese. I had the chance to talk to some investigators afterwards and it was so fun! Sister Nicholes made friends with a less active young woman who translated to Japanese for her, and she used her Spanish to talk to a few of the Spanish-speaking members. It was so good! Haha, now I really had to brush up on my skills.

It was so amazing though. Later that night we went to a member's house and there was a couple visiting from America there. The husband didn't speak any Japanese, but I think he stated my feelings perfectly: "It's amazing how I can go to church in a completely different country and the Spirit is still there. I can't understand anything, but the Spirit is still there. The members are warm and welcoming. The doctrine is the same. It truly is the true church." I testify that what he said is true. No matter what language it is, no matter how many members are there, the church is true. The Spirit can be felt all over the world. That is what I love about being part of this true worldwide church. I can be in a completely different country, but I always know that if I find the church, I will find friends and helping hands, even if I am a stranger.

Recently we had a cool experience where our Ward Mission Leader forwarded us an email from his friend in America. The friend's daughter was here in Japan and had an unfortunate encounter in Tokyo. She was looking for some members to just be her friends and help her get back into the fun spirit of her trip, so they contacted the missionaries. That young woman ended up having a great time because of the love of members in Japan, people who didn't know her, but reached out in Christlike love. So cool!

So that was my Sunday :) Chuch in Japanese then church in Portuguese! It was also one of the Portuguese members' birthday so they had cake and brigadero (sorry for spelling that wrong, it's caramel and chocolate and it's delicious) and it made my day. Also Brother Raul and his granddaughter, Nanami-chan were there too! I met them for the first time when they came to General Conference in Oizumi and it was so nice to see them again! Nanami-chan remembered me!!!!! <3

Zone Conference was also amazing. We had the chance to do some mogis with the Sisters in the Zone and it is so amazing to see their progress, even in just 6 weeks. I love working with them and I'm excited to be staying here another transfer (I probably won't transfer since Sister Nicholes is going home). I just love Matsudo!!!!

This week we also had 2 lessons with Kikuchi Ami-chan, a 17 year old investigator whose mom recently joined the church. The first lesson, we made brownies, played badminton (while Sister Nicholes, Watanabe Shimai and Kikuchi Shimai had a lesson), then watched Meet the Mormons with her. She really enjoyed all the stories, and I got super emotional during the last story about the missionary, because that is my life now. Then today we taught her the Plan of Salvation and guess what?????? SHE ACCEPTED THE BAPTISMAL INVITATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE WANTS TO BE BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!! YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Even better? She and her mom and our doseki member stayed for Zone P-day and played badminton, volleyball, and basketball with us and it was so fun! I feel so lucky to be here, helping Ami-chan progress towards baptism! She is so cute and I love her so much!!!!

One last thing I would like to share with you. This past week, I've been focusing a lot on personal revelation. I have had a lot of questions for Heavenly Father, everything from What can I do to be a better missionary? to How can I better help Matsudo? There have been so many questions, and I've really been working on praying and seeking personal revelation to receive answers. It is amazing! When you really focus on questions that you want to ask Heavenly Father, he will give you answers. I had made a list of questions I wanted to ask President Nagano at Interviews, but instead I received all the answers in the studies I had leading up to interviews. I walked into the room and told President Nagano "I had a whole list of questions prepared, but Heavenly Father answered them here are some other questions."

When we really prepare and truly seek for answers to our questions, Heavenly Father will answer them. It won't always be in the way we want, oftentimes it isn't, but I can testify that when we follow the Lord's direction, we will be blessed. I didn't want to listen to Heavenly Father when he told me to come on a mission, but I am so so so so glad that I did. He truly knows what is best for us and he just wants to help us be happy and become the best people we can be. Trust that he knows best, and that he will guide you to greater happiness. I know he will!

Thank you so much everyone! Have a great week!

Black Shimai