Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ai Love or Ai Blue?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Shimai

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Sister Black is Back


Father's Day Activity
Let me just start out by saying how much I love the members in Matsudo!! We have the best Ward Missionaries ever! If you remember last week (I think I mentioned it) we had a Ward Missionary Training Meeting. Well, this week one of our Ward Missionaries took this training really seriously and he has been seeing so many miracles! He is fellowshipping Mission School students, sharing the gospel with them, getting referrals from members, and on Sunday he was everywhere in a way we, as missionaries, just can't be. After sacrament meeting, he completely took care of a Recent Convert and her really sick son (who is an investigator) and helped them receive a priesthood blessing and get home safe. We had no idea until afterwards, but we were so so so grateful!

Father's Day
Then there is Yui, who has been waiting for her Mission Call and it came this week!! She opened it yesterday and she was called to the California San Jose Mission! I am so excited for her! This past week, I had the chance to go on splits with her again because we had too many appointments for just Sister Shim and I. Originally, she was just going to come to District Meeting with us and then come back at night for our splits, but on the way back from District Meeting, we ran into a Less Active, so Yui helped us teach her and it was such a good experience for her. She really felt the Spirit during the lesson guiding her as she talked. On our splits, we taught a Young Woman English and she helped me start to teach Kodomo Eikaiwa. She is so prepared to be a missionary. She really was amazing! Ahhhhhh I'm so excited for her!!!

Another miracle from this week was Ai-San and Mami-San. So a little bit of background. They are both Mission School students who took a church tour and wanted to take the lessons. They also live in the same sharehouse.

Some rolls from Ai-san.
I put faces on the picture.
First, Ai-San. We had an amazing lesson with her this week about the Restoration and she had a question about why Jesus had to die, so we talked about the Atonement. As we explained, all she could say was "Sugoi" (Cool, wow, amazing) and she was just so shocked that Jesus Christ would do something like that. She really appreciated it and really wants to know for herself if this is true. Well she came on Sunday to church and the Sunday School lesson was about the sacrament and why it is important, and she actually understood it! She was so happy! We were so happy too!

Her friend, Mami, is also an investigator, but we haven't started the lessons with her because at first she didn't seem all that interested. However, we invited her to church this week and she actually came (and brought Ai with her). She didn't understand a lot, but she really enjoyed it. Also, she's going to go study/work abroad in Canada for a year! The best news? She is going to Vancouver and really really wants to come visit Seattle so we are definitely going to meet up in a few months so I can show her around. I'm so excited!!!

The next Matsudo Member Miracle happened with Ai and Mami at church. They came for all three hours and it was their first time and many members came up to talk to them and introduce themselves, so it was great. However, Sister Shim and I had been invited to the Abiko Ward to help with their YW Event and in order to be there on time we had to leave right before Relief Society. We brought Ai and Mami to Relief Society and luckily we saw Mikami Shimai who actually dosekied for Ai-San once so they knew each other. Mikami Shimai saved the day! She volunteered to sit with them (Yui and another Sister also came over later in the class) and guided them through Relief Society when we couldn't be there.

Afterwards we messaged them and both Ai and Mami had a great time at church and both had really good experiences. I am so so so so grateful for the members that helped make their first church experience a special one. They are both so so special and I love seeing the ward slowly getting more and more dendo fire!

Father's Day
As for the Abiko Ward YW Event, that was so fun!!!

The funniest thing was that we got to church right as it was ending. A bit of background about Abiko, they have 4 Elders, and have not had Sister Missionaries in a long time. They have been practically begging President Nagano for Sisters. Well, when we got there, all the members started freaking out. "Did you get transferred here?" "Why are the Sisters here?" "What is going on?!?!?!?!" It was the funniest thing! This ward is dying for Sister Missionaries, so I am so glad that we were able to go and help just for one day. The YW there were so cute too! We taught a little lesson about dress and grooming and they all had amazing insights. Ah I just love the Youth so much!!!!!!

And with that little adventure, we have now worked in every single area in our Zone, including the areas that only have Elders (Ushiku and Abiko). Whee!!!! Sister Power!

One thing I have learned from the little time I have spent in both Ushiku and Abiko, and even here in Matsudo, is that we really need to be grateful for the missionaries we have. We never know when they will change or get taken away. Recently I talked to a family in Matsudo about how lucky they are to have 3 sets of missionaries in their ward. In my home ward, we have just 1 set of missionaries, so have fortunate Matsudo is to have 6 missionaries who are working full time to bring souls unto Christ. In the upcoming months, the number of missionaries coming to our mission is actually going to decrease so that we will have to close a few areas. Matsudo is so so so fortunate to have so many missionaries and especially to have Sisters in their area. Just last week, we had to close the Mito Sisters area. Please please please give thanks for the missionaries in your area. You never know what might happen, so don't wait until it is too late to work with them. They want to know you and work with you so badly!!!!!!

At the school festival
Last little miracle for the week was that a nearby college had a school festival where they had a ton of booths for food and games. We have an investigator and a recent convert who go to that college, so we decided to go check it out. We went first in the morning and saw the investigator. We only had a little bit of time so it wasn't super effective, but we promised her that we would come back a little bit later after out appointment. Well, later we ran into the recent convert who also wanted to go to the school festival, so we all went together.

We were worried that it wasn't going to be effective, but it was so effective!!! As we were walking in, Sister Shim mentioned the words Korean food, and one student just perked up and looked over and was like "There's actually a Korean booth over here" and it turned out that he was Korean! So of course he and Sister Shim start talking super fast in Korean and he introduces us to his friend and takes a Mission School flyer because he is also super interested in English. YAY!!!!! (P.S. I also got to eat Rotee which is this super yummy Thai street food and I was soooooo excited). We also talked to our investigator again and she brought her friend too who is actually really interested in learning if God exists! Therefore, it turned into a SUPER effective finding opportunity. Thank you Heavenly Father for guiding us that day!

As for a funny moment from today. For p-day we had to go fix our bikes a bit and then we went shopping. When she saw what I bought, Sister Shim said "That looks exactly like what you brought from home!" She is so funny because I promise you, the shirt I bought was quite different from what I brought on my mission. She wanted me to share this with you all. She is so funny! I love her!!!!!!!

Also, as an explanation for the title of this email. This was the first week in which it got so hot that I had to start putting my hair in a braid again. Thus, Summer Sister Black is Back again. I'm not sure I have any pictures with the braid, but yeah. It's back!
Mission School

Now just as a disclaimer. I have noticed that many of my emails are just filled with miracles and it may seem that nothing is hard or nothing goes wrong in my life as a missionary. There are hard days. There are hard trials. There are many many disappointments. However, I feel blessed that Heavenly Father helps me to see that all those disappointments and trials and hard days are there to help me see the miracles. One thing that we teach as missionaries is about the Fall of Adam and Eve. An important aspect of the Fall is that because they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve were able to know pain and sorrow and death. However, because they now knew pain and sorrow and death, they were also able to know joy and happiness. In order to know true happiness, we must also experience sorrow. If we didn't know sorrow, how could we know that we were happy?

When I write these emails, most of the time I remember only the good things, the miracles, and so that is what I share. I have hard days and frustrating experiences just like anyone else, but the blessing of being a missionary, is that we can see the big picture. Heavenly Father gives us trials so that we can grow. I am so so so thankful for that.

I love you all so much! I hope you all have a wonderful week!


Black Shimai

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

And then there were three


Sorry that my last email was so late in the week!

Goodbye to Sister Yamashita
Anyway, I sent that email on Thursday, and the day after we became a San-nin (3 person companionship). On Saturday, Sister Yamashita, who was in Tsukuba, went home due to medical reasons and so Sister Phelps joined us in Matsudo for the weekend. I will miss Sister Yamashita so much! I met her the first day I came to Japan and I have loved her ever since. She trained Sister Barton, was my STL, and then I had the chance to be her STL for just 3 short weeks. I will miss her sweet Spirit so much!!! But I also know that it is all in God's Plan. This upcoming week, another sister will be going home, which is also hard. Because of these sisters going home, President Nagano had to close the Mito Sisters and send one of them to Oyama and one to Tsukuba. It was so sad saying goodbye to Sister Akers today, as she goes up to Oyama.

However, I truly know that God has a plan for each of us. He wants us to grow and he has a perfect plan for us.

Momoko Shimai
Yesterday I was able to testify about this perfect plan many times. We had two miracle lessons yesterday. We were teaching a recent convert, Momoko Shimai, and a less Active, Mikami Shimai, one right after another and we planned to teach them both the Plan of Salvation. We really wanted to turn both lessons into discussions though and help each Sister really apply it in their lives.

In the first lesson we really emphasized Jesus Christ and the Atonement. Momoko Shimai was baptized recently and she told us that the Plan of Salvation was her favorite part of the gospel, so we just built off of what she already loved and helped her see the importance of living and applying the gospel to her life every day. She loved it! And we love her!

Our next lesson was completely different. We were still teaching the Plan of Salvation, but because Mikami Shimai is getting married soon and is really concerned about raising a family, we talked about families. We drew on the board three pillars of the Plan of Salvation (Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement) and talked about how each thing was required in order for us to have families.

I truly testify that this gospel is real. It applies to each one of us individually. It works in the lives of everyone, no matter what situation in life they are. We taught the same basic lesson, to two completely different people, in two completely different ways. It was all led by the Spirit. There were so many inspired questions asked, and Spirit-led testimonies born in those two lessons. These two lessons could not have been more different, yet each person we taught walked away with a stronger love for this perfect plan that our Father in Heaven created for them. I walked away with a stronger testimony as well, that God knows his children and he knows what they need. This is not a cookie cutter gospel. This is a real gospel that works in our lives if we let it. If we are willing to study and put in the work to be our best and follow Jesus Christ, it will work and we will be blessed.
Mission School

Those were just 2 miracles that we saw in our weekend as a trio. On Sunday, we managed to pull off some crazy Splits. Sister Phelps had an important investigator who was planning on coming to church today, so we felt that it was important for her and Sister Shim to go to Tsukuba Ward. However, at the same time in Matsudo we had a baptismal service (which one of our investigators was coming to), Ward Conference, a Father's Day Lunch, and a Ward Missionary Training. So yeah, it was impossible for all three of us to go to Tsukuba. Luckily though, we have an amazing Ward missionary (who is waiting for her mission call!) who was able to be my companion through it all! Yay Yui!! She was amazing!

We visited a few former investigators, guided the investigator through the baptismal service, talked to many members (aka missionary life every week at church because there are a bajillion people we have to talk to) and we made it to the amazing Ward missionary training. We were busy, but it was amazing!

Cookie Freak Shake
At the Ward missionary training, just wow. They helped the Ward missionaries set expectations to do more than just normal missionary work. They really inspired the Ward missionaries and I am excited to see the results. For example, one Ward missionary has been coming to Mission School, which is great. At the training they encouraged Ward Missionaries to fulfill their callings even more by not just coming, but fellowshipping the students, and inviting members and nonmembers to come. I can't fully explain why it was so amazing, but it was and the Ward missionaries were so inspired.

Yui wants to work more with the youth and inspire them to go on missions too. Right after the meeting, she marched straight into the seminary classroom and committed everyone there to come to Mission School once this week. It was so cool!!! She is going to be an amazing missionary!

Saturday, we helped Watanabe Shimai with her Father's Day Activity. We helped the kids make these really complicated photo cards that are super cool. I wanted to make one too! It was only slightly challenging to explain to a bunch of 4 year olds how to make it though. ^^

Friday, right before Sister Phelps came, I also got to go on splits with Kunishi Shimai! Also one of my favorite Nihonjin Sisters!! Hehe I also met her my first day in Japan because she trained Sister Anderson who came with me to Japan. Anyway, back when she was in Chiba and I was in Urayasu, we spent a p-day together (if you remember the pictures of me in traditional Korean clothes, that's when we were together) and I promised her that one day we would be companions. It didn't exactly work out how I planned, but 4 transfers and we finally got to be companions and it was just as amazing as I hoped! She spoke English all day and I spoke only Japanese. We must have looked strange on the street (a Japanese person speaking English with an American replying in Japanese) but it was way fun! I love learning from other sisters!!!

At the temple
Lastly, today was my last temple p-day. The temple will be closing in October until 2020 and in the coming months the temple will get really busy. As missionaries, our work is for the living, not the dead, so it was decided that this would be our last temple p-day. I had a few questions that I really really felt like I needed answers to so I fasted this morning before going to the temple. I also listened in English for the first time in a long time (usually I will listen to a mixture of Japanese and Portuguese). After the session, I just prayed and listened to the Spirit. I truly felt God's love for me. Through the Spirit I was able to receive answers to my questions and to questions I didn't even know I had. I know that Heavenly Father cares about each and every one of us. He will give us answers. I felt his overwhelming love for me and I know that each of you can feel that love too.

After the session we had one last lunch together with Sister Akers before sending her to Oyama, but I know I will see her again soon. I also had the chance to meet Sister Garcia, a Sister from Brazil who is going home this week. It was the first time I had ever met her, but I felt a special connection to her.

The mission is really like one big family, especially for the sisters, and especially for anyone who has served in Oizumi. Sister Garcia went there right after I left. Oizumi is a special place. I am so grateful that I was able to just meet her for a few moments today. I love this mission, and these missionaries so much. Every single missionary is special to me, even if I have never met them in person before. I love being a missionary here, every single day I am so so grateful that I followed those promptings a year and a half ago and chose to serve a mission.

I love you all and I hope you all have an amazing week!


Black Shimai

Thursday, June 8, 2017

One year older and wiser too

Birthday box from my family
1 year older in several ways. Wow, what a week. I turned 20 on Wednesday, then hit my year markon Thursday. Both days were filled with miracles and love and I am so so grateful to be serving as a missionary right now in the Japan Tokyo Mission.

My birthday started out pretty ordinary. We actually had a lot of meetings planned that day, but at District Meeting everyone sang to me which was really nice. Right before Eikaiwa though, we met with a Young Woman named Akane who is going to America over the summer and will be going to Girl's Camp in America! Yay! So fun! But she needs to learn Church English, so we met with her before Eikaiwa and, at her request, did an English Mogi. It was really fun, but also a little weird to be doing a mogi in English. Haha, her mom made us all dinner though and brought us cake too! So sweet!!!!

Eikaiwa was by far the best part of my birthday. I felt really lucky to have my birthday on aWednesday this year because it meant that I got to celebrate with some of my favorite people! Everyone sang to me at the beginning of Eikaiwa, then we split into classes and the Kodomo Class sang to me again! We learned a bunch of birthday words (including surprise party, oh that was a fun one to teach) and then played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. So fun! After Eikaiwa, a few students gave me some gifts and we went upstairs and found a cake that Ishijima Shimai made for me! It was so sweet! Especially since cherries and strawberries are pretty expensive in Japan.

Birthday Cake and presents
Sister Shim also tried to make my birthday as special as possible by making me a fruit "cake" for breakfast and a special lunch. It was so special!

We also saw a birthday miracle! A new Eikaiwa Student came with her adorable 3 year old son (who already knows his ABCs) and she wants a church tour!!!! She has interest in the gospel! YAY!!!!!!!!

When we finally came home for the night, we ate birthday cake and opened presents. It was super special and thank you all for your birthday messages! For any of you that participated in my mom's little picture taking adventure, thank you too. It was a really special day, and although it didn't really hit me that it was my birthday, I definitely felt loved. Thank you all!

The following day, June 1st, was my 1 year mark as a missionary. Isn't that crazy? 1 year ago I entered the MTC! That probably scared me more than the fact that I am now 20! How in the world has 1 year passed by so fast?

We saw so many miracles on my 1 year mark! I was actually on exchanges with Sister Akers. We found several PI's and we saw a huge miracle at a college that we went to.

So this college is about 45 minutes away, so we normally don't have time to go, but we have heard many good things about it, so we decided to go check it out to see if there is potential for finding Mission School students or investigators there. We were just looking around and we found some boards with information about English programs at the school. We wrote down the information and were about to leave when one of the students asked us if we needed any help, IN ENGLISH.

Now, a bit of background. In the Japan Tokyo Mission, missionaries aren't allowed to stop or talk to members of the opposite sex as a safety rule, unless they talk to us first. Well this student was a young man, but because he talked to us first, we just told him that we were looking for an English Speaking Society or English Club. Well, it turned out that he had just met the Elders the day before, and was happy to tell us where to go to find more information. Out of all the people in that fairly large college, we happened to meet the exact same person that the Elders met. Crazy!!!!!!!
Birthday feast

That night, we went to a really special dinner with a member. She had a coupon so she decided to take us both to celebrate my birthday and her birthday which is later this month. It was so fun and there was so much food! It was crazy!!! Every time they brought out a new dish, I was shocked. She is one of my favorite people every though (Kawakita Shimai) and we were able to talk about how to help the Young Women more in our ward as well because she is a YW Advisor. Yay for miracles!!!!!!!!!

Well, right after these two amazing days, my health started going downhill again, and I was getting pretty disheartened. Over the past 2 months, I've gotten sick 3 times, and I was ready for it to stop. Sister Shim, being the amazing companion she is, made me call the doctor again and luckily that helped. I've never had allergies before, but these past two months, I've discovered that I'm probably allergic to something in Japan. I'm just glad that we found a solution so that I can stop feeling sick. Yay :)

Japanese pizza
This really was a week of miracles though! We had a mogi with a Mission School student named Ayako-san. Well it was supposed to be a mogi, but it turned into a real lesson because she just had the most amazing questions. Honestly, from the first time I met her, I felt that she was special, that she really was prepared for this gospel. She originally accepted to take the lessons about 2 months ago, but backed out at the last moment, and since then she has just been asking us gospel questions at Mission School. Then this week we asked if we could do a mogi, and she said yes! It went so well! We asked her to pray and she actually did!!!!!!!!!

We met again recently and she told us about her experience. She prayed on Friday, and on Sunday, when she was scrolling through Instagram, one of the people that she follows (and loves so much!!!!) posted a picture at Temple Square. Apparently they are LDS too!!!!! We've talked about Temple Square quite a few times, so she recognized it right away. She also recognized this as the answer to her prayer!!!!! She then spent a long time studying the church on the internet and learned a lot. We had planned to teach her the Restoration, but she already knew it and believed it, so we were instead able to focus on her other needs. It was so amazing and such a powerful lesson. She really has a desire to know!!!!!!

Flan - My entry in the Zone competition
The funniest thing, was that after our lesson, we went to Mission School and she pulled out her Eiken book and said "I spent all day studying about God. I didn't have time to study this book." It was so funny!!!!!

As for other small miracles from the week:

We met Momoko Shimai who is a recent convert who moved into Matsudo. The first missionary she met was actually Sister Shim's MTC companion, and she knows Elder Paskett who was in my MTC District

An Abiko Sister was working at the Matsudo Church right after Zone Conference, and when we biked past she asked "Are you the Matsudo Sisters? Which one of you is the one who can speak Spanish?" Apparently there is a member's wife who is not a member, and is from Peru that they are trying to work with, so they need a Spanish Speaking Sister :)
We had Zone Conference and I learned so much and got to see the amazing sisters in the zone!!!!

Armor for the Zone P-day battle
Lastly, and the reason why this email is a little bit late, is that on Monday we had Zone P-day. All the missionaries in Matsudo Zone came together for a cooking competition/feast and a battle. I don't even know where this idea came just happened.

Everyone brought food (we made a huge King Pudding and granola rice krispies) and Elder Banks judged it all and gave out prizes. Then everyone made armor out of cardboard and proceeded to have a war. It was far the craziest thing I have ever done for a p-day ever. I can't even fully explain it, you really just had to be there. It was a great bonding experience for everyone though and it was fun to see all the new people in the Zone.

I know this was a very long email, but thank you all so much for helping make the past week amazing. I really do appreciate all of you who sent me messages for my birthday whether it was by email or Facebook, or any other means. I felt a lot of love from those of you at home and from the amazing people here in Japan. I feel so lucky to be here right now, serving in the areas that I have served. Thank you so much!


Black Shimai

Matsudo church - 1 year on my mission