Monday, September 7, 2015

What a week!

Next week, a wittier subject line. 

Every day this week, I have written five things I'm grateful for in my journal. They're always different and usually include a little sentence or paragraph after them. It's a good way to notice blessings and feel more happy, and it's also a good way to keep a journal when you have no time to do anything. Some things I was grateful for this week:

1. I really wanted Black Thunder (prime Japanese candy - kind of like a chocolate covered Oreo without the frosting. Heaven for the small price of 31 yen!) but couldn't get it. Then, randomly, someone gave me one with a sticky note written on top! What a gem!

2. I got to play a beautiful grand piano for 45 minutes as prelude to a special multi-zone meeting in which we heard from a member of the first quorum of the Seventy (important church leader). I took eight pages of notes/impressions from that day. 

3. Service opens people's hearts! On Monday after our 22 mile extravaganza, we saw two girls pulling heavy suitcases down the road, so we stopped and helped them until we had to go (run) to our lesson that night. They are Vietnamese students here at Asia Pacific University, which is in our area, but at the top of a mountain so we never go. Anyway, they agreed to meet with us in Thursday! The meeting was super long, but we just had dinner and got to know each other. After we taught them about God and Jesus Christ, we gave them both copies of the Book of Mormon in Vietnamese. One of them especially was so excited to have it, she kept flipping through, reading random passages, asking what things meant...when we gave her one in English, too, she was so excited I thought she was going to pass out! I'm not even exaggerating. I know I've never been quite that excited to read scriptures before. Maybe I should be! They're an enormous blessing. Through the Bible and the Book of Mormon, all of life's questions are answered and we feel God's love. So what started as carting heavy bags down the street, probably looking ridiculous as is the norm, became helping two awesome girls become closer to Christ! Miracles!

Oh, and the really excited of the two girls also accepted the invitation to baptism. "Of course, that seems like the natural next step." Wow, yeah...that! She is amazing. And God is amazing for letting us have these miracles. 

4. Banana soy milk

5. A family in our group, the Uchidas, had us over for dinner on Saturday night. They are so cool! As soon as I walked into their home, I felt how much love they have for each other and God. The food was delicious, and we all had a great time. Their sixteen-year-old girl is fellowshipping our sixteen-year-old investigator. We love them!

6. We taught two of our thirteen-year-old investigators yesterday after church. We'd just taught them the Plan of Salvation and wanted to do something fun, so we created a board game starting from pre-earth life and ending in the celestial kingdom! It was so fun! (And I got to heaven first, but who's keeping track? (Mark 10:31) next week, we are doing origami with them! I can't even make a paper airplane so we'll see how that goes. 

It's a great day to be a missionary! Since I'm ahead of most of you in time, I'll go ahead and tell you that Monday is going to be great! I love you all! Thank you for the prayers!

Love from Japan,

Sis J

Today I biked 22 miles.

Never in my life would I ever elect to bike that much. On P-Day, no less!

And played two hours of basketball! I'm so happy to be here - days like this are so fun and rewarding. The most rewarding days, though, are those where we see miracles! I have very little time today, but here's my favorite miracle:

Last Sunday, we had three members at church including the bishop. Yesterday, we had thirty! Chun Shimai and I have four new investigators from this week who literally just fell into our laps! (picture attached). We've been working so hard these past few weeks - biking around the mountainside that is Beppu, Japan, stopping people on the streets and knocking on their doors, trying to share the gospel. Most people are Buddhist, and they're all very traditional. 99% of the "kekko" (I'm fine, thanks) people, though, reject us very politely. I appreciate that about Japan - everyone is so polite! I wish everyone could come and have this experience. It's so amazing. 

One funny thing about Japan: everything is a few inches shorter. Sinks, doorways...the top grocery store aisle is at my eye's hilarious. And tiny bikes are everywhere! I am taller than all but maybe two of the members here. I love it!

Also love the food here. Can't get over it. I might come home heavier, but it will be worth it.

Things I've learned about biking:
1. Gear shift. A useful feature when biking up a mountain. The first time, I didn't know about it and I cried/prayed my way up. Pretty funny. 
2. For every hill up, there's always an equally exhilarating hill down.
3. Never say "I've been in Japan for 2 1/2 weeks and never remotely crashed my bike!" You will crash. Twice, according to my experience. Yep, today the streak was broken. Tough loss. I'm so covered in rain, sweat and dirt from biking down the coastline to basketball and back that I don't even care. It's just a great day!

This week, I studied hope and God's love. 1 Ne. 11:17 is my favorite. I know that if we rely on hope during difficult things, we will come out all the stronger because God loves and watches over us!

I love you all! Thank you for the prayers!

Yume o seikatsu shite imasu

Currently living the dream. 

Last Monday, we went to Monkey Mountain! It's exactly what it sounds like - a mountain entirely covered in monkeys. It's so crazy, people will pay money to go look at/step around monkeys. But it was so fun! One of the elders got charged by an angry monkey, but not to worry, everyone is okay. 
On Thursday, while streeting, we saw a bunch of plastic bottles on the sidewalk and a man working. We decided to stop and ask if we could help clean them up. He agreed and proceeded to ask us to pull giant weeds out of bushes for the next hour and a half...a little more complicated than we thought, but it was the best! We looked a little ridiculous, as you can imagine, but we said hi to all the strange looks we got. One man rode by and said something - I thought he was pointing out more trash under the bushes (we know, thanks). And rode off. Turned out, he was parking his bike and coming to help us! He talked to us (I just smiled and nodded haha) and he pulled a TON of weeds! After we ran out of bags for the weeds, the first guy, Sato San took us to the vending machine across the street and bought us drinks. He was so nice!!
On Friday, we went back to the same place and helped finish the work! It was so fun. Sato San bought us drinks again. This time, I got grape soda that you have to shake for awhile and there's this jelly stuff inside...I can't really describe it. Very Japan, very good. We sat and drank them after two hours of bagging weeds and branches, and thought "man, this is the life." And it is. This whole experience reminded me of how much I love service and why I am here. 
Also, at Thursday's Zone Training Meeting, we were challenged to teach full lessons to people on the street. We do short lessons already, but we never prayed. So that evening while contacting, we did it! We taught a girl about prayer and prayed with her in the middle of a sidewalk on the busiest street in our area! And it was the best ever! Even if we don't get to meet with her again we know she felt God's love, and that's what it's all about. 

Can we please appreciate how beautiful Japan is??
I love you all! Thank you for the prayers and emails! Good luck to everyone starting school this week - hasten the work and anchor down! :)

Hello from Nihon!

Sorry, couldn't think of a less cheesy subject line. But yes, indeed, I am in the Land of the Rising Sun!

A little short on time - we're going hiking at Monkey Mountain as a district in an hour. 

So our journey to Nihon went something like this: fly to Denver an hour late. Miss flight to Tokyo by 20 minutes (kind of knew that going into it, kind of wanted to hope we would make it anyway/not return to the beloved MTC). Stay at the airport for 3 hours working out flights. Stay in Denver over night. Fly to Tokyo. Except for 5 of our group. They stayed in San Francisco for that night. We fly to Fukuoka. Orientation 11pm-2am. My companions both got called to Okinawa! I cried. Next morning (Thursday), 8:30 am I think, went to bus station to bus to Beppu, my first area! It is on the eastern coast of Kyushu, the main island. It is so beautiful here - everywhere I look, there are cool buildings, mountains, Even when I'm biking up a hill and sweating more than ever in my life, I just can't get over how beautiful it is here. 

My companion is Sister Chun from California. She's so fun and outgoing, and really focused on the work. She makes me think for myself instead of giving me answers, which I appreciate. What a gem. I'm the quirky one in our companionship, she it really that weird to eat raw potatoes? Speaking of, the food is delicious. I thought I would get bored or miss American food, but in my whopping five days here, it's been awesome. 

The church is small here. Our ward is actually a group...we had about 25 at church on Sunday. But we have six missionaries - 4 elders and 2 sisters in our area, so we know the work is hastening! Church is just 2 hours in a rented floor of a building (the other floors are businesses/bars so that's fun). We don't have auxiliaries because there just aren't enough people. 

Yesterday at church, something cool happened! I sang a solo in church yesterday! It's called "Savior, Redeemer of my Soul."At first I was like "man shoot I sound nothing like Cox Shimai" (she sang this song in our MTC branch - basically an angel) but then I decided that doesn't matter. We have different voices. I recorded it with my iPad when we practiced and was not a fan of my sound. I haven't sang a vocal solo since I was seven years old, in a stake production. So it was a growth zone moment for sure. Anyway, I wasn't hugely into how practices went, but when I got up to sing for the group yesterday (not ward, not, as soon as I sang the first note, I felt an overwhelming love for the people! After that, I have no idea how it actually sounded, but I knew the Spirit was there and touching the hearts of people in the room. It was so cute, they clapped when we were done haha. I know that the Lord doesn't need professionals - He just needs people with willing hearts and a desire to stay on the straight and narrow. He takes our imperfect offering and transforms it into what He needs. Just like the world was created from existing matter, our efforts can create miracles in the hearts of others. 

We teach English class (Eikaiwa) once a week. We teach vocab, pronunciation, have conversation, and play a game. When we contact, it's often a good way to get people to talk to us. 

So funny story, a member here interviewed me for the newspaper yesterday because I'm new (still waiting to hit that one-week mark), and he asked about North Carolina being part of the Civil War. He asked about Abraham Lincoln and said how much he respects and admires him. When I told him we were 11th cousins, he, wow, he was the most excited I've ever seen a Japanese person be. It was hilarious. We'd just had a lesson on family history, so I told him to do his and see what he finds. 

Favorite scriptures: DC 6:34; Job 38 (kind of makes me laugh. I'd hate to be Job here)

Love you all! The church is true!