It sounds like this past week has been exciting! Thank you for your emails and love. :)
Thanks for letting me know what has been happening. I feel like it was just yesterday that Johnny, Devon and Nolan received their mission calls, and now they are home! It's pretty crazy to think about. Sometimes I think that time freezes on missions because I feel like we are able to do so much in a day, but then the weeks go by so fast and then the transfer goes by even faster! Time is backwards I think, haha. Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well and that you all had a good week.
I've had a wonderful week!
Today sister Horito and I traveling an hour or so on a bus to a place called "Ogi" to visit a member in our branch. On the way, we saw some huge tourist spots here on Sado. There was a gold mine, and some really old historic temples and houses. It was neat to see from the windows on the bus. Most of the houses here look like something off of that movie "the last Samurai" which is really awesome. Everything is very old fashioned. I love it! The woman we visited today has got to be one of the funniest people I've ever met. We decided to visit here because she didn't come to church yesterday and were a little bit worried about her. She is an older lady who is really sweet and is hilarious! Anyway, we thought it would be good to visit her. She said she didn't come to church yesterday because the elders kept bringing an investigator who smelt bad and that she couldn't take another week of it because it made her head hurt. She expressed that she was too old to have to stand in the other room and listen to church with her nose plugged and that if something didn't change, she would stop coming altogether! Sister Horito and I had a good laugh about the conversation we had with this lady... So funny! Anyway, we convinced her to come to church next week and promised her we would talk to the elders about their investigator who was causing her problems. I'm excited to see her next week at church, haha. We love her so much!
I've heard before from other missionaries that the Japanese is pretty different in Sado and I am realizing that more and more each day. They call it "Sado bin" and say that the missionaries who serve here become "perapera" (fluent) in Japanese. It's definitely different from Tokyo Japanese and has been a little tricky to figure out, but I'm getting it and have seen a lot of improvement in my Japanese since I've been here. I think my ability to learn Japanese is getting faster as I don't have to think so hard to understand or learn things anymore. I had a really neat experience this past week with the gift of tongues that I want to share. Before I tell you, I should probably explain who the Nichiren are. So, a long time ago, the was a branch of people who started their own sect of Buddhism and their leader was banished to Sado along with many of the followers, (or so I hear from the people here). Anyway, a lot of the people here are part of this Buddhist sect, and they are known for being very aggressive in their viewpoints and dendou. They proselyte in Sado and a lot of people when they first meet us ask if we are Nichiren because most people have run into them before. Past missionaries here have had some problems with them, and I'll just leave it at that. Anyway, sister Horito and I were out finding and we met this lady on the street who claimed to be Christian and we were able to meet her later that day on the beach and teach her the first lesson. Sister Horito and I were so excited to teach her as we had been out finding all day and not many people were listening to us. Before I go any further, I want to share a scripture that I have come to know is true through this experience. In the scriptures it always talks about how when we open our mouths, God will fill them. In doctrine and covenants section 100:3-6 it says:
3 Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land.
4 Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls.
5 Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
6 For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.
As we approached the beach, we saw our new friend get out of a vehicle and start walking towards us. We were so relieved that she came and were really excited to teach her. I asked her if her friends in the car wanted to come and listen to our message too, thinking that would be a good idea seeing as we want to teach as many people as possible. We all sat down by the beach and sister Horito and I began to teach the 1st lesson. The lesson was going really well and they seemed to be listening really well and when we taught about Joseph Smith's story and the restoration, the Spirit was so strong! It was amazing! As we were concluding, talking about the Book of Mormon and prayer, the mood began to change. They began asking us pressing questions and told us that our religion was flawed and full of mistakes. What they said took us by surprise because they had been listening to everything so well just moments before. I remember saying a silent prayer in my heart that everything would be okay as they tampered with the things we had been testifying of to them. I felt a great strength come over me as the words came to my mind, "you shall not be confounded before men." I felt a great peace come over me and I began to answer their questions explaining doctrine I had never taught before. My mind was continually filled with what I needed to say and when I opened my mouth to say the words, they came out easily. I remember feeling amazed at what was happening in the moment. I feel my words were guided by the Spirit and sister Horito and I were able to testify powerfully to them about the reality of our words. It was an amazing experience! I know they felt the Spirit as we spoke and I hope and pray that someday they will accept the truth. We ended in prayer with them, and walked away confident feeling we had done what the Lord wanted us to do. I think they were surprised by how confident we were and how calm we were with everything. It was a neat experience, even though we weren't able to pick up a new investigator like we originally wanted to.
This week we had another amazing zone conference in Niigata! President Whiting ( president for the whole Asia North area) came and spoke to us about Faith. He was one of the most powerful speakers I have ever heard in my life. What he said, changed the way I view missionary work and the rest of my life. During the meeting, he shared with us the statistical results of a survey our mission had taken regarding our day to day missionary work. In the survey, there was a question that asked if we as missionaries ask our investigators to be baptized in the first lesson or not. The results of the survey were shockingly low and it made me sick to my stomach thinking about the number of missionaries in Japan who said that they didn't ask their investigators to be baptized until the 5th or 6th visit. He shared with us about how he visited with Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Ballard asked the question, "why are we not baptizing more in Japan?!"
Anyway, long story short, (I wish I could tell you about how amazing this conference was) we all talked about having the faith to baptize and how the only reason Japan isn't seeing as many baptisms as we should is because of our individual faith as missionaries. His words both hurt and empowered us. He challenged us to invite everyone to be baptized and promise us that as we exercised more faith, that we would see more baptisms. His testimony was so powerful and I felt a really special connection to him. He began talking about what the apostles expected of us in Japan as missionaries. During his training, I felt a huge prompting that I would be asked by Him to do something. He hadn't asked anyone to do anything before this time, but I felt that I needed to be prepared personally as he was speaking to us. I said a quick prayer asking God to help me do whatever elder Whiting was going to ask me to do. When I finished the silent prayer, he began walking towards me sitting in the crowd of missionaries. I felt at peace, as he asked me to read the scripture in Genesis 18:14. I stood up and began to read. He had me read the scripture 3 times, and each time I read, I felt the spirit stronger and stronger. It filled my whole soul and I knew that it was the Lord's will for us to accomplish this special task to exercise more faith and baptize in Japan as missionaries. I read:
"Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"
He asked me to read it again...
"Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"
Is any thing too hard for the Lord?
By the third time, my Spirit felt illuminated and I knew the Lord would help us accomplish everything we had been asked to do. It was a very special experience for me.
After the conference, elder Whiting wanted to interview 6 missionaries from the conference. The assistants had told me the night before the conference that President Nagano wanted me to be one of them. It was really neat to speak with President Whiting in an interview. It lasted about 3 minutes, but I felt like it changed my whole life. I will always remember his words to me. Some things you really can't say with words and this was one of those experiences. So amazing!
I'm sorry I don't have time to email you individually this week, but thank you so much for the letters! I will try hard to do it next week. :) It was so good to hear from you guys, and especially from Jared.
I will send pictures next week!