Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Final Mission Blog Posting

Anna returned to Eugene on the afternoon of December 19 - home just in time for Christmas.  Here are some photos from that day.

Anna and all the missionaries leaving the Japan Tokyo Mission on December 19 with President & Sister Budge

MacArthur Shimai returns to Eugene!

Anna and family at the Eugene airport

All the welcome home committee at the Eugene airport

Luke, Ben and Anna on Saturday Dec 20 after Ben's return from school

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



Can you believe this is my last letter home as a missionary? I can't. People ask me sometimes if it "feels real yet" and the answer is always no. I don't think I will ever feel like I'm home until I see you all at the airport.

Although, I have slowly come to terms with the fact that I'm leaving. This week was filled with sooo many goodbyes - last lessons, last church talk, last Eikaiwa, going out to eat for the last time. Too much food. I never want to eat again. And the Japanese people really outdid themselves by proving their gift-giving reputation to be very true. I've been showered with presents all week, many of which were really surprising and touching. I swear you never know how much you mean to people until you leave.

I haven't really imagined what it will be like not to be a missionary anymore - waking up in the morning and not putting on my badge, not feeling a weird pressure to talk to every person I sit/stand next to, not biking for a hundred miles from place to place every day. I hope I will find a happy medium of accepting that my mission is over, and it's time to move on, yet still applying to my life everything that I learned out here and hopefully keeping up some of the good habits I've made. One thing I've been working on is living for the present, not the past or future. Missionaries who count the days until they go home are sad missionaries, and RMs who do nothing but think about those best two years in the past are also unhappy. This life is so short, and it's made shorter by wasting our time not being happy right where we are.

That doesn't mean I'm not excited to see you. But I want to enjoy my time left here too! Tomorrow I will go to Tokyo and become companions with Yamauchi Shimai again. We'll have all day Thursday to work together in Tokyo (hopefully meeting up with some Senzokuike friends!) and then go back to the mission home for a dinner/testimony meeting with all the returning missionaries.

Love you all so much!! This will be the best Christmas ever. I have only two requests for  when I come home: 1) no one comment on how chubby my face has gotten, and 2) it'd be nice if there was a new kitten waiting for me at home.

Love, love, love, Anna

Having fun a few weeks ago in Shibuya

Cutting open a dragonfruit

Reeder Shimai and Anna at a farewell meal

Anna, Reeder Shimai, and lots of friends at another farewell meal

Monday, December 8, 2014

Winter Has Arrived

Helloooo everybody!

Another busy week. And a COLD one. I was reminded of my Niigata days of putting hot hands inside our wool socks inside our insulated boots. For some reason the drug stores here think it's too early to start selling heat packs, and we had a very freezing weekend full of numb feet.

It must be election season or something in Japan, because everywhere we go there are these big vans with posters on the sides and loudspeakers on the top, proclaiming how great a certain politician is. One of the vans parked right outside our window at like 7:45 on Sunday morning and was LOUD. Seems like a good way to get people to not want to vote for you. For such a reserved people, the Japanese have some very in-your-face advertising methods.

I've actually been doing some reflecting lately on what lessons I've learned from being in Japan. Things I've learned from being a missionary are endless, but there are a few that come uniquely from the funny, beautiful culture here. I'll list a few:

1) A little compliment goes a long way. The Japanese adore giving and receiving compliments, something that I'm not very good at. You'd be surprised how happy you can make someone just by telling them how well they do something.

2) It is good to have reverence for things. Japanese people are much more careful with their possessions than we are, and I hope to be better at not carelessly tossing my coat or phone on the ground when I get home. They're also much more mindful of garbage.

3) It's a REALLY good idea to take off your shoes before entering a house. Everyone hates vacuuming.

4) We could all do a little better at dressing more nicely. Maybe it's just because I'm used to west coast grunge, but I feel like everyone here looks more professional than at home. Very rare to see someone walking around in pajamas, or trashy outfits.

5) The more you know about something, the more you can love it. The longer I'm here, the more tiny pieces are added to my puzzle of understanding and I'm slowly able to more fully accept the culture and customs. Things that used to seem weird start to make sense and even be beautiful. Japan will forever have a special place in my heart, and I hope to continue to learn about it even after I go home. Guess Dad assured that would happen by signing me up for a kanji class.

Number five goes for anything, really. We're told in the scriptures that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3) because we cannot love them until we know them. People tell me all the time it's hard to pray, because they don't know who God is. We have to come to know Him, by reading His words in the scriptures, and keeping His commandments, and then love will grow in our heart. We'll slowly come to understand and appreciate His ways, just as children learn to appreciate their parents after they move out of the house and grow up a little.

That's really the only thing we do as missionaries - help people come to know God and Jesus Christ. We can't have spiritual experiences for someone else, or control their actions. Any person on the street is just as capable as I am of strengthening their own faith. The only thing I have that they don't yet is knowledge of the Restored Gospel, and it is my job to help them know. After they know, they can believe, and love.

I love all of YOU! Merry early Christmas

PS Na is having doubts about baptism, and we're not really sure what's up. Please pray that she'll be able to overcome her fears.

Sister Reeder attempts to fillet fish from the grocery store

Sisters Chandler, Jones, Reeder & Anna in the center of Tokyo

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 1, 2014 (No Subject)

Hello everyone!

Another great week. I don't have much time so I'll just give a rundown -

Monday: Shopping. First trip to Mr. Donuts in months. Lunch and lesson with Ka Shimai at a member's house, which was so awesome. Ka Shimai has been struggling to come to church lately, and the answer was the same as it is in 99% of people's cases: love. When they feel love, they come.

Tuesday: Zone conference! Always great to hear from President Budge, and since this conference was our Christmas one we did some caroling together. I bore my "last testimony" with all the other returning missionaries, which was weird. It still doesn't feel like I'm going home. Since a few other elders were translating as well (conferences are held in English, and translated into Japanese for a few missionaries wearing mic headsets) I only had to do a short part, and luckily not for president Budge. He's a very animated speaker, with lots of quick little jokes, and I think he'd be hard to keep up with.

Wednesday: talked with our friend Eli, from France, at Japanese class. Showed the new "He is the Gift" Christmas video with one of our friends after Eikaiwa, which was a really sweet moment until one of the Elders' investigators came over and asked us a random question about where Santa Claus comes from. This man, A san, wants to get baptized and has been coming to church every week, and I really want to root for him and support him but he's kind of really crazy and sort of too obsessed with me and Sister Reeder. Maybe this is a test of my charity and patience.

Thursday: Delivered some mini sweet potato pies to investigators for Thanksgiving, and got to see Na (14-year-old) for the first time in a while. She is so awesome, and wants to be baptized in December! She isn't sure if her dad will give permission, so we'll have to meet him sometime. Scary. But Na is worth it - I don't even know why she has such a strong desire to learn more about Jesus Christ and follow His example. Obviously she'd been prepared to find the gospel lonnnnng before we got here.

Friday: Splits! I went to Togane to work with Sister Dopp, who I've been in the same zone with for a while but had never been on splits with before. We had a good time and I learned a lot from her. Every sister missionary has a different story on why they chose to serve a mission, and I love hearing everyone's stories.

Saturday: best day ever! Lots of good things happened, but the most awesome was our Thanksgiving potluck party. We thought of having a dinner party a while ago, mostly as a way to get the Wats to interact with some more members, and we're thinking maybe three or four couples, plus us. But when we told our ward mission leader about it, it became this huge ward activity and there were TONS of people and food! Lots of Eikaiwa students came and became good friends with the members there. Even members who couldn't make it came to drop off food, it was so sweet. One lady even spent 4+ hours cooking a Costco turkey with stuffing. So, I'm 2 for 2 with having a real Thanksgiving in Japan!! Definitely something to be grateful for. Sister Reeder was a champ and helped me make pies during basically every lunch and dinner hour all week, so we totaled with 1 pumpkin pie (made with real pumpkin, because we couldn't find canned) and 4 sweet potato pies (2 recipes worth, made mini sized). They were all delicious.

Sunday: got to watch the primary program! Our ward has a total of three primary-aged children, so they all had lots of lines. Visited people all afternoon. Ate Thanksgiving leftovers.

Monday: brought Su a cake for her birthday. Visited investigators. Spread Christmas cheer since it's officially the season.

Tuesday: went to the temple! I originally thought last time would be the final one, so it was nice getting to go again. Afterwards all the sisters had a clothing exchange, and we went to get Indo curry with Sisters Jones and Chandler. Also took a bunch of funny pictures. We showed two girls the He is the Gift video on the train home - just look for people using headphones and ask them to plug them into your iPad! It was cool. Great video.

Pictures! Part of our Thanksgiving crowd, and Sister Reeder and I in Shibuya.

Thanksgiving potluck at Chosei Ward building

Anna & Reeder Shimai in Shibuya after Anna's final Tokyo Temple trip

Monday, November 24, 2014


Can't believe another week has come and gone. Someone told me that they heard that even after a mission, time continues to go faster and faster, but I sincerely hope they're wrong and it'll slow down a little when I'm home. At this rate I'll have grandchildren by next week.

One scary thing about time passing by so fast is me wanting so badly to see one last, amazing Christmas miracle before I go home. At our last zone meeting, we talked a lot about focusing on "the one", and made a goal of each missionary helping one of their friends be able to get ready for baptism by Christmas. Sister Reeder and I were a little worried because even though we always have plenty of people to teach, nobody really stood out as that "one" who was ready. We want so badly to use our time well and follow God's will, so we decided to fast together in order to know who she should focus on. We saw an amazing miracle that day when we ran into Yu, a 15-year-old girl we'd previously met at the eki and become friends with on Facebook. She saw the Book of Mormon Sister Reeder was carrying and said, "you have one of those? So do we. My mom got it from a friend and reads it." We have no idea who the friend is, but are so excited to meet Yu's family and talk about it with them! We were actually supposed to meet them all on Thursday, but they cancelled because of the rain. Hopefully that will get rescheduled for this week!

Another cool moment happened when Sister Reeder and I were discussing how we wanted to try to teach Tomi, the unbaptized daughter of a less-active member. We've ran into her a few times lately, and she is very kind and has fond memories of going to church when she was younger. I remembered that a few months ago, I was convinced that my two focus people were Tomi (mother of 2) and Yu (mother of 4), and was so disappointed when they told us they didn't really have time/interest for church right now. I couldn't figure out why Heavenly Father would let me be SO sure it was them. But then I realized that now, our two new focus people have the same names - Tomi and Yu. But they're students instead of moms. I still don't know God's plan, but maybe He just wanted me to remember those names so that I could recognize their significance later.

And so, again I was humbled and learned that when I think I have things figured out I usually don't. Every major life decision I've made in the last few years has been different than my former "set-in-stone plan." Who knows what I'll even be doing in a few years?

The weather has fluctuated the past few days, but we did have one really rainy, cold day. Actually that was the day that Yu cancelled... I will never understand why people think they're doing us a favor by canceling for bad weather. Thanks a lot, now I'll be knocking on doors in the downpour. Actually that's exactly what we did, and poor Sister Reeder's hands were so numb that she couldn't feel this one doorbell. Thinking she kept missing it, she rang it at least ten times, and the look on the people's faces when they came outside was priceless. Actually we could see through a window later that their daughter was studying the flyer pretty intently. Wouldn't that be sweet if they came to church after that? It'd be a hilarious conversion story.

I got a pretty scary phone call yesterday from one of the assistants, asking me to translate during tomorrow's zone conference. I've never translated before and am beyond nervous. I don't know who's bright idea it was to nominate me, but I would like to ask for any and all prayers. I tried to practice a few times today, watching conference talk videos in English and muttering what I thought they would be in Japanese, and it was a royal disaster.

Love you all! Have a very happy Thanksgiving, and I hope I can show you pictures of the delicious holiday pies we make this week. We bought lots of flower, shortening, nutmeg and other supplies at the grocery store today in preparation.

No new pics this week. Enjoy some throwbacks - this is Tomi (dyed hair) with her mom and a friend at the Halloween party.

Anna and Jones Shimai with Yu, Yu's mom and a friend at Halloween

Reeder Shimai and Anna

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm back


Another crazy week. We had highs, and lows, but overall a week full of love and goodness. On Friday, we were in the middle of a lesson when we got the very sad news that our bishop had passed away from a heart attack. It was very sudden and unexpected, and hard for the family he left behind. But friends and church members, both active and inactive, came from all over to support the family and pay their respects at the funeral service we had today. It was a very good atmosphere... As most funerals are, actually. I've been to quite a few in the last few years, in churches of different faiths, but they are all similar in that they focus on the positive and the hopeful. I know Bishop's wife misses him terribly, but she has found so much comfort in the fact that their marriage is forever, and she will see him again.

As a strange coincidence/not coincidence, when we got the news we were in the middle of teaching Su san about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. How it can heal us, and make right everything that isn't fair in this life. She's still pretty stubborn and I don't know how much of it she believed, but I was overcome with gratitude for my Savior as I promised her that because Christ suffered for her sins, and gave His life, she could one day be resurrected and perfected so that she could live with her Heavenly Father. Some people say that religion was created by man in order to comfort us in times of sorrow, but I say that no human who ever lived could ever be capable of inventing something so perfect and beautiful as the Atonement.

On a less serious note, we did some pretty cool things this week. An Eikaiwa student invited us to the "Mobara International Friends" party, which was really fun and a great opportunity to meet people. There weren't that many foreigners there except for a ton of filipinas, but there were tons of Japanese moms who like gaijin and want their kids to learn English. We barely had to approach anyone, because they all approached us! "Where are you from? What are you doing in Japan? Do you teach English? Will you take a picture with my children?" It was awesome. I guess not everybody was charmed by us though - one lady from Jamaica took one look at our badges, rolled her eyes and said "ohhh, you're Mormons!" So sassy. It was funny. She actually apologized later, and was really nice.

One small, random blessing this week: it has been getting harder and harder to ride my bike this last month, and rides that used to be easy left me out of breath. I was way worried that I wasn't getting enough protein, or was sick somehow, or just getting weaker - but then I had the bright idea to check my back tire, which was super flat. Sometimes the answer is so simple. So biking isn't quite as excruciating anymore!

We also had the really great opportunity to go out to lunch today with the Isas, some family friends of Sister Reeder's. Her family used to live in Japan when her dad was in the Air Force, and they've kept in touch with the Isas, who have been waiting to see her ever since they heard she got called to the Tokyo mission. They used to be mission presidents of the Hiroshima mission a few years ago, and had really good advice and stories for us. I never fail to be impressed with the members here in Japan - their courage, and faith, and examples.

Love you all! Here's a picture of a folk dance from the Philippines. Until next week!

Fillpinas folk dancing at the Mobara International Friends party

Monday, November 10, 2014


Hello! Wow, what a crazy week. Transfer weeks always are. So many goodbyes to be said, and then introductions, and rushing around trying to do a million things at once. I know you're all wondering about my new companion, so I'll give a brief Sister Reeder intro. She's 20, went to BYU, from Utah (first companion from Utah! Crazy) and on transfer 4. And I love her. So smiley, and fun, and a great attitude about everything. I know this last transfer is going to be awesome.

One of the coolest goodbyes: We went to the Wats' house (funny Eikaiwa couple) for dinner, and it is probably the coolest and most Japanese house I've ever been in. They are both retired and have a million hobbies. We got to try out their huge taiko drum, and koto (the long stringed instrument) and, best of all, they've both been reading the Book of Mormon! It was cool to hear them talk about "Smith san" (Joseph Smith). Dinner was also delicious and I've never been so full in my life.

The place we met other missionaries for transfers was 2 hours by train each way, so Thursday was mostly a day of talking to people on the train. Sister Jones and I met a funny lady who was on her way to a hot spring, and seemed shocked (like everyone else here) that we can't go to them. I just can't ever imagine wanting to chill naked with my whole family in an outdoor hot tub.

Thursday night we had our monthly music night, to which a lady came that Sister Jones met on splits. She brought two friends, and the trio performed a couple songs on guitar, harmonica, and Chinese violin. I've had a week very full of traditional Asian music. Fitting that last Monday was a national holiday celebrating culture!

Sister Reeder and I had a weird experience on Saturday when we met two women on their way to a festival, and they invited us to come along. We went with them, trying to see if we could start a conversation about church, and ended up at a very Buddhist gathering of what must be the only actively practicing Buddhists in all of Chiba prefecture. Each denomination was wearing a different color yukata top, almost like a jersey, and we were introduced to a Buddhist monk who spoke very good English. They wanted us to join their march, and we soon realized that no one there was going to want to learn about Jesus Christ so we made a speedy exit. But they were nice and we got free soup.

Sunday was also a great day! Su came to church, and so did our friends the Nagas. They always come to ping-pong night but recently have more interest in church. Today they took us to a kimono shop where we got to try on real silk kimonos and have a photo shoot! I think people normally aren't really allowed to do that without paying anything, but Jun (the wife) sort of sweet-talked her way into it. She just has that effect on people. By the time we left she was best friends with all the women working in the shop! Someday she'll make a great Relief Society president. It was a really fun day.

Lots of pictures, for once! Here's me trying to play the koto, Sister Jones with the Wats, music night trio, and our Chosei District photo shoot.

Love you!!

Anna tries to play the koto at the Wats' home

Jones shimai and the Wats after a delicious dinner

Trio at Chosei music night with Chinese violin, harmonica and guitar

Chosei district tries on kimonos and has a photo shoot

Anna and Reeder shimai try on kimonos