Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello everybody! I'm sort of in shock after reading about all the recent engagements of friends from home so sorry if this letter seems scatterbrained. I'll do my best to organize my thoughts...

This Tuesday was awesome! We woke up suuuuper early to catch a train to Tokyo, where we had a two-mission conference. Elder David F. Evans came and spoke to both our mission and the Tokyo South mission. It was really powerful - he wasn't an overly serious person, and actually made jokes the whole time, but I could tell he was a man led by God. That sounds so cheesy to me as I type it, but it's true. He shook every single missionary's hand before starting.When he spoke, I listened.

And he said a lot of great things! He talked a lot about the importance of obedience, and understanding other people's perspectives. He also encouraged us to date each other when we get back home and pretty much get married as soon as possible - he even said something like "it's possible you could notice each other while missionaries, then pursue that relationship when you get back home." Out of all the many missionary addresses I've read/listened to, THAT was a first.

After the conference all of the missionaries in our mission went back to the mission home for a "holiday taikai" (meeting? party? not sure exactly). Sort of weird to celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it was fun! We sang carols, had a white elephant gift exchange (with really cute, thoughtful gifts brought by the Sisters and weird funny ones brought by the Elders) and watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It was the first time I'd seen a non-church movie in a while! We also watched a Budge family spoof on Home Alone, which was funny.

On Wednesday before Eikaiwa we met with Sri (from Thailand) and read a chapter of the Book of Mormon with her. When we asked her what she understood from it, she basically went through each verse individually and told us exactly what they were talking about. It was awesome! So many people are hesitant to read the scriptures because they think they're too hard to understand, and she'd been saying that at first too, but after reading it she said, "Oh, I get it. The first time through was a little hard but the second time everything made sense." Amazing!

Thursday evening we got to teach one of the family in our ward's exchange student from Australia, T. She had so many deep, profound questions about why we're here, and how we can know if there's a God, and what happens after we die, etc. Questions that are REALLY hard to answer in Japanese, so I was grateful for an opportunity to teach in English. Even then, it was hard. She's a very kind, smart girl, and I hope she's able to recognize that our message contains the truth she's looking for.

Friday morning we biked out to the house of one of the young families in our ward who just had a new baby girl! She was so cute. On our way there we saw a man lying in the middle of the road, pinned under his motorcycle, so we went over and helped him up and off the side of the road. He was kind of funny, and probably had a concussion - at one point he sort of half-whispered to Sister Taneda asking if he could take a picture of me. She politely said no. I think that he thought I couldn't understand, and I played along to avoid awkwardness. I'm getting good at that. Friday evening we had a "ping-pong night" at the church with the Elders and some of our friends, and that was fun. We did a March Madness-style bracket tournament, and Sister Taneda won! I was out pretty quick.

On Saturday we went on splits, so Sister Cortes and I went to Utsunomiya to spend the day with the Sisters there. The adventure of the day happened when we realized we forgot to give the apartment key to Sister Taneda before leaving, so we had to take the train all the way back to Oyama, then back to Utsunomiya again (about half an hour each way). Oops. It was really fun though - Utsunomiya has a lot more people than Oyama, and it's a lot easier to start conversations in the street. We met a really funny man who was singing some Beatles and Michael Jackson for us while moon walking, and a lot of really nice girls out shopping for the day. We finished up by eating some famous Utsunomiya gyouza (dumplings). Oishii!

Sunday was a really good day. I played the piano in church and only had one major mess-up (started playing the wrong page), and our investigator who came to church said he's been studying out of the Gospel Principles book with his wife, and that they're both working hard. In the evening we had an "International Thanksgiving" potluck with our investigators and ward members - everyone brought food, and we went around the circle introducing ourselves and saying what we were grateful for. Seven countries were represented: Japan, America, Mexico, China, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It was really fun. I made a sweet potato pie from the recipe Mom sent, and it turned out really really good.

Not much time left, but I thought I should mention this: we had interviews today with President Budge, and he basically told me there's a big chance I'll become a trainer next transfer. Yikes. Time is going by so fast, and I just hope I'll be ready. It's a scary thought. When he asked me if I thought I was ready to train I gave the classic missionary non-answer, "I'll do whatever the Lord needs me to do."

Pictures - my old MTC district reunited, and me and Sister Taneda with Sri. I've caved to peer pressure and started doing peace signs in pictures.

Love you all!

Anna reunited with MTC district

Anna and Taneda Shimai and Sri

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