Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello again!

My first Christmas away from home was awesome! Very fun and very spread out over the week, so I kept getting to celebrate again and again. I have to admit it wasn't quite the same without family, but the people here took very good care of me and I was never sad or homesick. The best surprise of the week was getting the huge "Merry Christmas Sister MacArthur" poster from home - I remember signing those every year for other missionaries when I was little, but never did I imagine that there would be one with MY name on it some day. So surreal. I keep having little moments like that where it just hits me: I'm a real missionary.

After all the caroling on Monday, we decided to keep the Christmas spirit strong by knocking on doors and asking strangers if we could carol for them. One person said yes, but I was a little sad by how many people said no - Christmas just really doesn't have the same meaning here as at home. One man said "if you do it won't mean anything to me," which sort of broke my heart. It made me want to share our message even more - joy to the world, peace, goodwill to men. There is so much happiness waiting for them if they'd just take the first steps towards it!

Because of how busy Monday was, we switched our P-day to Tuesday and all four of us Sisters had our open-presents-bake-cookies-listen-to-Christmas-music party together. It was fun and we got SO MUCH food and clothing from the Niigata branch members - I forgot to take a picture, but imagine two huge boxes big enough to hold a person, filled to overflowing. Of course, Christmas isn't about the presents, but I was touched by how generous all these people were to someone they'd barely known for two weeks. In the evening we went to the Osekis' house, all nine of us missionaries plus more of their friends and family members, for Christmas Eve dinner. It was fun and a little chaotic, trying to figure out how to get all of us home on time. We ended up taking a taxi, carrying bags of leftover chicken in our laps.

The highlight of Wednesday morning, of course, was Skyping my family! That went by way too fast. Afterwards we went out to lunch with two of the ladies in the ward and practiced teaching the first lesson to them. That practice came in handy later that afternoon when we taught the first lesson to Sa. She is so sweet, and has such a desire to learn - she told us that before coming to church the first time, she'd prayed, pleading with God to help her convince her sons to come with her (apparently middle-school aged boys don't think church is the most exciting thing in the world). It worked, and she was so grateful. I sat there in awe as she was telling us this, wondering how in the world I got so lucky to get to teach her. She's beautiful, inside and out, and I can't wait to send a picture of us together when she gets baptized!

Christmas evening we spent with the Eikaiwa students, eating snacks, caroling in English and reading a Christmas story together. A lot of them said it was there first time celebrating Christmas, and it made them really happy.

We got the opportunity to teach Kim about the Word of Wisdom this week, and saw another miracle when she said she'd decided she should probably keep it, and promised to try her best. She was very hesitant to make any changes for so long, but now she's ready. Sometimes the hardest part about being a missionary is finding a balance between being bold and being patient - you want to help people make changes, and not stand idle if they don't, but at the same time it's not about you at all. It's all about their personal commitment and relationship with God, and we can't rush His timing.

I don't have much time left, but the rest of our week was filled with other lessons, powering through our Christmas candy, getting lost trying to find people's houses in the freak hailstorm blizzards, and trying to convince strangers to talk to us. On one of our adventures we found the Goblet of Fire and of course I put my name inside (see picture).

Let's hope that the miracles keep continuing through the New Year!
Love, Anna

Anna adds her name to the Goblet of Fire (somewhere in Niigata - who knew?)

Traditional missionary Christmas card from Eugene 3rd Ward

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