Monday, January 13, 2014

week 6 in Niigata

Can't believe the last week of the transfer is already here! I remember being pretty nervous to come out to Niigata, but I've loved it and this last six weeks were probably the fastest of my whole mission. I'd be surprised if I transferred next week, but I guess ya never know. I learned my lesson last time when I tried to guess President Budge's plan!

Biggest news this week: Kim's baptism is going to be next Saturday. She had her interview on Thursday, and it would have been kind of hard to put everything together in two days, so we decided on the 18th. Honestly I just want it to be next Saturday right now - I feel like there's a little stress monster kicking the back of my head that won't go away until I see her baptized and confirmed and everything works out.

Anyway, besides worrying about that, I had a great week. Our gas heater ran out on Saturday, so that wasn't fun, but luckily we were able to buy gas and get it working again. But the week was awesome because we got to start it out with Zone conference, which the Budges came to. The Budges are awesome, by the way. Our mission is in the middle of shifting its focus, and we've been having lots of success and seeing tons of miracles as a result. President Budge talked a lot about what we can do to change ourselves, too - you know, starting with the man in the mirror in order to better the world. He said the three most important things a missionary can be are humble, obedient, and diligent. All three of those things are within our control. They are choices, not characteristics we're born with. He didn't say we had to be clever, or outgoing, or anything like that. Sometimes I think of what the "perfect" missionary personality would be - a super smiley, enthusiastic, hardworking go-getter who loves talking to strangers and can remember names and new words with ease. But the truth is that there is no perfect type of missionary. We can all choose to become our best self, because the three most important attributes are within our potential.

After Zone conference we went on splits with our Sister Training Leader, which I love because you always see miracles on splits. It's seriously like someone cast a magic spell on Niigata and suddenly everyone wants to talk to us and be our friend. Both times I went out street contacting, once with the STL and once with her companion, the very first person we talked to wanted to know more about the Book of Mormon and was willing to take a copy and exchange numbers. It was incredible to see how they just wandered right into our path.

We've been working a lot this week to meet as many of the less-active members in this area as we can and build good relationships with them. Our Relief Society president has an awesome plan for how we can help invite them back to church, and it's been great getting to work with her towards the same goal. Basically our job is to visit, bring them a branch newsletter, and see how they're doing. If they have a pretty good image of church members and remember some of them, then we'll report back to the RS President, who will assign them visiting teachers so they can keep having church contact whether or not we have time to visit. Unfortunately a lot of our records are really old so we'll show up to someone's house to find that they've moved, or call a wrong number. So we've been busy cleaning up the out-of-date records.

Usually we prefer to have conversations with individual people instead of just passing out flyers at random, but we decided to spend some time doing kubari this week to increase the number of students at Eikaiwa (we have like 10-15 students now). Kubari basically just means standing in one spot and talking really loud in a mixture of Japanese and English, giving flyers to anyone who will take one. Sometimes I feel sort of ridiculous, like one of the super-loud beer vendors at baseball games, but it's actually pretty fun. Until our fingers freeze, that is. We can't really be outside for more than three hours at a time, and less once the sun goes down. It forces us to be creative with our time when we have days with no appointments.

Some memorable Japanese moments this week:

  • I finally succeeded in being funny! Sometimes I feel like I have no personality in Japanese because my language skills aren't good enough to use humor, and sarcasm isn't really a thing here. But I finally succeeded in making a joke, can't really remember what it was but I think it was probably about the Elders, and our district president's wife cracked up. Success.
  • One of the families in our branch had an exchange student from Norway, and when he decided to come to church one week, another member met him and was talking to him for a while. He wanted to find out if he was a member, I guess, but since in church we call everyone "Brother/Sister So-and-So" the way he asked was, "are you a Brother?" I don't know why I thought it was so funny, but I had to look away to keep from laughing.
  • This one happens all the time, not just this week, but I just thought of mentioning it. It's polite in Japanese to say "I'm being rude" pretty much any time you interrupt someone's previous activity. Before hanging up the phone, or entering a house, or after ringing a doorbell, anything. "I'm being rude." Even if you ask someone to call you, they'll still apologize for being rude when they do.
Life is good here. The only other piece of news is that I'm officially on a diet, trying to make up for all the damage caused by Christmas and New Years. Sister Orton and I are doing it together. We got a good start today when we actually went outside to exercise this morning (rare, in this weather) by jogging to a nearby park with a zip line!

Love you all!

Making friends in Niigata

Making fiends of all sorts in Niigata

Zip line in snowy Niigata

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