Well, I've finally gotten all the snow that was promised when people heard I was going to Niigata. Actually, that's not true - it's only about half a foot tall instead of the usual three feet. But still enough to make biking dangerous. Crane Shimai and Wigginton Shimai already wiped out on Saturday and I've been going very slowly and carefully everywhere.
Before I forget: Good news from last week! One of my friends from Oyama called and told me they'd had FOUR baptisms since I left. Pe and another one of the Elders' investigators, plus Miro and now his wife as well. I was so, so happy. Their family had been going through such hard times and are now so much closer and happier. They are working towards the same goal and supporting each other. It's awesome. This is why I came here.
Earlier this week, before it started snowing, it was just super windy and hailing for two days. Figures it was the two days we spent ALL day outside. But struggling to bike against the wind kind of warms you up! We tried to find a university campus once but ended up getting way lost and wound up next to the beach. I think it was my first time seeing the ocean up close in Japan, but it was super dark and kind of eerie. Then the apartment building whose doors we knocked on nearby were the world's fastest door-shutters. Weird place.
The other hail-y day we biked out to Kim's house, about an hour both ways. It was the first time we'd seen her in weeks, and I was a little nervous to how she'd react to us showing up unannounced, but she actually seemed really happy to see us and let us in. She was more talkative than usual - I think she missed us. We had a lot of catching up to do. She also gave us cake and taught us Niigata slang, so it was fun. We're meeting her at the church this week for a lesson and I think the plan at this point is to kind of start over, from the basics, and help her build her faith.
We also got the cool experience of giving a church tour to Ku with her daughter and another member with kids around the same age. We offer to give people tours all the time, but this was the first time I'd actually done one. She seemed to really like it and especially thought the baptismal font was interesting - I guess it is a little strange, like a mini swimming pool in the middle of nowhere.
On Thursday we went to a conveyor-belt sushi place with the other sisters and one of their investigators for lunch. Those places are the best! Then we came back for zone training, then our "Hastening the Work" tour. Where, at last, we got the iPads. I'm pretty sure I'm the least excited person in our whole zone about it. Everyone is geeking out and I'm like "uhh, I don't get this app, can I still use my paper planner?" It feels so, so weird not to use the planner anymore. It's like a missionary tradition. Progress reports, teaching records, stats reporting, all that stuff is now done straight from our area book app. I don't really get it yet but it's getting there. I think once I figure it out it really will be more effective. Both Niigata zones were there, and all 12 sisters stayed at our apartment that night. Sleepover!
Probably my favorite part about the iPads so far is that I don't have to carry hardly anything around with me anymore. Scriptures, text books, music, everything is on there. In 200 languages. The Gospel Library app is awesome, and obviously someone who helped create it has a sense of humor because while things are loading it displays scriptures about how patience is a virtue.
Friday was President Budge interviews, which were really good. He helped us realized which of our investigators were found by us and which ones had been prepared by the Lord for us. We're in the middle of a huge shift of focus - missionaries don't do the work, we're just tools. Every miracle that happens is because of God. We just get to work as hard as we can and watch Him do wonders.
Friday we also got to meet with Yosh, the lady we met on the train. One of the sweetest people ever! She's very talkative and willing to have us over pretty much whenever, which is a nice change. People here are so dang busy all the time. When we gave her a Book of Mormon she seemed hesitant at first, but then was like "well I can't know if I don't at least try it, right?" Yes! That's what we try to tell people all the time.
Saturday we taught a special kids' eikaiwa in the morning, and people actually came this time! It was small, but fun, and hopefully more people keep coming. On the way back home was when the snow and ice was the most dangerous. I went on splits with Crane Shimai that day, so we used buses and trains to get around. It was fun and I was impressed by how bold she is with people. I have a bad habit of beating around the bush and trying to small talk forever before bringing up why I actually want to talk, but she'll just say right up, "we teach about Jesus Christ. Are you interested?"
On Sunday Sister Wigginton and I were waiting at the bus stop to go visit a less-active member, when all of a sudden the lady we were talking to stepped out to hail a taxi and turned to us saying, "you're going to the eki, right? Get in!" So that was my second free cab ride as a missionary. Pretty exciting. She accepted our number, but didn't want us to help her find happiness and salvation. Why are people here so willing to help us and so reluctant to get any kind of help back? When we do service we have to do it sneakily, like shoveling people's driveways when they're not home, because no one will every accept help.
Today we wanted to go to the aquarium but roads were too icy to go anywhere far, so we made a snowman instead. It was actually pretty fun. I also got by bike lock stolen a second time by the Elders, who apparently have a talent for figuring out people's lock combinations. They've taken my bike out for a joy ride at least once. We bought some flowery window stickers to decorate their helmets next time we get a chance.
Well, that's all I have time for now. Pictures: Our snowman Elder Frosty, and an early Valentine's card from me and Sister Wigginton. Even the grocery stores here are cuter.
|Anna and Sisters Crane, Wigginton and Amituanai with "Elder Frosty"|
|Anna and Wigginton Shimai send an early valentine!|