Sunday, March 23, 2014

Time's flyin

Hello again!

Man time flies out here. We had a really busy week, with Zone Training and 2 splits. And teaching the gospel. But it was a great week and lots of miracles happened!

The biggest one being Mary. We've been keeping in frequent contact with her and her mom, teaching short lessons and involving the Young Women her age. On Thursday we had a fun crepe/pancake night at the church (not knowing that there were like five other activities going on at the same time... Who knew Thursday evening would be so busy?) with Mary and two other 13-year-old girls from the ward. They helped us teach about the Restoration and Joseph Smith, and we set a baptismal date for April 13th! She's really excited about it. Our one worry was getting her dad's permission, since I guess his family is pretty high up in some Buddhist church.

But then Mary surprised us. She's pretty shy, and we were thinking about how to prepare her to talk to her dad. But then without us even knowing she went and asked him! At first he said no, but then she started crying and told him she really really wanted to. Eventually he sort of gave in and said to do what she wants, but he still isn't too happy about it. Hopefully his heart will soften as he sees her going to church and making friends and being happy.

Other big news is that we're using Facebook now. Not everyone has it yet - it's sort of in a testing period with ZLs and STLs - but soon it will be a mission-wide thing. So far we've mostly been using it to communicate with people we meet and add to our friends, and also adding the members in our ward to stay connected with them. To be honest it took me a while to be okay with getting on Facebook again - I was sort of scared to open a Pandora's box of all these things I thought would be safely shut away for a year and a half. We still are only to use it for missionary purposes - so no chatting with people at home - and we had to edit our pages before using them as missionaries. For example, deleting any pictures that could be embarrassing or that show us alone with a boy/girl even if it's our sibling. So that was kind of funny. Sorry Ben!

The first split we did this week was with the Sisters in Nakano, where the mission home is. Yamauchi Shimai went there and I came back to Senzokuike with Sister McCallister. Both her parents served in Japan... It's so crazy how many people have these strong connections to Japan. Maybe I'll be the start for my family! It'll be interesting to see if Ben or Luke come here. Sister McCallister and I had a good day teaching and talking to people on the street, including a group of old ladies who meet in the park every morning to exercise. They were super friendly and gave us a bunch of weird snacks.

We also had a cool miracle on Tuesday night when the Niigata sisters called saying they'd met a girl from France currently on a working holiday in Japan who lives in Tokyo and would be interested in meeting! So we gave her a call and agreed to meet the next day. Her name is Laure and she's super cute. I love getting the opportunity to teach people who already have faith in Christ - it makes it so much easier to connect to what they believe! She told us she had strong faith but didn't like church because it was created by men instead of God. She also didn't like how the Bible had been edited by men to suit their purposes, and wasn't the same as in Jesus' time. I couldn't imagine a better setting to introduce the Book of Mormon and the restored Gospel. She's going back to France in a week or two so hopefully we'll be able to refer her to missionaries there so she can learn more.

Also, this experience was another sign to me that God helps us when we need it. When I was talking to Laure on the phone I could barely get two words out without stumbling - French has become so foreign to me - and I was really nervous about being able to communicate the next day. I even tried to practice on Yamauchi Shimai and it was the same thing. I couldn't remember even the most basic vocabulary. But once we saw Laure, it was okay. I never felt like I couldn't understand or communicate. Help comes when it's needed!

The second split we did this week was with the Shibuya sisters, where I went to work with Ikeguchi Shimai. I hadn't seen her since I was in Oyama and it was so great to be together again! She's so sweet. The last time we went on splits she was MY sister training leader, so it was kind of weird being in opposite roles. I felt like I came to learn from her. But it was really good and hopefully I was able to help boost her confidence. She's a great missionary. Shibuya is nuts - it's the very heart of Tokyo, and everyone is SO busy. There're also foreigners everywhere, which always weirds me out. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only American who has any right to be in Japan.

Ikeguchi Shimai and I taught a lesson over Skype, which was the first time I'd done that, and it was interesting. Their investigator (I'll call her Coco) speaks decent English but not great, but insists on speaking English and only English. She also insists on calling us by our first names. She's very sweet though, and it was probably one of the most entertaining lessons I'd ever taught. We read some of the story of Nephi and the brass plates together out of the children's Book of Mormon story book, and she had very interesting commentary. Coco likes Nephi but she thought his idea to try to buy the plates from Laban was pretty dumb. She thought he should have just taught Laban about Jesus Christ instead. She also didn't understand why Laman and Lemuel got angry and beat up both Sam AND Nephi when Sam didn't do anything - "it was NEPHI'S bad idea, not Sam's!"

Other miscellaneous fun/funny things that happened this week:
- the primary kids had an Easter egg hunt and I realized I don't even know when Easter is. Nor did I realize when it was St Patrick's day.
- one of our Eikaiwa students, who brings us treats every week, gave us a special present of tom-and-jerry print toilet paper that smells like candy. Funny guy
- going to Mr. Donuts for the first time in four months. It was a sweet reunion (literally)
- going out to lunch after zone meeting for one of the sisters' birthday and sitting next to an Italian man who kept getting WAY too close to Sister Hall and watching her try to discretely scoot away. I wondered if Marilyn has to deal with this on a regular basis
- learning how to do peek-a-boo in Japanese
- visiting a shrine! Mom, I AM having Japanese cultural experiences

Well that might be about it for now. Love you all so much!

Shrine in Tokyo area that Anna and Yamauchi Shimai visited

Anna and Yamauchi Shimai at the shrine

Sisters in Anna's zone celebrate a birthday with lunch

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 2 in 洗足池

Hello family,

Another awesome week! We mostly spent last P-day unpacking so we want to get out and explore a little today... I think a shrine is on the agenda. More to come next week.

We met lots of cool people this week, mostly at parks. There are lots of parks in Japan around residential neighborhoods, and we live really close to a HUGE one that surrounds a lake where you can rent paddle boats. Parks are great places to talk to people taking a walk with their dog or kids because they aren't super rushed and usually enjoy the conversation. We've met such incredibly nice, interesting people here.

Once a week a family in our ward hosts the missionaries and investigators for Family Home Evening and dinner. We've been once and are going again tonight, so that's fun. They asked us to sing a Primary song I'd never heard of before, so we've been practicing all week but it's still pretty rough. Hopefully the gift of tongues applies to singing as well?

Eikaiwa here is really fun, too. More people come than in either of my last two areas. Yamauchi Shimai and I taught advanced class, which I always love because they go off on the most random tangents. I swear, some of them have better English than us - one of the students was talking about his Anterior Cruciate Ligament! How the heck can he remember that, in his second language, when I couldn't even remember in my first? In case you can't tell I'm still a little bitter about the anatomy class I failed miserably at last Winter semester. So upset I left the country! Actually it's kind of funny, a lot of people think we're sort of wild and crazy for abruptly taking a year and a half off of school and coming here. You know us missionaries, wild young rebels who just go on crazy adventures all the time. Haha.

Thursday we woke up at 5:30 to take the train to the mission home for my first leadership council that I got to go to in person! Definitely more fun than Skypeing in. Thursday was also awesome because we finally got to meet Mary, the 13-year-old daughter of a recent convert who we've been wanting to teach. She is SO cute, and we love her. Even though it sort of pains me to see how lovely she is at 13 and remember that particularly rough stage of my life where I wasn't looking so good. Anyway, we met Mary and her mom again at Denny's (that place has been good to me) a couple days later and talked about the doctrine of Christ, especially baptism. She wants to get baptized!! The most important thing now is helping her make friends at church, because she said it was a little scary going if she didn't know anyone. Luckily she's friends with another girl her age there, so that will help a lot.

Another fun thing here is kids' Eikaiwa, which we teach Saturday mornings. Three of four families come every week, and it's pretty much like Primary. When the kids get restless we play games and sing songs and other things. One of the kids, Daiki, is especially funny/loud and you can tell he's super bright. He always comes by himself, and has his own cell phone, so even though he's 7 he acts like this funny little adult. After class we asked him to come to church with his family, saying it would be fun, and didn't think much of it until he showed up with his mom the next day! She actually seemed to have a fair amount of interest. We showed her all the kids' classes, and talked about what we learned at church, and she wanted to check it out I think, but Daiki got a little shy and wanted to go home. But they'll come to an Easter activity next week, so that'll be good! I tell ya, the kids are the way to their parents' hearts. Teaching Teri and Mary lately has been so fun, and it really blesses the whole family when kids come to church and learn these important things.

I love this ward. We got to go to two members' houses for dinner this weekend, and I just love getting to know them! They were both super fun and funny, and everyone we've asked so far has had referrals for us. It's awesome. I feel so guilty every time I think about the millions of times the missionaries asked me if I had any friends I wanted to invite to hear the lessons and I immediately said "no." I've been so impressed by peoples' bravery and willingness to speak up and tell their friends about the church here. That's one thing I really, really want to take home with me - courage.

Love you all so much! I didn't really take any pictures this week, but thought Dad might like this shot of the local "library"


Senzokuike "Library" - unfortunate signage

Monday, March 10, 2014


Ohayou gozaimasu!

Well, I've been in Senzokuike for five days now. And I love it! From the moment I got here I noticed it had this certain vibe, as cheesy as it sounds, and it's just awesome. Plus Yamauchi Shimai is the world's best companion. She pushes me to be better, even in the small things like SYL-ing (Speak Your Language). We're encouraged to speak Japanese as much as possible with our companions but let's just say that before this transfer my SYL skills were a zero on a scale of one to ten. It's really hard to get into it if your companion isn't, because then you just feel dumb. So this is awesome. We speak Japanese more than English and hopefully it'll help me learn more. This transfer all the Sister Training Leaders are together in companionships, like Zone Leaders are, so it's nice to be able to have a partner in everything and not feel like I have no clue what I'm doing.

After transfer calls, we rushed to call up all our investigators to try to get last lessons in before I left. Unfortunately not everyone could meet, but we kept really busy. The original plan was to leave Thursday morning but then it got switched to Wednesday afternoon, which was a bummer because then I couldn't go to my last Eikaiwa (where I'd planned on saying goodbye to half the people we were teaching). So that meant even more rearranging, which was stressful, but everything eventually worked out. I really, really love Niigata and was sad to say goodbye.

So Wednesday I mostly spent on the bus, with 8 other missionaries headed back to Tokyo. There was a big group of companions/members/investigators waiting to see us off, and there was much hugging and picture taking and giving gifts (it seems in Japan you can't say goodbye without presents). We got off the bus around 8 PM and struggled to find our way to the Shibuya sisters' apartment to stay the night there. That place is nuts. So busy.

Then, Thursday morning, I met Yamauchi Shimai and we went off to Senzokuike! Neither of us really knew where we were going, and we took a couple wrong trains, but the good thing about trains in Tokyo is that they come every five minutes so it's not like in Oyama where if you missed one, you were stranded for an hour. We eventually found our apartment and were in by Sister Hall and Sister Day, our roommates who work in the Tokyo 2nd (English speaking) ward. Both our wards meet in the same building, but at different times in the day. I love my new apartment - it's very clean and cute and everyone actually has their own desk! First time that's happened. Unfortunately the futon selection isn't quite as big as in Niigata and we essentially sleep on hardwood floors cushioned by one comforter. Eh, I'm used to it by now.

We got to meet with our Bishop on Thursday night, which was really good. He has big dreams for the Senzokuike ward and so do we! We're whitewashing, and don't have many investigators now, but I'm very hopeful about this place. We had a mogi lesson with a member on Friday and before we even asked, she told us about her family's mission plan, including four different people she wanted to invite to church. Awesome! We really, really want to build good relationships with the members and find people to teach through them.

And I think we're off to a pretty good start. Church here was awesome - so much bigger than any other ward I've ever been to in Japan! Usually 120-130 people come every week. Everyone was so kind and welcoming and made a huge fuss over me and Yamauchi Shimai. Upon hearing our names they asked the same questions that we've now come to expect - "Are you related to General MacArthur?" (me) and "Wait, are you Japanese?" (Yamauchi Shimai). She's a quarter Japanese but doesn't look it at all so people are always confused when they hear her Japanese name. She's almost as tall as me too, so they loved that.

Oh! And cool story: I was talking to one of the men in our ward and he told me he used to live in Pasadena, so I asked if he knew the Bradfords. And he did! Brother Ikeda. He liked hearing what all the kids were up to, and I met his wife too. Small world. There's also a lady in my ward who's son is serving in Eugene right now - have you ever met an Elder Nakamura? I think right now he's in Coos Bay.

Also, everyone here speaks English. It's crazy.

Cool miracle story of the week: we were on our way to the train station Saturday evening when we ran into a mom and her 2-year-old daughter and started talking to them. She told us she had some friends in our church and had been before! Then, before we even asked, she wrote down all her contact info and asked us to come visit her. That was literally the first time that had ever happened to me on my mission - people are usually much more guarded. So we visited the next day, with the whole family (another miracle that the husband was welcoming, too) and while we were talking we realized that we'd heard of them before - it was one of the families the lady in our ward was planning on inviting to us! She'd told us their names, we just hadn't realized at the time that it was the same people. And we randomly met them in the street. Crazy!! I don't believe in coincidences. Not at all.

We've met so many great people already and I can't wait for all the stories we'll get to share next week. Love you all! Take care.


Goodbye to Niigata with friends and most of our district

Anna & Yamauchi Shimai iPad selfie

Monday, March 3, 2014

Transfer calls!

Hello all.

Well, the biggest news this week is that I got transferred to Senzokuike! It's in the middle of Tokyo, and even more exciting, I'll be with Yamauchi Shimai, my roommate from the MTC who I love. We'll be whitewashing, meaning both of us are new, so I'll have to get to work!

I'm excited but of course really sad to leave Niigata. I've come to love this place so much, and we had so many good things coming up! Arrrgh. Even the weather was getting warmer. There are like 4 people planning on getting baptized this month so far, so hopefully I'll get pictures of that. Sister Wright, my old STL, will be taking my place, and I trust her and Sister Wigginton to take good care of Niigata. These next few days will be a hectic craze of trying to say goodbye to everyone and commit them to be baptized while I still can.

I don't have tons of time, but Niigata's been doing awesome. We had seven investigators come to church yesterday and it was an awesome testimony meeting. Kim came, and she said listening to peoples' testimonies made her want to pray more. Yay! We've been trying to find out what she needs the most.

Actually, we know what she needs the most. What all our investigators need the most. Faith in Jesus Christ! We've been focusing as a district lately on helping people come to trust in Him, because really that's what it's all about. Sometimes we focus way too much on baptism, or certain commandments, or whatever, and forget why we came here: to invite others to come unto Christ. I read a really good talk by Elder Oaks this week called "World peace" saying that all of the worlds problems are rooted in selfishness and wickedness and the only way to ensure worldwide peace was if everyone understood and lived the gospel. That's what I'm trying to make happen! Haha.

This week went by too fast. I got to do splits with Amituanai Shimai, which was really fun, and we had ping-pong night on Friday. Some of our Eikaiwa students came, including Teri and her family! I got to talk to Teri's mom, who is really nice, and whose heart is being softened through her daughter. She said when Teri told her she cried at church, she started to cry too. I think she's ready to hear the lessons as a family, and it makes me so happy. I've wanted to teach a family since the start of my mission.

Random list of the three questions I get asked the most here:
1) Where are you from?
2) How tall are you?
3) Do you have a boyfriend?

Also, no one can believe I'm twenty. They all say like 24ish. Not sure how I feel about that? Anyway...

One last miracle: we met Chi, a college student from China, while knocking on doors this week. She was super nice and said we could come back. So we did, bringing a Chinese Book of Mormon, and she got really excited when she saw it! Apparently she had seen it before somewhere, and without us even asking she took it and said she'd read it. Yosh! I'm sad I won't get to teach her, but I know great things are in store for her.

I very wisely decided to spend my time today going to the aquarium instead of packing, so it'll be a struggle to get everything done. What can I say, I'm a sucker for dolphin shows.

Love you!

Splash Zone?  Pictures from Anna's visit to the aquarium on her last P-day in Niigata.  Marinepia Nihonkai is the largest scale aquarium on the Sea of Japan.
Sea Turtle