Monday, April 28, 2014

No Subject This Week

Hello all! I had a busy week so I guess I'll just give a rundown of it now:

Tuesday - had a zone leadership meeting with the ZLs/DLs that we joined over Skype. It only stalled once! Probably a record for me. Amazing how quickly technology can improve. We also visited a really sweet older lady I'll call Daly who used to take the lessons about six years ago. She invited us in and was really funny and chatty - I think she was really happy to have some company too. She said ever since her husband died a few years ago she's been bored, and she showed us her notebook where she keeps a tally of all the games of Free Cell she plays on the computer. It's a lot.

Wednesday - we met Yas, a local Protestant minister, at a nearby park. The other sisters had met her earlier and referred her to us since she's Japanese. She was really nice and interesting to talk to. In some ways easier to teach, since she already believes in Jesus Christ and knows church vocabulary and all that, but in some ways harder because she asks questions we're not used to and always wants to know what Bible verse backs up what we say. I have to admit it's been a while since I cracked open the Old Testament. I know that's a challenge English-spreading missionaries deal with a lot: not wanting to look ignorant when people grill you on your Bible knowledge. "You don't know that verse? Are you even Christian?"

That afternoon, we had a complete opposite experience when we went to the house of one of our Buddhist investigators, surprised to find a ton of people there, all ready to watch some Soka Gakkai movie with us. Obviously some miss-communication there. We told her multiple times beforehand we can't watch movies, and that we were coming to teach her about our church, but I guess she forgot. Kind of embarrassing because we brought a member with us too. It ended up being okay, and we taught her a lesson, but she still can't believe in God because nothing can possibly be higher than oshakasama (Buddha).

Thursday - We taught one of our less-active members in the morning and she's making great progress! She's come to church twice in a row now - all we had to do was ask. In the evening we went and taught Ru, who had recovered and was back to his funny, mischievous ten-year-old self. I love that kid. We also met his dad for the first time, so progress there. He was very nice.

Friday - started the day with district meeting, where I did a short training and talked about something I learned from one of the Elders in a different zone last month: broccoli dendo. Basically, the idea is that Japanese people are busy all the time, so if someone tells you they don't have much time or it's hard to meet, you tell them, "your life is like broccoli!" Obviously that sparks their interest/makes them think you're even weirder. You then explain: just like the top of broccoli is made up of a million little leaf things, we have lots of things we have to do every day. Eat breakfast, exercise, shower, go to work, wash the car, laundry, etc. But if we focus on those things, and only water the top, the broccoli will die. The most important part of broccoli is the stem - if the stem is healthy, the rest of the broccoli is healthy. If your life is broccoli, what do you think the stem is? And... Yeah that's pretty much it. It's just supposed to help people realize priorities. Most people will answer that the stem is family. We've used this a few times, but it can be kind of confusing so I changed it to a flower and made a visual aid to help explain it.

On Friday we also taught Nak, a cool lady we found in the area book. She also studied nutrition! The member there with us was awesome at fellowshipping and insisted on walking with her to church that Sunday, since they live close. And then she came! One of the reasons why members are so important - people usually don't have a problem blowing us off but they'll keep a commitment if it comes from a "regular" person.

Saturday - we went on splits, and I went to Nakano with Sister Crane, my former roomie in Niigata. So that was fun. We had a lot of interesting activities that day, including a big Eikaiwa get-together in the park (always draws an interesting crowd) and participating in a concert for the Candle Mamas, a group of 8 ladies who are church members in the Tokyo Stake. They sing a variety of types of songs, including opera and Latin and Japanese folk songs, complete with fun little dances and activities. They're actually really good. It was kind of intimidating to follow, when it came time for us to sing a few hymns at the end. I swear once you become a missionary everyone assumes you're musically gifted. Unfortunately not the case. The best part of the split was teaching Mari, a new investigator that Crane Shimai randomly met on the street a week ago. We taught the Plan of Salvation and she was super interested, saying she couldn't believe she hadn't heard it before.

Sunday - good day at church. Spent the afternoon and evening visiting and teaching various people, and it all went well. Daly got really sick so we left some jam with cards by her door, and we also heart attacked Nak's house today for her birthday. Classic sister missionary stuff I guess.

Again, no new pictures. Here's a selfie from a few weeks ago. Also my homemade visual aid.

Love you all!

Anna and Yamauchi Shimai

Visual Aid

Monday, April 21, 2014


Another week rolls on by... We're now on week two of the new transfer already. No major changes I guess except for the new elder in our ward and the new sister in the English ward (our roommate). Her name is Sister Gates. I'm glad transfers are all over with. It's always the duty of zone leaders and sister training leaders to figure out where everyone will go to meet up and switch companions, trying to keep traveling distances to a minimum and making sure no one is ever alone. It's a nightmare. We made a conference call with all the other sister training leaders and tried to figure everything out and make our plans mesh. I didn't really have to worry about this in Niigata because the plans are really simple: everyone leaving gets on the bus.

We stayed pretty busy this week teaching lessons and contacting people in our area book. Met another eternal investigator - she'd been taking lessons and coming to church off-and-on for years. She knew all the hymns, had met everyone in the ward, and even had a picture of the Salt Lake temple in her house! Still claims to be Buddhist. Boggles my mind. We meet so many people who have never been to a Buddhist worship service and don't even know what they believe, but can't stop self-identifying as one.

Funniest thing that happened this week: discovering the Senzokuike Park cat society. There are ten feral cats that live in the park, and a group of who knows how many older ladies have a rotating schedule that dictates whose turn it is to feed them every day. Someone comes every day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner to give each cat its meal of dry food. The cats all have names and "territories" where they usually are, which makes it easier to find them I guess. I really shouldn't say "feral" cats because they have grown extremely comfortable with humans and expect their meals now at the same times every day. Pretty chubby kitties too. We've met two members of this club now, each of whom has multiple cats of their own at home. And now, I at last know what I want to do with my life. These ladies are hilarious.

We taught three of our Chinese investigators this week, which was fun. I continue to adore every Chinese person I meet here. They've all been so kind and willing to listen to our message. Sometimes language barriers are an issue, but I know that the most important thing is for them to be able to read the Book of Mormon in their own language and know that it's true. Everything else will follow.

We sort of had a glimpse of the importance of the Spirit to help investigators learn at Zone training this week. The Zone Leaders planned a cool simulation where they asked us if we wanted a kit-kat, and if we did to follow them into another room. When we got there we all sat down, a little confused, and listen to them tell the story of Joseph Smith and bear their testimonies on the Restoration. The room was very quiet, and I was just watching sort of in awe at these two missionaries simply but powerfully explaining what they believe, and I felt the Spirit just enough to know it was there. Afterwards they explained that this is what many of our lessons are like - the people we teach want something from us, which is why they meet us. At first they're probably a little confused that what we're teaching isn't quite what they expected, but they feel the Spirit there and want to know more. I think Yamauchi Shimai and I were actually supposed to be "in on it" but their email instructions weren't very clear so we got to experience everything and learn along with all the other missionaries. It was one of the highlights of the week.

I felt like what I learned at training was especially important for River, who we taught again this week. She is very sweet but scared she doesn't understand enough. We invited her to be baptized this month but she feels like she has to "study" a lot more, and will be ready maybe in September. If a perfect understanding of the gospel was a prerequisite for baptism, then we'd all be doomed. The beauty of the gospel is that it can never be 100% understood while we're alive on this Earth, which gives us a lifetime to continue to learn and progress. We're never "done" and we never flat line.

Easter was yesterday, which was nice but not much different than any other Sunday. Even some of the members didn't know it was Easter. Probably the most exciting thing that happened was when a fire extinguisher exploded, leaving the upstairs looking like a winter wonderland. At least the talks in church were on Easter topics, one of which was given by me - scary! Ten straight minutes of speaking in Japanese at the podium in front of all those people. Actually it wasn't too bad, although I didn't like that I had to read most of it. Whenever I gave a talk at home I'd just write out bullet points and then kind of make it up as I went on Sunday. But I didn't feel quite comfortable enough to do that in Japanese.

I had a little bit of help with my talk when I went to Japanese class on Saturday and did a practice run with one of the senseis there. After I finished we talked about resurrection and how we'll be able to see loved ones again after we die. At one point she started crying a little, told us her son had died 20 years ago and it would be nice if she could believe something like that. She says she's not looking for religion right now, but I think our message came at a needed time and hopefully her heart was softened. She even came to church to watch me speak! It was really sweet. She said she had a good time. One of our Eikaiwa students (the one who gave us Tom and Jerry toilet paper) also came, dressed up in a sports coat he said he hadn't worn in a long time.

Not much planned for today - after our busy P-day last week we're taking some time to relax. I bought a scrapbook so maybe I'll start working on that - I've become a sentimental old fool. Definitely starting to feel old. I'm on transfer 7 now! I remember thinking I'd be a first-transfer missionary forever.

Sorry no pictures... I'm just too focused on the work to have time this week.

Love, Anna

Anna bids farewell to Niigata.  This is not recent but we just received it this week from Anna's friend Sister O. who took such good care of her there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

今日は (Today)

Hello family! Transfer calls came again this morning... Seriously frightening how fast these last six weeks went. Like I expected, I'm staying in Senzokuike with Yamauchi Shimai. Yay! Transferring is the worst. Sister Day, my roommate from the English ward, is leaving, and so is one of the Senzokuike Elders. But besides that, our district is staying the same. So pretty low-drama this time. Our whole zone met at Yoyogi park for P-day, a really huge park in Harajuku that's full of tourists. I've seriously never seen so many Caucasians in my life, except maybe BYU campus. We played basketball and frisbee and just hung out for a while, which was fun.

We had a really good week in Senzokuike with lots of new investigators. Unfortunately we haven't gotten to talk to Yu in a while... Or Zena... Or Mary. But she's coming to church next week! I really hate the cycle missionaries seem to find ourselves in sometimes with investigators - you meet someone, instantly click, set up another appointment, get so excited to meet them again and start making big plans, then they stop answering your calls and go MIA for weeks. Very aggravating. We're always trying to learn how often is best to call people when they start to drift - enough so they know we really care but not so much to come off as a stalker. It's a pretty thin line sometimes.

Actually, I was in Shibuya for a lot of the week -we did splits twice, once with the Japanese ward sisters and once with the English ones, and each time I ended up going there. It was a lot of fun. All four girls in that apartment are so great, and it was so good to get to know them and their investigators more. I got to teach another Skype lesson with the lady who thought Nephi's brothers were unfairly picking on Sam, and she instantly remembered me! It was so sweet. She loves the missionaries and kept saying how nervous she was for transfer calls coming up. She even organized a surprise birthday party for Ikeguchi Shimai. We went out to eat Korean barbeque for her birthday - a ton of meat. And the worst part is that I enjoyed it! Even the fatty pieces, kind of. I'm a monster.

General conference was awesome. And this time I watched it in... Japanese! Yeah that was interesting. I tried to tough it out for the first few talks, understanding maybe half of it, but then I saw the Elders reading along in English on their iPads while listening in Japanese and decided to copy them. Listening to all of it in Japanese would have been good language practice, but not the best way to learn spiritually. Plus since it's just a monotone translator's voice, it's pretty hard to understand. I think my favorite talk was Bednar's - that trials are necessary for us to progress. The "friction" we need to press forward. He said that a lot of people think happiness is an absence of any kind of load, when really without that load we'd be stuck with nowhere to go. I've definitely learned as a missionary that we change and improve most when a little pressure's on. While lots of stress is never desirable, we need at least some - one of my favorite MTC training videos showed a man saying "if you don't have any stress, you're dead."

Well, not a lot of time today. We did plenty of other stuff during the week but at will have to wait for another day. Here's all the sisters at Yoyogi and me with Shibuya sisters in our Korean barbeque bibs.

愛してる! (I love you!)

Zone P-day in Yoyogi Park

Celebrating Ikeguchi Shimai's birthday with Korean BBQ

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another week

Hello everybody!

Another good week. Unfortunately we had a few rainy days, even some thunder, which has shortened the cherry blossom season considerably. So we won't get to use the neighborhood carnival as a finding method for much longer. Although I won't miss all the weird drunk old men trying to give us things. Shameless flirts, all of them.

One of the best things and saddest things of the week was with Ina, a little old lady we met a few weeks ago. She doesn't remember things very well, so we weren't really sure I'd we could teach her or not, but she seemed very lonely so we invited her to come to church with us. Then, when we showed up at her house Sunday morning, she'd remembered! She was all dressed up, it was so cute. She seemed to enjoy her time there and also agreed to go to a baptism with us that one of the other ward's missionaries' investigators was having. But when we took her home her son was there, wondering where she had been, and he was pretty angry. We'd asked her before if she had anyone who took care of her but she said her son lived far away. I don't think she could really remember how often he came. So we won't be able to visit her anymore, which made me sad, but at least she got to have that happy experience once. It was so cute to see her watching the baptism, in the front with all the kids.

We actually got a lot of interaction with the other (English speaking) ward this week. They put on a big 70's dance party that we went to for a little while to talk to our Eikaiwa students and other Japanese people that came. I wasn't sure that disco was a thing in Japan, but maybe our Eikaiwa students have been lovers of American culture for a long time because they seemed to know all the songs. Tom, the funny one who gave us scented toilet paper, was covered in glow sticks the whole time. Some of those students are wayyy too smart for their own good. They correct OUR English and know the most obscure things. Think of what great Sunday school teachers they'd be! Jeez people just get baptized already.

Sometimes it's hard to teach people who are very intellectual because they try to hard to understand things with their head and rationalize it all. As cheesy as it sounds, these things can only be understood in our hearts. You'll go crazy trying to figure it all out using only a weak human brain.

Also, the lady who got baptized in the other ward is doing good and very happy. It's been so cool to hear about her and how her life is changing from the other sisters every night.

We met a really cute young mom this week, Zena from Morocco. She speaks French, Arabic and English, plus is learning Japanese. Her husband is Japanese and also very well-traveled and well-educated, speaking a million languages too. They have a son who's almost two and he's really cute. Zena had interest in meeting with us and learning more, but I think her husband is a little cautious that it might hurt her since she had to choose to separate herself from Islam in the past and it was a really hard decision. He doesn't want her to have to question her beliefs again, going back and forth. He's very nice and I understand where he's coming from, I just wish he knew how happy this could make them all! A lot of people tell us they're tired of searching for truth, and don't want to hear our lessons because it'll just confuse them more, but they don't know that this is the last search they'll ever have to do. Once they realize the gospel is true they'll be free from worry and doubt, and can use it's truths to anchor themselves when times are tough and they feel confused.

We had Mission Leadership Council again this week, which is always good. It was my last time seeing Taneda Shimai because she's going home next transfer - so weird! I'm starting to feel kind of old - like my time is running out fast. It's terrifying. I had a dream a few nights ago that all of a sudden I was back home, having completed my mission, and I just kept saying "not yet! I have to go back, I didn't do enough!" Honestly I think that's my biggest fear. Looking back and feeling like it wasn't enough, that I could have done more. It's awful but it motivates me to push myself every day.

Love you all! Didn't take any pictures this week but here's one of us and Yu from the funny photo booths here that make you look like an alien. Photoshop is a scary thing.

Love, Anna

Yu, Yamauchi Shimai and Anna in a funny picture from a photo booth 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Mina San!

It was a really good week. First off it's SO HOT here and it's only March. Okay maybe not that hot but after Niigata I'm shocked any time the sun's out. Makes me remember the miserably humid days of August and I'm a little scared. But at least it will be easier this summer because... Drum roll please... We're getting cars!!! It's kind of in a "test phase" like with Facebook and iPads, so probably only leaders will get them at first, but I'm way excited/scared to drive here.

And... Yeah. April fools! Not getting cars. Now or ever. Just me and my hundred-pound bicycle allllll summer long.

We seemed to meet a lot of foreigners this week. One of our investigators is from Nepal, and he has SUCH a strong desire to learn but communication is hard. We also met a family from Thailand whose kids are great but the parents don't speak Japanese. Reminds me of Oyama and all the crazy non-Japanese lessons we taught. Another funny thing was when we met a couple from California currently on vacation, and talked to them on the train, then ran into them AGAIN on a different train an hour later. In the biggest city in the world! It was crazy. The girl was a self-described "agnostic with some Zen Buddhism influence" so it kind of reminded me of home.

The Sakura are finally in full bloom, plus it's spring break, so there have been tons of people at Senzokuike park. A carnival has been set up all week, with food and game booths. I won five chocolate-covered bananas today by pulling the lucky chopstick out of a can, so that was a good time.

We had 2-zone conference this week, which was awesome. It was centered on how to receive revelation and better know our investigators' needs. There were workshops on prayer, study, planning and dendo. Kind of funny to be talking about how to plan or how to pray, because those seem so basic and individual, but the trainings were really insightful. Basically the secret to missionary work is to have your thoughts be centered on the people you teach every day, all the time. Not just the hour when you meet with them or plan their lesson. Every single thing we do should be motivated by our love for these people! I didn't come to Japan to learn more about the scriptures, or sight-see, or miss home, or even learn Japanese. I came to find those people who are looking for something missing in their life so I can help them find it.

So anyway, that's been our mission focus for the last few months. Always, always be thinking about our friends. Which is good because they're so easy to love!

Mary came to church this week with her mom, and we were so happy to see her. She's been really busy this week with extra-curriculars, but we finally got to meet her 19-year-old sister, Yu! Yu is so cute and we got to eat dinner at a member's house with her on Monday, plus lunch together today at an Indo-curry restaurant in Shibuya (all you can eat nan!). We told her about baptism and how it fits in with the plan of salvation, like we're teaching Mary, and she wants to learn more too. How amazing would that be if they could both get baptized and all go to church as a family? Their dad is pretty hardcore Buddhist so that might be tricky, but I believe in miracles.

One miracle that happened this week: we randomly got a call from River, an investigator from a few years ago, who wanted to meet again. Well okay! So we arranged a time and place and met her and she is so, so sweet. She really loves the gospel but says she couldn't really understand it before. But that's okay. She feels the spirit and that's all you need - understanding comes slowly, with time, but faith can change someone's heart in a moment. Also, the member we brought with us had met River before and they were instant best friends, even staying longer to talk after the lesson was over. Awesome.

I'm sure we did more than that this week but I haven't been very good at journal writing lately so I can't remember any more. Met some really funny old people on the street, but that happens just about every day.


Free chocolate-covered bananas won in the lucky chopstick drawing!