Monday, May 26, 2014

元気ですか?(How Are You?)

Hello again,

This week was awesome. I think I forgot to mention this in previous letters, but Elder Cook came to Tokyo for various meetings this weekend, and I got the chance to hear him speak twice!! We had a two-mission conference with all the missionaries in Tokyo and Tokyo South missions on Saturday, where he and also Elder Maynes spoke. Then, because I'm in the Tokyo Stake, I also got to go to a special stake conference where Elder Cook and his wife spoke. Everything was translated line-by-line. Definitely an amazing experience. He talked to the church members about how to strengthen their own testimonies, and to the missionaries about a lot of things, but I especially remember his emphasis on teaching the plan of salvation. It's my favorite lesson to teach - getting to answer the questions of the soul.

I think one of my favorite moments was right after stake conference, when Elder and Sister Cook were shaking peoples' hands as they left, and the 11-year-old girl next to me saw her dad shake Elder Cook's hand. She immediately started tapping her mom, excitedly saying "look, look, did you see that? Did you see Dad?" So when Elder Cook came near where we were I nudged her forward and she got to shake his hand too - the look on her face was priceless. Pure awe.

It was funny - a lot of church members assume that we've all met the prophet before, and live right next to a temple, and belong to really big wards. Sometimes I have to explain that not all of America is like Salt Lake.

We saw lots of miracles that weekend after the conference, and I'm convinced it's partly because of the blessing Elder Cook left on all of us. Shi agreed to be baptized next month if she comes to know the church is true, and so did Misa, a new investigator who's 14 and super cute. One of our main purposes as missionaries is to help people change their lives through baptism and I have to admit, sometimes it's hard feeling like I'm not doing my job right if no one is progressing towards baptism. Like I'm failing them. We always need to work to recognize what things are in are control and what things aren't. We control how many people we talk to each day, and what we say to them, but we can't control whether or not they accept our message.

I went on splits with Ikeguchi Shimai this week, who's going home in a week, so it was good to get one last chance to work with her. She's so sweet, and I'll miss her a lot. We had a fun day with a lot of weird things too, including visiting a less-active who showed us this magic hydrogen-water machine thing she swears by. Apparently drinking the hydrogen-infused water gets rid of all the free radicals in your body and reduces cancer risk and makes everything better... No idea if it's true or not but it'd probably sell well in America along with ten-dollar bottles of acai juice and all of Doctor Oz's recommended products.

Anyway, we also met a couple at Denny's who we'd found in the area book and turned out to be super enthusiastic members of some Buddhist group and loved to argue about everything. According to them, a supreme creator (God) can't exist because something had to have created Him first. I asked them what they thought the very first thing was, from which everything else was made, and they said there was no start - it just is. Um, okay. Probably not calling them back.

The humid season is starting, and sometimes I feel like I'm walking through a rainforest. Even when the sun isn't out, it's just so muggy and hot out. There have also been some crazy downpours and thunderstorms, which means nobody is outside to talk to. I know I shouldn't be complaining because soon it'll be a lot worse, but still not super fun. My hair looks crazy all the time and soon it'll be too hot to wear makeup, so yikes. At least Tokyo seems to have better air conditioning than Oyama did.

We were busy teaching last week and hopefully will stay busy next week as well. I definitely prefer teaching to finding, although it's been fun meeting new people at the Senzokuike park this week. There's one man who walks his monkey around on a leash sometimes - haven't gotten a picture of that yet but I did get one with a semi-famous pig last week. His name is Tonjiro and he has his own twitter. Not the best picture but Tonjiro was too busy sniffing out food to look at the camera, so oh well.

There was also a cool piano/flute concert with traditional Japanese music that apparently happens every year at Senzokuike park, with a bridge crossing the lake as a stage. We met an investigator after the concert and got to see the last ten minutes of it as we looked for her - there were singers wearing kimonos in canoes, and everything was lit up. Way cool.

Next week are transfer calls, and like usual I have no idea what's happening. Our district usually takes bets beforehand but I honestly don't even know what to guess. Stay tuned!

Love, Anna

Tonjiro the Tweeting Pig

Senzokuike Park

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Ohayo gozaimasu...

With temple P-day and going on splits twice, this week seemed to go by in seconds. I think I already wrote about last Monday and Tuesday so I'll start with Wednesday: We went on splits with the sisters in the Tokyo 1st (English) ward. They share an apartment with the sisters in Shibuya, just like us and the Tokyo 2nd sisters. We all have the really nice advantage of getting roommates who aren't working in the same ward, so there can't be any sense of competition. I don't really remember feeling any competition between the sisters in Niigata either, but there were a few times when we'd be struggling to find new investigators while the other sisters found tons and one can't help thinking "we're in the exact same area, so I must be doing something wrong." Anyway, I had fun teaching in English even though it was kind of strange.

Thursday we switched back, visited a less-active member and did weekly planning before heading out for dinner at a member's house. And she is awesome! She told us that when she was younger she would share the gospel with her friends all the time, and that 22 people she referred to the missionaries got baptized. 22! Apparently it would usually start by people asking her why she was so happy and full of light all the time, and she would tell them how church brought her joy. And I believe it - the woman radiates light. She recently got remarried and told us her husband wasn't a member of the church... yet. She had perfect faith he would be someday soon.

On Friday we had zone meeting, which was all about unity. Recently a lot of districts in our mission have been getting together and making goals, praying for each others' investigators, and doing other things to help them all work together - and have been seeing crazy miracles. Some areas consistently have over ten investigators at church every week. We've been working really hard to help people come to church more, since that's one of the most important steps they can take towards conversion. It's kind of hard to know if the church is true without ever going, right? So that's been a recent goal.

We also got to see Mo again, who's been reading some of the Book of Mormon, and taught Ru in the evening. His whole family participated a lot in the lesson and it was awesome. Before we left they had us try some "beauty juice" that is really expensive and apparently works wonders for your skin. The secret ingredient is pig's placenta. It didn't taste too bad I guess, but smelled awful.

Saturday we taught kids' Eikaiwa, met some new friends in the park, taught and ate dinner with a new family who moved into the ward.

Sunday we went to church, where Yamauchi Shimai had a talk, and got to go to Young Women's. During small group discussions I messed up reading one of the kanji in the textbook so I talked about experience for a while when the topic was supposed to be modesty - a little embarrassing but they were very forgiving. After church the single adults had a potluck lunch which they asked us to bring American food to, so we made rice crispy treats and mashed potatoes. Easiest things possible. May came to the English church again, and it was a nice day so we talked to people in the park.

Observation of the week: we've been talking a lot about choosing to be happy now. So many people are in the middle of trials and are waiting to be free from them before they'll let themselves be content. It's so sad - nothing is holding them back from happiness but themselves! Life isn't perfect, and if we keep waiting for everything to be perfectly resolved we'll be waiting forever. Yamauchi Shimai and I talked about Elder Wirthlin's talk this morning, "Come What May, and Love It." Sometimes it's easy to be happy and sometimes it takes a little effort, but it is always possible. We were created to have joy.

I'm very happy here and hope you all are too! Have a great week.
Love, Anna

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Hello family,

Another week has come! I had a lot of fun Skyping you for Mothers Day (which I actually don't think I ever mentioned since it was early... Happy Mother's Day, mom!) and have been very busy this week. My thoughts are kind of scattered today so I'll try to organize them into bullet points.

Funny things:
Getting corrected on my chopstick method when a member and her husband took us out to ramen. Unfortunately you're supposed to hold a chopstick like you do a pencil, and I haven't held a pencil correctly since I started writing. I can get the job done but apparently it's not very beautiful.

After I finished the opening prayer at kids' Eikaiwa, one of the 4-year-olds kept his hands clasped together, muttering things for about thirty seconds before opening his eyes. I think his first time ever saying a prayer. His mom asked him what he was saying and he told her he was asking Santa Claus for presents. Eh, he's almost there I guess. This was the same kid who lifted up Yamauchi Shimai's skirt last week.

Cultural experiences:
I ate raw horse meat. It was kind of sickening, but an investigator and her boyfriend took us out to a really nice place and we somehow ended up making a deal that if we ate the meat, they'd come to church. We do what it takes.

Participating in Radio Taiso, a dance aerobics/stretching fusion that happens every morning at the park near our apartment. Over 100 old people go to it every morning, wearing their spiffiest jogging suits.

Feeling an earthquake while we were in the temple today. They took a rest during the winter, but now that it's getting hot again I guess they'll return.

People I met:
Abu, a girl about my age who was crying on a park bench so we went over and sat down next to her. She'd just gotten her heart broken and told us all about it. Even though she's Buddhist she appreciated us sharing about God loving her and being able to helps her through anything. There is truly no hardship that the gospel won't help us through.

Mo, a funny older lady who waits in line next to a local bakery every day around four, when they sell the day's bread ends for really cheap. She took us to a Chinese restaurant and we taught her about the Restoration. She didn't seem to interested at first, saying she just liked us, but then she said she wanted to come to church and accepted a challenge to read out of the Book of Mormon. You never know.

A lady in my ward who'd been unable to come to church for years because of work, but has just quit her Sunday job a week or so before we called her out of the blue. Then she came to church that week and had a good time - not a coincidence!

May, who moved here a couple months ago from Syria. She's an architect and an amazing artist. She was so happy to meet other people who speak English!

Sad things:
Ru's family decided to wait until his uncle comes home in a couple months from his mission so that he can baptize him. So it will happen eventually just not this Sunday. I know he's ready and of course I'm disappointed and hope it turns out okay, but this is their decision, not mine.

The day after we met May we went with her to a baptismal service the ward was having for an 8-year-old. We also showed her the church and she loved it! Especially the art. We went with her to church the next day, to the English ward (she got to meet the English sisters, and soon we'll pass her off to them to be taught) and she loved that as well. My first time going to church in English in a long time and it was strange. The members were so kind and welcoming though. Two of them invited us over for dinner with her - for that night and the next week - and we're not even in their ward! We taught May about the Book of Mormon and Joseph smith before dinner, and we set a goal date for her to be baptized if she finds out that it's true!

Pictures: the cute kid who got baptized; a gift from one of the other sisters' investigators. In natural ink!

Well, times up and my hand hurts. Typing on an iPad isn't the most fun. Love you all and hope you have a great week!


Cute boy who was baptized.

Canned squid?  In natural ink?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

No Subject (May 4, 2014)

Hello, everyone. Just thought I'd say upfront that I don't have any pictures this week, and I left my journal at home so my memory isn't 100%. But you'll see me on Skype soon enough so it's all good!

We had a really busy week. Our main focus is still Ru, who's an awesome kid and still wants to get baptized but keeps not coming to church for various reasons. This time he had a cold. The Japanese people are very cautious when it comes to colds. First, they'll wear a white surgical mask everywhere they go (or maybe a black one, if if they're a rebel. I've seen it), and then refuse to travel anywhere. Although my view is probably skewed because people tend to make up excuses to avoid missionaries sometimes. Maybe if it was for someone else they'd tough it out.

Anyway, Ru is way funny and reminds me of little brothers. This week when we went over for dinner he claimed to have an allergy and ran around holding his nose, pretending to barf, until he found out the food actually didn't have peppers in it and made a miraculous recovery. We really hope he can just come to church these next two weeks, in order to get baptized on the 18th. If I need to bribe him with candy, I'll do it. Haha. He always has a good time at church, it's just getting him there that's hard. Seems like that's how most people are.

Other highlights of the week:
- Mission Leadership Council, where we discussed how the work has changed since using the iPad and Facebook. So weird! I had no idea about any of this high-tech stuff when I put my papers in.
- a huge ward barbeque at a seaside park, which was really fun and provided lots of good teaching moments for us. It was an hour and a half bike ride there so I earned all the yakisoba I ate.
- having an investigator show up to our lesson in a kimono, when we've only ever seen him in Western clothes. He said it was his "casual wear"

Actually, Kay's (kimono man) lesson was a really cool experience. We started by reading part of the Book of Mormon with him, and after asking a question he sat there for ten minutes in silence, reading and pondering. Missionaries always say "the Spirit was so strong in that lesson!" and of course I've felt it before while teaching, but never like that night. It was like an extra presence in the room that we were all aware of. Kay is usually pretty talkative but he could feel the power of the Book of Mormon and was unable to speak for a long time.

Time's up, but I'm looking forward to talking to you soon. Hope everybody has a great week!
Love, Anna

This photo is recently published in the mission blog (but taken several months ago) and the caption is "These sisters in Niigata are excited about the new technology and its capabilities!"  They are Sister Crane, Sister Amituanai, Anna and Sister Wigginton.