Monday, June 30, 2014



We had an awesome week. One of the best so far. The highlight, of course, being Ru's baptism yesterday! It was at 7:30 in the morning but so many members woke up early to support him (not to mention the elders arriving at 5:30 to fill up the font) and everything went perfectly. Elder Kawamura was there, wearing an Oregon pin on his jacket, and I was happy to get good news from home. I played the piano and Sister Yamauchi led the music, and the Elders were the witnesses for the baptism, so it was nice that we all got to play a small part to help. After he was baptized, Ru got up to bear a simple testimony, where he talked about being excited to keep learning and coming to church and preparing to receive the priesthood. I'm excited to hear about his missionary stories someday! [Elder Kawamura is Ru's uncle who just finished his service in the Oregon Eugene Mission this past week and baptized his nephew upon his return home.]

We saw another huge miracle at church yesterday too. The night before, the Izus called to tell us they had a last-minute appointment and couldn't come to church, and we were really worried that no one else could come. So we called and emailed everyone we could think of, mentioning that there was going to be a lunch afterwards, but still no one said they could come. So we just had this feeling that we'd done all we could, and said a prayer asking for someone to be prompted to come the next day.

After Ru's baptism sacrament meeting started, and none of our investigators were there (although a less-active couple we've been teaching came for the first time in like 20 years, which was awesome). The rest of church went by. Then, just as the luncheon was ending, we saw Mi and her daughter, who just started coming to Eikaiwa a few weeks ago, walk into the church. We'd invited them before, but they didn't seem too interested. And then they came! And the best part was, after eating and talking to some members, they said they wanted to check out church in English, which was starting in 15 minutes! So we got to go to that with them, answering all the mom's questions (you're not allowed to play sports, right? Or have a job? I swear I have no idea how these weird Mormon rumors get started). They had a great time at church, making friends with lots of the Japanese moms who attend in English, and hopefully they'll come back next week to go in Japanese.

Other events this week:
-Facebook being launched to the mission. All 250-ish missionaries can now use it if they want, and it's kind of crazy. Most people seem way more excited about it than I was and are already posting away. The ZLs and STLs are sort of in charge of leading by example, answering questions, and monitoring Facebook in our zones, and we totally lucked out because our ZLs happen to be the the tech elders so they know everything!

-We went to the Furomae shrine on P-day with Sisters Hall and Ipson, which was fun and interesting because Sister Ipson actually knows some things about statue's meaning, etc. Sort of kicking myself that I didn't do any research on Japanese culture before I came.

-Going on splits in Nakano, which is where the mission home is, and the Budges happened to stop by our lesson. President Budge entertained all the kids by juggling and teaching them dodge ball - it was fun to see the playful side of my mission president.

Love you all so much! Hope next week is just as amazing as this one was.

Anna, Sisters Hall, Ipson and Yamauchi at the Furomae shrine
Ru before his baptism

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Long time no see

Hello again everyone! This week brought a range of emotions, which I will explain through stories. I'm trying to find ways to make my letters more creative.

When I was impressed:
We had stake conference this week, which included a broadcast from Salt Lake that everyone watched on the big screen. Some of it was translated, of course, but two of the speakers - William R. Walker and Gary E. Stevenson - spoke in Japanese! I didn't even know they were fluent. I heard somewhere once that it's a sin to forget your mission language because God will have further uses of you down the road. Maybe "sin" is a strong word, but still. Not sure how I'll incorporate Japanese into every day life in order not to forget, but there may be Jpop and a lot of weird TV game shows in my future.

When I was scared:
Yamauchi Shimai and I got something this week I've never gotten before as a missionary - an online self-referral. This lady gave us her address and asked us to visit, saying she wanted to know how to join the church. Pretty cool, right? So we skip on over there only to meet a very suspicious man who demands to know which of his friends played a prank on him by sending missionaries over, and he asks us to follow him to the police. I actually said a silent prayer in the middle of all this and got a feeling that everything would be fine, so it wasn't that scary. We didn't end up going to the police, and no hard feelings. Plus he barely stood over five feet so Yamauchi Shimai and I easily could have taken him.

When I went "awwww":
Ru is doing awesome. He's getting baptized next Sunday before church, and has been coming every week and enjoying it. He's a bit of a rascal sometimes, but then has these really sweet moments like when he prays or sings primary songs. He really loves singing, and I love hearing the songs in Japanese because they'd so cute.

When I remembered home:
I've now seen three people wearing UO stuff, but all of them were men close to my age so I'm not really supposed to talk to them. Frustrating. We also had to take a while to explain the missionary opposite-sex rules to all the people at Japanese class this week, and they all think we're pretty weird and funny. Whatever. I already stick out so obviously here just by what I look like that I gave up caring about being normal a long time ago. It makes it easier to talk to people sometimes, knowing that no matter what I say, I'm sort of weird, and it's okay.

When I was enlightened:
We had zone conference this week, which is always awesome. Every time president Budge gives a training I just watch in awe and want to try so many new things. Did you know he's written books? On the top of my after-mission reading list. Anyway, all of the ZLs and STLs gave short trainings on teaching to non-Christians, and my topic was on reincarnation vs. resurrection. I kick myself sometimes for not doing any research about Japanese religion before coming here, thinking that my 10th grade IHS knowledge would suffice.

When I saw my reflection and cringed:
The summertime sister missionary tan lines have begun. I have some pretty defined t-shirt stripes, and the ballet flat lines are working their way up there as well. The rainy season is weird because it seems to switch on and off - last week we never saw the sun, and this week there's way too much of it.

When I was exhausted:
There seems to be an unwritten rule that every Japanese lady over the age of 40 is required to take at least 20 minutes to prepare treats for missionaries no matter how much they insist that it's okay and that we have no time. We visited Mits san last night, who is way sweet, but thought that making sure we had even numbers of cookies to take home was more pressing than our insisting that we had to go in order to make curfew. This kind of thing happens all the time with long dinner appointments, lessons, etc. Way too many times we have to choose between being polite and being obedient. Obviously obedience wins, and people can't believe we're leaving "so soon." Anyway, we literally ran home and arrived dripping with sweat but just on time.

And a miracle:
The Izu family continue to blow my mind. They want to know EVERYTHING - the mom has already skimmed through the whole Book of Mormon and is now reading again, and also wants a copy of the D&C. The daughter also wants to know what all the commandments are so that she can know what she'll have to do before getting baptized. We set a date for next month! Way excited for them. Honestly one of the most prepared families I've ever met - they do everything for us. All we have to do is show up at appointments (half of which they make themselves) and answer their questions.

Love you all and hope you have a good week! Here's a group shot from the Eikaiwa party we had last week. Note the missionaries are the only ones doing peace signs, in our attempts to fit in. Maybe our Eikaiwa group is too scholarly for such things.


Eikaiwa Party

Monday, June 16, 2014



Another busy week that went by in two seconds. Some highlights:

  • Ru passing his baptismal interview. Things are looking good to go!
  • Losing to Ru in an arm-wrestling match. He kept complaining at the start that I wasn't trying hard enough, and just letting him win, begging me to give it all my strength despite my embarrassed confession that I was. Gotta do some more push-ups. Oh yeah and this was right after his grandma told us that he was the smallest kid in all of fifth grade.
  • The rain letting up after Wednesday, but not before we got completely drenched and barely made it home on time to change before Eikaiwa.
  • Meeting some inactive members of our ward who happen to live and work at an animal hospital full of puppies. The ward asked us to visit them a lot and I'm only too happy to comply.
  • Trying to answer a member's questions about the Book of Mormon, particularly the Isaiah chapters. Contrary to popular belief, becoming a missionary does not magically change someone into a scriptural scholar.
  • Wrapping a ton of small gifts with related scriptures (ex pack of tissues with a verse about tears of joy, a piece of candy with a verse about feasting, etc.) for Izu san's birthday. She's really busy and we can't meet super often, so this will help her learn a little every day on her own.
  • Spending an entire day without my name tag on, and of course the one day I forgot happened to be when we went to Honbu for Mission Leadership Council. Tried to make sure my hair was covering my shoulders whenever President Budge was near.

One of the biggest miracles this week was Kai Shimai, who got baptized about thirty years ago but hadn't really been to church since then. We'd met her a few times, asking her to come back, but she was so depressed and thinking that she wasn't good enough to go to church no matter what we said. It pained me to see her so sad, and I knew she needed to come back. So we managed to make an appointment to eat dinner with her and one of the few members she remembered. When we asked the member to come, she said she didn't remember Kai Shimai, so we told her please DON'T say that in order not to offend her. We'd already told Kai Shimai that the member was looking forward to seeing her. So, we all get there, and the member looks at Kai Shimai for like ten seconds and goes, "have we met?" It was a face palm moment but luckily everything turned out okay.

Then, on Sunday, Kai Shimai came! She had a great time and the members were so good at welcoming her and showing love to her. She introduced herself to everyone as "Sister Kai, less-active member" which was kind of funny but I guess she was just taking that day's Sunday School lesson on honesty to heart. People really can change, it just takes our reaching out to them. Patience and love can solve 99% of the world's problems.

Today's picture is me eating a hamburger with a doughnut as a bun - a glorious creation that was made possible by Mr. Donuts making a business deal with a Japanese burger chain. I would just like to point out that, 1) this is not in America and 2) this is my first hamburger in seven years. Actually, there was no patty - some weird sausage thing instead - so I guess the streak's still alive.

Hope everyone's having as much fun as I am! Probably not but it's okay.
Love, Anna

Hamburger with doughnut bun - please don't judge me.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"I Love Japan"

Hello again.

Well, it finally came - the rainy season. We return home every night completely soaked through, even with rain pants on over skirts. It's not too bad but having wet shoes kinda stinks (literally). Sort of regretting not buying the ballet flat-style Crocs at home (stupid pride!) since all my shoes are leather and take a few days to dry out.

People are always so shocked when we visit them and it's raining, which is funny to me because what else could we be doing? Sitting in our apartment? The work does not take breaks for bad weather. If it did, Japanese missionaries would only be out three months out of the year.

The Izu family came to church again this week, and they are awesome. Usually when investigators come to church you have to take care of them the whole time - help them make friends, explain everything, make sure they have someone to sit with - but they do it all for themselves. They even exchanged emails with one of the members last week and set up am appointment for yesterday to meet with her and us to answer some of their questions! They are really considering joining the church and are willing to put forth the effort to learn. So great.

Our lesson with them was good, but one of the men there helping us sort of talked a LOT about random church organization trivia and history and unrelated, complicated things. A note to anyone who gets asked by the missionaries to help them teach: keep it simple. As members sometimes we think that explaining deep doctrine in detail will help someone understand better, but most likely the investigator will just be confused.

Ru is doing great as well. Lately we've been working on being kind, specifically not fighting at school or hitting his little cousin. Of course I take it seriously, but part of me kind of smiles and remembers when Ben and Luke would get in these huge wrestling matches in order to show off whenever company came over. Ben and I used to punch and kick and scratch each other every day, but we turned out fine, right? Although I understand Ru's grandma's concerns, and we're working on it. She says there's been good progress.

I love Japan and the people and would never want to change anything about the culture, but I will admit it makes me sad when women are so, so dependent on their husbands sometimes. About 80% of the women I've met who stopped going to church did it not because they had a crisis of faith or anything like that but because their husbands didn't want to come.

We met a member this week, Tera, who hasn't been to church in 30 years. Tera still has lots of friends in the ward and wants to come back, but says she's waiting until her husband will come back with her. "It would be weird to go without him, right?" was what she told us, to which we replied no it's fine, but she's still not sure. For a lot of women the idea of doing something without their husbands there is hard to imagine. We've also met a lot of older widows, and when we ask them "don't you want to see your husband again after you die?" they usually say "ehh maybe not. I'll look for someone better." Yikes!

Transfers went smoothly, and it's nice to have those behind us. Only 3 sisters left our zone, so it's mostly the same people. I'll miss Sister Gates, but am happy to welcome Sister Ipson (from my MTC district) into the apartment. Yamauchi Shimai and I also had a meeting with the Zone Leaders this week, who are Elders Keith and Shumway, also from our MTC district. Actually they were companions in the MTC (starting June 5th, 2013) and were made comps again exactly one year later, June 5th 2014! Pretty crazy. I've gotten lots of chances to do doki dendo (working with people who I was with in the MTC) and it's fun to see how everyone has changed/stayed the same.

Last miracle: we pulled our bikes over to check a map while looking for a member's house yesterday, and a man walked up to us and said "are you Christians? I want to learn. I have interest." He then suggested we exchange numbers and set up a time to meet at the church, saying he'd read some of the Book of Mormon we gave him before then. Literally zero effort required on our parts. You always hear those stories of prepared people just being led right into your path, and I'm here to tell you it does happen.

Hope everyone is doing well! Love you and talk to you again next week.

Picture: me with Sisters Hall, Gates and Yamauchi before transfers.
Not the best angle but 4-person selfies are sort of limited.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Transfer calls! And the results are...

I'm staying in Senzokuike! And so is Yamauchi Shimai! This will be our third transfer together, which is the longest I've ever been with one companion. I'm way relieved - transfers aren't my favorite thing - and we currently have six investigators with baptismal dates in this next transfer so we have a lot of work to do. The thought of not being here for that/having to do it without her was a little scary. This area didn't have much going on when we got here, and we've been so blessed to watch the miracles happen one after another.

Well, I'm not sure what to even write about anymore. We've been really busy teaching and visiting lots of members, which our ward mission leader asked us to do. There's been a lot more talk lately about member-missionary work, and I really hope things are finally going to change. Our bishop changed a few weeks ago, and the new one is young and wants to put a lot of focus on missionary work. Our ward is great with helping us when we ask, but we still don't get too many people coming to us with referrals, which is the best way to find investigators who are really ready to hear this message. Of course, I can't really say anything because all the people I've ever referred to the missionaries total to zero, but I swear I'm going to be better at reaching out when I go home. Watch out, friends.

Funny thing this week: we were talking with some of our Chinese friends at Japanese class, and somehow we started talking about Chinese food, and fortune cookies came up. They didn't know what we were talking about so they Googled it, and it was their first time either seeing or hearing about one. I mean, I knew Panda Express wasn't exactly authentic, but still!

Big awesome miracle this week: We didn't have any investigators come to church this week (Ru went to a different ward while on vacation with his family), which was kind of disappointing, but then right before the third hour FOUR people showed up. One of them was Shi, our investigator who might get baptized this month, and then a grandma with her daughter and grandson, who had come to Eikaiwa a couple times. The Izu family. They loved church, and without us even mentioning it they started asking about what would happen if they got baptized and joined. They also said they'd be coming again next week. Sometimes it takes an arm and a leg to get someone we've known forever to come to church, so to see people come on their own free will and enjoy it so much was awesome.

We're still really trying to get more people to come to church. Other areas in our mission have been seeing huge miracles - one ward had 50 investigators come last Sunday! I think there might have been some special event. But 50!! Incredible.

Something interesting is that this week we've taught a lot of people who are/were Protestant, which is unusual. It's fun to get to actually use the Bible when teaching, which is something we almost never do here. It's kind of confusing for people to learn to study the Book of Mormon, Old Testament, New Testament, D&C, etc., so we usually just focus on Book of Mormon.

Love you all! I'm excited that this week doesn't involve a lot of goodbyes. Two missionaries from my district are leaving, which is sad, but a lot are coming in from my old MTC district so it'll be a happy reunion.

Until next week,

Here's a picture of some skirts an investigator gave us. When all your clothes start to rip and fall apart, The Lord provides.