Monday, July 28, 2014

It's hottttt

This week was great - maybe not as great as last week, but it's okay.  I guess when you're on a high you have to come down at some point.  Really it wasn't that bad, but yesterday was kind of a disappointment.  We had 8 investigators confirmed to come to church and none of them showed, making for a very stressful sacrament meeting spent looking over my shoulder every time I heard a rustling or the squeaking of door hinges.  It was also 84% humidity that day, so we melted all the way out to a less-active's house which took an hour to find.  She wasn't home.  Sister Sticht and I decided that things had been going too good, so we must have needed to be humbled or something.  I'm just grateful that Pday comes right after Sunday because Sundays are extremely mentally taxing.

Does anyone have suggestions for making the Sabbath day an actual day of rest? I feel bad because we tell people all the time how church is like rest for the soul - which is how it should be, and how it is as a non-missionary, but it's hard for me to feel rested when I'm so high-strung and worrying about where everyone is.  You definitely have to live the gospel before asking others to live it.  We ask our investigators to read the scriptures and pray every day, so how can we not do the same?

We did get to do tons of cool things this week!  Last Monday we went exploring at an old shrine next to a HUGE Buddhist graveyard, and since it was a national holiday the place was completely deserted.

We also had our first zone meeting in Togane, about thirty minutes away by train, and I went on splits afterwards with Teruya Shimai.  It was really fun - we visited a family of seven and everyone was home except the dad.  Probably some of the most polite and well-behaved children I've ever met.   I'm always amazed at how people manage to raise so many children and not go crazy, especially in Japan where it's really rare to have over three kids.  We met Yu this week at the church with her four children, and it was one of my most favorite lessons I've ever taught.  The kids were all paying attention, and participating, and it was so touching to see Yu go from the role of investigator to teacher as she explained things to her kids.  She's an awesome mom, and she's only 25.  With four children.  Again, don't know how people do it.

Trying to remember what else we did this week. Teaching... Biking... Eikaiwa... Bugging people on trains. We've been using Facebook to teach a lot, which is cool. It was really hard for me to figure out how to use it effectively for a while but it's really helpful now.

We also went to the summer festival! Shi came with us and we browsed all the food vendors (some delicious and some weird) before watching Iza perform with her hula group. Right afterwards two of the kids that go to our Eikaiwa danced with their hip-hop group, which was really cute because they were the youngest ones there and didn't really seem to know what they were doing and their gangster outfits were way too big.

Not as much to say this week so I'll just add lots of picture.  Pictures.  I'm turning Japanese.

Us eating snow cones with Shi, trying on yukatas (summer kimonos), and exploring the back part of a shrine where I'm not sure if we were allowed to be.

Love you all!  I'll try not to melt this week.

Anna visiting a shrine in Chosei

Anna & Sticht Shimai trying on yukatas (summer kimonos)

Sticht Shimai, Shi and Anna eating snocones at the summer festival

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Well, I'm back again. This week was so fun and awesome and crazy, I'm not really sure where to start with my email. We somehow ended up eating out/being taken out almost every day so maybe I'll organize it by what I ate (there are some interesting things).

Ramen - we went out to lunch for the first time with Shi, who goes to college in San Diego but is home for summer break right now. She is super cool and actually has some Mormon relatives, even though she's never really thought much about religion. Mostly she's bored and likes hanging out with us - but she came to church! Every person that comes to church is a success in my book. It's such an important experience for everyone to have.

Cow tongue - this is not a joke. We had Mission Leadership Council on Thursday at the Honbu (took three hours by train to get there!) and afterwards met a girl and her friends for dinner. I'd met her on the train last time I went to Honbu, became Facebook friends, and said I'd hit her up if I came back. So that was cool! We told them to pick anywhere good, and they picked cow tongue - it's pretty much like small steaks. Kind of weird but tasted good I guess? I'm a monster. I'll attach a picture.

Ramen again - I went on splits in Kisarazu, which is famous for ramen, so we got some for lunch. Kisarazu is cool, but I didn't see too much of it because the sister's bike I was borrowing was broken so we stayed close to home, on foot. Got to teach Eikaiwa in Kisarazu which was really fun because they have some hilarious students. There's one man who comes to church every week and had sort of decided he's a member except he hasn't been baptized. He actually goes out knocking on doors with the missionaries sometimes, and rags on the members for not bringing enough "guests" to church. It's awesome. We actually got to have a really good discussion with him about baptism and asked him to ask God what to do. He said he would.

Vegan food - we got taken out by a new investigator and a bunch of her friends to the most hippie place I've ever seen in my life, including all of Eugene. The restaurant is called Sweet and Peace and is like walking into an Alice-in-Wonderland type dimension with all earthiness of home and cutesy-ness of Japan. They had a wish tree, where you can write down wishes and hang them on the branches (with the rule that it has to be a wish for other people) and also the desserts were covered in fruit sauce hearts and edible glitter.

Ice cream smoothie thing - it's the one drink on the entire menu of the cafe where we meet Sue that doesn't have coffee or tea in it, so we order it every time. We also made a personalized Plan of Salvation pamphlet for Taz the barista, marking sections we like and writing notes, so hopefully he'll read it.

Every single drink in 7-11 - we had a really cool, funny experience when we visited the To family. We'd met the mom before, and talked to her for maybe five minutes, but she said we could stop by again whenever we were in the area. So we went, expecting to maybe talk to them for five minutes and invite them to church or Eikaiwa, and were really surprised when they were delighted to see us and invited us in. We weren't really sure what they expected - teach their kids English? Explain the church? - but the first thing that they did was have the dad run out to a 7-11 to buy drinks because we said we didn't drink coffee. We insisted water was fine, but away he went, and came back with 8 bottles of various juices and flavored waters so that we could have our pick. As we talked to them, they...

  • said they wanted to come to Eikaiwa
  • offered to take us to Costco and buy us anything we were missing from home
  • said we could teach them about eternal families
  • told us they'd buy us kimonos to wear to the upcoming summer festival and asked what kimono size we were
  • said they wanted to become Christian
  • promised to take us to the beach and also like 5 other local restaurants
  • said we could come back anytime, made a next appointment
  • sent us off with fresh corn, pineapple, ice cream and pellegrino

Have you ever seen the movie Road to El Dorado, when the Spanish guys show up in South America and the native people immediately assume that they're gods and shower them with gifts and praise? That's kind of how I felt this week. It's gonna be a shock to come back home and not have everyone make a huge deal of me. I tell you, Chosei people will always have a special place in my heart.

We saw so many miracles this week. A lady we met on the street and talked to for five minutes, Homu san, came to church! She loved it, took a Book of Mormon, and said she'd be back next week. We barely did anything.

We also got to teach so many cool people, including Yu, a mother of four. She is so sweet and just wants her family to be happy forever more than anything. Also Iza, the lady tearing through the Book of Mormon, is awesome. She notices tons of Sunday School principles by herself and tells us about them - like the pride cycle, modern-day application, and other things. I think she understands the Book of Mormon ten times more than I do.

I love Chosei and its people and beautiful landscape - here's a shot of part of our bike ride home from church. Also Sister Sticht rescuing snails on the side of the road. The bugs here are huge and plentiful.

Hope all is well at home! Talk to you next week.


Cow Tongue restaurant in Tokyo

Bike riding home from church in Chosei

Sticht Shimai rescuing snails from the road side.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hello from Chosei!

Greetings loved ones. What a crazy week. Transfer weeks are always nuts of course - there's just never enough time to see everyone you want! I'll take you through the week.

Monday I mostly spent packing, so that wasn't actually too exciting. Once again, marveled at how much junk I'd managed to accumulate during the last four months. In the evening we visited the less-active nocturnal family and found out that they're currently in the process of shifting their sleep schedule! They said they'd be able to go to church the next week.

Tuesday we went out and tried to squeeze as many lessons as possible into the day. The last one of the day was with Kay, at his house. It was the first time we'd been over. In Japan it's kind of a big deal for someone to invite you to their house - a lot of the time when we teach people they only talk to us at the doorstep - and he said he wanted to because he was grateful for all that we were teaching him and helping him understand. It was a really cool experience.

Wednesday was, like all last Wednesdays are, amazing and full of love and really sad. One small miracle that meant a lot to me was that I'd been really bummed about not being able to see Ru and his family before we left, and then they all showed up to Eikaiwa. Ru didn't have too much interest in English and spent most of the time running around and playing games on the iPad but I was so happy to see him and everyone else. Lots of other members came too, including all the ward missionaries, and they had a goodbye party for the four of us missionaries transferring out. I'm sure you saw the video on Facebook, but basically all the students and members secretly wrote out little notes on heart-shaped sticky notes and came and stuck them on us. At first I didn't know what was going on and felt a little freaked out (they had us shut our eyes) but it was so sweet. You never know how much your Eikaiwa students care until it's time to leave. I'm really happy we're using Facebook now because it'll be so much easier to stay in touch with people!

On Thursday we taught in the morning and them came home to eat and study a little before it was time for me to leave. I said goodbye to Yamauchi Shimai and then me and Sister Hall took the train to Honbu [mission headquarters]. Actually on the train I met a nice university student who lives near there, and we have an appointment to meet her again next week after we go to Mission Leadership Council. So that was cool. At Honbu I met Sister Sticht and we went back to Chosei together, and met one of their Investigators Sue at the station. Sue is a surfer from California who came to Japan to get away from America and currently teaches English. She is a very deep thinker, curses like a sailor, and one of the more interesting people I've ever met. But she's reading the Book of Mormon! She's been meeting with the sisters about a transfer now for weekly "Metaphysical Hour." Later in the evening we went to the church for music night, where I got to meet some of the members.

A little about my new area: it's beautiful! Being in Tokyo for so long, I'd forgotten what plants look like. Biking out among the rice paddies and flowers is almost surreal. Definitely very rural - Chosei is technically classified as a village, not even a city. But the church building here is pretty nice and good-sized. About 60 people come every week, I think. My companion Sister Sticht is from Montana and she's awesome! We laugh all the time. There are six missionaries in Chosei - two Elders and four Sisters - so we share an apartment with Sisters Cheney (from my MTC district) and Chandler (fresh outta the MTC). We're so blessed to be working with lots of great people right now. This is the first time I've ever been transferred that wasn't a whitewash, so it's nice not having to start from scratch.

On Friday there was supposed to be some big typhoon but, like all other typhoons I've experienced here, it didn't really hit our area and was way over-hyped. But it DID make it unbearably humid. We met one of our neighbors in a nearby park for a picnic lunch, and she surprised us by showing the plan of salvation pamphlet the sisters had given her earlier. It was completely marked up and covered in questions she had written. Another lady we taught that day, Iza, is also a big studier. She's reading like 15 chapters of the Book of Mormon a day! Super awesome. She also gave us homemade cake to eat, sent us off with carrot salad for the road, and made our next appointment for us when we forgot to ask. I was on cloud nine. I could get used to this country hospitality!

Unfortunately not everyone is so willing to learn. On Saturday both of our appointments cancelled, so we had a full day of biking out to "surprise visit" people who weren't home. At least we met some really cool people on the way - I'm learning to always stop people you pass by! It's a little hard in Tokyo, with so many people everywhere, but here we try to stop everyone if we have time.

Sunday I got to meet all the members, and they're awesome! Very willing to help out. The speakers went a little short, so in order to take up time, the Bishop asked me and Sister Chandler to get up and introduce ourselves and share testimony. There isn't a gospel principles class in this ward, so I went to regular Sunday School for the second time in a row. I've been learning a lot about David! Interesting to study the Bible for a change. After church we went out visiting investigators and ended up unexpectedly getting invited to dinner at a members house - homemade tenpura! Mmmm.

Hopefully I'll get the chance today to take some pictures of all the nature here. Here's one of me and Sister Sticht hanging out in 7-11 to email. I wonder if they ever get annoyed at us for using their free wi-fi all the time?

Love you all!

Sticht shimai and Anna

Elder Kawamura (who baptized Ru in Tokyo) with Kathy and Ben the night before he flew home.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Transfer results:

I'm transferring to Chousei! It is in Chiba, across the Tokyo Bay from where I am now. My new companion is Sister Stitch, who was in my zone two transfers ago, and I'm excited/nervous/stressed and all the range of emotions that come with being transferred. I've loved Senzokuike so much, but Sister Stitch says that they are teaching really amazing people in Chousei so I'm excited. We'll be STLs together. Apparently Chousei is sort of country-side-ish, so after my short stint in Tokyo I'm back to country livin'.

Wow I can't even think what to write... I have lots of packing to do and people to call and letters to write. Crazy.

I guess this past Sunday was my last in Senzokuike, and it was a good one. The Izus both came to church and had a really good time - they especially loved the gospel doctrine class where we studied about David and Saul out of the Old Testament. I didn't really understand anything. They both insisted on going to the "most difficult" Sunday School class after trying Gospel Principles last time and insisting it was too basic.

We also got the opportunity to go to church with Kay! We've been asking him to come for months, and he finally agreed - although it was in English. He has work on Sunday mornings, and the English ward starts at 1:30, so it's what works for now. Kay had a really good time and even stayed for all three meetings, including Priesthood (with some very helpful fellowshippers, including Elder/Brother Kawamura). I swear like half of our ward stays for English church after ours in Japanese - they like the practice. Six hours every Sunday. Anyway, Kay really liked church, just like we knew he would. It was interesting going to gospel principles class in English, where the teacher is a voice actor (who does the Aflack duck among other characters).

Actually, I had a lot of interaction with the English ward this week. On Tuesday I went on splits with Sister Ipson, in my same area but English speaking. It was fun and I got to practice "gaijin hunting" which is basically following and talking to anyone you see that isn't Japanese. Sort of awkward sometimes, but it's really easy to start a conversation - where are you from? Why are you in Japan?

Then, on Saturday, we went to a 4th of July BBQ (technically on the 5th, but Japan is ahead of American time) hosted by the English ward. Whenever the English ward throws a party all of our Eikaiwa students go, so it's a good dendo opportunity for us. We got to teach Kay (who made good friends that he saw at church the next day) and also Tomi, who goes to every church event known to mankind except church. Can't quite figure it out. She told us she's not ready for church, but loved the fireside she attended last week.

Other cool miracles:

Having our first lesson with a really sweet less-active family. Going to church now is difficult because they are currently living on a nocturnal schedule. I guess he youngest child kept waking up and wanting to play in the middle of the night, and the whole family adapted to it. First time I've seen that. They said they'd start adjusting their schedule gradually in order to get back to normal, so hopefully we can help them with that.

Having our first after-baptism lesson with Ru and seeing him act like an angel. It was so sweet the way he was hugging his cousin and showing love to everyone. His whole family is so happy and things are going great.

Well, time's up but I'm sure I'll have lots of cool stories next week! Love you all and hope you have a good week.


Ru with congratulatory letter from Kathy

5/12 ths of Anna's original MTC district at lunch

Chosei in Chiba Prefecture