Monday, August 25, 2014


Made it through transfer week - they're always crazy, with all the packing and goodbyes and preparation that needs to be done. This time was surprisingly low-stress, but still incredibly busy. One nice thing about when a missionary leaves their area is that all your investigators magically have time to meet with you and say goodbye even though they had said before that "this month is impossible" or whatever. Nihonjin are world-class excuse makers. I even find myself subconsciously switching to Japanese when I complain because it just flows so well in that language.

Iza finally came home from vacation, and we got to teach her. I enjoy our lessons so much -  she's smart, interesting, and shows such enthusiasm. She loves praying, and reading the Book of Mormon, and meeting us - but unfortunately thinks that maybe that's enough. She's a little scared of upsetting her family by being baptized, so is willing to settle for only some happiness. I just can't understand why people do that to themselves! It's like choosing to look at some fresh-baked cookies, smell them, rub them on your face, and carry them around with you all day without ever taking a bite. Maddening.

Su is doing well, and we figured out part of her hesitance to believe in God - He's a man. We explained about Heavenly Mother and all that but she still didn't seem quite satisfied. I've done it - I've found the one feminist in Japan. Luckily that's nothing new for me so I know how to answer her difficult questions. Sometimes. We took a picture with her and her daughter before Sister Sticht left.

I was sad to see Sister Sticht go but things are going well with Sister Jones! Besides getting lost more often than usual. No matter how hard I try, I can never seem to overcome that particular trial.
Although I have more tools than I did before - iPad, phone GPS, a compass that I bought for my bike. So no huge disasters yet. Although we did get pretty lost jogging one morning, which was dumb because it was right near our own apartment. Did I mention we go jogging every morning now? As a lazy pile by nature I wasn't too excited about it at first but I'm enjoying it more and more now. Hopefully I'll get back in better shape before I go home and not have to start from scratch.

Hmm, what else... Ping pong night has been booming lately. Our friend Ami Shimai came again, and also to Eikaiwa and music night. She also told us that she started reading the Book of Mormon again! I was way happy, and then had to hold in my exasperation as a man in the ward kept rambling about all these random study patterns she should do (ex, read a certain number of pages per day instead of chapters, and other things that don't matter) and telling her to read in Moses and Abraham and countless other places.

Word to church members everywhere trying to encourage someone else who's learning about the gospel: keep it simple. Don't blast them with tons of irrelevant and unhelpful information. I love the members here but sometimes I get stressed over worrying if they're going to say something weird during a lesson. If we're teaching the Atonement, please don't bring up obscure church history references or tithing or anything like that. Okay, rant over.

I hope that being a missionary prepares me to be a helpful member in the future and that the missionaries serving where I live don't have to worry about me scaring their investigators.

Cool scripture of the week: "You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves." (D&C
123:16)  I feel very, very small sometimes. There is just so much I can't do by myself. But every bit counts, and I want to be sure that I'm giving 100% of what I have so that Heavenly Father can find some use for me.

Love you all!

Sister sticht, Su & daughter, and Anna in Chosei

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Transfer week!

Well, transfer calls happened. I'm staying in Chosei, but Sister Sticht is leaving me. I was pretty bummed but excited to find out that she's staying close by and transferring to Togane, our next-door neighbor! And she'll be my sister training leader along with Sister Willden - I love them both dearly and am looking forward to splits. I have been honorably discharged for now as STL, which is kind of weird because I've now been one for longer than not. But I won't miss the 2-hour long train rides to Honbu! My new companion is Sister Jones, from Australia, who I've met briefly but don't know much about. She came out about the same time as me so it should be fun!

This week was kind of crazy because it was O-bon, some big Japanese holiday where the spirits of dead ancestors come back to visit. So, everyone had work off, but was either traveling or refused to make appointments with us. We relied a lot on Skype, Facebook and surprise visits. One cool moment was when we visited Su, whose husband apparently doesn't like us because he thinks we're witchcrafting his wife. We knew he'd be home so we made a homemade puzzle for them (they LOVE puzzles) and came to drop it off. He was outside when we got there, shining his sweet-looking car, and Sister Sticht tried to bond with him by talking cars but we don't exactly have that vocabulary. I was zero help. So hopefully he could calm down and see how un-threatening we are.

Last P-day was awesome! We went to Onjuku, a famous surfing beach, and hung out on a giant towel and wrote letters. We also got to talk to Sue, who lives there, and she told us some cool stories about local traditions and history. It was a pretty windy day and we were covered in sand all week. Every once in a while we'll find more sand in our apartment or purses and say "Onjuku lives on!"

We got to spend more time with Kasu this week, which made me so happy. She's been really sick and will move away for about a month to be with family, and I just want her to get better so badly. She is an angel. I also got to meet her infamous dog Hope, who is completely psycho and totally spoiled. She's getting old so she has to wear diapers at night - see picture.

Another fun thing was going to ping-pong night with Ami Shimai. She hasn't been to church in a long time but was able to make some friends at the church (we very slyly invited one of the single men in the ward around her age and grinned all night as they went off in a corner and talked forever). She also kicked our butts at ping pong. Japanese people are all so much better at ping-pong, it's not fair. Also Elders are always really good. I swear they practice.

Other adventures this week... We flooded our apartment while trying to fix our washing machine. All the instructions are in kanji, and we spent a lot of time trying to look them all up and decipher them but still couldn't do it. We called some members and they came over and fixed it in like five minutes.

We did a lot of "pass-off lessons" this week with people we'd met who live in other areas, to introduce them to the missionaries who live in that area. One of the fun parts of riding trains all the time is meeting people from all over. I think dad asked me if navigating trains is easy - it's not, but you get used to certain stations and certain routes. We just use asking for help with trains as conversation starters, which sometimes helps but we've also been led astray a lot. If you ask a Japanese person for directions and they don't know, they will never just say "sorry I don't know." They'll lead you on a wild goose chase forever, often involving other people, until you either find your destination or pretend to find your destination to let them off the hook.

I would ask you to pray that I don't get lost without Sister Sticht to guide, but last time I asked that it didn't work so I won't bother. When I get lost I'll just try to make the most of it.

We had dinner with some awesome members last night - here's another picture. I don't have anymore.

Love you all! Have a good week

Hope, the psycho, spoiled and diaper-wearing dog

Dinner with awesome members of Chosei Ward

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 10, 2014 (Subject is the image of a surfer?!?)

Hey all,

I don't think I've ever spent so much time on trains in my life. Sometimes you meet super cool people on trains and have awesome conversations, and sometimes the people just really don't want to talk to you and it's extremely awkward. This week I met an awesome girl named Mi who lives near the beach, and we might see her today. I also got rejected hardcore by a lady who told me she had "an appointment with a friend in the next car over." Please, at least make up excuses that sound halfway credible.

But now, time for the miracles!! We had THREE baptisms in the Chiba South zone (consisting of Chosei, Togane and Kisarazu) this weekend. So awesome and happy and a great way to end the transfer (although we still have one more week). One of the Elders' investigators, So, got baptized here in Chosei. It was a lovely service except for the all-missionary choir singing A Child's Prayer that was pretty awful. Sort of nothing you can do about it - our schedules don't allow for much music practice time.

Also, do you remember the funny Kisarazu Eikaiwa student I was talking about a few weeks back? I met him on splits, and he kept referring to other nonmembers as "guests" while insisting that although he hadn't been baptized, he was basically a member. Well, he officially took his name off the guest list and was baptized over the weekend! He's so nice and will be a great addition to the branch there.

We also had a pretty sweet day at church. Su, the lady who couldn't come to church because her husband didn't like it, told us that he had work this Sunday so she wanted to come. She also came to the baptismal service beforehand! She continues to puzzle us and we're not really sure why she wanted to come to church, but happy that she did. Homu San also came for the second time, and loved it. She's so ridiculously sweet and loves everything that we teach her.

One of the best things that happened was when Tomi came to church. We met her through a mutual friend, and had talked a little on Facebook about Eikaiwa but nothing church-related yet. But when we invited her to church to see Sister Sticht sing, she said she'd come! So she showed up with her daughter, and they had a great time. I was playing the piano, so I couldn't see anything, but Sister Sticht told me that halfway through the second verse of the song ("I'm Trying to be like Jesus" in Japanese) that tears were running down Tomi's face. She messaged us afterwards and thanked us, saying that she felt something really special at church and that she'd been going through a really rough time. She said she felt healed. I think we were led to Tomi right when she needs it the most, and am so excited to continue to meet with her.

Other cool things this week: splits with Sister Willden (more MTC reunions!) and getting suuuuuper lost out in the middle of nowhere while it was dark. A policeman pulled us over and scolded us for not having bright enough lights. Sorry I'm poor and buy all my safety gear at the dollar store!

Picture: sometimes we make cake pops to give to people, and stick them in a cabbage head so that the chocolate can harden without touching anything. Creative geniuses.

Have a good week! The "typhoon" passed yesterday so we're fine. Maybe rained for 20 minutes. Japanese people are experts at freaking out about the weather.

Love, Anna

Sister Sticht excited about cake pops

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sorry it's late it's temple week

Hello again,

Today we went to the temple, then various other fun activities in Shibuya, so I'm pretty exhausted and am having trouble remembering what all I did last week. Currently we are sitting in a cafe, using their free wi-fi to finish up email while occasionally talking to Taz the barista. He read the plan of salvation pamphlet we gave him and said he'd pray but hasn't yet, so we are lovingly reprimanding him for that.

Lately everyone's been leaving us - Yu went to Kisarazu for the month with her kids, Iza is in Niigata for two weeks, and Shi left today for America. Thank goodness for Facebook and Skype - how on earth did missionaries do it back then? It was way sad to say goodbye to Shi - she's been one of our best friends here in Chosei. We got to go out for sushi with her and another very Americanized Japanese guy we met when we accidentally mistook his house for one of our investigator's. It was fun and we're hoping they fall in love.

We need some new friends. Fortunately we got to meet Ami Shimai this week, a less-active member who got baptized about six years ago I think. Both of the Elders felt like she should be visited while they were weekly planning, so they asked us to and we went over twice. The second time she was home, we were able to become friends, and she came to a barbecue at a members house with us that week! We were so happy. Another investigator came too, and we had fun watching the fireworks with them.

Speaking of fireworks, apparently it's party season in Japan right now. Every weekend there's a different summer festival going on with plenty of decorations, food, and girls walking around in yukatas (which are way cute but make you sweat to death). We were biking past a huge festival on Sunday and a man came out to tell us, in English, that everyone was welcome and it was all free. He explained a little bit about what was going on, asked if we had questions, and invited us to participate and told us what time it would be going until. Super nice! Afterwards we realized that he sounded kind of like us when we invite people to church.

We've been teaching Su san a lot recently, and she's causing us a bit of a headache with all the hard questions she asks. I'm glad she's a deep thinker, but find it difficult to stick to the basics during lessons like we want to when she always asks random questions (why is God a man, why there are so few women in the Book of Mormon, isn't it disrespectful to pray if she doesn't believe in God, etc.) Maybe the first feminist I've ever met in Japan (however, still says she can't come to church because her husband doesn't want her to). I've become very mistrustful of husbands.

One huge miracle this week was that I got to meet Kasu! She is the most angelic person I've ever met, and one of the main investigators in Chosei, but has been so sick this month that I hadn't gotten to see her yet. But she texted us Saturday night saying she could come to church the next day, and I finally got to talk to her. She is so sweet and lovely. The members all adore her, and were coming up to her all day. I love her so much already.

Funny thing spotted this week: a snack thief at the train station who snuck up behind these two guys and grabbed at the cookies they were holding, asking if he could have some while just going ahead and doing it at the same time. He then chewed for a while and talked about how delicious they were. The guys were struggling to keep straight faces and were basically waiting for him to leave so they could laugh.

Which happens to us a lot, by the way. Being a missionary just tends to lead to weird experiences. We were trying to find the house of a girl we met last week, biking out around the area, and sort of came across an old dairy farm. First time I'd ever seen cows in Japan. The few people out there seemed pretty suspicious of us and didn't really want to talk so then we left and started knocking on doors in a nearby neighborhood. Met a really funny old lady who, after we introduced ourselves, yelled for her husband to come and also called her sister-in-law next door to tell them that two foreigners had come all the way from America to give them a message and would they please listen. Not much interest and mostly talked to us about her ancestors but a very nice grandma.

This week has lots of train rides in store so we're buckling up for that. Trying to talk to people while battling motion sickness is a little tough but eh, whachagonnado.

Pictures: sushi, and the best purchase of the week. We got these neck towel things with ice packs inside that we wear on long bike rides, and they're awesome. Really go well with our helmets and crocs and other fashionable accessories.

Love you all!

Sushi goodbye meal for Shi

Anna and Sticht shimai with ultra-cool neckwear

Tokyo Zone Conference from June 2014 just published on mission blog.  Anna (front row third from left) is sitting next to her companion Yamauchi shimai (fourth from left)