Monday, November 24, 2014


Can't believe another week has come and gone. Someone told me that they heard that even after a mission, time continues to go faster and faster, but I sincerely hope they're wrong and it'll slow down a little when I'm home. At this rate I'll have grandchildren by next week.

One scary thing about time passing by so fast is me wanting so badly to see one last, amazing Christmas miracle before I go home. At our last zone meeting, we talked a lot about focusing on "the one", and made a goal of each missionary helping one of their friends be able to get ready for baptism by Christmas. Sister Reeder and I were a little worried because even though we always have plenty of people to teach, nobody really stood out as that "one" who was ready. We want so badly to use our time well and follow God's will, so we decided to fast together in order to know who she should focus on. We saw an amazing miracle that day when we ran into Yu, a 15-year-old girl we'd previously met at the eki and become friends with on Facebook. She saw the Book of Mormon Sister Reeder was carrying and said, "you have one of those? So do we. My mom got it from a friend and reads it." We have no idea who the friend is, but are so excited to meet Yu's family and talk about it with them! We were actually supposed to meet them all on Thursday, but they cancelled because of the rain. Hopefully that will get rescheduled for this week!

Another cool moment happened when Sister Reeder and I were discussing how we wanted to try to teach Tomi, the unbaptized daughter of a less-active member. We've ran into her a few times lately, and she is very kind and has fond memories of going to church when she was younger. I remembered that a few months ago, I was convinced that my two focus people were Tomi (mother of 2) and Yu (mother of 4), and was so disappointed when they told us they didn't really have time/interest for church right now. I couldn't figure out why Heavenly Father would let me be SO sure it was them. But then I realized that now, our two new focus people have the same names - Tomi and Yu. But they're students instead of moms. I still don't know God's plan, but maybe He just wanted me to remember those names so that I could recognize their significance later.

And so, again I was humbled and learned that when I think I have things figured out I usually don't. Every major life decision I've made in the last few years has been different than my former "set-in-stone plan." Who knows what I'll even be doing in a few years?

The weather has fluctuated the past few days, but we did have one really rainy, cold day. Actually that was the day that Yu cancelled... I will never understand why people think they're doing us a favor by canceling for bad weather. Thanks a lot, now I'll be knocking on doors in the downpour. Actually that's exactly what we did, and poor Sister Reeder's hands were so numb that she couldn't feel this one doorbell. Thinking she kept missing it, she rang it at least ten times, and the look on the people's faces when they came outside was priceless. Actually we could see through a window later that their daughter was studying the flyer pretty intently. Wouldn't that be sweet if they came to church after that? It'd be a hilarious conversion story.

I got a pretty scary phone call yesterday from one of the assistants, asking me to translate during tomorrow's zone conference. I've never translated before and am beyond nervous. I don't know who's bright idea it was to nominate me, but I would like to ask for any and all prayers. I tried to practice a few times today, watching conference talk videos in English and muttering what I thought they would be in Japanese, and it was a royal disaster.

Love you all! Have a very happy Thanksgiving, and I hope I can show you pictures of the delicious holiday pies we make this week. We bought lots of flower, shortening, nutmeg and other supplies at the grocery store today in preparation.

No new pics this week. Enjoy some throwbacks - this is Tomi (dyed hair) with her mom and a friend at the Halloween party.

Anna and Jones Shimai with Yu, Yu's mom and a friend at Halloween

Reeder Shimai and Anna

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm back


Another crazy week. We had highs, and lows, but overall a week full of love and goodness. On Friday, we were in the middle of a lesson when we got the very sad news that our bishop had passed away from a heart attack. It was very sudden and unexpected, and hard for the family he left behind. But friends and church members, both active and inactive, came from all over to support the family and pay their respects at the funeral service we had today. It was a very good atmosphere... As most funerals are, actually. I've been to quite a few in the last few years, in churches of different faiths, but they are all similar in that they focus on the positive and the hopeful. I know Bishop's wife misses him terribly, but she has found so much comfort in the fact that their marriage is forever, and she will see him again.

As a strange coincidence/not coincidence, when we got the news we were in the middle of teaching Su san about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. How it can heal us, and make right everything that isn't fair in this life. She's still pretty stubborn and I don't know how much of it she believed, but I was overcome with gratitude for my Savior as I promised her that because Christ suffered for her sins, and gave His life, she could one day be resurrected and perfected so that she could live with her Heavenly Father. Some people say that religion was created by man in order to comfort us in times of sorrow, but I say that no human who ever lived could ever be capable of inventing something so perfect and beautiful as the Atonement.

On a less serious note, we did some pretty cool things this week. An Eikaiwa student invited us to the "Mobara International Friends" party, which was really fun and a great opportunity to meet people. There weren't that many foreigners there except for a ton of filipinas, but there were tons of Japanese moms who like gaijin and want their kids to learn English. We barely had to approach anyone, because they all approached us! "Where are you from? What are you doing in Japan? Do you teach English? Will you take a picture with my children?" It was awesome. I guess not everybody was charmed by us though - one lady from Jamaica took one look at our badges, rolled her eyes and said "ohhh, you're Mormons!" So sassy. It was funny. She actually apologized later, and was really nice.

One small, random blessing this week: it has been getting harder and harder to ride my bike this last month, and rides that used to be easy left me out of breath. I was way worried that I wasn't getting enough protein, or was sick somehow, or just getting weaker - but then I had the bright idea to check my back tire, which was super flat. Sometimes the answer is so simple. So biking isn't quite as excruciating anymore!

We also had the really great opportunity to go out to lunch today with the Isas, some family friends of Sister Reeder's. Her family used to live in Japan when her dad was in the Air Force, and they've kept in touch with the Isas, who have been waiting to see her ever since they heard she got called to the Tokyo mission. They used to be mission presidents of the Hiroshima mission a few years ago, and had really good advice and stories for us. I never fail to be impressed with the members here in Japan - their courage, and faith, and examples.

Love you all! Here's a picture of a folk dance from the Philippines. Until next week!

Fillpinas folk dancing at the Mobara International Friends party

Monday, November 10, 2014


Hello! Wow, what a crazy week. Transfer weeks always are. So many goodbyes to be said, and then introductions, and rushing around trying to do a million things at once. I know you're all wondering about my new companion, so I'll give a brief Sister Reeder intro. She's 20, went to BYU, from Utah (first companion from Utah! Crazy) and on transfer 4. And I love her. So smiley, and fun, and a great attitude about everything. I know this last transfer is going to be awesome.

One of the coolest goodbyes: We went to the Wats' house (funny Eikaiwa couple) for dinner, and it is probably the coolest and most Japanese house I've ever been in. They are both retired and have a million hobbies. We got to try out their huge taiko drum, and koto (the long stringed instrument) and, best of all, they've both been reading the Book of Mormon! It was cool to hear them talk about "Smith san" (Joseph Smith). Dinner was also delicious and I've never been so full in my life.

The place we met other missionaries for transfers was 2 hours by train each way, so Thursday was mostly a day of talking to people on the train. Sister Jones and I met a funny lady who was on her way to a hot spring, and seemed shocked (like everyone else here) that we can't go to them. I just can't ever imagine wanting to chill naked with my whole family in an outdoor hot tub.

Thursday night we had our monthly music night, to which a lady came that Sister Jones met on splits. She brought two friends, and the trio performed a couple songs on guitar, harmonica, and Chinese violin. I've had a week very full of traditional Asian music. Fitting that last Monday was a national holiday celebrating culture!

Sister Reeder and I had a weird experience on Saturday when we met two women on their way to a festival, and they invited us to come along. We went with them, trying to see if we could start a conversation about church, and ended up at a very Buddhist gathering of what must be the only actively practicing Buddhists in all of Chiba prefecture. Each denomination was wearing a different color yukata top, almost like a jersey, and we were introduced to a Buddhist monk who spoke very good English. They wanted us to join their march, and we soon realized that no one there was going to want to learn about Jesus Christ so we made a speedy exit. But they were nice and we got free soup.

Sunday was also a great day! Su came to church, and so did our friends the Nagas. They always come to ping-pong night but recently have more interest in church. Today they took us to a kimono shop where we got to try on real silk kimonos and have a photo shoot! I think people normally aren't really allowed to do that without paying anything, but Jun (the wife) sort of sweet-talked her way into it. She just has that effect on people. By the time we left she was best friends with all the women working in the shop! Someday she'll make a great Relief Society president. It was a really fun day.

Lots of pictures, for once! Here's me trying to play the koto, Sister Jones with the Wats, music night trio, and our Chosei District photo shoot.

Love you!!

Anna tries to play the koto at the Wats' home

Jones shimai and the Wats after a delicious dinner

Trio at Chosei music night with Chinese violin, harmonica and guitar

Chosei district tries on kimonos and has a photo shoot

Anna and Reeder shimai try on kimonos

Monday, November 3, 2014

Transfer call results!

Transfer calls came. Like we thought, I'm staying. But we didn't see Sister Jones transferring! Interestingly, she'll be going to Oyama, and working with our old roommate Sister Chandler. I always wondered if I'd be sent back to Oyama for my last transfer. We were way shocked, especially since President Budge told me during interviews this week that he thought we'd both be staying. Never trust anyone! My new companion is Sister Reeder, who I've never met but seems nice.

One cool thing though - Sister Jones got a really strong impression to stand up and bear her testimony in church yesterday. She told me she felt like if she didn't, she'd regret it. A lot of members thanked her afterwards, and I know now that she's so happy she got that last chance. We were 99% sure at that time that neither of us were leaving, but it just goes to show that the Spirit knows things better than we do.

We've had a pretty crazy day and I don't have much time, so I'll make a list of good/interesting/weird things that happened to me this week.
  • Had dinner at a member's house, and got to hear their very funny how-they-converted and how-they-met stories. The husband was actually a raging alcoholic when he met the missionaries, and his life turned a complete 180. I guess he still likes nonalcoholic beer though, and he offered us some. I said no thanks just because it felt weird but he insisted somewhat forcefully that we taste it. Pretty pleasant, actually. Probably not what real beer tastes like but I have no way of knowing.
  • Went to our last District meeting of the transfer, and then District lunch afterwards at a member's really classy restaurant. To give you an idea of how fancy it was, we were offered warm, wet towels that smelled like eucalyptus oil when we walked in.
  • Taught the plan of salvation to one of our coolest investigators, Ka san. She listens so intently when we teach, asking questions to make sure she understands, and really applies the teachings. It's awesome to watch. She didn't even seem to phased when the member we had with us got into some reeeeally deep doctrine about the origin of Satan and the Second coming of Christ.
  • Got a phone call from this funny lady who we met a few weeks ago, telling us that she knows of a single man around our age and it might be a good "chance." This lady has zero interest in church but for some reason calls us/shows up at the church a few times a week just to say hi.
  • We finally got to meet Sho, a super sweet lady who the other sisters were teaching, and who we'd been unable to meet until now because we'd been knocking on the wrong apartment door this whole time. Oops. Better late than never!
  • Having Toya san come to church after a long time of not wanting contact with the missionaries. The only thing we did was come bring her homemade donuts on her birthday! Sometimes people just need a little love.
In other news, today is Culture Day in Japan so we went over to check out a free concert in the local community center. We watched a few numbers of people playing a koto, an old stringed Japanese instrument. The first act was pretty cool (see picture) but the second act was a little painful for my ears. Sister Jones and I couldn't tell if the group was messing up a lot, or if we just weren't accustomed to that type of music. But once the number was finished, we looked at our Eikaiwa friend who we were sitting next to and the look on her face told us everything. It was way funny.

Also one of the couples that come to Saturday Eikaiwa brought a Taiko drum to class, and I got to try it out. It's an action shot, so blurry.

Love you all! Can't wait to give an awesome update next week.

Koto concert at the Chosei Culture Day celebration

Ana tries taiko drumming at eikaiwa

Ru's step-mom was baptized in Senzokuike recently!