Tuesday, December 16, 2014



Can you believe this is my last letter home as a missionary? I can't. People ask me sometimes if it "feels real yet" and the answer is always no. I don't think I will ever feel like I'm home until I see you all at the airport.

Although, I have slowly come to terms with the fact that I'm leaving. This week was filled with sooo many goodbyes - last lessons, last church talk, last Eikaiwa, going out to eat for the last time. Too much food. I never want to eat again. And the Japanese people really outdid themselves by proving their gift-giving reputation to be very true. I've been showered with presents all week, many of which were really surprising and touching. I swear you never know how much you mean to people until you leave.

I haven't really imagined what it will be like not to be a missionary anymore - waking up in the morning and not putting on my badge, not feeling a weird pressure to talk to every person I sit/stand next to, not biking for a hundred miles from place to place every day. I hope I will find a happy medium of accepting that my mission is over, and it's time to move on, yet still applying to my life everything that I learned out here and hopefully keeping up some of the good habits I've made. One thing I've been working on is living for the present, not the past or future. Missionaries who count the days until they go home are sad missionaries, and RMs who do nothing but think about those best two years in the past are also unhappy. This life is so short, and it's made shorter by wasting our time not being happy right where we are.

That doesn't mean I'm not excited to see you. But I want to enjoy my time left here too! Tomorrow I will go to Tokyo and become companions with Yamauchi Shimai again. We'll have all day Thursday to work together in Tokyo (hopefully meeting up with some Senzokuike friends!) and then go back to the mission home for a dinner/testimony meeting with all the returning missionaries.

Love you all so much!! This will be the best Christmas ever. I have only two requests for  when I come home: 1) no one comment on how chubby my face has gotten, and 2) it'd be nice if there was a new kitten waiting for me at home.

Love, love, love, Anna

Having fun a few weeks ago in Shibuya

Cutting open a dragonfruit

Reeder Shimai and Anna at a farewell meal

Anna, Reeder Shimai, and lots of friends at another farewell meal

Monday, December 8, 2014

Winter Has Arrived

Helloooo everybody!

Another busy week. And a COLD one. I was reminded of my Niigata days of putting hot hands inside our wool socks inside our insulated boots. For some reason the drug stores here think it's too early to start selling heat packs, and we had a very freezing weekend full of numb feet.

It must be election season or something in Japan, because everywhere we go there are these big vans with posters on the sides and loudspeakers on the top, proclaiming how great a certain politician is. One of the vans parked right outside our window at like 7:45 on Sunday morning and was LOUD. Seems like a good way to get people to not want to vote for you. For such a reserved people, the Japanese have some very in-your-face advertising methods.

I've actually been doing some reflecting lately on what lessons I've learned from being in Japan. Things I've learned from being a missionary are endless, but there are a few that come uniquely from the funny, beautiful culture here. I'll list a few:

1) A little compliment goes a long way. The Japanese adore giving and receiving compliments, something that I'm not very good at. You'd be surprised how happy you can make someone just by telling them how well they do something.

2) It is good to have reverence for things. Japanese people are much more careful with their possessions than we are, and I hope to be better at not carelessly tossing my coat or phone on the ground when I get home. They're also much more mindful of garbage.

3) It's a REALLY good idea to take off your shoes before entering a house. Everyone hates vacuuming.

4) We could all do a little better at dressing more nicely. Maybe it's just because I'm used to west coast grunge, but I feel like everyone here looks more professional than at home. Very rare to see someone walking around in pajamas, or trashy outfits.

5) The more you know about something, the more you can love it. The longer I'm here, the more tiny pieces are added to my puzzle of understanding and I'm slowly able to more fully accept the culture and customs. Things that used to seem weird start to make sense and even be beautiful. Japan will forever have a special place in my heart, and I hope to continue to learn about it even after I go home. Guess Dad assured that would happen by signing me up for a kanji class.

Number five goes for anything, really. We're told in the scriptures that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3) because we cannot love them until we know them. People tell me all the time it's hard to pray, because they don't know who God is. We have to come to know Him, by reading His words in the scriptures, and keeping His commandments, and then love will grow in our heart. We'll slowly come to understand and appreciate His ways, just as children learn to appreciate their parents after they move out of the house and grow up a little.

That's really the only thing we do as missionaries - help people come to know God and Jesus Christ. We can't have spiritual experiences for someone else, or control their actions. Any person on the street is just as capable as I am of strengthening their own faith. The only thing I have that they don't yet is knowledge of the Restored Gospel, and it is my job to help them know. After they know, they can believe, and love.

I love all of YOU! Merry early Christmas

PS Na is having doubts about baptism, and we're not really sure what's up. Please pray that she'll be able to overcome her fears.

Sister Reeder attempts to fillet fish from the grocery store

Sisters Chandler, Jones, Reeder & Anna in the center of Tokyo

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 1, 2014 (No Subject)

Hello everyone!

Another great week. I don't have much time so I'll just give a rundown -

Monday: Shopping. First trip to Mr. Donuts in months. Lunch and lesson with Ka Shimai at a member's house, which was so awesome. Ka Shimai has been struggling to come to church lately, and the answer was the same as it is in 99% of people's cases: love. When they feel love, they come.

Tuesday: Zone conference! Always great to hear from President Budge, and since this conference was our Christmas one we did some caroling together. I bore my "last testimony" with all the other returning missionaries, which was weird. It still doesn't feel like I'm going home. Since a few other elders were translating as well (conferences are held in English, and translated into Japanese for a few missionaries wearing mic headsets) I only had to do a short part, and luckily not for president Budge. He's a very animated speaker, with lots of quick little jokes, and I think he'd be hard to keep up with.

Wednesday: talked with our friend Eli, from France, at Japanese class. Showed the new "He is the Gift" Christmas video with one of our friends after Eikaiwa, which was a really sweet moment until one of the Elders' investigators came over and asked us a random question about where Santa Claus comes from. This man, A san, wants to get baptized and has been coming to church every week, and I really want to root for him and support him but he's kind of really crazy and sort of too obsessed with me and Sister Reeder. Maybe this is a test of my charity and patience.

Thursday: Delivered some mini sweet potato pies to investigators for Thanksgiving, and got to see Na (14-year-old) for the first time in a while. She is so awesome, and wants to be baptized in December! She isn't sure if her dad will give permission, so we'll have to meet him sometime. Scary. But Na is worth it - I don't even know why she has such a strong desire to learn more about Jesus Christ and follow His example. Obviously she'd been prepared to find the gospel lonnnnng before we got here.

Friday: Splits! I went to Togane to work with Sister Dopp, who I've been in the same zone with for a while but had never been on splits with before. We had a good time and I learned a lot from her. Every sister missionary has a different story on why they chose to serve a mission, and I love hearing everyone's stories.

Saturday: best day ever! Lots of good things happened, but the most awesome was our Thanksgiving potluck party. We thought of having a dinner party a while ago, mostly as a way to get the Wats to interact with some more members, and we're thinking maybe three or four couples, plus us. But when we told our ward mission leader about it, it became this huge ward activity and there were TONS of people and food! Lots of Eikaiwa students came and became good friends with the members there. Even members who couldn't make it came to drop off food, it was so sweet. One lady even spent 4+ hours cooking a Costco turkey with stuffing. So, I'm 2 for 2 with having a real Thanksgiving in Japan!! Definitely something to be grateful for. Sister Reeder was a champ and helped me make pies during basically every lunch and dinner hour all week, so we totaled with 1 pumpkin pie (made with real pumpkin, because we couldn't find canned) and 4 sweet potato pies (2 recipes worth, made mini sized). They were all delicious.

Sunday: got to watch the primary program! Our ward has a total of three primary-aged children, so they all had lots of lines. Visited people all afternoon. Ate Thanksgiving leftovers.

Monday: brought Su a cake for her birthday. Visited investigators. Spread Christmas cheer since it's officially the season.

Tuesday: went to the temple! I originally thought last time would be the final one, so it was nice getting to go again. Afterwards all the sisters had a clothing exchange, and we went to get Indo curry with Sisters Jones and Chandler. Also took a bunch of funny pictures. We showed two girls the He is the Gift video on the train home - just look for people using headphones and ask them to plug them into your iPad! It was cool. Great video.

Pictures! Part of our Thanksgiving crowd, and Sister Reeder and I in Shibuya.

Thanksgiving potluck at Chosei Ward building

Anna & Reeder Shimai in Shibuya after Anna's final Tokyo Temple trip