Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MTC Week 5 -- I AM Sparky Boom Man!

I AM Sparky Sparky Boom Man!  (10 bonus points to anyone who gets the super Babylonian reference.  To those who don't, Book 3: Fire, of Avatar, the Last Airbender).

What does that have anything to do with anything?  Let me tell you.  Lately, members of the district have been choosing themes (nice qualities, spiritual gifts, spirit animals, fortune cookie fortunes, etc.) and choosing something from that theme for each member of the district and leaving it on their desks.  My fortune cookie fortune, for instance (courtesy of the lovely Sister Donnelly) was "It's nice to be nice to the nice, but it's nicer to be nice to the not nice."  (I wasn't sure if that meant I was supposed to be nicer, but apparently it means I'm super nice. Or something. :)  )  

My spirit animal is a cat.  Sister Colter's reasoning for that one was, "Well, Sister Harris doesn't like to be around people all that much..."  Maybe the reasoning for both of those doesn't seem to fit together very well, but they seem to fit, to omoimasu.  Anyways.  Sparky Sparky Boom Man.  Tenney and Jensen Chourou were choosing superheroes for everyone, and knowing that I am an avid Avatar fan and apparently finding some shocking similarities, they dubbed me Sparky Sparky Boom Man from Book 3.  Needless to say, I was delighted.  Also confused.  Their reasoning?  "We just get the impression that you could kill every one of us within a moment's notice.  Also, we can imagine you blowing stuff up with your mind.  And you're just so happy all the time, if you got angry, everything would probably spontaneously com bust."  I am pleased.  Slightly alarmed, but pleased.  It's all probably true. 

Sister Scheffler and I took our turns as well, choosing fitting Disney Characters for the lot. She came up with the characters, and I supplied the wording for the reasoning.  It was fun writing my own.  "Pocahontas:  Your Native American soul is one with nature, and you have an encouraging and energetic spirit that cannot be broken.  A hardy dose of obnoxious optimism and stubborn pigheadedness doesn't hurt either."   Bahaha.  One of our favorites was one we made for Malaska Chourou.  There's a redheaded girl at the MTC whom we have given the codename, Magma.  He's never spoken to her, but always says she's going to be his wife.  His Disney Character:  Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid.  The reasoning:  There's a redhead on the far off horizon.  You've never but, but it's sure to be destiny.  Your hipster charm will make it happen."  My companion, Sister Tenney, was Mulan, because "You're Asian, you can eat like a warrior, and you will bring honor to us all!" Some of them were simpler, like Tenney Chourou's:  "Aladdin...we can just see you with a monkey one day" or Lee Chourou's "Eugene (Flynn Rider).  Your name should probably just be Eugene." Needless to say, we were very pleased with ourselves.

Sore de (anyways, that being said, having been incredibly off topic),
Most of this week was pretty stinkin' wonderful.  Wednesday was the very best of it all!  Mills Kaichou (president), the director of all the international MTC's who served as a missionary and mission president in Japan, gave a devotional to all of the senpai and dai senpai Japanese speaking groups in the MTC.  It was easily my favorite devotional/talk, we've been given so far.

The overall topic was "The Power of Expectations" and how proper expectations change us.  After getting our calls, a lot of us heard "That's a great place to go, but you won't baptize very many people."  A few years ago, an apostle visited the MTC and invited anyone who had said such a thing to REPENT.  And if you have to repent of something, that means you're wrong.  This idea of few baptisms is WRONG.  The harvest is the LORD's, so the expectations should be the Lord's as well.  EVERY MISSION is a baptizing mission.  If we have the faith to let it become so.  He brought up Moroni 7:33:  "If ye shall have faith in me, ye shall have power to do anything which is expedient in me."  That doesn't mean if we have enough faith we can baptize everyone we come across.  It means that we can accomplish the LORD's expectations if we find out what they are.  

He told us that we should ask the Lord for what His expectations are in 4 ways.
1) Just ask.  Pray for recognizable feelings about Japan/*insert your need here*.
2)  Study the scriptures.  The Book of Mormon can be a personal Liahona.  The words don't change, but we do, and WHATEVER we think about while reading, we WILL receive revelation for.
3)  Study about the Savior and His Atonement.  Japanese people often immediately respond to our message with "kankenai" -- unrelated.  But nothing could be more relevant to this people.  In the Premortal Existence, every knee bowed and every tongue confessed and accepted Christ as the Savior of the world.  Christ is their elder brother and loves each and every one of them more dearly and more personally than we can even imagine.  EVERY Japanese man, woman, and child (and everyone at all, for that matter), is a Christian.  They just need to remember it.  Studying about the Savior and His Atonement will increase your knowledge of every doctrine as you grown closer to the Savior and utilize His Atonement more fully in your life.
4)  Seek revelation from those without priesthood keys.  Never go to an interview or a meeting without questions. Ask about specific investigators/needs/problems.  Ask if they can think of something you should focus on, etc.  Give them a chance to use their priesthood keys for you.

While these things about expectations were all wonderful (number 3 was especially powerful), the greatest part was what he said specifically about Japan.  Part of that was bits of President Heber J. Grant's prayer as he opened Japan to missionary work around 1900, which he later told his daughter was the greatest prayer he gave in his whole life. Think about it.  He was the PROPHET, and out of all the prayers he ever gave, the opening of the gospel to Japan was the greatest.  Possibly the best part of this meeting was something Heber J. Grant said:  "I have an abiding faith that [Japan] is to be one of the most successful missions ever established in the church.  It is going to be slow work at first, but the harvest is to be something great and will astonish the world in years to come.:  Wow.  One of the most successful missions EVER?  And this is comparing it to missions in South America and Africa and Utah!  AAAH!  This is the time it starts, I believe.  Except for Spanish, Japanese is the #1 foreign language in the Provo MTC right now. Japan is being flooded with missionaries, and "we offer blessings that are beyond price."  I hope it's now. I hope now is when the people begin to become really receptive.  I hope that I can have a part in the hastening of bringing the Japanese unto Christ.  If not, though, that's okay.  I can be a front runner to prepare the way of the Lord.  (But I can still hope!)  Still, the Lord's timing is his own.

Mills Kaicho also said that the Japanese people are changing.  The men are becoming loving fathers.  Their hearts are being softened.  They are being prepared to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have never been so excited in my LIFE!  I know for a fact that Japan is the place for me, and that the Lord really does need me there.   JAPAN!  COULD THIS BE ANY COOLER???  Probably no.  I'm so grateful for Japan and this gospel and missionary work, and I know that it's true!  I have to work harder, go farther, and be better!

We made it to our halfway point on Friday!  I'm halfway through the MTC--what the heck?!  There's a freaky time paradox going on here.  The days pass SO SLOWLY, but the weeks fly by.  It feels both like I just got here yesterday, and that I've been here forever. I leave for Japan in 4 WEEKS!  OH MY GOODNESS; HOW CAN I EVEN STAND THE EXCITEMENT AND OVERWHELMING NERVOUSNESS?!  Am I ready?  Probably not.  Good thing I have four more weeks.  I was super humbled on Sunday about my Japanese ability.  One of the Dai Senpai got up to give his talk on the Book of Mormon, and I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I was like, "Yeah.  I understand just about all of this.  I am WELL GOOD at Japanese."  And then one of the Nihonjin, native Japanese missionaries got up and started giving her talk, just speaking like it was no big deal. And then she got out the Book of Mormon and started reading.  SO.  FAST."  The entire congregation gasped and started to nervously whisper.  Let's just say I understood a lot less of that than the first talk.  (Okay, 0.  I understood nothing.  :)  )

Another crowning event of this week was Saturday, because: dundundundundun *drum roll PLEASE*  Honto na kyuudoshatachi!  WE TAUGHT REAL LIFE INVESTIGATORS!  Kyoukaiin ja NAI!  And we TAUGHT THEM!  For REALZ!  It was after TRC, where we teach volunteers in the language we're learning.  The volunteers are usually members, maybe even return missionaries who are sweet enough to help those of us who know absolutely nothing about this teaching thing. :)  Our volunteers, Atsushi Kyoudai and the Suzuki's were no exception.  (On Atsushi Kyoudai's feedback he wrote, "They were trying to say something.  It was great!"  Haha, we were trying.  Hard. Oh well. )  They were wonderful, but our lessons were nothing out of the ordinary.  Later that day, as we went to go study in 4M (the comfiest chairs on campus), we got stopped by a couple of teachers.  "We have too many volunteers today and are looking for more missionaries to teach them.  In English," they added after eying our name badges.  Well, we haven't taught in English in forever, but you really can't say no.  Now, as I've said, most TRC volunteers are members, but a few are people deciding if they want to investigate the church, but what were the chances of getting one of those.  We said a prayer and decided to teach the plan of salvation.

Then we walked in to meet *Julie and Stephen.  (Names have been changed).   Stephen had a big tattoo on his arm, and Julie explained how she is one of 4 nonmembers who got accepted to BYU law, and my brain staRTED GOING CRAZY. hOLY.  cOW. real investigators.    They were volunteering at TRC to decide if they wanted to take the discussions for real.  We could either help change their lives....or ruin them.  They, especially Stephen, asked so many hard questions, complicated, deep doctrinal questions!  We had all the answers, but if felt as if were were jumping all over the place.  We're still not entirely sure if most of the lesson was good or a disaster.  We were feeling unsure, until...we began to bear our testimonies.  When I began to testify about the truth of this Gospel and how it could help them, about the divine role of the Savior, about how families can be together forever, the entire atmosphere changed. The Spirit was thick in the air, and Julie especially seemed very drawn in. I think she felt something.  Tenney Shimai added an equally powerful testimony, and we asked them to get a copy of The Book of Mormon downstairs and read it, and we left.  Hopefully, they will realize that this is worth continuing to investigate.  We will probably never know what will become of them.  We can only continue to pray. :)

What a wake up call.  I AM a real missionary. RIGHT NOW.  And I need to get better at this teaching thing, at Japanese, at following the Spirit really quickly before I get to Japan. There are people desperately seeking for the truth, and I need to be prepared to help them.  These next 17 months? I have to make them count.

The church is true, everyone!  I promise!  I testify that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Savior of the world, and He loves and knows us  each individually.  There shall come a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.  Everyone on earth has already done so once, in the pre-existence.  We are not so much teaching people as we are inviting the Spirit to simply remind them.  This is the Lord's church, and His work is hastening!  I love what I am doing here, and I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be!  It's a good life.

The Church is true.  The Book is blue.
Ga dai suki desu!

Love, Sister Whitney

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why Mormon Youth Continue Attending Church As They Become Adults

Editor's note: This post by Sarah Shumway originally appeared on her blog, From DC to BC. It has been shared here with the author's permission.

As a part of the "millennial" generation, I read CNN's religion blog post "Why millennials are leaving the church" with great interest. The author explains how churches are trying to appeal to my generation through casual services, pastors in skinny jeans, and coffee shops in the meetinghouses — at the cost of teaching what constitutes the heart of Christianity.

With the ongoing cultural wars, pretentiousness, and seeming exclusivity, young people my age are struggling to find Jesus when they go to church.

Reading this article made me think carefully about how my faith, the Mormon church, is instituted. While I admit that our church leaders have their own struggles in retaining some who are my age, I think that the Mormon institution solves many of the problems that other millennials experience when attending church. This is my list so far, though it is hardly exhaustive:

1. We are taught to view our fellow members as our brothers and sisters. Just as we don't choose who our siblings are, neither do we choose whom we will worship with (it's all contingent on location). In fact, the first feature a visitor to a Mormon congregation may notice is that we address our fellow members as "brother" and "sister." This practice consciously reminds us that we should love and accept others in our faith as part of an extended family — regardless of socioeconomic background, political affiliations, race, etc. To partially accomplish this, our bishop (our congregational leader) assigns each member to visit fellow members at least once a month to share a spiritual message, as well as watch over their spiritual and physical welfare. Moreover, we feel a sense of responsibility in helping our fellow members who may be experiencing health difficulties, family crises or just need an extra hand with housework. I believe that this setup has taught me to be more loving and accepting towards others, as well as emulate Christ's behavior in my life.

  Click here to continue reading the article:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Week Four -- It was a good week!

It was a good week! It had some rough patches, but that's how  it usually is if you're doing it right, right?  Right.  That's what I'll tell myself.  Over all, though, it really was great.  I sound like a propaganda advertisement, but I really am living the dream here.  Sometimes I have a realization moment where I stop and have an internal freak out for a second.  It goes something like this:  "Holy cow.  I'm on a mission.  a MISSION.  With all of these people.  And in a month in a half, I'm gonna be in JAPAN!  ME!  ON THE MISSION I'VE DREAMED OF MY WHOLE LIFE!  AAAAH!"  For the most part it's pretty great.

This week, we said some pretty hilarious things in our lessons.  The main one of which was a response to investigator Kimura-san's question:  "What is happiness?"  (Also, what kind of question is that?  Is he a philosopher or something?  haha.)  Tenney shimai said "Kirei ni naru."  She was trying to say being clean, but the main definition of that word is "pretty."  So, being pretty is happiness.  No wonder she's so happy all the time!  Needless to say, Kimura-san was very confused, and we had to go a different route. :)

Suzuki-Kyoudai is my very favorite investigator (played by the fabulous Powell Sensei).  We heard that the other missionaries had been having a hard time getting him to pray, so we had an entire lesson sharing experiences about prayer and the importance of it.  We then asked him, "Do you have a desire to have a relationship with your Heavenly Father?  Do you desire to pray?"  (yes, I can say that in Japanese now...mostly).  His answer was a very sincere "Yes."  We taught him how, and he said a beautiful prayer about wanting to know the gospel is true.  (Spoiler alert: it IS true.)  We've hit a bit of a roadblock though. While teaching about eternal families, he brought up the a new fact that his father doesn't know he's meeting with the missionaries and might disown him if he finds out. How do you answer a question like that?  Wow.  After some discussion with senseis and a major bit of revelation, I decided to study Matthew 13:45-46.  The pearl of great price. This gospel is the pearl of great price.  It's worth it. This gospel, drawing closer to our Savior, is worth everything, everything we have, everything that we are, and everything we will be.  It's worth the sacrifice and more. In the end, it doesn't even end up being a sacrifice, because what we're given is so much more than we have ever given up.  We just need to share our testimonies of the wonderful blessings that the gospel brings and help him to gain a sure testimony for himself.

I was feeling a little inadequate about this and some other things, because I have had such an easy life.  I feel like I don't have any experiences to share!  I have always known the church was true. I have always had a family that was together and happy, and very few bad things have ever happened to me.  What I realized though is that Heavenly Father knows my life.  He knows what experiences I have, and there are people in Kobe who need to hear them from me.  (And they need to hear them in Japanese.)  With the Lord's help and His spirit prompting me, I am far from inadequate.  I am exactly what someone needs.  (And I'm sure, my time for trials will come.  I can't wait. haha.)

We also had a rough time at TRC (training resource center) this week.  I literally couldn't say ANYTHING, and anything I thought of sharing just didn't seem to apply at all.  I said a couple of sentences that didn't contribute and didn't even make sense. I walked out feeling beaten and bruised.  What I realized though, is that it stopped mattering right then.  One bad experience doesn't determine the rest of my mission. It doesn't even determine the rest of my day!  The rest of the day was pretty good after that.

I'm trying to stay positive.  I think that's something that college helped me a lot with.  They say, "Fake it 'till you make it," and that's kind of what it is.  I think it's just showing God that I trust Him enough to act happy.  I know that there are always things I should be happy about, and if I act like it, He'll show me a LOT of reasons.  For example, one Elder was having a particularly hard day and drew a face on the board saying, "I stink at Japanese."  When he left the room, I promptly erased it (even though I knew exactly how he felt) and replaced "stink" with "will ROCK" at Japanese!  He came back in, sighed with a smile and said, "That is such a Sister Harris fix."  I sure hope so.  I hope that I can have a positive attitude and be able to uplift others around me.  It's hard sometimes, but that's what we gotta do!

Also, there were some wonderful tender mercies of the Lord this week. First of all, I have never tasted better tater tots!  Not even kidding!  They had that perfect, elusive crunch that is nearly impossible to obtain!  I had to share mine with Donnelly Shimai or I would have inhaled 10 pounds worth on the spot.  haha.  Also, I shared this with the picture, but I held PUPPIES on Sunday, and they were so cute!  Their names were Dori and Jasmine (the black one), and we were all so happy we couldn't even contain ourselves. God loves us.  And may He forever bless the wonderful family sitting by the temple who was willing to share.

Do you want me to share how they choose who talks on Sunday?  It's pretty horrible really.  After the Sacrament, they call up two people from the branch (there are about 50-70ish of us) to give a 2-3 minute NIHONGO...about the week's topic.  So we have to prepare a talk every week.  Every week, I've been certain it was going to be me, but this week I was REALLY CERTAIN.  First of all, it was our first week as Senpai, the intermediate group.  (A big group of new Kohai came in, including Elder Simmons, Elder Wright's roommate from BYU. He's pretty awesome.  Tokyo was his dream mission and he got it!  He's right down the hall.  Also, there are two AUSTRALIAN sisters.  If they could just talk to be all day, that would be great, thanks.)  Second of all, President and Sister Mack, our Branch Presidents, came and sat by us at lunch. I was sure I was toast.  They asked about our lives and other *weird* things like that ;), and then asked how all of our talks were.  Because I'm a jerk, I said, "You  know, out of all of us, I'm sure Budge Choro's talk is by FAR the best!" and everyone quickly agreed with me.  We threw him under the BUS.  So, I was certain it was going to be me or Budge Choro.  I freaked out during the first 20 minutes of sacrament meeting, until they announced who would speak.  Hallelujah, it wasn't me after all.  Tender mercies once more.  It's me for sure next week, though. ;)

On a more serious note, I had a realization about just how wonderful this gospel is during a district meeting discussion.  We watched a Mormon Message about enduring to the end and the hardships that people endure.  There is so much hardship in the world. I've lived such an easy life, but most people, right now, are enduring something hard.  However, what this gospel can do for people is INCREDIBLE.  At some point, everyone goes through something--maybe many things--that seem unbearable, and heartbreaking.  But Christ has come to heal the broken-hearted.  It is his news that we bring, that there IS a Balm in Gilead, and we can be happy and whole forever.  And that's why I'm here.  I love the Savior.  I have seen what He can do for me, and I want to bring others unto Him.

Another thought about trials:  every trial that we have had to endure, the Savior Himself has had to suffer.  My God is all powerful.  My God is all loving.  My God is all knowing.  If He is all these things (and He is) and His son had to suffer for my trials, how can I question their worth?    Isn't that alone enough to realize that there is a reason behind every trial?  All things shall work together for our good. It was been PROMISED.

For our Sunday devotional, Rosemary Thacker, a BYU professor, talked to us about prioneers.  One story I didn't think much about until Sister Colter brought it up again.  It's about a little Swedish girl that was sent to Zion ahead of her family.  No one met her at the train station, and she was left alone, praying that God would send someone who would understand her.  What she knew already is that although the people around her couldn't understand her, her Father in Heaven always could.  Shortly after, a woman arrived, seraching for someone she recognized, until she found the little Swedish girl. She had been prompted to come to the station, and had found her Sunday School Student from a year before. The Lord not only sent someone who could understand the little Swedish girl, but someone that she knew.  In 5 1/2 weeks, I'm going to be that little Swedish girl (and I am part Swedish).  I'm going to be in a foreign country where people won't be able to understand me very well yet.  But God has sent the ultimate comfort, my Savior Jesus Christ.  He not only understands me, He knows me.  He knows my name, and whatever I need, He gives me.  Christ is my greatest friend, and I know that He cares for us each, one by one, more than anything, more than we could every imagine.  I pray I can bring as many people as possible to the knowledge of that.

The time to go has come once again.  Just remember,
The church is true.
The Book is blue.
Tell your friends.
Ga dai suku desu!
Love, Sister Whitney :)

It's Picture Time!

Blazer day!  
A nice picture of us in our blazers.  (A day without matching is a day wasted.)

I got pictures with people!
Tenney Shimai and I with Elder Kingston and his companion.  In the dark. You take what you can get.

Here we are with Elder Bunn and companion.  Yay awkward photos in grubby P-Day clothes!  (This pics was from this morning.  How fortuitous.)
Elder Dialogue and his companion with Sister Tenney and me (wearing the new outfit Nana Rose sent me. Thanks Nana Rose!)
Our hard core picnic party on P-Day attempting to spell Japan with our hands.  Didn't go too well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Article in The Salt Lake Tribune: Inside the Missionary Training Center: Boot camp for Mormons

Missionaries-- Young foot soldiers learn to spread the word in dozens of dialects through the common language of faith. 

By Peggy Fletcher Stack

The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published July 12, 2013
Provo-- The 35-acre campus is an island of young people, where teens and 20-somethings outnumber grown-ups by 10-to-1.

Sure, the place is awash in fresh-faced students, but even the workers — from the cafeteria to the copy center, the mailroom to the bookstore — and most of the teachers are under 30.

It’s no "Animal House," though, with raucous frats, food fights and binge drinking. This is Mormonism’s premier Missionary Training Center, where the men wear white shirts and ties, the women don modest skirts and dresses and everyone is expected to heed the rules.
It ranks second among the nation’s largest on-site language schools, behind only the U.S. Defense Department’s Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.
Mormons have "perfected their language training through years and years of experience and feedback," says Col. Derek Tolman, commander of Utah National Guard’s linguistic unit, who is familiar with both systems. "The Missionary Training Center is excellent at teaching the fundamentals in a short time. The students are highly motivated and the learning curve is amazing."

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

MTC Week Three Letter

Earlier this week, I was feeling kind of stressed again for the first time since the beginning.  (It just goes to show you that we need a constant reminder with everything we do.  We can't just gain a testimony of a principle once.  We have to exercise it over and over again until it becomes an integral part of us.)  We were supposed to be teaching, and I didn't have a clue how to say anything I wanted in Japanese, and our lesson from the night before had not gone as I wanted it too!  I knew that I needed to focus on having the Spirit with me and relying on the Lord, but I didn't know how!  I went to bed that night frustrated, but then remembered a scripture in Alma I found during Book of Mormon class last semester: Alma 29:4 "I ought not to harrow up in my desires, the firm degree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction."  What this says to me is that God gives us what we want, whatever we want (to an extent).  If we really want money, then one day we'll have it.  If I want to have a good time here, then I'll have a good time!  But, by wanting these things, I am hindering myself from receiving greater blessings that God is willing to give me.  That night, I got down on my knees and told the Lord my desires.  I said, "More than anything else tonight, I desire to have thy Spirit with me.  I desire to be able to focus on and trust in thee rather than focusing on Japanese, and if I don't desire it enough, help me desire it more, because I know with all of my heart that thou wilt help me.  I desire to be a good missionary."  The next day was one of the best days I've had here at the MTC.  I didn't even do anything different that I could tell, but the Spirit was more strongly with me, and I was able to testify more strongly, and our lesson went really well.  Our investigator was left with a deep and sincere desire to pray and from a relationship with his Father in Heaven.  I promise to anyone that desires anything righteous, whether it is to be more charitable or understand the scriptures more, that if you desire it, and pray for it, that God will help you.

We had our first TRC (teaching resource center) this week and we were absolutely terrified.  We're "teaching" real members, and we are still kind of useless at Japanese.  We got a Hawaii'an guy that Tenney Shimai knew from some Polynesian friend of hers (I swear, everyone from anywhere Polynesian knows everyone else), and it was actually wonderful!  We started our really rocky, having absolutely no idea what to say, but once we began talking about the Atonement and sharing scriptures, it was wonderful!  The Spirit was there so strongly!   And when our guy was speaking, he would repeat more difficult words in English and help us say what we wanted to say in Japanese.  At one point, Sister Tenney was sharing an experience about the Atonement and I had no idea what she was saying, but I had a feeling that I should look up and share a scripture I had read earlier that day: D&C 19:16-18 "For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they  might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink."  Apparently, Tenney Shimai was talking about how being an older sister helped her understand the Atonement better, and how she would take any pain to stop her little sisters from suffering, and this backed it up perfectly.  It just goes to show that this work is important enough that God really is watching out for us...even when we're completely clueless. :)

We had a district picnic today, which was just about the best idea ever.  We all gathered outside of a building, got sack lunches, and brought all of our food from packages out to share and goof off.  Our district is so great!  you've probably gotten that from all that I've said and the pictures I've sent, but we really do have the best district ever.  Every single Elder and Sister here has a firm knowledge of the truth of this gospel and a great desire to share it.  After devotionals, we're one of the few districts that has a real discussion instead of a one by one testimony meeting, and the spirit is so strong!  The comments that everyone makes range from deep and insightful to artistically simple and ringing of truth and testimony.  Every day these Elders and Sisters edify me.

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be here!  I love this gospel so much, and I can't wait to bring the people of Japan to our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, who knows and loves us each individually, one by one.

The Church is true; the Book is blue.  Tell your friends. I love you all!

Love, Sister Whitney Harris
Kobe, Japan bound

Week Three in the MTC!

Sister Harris explains her week three pictures:

All of the Shimai and Malaska Chourou in yellow.

The BYU crew! Sister Crofts, me, and Elder Wright from 127th YSA ward at BYU (and a random guy he grabbed, because we learned that elders and sisters can't be alone in pictures together).

Sister Crofts, Sister Cox, and Sister Grant were my first Sister Training leaders.  Sister Crofts was also so sweet and optimistic and always smiling.  You couldn't talk to her without feeling better about yourself!  She left for Nagoya, Japan yesterday morning with the rest of the Dai Senpai.

Our newly decked out classroom!
So, for the past 3 weeks, our room has been boring and depressing, bare and depleted.  But, three rooms of dai senpai left on Monday morning.  We took some stuff from their room, called it good, and left for the night on Sunday, but came back Monday morning to find that they had completely decked out our room with DOZENS of pictures, two clocks, a giant map, a Japanese flag, and everything imaginable!  It's INCREDIBLE, and now everyone is jealous!  I'm almost jealous of us!  It's incredible just to be in here.  We were lucky that there were no senpai (the group younger than the dai senpai and older than us) in our room to give everything too. :)

 Me and my package!  I was so excited, it was like Christmas!
This one's not a great picture, but it's got a great story!  When we leave the room to study, we're supposed to write where we are on the board, so I wrote "H + T (for Harris and Tenney) Shimai next door-ish."  We forgot to erase it before class started, and Powell Sensei wrote those Japanese Hiragana characters next to it saying, "I want to hear an explanation."  We were so confused about why he would want an explanation of that!  We told him at the end of class, and he blushed bright red!  He thought it said HoT Shimai next door, and was concerned for our class.  The classes next door had been empty, so he had no idea what hot shimai the district had supposedly been pointing out, that is NOT a missionary mindset, and was immensely relieved that wasn't an issue after all.  Everyone in the class was laughing hysterically, and our new District Leader, Budge Chourou, turned bright pink from laughing and could hardly even breathe.

That's all of the pictures for now!  I'll write later!