To start things off, I have a funny little story about pushups yesterday. As you already know, Sister Donnelly and I have been working on the hundred pushups challenge and have two weeks left to reach 100 in a row. Sister Colter has also joined us.
It's on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule to allow time for rest in between, and Monday is the hardest. yesterday, clearly, was monday. Our sets were 18, 28, 24, 24, and the big 42+. Or something like that. Usually, it starts off easy and then gets hard, but yesterday, Sister Donnelly and I could feel the burn from pushup number one. Oh dear. I was worried. If the beginning sets were starting off hard, how on earth was I going to do the last one?
At the end of the second set of 24, I collapsed on the ground, not burnt out, but not feeling like I could do 42+ after a measly minute rest by any means. And then I thought, "You know what? I'm going to pray about it. I have nothing to lose by doing that." And so I did. Collapsed down on the ground, I asked God for help, explaining that I was trying to better my body along with my spirit and that I needed His help to accomplish this goal, however silly it may be.
After the break was up, Sister Donnelly and I rose, prepared for the task. I did 68. SIXTY-EIGHT. On Friday, with an easier set of pushups, my last set had only been 52. And it wasn't easy. The pushups still hurt. I did the last 15 slowly and quaking, one by one, but I did it. The most I had been hoping for was 43.
And I had a silly revelation: Through God, we can do so much more than we ever could by ourselves, more than we could even expect to do by ourselves. This is why we let the Lord set the expectations, why we ask for help in everything. He cares about us. He cares about our silly goals and our huge challenges because He loves us more than we can imagine. If He is willing to help me with pushups, how much MORE willing is he to help me with spreading His gospel? How many more amazing things can I do than I ever could have dreamed if I will but ask Him and fear not? Guess who's praying before every push up challenge? This Sister. :)
Wednesday? probably one of the busiest days of my LIFE! We taught 3 lessons, hosted, and taught TRC by Skype. To sum it all up, our first two lessons weren't too bad, I don't think I ruined any young missionaries lives by hosting although I will most certainly not be hosting (touring new missionaries around and taking them to their classrooms and stuff) again, and Skype was the biggest fail of our MTC experience.
For that last bit, we spoke to M****** Shimai, a member in Japan whose daughter is serving her mission in Kobe right now. The problem is, we couldn't see her (though she could see us perfectly. Great!), and we couldn't hear her either, making a conversation virtually impossible. And we have Skype TRC again this week. Fabulous. Haha. No worries, though. Two weeks from today I'll be flying to Japan to speak to and teach real Nihon-jin in REAL LIFE! And I've never been more excited! And terrified. But mostly excited!
Also, did I say that we invited Sasaki-san to be baptized? Because we did! His response: "Baputesuma wa nan desu ka?" What is baptism? Oh yeah. That's right. Why would a Japanese person know what baptism is. So we talked to him a little bit more about it, and invited him to "baptismal service" our imaginary friend was having. The next lesson, we answered his questions about the symbolism of baptism, and talked to him about its importance and the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is when we found out that he's not sure if he's feeling the Holy Ghost, that he can't distinguish between it and other good feelings he has. He said, "I have good feelings at a movie, or when I'm with a friend. How do I know these feelings are different?" or something like that. (We're pretty sure.) I talked to Powell Sensei about it, and it was amazing. He said to share our own experiences with the Spirit, and that it takes practice. Most importantly, he said that from what we told him, Sasaki might have an underlying problem we need to help discover and address. This is why the gift of discernment, being able to listen to the Spirit to discover what an investigator's true needs and feelings are, is so key in this work. Even if I have no idea what they're saying or feeling, the Spirit does. Without the Spirit, we cannot succeed. With the Spirit, we cannot fail!
We taught him again yesterday, and I think we're on the path to doing just that. He told us last time that his grandmother was sick, and this time he told us that she has cancer. Wow. Talk about any underlying concern or need. We talked to him a little bit more, and shared our experiences with the Spirit. I compared it to learning a language. Sometimes, we think we know what we're doing, what we're saying and hearing, and other times, we have absolutely no idea. But as time goes on and we work and we practice, we get better. We can understand more. And if we ask God, He will teach us the language in which the Spirit speaks to us. I've done this, and I know it's true. Times when I have asked God to teach me how to recognize the Spirit and give me the determination to follow it have been the times when I have made some of the biggest leaps in the Gospel. We asked Sasaki to do this as well, and he did! He's still thinking about baptism, waiting until he knows the Spirit has told him that it should happen now. He thinks it's a good thing, and that eventually he might want to, but we've encouraged him to ask for an answer.
We were feeling so excited for Sasaki-san's progression until Black Sensei came back into the room after all of the companionship's who were supposed to teach had taught, and then we had possibly the deepest, most humbling discussion we've ever had with Black Sensei. "None of you know Sasaki AT ALL." What? Oops. "He doesn't even believe in God yet. He keeps trying to tell you, but none of you are paying any attention!" Ouch. "Do you even know what any of his needs are? Sure he's taking finals. Yes, he wants a well paying job. But what are his NEEDS? What SPECIFIC blessings that he NEEDS have you promised him?" We'd promised that if he'd prayed for help with finals, he would receive it, but Black Sensei helped us realize that's way too vague and inapplicable. We should say, "Sasaki-san, if you pray before you study that you will study the right things and remember them, and then you pray before your test to help you remember what you've studied, we PROMISE that God will help you remember.
As missionaries, we have the power and authority to promise blessings by the Spirit. We just haven't been listening hard enough. "Do any of you even know about his grandmother? Yes, I've said she's sick, but only these two (points to me and Tenney Shimai) have even bothered to ask again." We went into that a little more, discussing how his grandmother had cancer, and how we could address that concern in his life, talking about the Plan of Salvation. "Sasaki-san, God loves us SO MUCH that after we die, we can all live together again. After your Grandma dies, God is going to take care of her. You're going to see her again and live with her and your family forever!"
Tenney Shimai and I had been planning on teaching that next, which made us feel a little better, but Black Sensei made us realize just how much better teachers and guides we need to be in order to help our investigators really gain a testimony, asking the right questions. One thing that I hadn't even thought about before is that we can teach EVERY topic with any emphasis that the investigator needs. Right now, we should be teaching with the emphasis that God loves Sasaki. When he realizes that, we can switch the emphasis to meet his needs. So humbling, but something we needed so much. I'm a little scared for but so excited for the next lesson!
We also had a few lessons with Suzuki Kyoudai this week. He volunteered that he had been to church, and we didn't even have to ask him to go! He loves the people who are so nice to him, and feels good when he goes. We also finished teaching the restoration, and for the first time in a lesson, I quoted the First Vision...by myself...in Japanese! "It was little...and...broken...but...still good.... Yeah... still good." (Name that Babylonian reference!) We taught him yesterday too. Do you want to hear what horrible thing I told him? "Kamisama no mimoto ni modoro tame ni, watashitachi wa FUSHIAWASE ni naranakereba narimasen." "In order to return to God, we must be unhappy." WHAT? I meant to say FUSAWASHII, worthy. Oops. He was so confused, and I was so excited because I had a scripture to back it up and everything. And then I explained it by saying, "God wants us to be happy, and in order to be happy when we live with him, we must be unhappy, right?" Oh gosh. I didn't even realize what I had done until Tenney Shimai and I were praying after our lesson, and I almost busted into laughter. Oh dear. At least the MTC is a very safe place to fail.
On Sunday, Sister Rosemary Wixom was our Relief Society Speaker. That's right. Sister Rosemary Wixom, the General Primary President. She was awesome! It was about coming to really KNOW Jesus Christ, having him as our best friend and learning to love others as He does. It was one of those great Sundays where everything was about the Savior. We also got to go watch the Testaments, and while the acting was almost unbearably cheesy, I did feel the Spirit. I mean, it's about the Savior. And I know I've said this before, but the Savior is the reason I'm here. I love Him. He is my best friend, and He has given me all I have, and is willing to give me everything He has. As my wonderful friend, Sister Webster, told me in a letter this week, if there is only one thing I can get my investigators to accept, it is that he loves them unconditionally, and that He is always waiting with outstretched arms. And He is. I testify that that is true. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives, and that He loves us, hitori hitori, one by one. I want to become like Him, to draw others unto Him, and I'm working on that every day. That is my purpose.
The Church is true. The Book is blue. I couldn't be happier!
What? Are we matching? NO WAY!! We did not plan that! What a coincidence!
A district that matches together, sticks together!
Yep, we did one of THOSE pictures!
The district! Elders: Jensen, Tenny, Malaska, Lee, Budge, Kotter, Duren and Reagan. Sisters: Donnelly, Broadhead, Scheffler, Harris, Tenney and Colter.
Sizilio Chourou (the Brazillian), me, Scheffler Shimai, Broadhead Shimai, and Scott Chourou at breakfast Wednesday morning.
I forgot to mention, I am now a MASTER in the art of chopsticks. I arrived not knowing how to use them at all, and now, I can eat mashed potatoes, rice, ANYTHING! Be impressed. I know I am. Also, only one week left until this calling of Music Coordinator is over! This last week was kind of a disaster. So many musical numbers and piano players fell through, and we only survived thanks to the marvelous Sister Colter who volunteered the NIGHT BEFORE to go up and sing "have I done any good in the world today" A CAPELLA in English and Japanese. What a champ! And she sounded beautiful! Also, Tenney Shimai gave the prayer and Donnelly Shimai was called to give a talk (and astounded all of the kohai with her practically fluent speech). How in the world did I manage to escape Sacrament meeting unscathed? Lucky am I. :) I wrote a talk just in case, but I was almost considering just saying, "Jesus loves me. What else is there? ... The Atonement everyone. *bows*" But really.
Plus, we get our own Nihonjin missionaries today! AH! So excited! And one sister is going to Kobe! Which is lucky, because how else would we navigate the Tokyo airport. Two weeks and counting! Yatta!