Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Just Recently Started Reading the New Testament Again, Focusing on Characteristics in Christ.

There`s not quite so much to report this week, so I`ll just update you on some general stuff.
First of all: 
Walker Shimai.

Status: 9th transfer missionary, trainer
Personality Color: White
Future: Married with a little akachan (literally `little red,` meaning baby) when I get home
She`s pretty wonderful.
But really, though, how did I get so lucky?
She wants to be healthy: We get up every morning at 6 to work out for a little longer, run 4 miles 3 times a week, and do workouts from my work out recipe book every other day.  She`s also got a goal to eat healthy, which helps motivate me as well.
She`s super fun.  We have a lot of the same tastes back from the world of Babylon, and we`ve both added a lot of stuff to our Babylon lists (books to read, songs to listen to when we get back, etc) just from being with each other.  Plus we`re really hilarious together, and like to show off our eraseable pens and incredible kanji-reading ability.  (I can probably read, you know, about 20 entire kanji now.  I`m almost fluent.  But don`t go telling everyone. ;)
She just LOVES her investigators and the people around her.  I love being in lessons with investigators with her. She is clearly listening to them and is really concerned about their lives and blessing them.  Because of how much attention she pays and how much she cares, she`s also really good at reading people.  So she understands what people mean even when she doesn`t understand their words.
She`s so patient. I`m not a patient person.  I hate not seeing success, I hate not being fluent, and I hate just not being perfect in general!  Walker Shimai is really good at helping me realize that things take time and that faith in the Lord includes faith in his timing as well.
Plus she laughs at my jokes.  Usually.  Unless they`re really bad.  But she usually laughs at those too.  That`s the mark of a REAL friend. Haha.
She also has this freaky good navigation ability.  If she`s been there once, even if it`s an hour away by bike, she can find it again.  (Which is really good, because I have yet to successfully make it from our apartment to the church without following her.)
I feel bad for her sometimes, having to deal with me and how forgetful I am.  For example, one day this week, we were going to the eki to ride to "Kristine's"  house for dinner, when I realized that I didn`t have my nametag.  I jokingly asked Walker Shimai if she had her extra nametag in her bag  so that I could wear it, but she started looking for it anyway.  As she did, though, I realized that the nametag she was wearing said: `Sister Harris.`  She had grabbed the wrong one!  `Aw man!  Now I have to give YOU my nametag, and then everyone thinks I`M the irresponsible one!`  I laughed pretty hard.  It was a sweet moment of victory to see her face as she had to pass the nametag over to me.  (Both luckily and unluckily, it didn`t really matter.  The trains had been shut down due to the typhoon, so we ended up going to that dinner a few nights later...with both of our nametags.)
We did a lot of housing this week.  Not really anything.  We just have to have faith that the Lord is preparing opportunities for us to find His senmin (elect).  Faith in the Lord includes faith in His timing too, which is far easier said than done, but important nonetheless.  It`s hard, but I know there are 9 people out there!  We just have to keep doing our best to allow the Lord to lead us to them or to lead them to us.
I also got a package from my wonderful Nana Rose!  It had PEANUT BUTTER, and oatmeal, and cake, and all sorts of wonderful bits of deliciousness that Sister Walker and I rejoiced over with all of our hearts!  Haha.  My Nana Rose really is the sweetest, most giving person, and I hope that I can continue to learn from her example of Charity.
I just recently started reading the New Testament again, focusing on characteristics in Christ.  In doing so, I`m learning a lot more about what it really means to have faith in Him as well.  In Matthew 9, there`s an account of a miracle that I just love, in verses 27-31.  Two blind men come to Christ asking him to heal them.  Jesus asks, *Believe ye that I am able to do this?` When they respond in the affirmative, He touches their eyes and said `According to your faith be it unto you,` and they were healed.
These two men were blind, a personal and physical state that they could not change by themselves.  Therefore, they sought out the One who could change it: the Savior.  Chances are, each of us is in a state that we cannot change by ourselves, even though we have probably tried. I know I am.  Being on a mission is hard in that it spits all of your faults back at you and has you constantly staring them in the face.  I am all too aware of the weaknesses I have and how impossible they seem to overcome, and I have tried.  I`m trying.  We all are. But we are too weak.  We are too selfish, too shy, or too proud to overcome those faults.  Perhaps a part of us believes that after all of this failure that we cannot change.   And  the truth of the matter is, we cannot change by ourselevs.  We are to become like God Himself, and without the help of our Savior we will fall flat on our faces over and over again.  But Christ did the impossible.  He healed these men.  He cured their blindness, bringing them out of a state of darkness into a state of light.  As incredible as this miracle was, Christ`s REAL miracle is much bigger.  He does much more than physical healing.  Christ has come to change the very hearts of men. (Alma 5;7).  Through Christ, He will `make you a new heart and a new spirit` (Ezekiel 18:31).   By ourselves, we cannot succeed, but through Christ we cannot fail!  Christ asked the blind men, `Believe ye that I am able to do this?`  Not `Believe ye that ye can change?  Believe ye in your own capacity?  Do you believe that you can work hard enough?`  He did not ask them anything about themselves only, `Believe ye that I am able to do this?`  So the real question when trying to change is do we believe in the Savior?  Do we believe in His infinite and everlasting Atonement and it`s power to change?  We cannot change by ourselves, but we do not have to.  Faith isn`t the first principle of this gospel; it`s faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
I know that Jesus Christ really is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and my personal Savior.  I know that He knows ME.  I know He knows my faults and my flaws and my struggles because He has experienced them because He loves me, and I know that through Him only I can overcome each of them.  I know that whatever problems I am going through at the moment, He knows and understands better than even I do.  He knows what I need, and what I want, and who I am.  He loves me more than I can even imagine.
And He doesn`t love just me.  He loves everyone.  He loves the powerful and the mighty, the weak and the downtrodden.  He loves the kings and magistrates, the beggars and the homeless, the middle aged housewives.  And He loves them one by one.  He loves you one by one.  He is aware of you, so powerfully aware, so constantly watching over that we cannot fathom the love behind it.  He wants our happiness so much, and and He will help us do anything that we can to obtain that happiness, even change. 
More to report next week. 
I love the Savior, and I love His Gospel! I know that this is His work, and I`m so excited to have a part in it!  
The Church is true!
The Book is blue!
The Savior loves you. :)
Love, Sister Whitney
I am the worst missionary daughter this week, though...  I forgot my camera at the apartment!  Next week you `ll have lots of pictures from me.  Sleeping on a futon is actually not bad.  I`m probably a little spoiled though, because we had four futons in our apartment, so we sleep on 2 for extra padding. :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Letter Received on September 19

Dear Family,

MASON:  I hear you are doing really well in school and that you are reading Where The Red Fern Grows with Dad.  I'm proud of you!  (Plus I really love that book).  Nana Rose said you were so helpful when she came, that you always got her water and answered her phone.  You sure made her feel good and loved!  You are so nice and thoughtful, Mason!  I love and miss you!

KAYLI:  Holy cow girl, you ran five miles?  You win.  The most I've ever run is 3 1/2.  When I get home, you'll probably be running marathons.  How long did it take?  How's middle school and all of your advanced classes going?  You smartie!  How's FHE and family prayer going?

STEPHEN:  Speaking of advanced classes, are yours making you hate life yet?  Haha.  But really, though.  Are people calling you a hipster now because of your glasses?  Are you becoming a hipster?  (Don't you dare!)  Are you keeping a journal?  Are you keeping a list for me of all the good movies, books and songs that come out while I'm gone?  Speaking of which, Please read The Way of Kings before I come back. O-negaishimasu.  I continue to talk about you so much that people are probably sick of it, but that's life.

DADDY:  HAPPY LATE BIRTHDAY! (Even though I am writing this on the 9th).  I hope it was awesome, and that you got to go for a good run and spend time with your family and eat ice cream.  If not, make it happen tomorrow.  I loved your email this morning, and it's so funny that you were the only parent that ran when that was the point of the whole thing!  Haha.  You're such a good dad.  I'm glad that Mason is doing well in school and it's really nice of you to let Kayli's cross country coach shadow you.  Really nice.  Probably, if every man were like unto my father the very foundation of hell would shake.  I think that's what the verse was supposed to say (Instead of Moroni). 

We went to go visit a shrine today and it was pretty cool.  The best thing was taking a cable car up the mountain and seeing the gorgeous views of a lake famous for being the biggest, or one of the biggest lakes in Japan, and we walked down the mountain.  It was gorgeous and you would have loved it.  I'm glad Grandpa liked my letters.  I'm sending him another one today.  I just want him to know that I love him and don't want him to be lonely.  Your world may seem the same while I"m not there, but I want to hear about it!  You make sure there's plenty of room for me in it when I get back. :-)

HEY MAMA:  I miss you!  And I miss your food!  I miss talking to you whenever I wanted.  I loved hearing from you this morning.  I'm glad that Nana Rose and everyone are doing well, and I liked reading what your cousin said about Kyoto.

You know what I'm really glad you are my mother.  Some mothers don't express their love to their children often.  Thanks for always telling me you loved me, even when I was a real brat and didn't deserve it.  Thank you for sacrificing so much and for being such a great example of love and charity.  I have never questioned that I was loved and still am, even when I'm thousands of miles away and 15 hours in the future.

Alas, P-day ends in like 30 seconds, but I love you all so much!  YOU'RE THE BEST FAMILY EVER!

Love you all!
Sister Whitney

Monday, September 16, 2013

Are We Huuuman, or Are We Dancers? (I mean missionaries.)

But really though.  I just feel soooo human.  

The week started out kind of rough once again, but then by the end God had once again shown that He is a God of miracles with his hand in this work.

To start off, our golden investigator, "Tracy" who was supposed to become a yakusokusha (an investigator with a baptismal date) this week dropped us because her daughter is hantai (opposed to her involvement with the church).  And then "Freda"  our only other investigator wouldn`t answer the door for us either time we visited.  (We`ll try again this week.)  It was hard to stay positive.

But then, that night, when we were discouraged after an unsuccessful day, minutes before we were going to leave back to the apartment, God led us to "Marianne".  It had been rough. We had knocked on a lot of doors, received a lot of no`s, got one door slammed in my face before I got two words out.  You know. The usual. But then, a couple of doors from being finished with the set of apartments, a Brazillian woman answered the door.  We can`t speak Portuguese obviously, but using simple Japanese, we got across that we were from the Church of Jesus Christ and had a friend (Da Silva Chourou) who does speak Portuguese and could come back and talk to her about it.  She was excited, and wanted us to come back as well!  

We went back to her house with the elders twice this last week.  She`s the elders` investigator, because Da Silva Chourou is the one who actually teaches, but he translates our experiences for us, and we just LOVE her.  She always insists we come back.  What`s remarkable though is how well she`s been prepared. She met with the missionaries seven years ago, but lost contact because she moved. Now we have found her once more, and it seems like it`s the perfect time. She`s had a lot of experiences that have softened her heart, though. She`s been struggling a lot lately and hasn`t wanted to do anything, but she said that after that first night we met her, after those couple minutes of our clumsy communication, after we left, she said she felt a huge burden lifted off of her shoulders and she was happier. She says she feels that way every time we come over with the elders. She has also never been to our church in the past, but said that before we came over on Friday she had a dream she came to church and said that she will come next week.  She has let us know, though, that changing religions isn`t something she will do lightly. (She`s Catholic.) But, she said that as she reads the Book of Mormon and prays, if she gets an answer, she will be baptized.  She already knows there`s something different.  Her life is already better from the little exposure she`s had to the Gospel! We`re so excited, and we love her so much! 

What`s more, she loves to cook.  BRAZILLIAN FOOD!  Brazillian food isn`t supposed to exist in Japan, but apparently in this area, where there are so many Brazillians, it can happen.  We walked into her apartment for dinner on Friday and found the table laden with all sorts of delicious food.  There was a cake dripping with chocolate ganache, Brazillian balls filled with an incredible chicken mixture, and perfectly flaky and delicious ham and cheese pastries I don`t even know how to describe.  It`s a really good thing I didn`t go to Brazil on my mission, or I would come home FAT.

As long as we`re on the topic of food, we went to the "Nelson's" for dinner yesterday, a Brazillian family in our ward.  We had chicken and spaghetti and it was wonderful!  Who needs Japanese food? :)

But we`re so human.  We continued to be discouraged throughout the week, especially when housing was proving to be unsuccessful. On Wednesday, though, we found two more Brazilian investigators for the Elders to teach!  It was harder to get them to understand. Luckily, my limited knowledge of Spanish came in handy, and with the words `Dios` (God) and `iglesia` church, we got the point across and got their numbers to give to the Elders.  Even though we can`t teach them, it is still awesome to be able to find people who will listen.  

Oh, me of little faith!  It took one more miracle of a day though for us to realize what God is really doing and that his timing is perfect. How many times must the Lord prove Himself to me before I finally trust Him! On Thursday, we found so many potential investigators.  We had a lot of really good contacts in which the Spirit was definitely present.  Only one agreed to meet again (we will see him tomorrow) (We call him Nice Man because we don`t know his name), but we know there were seeds planted in the others.  (And one of them we`re determined to visit again anyway.)  

The biggest miracle, though, was finding "Beth".  A woman from India answered the door saying, `I don:t speak Japanese.` Walker Shimai freaked out, excited that the woman spoke English, and then we realized we had met before.  `I saw you two before on your bikes at the bike shop before.`  And it was true!  She came in right after us a week or two ago when we went to fill our tires up.  We said hello and left. Apparently, missionaries had been by a few months ago, but she was too scared to open the door.  She said she opened for us, though, because she felt like she knows us.  Holy cow.  Is our God a God of perfect timing and miracles or what?  When we told her we were missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ, she immediately said, *My husband believes in Christ!*  They and their little girl are Sikh, but at the school she and her husband went to, they studied English and the Bible.  When we told her about Church, she immediately wanted to come.  (She ended up getting really sick this weekend, though. But we`ll meet with her again this week.  It felt so good talking to her, and we will meet again this week.  Senmin. :)

On Saturday, we rode out for a while to visit a woman, "Katie", from the area book who had been taught seven years ago whose husband was hantai.  We came back this time, and she said she was so excited the missionaries had come back!  She was also excited we were sisters.  We meet with her on Tuesday.  It really was a miracle.  And I`m glad it was worth it, too.  It took us two hours to ride out there on our bikes! (Only an hour and a half home once we knew the way.)  I`m so excited to teach her.  She just seems like the most wonderful lady!

We also have dinner with a man from the ward tonight, whose wife and mother are not members and are rather opposed to the church.  We`ve been praying for guidance and hope that we can share a little something that will soften their hearts.

And Tuesday, we`re going with a member to visit "Katie", and then to visit a couple of less actives.  

I am so excited for this next week!  Even though our numbers from this week don`t look impressive (they`re all 0`s except for our 1 progressing investigator), the Lord has set us up with a lot of great opportunities and people this week.  His hand is in every bit of this work, and I`m so excited I get to be a part of it!

Sister Walker is still wonderful; I`m slowly getting better at the language. One day I`ll know what people are saying. The usual.  

There`s also a typhoon going on right now, and there was a lull in it, so we decided to hurry and make our escape to the church!  We also had to coordinate with the Elders, who are coming later. 

Also, a last couple of things for mom and dad.
I can only call on Mothers Day and Christmas; no skype. ;(

Nashi are this funky Japanese pear and they`re probably my favorite fruit now.

Will you google what JJH (I think it stands for Jumping Jack Hash) is?  We ride by it almost every day and have no idea what it is.

Also, would you send in your next letter a story or two about how the gospel has helped your family, and about a time when you sought revelation for you family?  Thanks so much! I love you!


This is what our apartment and my futon look like.  The futon`s actually not that bad. :)

This is the location of the shrine we went to last Monday.  Isn`t it GORGEOUS?!

Most of the rest of these pictures are just going to be from the shrine and the view we saw.  We rode up the mountain in a little cable car and then hiked back down.

The top one is the warriors who guard the temple outside the shrine.  And  And the guy in the cage is just a cool statue.  I don`t know what he`s for.

The dragon and the water.  You`re supposed to wash yourself before you enter the shrine.

 View from the mountain
View of the city

City Street