Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Been The Best Of Weeks, It Was The Worst Of Weeks. All That Charles Dickens Jazz.

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks.  It was the coldest of weeks, it was the warmest of weeks.  All that Charles Dickens jazz.
But really though.  Emotions were up and down and everywhere.  We had the most success we`ve ever had in a week, but we also had the most heartbreaking, soul crushing occurrence as well too.  We broke our Omihachiman record for loads of key indicators: 9 lessons, 5 people at church, 7 progressing investigators, 3 new investigators, and 2 yakusokusha`s. Walker Shimai says this may be the best set of numbers she`s had her whole mission. We were really determined to hit standards of excellence this week. (3 yakusokushas, 6 progressing investigators, 3 people at sacrament meeting, 3 new investigators).  We had no doubt that we would!  We were praying and working, knew everything was coming along nicely and that everything that was happening was solely because of the Lord`s mercy. When one more of our investigators agreed to set a baptismal goal, we thought we were set: 3 yakusokusha.  But then, we taught Junketsu no Rippou, the Law of Chastity, to our favorite investigator, "Lily", our prime and most promising yakusokusha, an incredible woman from the Philippines whom we love more than anything who was going to be baptized on December 8th, and we lost her.  We lost "Lily".

That was really the most heartbreaking thing that`s just about ever happened to me.  We seriously love this woman so much.  Everything was going so well with her.  At the beginning of the week, we taught her the Word of Wisdom.  We knew this would be hard for her because of her love of coffee. She was absolutely shocked that she couldn`t drink coffee, said she couldn`t promise anything, but would try it out for the week. And she did it!  It was a miracle!  She broke and drank coffee the first day, but for the rest of the week went and bought hot chocolate and some other sort of drink and started to gain a testimony of the word of wisdom!  Apparently only a few weeks ago--about the exact time we started meeting with her--she got sick, and her doctor had told her to stop drinking coffee, so she had been slowly weaning off of it anyway.  It was such a miracle!
We knew that that was only the first step though.  We knew the Law of Chastity, because of her circumstances, and especially her job, was going to be hard for her.   We prayed so hard, we planned so hard, we mogied so hard.  We came up with every objection and every situation we could even think of and tried to reason through it.  In the end, we knew it was in the Lord`s hands.  But then, the lesson went even worse than we could have imagined: she believed it.  She just won`t live it.
She said she already knew that it was all true, that it all makes sense, but just refuses to believe that the Lord will even help her find a new job.  She won`t even start looking. We testified with all of our hearts, tried to listen to the Spirit and promised her that if she would just begin looking she would find a new job.  But she won`t.  She said, `I guess it`s just not the time for me to be a Mormon.`  And she broke her baptismal date. She almost stopped meeting with us, but after sharing how much we still loved her and wanted to meet with her, she said she didn`t want to stop meeting either. So she`s still an investigator, and she did come to church on Sunday and intends to come every Sunday.  It`s just heartbreaking to see her missing out on all of the blessings that come with baptism that she was just a couple of weeks away from having.  It`s hard to know that she does hate her job so much, that she knows it`s not what God wants her to be doing, and to know that if she would just put forth that little bit of effort that she would find a new job, even if she would have to make a few sacrifices.  It was a really devastating way to end the week.
So we didn`t quite make standards of excellence, which was heartbreaking enough by itself, but our favorite yakusokusha is no longer in line for all of the blessings that she was so close to obtaining.  That`s what really hurts.  I guess that`s just a part of what being a missionary is all about.  We hope that as she continues meeting with us and continues coming to church and praying and reading The Book of Mormon that maybe a miracle can happen. God can absolutely make miracles happen after all.  Let`s just hope that it is in His will to do so.
But like I said, we really did have an incredible week, and the Lord helped us so much!  It was another challenge of the week to be able to still be grateful for and recognize all of these blessings, but they were definitely here.

First of all, we found 3 new investigators this week, and are set up to get a couple more this week.  One of them was a referral from the investigator I just talked about above.  (Which is another reason this whole thing was so heartbreaking. She was turning out to be such an incredible missionary to. She referred her kids in the Philippines, and the missionaries just went to visit them on Saturday, which they`re all so excited about.  She`s also been talking to all of her friends at work, `trying to get them interested` in the Gospel. I just love her!)
The other two were the kids of a woman who was already an investigator.  This woman, "Celeste", also from the Philippines, became an investigator several weeks ago, but we hadn`t been able to meet with her since. She has a really busy work schedule, and the only days she can meet are Saturdays, but she usually doesn`t know if she has to work on Saturdays until Friday night.  And the last few weeks, she`s had work on Saturdays. We`ve been stopping by a couple of times each week, trying to show love like in the training plan, brought her pictures of her kids at the Halloween party, but we hadn`t been able to meet again.  But, the Lord can work miracles and change peoples` circumstances, right?  So this week we prayed so hard that she wouldn`t have work on Saturday, and so that her kids would be there and we could teach them as well! And guess what?  The Lord answered our prayer!  It was incredible!  "Celeste" was there, excited to see us, and we got to teach two of her kids too!  The other one had a friend over and was a little embarrassed, but we think we`ll be able to teach her next week too.  The message was received well, and we invited them to church!  "Celeste" couldn`t come, but the daughter said she wanted to come (the two girls have been coming to Eikaiwa every week and are good friends with one of the YW in our ward, who is a splendid member missionary who has already invited them to church).  And so not only did the two daughters come, but the friend who had been over on Saturday came too!  We`re hoping we might be able to begin teaching her and her family as well. It was also great because we had a shokujikai afterwards, and I think they had a great experience.  We also had our two regulars, the other Filipina woman mentioned first, and a woman who has been coming for a couple of months.
That woman, who has been coming for a couple of months, has been moving veeeery slowly. It seems like she hadn`t been making any progress at all and was getting harder to meet with.  So we started meeting with her and the church and playing ping pong with her, which she just loves!  She always has so much fun!  It`s definitely strengthened our relationship with her.  And she focuses better during the lessons afterwards.  This week, we finally made a breakthrough.  She said she believes God loves her.  WOW.  This doesn`t sound like much, but it`s really incredible! She`s been praying for months and getting nothing, but this...WOW. Another big miracle.  It made me so happy!  Also, she has been having a really hard time understanding the Book of Mormon, so we haven`t really been giving her any assignments to read in it, because when we have, she either hasn`t read, or hasn`t understood.  But we felt this week that it was really important to reemphasize how important The Book of Mormon is.  We tried to help her understand every way that The Book of Mormon was relevant to her, what things she could come to know from reading it, and started reading from the beginning of 1 Nephi with her, and tried to relate that all to her.  At the end, we invited her to read half a page every day, which she readily accepted! Holy cow, we never even dreamed it would go that well!  Even as I write this, I feel ungrateful for not recognizing the small little miracles the Lord is working in our investigators` hearts.
And there were a bunch of other miracles, not the least of which being that another woman became a yakusokusha with her date set for the middle of January. She even said that she had been thinking one her own that she might be baptized one day (though she had imagined the day for a couple of years in the future), but was willing to make the goal for January.
Every day in Omihachiman is a miracle, and I just love being here!  Whether it`s heartbreaking or awe-inspiring (and dendo has it`s fair share of both), this is where I`m supposed to be.  I`ve got a long way to go, but every day I`m on my way to being a true disciple!

Side note, but not really a side note.  More like a main note.
Members really are the best missionaries. One of our Young Women, who`s the friend of those two Filipina girls and has been bringing them to Eikaiwa every week, really was the key to getting them to church this week.  And all she did was invite them, just one step at a time, just being their friend and setting a good example for them.  Also, "Lily"  has been so excited sharing the blessings that she`s received from this Gospel that her friends have been noticing that she`s different, that`s she`s happier. How can she not share it?  Obviously, this is definitely easier said than done, sharing the gospel.  It doesn`t have to be a big thing, though.  I have a commitment for everyone!  Every day this week, will you all pray for a missionary opportunity sometime in the next week, and for the opportunity to recognize it!  I promise you that if you do, you will find it!

Anyways, I love you!
The church is true!
The Book is Blue!

Sister Whitney

I didn`t really take pictures this week, so I took these two right before we got here for email. They`re from the Aeon shopping mall where I buy my special erasable pens. And other things. ;) It`s right by the church, so we see this road a lot.

  There was an awesome rainbow!  This is the street "Helen"  lives on.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Hope It`s Been A Wonderful Week In `Merica!

I hope it`s been as wonderful a week in `Merica as it has been up here in this splendid area.  We started here with nothing and no one, but in just two transfers, we`ve ended up with what Sister Walker says is her most promising group of investigators on her whole mission.  I love being able to see these investigators progress down the road from the very beginning of their journey, and this means I`ll probably be able to see one or two of them finish this journey with baptism, and make the next step on the path of enduring to the end!  I really am STOKED!  

We had a lot of miracles again, this week.  I know I probably sound redundant saying this over and over again, but our God really is a God of Miracles!  

Lately, a few of our investigators who had been progressing have been kind of stale-mating, getting to the point where we weren`t really sure whether to even consider them progressing investigators or not.  The Lord has answered our prayers, though.  We`ve been trying to follow the `By Helping Them` training plan (Zinke Kaicho comes out with a training plan every few months, with specific objectives we`re supposed to work on.  The current one is called `By Helping Them`, and is about showing more love to our investigators in the way we teach and interact with them), using the list (there`s a specific list we`re supposed to review for each investigator for each lesson, with things like `Bearing heartfelt, powerful testimony` and `Sharing personal experiences` and `Assist them in recognizing answers to their prayers`) for coming up with ways to help them, and but just haven`t been sure what to do differently with them.  We got some suggestions from people, prayed hard, kept moving forward, and even though it didn`t seem like we really did anything different, we got some great help from the Lord!  

"Uly" who is a little less than eager and has been kind of hard to meet with lately, came to play ping pong (so yes, Dad, people in Japan do play ping pong:)  with us and watch The Testaments at the church.  She hadn`t ever played before, but she had SO much fun!  Not only does she want to do it again, she also was able to focus more during the short lesson after The Testaments and was able to compare herself to the people within it and kind of see the benefits of coming to know this message is true.  She doesn`t automatically have a rock solid testimony or anything, yet, but she is definitely progressing again and likes us and knows we love her!  She knows we care about more than just teaching her.  

One investigator, "Katie", we got really frustrated with because she has cancelled on us three times.  I was having a hard time not getting angry, but just tried to love her anyway and put myself in her shoes.  She`s meeting with us again on Wednesday, so hopefully that works out!

We took another stalemating investigator, "Hannah", out to eat.  At the time, it seemed like an awkward disaster, (we got the dates mixed up, she rushed home to come eat with us, payed for us, and had her baby crawling all over her the entire time) but she`s progressing again now too!  We`ve casually invited her to church before, but never too firmly.  She started out as a really hesitant investigator that we almost scared off with setting the table (remember that email?), so we`ve been reluctant to be too bold with her.  On Saturday night, though, we decided to c-mail her and just straight up ask her to come to church (rather than just, `If you have time...` like we always do).  It shocked both me and Walker Shimai out of our seats when she said yes!  (We think she might have kind of been guilted into it by the complicated and awkward situation regarding the eating out event mentioned before, but hey, the Lord works in mysterious ways.)  It definitely strengthened my testimony of being bold in commitments! We`re meeting with her in a couple of hours and are inviting her to be baptized.  (Now that`s bold with her.) Wish us luck!

We also had FOUR people at church yesterday.  Or rather, the Lord brought 4 people to church!  Almost more people than we knew what to do with! (It really was kind of stressful, though, figuring out who they would sit with, taking care of them, but it was a REALLY awesome sort of stress.) It was another testament to me about how important coming to sacrament meeting is!  Two of these people have been consistently coming for the last few weeks.  One is the first yakusokusha I talked about.  She must feel something here, because she keeps coming back.  The second is this woman who the first time she came, said she felt immediately during the sacrament that what we said about God being our Heavenly Father was true.  The third was our recent yakusokusha, "Lily"  from the Philipines, who really doesn`t understand Japanese, and sat by me and another member trying to translate into English, which was inconsistent and a little haphazard. She stayed for Sunday school too, though, and said she really enjoyed it and wants to be able to stay all three meetings next time,  which really was a miracle since the translation was so crummy!  We had been worried, but no need.  The Lord is by our side!  Fourth, was the last investigator I just talked about. She had said that she could only come for half an hour.  She brought her two little kids who were crazy and crawled all over her, but stayed the entire hour and seemed to really enjoy it (when she could listen).  She even stayed a little while after to let her kids play with the toys in the primary room, and we think she`ll come back.  What a miracle!

No new investigators this week, but maybe God was just busy helping us help the investigators we already have.

One thing that helped me in my attempt at charity and loving the investigators this week was something Walker Shimai told me she heard about another missionary who had been very successful: he tried to imagine each person he talked to dressed in white at their baptism.  I tried to do this this week (Walker Shimai is so wise.  I`m SO glad I get to stay with her for her last transfer!).  I went through each of our investigators and tried to imagine how their lives would be different once they accepted this gospel. The one woman (Uly), she`ll come home, her house no longer smelling of smoke, and much cleaner.  She has a job now and takes care of herself.  She`s tired from the day, but she kneels down to pray, knowing that her loving Heavenly Father is listening, and that she`s going to be alright.  There was a lot more, but this really did hit me hard.  I think this is going to help so much.  I also listened to a talk about the way God sees us not as who we are, but as who we can be through His help.  All God ever has to work with is imperfect people, and as Elder Holland said, that must be very frustrating for Him.  Through imagining other people in this way, I was better able to understand the way the Lord feels about me.  I still have to work on charity and loving others, but this has really helped so much.  Where I used to hate housing, I`m now kind of `hungry` doing it. I try to calculate the maximum amount of time we can go finding, pray earnestly that even though I`m nervous, the next person will answer the door, so I can share this message with them that will change their lives, that has changed my life.  Because they`re my siblings.  And I`m coming to love them.  This really was a huge lesson for me this week, a lot more than I`m getting across, but it might even be a turning point for me.

There were so many more wonderful miracles this week, but alas, I`m about out of time.

I don`t remember if I`ve said this before, but I got a priesthood blessing just before I left the MTC that said `Remember that God loves ALL of His children.` I thought it was funny at the time, but I`m just beginning to realize just how true it is. And God loves us because He knows who we really.  Who we can become.  And we can become like HIM.

I really just love this gospel so much that I can hardly even stand it!  I`m so grateful for the knowledge that our Heavenly Father loves ALL of His children, and that I have felt His love for me especially.  He loves each and every one of us, individually, to an extent far greater than we can ever, ever imagine.  I can`t wait until the day I see Him again, the blinders of this earth removed, look up into His face and can see that love, finally realizing just how much He loves me, how much He loves us all. (It`s a lot.)

And even though I don`t love you QUITE that much, I still love you all!
The church is true!  The book is blue!
Love, Sister Whitney

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sister Harris!

But, it was another fantastic week!  I never want to leave this place!  More of our investigators are skyrocketing!  "L.S."  for example became a yakusokusha! We met with her three times this week and already have two lessons set up for next week.  Her date is December 8th. She is totally ready. She had a question about baptism, since she has already been baptized twice? in the Catholic church, but we taught her the Doctrine of Christ, emphasizing priesthood and baptism, and then invited her to be baptized. She said, `Yes.  I really want to.`  Yes!  She is so awesome!  When we watched the Restoration video with her this week she got chills and was looking at us with wide eyes, like `Can you feel that?` She has a strong testimony of Joseph Smith. So hopefully that can help her overcome any problems she has with the commandments.  

We tried to commit "Katie" to baptism too, but even though she wouldn`t, she still has really strong interest. We taught her about prayer the lesson before, and her prayers are already easily the best of any of our investigators, really heartfelt and sincere.  She also asked a lot of really wonderful questions including `How do you receive revelation?`  `What blessings come from following Jesus Christ?` and (my favorite, asked with a little bit of wide eyed wonder), `Is there really a Savior?`  The first two we`re saving for our next lesson with some good doseki`s, but Walker Shimai answered that last one really powerfully.  `Yes.  Jesus Christ is the Savior, and He lives.`  It was so powerful, and the Spirit just flooded the room. She might not be a yakusokusha just yet, but she will be soon.  She is definitely a senmin.

Speaking of senmin and yakusokusha, here`s a little Japanese missionary language to English:
Senmin - elect (someone who`s ready to hear the gospel right now)
Dendo - missionary work, may refer to housing, teaching lessons, etc.
Shimai - sister
Choro - elder
Kaicho - president
`Setting the Table` - the first lesson we have to teach everyone. Kaicho wrote it.
Yakusokusha - investigator with a baptismal date
Doseki - a member who comes to a lesson or a lesson that had a member in it
If I ever use more weird words you aren`t sure of, let me know.
Ganbaru - to do one`s best, used in place of good luck
Ganbarimasu - a conjugation of ganbaru

We`re having a hard time with a couple of investigators in particular though, mostly with desire to know and put forth effort, our other yakusokusha,  "Uly", in particular.    It`s really frustrating.  Their prayers aren`t sincere, even though we`ve taught them the best we could and review it every lesson, even though we always talk about their relationship with Heavenly Father, that He is really their father who loves them and wants to talk to them and help them. They`re just kind of content the way they are in their sad little lives that they really aren`t happy with.  Our dendo shunin  (ward mission leader) had a really good suggestion about "Uly", trying to invite her and go do stuff with her.  He said people like her, who just kind of stay home and watch TV and don`t do anything or have any aspirations, have a really hard time feeling the spirit, but that if we can get her out and see that there are things to do, and there is a big world out there, she might be more receptive during our lessons. Ganbarimasu!

I also had my birthday this week! It was a pretty great day!  I got out of the shower to see the apartment decorated with all sorts of colorful things that my mother and Sister Walker sneakily coordinated on and some delicious cinnamon breakfast cake!  We had district meeting, and came back to eat at the church. Little did I know the Elders were coming in with "Nathan" and a Baskin Robins ice cream cake for a surprise party!  Even thought it was a tiny cake, it probably cost upwards of about $30 bucks!  "Nathan" is seriously the nicest.  He did become a yakusokusha in the Elders lesson right after that!  I`m so excited for the power of the atonement to enter his life!  We taught "L.S." restoration lesson, which was awesome, and then went to the "Matthews"  for a delicious dinner of homemade stew and cake!  They`re so nice.  They also gave me a Japanese style apron.  And then I opened my wonderful package from my mother, which had EVERYTHING!

In the past, I`ve been struggling with loving our investigators, and I`ve been praying for charity, and I think it`s working!  I clearly still have a long way to go, but I am coming to love our investigators so much, to be able to put myself in their shoes and see how sad their lives are, how much this message can help them, and how much I want to share it with them!  I got a blessing before I left the MTC that said, `You must remember that God loves ALL of His children.`  I thought it was interesting that that was in my blessings, but it`s making sense now.  He does love all of His children:  the happy ones, the sad ones, the lazy ones, the ambitious ones, the ones I automatically love and the ones I have a hard time loving.  I have to love all of them, too, though, and that`s what I`m working on!  Luckily, the Lord has enough love to spare, and he`s helping me out!

Lastly, Japanese is okay.  I can say a lot, but I feel like I can`t testify powerfully, not because I don`t know how to say it, but just because I don`t know how to make Japanese --which is flat and relatively emotionless-- sound powerful.  In English, I know how to say, `I KNOW God lives,` where to put an emphasis, and how to really mean it, but I don`t know how to do that with `Kamisama ga irrasharu to shite imasu.`  (God lives I am knowing.) I`ve been struggling with that this week.  Also, I feel like I`m not getting any better at understanding anyone, which is hard in lessons. I wish I could listen to them and understand what they`re saying, to listen like it says to in Preach My Gospel and testify according to their needs and reason with them.  I can`t do that.  It`s really frustrating.  I know it also says that even if I don`t know what they`re saying, the Spirit does, but pray and focus and try though I might, the spirit hasn`t been giving me any clues either.  I just gotta keep working and wait for the day.

I love you all!
The Church is true!
The Book is blue!
Sister Whitney

Me opening my birthday package.

Me and the decorations my lovely Mama sent.

Me and the cinnamon breakfast cake Walker Shimai made me.
My name in Kanji on the cake.
"Nathan" chose this kanji. The first is wing, the second is the kanji for nashi (those delightful Japanese pears I love), and the third one is the same one for Shu or Lord.  And apparently, you can read it `Ha ri su`.
 F.  Choro came up with a couple for me, my favorite one meaning `Squirrel Tooth`.

My cake!