Sunday, May 18, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Ten or so months ago before I left on my mission, I gave my farewell talk on Fathers Day, assigned the topic of how my father prepared me for a mission. I went into a lot of detail about the many ways he did that and about what an incredible influence he has been in my life.  But after the meeting, a few people approached me and said something like, `I hope you know how much your mother did for you as well.  It wasn`t ALL your dad!` And they were right, and I knew it.  I was just sticking to the assigned theme.  And all of the things I said about Dad were true, and they still are.  But my Mama has also been an incredible influence both to prepare me for a mission and to support me while on a mission.  I don`t think any mom in the mission (besides maybe Sister Broadhead`s mom) writes their missionary as much as you do, and certainly no missionary is any more loved by their family and their mama at home.  And I am very acutely aware of that.  Thank you so much, Mama, for making sure that this missionary, no matter what the conditions were in the field, knew that there was lots of love and support for her at home.  I also know that Nana Rose calls you another name sometimes: Dodo, am I right?  Well, I heard someone say `dodo` in Japanese in a conversation one day, and when I looked up what it meant, I thought of my Mama. `magnificently, majestically, grandly, confidently, dignified, and impressive.` I think the Japanese people knew about my mother! A big mothers day cheer for the most WONDERFUL mother in the world!  One, two, three, HEY MAMA!

So, I loved talking to you and being able to hear all of your wonderful and beautiful voices!   The next time I do, I`ll be standing with you in an airport!  But while those `woods are lovely, dark, and deep,` as Robert Frost said, `I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.` And that`s good too.

So here`s the lowdown on this week:

I wrote a little about it last time, but we went to a beautiful land bridge famous for being one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan.  I`ve wanted to go ever since I got transferred here, but because it was so far out in our area, it seemed impossible.  Until Monday! Monday was Golden Week (a serious of holidays that I`m not sure have any real meaning, but people have work off of), so Brother A**** had the day off, and being the wonderful human he is decided to take the missionaries!  And one of the Elders` investigators came, so we were able to leave earlier on Monday than we would have been able to.  And it was phenomenal!  We took the train,  walked from the train station to the land bridge, walked across about 2 kilometers of forest-y, mountain like beach beauty, and took a thousand million stair path to get to the top of a mountain, the viewing area.  At such viewing area, we took many pictures, ate loquat ice cream, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves before heading back down on a chair lift that was the epitome of excitement, followed by an enjoyable boat ride back, during which we threw bread to the seagulls and watched the kites (the bird variety) skillfully catch the crumbs.  It was a really, really cool day.

Tuesday was another day on the go.  It was the last day of Golden Week, which almost everyone had off, so we went visiting less actives far away with the entire branch, just about! Sister Broadhead and I went with H*** Kyoudai and S***** Shimai, and the Elders went with H******* Kaicho and A**** Kyoudai, and all drove back out to M*****, the same far away area where we had just been the day before, and visited about nine less actives there, splitting them between our two little groups.  No one was interested in coming back, but no one was hostile, and we had quite a bit of fun!  We came back after a morning of such spiritual shenanigans to eat lunch together and then go to do some branch service at the H***`s field/garden/I`m not entirely sure what it is, but it`s a big deal.  I found enveloped therein a metaphor for my mission.  We thought we were going to be working out in the rice fields, in the mud, working hard, doing cool Japanesey things that were glamorous!  We got all ready in our boots and JEANS and were excited for the work!  And they sent Broadhead Shimai and I to weed a garden. A very big garden.  A very big garden with very many very little weeds. But we weeded, we worked hard, and we weeded as fast as we could.  But in the end, after a few hours, we had managed to weed only a tiny little patch of the vast garden.  When we went out at the end to where the others had been working, C**** Choro said, `Did you see this place before we got a hold of it?  We ripped out this whole area and made this fence and...`  They did a great work, very obviously made a difference, whereas no one who went back to our little garden area would even be able to tell we had been there. 

I feel like that sometimes.   I kind of feel like this is the pattern of my mission: things start to go really well, and then things plummet, and no work ever actually gets done and no person ever actually gets helped. I want to help these people so much and be a true disciple! I`m doing my best not to get discouraged and hope that one day, one day things will finally work out. I decided to read a little bit about Abinadi this week in my personal reading because he has always been my favorite Book of Mormon hero. I`ve never known why though. I`ve never had a reason for loving Abinadi so much. I`ve even tried to change my favorite hero a few times when I felt like another character was cooler or felt like I needed a change, but I was never able to. I just have a deep and mysterious abiding love for Abinadi. Maybe because God knew that one day I would feel like him a little bit. Don`t get me wrong, I don`t feel like I`m being burned alive or anything. I know that I am very blessed to be on a mission and I live a good life in the service of the Lord and I am happy.  I bet Abinadi felt that way too. I don`t think he ever knew about Alma. I think all he knew is that he went where the Lord wanted him to go, tried his hardest and bore his testimony, and was for the most part rejected and eventually died. I don`t think he saw Alma in the backgrounds, and certainly not what an impact Alma was going to have on the lives of countless others. So now I pray for an Alma. I pray that somewhere in the last 10 or so months that someone has listened, that the doctrine has pricked someone`s heart a little bit more than it showed, or they have been prepared better to accept the Gospel in the future. I pray with all my heart that there might be an Alma. Of course, I`ll never give up hope or stop working for a King Lamoni and his people, as there are still `miles to go before I sleep` and I might have some of those one day, but I still pray with hope for an Alma. 

We had some lessons on Wednesday.  First, we taught T***** Shimai, who is getting less and less sure about baptism, but now loves the Book of Mormon which we taught about.  She was excited beyond belief when she realized we were giving her one of her very own.  

Then we biked to N**** before M*****`s lesson and ate at and Indo Curry restaurant.  Which was delicious because nan and curry are delicious. :) And then we taught M*****, who while she does not want to be baptized does still want to meet with us, which is good.  Then we went to visit N**********, whom we haven`t heard from in a couple weeks, and managed to set up an appointment.

We taught K****, our sweet little 80 year old Buddhist lady.  We taught about prayer last time, but couldn`t get her to pray no matter how hard we tried. This time however, with a little help from the Lord, we realized that she really just didn`t understand.  So we taught it again, a LOT simpler, and demonstrated with a prayer of just two or three sentences.  And then she got it.  She prayed, and she loved it!  She said she felt closer to God and would continue to pray in that way.

We taught M******* Shimai (our recent convert, less active) about the sacrament, and she said she would come and bring her son.   We brought potato chips to sacrament for him!  But then ate them in between sacrament and Sunday school when they didn`t come. And we visited some investigators who we hadn`t met in a while due to business, and they continued to be busy, bringing our number of dropped investigators of the week to 3.

We taught N************* with S***** Shimai as a doseki (member in a lesson). We`re still trying to help this lady believe in God.  We ask her about her concerns, which this time were: If God is real, then why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Of course people like Joseph Smith believe in God--they`ve seen Him. But since she hasn`t, how can she believe?

We answered this questions one by one, and she understands, but they`re always followed by another one. There is clearly a deeper concern underneath here, causing all of these superficial ones to surface.  We`re just not sure what the real one is!

Then, we had a lesson with S******* Shimai with H*** Shimai as a doseki.  And S******* Shimai`s heart is slowly slowly softening.  As H**** Shimai bore her testimony about morning prayer and scripture study, S******** Shimai excitedly said she wanted to begin praying and reading from the Book of Mormon just a little bit every morning and see how it goes.  She`s still quite against the idea of going to church, though.  She said that even though she doesn`t intend on getting baptized or coming to church (but hey, she didn`t intend on praying or reading the Book of Mormon either, and now she wants to do both every day). I hope she has  grown a little closer to God in the time I am here.  :)

Y*** Choro got broken.  The night before, on the way down the stairs to get the mail, he slipped and got pretty hurt to the point where he couldn`t walk.  A**** Kyodai had to piggy back him into the church.  Right after church, they called an ambulance to take him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed (do you use diagnosed with breaks?  I don`t know.  Probably not.) with a broken ankle, a fractured wrist, and a severely sprained other ankle. They transferred him to another hospital and then sent him back to his home this morning.  It`s rough.  He was a good bean missionary.  Godspeed to him in getting better. 

And then there was the rest of church and some housing in a beautiful mountain area. 

And that was the week.

I`m going to send some more pictures now! 

D&C101:16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for allflesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

The church is true!
The book is blue!

Sister Whitney 

 The sign on the wall of the eki ( train station).  They're really quite entertaining.  Please read. :)

The platform at the eki.

The densha (train)!

 Me and Sister Broadhead on the train.

The views from the train.

A street view walking to the land bridge.
 Some beautiful ocean views!

Walking along the land bridge!

 The end of the land bridge.  

Me at the end of the land bridge.
 Still walking along the land bridge.  

 A cool tree on the land bridge.
A cool log on the land bridge.

 The end of the land bridge.

 It's a boat on the ocean by the land bridge.

The view walking from the end of the land bridge to the area where we could climb up to see it.

 The chair lift we eventually rode down.

The street view.

The beginning of the many, much long stairs we walked up.

Just stuff we're seeing on the way up the stairs.

 Elder's and stairs.

Just other stuff we're seeing on the side of the stairs and the like.
 Sooooooo many stairs.

So when people go to the land bridge, the thing is to do this, to turn upside down, and people have done this probably ever since the land bridge was created.
 This is what is looks like if you do that.  I think it's supposed to look like a bridge between heaven and earth or something?  I think they were saying that.  And something about a dragon.

Land bridge view beauty.
This one is my favorite of me and Sister Broadhead.

Land bridge beginning CLOSEUPS

It is the lift and we are riding down it.

The boat we got on to go back across the land bridge

The view from the back of the boat.
The view and the Japanese flag

A kite chasing us in the sky, hungry for bread crumbs!

A mural with parts of the Japanese creation story or something or some belief they once had.  You watch your life on a mirror after you die, and if you were good, you go to heaven, and if you were bad, all of these gruesome graphic things happen to you depending on which sins you committed.  (You have your tongue ripped out and burned if you lied.  We`re not sure which sin gets you turned into an animal.)

On the way back view

 A guy in the front of a shop making soba noodles in a fancy way.

The train back.

Beautiful ocean views from the train.

 Train view

 Views of stuff!


 And that's all!  I must go now.

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