Sunday, June 1, 2014

Meeting Elder Christofferson Was The Coolest Thing Ever!

Do you know the song `Provo Utah Girls,` a BYU Divine Comedy parody of some Katy Perry song?  Well, in it, there`s a line that says, referring to some of the strange things about Mormon girls, `We have way different celebrities!`  And then pictures of old men (apostles) and then mysteriously Kronk from the Emperor`s New Groove passes by.  It`s true!  It`s true!  The mission has been preparing for MONTHS for one of these `celebrities` to come to Osaka and talk to us.  And while we didn`t get to see Kronk, meeting Elder Christofferson was the coolest thing ever!

But we`ll get to that later.

I wrote about last Monday last week.  That was stressful stuff.  However, one surprising thing that happened later is that we had DECLICIOUS tofu steak at the A****`s for FHE.  You didn`t hear me wrong.  It was baked, and then fried, and surprisingly おいしい食べ物.  (oishii tabemono, yummy food).   We also had spaghetti with a tropical fruit sauce.  That was new, and also yummy.  And because Elder Y*** went home and C**** Choro was in F**********, we had the A****`s all to ourselves!  It was delightful.  They bought cake for Sister Broadhead`s birthday the next day, we heard A**** Kyodai`s conversion story (he was a devout Catholic on crutches...the missionaries saw that he couldn`t get away, so they pounced...he was baptized 3 weeks later).

It was Sister Broadhead`s birthday!  I got up early and make pancakes!  ...  And then remembered that she doesn`t like pancakes.  Oh well.  It`s the thought that counts, right?  We had an effective day visiting less actives!  The first one we visited had passed away.   She would have been 90 or so..  The next one had been transferred to somewhere in Kyoto.  If we can`t get them coming back to church, then at least we`re cleaning up the records right? The next one...was home!  And fluent in English! And terribly confused about some doctrine, but let us in because we speak English, which is just too good of an opportunity to let pass, I believe. She`s been inactive for eons, but loves missionaries. (Probably because they all tend to speak English.)  And that`s where it is right now, but she`s interested in letting us come back.  We`ll set some things straight, help her feel the love of God again, and bring her back to church!  That`s my plan anyway.  Let`s see if she`s game for it.   

Then because that took longer than we`d imagined, we rushed home and made some instant mashed potatoes and gravy, which we took with us and sneakily ate behind the whiteboard during slow intervals during Eikaiwa.

Also, we got a new elder!  We began Eikaiwa with the sob story of Y*** Choro and told everyone that we, Shimai, would be the only ones teaching Eikaiwa for the rest of the transfer.  And then, who walks in not 20 minutes later but Elder C**** and a new elder from the doki (transfer) below us.  His name is Elder A****.

Remember K*** Shimai? She`s still not interested in `studying` with us anymore, but we went to lunch with her at a sushi restaurant.  It was a classy little place!  We felt very underdressed.  We also went with her husband as well, who I`d met a few times.   I (perhaps unwisely) let K*** Shimai choose my food for me.  It wasn`t took bad at first, but then the raw fish just became too much more was a miracle I was able to choke it down.  The worst part was the big chunk of green stuff I put in my mouth without realizing what it was.  With the intense burning came the realization that it was wasabi.  I grabbed my cup of mugi cha (barley herb tea) and chugged the rest of my water and somehow made it though!  For everyone`s future reference...don`t eat the green stuff.  The tenpura, however, was positively delicious.  Probably the best tenpura I`ve ever eaten.  :)

Then we had a slightly less day of visiting less actives where we didn`t actually find anyone at home.  But that`s okay.

H*** Kyodai joined us on our less active bike!  At the first stoplight we pulled up to, he breathlessly said, 早いですね! (Hayai desu ne! Wow, you`re fast!)  We went far away, couldn`t find the house we were searching for, got a flat tire, visited another less active just as he was pulling away on his bicycle until Broadhead Shimai courageously called out for him to stop!  And we talked for a little while.  Probably it would be okay for us to go back.

We had possibly our best lesson with N*********** and S***** Shimai who dosekied.  N************ has a lot of concerns about God.  So, we read in 2 Nephi 4 together from Nephi`s psalm and discovered a lot of her concerns.  S***** Shimai, who is kind of on the border of less active-dom, voiced a lot of hers too.  Mostly, the conversations kind of go like this.  N********: `Well, if God is real, then how come when I pray about my hair it still doesn`t grow back?`  S*****:  `Yeah, I have a similar concern!  How come when other people pray about things they want, you here about all these miracles, and when I pray and I try really hard to have faith, but nothing happens.  How do I keep having faith then?`  N*********:  `Yeah, that`s a good point!`  *sigh*  We`re helping both of them.  I hope.  However, the questions are slowly, slowly being answered. 

Then after teaching M******* Shimai and her son, T**********, we rushed off on the train to O*** to spend the night with H*******Shimai and H*** Shimai (whose place I took).  We did this so that we could make it to the Christofferson conference on time the next morning.  But we made it that night, and the Shimai kindly welcomed us into their apartment at the top of probably the steepest, evilest hill in all of Japan.  And I came bearing treats from K*** Shimai, who as soon as she heard that I was going to stay with H**** Shimai and probably see D****** Shimai the next day, sweetly asked if I could deliver some goodies for them.  How could I say no?

Also, funny story.  On the train there, there was a lady who kept looking at us.  We thought she was just interested in 外人 (gaijin, foreginers).  Then when we switched trains, she came to sit by us.  We, of course, saw this as a perfect opportunity for dendo!  Just as we were about to get all gospel-contact on her, she pulled out two business cards and said, `Do you know these two?`  They read Sister A***, and Sister O****, Shimai from the mission whom I did indeed know.  And we all started laughing.  She was a member from the F********* ward! 

She was just the sweetest lady.  While we talked to her, I realized how much observing Japanese members here and strengthened my faith.  When you`re in little branches in a place like Japan, it`s hard to just be lukewarm about the church. You`re either inactive or you`re in it with all of your heart. She told us excitedly that she was heading all the way to Ibaraki to hear Elder Christofferson speak the next evening (which, by itself, is quite an expensive train trip).  She had the two most recent conference Ensigns in her bag, which she was studying on the train ride over, both copies well marked, with little hearts by her favorites, markings and highlights and comments and cross references.  She was all by herself, and she didn`t yet know where she was going to stay that night or even where the Ibaraki stake center was, but there was one thing that she did know: she was going to hear an Apostle of the Lord.   And that was all she needed.  Wow.  What an example. This Gospel is worth ALL that we have.

Another thing she taught me: as we talked, we of course asked questions to each other.  We found out that her brother went to Eikaiwa and met the missionaries when she was younger, and that he invited her to listen to the missionaries as well.  The rest was history.  They both got baptized, and she served a mission in Sendai.  But, she added quickly, she and her brother were the only members in her family.  Then she asked with a friendly smile, `You`re from Utah and Idaho.  Everyone in your family are members, aren`t they?`  And we both said yes, almost everyone in our family are members and have been our whole lives.  She smiled and said ‘いいね‘.  (ii, ne-- that`s great), but I could see something in her eyes: longing.  She wanted that too.  So much.  I have always taken having all of the members of my family being church members for granted.  It just is.  Sometimes I`ve even thought it to be a little bit of a disadvantage as a missionary since I`m completely lacking the opposite viewpoint in knowing what conversion involves.  But I`d never TRULY contemplated the opposite side.  This woman, every day, was worried about her family`s eternal salvation.  Would she be able to live with them forever in the celestial kingdom?  She just doesn`t know.  She wants it more than anything; she wants what I have, but take for granted. It made me more determined to share this with as many people as possible.

We went to Ibaraki!  All the missionaries from the entire mission gathered in one spot, for the first time in eons. This seriously never happens. Whenever there are conferences, they split the mission up into 3 or 4 groups.  But when an apostle comes, we all come to him.  I`d been so excited for this day for WEEKS, telling Broadhead Shimai over and over again, `We`re going to see an apostle of the Lord!  We`re going to see an apostle of the Lord!`  I`m sure she just about wanted to hit me.  But we did!  All of the people there, and being expected to talk to them, overwhelmed me like crazy.  I was glad when spiritual preparation in the overcrowded chapel began and I could think again.  

And then Elder Christofferson entered, and we stood, and there was silence.  We filed up one by one to shake the hand of this great man of the 12, and I thought, `This man has seen our Lord.`  And he spoke to us.  And it was beautiful.  He spoke primarily about the love we need to have for those around us, the true and abiding love of Christ for these people around us who are members of our family.  And he answered our questions, teaching us the importance of the scriptures by turning to them for every answer he offered.  And then he blessed us that either that day or within the next few days, we would know that the Lord approved of us.  And to then get back to work.  It was all I hoped it would be.  (Also, that makes 2 apostles whose hands I`ve shaken!  13 more!   Haha.)

Then we had to try to get back to M******.  And it was traumatic.  There was a train and a subway and  Kyoto eki just teeming with people involved, and then finding we`d missed the bus back by just minutes.  It was a very stressful thing.  I was very close to deciding to find a corner, curl up in a ball, and remaining until I wasted away. Probably I should just go be a hermit in the mountains.   Eventually, we made it 8 o' clock that night.

Sunday things.  Church.  N************ came.  S***** Shimai didn`t.  Is that how it`s supposed to work?  Your investigator having to tell your member doseki that she needs to come to church?  She said she was going to call and tell her off for it.  You go, N*************.

And that`s the week.  It was a good one.

The church is true!
The book is blue!
I love you!

Sister Whitney

Broadhead Shimai`s lunch (tempura) at the sushi place.  Let`s just say it looked a lot more normal than my lunch.
The Kyoto tower!  It`s part of a hotel.  If you go to the top, you can see all of Kyoto!  Or so I`ve heard. :)

 O Miyage

So Japanese people have this funny cultural thing called an o-miyage.  It`s basically a food souvenir.  When you go somewhere, you bring people back an o-miyage, for which they have little stores in train stations and gas stations and the like you for you to quickly grab on your way back.  I think they`re foods that the area is supposed to be famous for or something.  We passed through Kyoto on Saturday on our way back from Osaka and the Elder Christofferson conference, and there was a store in the eki (train station) called Kyo-miyage.  Get it?  Like O miyage but KYO miyage, because KYOTO!

I`m not sure exactly whom one is supposed to bring back an o-miyage for though.  I wouldn`t suppose the missionaries would be on that list, but apparently they are.  This is a sweet potato biscuit thing o-miyage that ******** Shimai (a recent convert/less active that we teach) brought back for us.  And then the A****`s brought us back some yummy macaroons from somewhere. Yay o-miyage s!   

A pretty place we passed on the train this week.  :)

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