Sunday, December 28, 2014

先輩の週 (Senpai Week)

Good morning from a rainy Toyota.  I hope everybody had a fantastic Christmas!

It`s the most trunkiest time of the year and it has also been a week of birthdays here.  This week there were three very important birthdays celebrated in Japan: On the 23rd it was the Emperor`s birthday, then on the 25th we celebrated the birth of Christ with Christmas, and then yesterday it was my birthday.  A lot of birthdays right?  Thank you for all the birthday wishes!  My birthday was nothing special here.  I kind of celebrated it by myself.

Christmas was a great day.  We all got to you use Skype to call home and talk to our families.  It was super good to see everybody for the first time since August.  It was a super good release to talk to the family.  Now I just have to wait until May to talk to them again.  THANK YOU for all of the ornaments that decorated my Christmas tree!  I really appreciate it.  It means so much to have such great support.  

We had a ton of member visits this week and we got fed in the evening four times this week which was super good.  We got fed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Christmas is a good time for a missionary.  Earlier this week we got to watch a member shoot kendo which is traditional Japanese archery.  It`s super cool and super precise.

This week we also met with Morimura-san 3 times and actually taught him every time without meaning to.  He just keeps asking us questions and we teach him as we go.  It was crazy but we took purikuras (see pics) with him and then he bought us dinner and we started talking about the Word of Wisdom (a health code in the Church) and he committed to give up alcohol this week.  Super crazy!

This week is my 11th week of training which is also known as Senpai Week.  It means that I become the senior companion and take the lead on everything and my trainer takes on the language ability of a bean-chan who just came from the MTC.  It`s going to be super tough.  I have know idea how it`s going to go down.  I have a lesson with Morimura this afternoon to kick it off.  

This past week has been an interesting one doing some self evaluation and just looking back on my last 20 years of life.  I came to the conclusion that so far this mission has been the hardest thing I have done in my life so far.  Yes, more difficult than Freshman Year at USAFA.  I like to think I`ve done some hard things in the last 20 years.  I have never once gotten my eyes wet in any of them.  I didn`t cry in the Assault Course, I didn`t weep during Recognition, but in the last 4 months my tear ducts seemed to have grown more active than they have ever been in the last 2 years.  This mission so far has transformed my soul more than any other experience and every tear that may have been shed has been while I was testifying of truth.  I know I am supposed to be here and be tested and tried and to help these people in Japan.  This is difficult because I want to be successful because this mission will bless my life forever.  ``And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.`` (Romans 5:3-5)  

Thank you again for all of the Christmas and Birthday wishes!  I hope you all have a fantastic New Year`s 


Pic 1- Trying out kendo
Pic 2- Christmas Eve at the Miyachi Family


Sunday, December 21, 2014


Morning everybody,

Well Christmas was in the air this week.  At least it was the one day it snowed.  It melted later in the day.  The weather has been cold and rainy and riding through the rain sucks.  Nobody walks on the streets during weather like that or they don`t want to stop and talk.  There`s something else about winter time that makes investigators not want to talk to us anymore.  We`ve had to drop 4 of them which gives us the grand total of 9 right now.  I`m starting to feel like a missionary in Japan due to our reduced teaching pool.  For some of my friends in the mission 9 is the max they`ve had in an area.  

A lot happened this week.  We had Zone Conference in Okazaki which was super good.  It was a really big language confidence booster for me because President and Sister Yamashita both spoke in Japanese for the morning session and I could understand them pretty well.  They were speaking slowly, but it was still rewarding to see some sort of progression. 

We had a Christmas Party on Saturday at the church.  It was pretty fun and Elder Moretti was Santa Clause and Elder Miranda was his reindeer.  Elder Bills and I made little presents for the kids and it was a good time.  It felt a little more like Christmas with all the happy (crazy) kids.  

I hope everyone enjoys their Christmas!  Several of you have asked what I will be doing on Christmas Day.  Well, I will get to call home in the morning and then I work for the rest of the day.  Yep, no break, we work.  At least I didn`t have to take finals last week!!  (John and Ashley)

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas wherever you may be in the world.  Remember Heavenly Father loves each of you so much that He sent His son to this world to die so we all can live again.



Pic 1- P-Day last week was rather sweet shall we say...
Pic 2- Snow
Pic 3- Christmas Tree


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Month 2

Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever in the world ya`ll might be.

This week is the end of Month 2 in Japan.  It`s been rather cold and windy here in Toyota.  I shouldn`t complain too much and I have to be careful what I say because those elders in the northern area of the mission are freezing their butts off.  It`s super windy here and that`s what makes it cold.

It`s really hard to remember this past week because it went by fast and we did a lot.  On Thursday we went to Nagoya again for a ``mission tour`` with two other zones.  Elder Ringwood of the First Quorum of the Seventy did a mission tour and it was pretty good.  We spent the whole day in Meito (suburb of Nagoya where the mission home is).  I got to see some of my buddies from the MTC which is always a good time.  That night we went and did some Christmas visits with Sister Ichikawa.  Apparently every year she goes to some of here friends in the neighborhood and gives them bread and cookies she bakes and the missionaries share a short message about Christmas.  We visited 10 people and asked if they knew the purpose of Christmas and nobody really understood why it`s a holiday.  It was a really good Christmas activity to do and it reminded me of being home with Mom visiting the neighbors.  Ahhh trunky.  Next week we are meeting with one of the families to talk about the gospel/Christmas.  

We went to 森村 (Morimura, I love his kanji.  It means forest town) shop and taught about the First Vision and Jesus Christ and showed the Easter video ``Because of Him`` to explain why Christ is important.  It was a super good lesson and felt the Spirit and he let Elder Bills pray in his shop which is awesome.  森村 is my favorite.  He lights up every time he sees us.

Last night we went to a member`s home to a Christmas party.  It was super fun and all the kids were super crazy.  Yesterday we also watched the Christmas devotional from the First Presidency.  I loved what President Eyring spoke about Christ being the light of Christmas.  He is the Gift.  In case you haven`t seen the Christmas video the church made, here`s the URL:

Next week is Christmas and I`m excited!  I love Christmas and it`s definitely going to be a plus to call home.

Have a great week preparing for Christmas!


Pic- Don`t ask me because I have no clue

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Não falo Português.

Oi!  Tu tu ben?  Como você está?

As you can clearly see I live in an are with not just one, BUT two Brazilian elders.  Elder Miranda`s new compheiro is also Brazilian.  Elder Moretti is super cool and this is the last transfer of his mission.  He is what we call a ``dying`` missionary.  He was a Brazilian jujitsu/MMA fighter before the mission and could have been really good if he wouldn`t have left to come to Japan.  He is fluent in 3 languages because of his mission and he was like Miranda and couldn`t speak any English at the MTC and now he is fluent.  It`s so crazy.

This week has gone by so sloooowww.  I have forgotten a lot that has gone on.  Even though the week passed by super slow we still got a tone of work done.  We biked all over the city and have been trying to get our investigators to progress.  We went to Nagoya last Tuesday because Bills and I had to help with training the new trainers for the next batch of beans that came in.  I was hoping to see Tommy because he said that he had to be in the same area, but alas I never saw him.  

Last P-Day to celebrate Tuakoi`s transfer to Meito we went to a Yaku Niku place.  Yaku Niku is an all you can eat meat place where you grill your own meat in the middle of the table on a little stove.  It`s good, but you only get 100 minutes to eat.  We also went to Homi with the Brazilians with a Brazilian member (he`s an RM fluent in 3 languages as well) and had all you can eat Brazilian PIZZA!!  It`s super hard to find an all you can eat pizza place anywhere, but especially Japan.  It was super good. 

I got my hair cut last Tuesday and let`s just say you should watch the video on drop box because that explains it best.  

It`s been cold and raining all week, but of course we still go out and dendo anyways.  We saw a couple flakes of snow, but it just turned back into rain.  I would love some snow instead of cold rain.  

Not much else happened this week.  None of our investigators really progressed.  We did learn that one, by the name of Ando, is reading the Book of Mormon on his breaks at work which is super awesome.  He however won`t pray because he feels like he can`t talk to God.  It`s really sad because I know that our Father in Heaven wants him to talk to Him.  We are going to emphasize that God and Jesus Christ love him and want to help him in his life.

That`s it for this week.  Stay warm, unless you`re in Yuma, AZ where it`s warm whether you like it or not.  `Tis the Season!

Pic- Christmas at the Eki (train station)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Transfer Calls...

Morning ya`ll,

So Saturday was transfer calls.  A transfer occurs every 6 weeks where some missionaries get shifted around to different areas.  Trainers and bean-chans don`t typically get transferred, but....Someone did get transferred out of Toyota.  Elder Tuakoi who is Miranda`s trainer got sent to Meito (The Mission Home is in that area) to become the Zone Leader!  He is super cool and it will be sad to see him go.  I`ll be here in Toyota for at least another transfer.

So this week has been super full of experiences.  First off, Elder Miranda who came to Japan with me from the MTC and he is Brazilian and all the English he knows started at the MTC (and he`s actually really good) and we went on exchanges with each other this week.  It is super rare for two transfer 1 beans to go on exchanges together.  We went to Homi Danshi (Brazilian Heaven) to visit his investigators.  On the way I was about to OYM a guy and it turned out to be a less active member I have a good relationship with and I talked to him for almost 30 minutes.  My first Japanese conversation without a trainer!!  It was a really good confidence boost.  The rest of the night was Miranda talking to investigators in Portuguese and me talking in Japanese.  It was really good for me.  It was the most Japanese I have spoken in Japan.

Last P-Day I fulfilled a goal of mine: I met a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (Air Force) Airman.  He is a member`s son who just joined the Air Force in March and is already an NCO.  He is an electrical engineer on the C-130s I see everyday.  He was super cool and we talked (in mixed Japanese English) and showed each other lots of pictures.  He also has a sweet motorcycle.  He`s pretty much a Japanese me.

I want to talk a little about an investigator Morimura-san.  He is by far my favorite investigator.  He is super genki (energized)  all the time.  He owns a Euro/American clothing store in town where we teach him.  He looks like Tony Stark (Ironman) and he talks really informally and really fast.  He is so cool and is super fun to talk to.  We went to his shop this week and talked to him for a while and then taught about prayer.  It was super good and then we challenged him to pray on the spot with us after I provided an example for him.  He actually was willing to do so and it was so cool!  The last two investigators we`ve asked to pray have not been willing to do so.  It was super awesome and I know he will be blessed if he talks to his Father in Heaven.

Thanksgiving here was lame.  See the attached picture.  We had meat from Homi and dehydrated potatoes with a boiled egg.  Yum.  Hope you all ate a lot more than I did.

Thanks for everything everyone and ENJOY THE CHRISTMAS SEASON!



Pic 1- Air Force!!
Pic 2- Thanksgiving dinner


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving


Good morning sports fans,

Another week bites the dust here in 豊田市.  This week has gone by super fast and it`s been full of ups and downs.  We had some adventures this week and it`s been a lot of bike riding.  Also it`s Thanksgiving of Labor Day here in Japan today, so Happy Thanksgiving.  And yes there was an earthquake.  Apparently it was a 6.8 in Nagano, which is a long ways away from me, but we still felt it at night and the whole apartment was swaying and it felt super weird.

We went to a member`s home with the intention of making bread, but it turned into a full on dinner and we spend almost 4 hours in the evening with the Ichikawa family.  It was super good and they are one of the nicest families in the ward.  The father is a non-member and he was at work but they have a daughter on a mission in Temple Square in Salt Lake.  We made soup, bread, and hamburger (went in the soup) and it was all ``souper`` tasty.  It was good to spend some time with a member family.  Some of my favorite memories from living in Yuma was having the missionaries come over to our house and play with us kids.  I want to be a good example for families and their kids in the ward so they can have similar memories of the missionaries that I have.

Missionary work has been kind of slow this week.  We had more member lessons than anything else.  We went to an older gentleman member`s home for me to practice Japanese and give a lesson.  His name is Miyachi Kyodai and he is super nice and one of the first members I met here.  The beginning of the lesson where I was just getting to know him went the best.  Once I tried teaching a gospel principle, everything went down hill.  I didn`t know where to with the lesson and once that happened, I lost confidence, and when I lost confidence, I lost my ability to speak.  It was great to practice with someone who is patient and wants to help me out. 

We decided to ride our bikes to the bishop`s home to talk to him about ward missionary efforts.  The ride was a 55km (35 mile) ride round trip.  It took us 2 hours to get up there all up hill.  We got to see sakura!  Sakura is cherry blossoms that only bloom twice a year.  It`s super pretty and there`s a video on the dropbox.  On the way back down (in the dark) we were flying downhill and we saw this shrine all lit up and decided to check it out.  Bills had never seen anything like it before.  There were 600 candle ``magic`` lanterns made by some mentally handicapped kids at a hospital down the road.  It was really neat and we were offered some free wild boar stew if we would have come back the next day, but we couldn`t because the next day was Sunday (shucks).

Hope you all are doing awesome and have a great Thanksgiving on 木曜日.  Eat lots of turkey for me.

Love you all and thanks for everything.


Pic: Sakura!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Sheep Dog

O-haiyo freakin gozaimasu!

It`s been another week here in 豊田市.  Speaking of which, Wednesday is my one month mark being here in Toyota!  It`s crazy to think I`ve been here for a month.  

So gone are the days of 75 degrees day and night.  All of a sudden out of nowhere it got cold.  It`s been around 45 degrees when the sun goes down (which is like 1730) so gone are the days of riding the dark streets of Toyota in short sleeves.

So here in Toyota we are on the flight path for a Japanese Air Force base in Nagoya.  Every day I see about 5-8 C-130s fly over with the the red dot painted on the sides.  Every time they fly over (I look up and almost crash my biki) I get super what we call ``trunky``.  ``Trunky`` (meaning pack your trunk and go home) is our term for missing things from our past lives or home.  For example, most missionaries get trunky when they think about girls they left behind or will potentially date when they get back.  There are only a few things that get me trunky, those things stated above.  My trainer likes to poke fun at me for getting trunky over airplanes.  I guess I`m an Air Force nerd.

Well not too much out of the ordinary has gone on here.  The big emphasis has been visiting Less Active members lately.  It`s not my favorite thing to do, but it takes us all over the city and helps us find new investigators.  

I have been really trying to focus on investigators this week and it`s super stressful.  It`s stressful to always be wondering what they need to be taught next and how to best teach them about the gospel in order to help them.  It`s been a super good, but super exhausting focus.  I am trying to be as involved as I can with everything since I cannot express myself all to well in a lesson.

My big focus for the week has been to develop a Christ-like attribute and it was also a challenge from our district leader.  On the self assessment I learned that I am the worst at...PATIENCE.  It`s funny because it`s true.  I have had a hard time being patient with our investigators slow progression and with myself learning the language.  There are days where I am super happy with how I performed while speaking to people and others where I wonder how the heck I`m going to do this.  I thought I was getting away from stress when I left USAFA, but I traded it for a new type of stress.  The main difference is that I stress over other people much more than I stress over myself.  I want to help and teach the people so bad so that they can feel God`s love.  My job is to seek out those sheep who are lost and rescue those who are in the jaws of the wolves of this world and bring them to God.

There is a Shepherd.
There are Sheep.
There are Wolves.
I am His Sheep Dog.

Thanks for all the prayers.  I love all of you.  Thanks for all the support and e-mails, it means so much.


Pic-We found this while dendo-ing.  It`s the closest I`ll get to flying for a while

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Want a Gym...

Good evening 皆さん!  Well I guess it`s 0100 in the morning for all of you in the States.  Yeah!

So this e-mail is being typed late in the day because I went to go pick up my noble steed.  Yes, you heard correctly, I finally the proud owner of a bicycle that`s not a mama-chadi!  I got like 4 e-mails last week with everybody telling me that my bike was super girly.  Well now I have a stallion that rides smooth, silent, and absorbs shock like nothing else.  I hope it stays nice for a long time.

So I decided to weigh myself this morning after I did one of my excise routines (you have to be creative) and I did so.  To my surprise I weighed in at... 194 lbs!  I haven`t weighed that since the fall of my senior year in high school!  I really miss the weight room at USAFA (Tommy probably misses it more than I do) because I feel like I`m not going to be able to maintain anything I had pre-mission.  Oh well, I guess that`s not the point of a mission.

Also speaking of USAFA, I just learned that two of my friends soloed last month!  A big shout out to John Cahill and Ashley Torres! Ya`ll rock.

Back to Japan.  Well everything is going just genki.  I have been all over the place this past week.  I`ve been to Seto-shi for my bike, Okazaki-shi for district meeting, and good old Toyota-shi for some excellent dendou (missionary work).  I learned something super interesting about culture this week.  So chewing gum in public is super taboo (super weird for Americans), but you can take a pee in the bushes in the middle of the street and that`s ok.  When Elders Bills told me that I didn`t believe him, but later that night as we rode though Toyota City, sure enough there was a guy walking away from some bushes zipping up his trousers.  Really!?  Gum is bad, but you can pee wherever you want?

My language skills grow super slow and I`m a very impatient person.  I want to talk and understand people so bad.  After every time we talk to someone I look over at my trainer and try to translate and recite everything I heard so that I can see if I actually understood what people were saying to me.  It`s so frustrating when you are super far off from what they said.  I`m still in the 10% range of comprehension.  People say that the mission isn`t about learning a language, it`s about teaching people.  To that I say yes, that is true; however I can`t teach if I don`t understand a word they say.  I guess I`ll just have to just press on.

So we had couple of really good lessons this week.  We have three Filipino investigators who speak fluent English.  They are 18-24 years old and they are pretty cool guys.  After I first met them my first week I felt they really needed a Book of Mormon.  We got to teach one of them this week.  His name is Koji and he is super cool.  We taught the First Vision and about the Book of Mormon and it was super good.  He said he would get his buddies to read as well.  This Sunday (yesterday) was actually pretty good.  I had to talk in front of the ward, but it was only an introduction and testimony.  The members were a lot more friendly towards me this week for some reason.  We had a really good lesson after sacrament meeting with a 47 Japanese man named Ando-san.  His Japanese is super hard to understand because he has no teeth.  We taught once again about the First Vision and the Book of Mormon and the importance of prayer.  bills taught most of the lesson but I was able to share what I thought about prayer and bear my testimony about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  Even though I didn`t understand a lot of what was said I definitely felt the Spirit and it was such a good lesson.  We invited Ando to be baptized...but he declined and said he needs to think about it.

I wish I could tell you all that I experience.  Life`s full of ups and downs out here.  It`s a matter of making the ups last longer than the downs.  God bless all of you!  Your support means the world.



Pic: A sweet bell from a shrine in the mountains

Monday, November 3, 2014

When the Going Gets Tough


So I just experienced my first full week here in Japan.  I did a lot of stuff this past week.  First off,  no one can pronounce my katakana name to save their life(Ha-dokyassuru).  It usually takes them two or three tries to get it right.  Some people call me ``Ha-do`` or ``katai`` (means hard) or ``katai shiro``(hard castle).  I wish I just had a kanji name tag because it would solve that problem.

So last P-Day I ate the dreaded natto which is fermented soy bean paste.  It is friggin gross and I hope to never eat it ever again...hopefully.  I`ve had a lot of really good food and I take pictures of a lot of the different things I eat.  My favorite thing to eat here is katsu(fried meat) and curry.

I`ve been to a couple different shrines.  I was on companion exchanges with Tuakoi Choro and we went to a shrine on Halloween night.  The shrine was one where they used to behead people.  It was raining and super dark and there were a bunch of statues without heads.  Pretty neat right?  Later today we`re going to the mountains into the jungle to go to another shrine.  Adventure Time!

I went to Okazaki for Zone Conference and got to see my buddy Cowan from the MTC.  I also went to Seto yesterday to buy a bike.  I`m getting to see some different places which is cool and apparently we get transferred a lot in this mission, except for Toyota.  Most missionaries who serve in Toyota end up being here for 5 months.

As for dendou (missionary work)  I`ve tried to keep my personal goal of talking to two people a day.  I can usually get an approach started and Bills Choro finishes it up.  He`s super good at OYMing.  We do a lot of housing (tracting).  We will usually bike to someone we`re going to visit and if they`re not home we house the apartments next to them.  Most have what are called ``keko boxes`` which is a camera on the doorbell.  I hate them.  I would much rather talk to a person.  

We had 16 investigators.  We dropped 5 of them and 5 more are in danger of being dropped because they`re not keeping commitments.  We have about 5 promising investigators so we`ll see how it goes as the week progresses.  

I taught my first real lesson this week IN ENGLISH!  Tuakoi Choro had an investigator who went to a year of college in Washington and wanted to practice his English.  Miranda hardly speaks English so Tuakoi asked if I could be prepare to teach about The Restoration and the Book of Mormon (Lesson 1).  The guy was super cool and it was a really neat experience and it was going well, I could feel the Spirit and asked him if he would start reading the Book of Mormon.  I had a greenie moment and thought that he would be super excited about it and say yes...but he said he didn`t feel like this was the right time for him to get into religion.  He kept the Book of Mormon and we bore testimony on the truthfulness of the Gospel and that if he had any questions he should call.  Hopefully he will have that drive to listen to all of our lessons someday.  It was actually had to teach in English because I had to keep it simple.  Tuakoi told Bills later that day (to my surprise) that I led the lesson.  It was a great experience.

I understand about 10% of what people say.  The ward has really nice people and others who are hard to work with.  Some don`t like that I don`t understand Japanese.  Tough for them, I`m learning.  I feel like I understand more and more everyday.

Hope everyone is genki.  I am so thankful for your prayers.  I love all of you


Pic: Shrine from last P-Day

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Good Morning Sports Fans,

So, Mondays in 日本 are Sundays in America.  My P-Days are typically Mondays unless there`s some big festival, then it`s on Tuesday.  

First thing is I`m too big for this country.  Everything is small.  I have to duck through doorways, cars are tiny, I can`t buy a bike yet because they`re all too small, and the people are tiny.  I`m a giant!  I stand out like a sore thumb.  They call foreigners gaijin and Bills 長老 (my trainer) can evesdrop on people talking about us as we walk by.

This place is also a jungle.  The roads are lined by bamboo jungle.  There are flippin massive spiders that make gigantic webs.  They don`t need decorations for Halloween.  There`s also random shrines in the jungle and there`s one close to our apartment.

Our area is Toyota City.  I will be here for at least 12 weeks, maybe longer.  There are 4 choro-tachi in this area, us and another set.  Miranda is in my area with his trainer (he`s one of the Brazilians from our district in the MTC).  In Japan all Greenies are called Bean-chan.  Chan is a title for children and we are little like beans so that`s the explanation.  Our ward here in Toyota has about 50 active members (so it`s pretty big) and we currently have about 15 investigators.  I haven`t met the ward yet because Sunday was Stake Conference so I went back to Nagoya for that. I go to see Klein and Cowan there. All the members I`ve met are super nice.  They gave us a ton of food yesterday.  It`s great.  I think I`ll get spoiled a little in this area.  

My trainer`s name is Bills Choro from Cliffton, Idaho.  He was converted to the church two years ago while going to school at USU. He`s a biochem major hoping to become a trauma surgeon.  He seems like a good guy.  Even though we only have 20 Japanese elders in the mission he hasn`t had an American companion since his trainer which was 8 months ago.  His Japanese is super good and he`s working on learning Portuguese right now.  He`s super smart and good with languages.  He`s already fluent in Spanish and pretty much fluent in Japanese.

The language is rough.  I maybe get 5-10% of what someone is saying.  Bills 長老 has to help me understand a lot of what people are saying.  A big thing in our mission is OYM, meaning Open Your Mouth, which is talking to everybody you pass.  I have made it a goal (a wimpy one but none the less a goal) to OYM at least two people a day for this upcoming week.  Bills told me that he never OYM`ed with his trainer because his trainer didn`t like it.  I feel for some reason that if I talk to people, or at least get them started and Bills finishes, my language skills will improve.  Missionaries are supposed to follow a 12 week training plan (not just for language, but all things missionary) and at the end of those 12 weeks you are supposed to be ready to train a new bean.  It`s our goal to have me ready to train in 12 weeks.  Let`s go!!

It`s been good, but tough here.  It`s going to take a lot to get the language and get familiar with the area.  The struggle is real.  It`s going to require a lot of patience to do.

I love you all.  Thank you all for your support, it is very appreciated.

スピイドとてんし (Speed and Angels)


Pic 1: The view from the アパート(Apa-to; ie Apartment)
Pic 2: Dinner yesterday


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mission: Nagoya

ハードキャッスル長老のでんどうをうければ日本にいきます。 (Literally: Elder Hardcastle your mission if you receive it is to go to Japan)

Well I tried to make it like Mission Impossible.


So this is it folks, my last e-mail from the BYU State Penitentiary.  We say goodbye to the good ole MTC on Monday at 0330 in the morning.  We fly from SLC to Detroit at 0730 and then we fly from Detroit straight to Nagoya at 1330 and land in Nagoya at 1730 the next day.  Crazy isn't it?  It's so exciting to get to finally go to Nihon.  There are 14 of us Senkyoushi on our flight (8 choro-tachi and 6 shimai-tachi) and I don't know how we are going to be seated or anything.  We are not allowed to watch the movie or anything on the flight.  It's going to be a long ride.  I'm probably going to catch up on some sleep.  The only other thing we're allowed to do is read my scriptures.  Tanoshii desu ne?  

It's going to be pretty sad leaving our shimai behind.  Our whole district has become really tight over the last 8 weeks.  It's going to be hard to leave all the boys behind once we split up in Nagoya.  We only spend one night in Nagoya and then we go straight to our area.  The Kobe missionaries spend 3 days at their mission home which just seems like a long time.  I'd love to get sent to somewhere in the Japanese mountain countryside, but knowing my luck I'll be sent to a big city area.  I'm sure I'll love wherever I end up.  

It's time to rock and roll.  I love what I'm doing and I know I am going exactly to where the Lord needs me to go.  It's going to be hard with lots of difficulty learning a new language and trying to get people to talk to me, but with God anything is possible.

皆さん愛しています。  I am so grateful for your love, support, and prayers.  I need all the help I can get.  Talk to you all when I get to Nihon!!




Pic 1: Off to Japan
Pic 2: My Testimony written in hiragana.  It's got several typos, the first sentence has a huge error, but other than that it wasn't too shabby.
Pic 3: The District


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Who Do I Cheer For?


So it's been a great week for the spiritual and secular side of life here at the MTC.  First off,  UTAH STATE BEAT BYU!!! Secondly AIR FORCE BEAT NAVY!!!  Both are pretty big deals and I am super excited.  But now the dilemma is this: who do I cheer for this week with USAFA playing USU?  I guess I really shouldn't be worried about that and focus on my spiritual side of events.

General Conference this weekend was awesome.  Despite the fact that I sat in the gym auditorium for 16 hours over the course of Saturday and Sunday it was really good.  It was the first time I have ever taken notes during General Conference and I saw the trends and patterns of what the Prophet and his Apostles received revelation on.  My favorite talk was by Lynn G. Robbins (the second speaker) about the importance of which way we face, are we doing the right thing by facing the people and standing for God or are we doing the wrong thing by giving into the World and standing for the people against God.  It was a great missionary talk because that is our purpose.  Our purpose is to invite people to come unto Christ and join His restored church here on the earth. 

The huge topic was on the importance of prophets especially of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Gospel.  On Sunday night our district went and watched "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" movie. I love it and I am so thankful that a young boy of 14 sought out an answer from our Father in Heaven.  I know the Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and translated the Book of Mormon. I know the Book of Mormon is true and that it is the most true book here on planet Earth.  If you haven't seen the movie I have mentioned above I challenge you to watch it.  If any of my non-member friends have any questions about the Church, please find the missionaries and ask them.  You won't get any good info from the internet.  It's the missionaries job to answer your questions so I challenge you to talk to them.

On to my Nihongo.  We had to give orientation to a new district of Nihongiins (Japanese) missionaries.  There are two elders and seven sisters.  They can't pronounce my name very well so they call me "Katai Shiro" which is the literal translation of Hardcastle.  It's pretty cool.  I leave for Nippon in 11 days and I definitely can't speak Nihongo on a conversational level.  I will definitely be learning most of my Nihongo in the field.

So tomorrow the movie "Meet the Mormons" is coming out and I hope we get to see it here at the MTC.  I would like to challenge you all to go and watch it.  Navy's football coach is highlighted in it.

We get our flight plans to Nippon tomorrow!  We're all pretty excited and can't wait to get to country.

皆さんを愛していますよ.  Thanks for all your prayers and support.  It is felt.
Pic 1- Japanese fish and rice cracker snack.  Yes that's a real fish with bones, guts, and all.
Pic 2- Eating him
Pic 3- I made a deal with one of our Sensei-tachi that if BYU won I'd wear a BYU shirt and if USU won he'd have to wear my USU shirt.  You know the end result of the game.  Nitta Sensei is an awesome sport and the best sensei we could ask for.  He is a great guy and we love him to death.  That's Kasteler Shimai with us.  She's an Aggie so she joined in on the picture

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Apparently it's Navy Week...


And another one bites the dust.  It's hard to find something new to talk about when everyday is just about the exact same.  I was extremely happy to hear that Air Force beat BSU!  I leave and USAFA starts winning, not fair.  

The language is progressing slowly.  Last night we had one of the most awkward lessons ever.  We skyped a member living IN Japan.  It started off super awkward because my headset was having technical difficulties and she was patiently waiting for that to get fixed.  Then my companion got nervous and jumped straight into the lesson without getting to know her at all.  After we finished the lesson we talked for a while.  This is where I notice my Nihongo is better when I'm talking normally to someone rather than teaching a lesson where I don't want to forget saying something.  Watashi no doryou freezes up and can't speak when he's nervous even though he's pretty good at vocab and grammar.  The ending was really bad.  I didn't know if we were to end a lesson on skype with a prayer or not so I kind just said, "Watashitachi wa choto jikan ga arimasu soshite iku irimasu."  Definitely not good Nihongo I literally said, "We have little time, therefore we need to go." At least that's what I hope we said.  We hung up afterwards.  Super awkward right?  We have 3 more skype calls before we leave, but we have devised a plan to not let it be so awkward in the future.  The lady was really nice and spoke super slow for us and it was fun to get to know her.

Nothing truly exciting has gone on this week.  No Apostles came so I fell asleep for have of the fireside on Tuesday.  That happens just about every week but it's not intentional.  I just need one day where I can sleep in until 0930 or something.  

General Conference is this week and 5 of the 8 Choro tachi are singing in the Priesthood session of conference.  I would have loved to sing in the choir with them, but I had to be in a Zone Leader meeting when they signed up to go.  I'm really jealous of them.  

I love watching us all grow as a district.  We all want to go and teach the people of Japan.  My testimony of the Gospel has definitely grown here and I know that it will continue to grow once I get into the mission field.  There are two things I know that God has wanted me to do and that is go to USAFA and go on a mission.  Both have been the best experiences for me.

Also I'm sorry if I haven't responded to anyone's mail they've sent me.  We're only allowed to write on P-Day and I already go over time on the computer.  Have a great week and thanks for all your support.


Hardcastle 長老



Pic 1- P-Day fiesta
Pic 2- Katakana name tag.  We can't wear them until we leave


Thursday, September 25, 2014

もうもういっかい (Once More)

こんにちわ かぞく と ともだち (use google translate that make's it fun)

So we lucked out here at the MTC and another Apostle of the Lord came and spoke to us here.  That's two in two weeks!! (sorry once again Tommy)  M. Russell Ballard came and spoke and it was as though his talk was meant for me.  He spoke as a grandfather would to all of his grandchildren about missionary work.  He said to remember that we volunteered to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we need to wake up to that reality.  His talk was really important to me because I have been reading his book "Our Search for Happiness" which was written for nonmembers.  I encourage you all to read it, it is a great book especially for those who don't know much about the church.  I have been trying to find ways to strengthen my testimony and faith and it has really helped to become the investigator my self and to find answers to my questions.  

Something to truly celebrate is that it has been ONE MONTH as of last Saturday!!!!  I get my parole in less than a month.  My Nihongo is progressing slow and steady, but I really just want to get to Nihon and learn from experience.  I'm seeing pics from all my Academy buddies from around the world and I'm still here.  Patience is a virtue I guess.  

I guess I should tell you all that my companion Klein 長老 and I have been called to be the Zone Leaders for our branch.  We are now overseeing five districts and life just got more busy.  I guess this is a life of work and service so you can sleep when you're dead.  We have to fit in DL interview around our study time and にちようび (Sunday) just became the busiest day of the week.  This is what I've needed though.  I have felt somewhat without a purpose since we got a new DL and it was great to get back in the saddle again.  It helps my attitude and makes me feel like I'm in the service of others since I don't have real investigators or Nihongiins to serve.

Lessons are still hard to teach depending on the investigator.  The other day Klein and I were teaching a lesson to our difficult "investigator" and we forgot our lesson plan.  It was so bad in fact that he told us that if we didn't remember we could come back and teach later.  He was opening the door for us to leave and we hadn't even had a closing prayer.  So embarrassing.  Our other "investigator" is progressing well, but he's also a "17 year old kid" so he's easier to connect with and talk to.  It's just hard to get excited to teach a きゅうどしゃ (an investigator) who doesn't really want to learn.  We just haven't found the right way to connect with him yet.

Missions are cool.  There's nothing I'd rather be doing right now.  It will only get better once I leave here.

I love you all and all of your support.  It means a ton.

スピイド と てんし


Pic 1- Some of the district with our Nihon shirts
Pic 2- All Hail the Utah State Aggies!  We got my buddy Cowan a Aggie shirt because BYU tries to convert all the international elders to come to BYU and they give them free gear.  I thought he needed a second opinion.
Pic 3- Someone missing a leg?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

こんにちわ皆さん (Kon'nichiwa Minasan)


We are down another week.  Things are going decently well.  My Nihongo is progressing and it is coming along the more I use it and teach.  Life is so repetitive here it's annoying.  It's getting difficult to come up with new stuff to write about as the week commences.  I need some new scenery.  

One of my Shimai started having foot problems so bad she could hardly walk.  In the beginning her feet just ached and then she found out she has heel spurs, but was told not to worry about it until after the mission.  Then the next day she got worse and worse and was told on Sunday by our Branch Presidency that if she couldn't walk by the end of the week she was going to be sent home.  She was devastated.  She asked me for a blessing and I was more than willing to oblige.  I felt a strong impression to tell her afterwards that I didn't know when she would be healed, only that she would weather she could stay or if she had to go home.  We found out yesterday that Kasteler Shimai will be staying with us.  She had a minor tear in a tendon in the back of her ankle and it got super inflamed and that it should heal itself.  She walking with a minor limp right now, but she should be just fine.  Miracles do happen with faith.

Our new DL signed us up to host the new incoming senkyoshi-tachi on Monday and yesterday I helped welcome 4 of them to the MTC.  I don't have a desire to do it again.  Every person I hosted will leave right before me or right after me and I've already been here for four weeks.  It was a good experience to do it once, but I hope we don't get signed up to do it again.  

We had an Apostle come and talk to us Tuesday night (sorry Tommy).  Elder Richard G. Scott came and spoke to us on prayer and about the missionary experience.  My favorite thing he said was, "Missions are fun so have a blast!"  I loved that.  He loves missionaries and said that missions are meant to be a time of work, but have fun and make it the best two years of your life.  To me that says if there are some minor rules that need to be bent then I say bend them because you'll never have this experience again.  2 Nephi 2:25 says, "Adam fell that men might be, that men are that they might have joy"  I intend to have and find joy on my mission.  

I am enjoying the spiritual experiences I am having here, but I can't wait until I can get to Nihon.  My purpose is to serve them and I want to leave this time of training and get to work.  Saturday is my halfway point here at the MTC and I can't wait until I get on the airplane on Oct 20.



Hardcastle 長老

Pic 1: We finally got some Nihon shirts after four weeks.  These are a hot item for some reason and they have been sold out.  When we got ours they sold out before lunch.
Pic 2: Planting flowers for service.
Pic 3: Mom's stickers on the backs of some of our name tags.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 いつも おぼえます(Always Remember)

Konichiwa minasan,

Another week bites the dust here at BYU State Penitentiary (MTC).  Just kidding, it's really not that bad.  I was asked to give a brief synopsis of what I actually do here.  Well here is an average day schedule:

0630-Wake up 
0640-0730- Gym
0830- Daily Planning
0900- Personal Study
1000- Companionship Study
1100- Language Study
1200- Additional Study
1250- Lunch
1330- TALL Language computer program
1430-1730- CLASS
1730- Dinner
1820-2130- CLASS
2230- Bed Time

That's our average day here at the MTC with every minute of everyday planned out.  It's really exhausting here.  I feel super smoked every morning when I wake up.  I'd kill for a weekend.  Wait, what's a weekend?

I was replaced as DL on Sunday.  I was really sad that I lost my district, but they try to trade out DL's every 3 weeks.  I love working with everyone in our district.  I have been learning some Portuguese on the side because the other companionship we share a room with are from Brazil.  One speaks English, but the other doesn't.  Tsuru Choro is the English speaker and new DL and his Doryo, Miranda Choro, is in the Brazilian Army and is a survival instructor in the Amazon.  Pretty sweet right?  Miranda has been really quiet, but since I've tried to speak Portuguese he has really opened up and is trying to learn some English along with Nihongo.  I wish I could be multi lingual.  I am losing my German and it's making me sad.  I wish I could retain it somehow, but it just might now be meant to be.

The language is coming slower now.  We are not learning a quickly as we were.  We are three weeks in and we still use simple sentences, but I cannot have a conversation.  My comprehension really depends on the day and the speed at which someone talks and their vocab.  We are not allowed to use notes or books in any of our lessons now.  It is all based off of our preparation and ability to come up with sentences on our own.  None of the other districts do this, but I'm glad our Sensei-tachi are pushing us to do better.  They really want us to teach by the Spirit and I can come up with stuff on my own off of inspiration sometimes and that is cool, but it really depends on my vocab, grammar, and lesson prep.  

Tommy and Tanner left the MTC this week on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.  I'm going to miss those two.  I'll get to be able to see Tommy in a couple of months.  All three of us are going to try to get into CS-09 "Viking Nine" when we go back to the hill.  It would be sweet if it all worked out.

We got our first Dear John letter in our district this week.  One of our Shimai got it from her boyfriend.  Thank goodness I don't have any relationship problems or anything to tie me down.  Dad has always been right from the beginning.  Life's just going to be great as a freelancer over the several years of life.  I'm just waiting for some more of those to sneak in here in the next 7 weeks.

I don't know why but I want to talk a little about my New Zealand friend Cowan Choro.  Unbeknownst to most, this optimistic, half Maori guy only has one leg.  He is a great fun loving guy who almost always has something positive to say.  He was hit by a car while training for a triathlon a couple years ago and lost the use of his leg and  thought that he would never be able to serve a mission.  Now this Choro through his strength and diligence is serving a mission and his twin is in the Philippines serving as well.  He will be riding a bicycle like the rest of us and he doesn't worry.  He know that if he puts his trust in his Father in Heaven he can accomplish anything.  In fact we all can.  God loves all of us and with him anything is possible.

Here's a great scripture from our Devotional on Sunday.  1 Timothy 4:12 "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in purity."  That's what us Senkyoshi are supposed to do.

Remember today is 9-11.  There are those serving out there so that I can practice my religion and allow this Gospel to spread.

Supiido to Tenshi

Hardcastle Choro

Pic 1- I had Dad e-mail me some flag patches for my district.  They came the day right before I was release from being DL.  Good timing.
Pic 2- Tommy, Tanner, and I
Pic 3- Tommy and I until the mission field
Pic 4- On Wednesdays we wear pink (at least most of the district and Nitta Sensei)


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Junbi o hi

Well sports fans we made it to week two.

It's been one crazy week.  Several members of my district got sick this week.  Some very sick.  I have given and assisted in two priesthood blessings this week.  Last Saturday one of my Choro-tachi got so sick and weak he couldn't walk.  He's from Brazil and barely 100 lbs and since the doc doesn't come to the MTC on weekends we had to go to the office off campus.  Since his companion is also Brazilian and doesn't speak English I decided I go with him as District Leader.  It took forever.  His companion and I gave him a blessing with some of our zone leaders the day before and now Tsuru Choro is as right as rain and as happy as ever.  The power of the priesthood is real.  The next day one of my shimai-tachi asked for a blessing because she was sick.  It was the first priesthood blessing blessing I have ever given and all the choro-tachi in the district stood in the blessing.  It was a really neat district experience.

Being district leader is still a great experience, but frustrating some times.  I often find myself getting mentally frustrated with them because they're not as high speed as I am or aren't willing to maintain a positive attitude.  I am just used to people who want to do their best at all times, even when times get tough.  For some of these folks it's like the world has ended if they didn't get mail that day.  I do love them all, I really do, it's just different is all.  I'm not bragging when I say I have more experience than most of the people at the MTC and from those experiences I know how to handle situations.  I try to help them and coach them everyday and I hope I am helping them.

The language is getting better.  We have two new investigators and it is both of our sensei-tachi.  Klein Choro and I taught two lessons yesterday with polar opposite effects from each.  Our first lesson was with our second lesson with a character who is 17 who learned about Christ through Christian rock and wants to know more.  This was our second lesson with him and I managed to do the whole lesson on Jesus Christ and the Atonement with only a few notes in English.  We felt the need to invite him to baptism at the end of the lesson and read the baptismal commitment out of the PMG and to our surprise he accepted (remember this is a sensei acting out one of his own actual investigators).  It was a great lesson and I felt super confident.  Later that evening we had another lesson with our sensei who was acting a 53 year old man who wife was a member and has met with the missionaries before and wants to rid himself of a smoking problem.  We had prepared a lesson on the Word of Wisdom (church health code to those who don't know).  When we knocked on the classroom door the sensei pretended he didn't know jack squat and destroyed us at the door.  He eventually invited us in and at that moment I knew when had to change lessons.  If he didn't know about Christ we couldn't teach the WoW.  So I tried leading a discussion on Christ and it was a disaster.  He didn't know a thing, didn't know about missionaries, and about the church even though his "wife" was a member.  Most of the lesson was silence because we didn't have any idea of what to say.  To make matters worse I used the word anko (sweet bean paste) instead of On-ko (honored son) in saying, "God sent his bean paste (instead of honored son), Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of the world."  I was so embarrassed I just wanted to escape and run away.  I decided since I knew how to bear testimony and pray in Nihongo I would do both so we could escape.  I have to admit I was super discouraged last night.  We got absolutely DESTROYED.  I thought I was better then that.  This was a truly humbling experience.

On Monday, however, we taught a relatively good lesson on prayer to a member of the church from Nihongo in the Training Resource Center who was going to BYU learning English.  We used a lot of English mixed in with Nihongo because we thought she knew English.  She was like a really lovely Nihongiin Aunt and we loved teaching her.  We didn't believe our sensei afterwards that she didn't speak English because she said she understood every word we said.  We know now she really didn't know English because the review card made no sense.  The Spirit must have been working because I don't know how else she would understood our message in broken Nihongo.  I testify that the Holy Ghost is real.  She felt it and could understand us and we I feel it I can understand my sensei-tachi and other Nihongo speakers.

I love you all and I wish you the best.  Ai shite masu!

Supiido to Tenshi,

Hardcastle Choro

Pic 1- The Fantastic Four. From the left: Cowan Choro from New Zealand, Tallent Choro from Debuke, Iowa, Me and Klein Choro from Mesa
Pic 2-Our review card from Monday.  We don't know what the intent was
Pic 3- I found these sweet shades in my dorm closet so I decided to change up the proselyting attire. JK



Thursday, August 28, 2014

O-genki desu ka

Well folks we did it.  We made it to P-Day.

It's been one long week that has been full of listening to people I don't understand.  The first day was super annoying almost because everyone is so friendly it hurts.  Everyone can tell you're new and the all yell, "Welcome to the MTC!"  They stick you in a classroom with a sensei who jabbering off in Nihongo (Japanese for all you who don't know) and you are trying to translate what the heck he's saying.  By the end of the day I was wondering why I ever thought that Nihongo wouldn't be a problem to learn.  

On Day 2 I was made District Leader.  Every classroom is a district and in my district I have 12 missionaries.  I have eight elders and four sisters.  All of the elders are going to Nagoya and all the sisters are going to Kobe.  I think they purposefully put the Nagoya sisters in another district so that we don't develop any pri-mission field relationships.  I love my district.  It's been such a good experience to get to lead these missionaries.  We have a New Zealander, two elders from Brazil, and a sister from Tahiti.  One of the Brazilians and the Tehitian sister don't speak English so it's really hard for them to learn the language.  Out of the 12 of us 8 of us have some life experience past high school (3 sisters & 5 elders).  The kids out of high school are doing ok but they are really young.  My companion is a young kid from Mesa, AZ and is like another little brother.   I am mentoring him to become a good leader at some point.  I am hoping he'll be a district leader before we leave.  I will be district leader for another two weeks and I will be so sad to not have the opportunity to lead these great people.  

I saw Tommy literally 10 minutes after I got dropped off and I see him everyday because we have class in the same building and he lives two floors below me.  He leaves in 10 days.  Sometimes I see Tanner and I will practice some Deutsch with him.  He leaves in 14 days.  Life he is a lot like USAFA except both USAFA prison you can listen to music, watch movies, use the gym for more than 50 minutes, and get phone calls.  It bothers some people that we are in a gated community with key cards to get into buildings, but it's just like being back at the Hill. 

Nihongo is going to be a struggle.  Jinsei wa muzukashii desu.  They want us to use a program called SYL (speak your language) where we use Nihongo words in our English sentences to develop our vocab.  We can make very, very basic sentences and from what I can gather that is good for now.  We started teaching an "investigator" on Day 3 and we pretty much just read out of our language book.  We have taught a lesson everyday and we have gotten better.  Preparation is key.  We do better when we can write down our own sentences and read them instead of using the book.  It helps us learn how to create sentences.  We still have so much to learn it's stressful.  I thought I was leaving stress behind by going on a mission... I was wrong.  The first couple days my German was all starting to come back when I would hear a foreign language, but I have got that under better control.  After about a week I can understand our sensei so-so (he has only ever spoken to us in Nihongo).  I can pick out words I know and I guess what he's saying.  That's how it is for everyone though and sometimes will be guessing for about 2 minutes to figure out what he is saying.  We have class for three hours a day (yesterday we had 6) and we are getting better.  Last night we had a district testimony meeting with our sensei and I can almost understand everything he saying when he is bearing testimony and the Spirit is super strong.  I can pray all in Nihongo and somewhat introduce myself and can say some basic everyday tasks.  Just being able to pray on my own has been a super huge accomplishment for me and the district.  My companion and I are really diligent in our extra hour of language study every night.  We all can read Hiragana and sing out of the hymn book everyday.  This week's challenge is going to be Katakana.  

I love you all so much and I know that this Gospel is true.  It's so great to spend so much time in the scriptures everyday and to get to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ better.  I wish the best for all of you.  Ai shite imasu!

I can receive letters (snail mail or any day of the week, but I can't write back until Thursdays.

Supiido to Tenshi-tachi,

Hardcastle Choro

Pic 1-  The choro-tachi of my district
Pic 2- The name tag
Pic 3- my companion and I