Monday, February 29, 2016

Still Finding Firsts

Good morning Sports Fans,

Another week bites the dust here in the Land of the Rising Sun. This
week we finished our last two zone conferences and are essentially
done with all transfer decisions. It was another pretty fast week and
we were really busy. I got to experience a lot of cool things and work
with some great people.

To start things off I guess I'll start with Sunday when, for the first
time, I spent a whole Sunday in 名東 (Meito) without going somewhere. I
don't know what to think of the members here. They are really quite
indifferent to our existence. This Ward is the biggest in the mission
and I think they just feel like there's always someone else who can
take care of stuff because they're so big. On the other hand, they
probably feel indifferent to me because I'm hardly ever here anyway so
I can't even develop a good relationship with them to begin with.
After church we did get the opportunity to go do home teaching with
the bishop. After the visit the bishop (who's only 32 years old) said
that since he had 30 minutes he wanted to go streeting with us. It was
actually super cool to have that opportunity. It's the first time in
my mission I've ever done anything like it. It was actually really
nice to have the bishop there in the approach to help introduce the
church. He is also a returned missionary so everything worked out
really well. It was good to get to spend time dendoing with him.

Monday and Wednesday we had two more transfer meetings where we
shuffled the mission board around a little bit more. It was really
cool for areas or companionships that we worried about changing and fit
naturally as we discussed things together. In President Ishii's office
there's a giant transfer board with everyone on it and as we mention
needs of the missions and new leadership or as we change companions
we move them around and re-evaluate. There are times when things
just "click" and it's for sure revelation. For example we were
deciding a certain sister missionary and who should be her companion and
we discussed some options and when we put the name card up on the
board we all felt instantaneously that it was the right person. It was
just crazy how we would all get confirming feelings for different set
ups. It doesn't happen every time and there's still places that we
still question, but the Lord definitely is trying to guide us to help
the mission to reach it's fullest potential.

On Tuesday we headed up to 松本 (Matsumoto) for zone conference. There's
no more snow left up there except on the mountain peaks, but it's so
beautiful. At the conference we were all surprised when we were told
by 石井会長 (President Ishii) right as we started that he wanted the whole
thing to be done in Japanese, including all the training. We hadn't
prepared ourselves to do so, but I was really surprised by how well
everything went. I've never given any training or presentation ever in
front of a group of people in Japanese before and the crazy thing that
surprised me the most was how smooth it felt (at least for me). It's
crazy to think that a year ago I had just become senior companion with
Elder Tramacchi and was struggling to lead the teaching of 10-15
minute lessons and now I am having to give training in front of 15-20
people of different nationalities in Japanese. I feel like I am pretty
average and am by no means the best in the language, but I can testify
that the Lord does bless us with the gift of tongues and that when we
need to fulfill our purpose He will help us. I definitely felt it
because of how smoothly and clearly I was able to speak.

After the conference I went on an exchange with Elder Axthelm who is
actually Tramacchi's bean-chan from almost two years ago. We went and
visited an former investigator who I found with Elder Klein almost six
months ago and we were able to meet with her again. She didn't really
want to meet again, but we were able to recommend her to read some
more of the Book of Mormon and to contact us if she had any
questions. At night I was able to go back to Aoki and Preto's again
and surprise them. I love them so much. The are still reading the Book
of Mormon and praying everyday. I was able to talk with Aoki for a
little bit as we discussed both of those things and she has such a
good understanding of the gospel and is probably reading the Book of
Mormon more often then most members in 松本. She and Preto know it's
true, but it's just taking that next step which is difficult for them.
I love them so much and they are some of the best friends I've made in
my mission.

Thursday was our seventh and final zone conference in 四日市 (Yokkaichi).
This conference was also completely in Japanese, except this one was
expected because the zone leaders had been focusing on language
improvement and gaining the gift of tongues for the entire transfer.
It went really well and one of the ZLs, Elder 赤堀 (Akahori) wrote down
any words that people had questions about on a white board for the
duration of the conference. It was a really good experience for
everybody, especially the young missionaries.

After the conference I went on an exchange with 赤堀長老. He's a way
athletic guy who has dreams of being in the Olympics for volleyball
someday. Also a fun fact about him was that Spencer actually was a
bean-chan in his ward in Tokyo. Anyways we went out to teach a lesson
and this was another first that I'd never experienced until this point
on my mission. We were going to teach an investigator who was a member
referral and lives at this member's house. The lesson was inside the
home and husband and wife were both present for the lesson. It was
such a good lesson. The man we were teaching was such a nice guy and
likes missionaries a lot. We reviewed/taught the restoration and it
was just one of the best lessons I've ever been a part of. 赤堀 is such
a good teacher and can teach so simply and the environment in which we
taught was so perfect. The man we taught (田口-Taguchi) was so accepting
during the lesson and we were able to answer all of his questions. If
all lessons in Japan could be like this then we'd see a whole lot more
success. I felt really privileged to have gotten to teach in that kind
of environment and share my testimony with 田口さん.

That about raps up my week here. Things are going to be pretty busy
next week in the office with transfers coming up. We'll see how it all
goes. It's going to be crazy so stay tuned. I love y'all to death and
thanks for all the love and support.

スピードと天使

堅城長老




Eating Super Red in 松本. 
Hands down the spiciest ramen ever





Glad to be back in 松本





ようこそ三重県へ。
Welcome to Mie Prefecture with factories in Nagoya Harbor


Office Maverick


Road Kings



Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dashboard Confessionals

Good morning faithful fans,

Life is rocking and rolling here. We spent around 18 1/2 hours in the
car driving this week and I being the one without a license currently
played co-pilot for my companion Elder Nakamoto. お疲れ様でした。We've been
back and forth across the mission twice this week and have had some
great experiences. So let's get started shall we?

It all begins last Sunday. We had to drive up to the city of 小松
(Komatsu) to go pick up a sister and drive her down to 四日市 (Yokkaichi)
due to an emergency transfer that was going to take place there
shortly. We left after sacrament meeting so we could hit the road as
soon as possible. That was our longest day of driving totaling in at 8
solid hours of the road. At one point on the way up we stopped to use
the bathroom and when we got in the car and passed out for about 15-20
minutes because we were so tired. We had no problems on the way down
and delivered our passenger safely at her destination.

The next day was a fast paced office day where I experienced and
participated in one of he biggest mysteries for missionaries: transfer
calls. We did our normal Monday routine and Nakamoto and I prepared
our transfer suggestions for 石井会長 (President Ishii). So transfers are
decided in around four different meetings that we have with the
president. This was our first one and what we did first was decide the
leadership of the mission and where they would transfer to and then
took down all the people who had been in their area for over four
transfers. We were working on starting to decide new trainers when we
started running out of time due to an FHE that was going to start
afterwards. This first meeting lasted around two hours and it was very
interesting to see for the first time. 石井 is really open to
missionaries' and our suggestions. He is pretty good at allowing
requests that he receives in emails. We'll see how the next couple of
meetings go.

Tuesday we had a zone conference with the 福徳 (Fukutoku) Zone. It
wasn't the smoothest one we had but it still went well. We had to
leave shortly after lunch to head back to 四日市 to go pick up two
missionaries who were leaving the mission early (hence the emergency
transfer on Sunday ). We picked them up and took them to the 本部 during
one of the sketchiest drives we had this week. Nakamoto and I were so
tired it was kind of scary and we felt pretty protected by some higher
power on that drive. After dropping these missionaries off we headed
back to 福徳 to go on exchanges with the ZLs there. I went with Elder
Callahan who reminds me a lot of Tyler. We sped out to an appointment
as soon as we got back to go meet an interesting man named Baker.
Baker is a man who moved here from Uganda to do trade with a business
he owned and due to a series of unfortunate events he is confined to a
wheel chair living at a low end of his life. Baker may not be in the
best of circumstances, but he is incredibly smart and well educated at
some Ivy League school and is a trained orator and man does he love to
listen to himself talk. He is way prideful of his voice and
intelligence and as soon as we entered into his apartment he just went
off on me for a variety of different things with the general theme
that I am/will (apparently) be a terrible lover because I'm a big guy
and because I want to be a pilot. It seems that those two things make
me a cold hearted, mean individual. It was pretty funny to hear all of
his points in his wonderful orator voice and by the end we didn't
quite know if he was criticizing me or auditioning to become my coach
for life skills. It was all pretty funny and there were some good
laughs at his serious comments. In the midst of all his Callahan and I
did teach a really good lesson about the Holy Ghost, but that 15
minutes was short compared to the good hour of listening to Baker
evaluating me.

The next morning Nakamoto and I left early to head out to the good old
DMV to see if I could get all my paperwork done and written test
passed for my Japanese license. We got a good nap in while waiting in
line and then I successfully got the paperwork done and then passed my
written test. Now we have to wait until next month to actually take
the driving test, so I still can't help relieve Nakamoto's burden of
driving. But hey, at least the garbage of waiting in lines is done.

Thursday morning was an early riser. We woke up at 0530 so we could be
hitting the road at 0600 to head up to 金沢 (Kanazawa) for a zone
conference up there. It was a beautiful three hour drive through the
snowy mountains to get there. The 金沢 Zone is absolutely beautiful and
the weather was perfect up there. Their conference went really well.
They are focusing a lot on the "rising generation" of missionaries
because in their zone (and most others) 3/4 of the missionaries have
been in the mission for less than a year. Their training was really
focused on helping them and it was received really well. After this
conference we participated in a DL meeting and then I headed out on a
really short exchange with Elder Day. We did some streeting on the way
to one of the most popular/famous curry places in 石川県(Ishikawa-Ken)
and in the mission: Go Go's Curry. It's way good and is a ton of food
for only 1000円 which is roughly $10. It was super good and worth the
hype and we then went to 英会話 which was super crazy. Literally, some of
the people were crazy. But it was a good time.

Yesterday before we left 金沢 I went on a morning run with the bean-chan
who is serving in 金沢 named Elder Leiendecker. He's a way good kid and
we went and ran up to the 金沢城 (Kanazawa Castle) and a super famous,
beautiful park called 兼六園 (Kenrokuen) which is supposedly the third
most beautiful in all of Japan. It was a gorgeous, and rather warm,
morning in the snow and got to get some great pics and see the city a
little bit more while breathing in the clean mountain air. I love that
area of Japan and if I ever get one more shot to be a field missionary
I want to serve up there. After that we packed up our gear and drove
the 3 1/2 hour ride back and spent the rest of the day finishing a
Book of Mormon reading project for next month.

That's been my week. I hope yours was just as good. I'm thankful that
you even read these long emails and I hope you know that I'm thankful
for all your prayers. I love you all to death! Until next week:

スピードと天使

堅城長老


Up by 高山 (Takayama)


Heading to 小松


Go Go's is good

金沢城


兼六園


Overlooking 金沢市




Friday, February 12, 2016

That's What I'm Talking About!

Good morning sports fans,

Wow where did my week go? This has been the first fast week I've had
since I reported into the 本部. I've done a lot of travel and spent a
lot of time out of the office so things are just looking more sunny
side up.

So my adventures begin this week after church on Sunday when we drive
all he way back out to 静岡(Shizuoka) to go pick up a sister missionary
with health problems to take her back to the 本部 so she could go home.
It was sad to have to pick up and then watch her leave the next day,
but she needed to go get healthy.

On Monday Nakamoto came back to the 本部 from running some errands and
found some official Japan Nagoya Mission letters on our desk so we
opened them up and they were our "Trunky Papers." These simply our our
return notices that ask for information about what airport you want to
fly into and your Ward/Stake leadership and other info regarding your
release as a missionary. They come five months in advance of you going
home and it was just crazy to think that I have now less than five
months left in the mission field. To make ourselves a little more
trunky we ate burritos to celebrate...

Onto things that don't make us trunky, Tuesday we rolled out to some
good old familiar territory in 岡崎(Okazaki). The Zone Conference there
was really good. I love 岡崎 Zone! Nothing quite beats your bean-chan
zone that you spent six transfers in if you know what I'm saying. I
know a lot of people in the zone and worked with quite a lot of them
throughout my mission. The ZLs Elders Jones and Klein are among my
favorite missionaries in the mission. We've know each other since the
MTC and worked all together up in 松本(Matsumoto). They're ZC went
really well and there was such a good Spirit there. During their
testimony meeting as I was listening to missionaries in the zone share
the miracles they've seen and testify of the truthfulness of the
gospel, I had such a strong out pouring of love towards these
missionaries. As I reflected a little bit about how I was rather
discouraged with AP work last week and I received a little bit of personal
revelation. One of my main frustrations has been not having anyone to
teach or bring closer to Christ. However, by watching these
missionaries I realized that I still have that opportunity as AP. As
an Assistant my primary purpose is to help strengthen missionaries and
their testimonies and while they may not be actual investigators, they
also need to be brought closer to Christ. I still have the desire to
go and find those who haven't yet heard the restored gospel of Jesus
Christ, but I have begun to learn to find satisfaction in my capacity of
what I can do. I love missionaries.

After the conference I was able to go on exchanges with Elder Jones.
It was way fun and we got to go visit some people who I know and
haven't seen in eight months. We got to visit the Ashikawa's who are a
Brazilian family and talk with them. The wife still remembers me from
my numerous exchanges and visits to 岡崎, so it was pretty cool to meet
up with them again. Being able to get to work with Jones was also
really great. It's been over five months since we last went on an
exchange together and it was great to go do 伝道(dendo) and learn from
him. Him and Klein are doing so well in 岡崎 it's crazy. It was so good
to be back in a familiar area and get out and work in it.

On Thursday we jumped back in our van and cruised out to 静岡 again, but
this time for a zone conference/exchange. It was a beautiful day out
there and it felt like the banana belt of Japan because it was so warm
out. The skies were also clear enough to see Mt. Fuji which was pretty
sick. It looks way big from 静岡 (which is still 30 miles away) so it
must be huge in person. Once again I got to meet up with some people I
haven't seen for a long time. I got to meet up with my bean-chan Elder
Coleman and Klein's bean-chan Elder Hansen and also good old Elder
Corréa from my Toyota days. That conference also went decently well.
Nakamoto and I ended up translating for almost three hours of the
conference which is the longest I've ever translated for. I was
translating for a Japanese couple who are missionaries in the zone and
I hope they understood what I was saying. As time went on I got more
and more tired and I felt like my abilities kept dropping, but I made
it through and it seemed like they were grateful for the effort.

After this conference as well I was able to go on an exchange with
Elder Farias from São Paulo, Brazil. I've known him for most of my
mission, but this was our first opportunity to actually get to work
together. It was fun, but we got kind of lost a lot because Farias
just got to 静岡 three weeks ago and the city is huge; way bigger than I
expected. We had some fun trying to figure out where exactly we were
and were able to get some good work on the streets in as well. Farias
is a really fun guy (like almost all Brazilians) and we had a great
time working together.

Yesterday we returned and had some office problems in the afternoon
like losing Internet and such. That problem probably came about to
just make the day seem more interesting than normal. It's been so
great not sitting in a desk in the office dealing with stuff like this
this week. The great thing is next week has a similar travel schedule
so here we go!

Valentine's Day is coming up this weekend, but more importantly my
dear sweet mother's birthday was yesterday(today in America). I love
my MOM! No one beats you dear! I love you to death.

Have a great next week y'all! Enjoy yourselves. Thanks for all the love and support.

スピードと天使

堅城長老



Celebrating with burritos


Mt Fuji


Tryin to fix the Internet while talking to a World Office center in SLC

Trunky Papers

Pic 3- 静岡 Zone Conference



Friday, February 5, 2016

Office Days Are Long...

Good morning ladies and germs,

This is your desk flying friend cruising in 本部. To me this has been a really long week and it always felt like P-Day just wasn't going to come. A lot did happen, but just at a different pace than what I'm used to.

Saturday night Nakamoto and I had to go to the airport to pick up a missionary who was returning to the mission after going home for a couple of months. We once again were able to hit up CostCo and purchase some good items. That evening after picking up this sister with the 石井's (Ishii's) there was a musical family home evening at the 本部 with the Meito and Nonami missionaries and their investigators. It was way fun! Sister Thomas sang, Elders Abe and Masuko played the guitar and sang, and even President Ishii surprised us with his talents and sang "My Way" by Frank Sinatra in English with his own twist of Japanese lyrics. 

The next morning Nakamoto and I took the returning sister missionary out to her new area in Shizuoka which is a 2 1/2 hour drive away. We attended church out there so I still haven't even been to church here in my own area of Meito yet. Shizuoka is a pretty city right on the ocean and it's reasonably close to Mt. Fuji, but it was too cloudy to see it well so I was pretty bummed out. It's way crazy to be able to drive in a car for a long distance and see Japan from the road. I really can't wait until I can start driving. 

Speaking of driving: so this week I went into the DMV to go take my written test for my Japanese drivers license and everything just got more complicated. In Japan, in order to get a license as a foreigner without having to take special classes and such you need proof that you have been driving in your home country for three months. I thought I would be ok because I renewed my license in August and left America in October, but because it wasn't a full three months they won't accept my license. They asked me to bring in my old license for evidence (which is ridiculous right) which meant I needed to email home to ask my mother dearest to find and send my old license out to me. Incredibly Mom found my license and it's on the way, but I can't believe how picky the DMV is no matter which country you are in. I swear they are out to get you no matter what.

I got kind of frustrated this week by being in the office so much. I feel kind of trapped and unproductive at times because we don't necessarily have a set list of tasks to do and the APs share a computer and so usually one guy (me) gets left without too much to do which makes me wish I could do something more. It makes me feel guilty that I'm not out proselyting like I used to do. I have never claimed to be a dendo-machine that talks and preaches the gospel with every person he sees, but by not working outside and doing normal dendo all day just makes me feel like I'm not being a good enough example. I was once told that there are three ways to lead: example, example, example. It's just been hard not to be able to do so with the new responsibilities that have come my way. I guess the best thing that has come because of this frustration is that I have come to appreciate every chance I get to teach and proselyte. I'm by far not the best missionary, but I am learning to enjoy the work more. When I do get to go out and share the gospel I feel better. I feel like I have gotten more accomplished in my 3-4 hours of dendo a day verses my 8-10 hours in the office. 

I received a letter from a member from 松本 named 五味姉妹(Sister Gomi) that raised my spirits a little bit when I was kind of down sitting at my desk the other day. This lady was my favorite member in Matsumoto and is someone Jeff knows really well. While I was in 松本 we (Tu'akoi, Andrade, and I) were trying to get her grandkids interested in the gospel by playing soccer with them and little by little sharing simple messages with them. Not much progressed while I was there, but Andrade on his last Sunday in Japan baptized one of the grandkids we were working with. Anyways that's the background info for the letter. What she wrote to me was what kind of touched my heart. She expressed to me her gratitude for Elder Andrade's and my patience and diligence to work with her grandkids. She told me how she thought that things were maybe being taught a little too fast for them, but Andrade recommended her to pray and ask our Father in Heaven what was right. She said that as she prayed she felt immense peace that it was the right thing for him to be baptized.  She kind of testified to me about how the missionaries are truly the Lord's tools and told me about how much her life has been blessed by missionaries. She thanked me for my service in helping her family and told me that even though I don't have that much more time left as a missionary I should keep having fun as I work and feel the joy and happiness that comes from it because it will bless someone else. I didn't think much would come from working with her grandkids and I never thought that I made too much of a difference, but I learned a lesson here. You never know how you can affect someone's life. As a missionary sometimes you wonder how much good you actually do. By small and simple things great things come to pass. As long as you fulfill your purpose to the best of your ability you may never know what kind of an affect you could potentially have.

The last major event this week was attending the Meito Zone Conference. No travel for that since it's our backyard, but it was really good to see all the members of my last zone. The conference went well and afterwards I was able to go to Nonami and go on an exchange with Tommy. We were able to go visit Roberto for a couple of minutes and he was really surprised to see me and lit up with a huge smile. He is such a nice guy and he is doing so good as a recent convert. He told us that he has been reading scriptures that we gave him about the Plan of Salvation and he said everything makes more sense when he reads the Book of Mormon. I love that guy to death. Even though communicating with him is sometimes kind of hard, I've never felt such brotherly love from an individual before. He's someone I'll never forget.

Lastly I got visited by another dead missionary yesterday. Alli Patrick came back to Japan after only a week and a half of "death." I think that's a speed record for a missionary to return back. This is my second encounter (first was Rhys Tramacchi) with "dead" friends on my mission and it's cool to see how happy they are and how much joy they have after their mission. The blessings don't stop at the end, they just keep rolling. 

I hope you enjoyed your novel again this week. Things should be picking up again soon as we head out to two zone conferences a week for the rest of the transfer with exchanges mixed in there. Fewer office days! It should be a lot of fun. Best of luck this week and go do a good turn daily.

スピードと天使

堅城長老



Pic 1- 石井会長 and his pipes of gold


Pic 2- 静岡(Shizuoka) I know it's not the best pic, but I'll try again when I go back on Sunday


Pic 3- Meito Zone Conference

Pic 4- How we 交換


Pic 5- It's a little snug, but it works


Pic 6- At our favorite Indo Curry shop