Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Spirit is the Coolest: MTC Week 7

Another week down and once again I find myself pleasantly surprised on the growth and progress of Alyssa.  I have said it at least a hundred times, or at least 7 for as many weeks that she has been in the MTC, that she couldn't possibly learn any more or have such amazing spiritual experiences. I stand corrected.  I am so thankful that the MTC provides a continual place of learning, not only for a language, but how to be a better individual, missionary and member.  I love reading about those spiritual moments.  It has reminded me that if she can have those kind of experiences in a closed environment, then how much more should I be having them in the real world.  I guess I just need to work harder at recognizing the spirit and acting upon it.

In her group letter she talked about acting on promptings and it was a valuable lesson for me.  Sometimes we know they are coming straight from God.  Other times they are just thoughts that may come directing us to do something good.  We don't always necessarily recognize them for what they are; inspiration and promptings.  But how much better if we do because we are conscientious of our thoughts and actions.  And in the off chance that our thoughts were indeed from ourselves and not God, we will never regret being kind and doing good for someone else.  This week I am going to work on being better about being in tune with the spirit.

Also,  I have loved reading about Alyssa's investigators and her enthusiasm for teaching.  But I have also been a little confused about the people and their circumstances.  So I asked Alyssa to explain a little more about it and this was her reply:

"Okay as far as my investigators go, this is sort of tricky.  All of our investigators are played by our three senseis...but they are real people. They are real people that our senseis taught on their missions and the only people they play are investigators that they had a very deep and special connection with. It is actually kind of a really sacred experience for them from what I understand. I know for a fact that each of my senseis goes into a room before we teach them and they pray fervently for like five minutes to be able to portray the investigator as accurately as possible.  Honestly as far as I am concerned, they are real to me. When we walk into that room to teach, we are not teaching our senseis. We are teaching Nakao Kyodai or Asakura Kyodai or Yoko Shimai and the spirits we feel from them are very different from our senseis. It is kind of hard to explain and I am not doing it very well. Just two days ago Tupuola Shimai and I taught Asakura and the SECOND we walked into the room we felt that there was something terribly wrong. Now Asakura Kyodai is played by McCarty Kyodai who is like this super happy dude and he was fine as our sensei before we taught...but when we went in the other room to teach there was a great sorrow in the room and we talked to him and were able to find out that there had been a death in his family and his family found out he wanted to join our church and they were shunning him and being pretty cruel...emotionally it was a very hard experience.  I was moved to tears and it was very tough to hear. I truly love my investigators with my whole heart, and they are real in every sense to me.  Sure they might just be played by our senseis, but it doesn't feel pretend...does that make sense? As far as I am concerned, they are real to my companion and I.  We plan for them and we pray for them and we talk about them all the time. It is a very cool experience every single time and I love it. I think I actually really might want to teach at the MTC when I return, I think I could be pretty good at it.  We will have to see where the wind takes me."

That helped clear things up for me and hopefully it helps you too.

I have also been really curious (I am not sure why) about the exercise classes and what they do for music when it comes to doing Zumba and so forth.  So since inquiring minds want to know, I asked her and this is what she said:

"The music in the exercise class varies from day to day. On yoga mornings it is like this weird mystical Irish ballad type stuff that I can't take seriously....I have become pretty tight with the sisters in the other zone going to Kobe (they are honestly true homies, I love them all so much) and me and Park Shimai just sit together at yoga and try to stifle our laughter. Then sometimes it is this music that makes me feel like I should go to a barn raising, and then other times it is this weird techno music...I really miss lyrical music a lot, not gonna lie!"

At last but not least here is her group letter.  I highlighted the part about following the spirit but the whole thing is wonderful.  Enjoy!

 Konnichiwa Minasan!
I GO TO JAPAN IN 12 DAYS!  HOLY COW CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??  I obviously can't, because a a part of me feels like I have been living in the MTC for my entire existence, and another part of me can't even comprehend how fast time has been flying! Crazy stuff!
My week was super great, although not a TON of new things happened! Sickness finally befell the dynamic duo of Tupuola and Pickering Shimai (it really is inevitable here at the MTC for this long of a time), and so that was kind of sad. I just had a cold for a few days and it was fine but my companion got suuuuper sick yesterday and so we were under house arrest which was nice for a few hours to be able to catch up on some rest but then I went a little stir crazy because she slept for like 16 hours and I didn't know what to do! It really made me realize how trained they have you here to be productive and be in a schedule and I actually really like it. I get so much done and it is awesome.
We got our kohai in! We have 10 new sisters and they are all so cute. They moved in just next door to my companion and I so now it is like a nonstop party with lots of new people to talk to. It is actually kind of funny because they semi worship the ground that we walk on because they think we know so much Japanese...wellllllll lol at them because I seriously still know nothing! It is okay though because I have been able to help them and it has been really fun. I have found that I learn the best by having to teach it to other people, and so I have been catching on to a lot of things. I actually really sincerely love this language. There are a lot of aspects about it that are perfect for me, and it is just great. Speaking in another language is SO cool, especially when teaching about the gospel. The language of the Spirit transcends any and all language barriers that might exist, and it is just amazing. We also get in 12 new Nihongin today and I am so excited! The Nihongin are literally the best people on the face of the earth and I love them so much. I have already met four of them (and was able to have decent conversations in Japanese!) and they are super cute. Such humble people with rock solid testimonies and it is just great.
Teaching this week went really well! Nakao Kyodai is continuing to prep for baptism and he is on track. Yoko Shimai looks really promising and we are going to commit her to baptism this Saturday for our last lesson with her. Asakura Kyodai has been progressing slowly, but he is progressing. We FINALLY got him to tell us that he wants to be baptized...but now the issue is his family. He just had a death in the family and his family caught him praying how we taught him and they got very upset that he wants to become Christian when they are all Buddhist...he has been struggling a lot emotionally and it has been very heartbreaking, but we are hopeful that the gospel will be able to help heal all these wounds. We also had TRC last week and got to Skype a real member in Japan! Ahhhh it was so neat. The members there are seriously so incredible and they are so kind. Their testimonies are so solid and I cannot wait to get out there and meet all of them. It was such a fun experience and I cannot wait to go and do it again tonight!
So Sunday was a pretty big day for me in a few ways. For starters, my companion and I were just minding our own business when our branch president came in and told us that he wanted us to teach Relief Society even though we had taught the week before....okay, we agreed, we had a lesson planned from PMG about the Book of Mormon, so it would be great, the STL's would just teach elsewhere at some other time like initially planned. So we prepped and about two seconds before we go to the classroom to teach, Daniels Kaicho comes in again and basically says "Oh btw, Sister Burgess is coming in to hear you guys teach, so make sure it is good."  Ummm.  What??  Sister Burgess is the wife of the MTC president and the only time we ever see her is on the screen at devotionals...she never like frolics around and comes to random classes!  But apparently she wanted to come hear us teach!  Tupuola Shimai and I were TERRIFIED! Right before the lesson we just prayed so fervently that it would go well and we would have the Spirit, and Heavenly Father helped us out so much. The lesson went GREAT. The Spirit was SO strong and the discussion was awesome and Sister Burgess loved it. After the lesson she came and pulled me aside and thanked me for the lesson, said how wonderful it was, and then told me that I will be a wonderful missionary because I was an amazing teacher. Oh my heavens it made me feel so happy and so grateful to Heavenly Father that He was able to help me out so much! I have progressed so much, and it is all thanks to Him.  THEN after the lesson Sister Burgess pulled me over to meet her husband, President Burgess, and I got to talk with him for a bit and it was super cool. I am so grateful for that wonderful opportunity!
So after that lesson I was semi spiritually drained, but I had received the exact impression earlier in the week that I would be speaking in sacrament, and yep, I was right. The moment my name was called, I wasn't even surprised, and I am just grateful that I had prepared!  My talk actually went super amazingly branch presidency was super impressed and Collinsworth Kyodai just always teases me about what a nerd I am, but I was just happy it went well! I felt like I was just speaking jibberish but apparently it made sense and the spirit was there and I was happy. Speaking in Japanese is such an awesome experience, and I am so so grateful for the constant help that the Lord provides me here.
This week, I learned tons more about the spirit. It really is a tangible experience so long as you are worthy, and it is a gift that the importance thereof CANNOT be understated. So many times throughout the week I receive gentle impressions and feel guidance come through feelings, and I am just so grateful. For instance one lesson this week went completely off course from what we had planned, but it was okay because it was what the Spirit wanted and it ended up being just what our investigator needed. 
We also watched a snippet from a devotional that Elder Bednar gave some years ago at the MTC. Literally, that ten minute segment changed my life. He talked about how we don't need to always know we are being prompted by the spirit to receive a spiritual impression, and how we just need to follow our positive uplifting thoughts that will help others. I am the type of person that would think there is something wrong with me or maybe I wasn't worthy if I wasn't receiving and recognizing distinct spiritual impressions 24/7, but that isn't the case. We are led by the Spirit SO much more than we realize, and that is why it is so important to be worthy. If you have a good idea or thought that will help someone else, just do it. If you have an idea that seems out of place but is in line with the gospel, just do it. You don't always need to be aware that "Yes, this is a spiritual prompting and therefore I shall act." Don't worry about it and just do it! I promise that the more you act, the more promptings that will come, and what a blessing that is.
Always live worthy to have the spirit. Serve others, be kind, read your scriptures, go to the temple regularly, and seek it. Ask the Lord to feel His spirit imparted unto you, and you will. The spirit is, as described in PMG, a foretaste of the eternal life and glory that we have to come, so take advantage of it! 
I love this gospel so much and I love being a missionary. It is SO hard. Honestly I struggle so much, but I am also so so soooooo happy. It is so worth it, I promise. This work is so important and I feel so blessed to be a part of it. I love you all and am so grateful for your examples and testimonies. 
Have an amazing week!
Sister Pickering 

As much as I love my daughter and seeing her beautiful face, especially in front of the Provo temple,  I am a little excited for her to get to Japan just so we can see some new material :). Of course I am excited for other reasons as well.

Bazillion new Kohai

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Minor Concussions, Baptismal Commitments, and Apostle Devotionals: MTC Week 6

"Here is my companion and I outside of the two rooms we decorated for
our kohai coming in today!  #artists"

It is a remarkable thing being a mother.  Nothing has brought me greater joy and heartache for a lifetime.  For 19 years I have "worried" about my daughter every day in some way.  When she was little it was things like "Is she eating enough?  How do I get her to nap?  Will she be safe when she crosses the road?   And how can I get her not to touch the hot stove even though she is stubborn and wants to anyway".  As she grew older those concerns grew into much more serious things.  Such as " How can I send her to school everyday knowing how hard it is out there?  Will she date?  Will she not date?  Will she find out who she is and what she wants to do with her life?  Will she have success?  Will she fail and fall at times?  Will her testimony waiver and she'll doubt?  Will she find good friends that love her and support her in the good and bad times?  Will she honor her parents?  Will she know who she truly is as a daughter of God and what that means for her in her life?"  All of those concerns dealt with physical safety and emotional well being.  At times it was quite exhausting.

Those questions represent a miniscule amount of thoughts that go through a mother's brain on a daily basis.  Our children are our life, their joy our joy, their pain our pain.  Saying goodbye to Alyssa when she reported to the MTC was one of the most bittersweet and heart wrenching things I have ever done.  I felt like my heart was broken in two. One side achingly missing her and the other so full of confidence that she was exactly where she needed to be at this time in her life.  It was hard to reconcile the two at times.

Now, 6 weeks in I have come to realize a great and profound truth.  The day to day worry I always felt as a mother is gone.  That is strange to say and probably doesn't make much sense.  But it is true.  Granted there are moments when I hope that she is safe, healthy and happy.  And I am sure there will be more when she gets to Japan.  However,  the moment to moment worry is out of my head and hands.  I know that she is in the Lord's hands and it is out of my control.  I still pray for her like crazy and then I turn it over to God.  It is amazing the amount of peace that brings me every day.

So, when I read about my daughter getting a concussion or having a particularly hard week, my heart skips a beat for just a moment and then I know it will all be okay.  I am relying on that, knowing that 18 months will be a long time.  I know that when she returns I am sure those feelings and questions will all rise to the surface again.  But for now,  I am doing my best to enjoy this sweet reprieve of constant work and worry on her behalf.  Now to focus on my other two children . . .

Here is her group letter for the week:

Konnichiwa Minasan!
I hope that everyone has had an amazing week! The time is still going by really fast here and I leave for Japan in 19 days...holy cow I am so crazy excited but at the same time I am really nervous but that is all okay because I know I am in the Lord's hands, and so what more could I ask for as far as trying to be prepared?
As far as actual events go this week, we had Valentines day of course which was super fun! My companion and I got up super early to decorate the classrooms and make valentines for all the elders in our zone and it was a really good experience for us. They were so grateful and appreciative and dang I just love service so much. Service is such a fun and easy way to feel the spirit, because you know it is exactly what the Lord would have you be doing! We are also very excited to be getting in Kohai today! Hurray for not being the babies of the zone anymore! We already had one sister come in last night that we got to take care of, and so that was very exciting for us.  Also Tupuola Shimai and I got released as Sister Training Leaders (I know, sad day) and now we are the sacrament meeting music coordinators (I know, if you know me at all, you are majorly having an LOL moment right now) which will be an adventure, I am sure. We also said goodbye to our Nihongin district and it nearly broke my heart because I loved them so much, but it is okay because it was time for them to head out to where they need to be! Tonight we also have TRC which is where we teach volunteer members of the church in Japanese! In all the past weeks it has been a face to face meeting but tonight we actually get to Skype with some members in Japan and we are SO excited. This whole thing is starting to feel real!
(Okay pause I realize that last paragraph made no sense sequentially and I apologize because my thoughts are so scattered as I try and hit everything I want to talk about! Unpause!)
Okay so now to explain the title of the email...okay here we go! First of all Mommy, don't panic because I am okay now, I promise. Once upon a time, everyone that knows me how incredibly graceful I am. Well that has obviously been extended to the mission field, and so last Wednesday as I was minding my own business and tidying my bed like a diligent soul should, I ended up hitting my head SUPER hard on the bar above me. It wasn't good. It gave me a massive headache and I ended up getting pretty nauseous and my balance was off and apparently I was acting pretty weird (although I resent that comment, because I have been told I am always weird). Needless to say, I got a minor concussion...hurray! Anyways at class that night I was really struggling to focus and remember things and I was really nervous because Tupuola Shimai and I had TRC and we had to teach two lessons and I was worried because I knew I wasn't going to be much help AT ALL. Well I just started praying FERVENTLY to my Heavenly Father that it would go well and I would be able to teach to the best of my ability according to God's will. Well, folks, surprise surprise, He delivered. First of all shout out to my amazing companion who totally stepped up and did amazing, but I didn't completely fail either. My brain was super muddled but both times it came time for me to testify, I had a sudden clarity of thought. I was able to bear my testimony powerfully and the spirit was strong and my Japanese was actually decent and made sense and it was incredible. I was so profoundly amazed and grateful, and then I was pondering why that happened and I came to a few conclusions. First of all is the fact that God knew this was important to me and so He heard and answered my prayer. Second, the power of the spirit can transcend any physical, emotional, mental, or language barrier that has been placed upon us. And third, my testimony came straight from my heart and not from my head. If you know me at all, you know I like using a plethora of groovy vocab and like to try and make things sound nice. But, I realized that that is not what my testimony is supposed to be about. My testimony needs to be things I believe and love and know, and that comes from my heart and not the logic of my brain. (Life update: I am fine now. I had a headache for a few days but I am back alive and kicking and ready to take over the world)
Second item of business, NAKAO KYODAI IS GETTING BAPTIZED!  MARCH 3RD!  WOOHOO!  I am so excited I honestly can't even stand it.  After I extended the invitation and he accepted I just couldn't stop smiling like an idiot because I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude and love. He is honestly so golden and the gospel is just what he needed at this time in his life. He shared with us that he has struggled with depression but through this gospel he has been able to find some peace and he is willing to do whatever it takes to be able to have that feeling always. I was able to testify to him that through this gospel, He can, and I got so emotional and felt God's love for him SO strong. I am just so excited. Teaching and missionary work are the best things EVER. 
Okay so last night (sorry this email is like as long as the entirety of my MTC stay so far, I just have so much to say and have to get it all out in English now because the rest of my life is in Japanese now) we had the incredible chance to hear from an apostle of God, Elder Ronald A. Rasband. I. Absolutely. Love. Him. He was so amazing. The second that he walked into the room, I was HIT with the spirit so strongly and I just started crying like a weirdo but I felt the spirit testify to me SO strongly that this man was a true messenger for our Lord. Anyways, he had us read his talk from April 2010 "The Divine Call of a Missionary" and I would encourage you all to read or reread it if you get the chance, because it is awesome. Anyways he had us read it before the devotional and then basically we just had a large discussion about it and he explained the assignment process of a missionary and what an incredibly personal experience it is. He told us that the spirit while doing that is more strong than during almost any other assignment because you have to rely solely on the Lord to know where to send these missionaries. He said that the best way he can describe knowing where to put us is he essentially like "feels" like there is a neon light that pops up over the mission they need to go to. He also told us he has made some mistakes before, and the Lord has ALWAYS prompted him to go back and correct it. He said they always pray to know where to send us PERFECTLY, and that our call is divine and truly from the Lord. He said, quote "The answer is sure and it is precise. When we ask the Lord to tell us perfectly, He does. That is my testimony."
I wish I could describe to you how powerful this was and special it was for me. I felt the witness once again that the Lord knows me and that HE KNOWS that I am supposed to be serving in Kobe Japan for whatever reason. Elder Rasband encouraged ALL of us to never again doubt our call, because it is perfect. So past, current, and future missionaries, you are where you need to be. I promise. The Lord knows you perfectly and He revealed that to His servants. 
All of that was amazing, but it honestly wasn't even my favorite part of the devotional however. At one point, Elder Rasband got a microphone and started walking through the crowd of missionaries to ask us questions. So once upon a time I was somewhat sly and ended up getting all of us Japanese sisters front row seats of the MTC Choir and we ended up getting broadcasted and whatever and it was good fun. But the best part was that for about five minutes, Elder Rasband came and stood RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.  You guys, he was literally two feet away. I could have reached out and touched him. And as he talked, he looked directly into my eyes multiple times and it was SO POWERFUL. I felt the love of God for me and for every missionary so strongly, and it was amazing. 
At the very end of his devotional, he bore his testimony in a way more tender and powerful than I have ever heard from anyone in my entire life. It was so emotional and I got chills and the spirit testified to me so strongly. I had the amazing opportunity to hear an apostle stand right before me and bear special witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He said that He lives and He loves us, and then he said one final line that filled me with a spirit like I can't even describe. Very simply he said "The leaders of this church are no strangers to the voice of the Lord." I know that is true. I have felt it for myself. 
My testimony has never been more sure of the reality and divinity of prophets of God. We do have prophets, seers, and revelators on this earth today to give us love and direction from our Savior. I know with every fiber of my being that this gospel is true. It is true and amazing and changing my life more than I can even describe. I know that God lives and that He loves us. I know that Christ is our Savior. This gospel is true and this work is so important. I feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of it.
I love you all so much and hope that everyone has an amazing week! Until Next Wednesday!
Sister Pickering 

I absolutely loved hearing her special witness of the Lord's Apostles.  I am sure she will treasure that experience and draw on it for years to come.   And finally here is an excerpt from the email she sent me.   I especially love hearing about her companion.

So now to answer your questions from the letter you sent me!  My
district and I are still getting along really well, we have become
very close friends and it is going to be sad to have to split up.
Most of us are going to Kobe which is good though.  There is one elder
going to Kobe that I actually kind of struggle with sometimes because
he isn't the most humble individual and can be kind of patronizing,
but it is okay because the rest of them are so great.  I have become
really good buddies with Perez and Jonhson Choro, they are both
amazing individuals and hard workers and very kind and chivalrous to
my companion and I and we love them.  We do things with them the most,
and I am kind of bummed because they are both going to Tokyo South.
Tear. I also actually 100% adore my companion.  I honestly couldn't
have asked for a better first companion, she is so wonderful.  We get
along great and work super hard and yet also know how to have a lot of
fun.  We haven't had any issues whatsoever and we teach really well
together.  We have had multiple comments given to us about how there
is a very special spirit when the two of us teach together because we
love each other so much and we clearly love the Lord. It is always
nice to hear comments like that because it makes us feel like we might
be doing something right. Also, apparently we are so close that we
have started having sleep talking conversations with each
Japanese. The other sisters have reported it multiple times and we
find it pretty funny. One time I guess I started saying some stuff in
Spanish though because it sounded like I got frustrated with Tupuola
Shimai haha.  I am very very sad she will not be coming to Kobe with
me.  However, I am also getting way tight with the sisters in the
other zone that are going to Kobe.  They are so cool and we have all
started hanging out more and we have a blast. I get along REALLY well
with Sister Spenser Miller (surprise surprise) and I hope we have the
chance to be companions because we would get it done together. I could
see us potentially being roommates at BYU after the mission.
We don't get to ever host new missionaries because Wednesday is our P
day sadly. However the elders have gotten to help host the senior
couple missionaries on Mondays before but the sisters don't get to
come which I find sexist and demeaning but whatevs. I love being here
with all the senior couples, they are so cute and Tupuola Shimai and I
try and make friends with them.
"I found friends!  On the left we have this amigo named Maori that I
met at a cross country trip last year and he also played on Spencer's
club soccer team and he is a cool kid. He is going to Lithuania!  Then
in the middle we obviously have Elder Colby Webb going to Armenia who
is standing on his toes to look taller than he actually is."

Alyssa can't say enough positive things about her companion.  I know that Lord knew exactly who Alyssa needed and Tupuloa Shimai was it.
"My companion and I with Sister Collinsworth!  She is basically my mom
here and she is so cool. She is also super tall.  Because her son is a
boss at BYU Basketball.  The end."
"My district and I on Cardigan Mokuhyobi!  Everyone wears cardigans
because it is fun and we have lost our sanity the end.  Thursdays are


Friday, February 12, 2016

"What I've Learned about how to Survive the MTC"

The purpose of this blog is of course is to help us keep updated on Alyssa and her progress and work throughout her 18 months.  But in this short amount of time, I have learned that there is a wonderful byproduct of keeping this journal, and that is to help those who read it understand a little more about what it is like to serve a mission. If her writings can help others to first desire to serve the Lord and secondly prepare to do so then it is a success.  And ultimately it will help us all come a little closer to Christ and understanding his Gospel and our purposes here on earth.

Alyssa must feel the same way because we received this letter this week.  It has good, practical and fun advice to all future missionaries to help them prepare for the MTC.  I believe her whole district helped compile this and I found it to be valuable information.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


From Alyssa's various letters she seems to be doing so well.  She has reiterated over and over again about how much she loves to teach and how well the language is going for her.  But more importantly she continues to talk about breaking through spiritual barriers.  She is learning so much about the power of discernment and also to act on the promptings she receives.  This will be an invaluable tool for her as a missionary and probably the most important thing she can learn.

So in her letter home she shared an interesting experience.  Here are some of her words:
"So I want to share with you an experience from earlier this week.  I had the really cute idea one night that I was going to stop saying anything negative. I wasn't going to let one complaint come from my mouth, because everything here was so dandy and happy and wonderful, and I thought it would be easy. Wednesday night I let my Heavenly Father know that in my prayers, and then I went to bed.
I don't know if it was Heavenly Father testing my resolve or the adversary trying to mess with me, but Thursday was ROUGH, and like everything seemed to go wrong. I couldn't remember Nihongo, I dropped my body wash and broke it, I had a really poor lesson, my skirt broke (or rather the zipper did, the Mika Rose one, actually it was the second one to do it so I might need you to send me some safety pins so I can just pin the zipper and deal with it), my broken body wash leaked all over my closet and made everything a mess, and the list goes on and on. I was SO unbelievably frustrated, but I was determined to stick to my goal.  No matter how bad things got, I resolved to not let a single negative word come from my mouth, all day long, even when I was frustrated and REALLY wanted to complain. 
The moral of the story is that my situation never changed through my attitude, but my outlook did. I was able to handle each situation with a lot more grace than I would have otherwise, and it honestly didn't stop me having a good day, despite all the hardships. It made me realize that so often I would let little things ruin my mood, and how stupid is that?  I am trying to still be better, and I think it is making a lot of difference."
Isn't that crazy?  Something you try to teach your child their whole life and in the end she had to figure it out for herself.  God doesn't take away hardships or trials or even bad days.  But, if we have the right attitude we can still find joy and happiness or even hope when necessary.  That is something we can all try and remember because challenging days are not exclusive to missionaries.
Her is an excerpt from another letter regarding a conversation with a member of her branch presidency:
"One final thing is a conversation that I had with Collinsworth Kyodai last night about how I tend to be a stubborn person, and so maybe me going to Japan was a humbling mechanism.  He shook his head at me, looked me in the eyes and said "Sister Pickering, you are NOT going to Japan to be humbled. You are going to go there and break through barriers that have been placed that nobody has been able to break through before. You are going to show people that they are loved and remind them who they are like nobody else can.  THAT is why you are going to Japan." And that really resonated with me. Every single day I am convinced even more that Japan is where I need to be, even though I never would have picked it out for myself. God knows me and knows what I want, and I feel so blessed to be here and to be able to serve there."
I am grateful for inspired leaders and people that are put in her path to bless her and strengthen her when she needs it the most.
And finally, her parting words say it all:
 "As hard as it is every single day and as much as I miss you guys though, I know that this is where I need to be. I love teaching and I love this gospel and I am already learning so much. It is an amazing experience and I know that Heavenly Father knew that I really needed it to grow up a little." 

Amen to that!  Now for her weekly letter:

Konnichiwa Minasan!
Before I say anything else, quick shout out to one of my best and most dearest friends Makayla Ann Long who received her mission call this week going to the BRAZIL MANAUS MISSION!  I am so happy and proud of her, and I know that she will do AMAZING things down there in the Amazon jungle. Everybody keep me up to date on the mission scene, because I love to know!
So this week had a bunch of milestones that happened!  I hit my one month mark of being in the mission, which is just crazy, I cannot believe how fast it is going. Life here in the MTC is a time warp, I will be the first to preach to that. Secondly, we hit our halfway mark through the MTC! As grand as this place is and I really do love it, I am so stoked to get to Japan and get to work. I am starting to go a tiny bit stir crazy, but it is okay because I am learning lots and the spirit is awesome. The MTC is really what you make it, so I am trying to focus on having a positive attitude about it all and it really helps. 
As far as actual events that happened last week we got a brand new district of Nihongin into our zone, and I love them with my whole heart.  There are 4 Choros named Takamasa Choro from Dublin Ohio (Go Bucks), Tamura Choro from Japan, Watanabe Choro from Japan, and Oliveira Choro from Brazil.  Takamasa speaks English fluently but the other three kind of struggle so I only speak to them in Japanese!  It is actually super cool and fun and I end up pantomiming a lot, but they are so nice and patient with me! They are all so kind and humble and funny and I love getting to teach them things like how you don't eat tater tots with a fork and knife. Needless to say I love the Japanese people more and more every single day, and I cannot WAIT to go to Japan in a little less than a month!  We also got word last night that next week we are receiving 2 new districts into our branch, and so we are officially senpai!  As Sister Training Leaders, Tupuola Shimai and I are especially stoked because we are getting in 10 new sisters! Fun fact, the MTC actually currently has more sister missionaries than elders right now #girlpower. Girls if you are thinking about serving, take it from me that it is awesome and you are needed and wanted and appreciated.  Truth be told there are just some things that elders aren't super great at, and we can touch hearts in a unique way. Serving a mission is super challenging, but it is also SO rewarding. Okay sorry I will get off my soapbox now! 
We also kind of adopted a fourth sensei named Edwards Shimai and she is the coolest.  Basically I just want to be her when I get off my mission, and so I talk to her a lot and get some great advice. I am learning so much and it is just awesome!
We had lots of opportunities to teach this week and it was the best, because teaching is my favorite thing to do. This week we got banned from taking our Japanese gospel phrase book to lessons and so we had to rely fully on the Lord, and it was amazing. We had our best lessons yet and the Spirit was there and unhindered and it was amazing. Tomorrow we are committing Nakau Kyodai to baptism, and we are just so excited. He is ready and wants to be with his wife again, and I have loved getting to get excited about the gospel again through him. We also did an exercise where we had like a few minutes to prep a brief lesson and then we randomly taught someone from our district. I prayed and felt prompted to teach on fasting, and then I felt prompted I had to teach Johnson Choro.  We did one-on-one in front of the class, and it was super awesome. The spirit was there and it was strong and we both got emotional because it ended up being just what he needed.  You guys, I promise that if you just listen to your investigator/friend/family member, and then listen to the spirit, you will learn EVERYTHING you need to to help them out. Heavenly Father loves each and every one of His children so personally, and He wants to use you as an instrument to share His love.  Don't be afraid to ask for promptings, but then act when you receive them, and I promise that you will see more tender mercies than you could even imagine. 
Another cool reminder I received this week is about the gospel in general.  Bingham Kyodai, one of my senseis shared some experiences with us, and then invited us to never be afraid to share the experiences that we have had in our lives.  He told us that the gospel is a personal thing because God and Christ know and love all of us personally, and so we shouldn't be afraid to share our experiences to help lift others up and let them know that they can see God in their lives in the exact same way.  You guys, that is so true.  Earlier this week I was having a rough day and I pleaded with God to help me feel the spirit as I prepared to teach, and I also prayed to receive a particular letter because I just wanted to feel His love.  Well I went into the lesson and had the chance to testify of the Savior multiple times super powerfully, and as I did, I felt the Savior's love for me so profoundly as He reminded me that His atonement is enough to strengthen me too, and I need to remember that as I testify to my investigators.  His love and His atonement is perfect for EVERYONE and you will receive strength as you use it.  After my lesson I headed back to my classroom, and sure enough the exact specific letter that I wanted and had been praying for and had not been expecting was sitting on my desk.  The Lord hears and answers our prayers, because HE LOVES US!  If I could get just one thing across to all of you, it would be that.  
Finally just one more thought (I am sorry, I am being so preachy today haha, I just love this gospel and this is what being a missionary does to you) is about the amazing chapter in the Book of Mormon called Jacob 5. Real talk, I used to hate that chapter.  It bored me to tears and I didn't understand it one bit. But through diligent prayerful study, it has quickly become one of my favorite chapters.  You can learn SO much about the nature of the Father in that chapter, and it is amazing. His abundant love for us is so apparent, and it motivates me to be better and to make Him proud. It also highlights the importance of missionary work, and if we are just willing to go out and work hard and labor for a season, we will be blessed beyond our comprehension. I invite you all to prayerfully read and study this chapter, and I promise that you will find something in there for you specifically.
Minasan, I love you all.  I pray for your well being and happiness daily. Thank you so much for all of the love and the support that you so constantly lend me, because it allows me to be strengthened beyond my own capacity. This gospel is true.  God's love is real. The atonement is amazing and repentance will CHANGE your life. You guys, I know this with my whole heart. I love this gospel with my whole heart and I am so filled with gratitude that I am able to preach it to the wonderful people of Japan.
I love you, all.  Keep being amazing and HAVE A HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
Sister Pickering 

I think her cookie looks a lot like the Japanese Flag
Cookies for all
1 month down!
Sister Tupuloa
The District officially celebrating their half-way mark in the MTC
The doldrums of the MTC have struck.
Perez Choro
Trinca Choro

Self entertainment in the MTC???
Trinca Choro doing whatever it is that he does in life
Bodily Choro
Johnson Choro
Philburn Choro
Pickering Shimai

Alyssa's entire zone doing peace signs, including Collinsworth Kyodai from the Branch Presidency
The new Nihongin District; Tamura Choro, Oliveira Choro, Watanabe Choro and Takasama Choro
This is Takamasa Choro.  He is from Dublin, Ohio and so in Alyssa's words they are OSU Homies.

This is one of Alyssa's teachers, Kawamura Shimai.  She is from Japan but studying at BYU.  She was actually Alyssa's first "investigator".  Alyssa adores her.

These are the other Sisters going to Kobe; Sister Miller, Sister Fau'uma, and Sister Park.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sister Pickering Is Learning To Be Humble: MTC Week 4

My favorite missionary loving the snow

P-day couldn't come fast enough this week.  I am grateful for so many pictures of my daughter's beautiful face and the wonderful people that she is with every day.  Even better was to receive a short video of her sharing her testimony in Japanese.  I can't hardly believe it is her speaking.  The video is at the bottom of the post.  I hope it works so that you can all be amazed as much as I was hearing her speak in Nihango.  I love that missionary!!!

Konnichiwa Minasan!
I hope that everybody has had a wonderful week, because I sure have! Happy February too, holy cow this year is already going by so fast. And I hear that the groundhog didn't see its shadow, so that should hopefully mean an early spring for you guys as well unless I was lied to!
Where to begin this week...well everything is still good!  I am happy and alive and well.  I am not going to lie, my days are starting to blur together like a lot so I am sorry if these emails become really boring for the duration of my time here at the MTC...we just do a lot of similar things and are with the same people all day, but I will try and look for new material to spice it up for you!
Teaching has been going really well.  We had our first lesson with Nakau Kyodai, the brother who lost his wife to cancer five years ago and is taking care of his ailing member mother, and he is looking for hope.  We taught him a lesson on eternal families and it was AMAZING and the spirit was so strong, teaching is honestly the best. Yesterday we had another lesson where we taught him about the Plan of Salvation, and it also went well.  I was able to practice my super amazing artistic skills, so that is always a good time. He is progressing very well, so we are excited.  Our other investigator is sort of a trial for me, not going to lie. He is Buddhist and doesn't really have any desire to change his lifestyle, and can be pretty stubborn at times. Our lessons have been going okay, but nothing special.  The most frustrating part is that he doesn't understand why Christ is important to him, and so trying to get him to understand that has been a challenge, but it has also been a very neat experience. I love getting to bear my testimony of the Savior, because the Spirit will always testify so long as you are doing it properly. Although sometimes I still want to grab my investigator by the shoulders and just yell "Bukhyo wa shinjitsu dewa nai!" which essentially means that Buddhism isn't true, buuuut my companion thought I should probably refrain from that, and with good reason. The moral of the story is that I LOVE teaching though, and I cannot wait to get out to the field and hopefully do some more of it.
The Nihongo is coming along, slowly but surely. This week we learned SO much and I felt like it was finally starting to click to a degree.  Then yesterday I found out that we have to have 96 verb conjugations memorized by Friday and my morale lowered a little bit, but I have gained such a strong testimony of the gift of tongues, and I know that Heavenly Father will help me out as long as I remain worthy to qualify for the gift.  Japanese is actually a beautiful language and I am really starting to love and appreciate it, even if I don't know what I am saying half of the time!
Spiritually it has been a big week for me too. I have learned A LOT and have had some really high highs and some really low lows. I have learned that having the spirit with you is ESSENTIAL, especially as a missionary because you cannot do anything without it. I am literally so weak, and CANNOT do this alone, and it has been a very humbling experience. I have learned that it is really easy to lose the spirit whether it be through getting easily distracted or messing around or whatever, and it has really given me time to think and reflect on the amazing gift that the spirit it.  I invite everyone to do whatever they can to be constantly worthy of the spirit, because it is wonderful.
My testimony of prayer was also strengthened exponentially through personal experience and through a devotional that was given last night by Elder Zwick of the 70 and his cute wife. He talked about how necessary it is for us to pray even though God already knows our hearts, because He is our loving father and He is just waiting to love and bless us. He testified powerfully that our prayers will always be answered on behalf of our own interest, and sometimes that requires aligning our will with His, and not the other way around. That was something that stuck out hard to me because sometimes I struggle with that. I have been told that I can be a fairly stubborn person at times, and I like being in control of what happens in my life. However, I don't know best. I have a loving God that is here to put me through the refiners fire not because He doesn't care, but because He loves me more than I can understand, and I know that is true for every single one of you as well. Humility is definitely something I am working on, but I know that with the Lord's help, it will come.
You have a Heavenly Father that lives and loves you. He knows your trials and your joys and everything in between. He loves you so much and wants so badly to bless you, and sometimes you need only ask.
I testify that God lives and loves each and every one of us.  As we pray, and seek to align our will with His, we will see miracles and changes and happiness in our lives that we never thought possible.  This gospel is so true, and it will bless and change your life if only you allow it to, because I surely know that it is changing lives.
I love my God, I love my Savior, I love this gospel, I love being a missionary, and I love all of you. Thank you for the prayers and the love, because I surely need and feel it. Have a wonderful week, everyone!
Sister Pickering 
Alyssa's District including her Branch President Daniels Kaicho

Alyssa found Ben Christensen, a friend from Westlake

Apparently there is a record board in the MTC and Alyssa is on it twice.  Nice to see she is still her competitive self.
So all those years of soccer practice paid off just to get her name on this board.  She was on there for running the fastest mile but then some sister beat her out.  Not to be dismayed,  Alyssa then ran it again and "crushed her"  (her words) and will be back on the board soon.

Putting her artistic skills to good use -  The Plan of Salvation
The view from her classroom window

Her District studying hard in their classroom.
Her main man, Samual H. Smith

Love the Selfies