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Monday, March 28, 2016

God is Good: Nihon Week 3

video

This is such a sweet video of Alyssa and Rina.  You can tell how much they love each other.


The Young Women in the Yamatokoriyama Ward on Easter Sunday
It was another week full of ups and downs for Alyssa.  In other words, the typical life of a missionary.  I know that she is working hard and learning all kinds things that she never imagined.  I love p-days and being able to piece together a small picture of her life and what she is doing day to day.  I am going to include a small portion of her letter to me because it is so touching and heartfelt.  I hope that she doesn't mind that I share it with everyone.

Okay so here is a story for you that you might like. Once upon a time the other night I was feeling really down and sad and so I was praying to know what the heck I was doing here. I felt like I wasn't blessing anyone or being effective or anything and it was super hard for me. Anyways the next morning I felt prompted to read my patriarchal blessing and I did and I noticed some things very specifically. One was a phrase from a paragraph about my mission that said "You will touch hearts."  I was so astounded, because literally twice in this last week I have had some ward members literally say to me that my testimony "touched their heart". In that exact phrasing. Last week I had the chance to speak in sacrament and it was terrifying but it went okay and I just bore my soul out in my crappy Japanese but these members just said that they felt the spirit so strongly as I testified of Christ and they knew how much I loved Him. They said it touched their hearts and made them want to have that kind of relationship with our Savior. As I read my blessing I was just so touched to be able to realize that I wasn't here for my amazing Japanese, but because of my testimony, and at the end of the day, that is all I really need. It also said some stuff in there about me being a light and showing love to people...so I decided I was going to do just that. Later that morning we were biking to the train station and I decided to greet everyone that I came in contact with and give a big smile and good morning. I got so many positive responses and smiles back and it made me so happy because that isn't really in their culture to do. Then at the station I had another feeling to do that to this one lady and I just smiled and said good morning and then she got SO excited and immediately came over to us and started talking to us in English and thanked me for saying good morning to her because it made her happy and feel good...moral of the story is that we ended up with a new investigator out of that experience, and all because I just decided to say good morning and try and make people feel some of God's love. These past few days I have really been trying to be a missionary in my way, the way that God called me to be. I'm not going to be cookie cutter like everyone else and that is okay, because I, Alyssa was called to be in this mission specifically. Also patriarchal blessings are the freaking bomb and I love them so much. I love getting to feel that love from my Heavenly Father and it reminds me that I'm not alone even if I feel like it all by myself here in Japan sometimes. 


Questionnaire

What is your address in you new area?  Do you live in an apartment or
a house or other?  Do you still like sleeping on the floor?  Are you
near the church?

So I am not for sure on my address...they just forward us stuff from
the mission home and it is pretty easy..sorry I am at the church
emailing or I would check for you!  We live in an apartment in this
cute little neighborhood by an elementary school. Nihongin kids are so
freaking adorable. The futons are actually super comfy and I like them
a lot. Then again every single night I am so exhausted that I am just
immediately asleep anyways!  I am about a 7 minute bike ride away from
the church and I technically live in a place named Yamatokoizumi...you
just cross the train tracks and go up this Main Street and across a
bridge and in this little neighborhood and I am actually pretty close
to a little shrine!  Super cute place, I like it a lot.


Your ward area looks pretty big.  Do you have people in all areas?  It
looks too big to cover completely on a bike.  Do you ride public
transit to visit some people?  What is that like?  How do you get to
your District meetings?

Yes we do use the trains a fair amount. So there is us and the Asuka
area in this ward where the elders are at but they are thinking about
dissolving that area and just combining us so that we have no
boundaries as far as where we work. We also just do tons of biking
because our area is one of the biggest in the mission. We ride a train
to get to district meetings in Nara. I love Nara, we are going there
for Pday next week to see the deer and the blossoms and I am stoked.
Nara is the original original capital of Japan so it is a big city but
also has lots of traditional stuff. My favorite thing in Nara is this
food place we go after DM...it is called Indocurry and it is to die
for. Maybe my new favorite food and it is from Indonesia of all
places!

Did you have your baptism of Aimi and Miu?  Is there a font in your
church or do you have to go elsewhere?  Or do you make your own?  Do
the ward members support the baptisms?

We have a font in this church! Their baptism got
postponed..again...such a frustrating thing but we know it will go
through, just in the Lord's timing and not ours. The mom needs to step
up her game a little bit and we are trying to work with her and get it
to happen. The ward members here are amazing with missionary work, we
have two meetings with the ward every Sunday to figure out how we can
work together. They are pumped about getting people baptized.

You say you love the food.  What exactly do you love about it?  What
types of things are you eating?  Do you have many DA's?  What do you
cook or make for yourself on a regular basis?

The food is delicious. The bread is the best thing of my life, as is
the milk and yogurt and basically all dairy products...I could
honestly just live off of that my whole mission and be fine. They also
have this super tasty cereal that I love and I bet you could buy on
Amazon and you totally should. It is in a red bag and called Calbee
and looks fruity and nutty and is just amazing. Our eating is pretty
crazy depending on the week. Members feed us like once or twice a week
but I have only had Japanese food there twice because they are sweet
and are making us American food to help us feel at home. We make lots
of pasta and get some bento boxes and sometimes eat Ramen out. Toast
is good. Cereal is good. Potstickers and rice are good also. I love
Japanese food. I am so stoked for you guys to come eat it already.
Your lives will change forever.

How much teaching do you typically do?  How much do you work with
members?  Do you tract or how do you find people to teach?

We are hitting at least twenty lessons a week...which is crazy and we
are trying to get more. Honestly I love teaching, it is the best part.
We do a lot of working with the members, about half of our lessons
have a doseki (a member with us) which is great and what Welch Kaicho
wants and they help us out so much. Sometimes we go housing and
housing is the worst because it is so not effective. Here they have
these little camera and doorbell things so most of the time we get
rejected there and don't even see the people. So frustrating!  I like
train dendo the best because it is more natural to talk to them and
they can't escape.

Are the people fascinated with your hair and blue eyes?

Somewhat. A lot of teenage girls always tell me I am so beautiful and
like an angel which makes me feel good haha. Little kids just gape at
me like I am a freak which is also amusing. Sometimes people scream
"Gaijin!" At us which means foreigner.  Silly Japanese people, that is
one word that I do know.

What miracles have you experienced this week?

We found two new investigators that both speak English and actively
want to meet with us...after a a rough week and lots of prayers it was
such a tender mercy. They are both from the Philippines and believe in
Christ and it is going to be a beautiful thing. We found them on the
same day on separate trains.

What tender mercies have you experienced?

Every single day there are tender mercies, I just have to look for
them. That is actually gonna be the main focus of my group email, so
stay tuned for that one.

Are the cherry blossoms out yet?

Somewhat, but this weekend will be the big blooming. Super stoked to see them!

Are you staying warm while riding your bike?

For the most part yeah. At night it gets pretty chilly though.

Do you see other missionaries very often?

Just the zone leaders in Asuka who are in our ward, we are always
talking to them and working with them and we teach Eikaiwa together
twice a week. I also see four other elders at district meeting every
week. We don't see the STL's like ever but this week we have exchanges
so we get to go work in Osaka for a day and see them then!

How is Rina doing?  Is she still on tract to be baptized?

Rina is great and so cute but Satan is the worst and we were only able
to meet with her once this week...so we are probably gonna have to
push her baptism back a week but she is still wanting it and is on
track!

Is the language getting to be a little easier or still just as frustrating?

It depends on the day. Sometimes it goes well and then sometimes I get
so frustrated I just want to cry. This language is so hard and these
people speak faster Japanese than I do English..so the struggle can be
real sometimes.

Anything crazy or humorous happen this week?

We got whipped cream shoved in our faces for part of a ward
skit...that was an adventure. Some ladies also tried to convert us to
Buddhism. Oh this is good/bad. I was mentioned in a sacrament talk by
some guy and I had fallen asleep at the time and so everyone was
looking at me probably but I was dozing hardcore and didn't even know
until after. It was the worst.

Favorite thing this week about being a missionary?

I love these people so much. They make me so very happy and I love
getting to serve them. I also love getting to learn so much about the
gospel every single day, it is truly such a cool experience.

What do you need?  How can we support you?

If you ever feel like maybe sending me some tortillas, that would be
good...I am in major quesadilla withdrawals. Other than that, maybe
please send me the chocolate chip cookie recipe that I love as well as
some caramel popcorn...that would be great and maybe just other easy
meals!  Just keep praying for me because I need it...your love and
support and prayers mean everything to me during the hard days because
I love and miss you guys lots. Just keep taking care of yourself and
being happy!

Any messages that we need to pass along to anyone?

Just tell everyone how much I love them and that I am well. Please
thank the Buie couple and the Hadfield couple for sending me some
letters, it was very sweet!  Also thank the animals for their cards as
well. Especially the ghost of Dakota who has a messed up memory
because I never had a phone when she was alive. Also tell Scarlet she
is rude for not sending me a card when my dead dog did. Kay thanks
haha.

I LOVE YOU GUYS SO SO SO SO SO MUCH

Group Letter:

Konnichiwa minasan!  And happy Easter for those of you who are still
awake back in the states!


Well another week of my mission down and I can hardly believe it. Time
is seriously such a warp here, I already can't believe that people
back home are in the midst of Spring sports and testing and general
conference and all that good stuff.  Such fun times!

This week here in Yamatokoriyama was pretty good!  The beginning of
the week started off as usual with just lots of teaching lessons and
teaching Eikaiwa (Oh yeah!  I forgot to tell you all that twice a week
we get the chance to teach a free English class. I originally thought
I would be teaching the children's class but then I showed up my first
week and one of my zone leaders thought it would be funny to have me
teach the advanced class....so now I teach an advanced English class
and it is actually super fun!  I have like eight students and they are
so nice and sweet. They also think I am some amazing wizard because my
college major is English and now I "speak" Japanese too.  Really these
people are so cute, and I love English!  It is so much fun!) and just
visiting lots of people.


Then Thursday we had the great chance to go
back to Kobe for TTT!  Basically that is a meeting for all of the new
trainers and trainees where we go back to the mission home and have a
discussion and learn together and have some good old fashioned Costco
pizza. It was truly so much fun though, I loved getting to see
everybody from my MTC doki and swap experiences about what we are
learning and who we are teaching. It was also great to get to learn
from President and Sister Welch again, I learned so much. One of the
things he really harped on repeatedly was that if my motivation for
this mission, for learning this language, for teaching this people,
isn't love, I am doing it wrong and need to repent and try again. He
told us how love is the motive for everything in this gospel and as we
seek to emulate and share that love, we will become better
missionaries, better people, and will learn Japanese quicker. Heaven
knows that I need all of those things and so I am trying my best to
become more loving towards everyone I come into contact with!


The end of the week was good as we had district meeting on Friday in
Nara, and then the Spring Festival for the ward on Saturday! It was so
much fun to see all these people share their talents with  all of us,
and we had a ton of investigators show up and so it was a happy happy
day. Kenney Shimai and I also had the chance to be in a skit with some
of the youth and the elders that serve with us...basically it was us
answering a bunch of gospel questions nonsensically while this
Japanese elder pretended to be girly and then smashed pan and whipped
cream in our faces. It was absurd but everyone thought it was
hilarious and it helped build kankei with the members, so whatever
works I guess!


Yesterday with Easter was good although it was so sad because nobody
here knows or even celebrates Easter and even the members forget it
was Easter until we told them...such a sad thing!  I love that day and
the chance to reflect on the love our Savior has for each of us
personally.  Such an amazing miracle we get to witness!


A quick funny story that happened to me yesterday..no judgment because
this probably shows how I might be the worst missionary ever but bear
with me. So once upon a time I have never been more exhausted in my
entire life than as a missionary. You are just so busy and going going
going and so when you get to sit down...you just crash. Also church
can be kind of hard because I have to translate everything and it was
exhausting. Well yesterday in sacrament my companion and I split up to
sit by some different members and whatnot, and during this one talk I
started dozing...needless to say at one point in his talk the guy
started talking about me and how my testimony the week before touched
him and he was so grateful for what I said and my commitment to the
Lord and everything...and as he is saying this I am totally dozing off
and have no idea what is going on. I didn't even know until after the
fact and now I am so embarrassed I could die. Missionary work is so
exhausting!!


So in reality though, this week was probably one of the hardest of my
life. A lot of things happened and fell through and we came across
some rough circumstances to slow some work down and complicate things.
I was really frustrated and not sure what to do so I was just praying
to see the good in the situation and boy did the Lord deliver. I have
truly come to the conclusion here on my mission that God is SO GOOD.
Honestly, even in the amidst of our trials, ESPECIALLY in the midst of
our trials, He is with us and constantly blessing us. His tender
mercies are all around us, we need only look, like it says in 1 Nephi
1:20. We had two of our investigators postpone their baptisms again?
That's fine, Heavenly Father introduced us to two new promising
investigators. I'm struggling because I don't know how to speak
Japanese? Heavenly Father prompts me to open my mouth and I end up
making some lady's day. I have a rough day where I feel alone? A
friend has the feeling to send me a perfectly timed email that is
EXACTLY what I need to hear. I am more exhausted than I ever have
before? The Lord gives me the strength to accomplish everything I need
to. We can't get ahold of one of our investigators? She just shows up
at the church at that random moment we are there so we can meet with
her. The tender mercies of the Lord are EVERYWHERE!  All you need to
do is open your eyes and look and you will find them, I promise. God
is so so so good to us. He truly is our father and in our hard times
He will always bless us with things to bear us up and strengthen us,
we need to only let Him. Truly I wrote down this entire list of the
mercies I saw this week that I wanted to put in the email but I don't
want to bore you all but let me just say this one final time....God is
real. He loves us. He knows us. He blesses us every single dang day of
our lives, and all we have to do is open our eyes to see that. We are
never alone for a single second of our lives, and we are so so loved.


Ahhh I just love being a missionary and getting to see all these
blessings. I encourage you all to look for them in your own lives and
then express gratitude as you find them.


I know that this church is true. I know that God is real and He loves
us, and I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know that He atoned
for our sins and our sorrows and He will always be with us. I know
that Joseph Smith truly saw God the Father and the Son and that we
have the true church restored with us on the earth today. I know all
these things and I truly love them so much!


I love this gospel and I love all of you.  Have an amazing week!
Aishiteimasu,
Sister Pickering




Us with Rina Chan!  And Hiro Chan, a church member
After the ward skit.  Moral of the story: Never do skits that the elders make up
"I love this sweet girl. She helps us so much."  Ibuki Chan
"Here we are doing what we usually do...visiting people that are never
home and so we use our cute little Ibuki to help us write notes to
them!"

"My advanced Eikaiwa class"
Reunited with her MTC Friends

Alyssa was so happy to see her MTC people and to catch up on the last few weeks
TTT (Trainers, trainies and teaching)

Area photos

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baptisms Really Do Happen In Japan: Nihon Week 2

video

This is Rina!!  She is being baptized April 2nd!!
The work is rolling forth in Japan.  Alyssa is so excited and seems to be working so hard.  This week she really emphasized the role we have as members of the church in helping to work progress.  I think that in Utah, we don't always have the opportunities to support the missionaries as much as in other places.  Being in Japan has opened Alyssa's eyes on how much they rely on members.  I can tell that she already loves the people so much, especially the members.  She challenged us to look outside ourselves and see what more we can do here in our sphere of influence.  I guess it is time to leave the comfort zone, have a little more faith and do our part.

This was her first full week as a proselyting missionary.  She expressed in her letter that there have been challenging times and frustration.  Being a missionary is glorious and amazing and also incredibly difficult.  I don't want to sugar coat this blog and have it appear that every thing is always rosy.  However,  the work is worth it and God will help you through.  A recently returned missionary in our ward, Elise Evans, said it best when she said "That a mission is the hardest joy she has ever earned".  I think that pretty much sums it up.  I know Alyssa is strong willed and a fighter so I know that she won't let the challenges get her down.

Here is a small excerpt from her letter to me this week:

As far as my investigators, I have so many I could describe!  Rina is fourteen and is absolutely crazy but we love her tons and tons. Iwamota San is an eternal investigator of like thirty years and is very smart but won't apply the doctrine spiritually, Aimi and Miu are two cute little girls with super strong testimonies, Arai Tomohiro is a teenage boy who has the hardest time understanding doctrine but wants to be baptized...it is crazy that these people are real and they are mine. I want them to get baptized and love and accept this gospel so bad!  But people have their agency and sometimes that is frustrating haha. 
 
Overall I am great though. The bike is a struggle sometimes with the wind and the skirt and sometimes my inner commitment to follow Jesus Christ becomes a lot more outward if you catch my drift...but I am trying haha. The language is kicking my butt and sometimes I get super discouraged but I have to have the faith that I will be able to learn. The food is delicious, literally everything is super great. Actually I just had my first Nihongin meal with a member today, because all the other members have been making us American food like jello and chili and pizza because we are American and they want to make me feel at home...these people are seriously so golden. I love them so much. 

And here is her group email:

Konnichiwa minasan!

It is hard to believe that I am emailing from my second P day here in
Japan in my beautiful Yamatakoriyama. I truly love this area so much
and I feel so blessed to be able to be working here!

This week was great although it felt like it dragged on for eternity!
It is amazing how much you can accomplish in one single day as you get
up early and then schedule your life down to the very minute. It is a
super gratifying feeling, but also super exhausting. Sleep is my new
best friend here! We got lots accomplished though this week, and it
was wonderful. We had the chance to teach lots of lessons and visit
lots of members and just do a bunch to help further the work here in
this amazing area.


Some highlights of the week include having my first district meeting!
We meet in Nara for that, which is this big city next to my area, and
they have the famous Nara Park where you can pet the deer and see the
ginormous Buddah..we are definitely going to be hitting that up soon.
But district meeting was awesome, we have six elders in our district
and we were able to get together and discuss what we are learning
about the atonement of Jesus Christ through our mission wide reading
of the Book of Mormon..it was so neat, I am learning so much and every
single day it hits me more and more about how the gospel is literally
centered on the atonement. It is everything!  And that being said, it
should also be everything and the center of our very lives. Without
the atonement, we are and can become nothing. Such an important and
beautiful concept.


Okay now story time for the title of the email! Once upon a time the
sisters before us met this girl named Rina..she was fourteen and
seemed super golden and had a lot of interest...but they were not able
to keep contact with her!  Lots and lots of prayers were said to be
able to find her again, but to no avail. They were super sad but vowed
to always keep an eye out for her. Well fast forward again to Kenney
Shimai and her last companion...they found her again!  They taught her
again and it went well, but once again had no way to contact her and
lost track of her..tons more prayers were said. Flash forward again to
when I arrived in the area last week...we were biking home one night
and we ran into Rina! We were so thrilled and were able to get her to
commit to coming to church and to be formally taught. She was so
excited and agreed and we were so grateful that Heavenly Father placed
us in our path.


Flash forward AGAIN to Saturday...we are teaching her about the Savior
and about the gospel and she outward states that she wants to join
this church, she believes in Christ and God, she has felt the spirit,
and loves it here. Kenney Shimai and I were thrilled!  We extended the
baptismal commitment to her and she accepted and then said she wanted
to be baptized on April 2nd. The entire situation is truly such a
miracle and we are so thrilled! We know that there are people prepared
in our path to be baptized, and we just have to have the faith and
determination to find them! Her testimony is strong and she is golden
and her parents are down with her joining the church..we are going to
have a baptism here!  We can't even believe it! Such a happy thing to
be able to help this sweet daughter of God recognize her divine
identity and come closer to Christ.


Okay miracle round two...we have these two little girls who have
wanted to be baptized for a long time but their inactive parents are
super apathetic and wouldn't help bring them to church...it has been
so hard!  Their testimonies are stronger than basically all of our
other investigators and they want to be baptized so badly but they are
just little girls and need help getting to church. We have been
praying lots and struggling to know what to do...they want to be
baptized so badly and we just were at a loss.


Well this morning we get this phone call from Inamori Kyodai our ward
mission leader...he basically called and told us that the parents had
a change of heart and were sort of called to repentance by this sweet
little older brother in the ward that we adore and they want the girls
to go through with the baptism...so we will be having two baptisms
this weekend as well for Aimi and Miu!  Honestly we got off the phone
and were in shock..we couldn't even believe this was happening,
because it seemed like such a miracle. It is truly unreal how much we
are being blessed here in Yamatokoriyama at this time. The work is
rolling forward!


President Welch has asked us to have the faith to see one baptism
every single week...Kenney Shimai and I had no clue how we were going
to accomplish this with our minimal Japanese and little experience,
but we were determined to be obedient and work hard and do our very
best. Well by the end of next week when we have hit three weeks in the
transfer, we will have seen three baptisms. Seriously such miracles.


I have a testimony that the Lord hears and answers prayers, and He
will not let our our inadequacies or weaknesses get in the way of His
work. This gospel is too important, and I know as we try our best to
open our mouths and share the happy news of our Savior, we will be
able to help people around us experience more joy and happiness than
they could even imagine. This doesn't just apply to missionaries, but
everyone!  Here I have seen firsthand that without ward members, this
work would die out completely. We are only here for a few transfers at
most, but ward members are there to support new converts and less
actives much longer...I would encourage all of you to reflect on what
you are doing to help further the work of the Lord wherever you
currently are in your life and the world. Missionaries can't do it
without you! As Joseph Smith has said, after all has been said and
done, our most important duty is to preach the gospel!


I am so grateful to be a missionary at this time. I am so grateful for
my Savior and for this beautiful Easter season to celebrate His
resurrection and triumph. I know He lives. I know that for sure.
I love you all so much and hope you know that my prayers and thoughts
are with you all! Have a very happy Easter! Lots of love!


Aishiteimasu!
Sister Pickering

P.S. If you haven't seen the new Easter video the church put
out...repent and go watch it  now!  Share that thing all over the
World Wide Web and share the good news!


Isn't that just a cool letter?  I will be praying hard this week for her sweet investigators and hope that they can follow through with their commitments.

Also, as a side note, Alyssa's Dad and I laughed a little hard when she said that sleep is her new best friend.  We didn't realize that she ever broke up with sleep in the first place.  :)


Companions
The Church building in Yamatokoriyama

Street view of Yamatokoriyama
Yamatokoriyama
Sunrise

"City of Nara, where we have District Meeting"
"The reason one of our investigators won't come to church.??
Curse you Salon Takagi!!!"

Ibuki Chan!
"The Crib"


video
Proof that she can ride a bike . . .

Monday, March 14, 2016

First Week in Japan

Alyssa with an investigator named Shiori and her trainer Sister Kenney

Street contacting, riding a bike, teaching lessons, new area, speaking in a foreign tongue, and feeling the Spirit; true missionary work has finally begun for Alyssa and it is so exciting.  Between her group email and the questionnaire I sent her, I feel like we got a pretty in depth look at her first week in Japan.  So here it is:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!
Well I can hardly believe it...after what feels like eons of time, I
am FINALLY writing you an email from Japan!  Woohoo! It feels so good
to be in the outside world and in my beautiful mission. I truly love
it so much already.
My last few days in the MTC were good if not a bit crazy just trying
to get things done. Saying goodbye to my senseis and some of my
district and my companion were hard, but it was time for the next
adventure!  The travel day to Japan was CRAZY. There were 14 of us
going to Kobe and so we had almost 45 pieces of luggage between all of
us and we rode a bus and the front runner and trax before we got to
the airport, and what an adventure that was! The highlight of that
part of the day was getting to talk to my family though, it has been
far too long.
The flights were all really great if not long, but then I got to Tokyo
and holy cow, I stepped into a different world! It was hot and humid
and I couldn't read any signs and everyone was Japanese and I stuck
out soooo badly and it was just quite the adventure. My first
impressions of Japan though were just how nice everyone was and how
clean everything is!  It is truly so different from the states.
President and Sister Welch picked us up at the Osaka airport and I
love them so much!!  They are both such amazing human beings and I
have no doubt that I was meant to be serving with them at this
particular time in this particular mission. They have changed
missionary work in Japan so much  and have elevated all of us to a
higher standard. We are all teaching at least twenty lessons a week
and have the goals to see one baptism a week. It is hard and might
seem impossible, but we need to try and change our mindsets  to
become a baptizing mission. No offense to you South and Central
American missionaries, but there is nothing special there that we
can't accomplish here in Japan, and that is our goal. I am ready to
work hard and I know we will see miracles here in Japan!
So my new area and new companion!  President Welch announced it to us
like sorting hat style and he called us up in front of everyone and
pulled our fate out of this envelope and made it this big theatrical
thing (he is such a funny guy) and then pointed to a map and showed us
what was up.  He said to me "Are you ready to work hard, Sister
Pickering?" And I responded yes and then he said "Are you ready to be
teaching lots of lessons?"  I said yes again and then he told me that
I was to be laboring in the Yamatokoriyama Area in the Osaka Zone of
our mission. Basically it is like this cute little suburb country city
outside of Osaka...seriously google map it or something, it is so
beautiful and cute here. AND we are home to the biggest Buddah in the
world, so there is that too haha. BUT the best part of this area is
that it is the model area of the mission. We are currently teaching
the most and have the most investigators in our pool, and it is crazy!
Not to mention the ward here is legendary, they are filled with so
much dendo (missionary work) fire and it is incredible.
My companion is named Kenney Shimai and she is from Orem and she is
too cute. Fun fact about us, we are the youngest companionship in the
mission....between the two of us combined, we barely have over 6
months of mission experience...that is kind of a terrifying thing but
it also has to give us faith that we are in the hands of the Lord. One
thing President Welch said to us that I really liked was "Do I know
why you are here in Japan?  Or are being assigned to this area? Heck
no, but the Lord does, so go work hard and figure it out and then get
back to me."  That is such a true idea and something I am clinging too
because sometimes the two of us struggle...I can't speak the language
like at all and she has never been in charge, so we have quite the
adventure ahead of us...but it is good and we are learning and
learning to laugh.
We have a pretty good pool of investigators going right now and it is
awesome. We have four with a baptismal date, like twelve progressing
investigators, and then a bunch of others. We are working so hard and
even though we have no clue what is happening sometimes, we are
determined to see some success in this area. These people are sooooo
prepared it is crazy, it is just getting them to make the personal
connection to their lives! Teaching is by far my favorite thing. I
have felt the spirit so strongly every single lesson and it is such a
testimony to me that this is the Lord's work and what a blessing it
is. Getting to testify to someone that they are a child of God when
they have never before heard that is an amazing experience. My least
favorite thing however is finding and street contacting...haha Kenney
Shimai and I struggle with that sometimes because I don't know
Japanese and she isn't sure what to do either. The other day we tried
chasing down this little grandma to talk to her about the weather but
she yelled at us and shooed us away and we had a good laugh about
that. This mission is so humbling but it is also so much fun.
As stated previously, the members here are amazing, we would literally
die without them. Our ward mission leader is a rockstar and drives us
everywhere and helps us out and comes to lessons as a member and
everyone here is just awesome. Wards in Utah literally have no excuse
for not being amazing, because these people have to sacrifice so much
more to be members and their faith is incredible. Honestly a part of
me wishes I hadn't come to Japan because I am not going to want to
leave these wonderful people. They have already taken a very large
place in my heart that I didn't even know was being reserved just for
them.
I will give some more specific stories next week, but just know that I
am safe and I love it here. I love Japan, I love the Japanese people,
and I love my mission so much already and I know that I am meant to be
here. Don't get me wrong, it is difficult and exhausting and sometimes
I feel overwhelmed or homesick or a plethora of other emotions, but it
is okay because I am walking with God and Christ and that is what
matters. I am nowhere near alone, and I testify of that so much. I
have had so many prayers and pleas answered this week in my weakness
and desperation, and the Lord has always replied with love and
patience. This is His work and I am just so blessed to be a part of
it.
I hope you all have an amazing week!  The church is true!  Look for a
way to help further the missionary work in your own area!
Aishiteimasu,
Sister Pickering
P.S. If you have any super easy to make recipes that you wanna maybe
email me..that would be cool. My companion and I don't know how to
make lots of things and I like variety in my life!  Thank you so much
in advance!
P.P.S. The food here is AMAZING. America literally cannot compare. The end.
P.P.P.S. Riding a bike in a skirt is super hard and I already have 9 bruises.
Photo: Here we are with two of our cute investigators and then the
zone leaders who also serve in our ward!



Now the Questions and Answers:


Who did you sit with on your long flight and what did you do to occupy your time?

 I sat between two strangers who put in their headphones and didn't want to talk...I somehow got upgraded to business class and so I was isolated which was kinda sad haha. The one time my neighbor talked to me was to offer me some headphones to watch movies because I had been "Staring at the map sadly" and not doing anything. It was funny. I studied a lot and pondered life. I tried to get some sleep but not a ton because I felt pretty sick. 

How many packages of airplane cookies did you eat?

One package because that is all they gave me but we did get a meal and some snacks and an ice cream sandwich.

 
What was your first impression of Tokyo?  How did the transfer of airlines go?  Were you able to read the Japanese signs?  Was it hard to say goodbye to your favorite Elders?

 Tokyo was crazy town. It was super hot and humid and getting through immigrations was kind of a mess because they put us to the side and ignored us for like a half hour so we we were running around like crazy trying to figure life out. We didn't really know what was happening because it had been like 24 hours and we were dead and then everything is shockingly enough written in Japanese...Park Shimai and I were losing it, we kept laughing over absolutely everything, and had no idea what was happening. Luckily we ran into the Tokyo South Mission President and Wife and the AP's so they helped us. We may have almost missed boarding. But we made it!  And yes saying goodbye was sad and hard because we left before them in the morning and saying goodbye to my companion was sad also. 

 
First impressions upon landing in Kobe?

 First impression of Kobe was that it was dark and I was exhausted and was supposed to meet my mission president and I looked like death because I still couldn't sleep. Also everyone in Japan is ridiculously nice and there are always happy songs playing. The toilets in the airport were super fancy and played music and were heated and did other stuff.  It was crazy. 

 
What is your mission home like?  Where did you sleep?  What did you eat?

 
The mission home is just like a home next to the church. The sisters all got to sleep in the mission home upstairs in some bedrooms which was super nice. Sister Welch cooked us some nice homemade food and it was so nice to be in an actual home type atmosphere again. It was very nice. Japanese dairy products are bomb. Seriously I can't come home based on that alone. The milk and the yogurt and the bread are indescribable. Life changing truly.

 
What did you do on that Wednesday in Kobe with the Mission President?

Wednesday we did lots of training on iPads about the mission and orientation stuff and had interviews with President Welch and then ended the night with a testimony meeting. It was great and a lot of fun. 
 
Why did you need exercise clothes?

We needed exercise clothes because the AP's took us running and to a park that overlooks all of Kobe and we played ultimate frisbee and then did this thing called Tai So with a bunch of old people..look it up, it is like yoga in the park with music. So great. 
 

More details about your mission president and wife?

President and Sister Welch are just the best. Hearts of gold, both of them, and they have really changed the Kobe mission and missionary work in Japan in general. President Welch is super funny and competitive but also very loving and paternal. My branch president wasn't like that AT ALL and in my interview with President Welch the first thing he said to me was "How are you doing, my dear?  How can I help you?" They raised four daughters and so they know what is up and are just so willing to love and take care of us. He is also a very inspired man and walks with the Lord, that much is evident, he is a spiritual giant. I know that I was meant to be working with them, and we will end our missions together. Actually I will have a new mission president for like one transfer. Which will be lame. But okay. 
 
First impression of your companion?

My first impression was that she was beautiful and seemed perfect and I didn't want to screw things up haha. But she is so kind and loving and gave me the biggest hug. She was constantly on the phone working with investigators and members so I knew she worked hard and cared about what was happening
 
How did you get to your area?


We got to the area via walking and train! Train travel is so fun here. Lots to see and tons of people. 
 

Details about your area? Size?  Members? Geographical information? Transportation?  Economic Demographics?  First impression?

My area is currently the model area for the mission..Yamatokoriyama is a very special place and the ward members are on fire with missionary work. It is a cute little place, I love it lots. It is a good mixture of countryside and city but it is all pretty quaint and cute. Google street view this joint and you will get a pretty decent idea. All the roads are small and everything is clean and nice. I like it a lot. We bike like everywhere or Inamori Kyodai (ward mission leader) drives us to far away appointments and sometimes train I guess too. Ours is one of the biggest areas in the mission. But honestly the members are AMAZING. We would die without them. 
 
What is your apartment like?  Do you sleep on a Futon?

Apartment is small and ghetto and freezing so space lamps are life. But I really don't mind it and futons are bomb. 
 
Is it raining?

Yes

What was it like going grocery shopping for the first time?  What kind of foods did you buy?  What are you eating on a regular basis?

We just went grocery shopping today and we died laughing because neither one of us could read anything and we were lost...I really am in Japan. Also the 100 Yen stores are like dollar stores and they are AMAZING. Way better than the stores in America and everything is so fun and cute and lots of yummy food. I eat lots of toast and sometimes pasta and cereal. We don't have a lot of time for good meals regularly because we are so busy. But if you could send me some super easy recipes like crepes and anything else you can think of, that would be AMAZING

Who is your companion?  I mean more details than a name.  Where is she from?  How long has she been out?  Do you seem to get along?

Kenney Shimai has been on her mission since September and is from Orem. She is super cute. We are officially the youngest companionship in the mission by a long shot and that is an adventure because neither one of us are super sure what is going on. She is the youngest of four sisters and went to BYU before her mission and played soccer for Celtic and basketball for Orem High School. She is cute and a hard worker. We are seeming to have fun and get along well so far. 

Do you have a bike yet?

 Yes, Inamori Kyodai helped me out and I have had to spend tons of money for bike stuff and sheets and life and whatnot but all is well. 

 What did you do on your first full day of Pros?

We did lots of visiting people and teaching and planning and getting me up to date on life. It was surreal. I also had my first lesson the first night in the area...oh boy haha. We also got my bike and did some errand stuff and then taught again this super cute lady at a member's house far away so we had some doseki...seriously the members here are the best. 
 
How is the language coming along?

The language is hard. They speak fast and kind of assume I understand. It is rough but I am learning and Inamori Kyodai actually tells me that my Nihongo is "scary good" and that he thinks I might be special and then I laugh because it is hard and sometimes want to die but it is okay because I am improving 

What was your first Sunday like?  How is the ward?


Sunday was great because church was cool and I felt somewhat at home. The members are amazing and I adore them. We had three different investigators come to church and we got to do some service afterwards. And then we taught two lessons that went pretty well!


Are you teaching anybody yet? 

 
Yes. Lots of people. We have a huge investigator pool. 
 
Have you seen the Lord's hand in your life this past week?

 Always. We couldn't do this without him because we are so new and inexperienced. He has answered so many prayers and has always given me his Spirit during lessons which has been awesome. He really is there. 

What is your favorite part so far?

 Favorite part is teaching and the members. I love these people they are so amazing.
 
What is your least favorite part?

Least favorite part...the bike scares me because I am clumsy and already have 9 bruises from it and then street contacting is terrifying.
 
Do you have everything that you need?


Well I still don't have my luggage so I don't really have anything actually haha...they ship it from the mission home and it still hasn't arrived so that is problematic. I need a rain suit and rain boots ASAP because I get soaked and then I am sad. 


Can you buy most things there?

 We can get most things if we can read the labels and know what it is!

Any tender mercies?

This area is a tender mercy for me because the members are so amazing and loving and helping me to feel loved and at home. Also just so many answers to prayers. Life is good. 
 
Anything that we can do for you here?

Keep praying for me and sending pics and letting me know what is up. Also recipes pleeeease. 

I love you guys so much and hope that answers everything! I can check my email all week and have unlimited email time on P day...woohoo!

Have a wonderful week Mommy, I love you!



Riding the Front Runner with all of their luggage
SLC Airport - Here they come


First glance at Japan - Cherry Blossoms
 
Streets of Kobe

Overlooking Kobe



Her first morning in Kobe with the new missionaries and APs
Sunrise over Kobe


Sister Park and Miller, Sisters from the MTC
What is left of her original MTC District

In front of the Mission Home
She loves her tag

Training
Her bed in her apartment.  Or should I say Futon?

Alyssa, Kenney Shimai, an investigator, and a ward member named Inamori Akane
Two investigators named Rina and Shiori and then us with Elders
Boettcher and Takahashi, the zone leaders who also serve in our area.
We are gonna get these two baptized.