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
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
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!
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?


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

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.

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