Monday, March 21, 2016

Baptisms Really Do Happen In Japan: Nihon Week 2

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 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 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 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 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!

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.  :)

The Church building in Yamatokoriyama

Street view of Yamatokoriyama

"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"

Proof that she can ride a bike . . .

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