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Monday, April 25, 2016

I love Life and I love Japan: Nihon Week 7

Welcome Rainy Season

The last little while, Alyssa's Dad and I have been reflecting a lot on our own missionary experiences.  This caused us to pull out our journals and "truly" remember what it was like.  Either our memories have faded with age or we have blocked out a lot, but it was humbling to see how difficult those first few months in the mission are for every one.  It is a huge change of lifestyle with a variety of factors and influences.  I don't believe any missionary comes through that unscathed.  It is hard and that is totally normal.  If you can just hang on, have faith and work hard then things slowly start to change and get better.  I think you know when a missionary has overcome that first major hurdle when they stop counting the days until they come home and start reflecting on how little time they have left.  That happened for Alyssa this week.  She has loved her mission thus far but it hasn't come without challenges and heartache.  But she is starting to recognize the urgency of the work and how quickly her time will be gone.
 
This week, her letter brought me joy and peace knowing that she has survived her first major trial and will be a more effective and loving missionary because of it.
 
Here is an excerpt from her letter to me:
 
I really can't believe how fast time is going...the first part of the transfer felt like eternity and a half but now time is really starting to fly and by time this transfer is over, I will have been on my mission for five months...that is more than 25% done and that freaks me out. I feel like I just got here and still don't know anything and if I blink I am gonna miss stuff!  I am just happy that I am finally getting sort of the hang of things though, because at the beginning, not gonna lie, I used to think "Oh sweet, only this many more months until I can go home" but my mindset is changing a lot. The other day I was at a dinner with some ward members and I was looking around the table and these people that I met not that long ago and my heart was just so close to bursting with affection for them. Honestly I don't even know how it is possible for me to love them as much as I do! I just love them so much and the thing that is sad is that when I say goodbye to them, odds are for most of them it will be goodbye until the next life and that thought just breaks my heart. They are so special to me and so I am trying to enjoy every single moment I can with them. 
 
It has been a great week of work here. Kenney Shimai and I worked super hard and we actually have had a blast. We have been getting along amazingly and working so hard and having so much fun. All it takes is prayer, charity, a whole lot of patience, accepting people for who they are, and then a common purpose, and some amazing things can happen. We are having so much fun and I am so grateful.
 
Anyways we have been working way hard and visiting lots of people. We got a new investigator and visited tons of less active members and all is going well here in this area. I am confident that if we keep working hard and doing what we need to be doing, the Lord is going to bless us with some serious miracles. I just feel so blessed to be able to witness them every single day!
 
Rina Chan was able to be confirmed yesterday, which was a miracle in and of itself. Honestly her home life is so screwed up, and it just breaks my heart. It has altered her way of thinking a lot and so we have had to work through a lot of things, but she is a strong girl and has a huge heart with a lot of love to give, and so I think she will be okay. This ward is taking such good care of her too. She won't be able to slip under their radar while the current leaders are on the job.
 
Emi Chan is also doing great. It was kind of frustrating though because after church we taught her and we were gonna give her a soft baptismal commitment, but every single time that the Spirit was climaxing in the lesson, someone would barge in the room or be loud or something...Satan is honestly the worst. Ahhh it killed us. Hopefully this Friday will be a bit more peaceful when we teach her again! (Oh how I could relate with this experience.  I used to say that Satan worked through the telephone.  Without fail, every time we were about to extend the invitation to baptism the phone would ring.  Some things don't change, especially Satan)
 
Other random things...haha I am glad you liked my borrowed rain suit, I still don't have mine yet. I need to get on that, but there isn't a mall super close in my area and so we need to plan a journey sometime to go get one. My hair is also always super curly and sometimes it looks great and sometimes I look like a freak, but that is okay. The Nihongin love it I guess, and all these old grandmas just faun over my companion and I and tell us how beautiful we are. They are super cute. Anyways it is super fun when it rains though and we have the suit. On Wednesday I think it was, it was torrential downpour and I just thought it was hilarious and I laughed hysterically the entire time we were out in it. Everyone thought I was crazy but I thought it was so much fun. Every single day is an adventure if you choose to make it one!

 
 
And or course her group letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

First and foremost congratulations to the beautiful Kylee Hazard who
received her mission call this week!  She hasn't opened it yet because
#life, but I just wanted to shout her out because I am so proud of her
and I know she is gonna be amazing. Love you Ky!

Well this week was absolutely amazing. We found out on Tuesday that
both Kenney Shimai and I were staying here in Yamatokoriyama, and we
were so excited!  There are a lot of great things happening in this
area right now, and we are so blessed to be a part of it. I also have
come to love these members and my investigators so much and I am not
sure that my heart could take another goodbye yet...and so I am so
happy that I am here for at least another transfer!

This week was probably one of the busiest of my mission so far, and
honestly it was also the happiest. There is a quote in PMG that talks
about how the secret to missionary work is quite simply work, and boy
is that true. Sometimes it can be hard and your motivation can be down
because it is hot and humid or you are homesick or want food or
whatever the circumstance may be, but the cure to it all is simply to
forget yourself and go to work! My mission president is always telling
us to make the mission bigger than ourselves, and that is so
important. If we can do that, we can face any challenges that may come
our way as part of mission life, and all will be well!

Some of the things that happened this week, let's see...oh well I got
my first taste of a real Japanese rain storm and it was such a blast.
When it rains here, it rains HARD. Nonstop. All day long. And you get
COMPLETELY soaked. Lemme tell you that there is nothing more stylish
than two sister missionaries in our rain suits and white helmets
riding our bikes down the streets of Japan, especially when one of
them (me) is laughing uncontrollably because they just think that life
is the funniest thing ever...honestly I got so many looks and so many
people thought I was crazy, but it is okay because I was just happy.
We went and visited one of our investigators and we were soaked and I
was still laughing and she looked at me really concerned and said, in
broken English..."Pickering Shimai....no books...no TV...no
music...Going crazy!" Of course that made me laugh only harder which
didn't help the case, but such is life.
 
I also never realized before I came to the mission how much of our finding people is guess work.
Sometimes we have to get on a train, get off at a random stop, and go
wandering in a random direction with only the spirit and a
semi-unpredictable Google Maps app as our guide...being real, Kenney
Shimai and I get lost seriously ALL the time, but it is okay because
we get to meet a lot more people that way! We figure if we are being
obedient and following the spirit, even if we don't know where we are
geographically speaking, we are always in the right place that we need
to be. I also have realized what a blast it is.
 
Last night Kenney Shimai and I were trying to find this less active member and we
literally had to hike up a mountain to get to her house and it was
dusk and we had no clue where we were going but we were just laughing
and enjoying it, and hit me how wonderful this mission is. I am
getting to frolic in one of the most beautiful places on earth,
interacting with some of the most amazing people, and sharing the most
beautiful and happy message that has ever been known to humanity. Can
life really get much better for me right now?

Anyways, just a couple short thoughts to wrap up...firstly is the
power of small and simple things and following those subtle
impressions of the spirit. So often on missions you hear these amazing
stories with miraculous, ground shaking miracles...and don't get me
wrong, those happen too, but more often than not, I see the greatest
things come about here as we simply follow a prompting like "Get up
and offer that old lady your seat on the train" or "Say hello to that
dude gardening" or "Just smile even when they slam the door in your
face". These little ideas may not seem like a big deal, but as you
trust in that spirit that leadeth to do good, amazing things come to
pass. I get to see that every single day here, and for that I am so
grateful.

Secondly, this week we had the chance to go do some dendo (tracting) with a youth
in my ward. This girl is so cute, I love her so much. Anyways, before
we left the church, Hibiki Chan grabbed a Book of Mormon and told us
that she wanted to give it out. Kenney Shimai and I encouraged her to
do so, but in our minds (don't judge us, we already repented over this
flawed train of thought haha) we didn't think she would actually be
able to give it away. We go housing a lot and it usually isn't very
successful...so we thought it would be a miracle if we could give it
away. Well surprise surprise, within an hour and a half, Hibiki Chan
had given away the Book of Mormon and borne a very a sweet and
powerful testimony to go with it. I was so touched by her faith and
her determination, and it made me realize what a weak missionary I
truly am. This girl, not even set apart, had the faith to go out and
place a Morumon Sho, and she did. It made me realize that the Lord
really does work according to our faith, and I have a lot of growing
to do!


Sometimes people think we are just so automatically strong and
faithful as missionaries, and that is not the case. Every single day I
become more and more aware of how I want to improve, but that means I
am also just becoming more and more aware of how powerful that my
Savior and His atonement are. What an incredible blessing that is.

Well all, that is about it for this week. Thanks so much for all the
prayers and love like always, things are great here on my end. I love
these people and this place and this gospel so much. I know it is true
and I am so happy getting to share it with those around me.
 
Love you all so much and hope all is well at home or wherever you may be! Have an amazing week! Aishiteimasu!
Love,
Sister Pickering



 
Hibiki Chan doing Dendo (tracting door to door)
Baskin Robbins for Kenney Shimai's birthday
video



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lots of Little Lessons: Nihon Week 6

Well many of you know that two huge earthquakes hit Japan this last week.  Fortunately for Alyssa,  the epicenter was in the mission just south of Alyssa.  It did extensive damage, there was loss of life, and it left at least 70,000 people homeless.  My heart and prayers goes out to all those people that Alyssa has grown to love so much.  I am also grateful for all of your concern and prayers on her behalf.  The work is progressing and I know the Lord is watching over his missionaries.

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat rough for Pickering Shimai and she has learned that Satan's influence is all too real and he desperately attempts to thwart the Lord's work and the missionary.  It is hard as a parent to feel helpless to reach out and pick her up and comfort her in those times.  But I am so proud of her dedication and willingness to keep pushing forward.  I know that she is growing in so many ways and becoming such a strong person.  She is a wonderful example to me. 

Here are a few random thoughts she shared this week:

-We got invited to dinner by this dude who is a brother of one of our
investigators. We thought he wanted to learn the lessons too, but it
turns out he was just interested in us because we are American girls
and him and his mom wanted one of us to end up with him...#creepy so
we didn't end up going to that dinner appointment


-Our ward is organizing a big food donation for all the affected
people in Fukkuoka. It is seriously so neat to see these people
stepping up to serve their brothers and sisters. Honestly the Japanese
people are so dang Christ like, and most of them don't even know
it...it kills me!  Why won't they just get baptized and officially
follow Jesus already??


-I just got a call from the mission office asking if my bike box had
been sent to me yet...now I am freaking out that I might get
transferred...and that would so not be okay. I love this ward and
these people too much and I am just barely starting to get the hang of
things here! Ahh why can't the Zone Leaders just call us already, the
suspense is killing me!


-The Word of Wisdom is the biggest killer here for people in Japan.
They love their tea so dang much and it kills me. If that wasn't such
a cultural thing here, our jobs would be so much easier. I would say
that is arguably the number one thing that stops people from being
baptized.


-I have been going to lots of different Indo Curry places and I am
starting to make a list and rate them so that when you guys come out,
we will be able to go to the best one. Because I am a boss like that.


-I saw a wild ferret the other day

-The McDonalds here is super classy but the portions are really small
and it is hilarious. But it is also disheartening when you just want a
big fat hamburger after biking in the freezing rain all day. Their
ideas of dessert here are cute...they give you fruit. Although the
fruit here is also amazing...the strawberries and pineapple are to die
for. Yum.


-I can't wait to Skype y'all in three weeks!!  It is gonna be a party!
Praying that technology works now!


Okay I think that is about it for random things...just wanted to
remind you all that I love you so much and hope all is well. Be safe!
Praying lots for you!


Oh P.S. I already decided the first meal I want when I get home...if
it is feasible, I want to go to Cafe El Lago because I really want
Mexican food and it reminds me of the family and so that is the plan,
okay dokay?  Why can't there be Mexican food here? I just wanna make
myself a dang quesadilla!


And her group email:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Really quickly, there was a pretty large earthquake that hit Japan
just south of my mission this week, so if you could keep all of those
people affected in your prayers, that would mean so much to me! Thank
you!


Well I can't believe that I am writing you all from my last P day of
my first transfer here in the mission field...holy cow where is time
going?  We are currently waiting for transfer calls; I am pretty much
guaranteed to stay here in Yamatokoriyama, but we are waiting to see
what happens to my trainer as our zone leaders and some other people
seemed to think she might be leaving...we aren't quite sure what is
up, but I will be able to let you all know next week for sure!


This week has been one full of adventures as is the usual here in
Japan! Tuesday we had the amazing chance to have interviews with
President Welch!  He traveled here to Yamatokoriyama and it was
honestly such a neat experience. That man is so inspired and is such a
spiritual giant and getting to sit with him in an interview for
fifteen minutes kind of blows me away sometimes. His opening prayer
was a perfect example of what a Spirit-guided prayer should be like,
because he prayed for some very specific things on my behalf that he
couldn't have known I needed unless the Spirit had let him know
so...such a testimony builder to me that not only is my mission
president truly called of God, but Heavenly Father knows and cares
about me enough to relay what I needed to hear! We talked a lot about
developing Christ like attributes and how they help us solve any and
all problems we may come across in life. He pointed out that too many
times we will get in a tough situation with someone and we will just
pray that they will change...not only does that take away their
agency, but it also removes the blessings from us! If we pray for them
to change, they will get to experience that repentance process and
become more like our Savior, and in the end we are just the same
person. That really changed my mindset about so many things, and it
had really inspired my prayers to become more of a "What can I do"
type of situation rather than a "Please change this" situation. It has
honestly helped so much and I feel like I am learning and growing a
ton. I am truly so grateful for this mission experience and for the
person it is helping me become.


The rest of my week was pretty busy between teaching and a district
meeting in Nabari and just the regular missionary life! It is starting
to warm up here a fair amount and the humidity horror stories I have
heard about for so long are beginning to become a reality. I am
certainly in for an adventure with that, but on the plus side, I never
have to do my hair here #curlyhairfordays


Just a couple quick last thoughts I wanted to share...we have an
investigator named Emi Chan who we have been teaching for a while and
we just absolutely love her. She is so sweet and a good person and we
know the gospel would be perfect for her, but she has had some trouble
applying it to her personally. Well these past few weeks, Kenney
Shimai and I have been praying for her so fervently to accept the
message, and then we also invited our families to help pray on her
behalf, and lo and behold, this week she has progressed exponentially
and we are so thrilled!  I just want to testify to you that Heavenly
Father truly does hear and answer our prayers not only as
missionaries, but prayers of those back home who are trying to aid in
the missionary work from afar. There are currently countless numbers
of people being taught around the world right now, and some of them
might need a little extra help...add those people (it's okay if you
don't know them) into your prayers every once in a while, and I
promise that you will make some missionaries somewhere in the world
very happy!


One final thought/experience before I stop taking all of your valuable
time. So this weekend I got super sick....hurray!  I was hating life
pretty bad as I had some pretty serious stomach pain and was running a
fever and whatnot. Sister Welch grounded me to the apartment and so we
missed two days of work and I was so frustrated. I didn't understand
why this was happening and I just wanted to be healthy and get out and
do what I needed to do!  Yesterday our ward mission leader was super
worried about me and wanted to take me to the hospital...yeah that was
not gonna happen and so I ended up convincing him to come give me a
priesthood blessing instead. He and his son came over to give me a
blessing, and it was such a tender experience. I couldn't understand
everything that was being said, and so I was able to focus on what I
felt and tried to understand with the spirit and my heart, and the
love that I felt from Heavenly Father was so strong. I knew so much
that He was aware of me and that I was going to be taken care of, and
that I would be healed. I also had this sense of belonging as I
listened to the blessing, and it was a very strong confirmation for me
once again that I am where I need to be. Lately I have had this bad
habit whenever something frustrates me of saying something along the
lines of "This would be so much easier if I was speaking English, or
was in my own country, or etc. etc.", but last night that desire to
say that faded instantly. I know I am where I need to be, and I know
that Japanese is supposed to be my mission language. As I am learning
to trust God more and more, I am realizing that everything is in His
hands, and everything is okay.


I know that God lives and that He loves us. I know that the priesthood
is His power on the earth today, and it is real, because I have seen
and felt it in my life more times than I can even express. I know that
missionary work is the most important work on earth for anyone at any
stage of life, and I feel SO blessed to be a part of it. I am truly so
sincerely grateful for my mission!


I love you all so much and am keeping you all in my prayers. Thank you
as always for all the love and support and prayers, because it means
the world to me. Have an amazing week!  Aishiteimasu!


Love,
Sister Pickering


Photos: My companion and I with some bush that looks like some
character that my companion got super excited about, and then a view
from the church in Nabari!




Monday, April 11, 2016

Best Weekend Ever: Nihon Week 5

"The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by
the good shepherd"
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Alyssa and her sweet Rina Chan right before her baptism
 Alyssa's words from a recent handwritten letter:

 "One year and half might seem long now, but it will all be okay.  Right now I am trying to help some little Nihongin families have the same blessings that we get".


Minasan, Konnichiwa!

I hope that this email finds everyone well and happy back home or
wherever you are!  This week was such a crazy and good one and so I am
going to go ahead and just jump right in!


The first part of the week went by super fast and was super busy as my
companion and I ran around like crazy trying to plan a baptism and get
everything ready for Rina Chan this weekend! We taught a lot of
lessons and also had the chance to do a lot of work with the ward and
the youth. We are really trying to increase dendo fire in the ward I
am serving in (which is funny, because they are already so stellar)
and so we have been trying to get people to really think about their
loved ones who won't be with them in the life after this one because
they don't have those precious gospel truths..it has been having a
great response so far and people are motivated, and I think we will
see a lot of success and hopefully gain a lot of referrals from this
course of action. I just truly love this ward so much, they are such
special people and I learn so much from them every single day. I also
really love the youth, getting to work with them is a privilege.


Yesterday one of the young women came up and gave me a big hug and
said "Pickering Shimai, I love you" in really cute English and it just
melted my heart so much. I love these people SO much, it's like I
don't even know how I was living normally before coming here and
interacting with them!


Friday we had the chance to have ZTM (Zone Training Meeting) and it
was so much fun. I learned a lot about how to better use the key
indicators for conversion as found in PMG as well as about developing
Christlike attributes. It is always so much fun to be able to see
other missionaries too and get to learn from them and all their
experiences. In the Osaka Zone there are like 23 of us, and so it was
a blast.


Saturday was the start of General Conference! Honestly watching a
General Conference as a missionary was an entirely new experience for
me. I don't know if it was because I was more focused or in tune
spiritually, but it was AMAZING. I learned so much from every single
talk and I am so grateful!  I went into conference with a lot of
questions that I had been pondering and praying over for a while, and
I found so many SPECIFIC answers. I testify that this is a church
based on revelation and the foreknowledge and love of God, because so
much was just so perfect for me. I absolutely loved the talk by
President Uchtdorf about bringing home the lost sheep. Honestly my
favorite quote from all of conference is probably "The sheep is worthy
of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the good shepherd."  I
love that so much because very simply it captures everything I want to
accomplish not only as a missionary, but as a member of the church for
the rest of my life. We are all in the fold of Christ, and in His eyes
we are all worth saving. He loves us so much and wants us all back so
badly, and so the least I can do is try and help my brothers and
sisters here come home to their loving Savior. It doesn't matter who
they are or what they have done, they are loved by Christ and so
therefore, that is enough.


I also loved the talk by Elder Mervyn B.
Arnold about going out and rescuing those who need it without delay.
This is another principle that we are trying to do here for our less
actives, and it was such a tender talk and really moved me to want to
put a greater emphasis on them in my own work here. We must not delay,
we must never give up, and we are always called to the rescue. This
doesn't just mean us missionaries!  All around you in the wards where
you live or serve, there are people who have gotten lost for a little
while and need help now. Don't wait and ponder about whether or not
they would want the rescue, just do what you can and show them some
love and you will never know what difference you could make in their
lives. To quote another talk but one that relates to this, their
temporary struggle does not define who they are, but our reactions to
helping them through their trials most certainly define us. Ahhhh can
you tell I just loved conference so much haha?


Finally, yesterday I had the amazing blessing to be a witness to the
baptism of my cute little Rina Chan. The service was beautiful and the
ward members were so supportive and it was such a spiritual
experience. I was so moved watching that fourteen year old girl enter
the font so happy and then exit so pure. As she was getting ready in
the dressing room afterwards she was singing to herself about how she
was currently pure and perfect, and then she told us afterwards in her
own words and attempt at English, that her heart felt hot. The Spirit
manifested itself to that little girl and I am so grateful. Her
baptism was so special and I know that I will remember it forever and
will keep it in the forefront of my mind as my motivation for the rest
of my mission. Even if she is the only one I teach all mission that
accepts this message, her joy and happiness and testimony would be
worth it, because I know that she is going to change so many lives
through her personal conversion.


Well everyone, that about sums up life here for now. As usual, thank
you so much for all the prayers and the love and support. I love you
all so much and am so grateful. I also want you all to know that I
know that the church is true. Every single day I realize more and more
that this gospel is everything to me. Jesus is my Savior, God is my
Heavenly Father, and families are forever. I know these things are
true and I feel so blessed to be able to share those truths and my joy
with others.


Love you all so much and am praying for you always!
Aishiteimasu!


Love,
Sister Pickering



Questions:

So did Rina's baptism go through?  How was it?  Did you have a lot of ward support? How did she feel?  How did you feel?  Did her family come? 
 
Lots of ward support, this ward is so great!  They are going to be her new family, honestly. Rina didn't have any family come and support. Boo people. 

How was General Conference?   Did you watch it in English or Japanese?  Do they do it in place of church there or do you watch it separately? Did you have investigators watch it with you?  How did they feel?  Anything in particular stand out to you?

Love me some conference.

How are your other investigators?  Anyone progressing towards baptism?  How are the Filipino's?  What are their names?

The Filipino's are actually sort of crazy...the mom is like committing adultery with some guy in the US and all of this is just a mess and so we kind of hesitate meeting with her because she likes to tell us all of her problems in great depth and the a Spirit just instantly leaves...we are not quite sure what to do with her right now. As far as other baptismal people, we are still trying to get Aimi and Miu Chan's family to step it up and help us out. We want them to get baptized so bad but it might still be a while. Our other baptismal candidates are kind of weak right now, and we need some new investigators really badly. Hence the member plans with referrals. But if you could pray that Emi starts to have interest in the gospel, that would be amazing.

So have you figured out the Yen's yet?  Is it confusing?  How goes the shopping in general?
 
Yen isn't too bad now that I have figured it out...it just takes a minute to think about sometimes. The shopping is good, and it is funny because I am actually the one who cleans and makes stuff at the apartment...I am such a homemaker now because I can't stand the alternative.
How is the weather?  Have you purchased a rain suit yet? 
 
Not yet, I need to get out and do that. The weather has been super nice lately, pretty warm which is great.
Has Yamatokoriyama started their cherry blossom/ goldfish festival yet?  What does that entail?
 
The cherry blossom festival was last weekend and I didn't have P Day and so I didn't get to attend. However one of our other investigators named Ishimaru San places at the "worldwide goldfish scooping contest" so there is that I guess haha.
How goes the chopsticks?  Are you getting a good handle on all of the customs such as when to bow and so forth?  Anything new you have learned in that regard?
 
Chopsticks are good!  I am a pro now I think. The customs are good also but sometimes there are weird things that I never knew about until after the fact..it is a very culturally rich place which is good but also crazy sometimes. I have learned so many new things about culture and whatnot, it is just always an adventure. 
Any crazy experiences this week?
 
Not a ton.....

What has been one of the hardest adjustments for you?
 
Being away from family. That has easily been the hardest thing for me, hands down. Truthfully I hate it, so I just keep busy and work hard and then I am happy and all is well. And riding bikes everywhere. But I haven't crashed yet, so take that you haters.
 
What has surprised you about being a missionary?
 
I do not always receive revelation like I thought I would 24/7. I have learned that a large part of being a missionary is also exercising my agency righteously to know how to help people and the gospel, and so we don't immediately always have super visible answers of what we need to teach. It isn't until after the fact that we realize we needed to teach what we did.
Any miracles this week?
 
I saw a baptism in Japan. I'm just so so happy.
 
Anything or anyone you need us to pray for specifically?
 
Emi Chan to accept the gospel, for me to start understanding Japanese, and maybe just for the work to go well in the Japan Kobe mission. Every night at 6 PM we have mission prayer where all the missionaries and the members just stop what they are doing and pray for the work in the area, and it is a super cool thing. You can get in on that action if you want haha. 
 
Any messages that you need passed along?
 
Give everyone lots of hugs and loves for me. I miss everyone so much but am doing well. Just give everyone so much love for me!
Featuring Yamatokoriyama ward members and Takahashi and Boettcher Choro
"Looking off into Eternity" as captioned by Alyssa

The ward showing support to Rina after her baptism
Osaka Zone


Zone training! So much fun. We also killed one of our AP's (he goes
home next week)
Sakamoto Shimai!  She is this cute little grandma who had us over for
pizza and Mexican Flan (she googled American desserts) and then hula
danced for us because she loves hula. She is so dang cute.

I ate a delicious lunch of all you can eat, homemade sushi with our
investigator named Fujikawa San and her sister for her birthday.
Love You!!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Exchanges and Earthquakes: Nihon Week 4

Nara Park Temple (Not an LDS Temple of course)

It has been a fabulous week.  Not only were we able to listen to many hours of counsel and inspiration from our church leaders during General Conference, but we received our first hand written letter from Japan and many, many pictures from Alyssa on her p-day.  And to top it all off, her sweet investigator Rina, passed her Baptismal interview and will be baptized this Sunday.  Alyssa is over the moon.

Also, on her p-day, she was able to experience some Japanese culture.   They took a train to Nara to visit a Japanese Temple.  This place is also know for the many domesticated deer that just wander around and allow you to feed and pet them.   This excited Alyssa very much for some reason.  Anyway,  I am thankful she had a fun experience, even if it didn't allow her much time to write.  I am sure we will get more details next week.

Group Email:

Konnichiwa!

Okay just to start off I am sorry if this email is short and lame and
if I don't respond to you I am so sorry...today has been so crazy! We
had a baptismal interview and a lesson and have been running all over
Nara doing various tasks and I got to be somewhat like a tourist for
the first time today and so my time is a little short!  Gomen nasai in
advance, I love you all!


This week was great and went by super fast!  We taught twenty five
lessons this week and it was so much fun. I truly love teaching so
much, it reminds me why I am here and I love getting to testify and
show God's love for His children through that medium!  Our
investigators are doing pretty well for the most part, but our little
golden gem is Rina Chan. She is so great and cute and sweet and is on
track to be baptized this coming weekend!  She just has the gift of
faith and is so accepting of the gospel and is already doing so much
missionary work!  She has already given away a Book of Mormon,
advertises for Eikaiwa for us, has invited people to church, and has
given us referrals and has brought us friends to teach. Seriously this
girl is golden and I am so excited for her to be baptized!  I feel so
blessed to have been here to find her again and teach her all the
lessons!  It is so funny how much I love her and all of my
investigators and the people there when I can't even understand what
they are saying most of the time...the spirit is just so cool like
that.


Another cool thing that happened was I had the chance to go on
Exchanges this week! I went with two Nihongin sisters and got to
frolic around the big city of Osaka and do dendo there!  The STL's
taught me so much about Japanese and the people and opening my
mouth...they were so amazing!  Saijo Shimai literally chased down
people to teach them lessons on the street and it really opened my
eyes to what I want to become as a missionary. Honestly approaching
strangers and speaking to them about the gospel in a foreign language
is a bit scary at times...but I have faith that I can do it haha, even
if I am still probably failing initially. I don't want to meet anyone
in the afterlife that I came across on my mission and have them be
upset with me for not sharing this beautiful message...so I am gonna
try my best!


So after our exchange from Thursday-Friday, we went back to Nara for
district meeting! That was super fun as always and as we were walking
to Dominos for lunch in the pouring rain...our phones started going
berserk. And then sirens went off and lights started flashing.  And we
were all really confused and then we realized it was earthquake
warnings...we stood in the parking lot of Dominos waiting for this
earthquake and then eventually decided we should go inside and order
and then wait for the earthquake and our pizza at the same time
(#multitasking) and then our ward mission leader called us and told us
to go back to the church and wait...so we got our pizza and wandered
back to the church and ate our pizza and reminisced on the good old
days of our lives and waited for this earthquake that was supposed to
be pretty big..but it never hit our area. Eventually our zone leaders
called us and told us that it had only been felt in Osaka, where I had
been that morning for exchanges but we never felt a thing. All the
elders were super disappointed but we were mostly happy that it didn't
affect our teaching schedule too badly and everyone was safe!  Crazy
crazy times. I guess there were several earthquakes that day all over
Japan, but everyone is okay!


As far as other news goes, it is currently Cherry Blossom season here
and it is beyond gorgeous. This place is beautiful and I love it. We
also had the chance to watch Women's Conference in English and I
learned so much about love and service and I would encourage everyone
to go and read those talks!  Truly so amazing. We are also super
pumped to be able to watch General Conference this weekend, because
what an amazing chance we have to be able to hear from our living
prophets!  I hope you all took great notes and are pondering and
praying on how you can implement what you learned in your own lives!


Well everyone, that about sums my week up!  As always thank you so
much for the prayers and the love and the support, it means the world
to me. I truly love being a missionary so much. This gospel is so true
and I love getting to share that every single day. Heavenly Father
truly loves us so so so so sooooo much, and I just can't even get over
it. I am also so grateful for my Savior and His atoning sacrifice so
that we might live again and always have the chance to change and
become better. What a blessing this gospel is.


I love you all so much and am praying for you always!  Be safe and
happy and share the gospel with someone who needs it! Aishiteimasu!


Love,
Sister Pickering


Excerpt from my letter:

We did however get to watch the Women's Conference on Saturday with the ward Relief Society party thing and some brother in the ward got it for us in English!  I was so happy!  Seeing the pulpit and hearing the music and seeing the kids and moms singing made me so nostalgic as we were there together last conference and then I started to tear up a bit and get kinda emotional...but I loved it! I just love how universal the church is. Japan, the US, it is all the same everywhere. And the messages were so phenomenal this year. I loved Sister Marriott's talk again as well as Elder Eyring's talk. Really trying to implement a lot that I learned! 
 
As far as the language, boy it has been a struggle. My area has a lot of Kansaiben speakers which is basically the equivalent of the Deep South of Japanese...so I learned proper Tokyo Japanese so that has been an adventure but I try like always. The reading is really frustrating because I realize that is something I have totally taken for granted my whole life. Honestly I feel powerless at times because I can't read Kanji! But I just keep trying and ask lots of questions and it is all good. Sometimes I get way frustrated and don't ever believe I will be able to Learn this language and it makes me so upset but I just have to have faith that the Lord did call me here for some reason and it wasn't to fail. I keep holding on to that if nothing else! 
 
Our investigators are doing well. Rina is so golden and I love her with my whole heart. It is funny how much I can love someone I can't even understand all the time!  The spirit is so cool like that. She is so prepared though and definitely has the blood of Israel running through her veins. She has the gift of faith for sure and it is amazing. She is such a happy and loving person and just makes everyone around her happy!  She also loves the gospel so much. I will always have this image of her in my head of her reading a Law of Chastity pamphlet while she crosses a busy street and there are all these cars swerving around her...honestly it was like a movie haha. But yeah she is on track to be getting baptized this coming Sunday right after conference!  Hurray!
 
And one other update she shared:
 
This just in!  Rina passed her baptismal interview and will be getting
baptized this Sunday at 3!  Wahoo!  I am seriously so excited for this
girl. Baptisms really do happen here and there really are elect, you
just have to be patient and go out and find them!

Rina is seriously so golden and we really are so happy for her. To
tell you a little more about her, she is fourteen and believes in God
because a few years ago she was hit by a car and should have died but
she was miraculously unharmed and she just felt like something or
someone was protecting her. She loves God and wants to follow Him so
she wants to get baptized and has so much faith!  She also has sort of
a super rough family life...her parents are super negligent I think
and she just kinda frolics alone all the time which is super unusual
for a Nihongin kid. We just give her lots of love and try and help the
most we can. If you all could pray for her baptism to go through this
week, that would be amazing!!

Sorry all my emails sort of failed this week, today was crazy!  I just
want you all to know that I love you lots and think about you for
always. Things are great here and I am trying my best to work hard and
be the missionary you all think I am (LOL). You seriously all mean the
world to me and I am so grateful that families are forever. Sometimes
I get kind of homesick in this crazy world where I can't read anything
or talk to anyone...but then I just pray and remember you all praying
for me back home and all is well. Heavenly Father is taking such good
care of me, and so are these amazing ward members. I am in the best of
hands!

Seriously, I love you guys so much. Be safe and keep in touch!  Lots of love!
Aishiteimasu!

Love,
Alyssa


Beautiful Cherry Blossoms







Blossom Selfie
This is Alyssa's Sacrament meeting program.  When I saw this I had a new found respect for how challenging the Japanese language really is and what she may be going through.
The Missionaries have official business cards to share with every one.


A Plethora of Blossoms




Love this!
Ward Relief Society Activity
Sekiya Megume

Nanami
Rina's Baptism"s Announcement!

Yamatokoizumi
Exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders


Alyssa loves the Asian children
An investigator from the Philippines
Another investigator from the Philippines


An investigator Emi on the left, and then a ward member Erika on the right
"Operation Baptism 1"

Murae Shimai and Nanami
Various Food?
Craziness on Exchanges


"These girls asked to take a picture with us on the train...I am basically famous"
Nara
Japan Stuff
Nara Temple
Feeding the Deer in Nara
Do deer eat cookies??

Homies


Blossoms everywhere
District Homies

Indocurry

video

                                                  Video of Cherry Blossoms from the Train

video

                                                              Petting the Deer in Nara