Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BAPTISM: Nihon Week 16

A beautiful and amazing day.  The Shimai's with Ayaka Chan

This week, my whole family (my siblings, my parents, and my nieces and nephews) had the opportunity to visit our Nation's Capital.  It was our first family trip without Alyssa.  The overall experience was very educational and packed full of many fun things.  I couldn't help but think how much my daughter would have loved being there with her cousins and grandparents and how much she would have entertained us all.  I was so fortunate that throughout the week there were a few special experiences that helped me feel closer to my daughter.  We attended a ward in Arlington Virginia and learned that they had an Elder serving in the same mission.  I was able to meet the family and share experiences and was struck by the camaraderie that we shared immediately because of our missionaries.  Then later in the week, we visited the Capital and were able to take a tour of it, through our Congress Woman Mia Love's office.  Well, there were interns there that conducted the tour.  As we start talking and finding common ground, lo and behold one of them happened to be one of Alyssa's MTC teachers.  What a small world.  It was so fun to talk to her about Alyssa and realize she not only has seen her more recently than me but also knew her as a missionary.  It was a sweet tender mercy to meet her that day.
Then,  we received her emails for the week.  She was full aware of missing out on this opportunity and yet firmly stated she was where she needed to be.  To see her pictures this week of her with her sweet Ayaka Chan did my heart good.  I can see pure joy emulating from her.  As much as I missed her I was reminded of the eternal nature of the work she is doing and the significance it will be in the life of this young girl that she had the privilege of teaching.

Here is an excerpt of a letter she sent to my whole family:
Hello everyone!
I hope that you are all having the most amazing time in DC! I have loved seeing the pictures and hearing about all the crazy adventures.
I just wanted to take a minute and express my love and my appreciation for every single one of you. I am most definitely the person I am today because I am a member of the most amazing family, and I feel so grateful.  I am sad that I don't get to be there with all of you having fun and making those crazy memories like usual, but I feel so blessed to be a part of a family that not only lets me be here, but WANTS me to be. Your support and encouragement means the WORLD! Just remember that every single person that I get to help on my mission owes a little something to each and every one of you, because I most definitely wouldn't be here and be the missionary that I am without you!
I know that this is where I am supposed to be! I love my mission so much, and I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Because of His atonement, our family can be together forever, and for that I am so grateful, and for that I am hearing sharing that beautiful message with our brothers and sisters in Japan. 
I hope you all have an amazing rest of the trip! Be safe, have fun, and try and look for ways to share the gospel! LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!
And here are a few more details about the baptism from my letter:

Ayaka Chan! She is the best. She got baptized yesterday and it was seriously so happy. Her testimony at the end was so cute and she just melted the heart of everyone in the ward. She is 16 years old and is the youngest, her parents are divorced and she lives with just her dad. Her older brother is like her hero and he was able to come to the baptism yesterday and is once again investigating the church, and so it was a very special experience. I also had to speak at the baptism and give her introduction and explain the spiritual backstory behind all of it which was terrifying, but apparently it went well. Afterwards Inamori Kyodai came up to me and told me that I have a lot of potential for Japanese haha, so interpret that as you will, because I have no idea. But overall it was a great service, and we are so excited for her confirmation on Sunday. She was just glowing and so pure and emanating the light of is such a real tangible thing!

And of course the group letter:
Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Once again hello from the beautiful area of Yamatokoriyama. I can't
believe that is already P day again and time to write another
email...time is flying by so quickly here and it is just crazy how
that happens!

This week was so great! Tuesday was super cool because we had the
chance to go to Abeno with two investigators and basically the entire
Ward and go to a BYU Hawaii Choir Concert! It was so much fun and the
choir was super entertaining and our investigators absolutely LOVED
it. It was also fun for us missionaries because it was basically like
a big reunion as tons of people were there, and it is always so fun to
catch up with people and see how the work is going all around the

The rest of the week was super good and busy as we ran around like
crazy (we ended up teaching 40 lessons last was insane and I
am so exhausted but it was also SO cool, teaching is THE BEST, also my
companion is such a BOSS and I love her) and tried to get baptismal
prep stuff done and try and visit members and reactivate some people
and just have regular missionary life. We had district meeting on
Friday and that was super great as always, because we talked a lot
about the power of the Spirit in conversion, and facilitating those
experiences for our investigators that will allow them to experience
their own conversion. I learned a lot, and I also gained some personal
revelation for things that I need to work on in my own mission life.

One thing that the Spirit chastised me for pretty strongly was that
oftentimes when we contact someone on the street or whatever and they
immediately say they are Buddhist, I sometimes have the tendency to
get annoyed or want to move on because usually they don't want to
listen..the Spirit very strongly told me not to do that anymore,
because it isn't that persons fault that they haven't had the gospel
brought to them yet and that is why I am here to help bring that
message to them! It was very humbling but as I have tried to make that
change, I have felt my love and patience increase. Asking the Spirit
the "What lack I yet?" questions can be hard sometimes, but they end
up making us into far better people and missionaries!

Okay for the rest of the email I just quickly want to tell a story and
some of it might be a repeat but oh well, that is okay. Once upon a
time last month Kenney Shimai and I were planning for the next day and
we had the feeling that we needed to go visit one of our investigators
who like wasn't progressing at was sort of a strange
prompting but we figured "We like following the Spirit, YOLO" and so
we planned it in for the next day. The next day comes and we ended up
getting back from district meeting pretty late and so we were going to
have to adjust our schedule...we wanted to head to two different areas
that day in opposite directions and we're going to have to choose one.
One of the areas had two progressing investigators in it and more
chances for finding, and the other area was just our stagnant
investigator. As we decided what to do, we realized that logically it
made more sense to go to the first area...but I just feel like we
needed to go visit this lady. My wonderful companion trusted my
feeling and we set off for that area. As we were biking and pulling up
to the apartment complex, Kenney Shimai had the very distinct
prompting that we were not just visiting that apartment complex to
visit Kobayashi San....shortly thereafter we saw a girl at a vending
machine, and we both had the feeling we needed to talk to her. We
parked our bikes and went on over and asked this girl what the best
drink was, and the rest was history.
There we met our wonderful Ayaka
Chan, and she has been one of the greatest blessings in my life for
the past month

She started out with no Christian background but as of
this week, she has come to all three hours of church every week, she
prays everyday, and she is over 100 pages into the Book of Mormon and
is pounding through the Isaiah chapters in 2nd Nephi like a boss. She
has an incredible ability to feel the Spirit, and loves Jesus Christ
so much and really has a strong testimony of Him and His atonement.

Yesterday after meeting almost every single day for the past month,
thanks to the help of both of my amazing companions, Ayaka Chan was
baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints. Yesterday was so happy, I can't even explain it. She was
baptized by a recent convert of the elders, and after she was baptized
she bore this sweet and simple testimony that just melted the heart of
everyone in attendance. She was literally glowing and emanating the
light of Christ, and she was SO happy. Not only that, her older
brother was able to leave his soccer tournament early (after winning
the whole thing and skipping his medal ceremony) to come to her
baptism, and he is once again investigating the church seriously. It
has all been such an amazing tender mercy, and I cannot even
adequately express my love and my gratitude for my Heavenly Father for
letting me be a witness to His glory and His work.

I know that this is God's church, and I know that He cares very much
that His children come find it. He is so willing to guide us in every
aspect of this work to the elect, and all we have to do is being
worthy and willing to follow those promptings when they come. God
loves His children so much, and He is willing to do so much to help
them come home, and I know that it is the same for each and every
single one of you. God loves you, He knows you personally, and He is
always rooting for you to be able to come back home to Him.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and I know that through His
atoning sacrifice, we can all have hope and joy in this life and in
the life to come. Ayaka Chan's testimony of Christ was what compelled
her to baptism, and I want my testimony of Christ to help me to become
whatever He asks of me as well. He is our Savior and the Redeemer of
all mankind, and I feel so blessed to be able to wear His name every
single day.

I love this gospel, I love this work, I love my God and my Savior and
I love the people of Japan. I can honestly say that right now I
wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Thank you all so much for the love and prayers, I wouldn't be able to
do it all without you. Sending all my love your way and hoping you
have an amazing week!

Sister Pickering

P.S. I have a request! I like teaching by using personal experiences
and stories of those that I know...I was wondering if any of you have
any specific experiences where you have kept the commandments even
when it was hard, or made some sacrifices for the gospel and saw the
blessings that followed, if you would be willing to email me about it!
I would love to be able to have more stories to share with my
investigators that come from the testimonies of those I love. It can
be anything from Word of Wisdom to Sabbath Day to reading the Book of
Mormon...anything will do! Thank you SO much in advance!

Ayaka Chan

Pure joy

Apparently,  Alyssa's zone leader is a professional golfer.  I guess he took them out for a private lesson on their p-day.

Such serious concentration
And no, that is not a fake thing...June 21st baby. Celebrate it.

Just for fun we "brought" Alyssa along with us to D.C.  :)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Consecration and Faith: Nihon Week 15

I feel like a broken record but if it is true then I guess I just need to keep saying it;  Alyssa love's her mission and had another great week.  That doesn't mean to say that there aren't challenges or frustrations but she has learned how to "see" the good and have the faith to just keep going.
I was thrilled to hear about the sweet girl Ayaka Chan.  She has been Alyssa's little miracle.  She is evidence that when you are prompted by the spirit and you act on it then the Lord can make amazing things happen.  Alyssa and her companion met Ayaka at a vending machine after being prompted to go to a certain area.  Once there, they were prompted again to talk to Ayaka.  She has been so receptive ever since.  She attends church regularly, reads the Book of Mormon and has a growing testimony.  Alyssa is truly blessed that she has been able to witness her progression from the beginning.  We will be praying hard this week that all will go smoothly with Ayaka's baptism.
On that note,  I want to share a spiritual thought that Alyssa shared with us.  I don't think she would mind since it is so insightful and can help each of us if put into practice.  She keeps a journal purely for spiritual experiences and insights.  This is one of her entries:
Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Honestly for a long time I never really understood this scripture super well. I understood the concept that men are given weaknesses so that they can become humble and that Christ would show us how to make our weaknesses become strong, but leading up to the mission it was honestly just kind of a vague concept for me. The basis of my understanding from this scripture came just from experiences in my life where I was given trials and became weak because of them,
and then I was able to find strength in the Savior. And that was super good and very foundational in my testimony, but now I realize how I didn't even begin to really scratch the surface here. 
Somebody in the MTC gave a talk and in the talk they laid it out there that the mission can often feel like a crash course of all of our weaknesses. Yeah. I came out here and pretty much found out that that was true. I couldn't speak Japanese, I was scared to open my mouth and talk to people, I missed my family and was homesick, I was prideful and didn't like accepting help, and the list goes on and on and ON. The first little while was super rough. I wasn't happy and I was mentally counting down the days until I would go home and see my family again. Missionary work was HARD and I wasn't sure if I was adequate enough to do it.
As time went on, things got better and I truly began to find joy in missionary work and being here and serving the wonderful people of Japan. Things are still hard sometimes and I haven't completely overcome all of the barriers previously listed, but I am getting better and I am trying. However one thing that really struck me was how much I felt like despite the fact I was being a missionary and doing good things and learning about the Savior and living the gospel more fully than I ever had before, I felt like I was realizing more and more how weak and imperfect I am, and it was almost discouraging to be so poignantly aware of all my flaws and vices so frequently. 
Then one day, it hit me. I realized that my life and who I was becoming was kind of like a ball of clay being morphed into something cool (probably like a pot or something). At first when you start making the pot, it doesn't matter that there are lots of cracks and bumps and uneven parts, because you are first starting the process and you are just trying to smooth it out in general. However, the closer that you get to having the pot be completed, the more specific you are about how it needs to look and become. At the beginning when it was just a lump of clay, a little bit of uneven edging from here to there wouldn't really matter so much, but the closer you get to the finished product, the more refined you want it to be, so that it will eventually become finished and perfect.
The flaw in this analogy is that I am nowhere near perfect and finished and nor will I be in this life, but I think the principle of progression applies. I realized that the closer I am getting to the Savior, the more I am learning about Him and "coming unto Him", the more He is willing to show me my weaknesses. But the more He is willing to show me my weaknesses, the more He is willing to show me how to fix them and how to strengthen myself. 
So yeah, the mission is most definitely a crash course of all of my weaknesses. But I am also coming to learn that the mission is even more so a crash course of all the Savior's strengths. If I only but humble myself and exercise faith in my Savior, He will show me that His grace truly is sufficient to take such an imperfect and weak being such as myself, and strengthen me slowly but surely. I feel so lucky to have a Redeemer that is not only willing to help me improve, but He is absolutely going to show me how to do so. It is not a sin to be weak, because our weaknesses our truly given to us so that we may learn how to become a Saint through the atonement, and then become who our Savior needs us to be.  
So what do I need to do? I need to beg for the strength to overcome my shortcomings, I need to exercise faith in the one who is mighty to save, and I need to repent all the time and LOVE it. It may not be easy, but as I rely on the atonement of my Lord, Jesus Christ, It is definitely possible.
I love my Savior. I am grateful for His love and His example and His infinite sacrifice. And most importantly, I am grateful for the chance to rely on them all to try and become like Him someday.  

And her letter:
Minasan, Konnichiwa!

We had another AMAZING week here in Yamatokoriyama! You guys, being a
missionary is seriously the best. I am so happy every single day as I
get to live the gospel and share it with these people I love so much.
A lot of super great things happened this week and I am not even sure
where to begin and so I am pretty sure this is going to be a super
scatterbrained email (as they usually are I am sure haha) because I
really don't have a ton of time (we went on this grand adventure to
Osaka with the zone and went to go see a rose garden that ended up
being we went to go to a Peace Museum that ended up being we ended up at the Osaka History Museum which was super interesting 
but ended up in us getting lost and whatnot. No big deal haha).

We got to visit with a lot of ward members this week to get them
involved in dendo, and it was seriously so great. We went and visited
this one little lady named Takemura Shimai and at the end of our
message we asked her what she thought she could do to be a
missionary...she gave us a list of things that had occurred to her and
then right then and there she told us to come back and finish up in an
hour so that she could go out and visit some elderly people and share
the gospel! Edwards Shimai and I were just amazed at her faith and
dendo fire as she just went out and got it done. The next day we went
with the RS president and just drove around our whole area and visited
less active members like crazy and shared some super great messages
and just had a wonderful time sharing in missionary work together. The
members here inspire me so much and I know they have already changed
my life and my perspective
. I will not be the same person because I
served as a missionary here in the Yamatokoriyama Ward.

Oh some other super exciting news...WE HAVE A BAPTISM THIS SUNDAY!
Yatta! Ayaka Chan committed to be baptized earlier this week and she
is seriously doing so great. She loves church and the Book of Mormon
and prayer and is such a boss. Assuming she passes her interview on
Wednesday, she will be good to go! Ahh I can't even get over how
blessed I am to have found, taught, and then see this girl get
baptized. She is so amazing and I have such a special place in my
heart for her, because she was truly found through the guidance of the
Spirit. Such a reminder to me to NEVER postpone or doubt a prompting,
because it will always lead you to where you need to be!

Also! This is random, but one of my favorite things about being a
missionary in Japan is that I literally get to teach people from all
over the world! This week we had the chance to meet and teach a member
from Taiwan, and a lady from Nepal, and these two dudes from
Vietnam...all in Japanese haha, but it was so neat. The Lord moves
people here to hear the gospel and it is so special.

Another cool thing that happened this week was that we had Stake
Conference in Abeno, and the conference was actually a broadcast from
Salt Lake to all of the Saints in Japan. It was seriously such a
special conference and I learned so much. There was a great emphasis
on making the Sabbath a delight and thinking about how treating it to
be the gift that it truly is. My favorite talk however was from Elder
Bednar, and he spoke about the connections between faith, sacrifice,
and consecration. I received SO much personal revelation from that
talk, it was amazing. I have been truly pondering how I can go from
being just a sacrificing missionary (one who left home to come to
Japan and teach for 18 months) to a consecrated one (one that
dedicates my whole heart and soul to the Lord and His work here every
single moment), and it has been very interesting. It really is a
challenging thing because it comes down to completely turning over
your thoughts and your will and your desires to the Lord, and even as
a missionary that is a lot easier said than done. But as I have made
efforts, the Lord has showered blessings upon me and upon our area so
much, and so how could I ever complain?

Kind of one last thought I want to share this companion and
I were having a great long talk about faith the other night and we
came to some interesting conclusions. Some people define insanity as
doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a
different result...well in some ways, that can seem a lot like
missionary work. We knock doors and are rejected repeatedly and are
ignored and some days literally not a single soul will listen to us,
and sometimes it kind of can feel like insanity to knock ONE more door
and hope that someone will listen after the past 788 haven't. But then
thinking about it, I realized that is where faith comes in. Faith is
having the courage to experience disappointment time and time again
because of our trust in the Lord and His willingness to keep promises
to us.
Is it always easy? Heavens no. But as we strengthen our faith,
which must always be centered in Jesus Christ, we gain that courage
and that strength to keep going and knowing that the Lord will bless
us for our every effort, even if it might seem fruitless at times.
I know that this is the Lord's work, and I feel so blessed to be apart
of it. I know that God lives and that He loves us, and I know without
a doubt that He loves His children here in Japan. I feel the love
daily and I see miracles on their behalf, and this is an experience I
wouldn't change for the world.

I hope that you all have a wonderful week, and I hope you all can
ponder a little bit more on how you can maybe become a little more
consecrated in your discipleship to our Savior, Jesus Christ. The
question is always tricky to ask, but the answers are always wonderful
and for our benefit.  As always, thank you for all the love and the
support and prayers. You are all amazing. Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

Photos of this week are just a bunch of random sampling of life here
but just know that dendo is so fun and I love it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ayaka Chan

Well if there is one thing that is evident after this week of emails is that Alyssa loves her new companion.  They seem to have adjusted to each other quickly and Alyssa is already learning so much from her.  Companionships can teach us all kinds of things about ourselves, both our strengths and our weaknesses.  I like something she mentioned that she learned from her mission president.  It is "that we are all learning how to become senior companions, and so basically we just need to learn the good things from each companion and apply it, and then forget the rest. We don't need to dwell on the negative or frustrations because someday you will set the pace in a companionship."  Very solid advice,  not only for a missionary but in life as well.  It sounds like together they are weeding our their teaching pool,  inviting many to come unto Christ and making solid progress in the work.  And as always, she mentions again how much she loves being a missionary:
"This week was just another good and solid and fun one. Honestly I really love being a missionary. Sometimes it can be rough, but overall it is so great. I am always so happy and we have such a blast and I love Japan. And feeling the Spirit every single day is so cool, because it means I am just automatically happier and elevated and I am already trying to plan what I can do when I get home to keep up this spiritual high. It really is just the happiest way to live when you are following the principles of the gospel as much as you can. I am just learning so much about the person I want to be when I get home, and I am just so grateful for my mission every single day."
I am so proud of her and especially of her relationship with the Savior.  Here is her weekly group email:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

We had another great week here in Yamatokoriyama, Japan! I know that I
literally say that every single week, but I am not even sorry because
it is so true! There is literally never a bad week on the mission I
think...for sure there are definitely weeks that are harder than
others, but that doesn't make them bad, it just makes them harder and
that means that it is a time to grow and so all is well! But anyways,
sorry for the tangent, this week was great!

Edwards Shimai and I are growing so much as a companionship, and it is
so much fun. She is such a strong and hardworking missionary with such
a fun personality, and so we have a blast like every single day. I am
learning so much from her, and it is fun because she is really pushing
me to become a better missionary every single day. She likes to do
things like give me some fliers and then shove me in the direction of
some random people and tell me to chase after them and teach them, and
I am sure it is thoroughly entertaining for her to witness, but I am
also grateful because I am becoming a better missionary slowly but
surely. I am still so weak and have so much to learn, but I think I am
on the uphill climb, so that is always a positive! We really do have
such a blast though (as you will see evidenced in some photos below),
and we have even gotten to the point where we both woke up last night
because we were sleep talking to each other but then we woke up in the
middle of our sleeping conversation and laughed for a good while...ahh
you guys, being a missionary is seriously just the best.

We taught a bunch of lessons this week, and that was great as always.
I really love teaching, because it makes me feel like I am actually
fulfilling my purpose as a missionary, and so that is happy thing. We
are trying to teach literally every single person that we come in
contact with, and that can be exhausting at times, but it is also so
satisfying. One of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced
is going to bed each night here in the mission and being dead tired
but know that I worked hard and spent a good day in the service of my
Lord. It is honestly the best.

Our investigators are doing so great as well. Our cute little grandpa
FINALLY set a baptismal date! It is currently at the end of August,
but we are confident he can be baptized sooner and so we are working
with him on that, but we are just so happy with his progress! Cute
little Ayaka Chan is still so golden as well. She came to church AGAIN
and another baptismal service and she reads the Book of Mormon every
day and prays and really believes in Jesus Christ. She is super shy
and so she is kind of nervous and is wanting to take things slowly,
but we are also trying to get her to have an official baptism date by
the end of the transfer. I am feeling very hopeful about her, and
selfishly I want her to be baptized SO badly! I really am excited for
the chance of maybe getting to be a part of finding, teaching, and
baptizing one person...sometimes that can be kind of a rarity here in
Japan as the average convert here takes about three years of
investigating...but that time is definitely hastening as the Lord is
moving His work forward. I feel so very blessed to be apart of so many
miracles here in Japan!

Some other cool things from this week were ZTM where we learned a lot
about how to use PMG more (that manual is so inspired, I invite you
all to read it) and how we can sanctify ourselves even more and become
more obedient. The longer I am here the more I realize the more
obedient that I can be, and the crazy thing is that I WANT to be more
obedient! Back when I was a young and foolish youth I never always had
the most positive mindset about obedience. I mean I was always
obedient, don't worry, I am not that much of a heathen, but I never
really understood the significance...but here I have truly come to
realize that every single chance we have to obey is a chance we have
to receive an incredible amount of blessings for ourselves, for our
loved ones, and for our investigators. Obedience brings miracles, and
I really do see that!
I want to become as obedient as I can so that I
can receive all those blessings that the Father wants to bestow upon
these amazing Japanese people that I teach.

Just one last thought that has been dwelling on my mind these past
couple of days comes from the New Testament in Matthew 10. It reads:
32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess
also before my Father which is in heaven.
This scripture was shared with us when we were in the MTC, but lately
I have been pondering it a lot lately as I really try and talk to
EVERYONE I come across. Opening your mouth is a hard thing. It was not
something that I thought would be difficult for me, but surprisingly
it has been, especially in another language. However this verse
reminds me that if I make every single effort to open my mouth and
speak of my Savior, the Savior will speak of me to the Father. That is
seriously so merciful and such a blessing, and it has been a great
motivation for me this past week as I try and elevate myself to the
type of missionary that I want to become.

However, I know that this scripture does not just apply to
missionaries, and so now I want to give all of you guys the challenge
to think about how often you are speaking of the Savior, and then I
want to invite you all to speak of Him more. Our knowledge of the
Savior is one of the greatest blessings that we have, and how can we
not share that? There is someone who died for us, who suffered for us,
and who lives for us still, and so how can we not tell that joyful
news to everyone around us? I know that as we speak of the Savior, we
will not only be fulfilling our missionary duties, but we will unlock
the windows of heaven to receive more mercy and grace from our loving
Father in Heaven than any of us could even imagine. I know that I have
seen that in my life here, and I know it to be true. Jesus Christ
lives. He is our Savior and He loves us more than we can comprehend.
He invites us all to speak of Him and follow Him, and as we do, we
will NEVER regret it.

I love you all, I love my mission, but most importantly, I love my
Savior. I am so grateful to wear His name every single day and try my
best to honor that in every way I can.

Have an amazing week everyone! My love and prayers are with you all!

Sister Pickering

Sister Edwards and Sister Pickering
Ghetto Fondue


Monday, June 6, 2016

Same Place, New Adventures: Nihon Week 13

 "A selfie with my favorite Japanese family in the ward, the Murae

Well Alyssa felt it was coming and she was right.  Alyssa's companion was transferred and she received Sister Edwards from Connecticut.  Alyssa was thrilled to be staying in her beloved area and to continue the work there.  I remember from my days in the mission that change often times brought new enthusiasm and ideas on how to do the work.  It sounds like they have a lot of good things happening and hopefully this new companionship will just enhance it.
Here is a short excerpt from her letter to me this week:
Thank you for also telling me about your experiences with sharing the gospel in Peru! Honestly, I didn't realized until I came here that I was like the worst, most passive member ever...I didn't do ANYTHING to help further the Lord's work in Saratoga Springs! I just did my own thing and built my own testimony and went to church and whatnot, but I was so not a member missionary except for maybe like twice or three times ever. It has really shown me what I want to change when I get home. I am going to contact the missionaries at BYU and offer to go be a doseki for their lessons, because the power that a strong ward member has on lessons is SO important. Their fellowship and testimonies really bring the Spirit so strongly!

 Also, you would be so proud of me now, because I talk on the phone to Japanese. The phone terrified me as a trainee, but I decided now that I am a "normal" missionary anymore, I wasn't going to let things scare me far so good!
Each week I see growth and insight and more maturity than before. And the greatest thing for me to see is her thinking outside of herself and what more she can do to influence the world around her.  That is priceless.
Group Letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

I am so happy to say that I am writing you still from the amazing city
of Yamatokoriyama! Yay! I was SO nervous leading up to when we found
out about transfers, because I wanted to stay here so badly because I
just felt like my work here was not done, and thankfully Heavenly
Father seemed to have somewhat of a similar idea! I feel so blessed to
be here for at least another transfer! Kenney Shimai however did
transfer, and that was way hard. Some tears were definitely shed at
that, because she was such a great Mom to me and became an even better
friend. I know that she will do wonderful things in her new area!

We spent the first few days of the week packing up Kenney Shimai and
visiting some members and saying goodbye and it was great, but also
sad. I also must share a somewhat humorous story though, and that is
that I completed arguably one of my most impressive athletic
feats...Monday night we wanted to go and visit this less active/recent
convert but he lived SUPER far away, and Google Maps wasn't being
helpful and so we decided that we could channel our inner Sacajawea
and try and figure it out ourselves. We went on this train ride and
then figured out he still lived super far away and we only have a
limited time to dendo on Monday, and so we decided the only way to
make it there, teach him, and then make it back in time was to we did! We ended up RUNNING almost four miles in our skirts
and church shoes and with our bags and it was so funny because we were
actually going pretty fast and we wanted to DIE but we were just
laughing so hard the entire time because we love dendo so much and we
are fairly confident that Angels were helping strengthen us in those
moments! We got back to the apartment that night and were so gross and
exhausted, but so happy. The brother we visited was SO touched that we
went out of our way to visit him, and he offered one of the most
sincere prayers of gratitude I have ever heard in my life as he
thanked Heavenly Father for the sister missionaries, and we both
started crying and were just so happy that the ridiculous situation
was worth it because we got to share some of Heavenly Father's love
for His children. It was definitely a great last adventure for Kenney
Shimai and I to have together!

MY NEW COMPANION! Holy cow, she is amazing! Her name is Edwards
Shimai, and she is from the lovely state of Connecticut in the good
old USA. She is on her 12th transfer which is normally the last
transfer for foreign sister missionaries, but she was able to fast
track through the MTC because she is a boss, and so she will be here
until August. She is a retired STL and trainer and so she is an
incredible missionary, and I literally am just learning so much from
her all the time. I don't know how I got so lucky to have another
amazing companion, but I am taking every opportunity I can to learn
from her and try to become the best missionary that I can become!

I am seriously so excited for this transfer, because Edwards Shimai
and I have already seen so many little miracles, and I know that they
are going to equate to some big things. Because she goes home so soon,
my companion really wants to see some baptisms before she is out of
here, and so we have the goal to invite AT LEAST one person to baptism
every single day, and we are confident that if we work our hardest and
do our part, the Lord will provide us a way to find those prepared
people. We just have such a good feeling about these next six weeks,
and we are excited to see what the Lord has in store. We also have
been working super closely with our ward mission leader to come up
with some new and effective finding ideas and ways to get referrals,
and we are pretty excited to get the ball rolling. One thing they want
to do is film a commercial for our Eikaiwa class with Edwards Shimai
and I in it (Inamori Kyodai thinks that everyone would love the two
gaijin girls with super curly hair speaking Japanese) and so everyone
look for us on YouTube haha.

Our investigators are doing super well! Ayaka Chan our little miracle
girl (the one we found by the vending machines last week) is
progressing super well, and we are setting up to have her be baptized
later this month, and so we are super excited for that! She is so
great and has such a special ability to feel the Spirit, and so we are
excited! She has come to church twice now and stays the whole time and
loves it, so if this girl isn't the definition of golden in Japan, I
don't know what is! Also Teru San, our cute little grandpa decided
that he really wants to get baptized and is seriously trying to work
through some stuff to make it happen this transfer as well! His
daughter's family is all getting sealed later this month and so I
think it has really put some things in perspective for him! Super
excited to see how it all ends up!

Just one final spiritual thought of this week! Edwards Shimai and I
have been discussing miracles a lot lately and how we are going to try
and see them in this next transfer...this morning I was reading in the
Book of Mormon in Mormon 9, and it so very simply lays it out there
that God is a God of miracles, and that has not changed, and it never
will. If we aren't seeing miracles, we need to increase our trust in
God and look for them, because they are out there! We are given that
promise to see miracles if we work hard and do our best and are worthy
to receive them, and the Lord will ALWAYS keep His word! I know that
that is not only true in missionary work, but in every aspect of our
lives! Our loving Father wants to bless us with miracles every single
day, we just need to let Him and trust Him and be worthy to receive
them! God wants to bless us so much, and I KNOW that miracles have not
ceased, and especially not here in Japan!

Well everyone, have a great week! Happy Father's Day to all the
fathers out there, you are amazing! Thank you everyone for all the
love and support and prayers as always! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering
"Hirakata Sisters, Hirakata Elders, and me with my new
companion (She is in the stripes and this was the first day we met"
Goodbyes are hard.  Last picture with Kenney Shimai, until they meet again.
More proof that Alyssa actually rides a bike :)
An example of the missionaries' weekly schedule
So we are very blessed that Alyssa has an IPad on her mission.  We can log into her account throughout the week and see her pictures.  Of course there are no explanations and they sometimes leave you scratching your head, like this one.  Japanese Anime maybe??

Last Week of Training! Nihon Week 12

The Baptism of Aimi and Miu

One thing that Alyssa has said over and over again since being a missionary is never postpone a spiritual prompting.  Thankfully she has learned that somewhat early on in her mission.

Another cool thing that happened this week was last Monday night. The Monday night after P day is always a little awkward because we can't visit members and we rarely have scheduled appointments and so we will usually end up handing out Eikaiwa flyers or trying to go finding...well last week we were biking to this eki to go and hand out flyers, but all of the sudden the face and name of this recent convert brother just popped into my head....I just felt like we needed to go and visit him and so I told Kenney Shimai and she was super supportive and so we changed our plans and went and visited him. It totally ended up being a spiritual prompting because Tajima Kyodai had been having a rough couple of days and our visit really cheered him up and he was so sweet and grateful and really felt love from Heavenly Father and from us. I was just so grateful to be an instrument of the Spirit in that was just too cool. It was also just another reminder for me to never postpone a prompting, because you never know who you will be blessing, and it will ALWAYS end up being good!

Group Letter

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

I can't believe that I am writing you all as my last P day as a
trainee...holy cow my time here in Japan has gone so fast and just
continues to fly by! I have learned so much these past twelve weeks
and can't even comprehend how much more I continue to learn each and
every day is just such a crazy experience. I am so grateful
for the amazing companion that I have had in Kenney Shimai, she has
been so wonderful and we have had such a blast together. She has
become such a dear friend to me, and so I am super happy that she is
just from good old Orem, just a stones throw away from home. I am sure
we will be up to plenty of shenanigans together in the future.

As far as transfers go, we do have them this week but we are still
waiting in anticipation to hear our fate. Ideally we would both stay
and keep working with the wonderful investigators we have, but we know
that Heavenly Father usually has His own plans, and we are blessed
enough to know that they are always the best. Needless to say anything
could go down, so I could be writing you from a completely different
area next week! We will find out either tomorrow or Wednesday and then
be on our merry way for a brand new adventure beginning Thursday, and
life in the mission just keeps on rolling forward!

This week was truly so amazing though, we had the chance to be
witnesses to so many miracles and great experiences. One thing kind of
fun/not fun thing that happened was that I got to be put as senior
companion for this past week in anticipation of the chance that I
might become the area senpai this upcoming transfer...basically I got
handed over the phone and the keys and was told to take the lead in
things and frankly it was TERRIFYING but it was also very humbling and
I learned so much. I was able to receive a lot of help from Heavenly
Father and yet also see what I have become capable of. It was such an
adventure but I do feel a lot more prepared to graduate to normal
missionary status now haha.

Monday and Tuesday were great and busy days like usual, we just taught
a bunch of lessons and then Eikaiwa and it was so great as always.
Wednesday however, was quite the adventure. Kenney Shimai and I have
fondly named that day "The Day of the Gokiburi Crisis". Basically what
they don't tell you about serving a mission in Japan is that when it
gets hot, the bugs come abundance...namely cockroaches. We
came home for weekly planning on Wednesday night and discovered that
we had some little (Lol at that, they were not little AT ALL) friends
who had moved into the apartment! We had quite the adventure trying to
capture and kill them, especially because they are fast and they
freaked us out and we were so scared and yet laughing so hard that we
were crying all night. We ended up having to go to the store on the
orders of our district leader to get some killing spray and cockroach
traps and then spent the evening deep cleaning our apartment and
trying to get rid of our little contraband pets. Eventually we got
them all, and we even killed the biggest one (fondly named Herman),
and so we can once again rest peacefully at night haha. Although it
wasn't super amusing at the moment, it is hilarious to look back on
now, and just think of all the little adventures that you have on the
mission from day to day. Seriously such a blast!

Okay as far as getting back on topic with spiritual stuff and the rest
of life, Thursday I had the chance to go back to Abeno to go on an
exchange with Smith Shimai from the lovely city of Lehi, Utah! She is
so great and I learned a lot from her, and it is always just fun to
dendo in a new place and meet some more amazing people. We focused a
lot on testifying powerfully all the time, and it was just super cool.
Then Friday we had ZONE CONFERENCE! Holy cow, Zone Conference was the
best. It was basically seven hours of us getting to learn from
President and Sister Welch and the AP's and the Zone Leaders and STL's
and it was such an amazing experience. I just have to keep saying over
and over again how much I love my mission president and his sweet
wife! I know that they are called of God and are so inspired and are
helping this mission to achieve amazing things. Currently the Kobe
Japan mission is the second most baptizing mission (we are coming for
you, Guam) in the Asia North Area, and I just feel so very blessed to
be here at this time to see all the changes and the hastening of the
work. I learned so much that day about the Spirit, and companionship
unity, and love, and working with the members, and solving every
problem we come across through prayer and the scriptures. We discussed
what makes us a successful missionary and what we need to do to become
the person that Heavenly Father wants us to become. Ahh it was just
such a great meeting and I walked away so fired up and inspired to
repent and become better!

Saturday was also wonderful. We had a ward strawberry picking
activity, then we went to Asuka to help teach another Eikaiwa, and
then in the afternoon we had a BAPTISM! Aimi and Miu Chan are the
daughters of a less active lady and she FINALLY decided it was time
for them to be baptized! Kenney Shimai and I had the chance to teach
them for a while but then we ended up passing them to the elders
because they lived closer to them and some other factors and other
stuff, but the baptism was just happy because it was one big huge
group effort to get these two little girls baptized. They have such
sweet spirits and strong testimonies, and it was just a happy day!
Baptisms are the BEST!

Okay I am sorry that this email is already forever long but I really
want to share just one last amazing thing I learned this week, and
that truly is to never underestimate what the Lord is willing to do to
help bring His children home to the church. A few weeks ago my
companion and I both felt impressed to go visit this one lady who
lived kind of far, but we both felt very guided in making that
decision. Anyways we did and then were prompted to go and talk to this
girl we saw at a vending machine...needless to say we taught her
briefly and wanted to learn more and set up a return appointment! Her
name is Ayaka Chan, and she is sixteen and just so cute...anyways we
had the chance to teach her multiple times this week, and she is
GOLDEN! She came to the baptism and to church and loved both and
really felt the Spirit even though she didn't understand entirely what
was going on. We also found out that she has some crazy familial
connections with families in the ward and her brother is an
investigator of the elders and it was just all these insane
connections that ended up in this big miracle. We gave her a soft
baptismal commitment and she accepted, the ward is fellowshipping her
like crazy, and basically Kenney Shimai and I just get to step back
and watch in awe of what the Lord is willing to do for His children.
He pulls SO many strings and orchestrates so many miracles so that
everyone will have the chance to accept the gospel, and it is
incredible. Never underestimate how much the Lord loves His children,
and what He is willing to do for them!

Anyways...ahh I just love this work so much. I love being a missionary
with my whole heart, and I am so grateful for my mission every single
day. This is easily the hardest thing I have ever done, but it has
also easily been the best decision I have ever made up to this point.

I love this work and I love Japan and the Japanese people and this
gospel and the Lord!

Thank you all for all the prayers and support like always! Have an amazing week!


Sister Pickering

Strawberry picking with the ward
This is Inamori Kyodai who is our ward mission leader and is a freaking rockstar. He is probably the best in the world and I am not even kidding. He is literally the definition of magnifying a calling and we love him so much!
Noriko, one of our ward members, delivered Alyssa's first package to Japan.  She was so excited.
Alyssa's first tortillas in 5 months

Osaka Zone

Ayaka Chan
Zone Conference