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.

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