Monday, July 25, 2016

Pokemon Go? Nihon Week 20

The companionship visited Shimogamo Jinja, a famous shrine that is right across the street from the LDS church

In my letter,  it was evident that this past week was a little rough for Alyssa.  With a new area, new ward and new style of finding and teaching, it proved to be somewhat challenging.  But I was proud of Alyssa's attitude and her willingness to keep pressing forward.  She has learned that she can do hard things and who is the source of her strength.  How wonderful
 As a small reward for her perseverance, she received this piece of good news near the end of her p-day:

"Just found out that someone I found and taught on a first contact in
Yamatokoriyama committed to be baptized this week! Hurray for

What a pay off at the end of a faith building week. 

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Can't believe we are already here on another P day writing again, time
just seriously blurs so much here!

This week was another busy one here for us. We have been trying
desperately to find some new investigators and make contact with the
other ones from the last sisters, but unfortunately we have not been
so lucky this week. It has definitely been a test of my faith and
patience, because I KNOW that there are prepared people waiting for
the gospel in Japan, because I have seen it time and time again.
Sometimes it can be a little discouraging though as we work super hard
and don't always get that instant gratification from our efforts, but
I know that this is all in the Lord's timing and so that things will
work out the way they need to
. All is well here on our end!

I am still loving having Uchida Shimai as a companion, she is
seriously so great. First of all she is just an adorable human being
and is so kind and uplifting, and so I cannot be grateful enough for
her. She is always there to encourage me at any given moment, and we
just have fun together as well! I have been so blessed with my
companions so far in the mission, it has been great. I also have come
to realize that gaijin (foreigner) powers are a real thing, and that
was not something I appreciated until I was with a Japanese person
24/7! I can get away with so many more dendo shenanigans (always in a
good way, of course) and can very use the "take pity on the gaijin who
is totally lost and help her" approach to make contacts, and it has
been fun. When they see Uchida Shimai all on top of the world and
handling everything fine we don't always see the same result, and so
lately I have just been trying to put myself out there and see what we
can make happen. Something we really have focused on this week is
improving our first contact to always include Jesus Christ and if
possible, baptism and the Book of Mormon. At first it was kind of hard
to always do so, but we have improved so much and our teaching has
altogether improved as well. It has been super fun to see, and I am so
grateful for the many opportunities that we have to teach each day!

Kind of a funny dendo story from the week....the other day, Uchida
Shimai and I were looking at our iPads totally lost because we had no
idea where we were when we were trying to go and visit this person.
Some little old grandpa looks at us and laughs and then asks us if we
are Pokemon masters.  We were super confused and just laughed along
with him but had no idea what that was all about. The next day, we see
like everybody walking around with their eyes glued to their
phones...we were so confused on what was happening! That night at
ping-pong night (by the way, I am totally honing my ping-pong skills,
just in case anyone was wondering) we talked to the elders and they
informed us that some game called Pokemon Go (perhaps you folks have
heard of it) had just been released in Japan, and people were going
CRAZY over it. Literally every single person here is obsessed with it!
And better yet, our church is some like training gym or battle place
or something (I really have no ideas on the logistics of it all), and
so random people have just been showing up at the church to play
Pokemon and it has actually been GREAT for dendo. We just super easily
talk to them about their game and then somehow find ways to connect it
to the gospel and then we invite people to come to the church and
battle and learn more about us. It is seriously so hilarious but hey,
sometimes the Lord moves His work in mysterious ways. I never thought
I would have used Pokemon as a way to talk to people and get new
investigators, but whatever works works I guess!

We also had district meeting this week, and that was super awesome. We
put a lot of emphasis on using the Book of Mormon in our dendo, and we
have a friendly competition going between us and the elders to see who
can hand out the most Book of Mormons this transfer, and it has been
so fun. I know that book truly has the power to change lives as I know
it has changed mine, and I love having the chance hear to see it
change the lives of others as well. Seriously so many blessings!
We finally met some of our investigators, and we have a lot of
promising people we are working with. One lady is in her early
twenties and she is married to a member, and she took the lessons at
BYU before she got married but the missionaries were super pushy and
freaked her out and so she wasn't baptized...we are slowly having the
chance to meet with her and teach her again, and it is just going to
be so cool as we help this family to become eternal. I love how the
end goal of every focus we have as missionaries is the temple, and
that has become especially prevalent lately as the Sapporo temple is
being dedicated in August! We have the chance to participate in the
broadcast, and we are super excited and are having a great motivation
to help less actives become temple worthy again so they can attend the
broadcast. The temple is just the best, and even though I can't attend
in my mission, I am grateful for all of the blessings it is bringing
to those I am serving!

One final thought really quick before I end. As I said earlier, this
week was kind of challenging in some ways. I had some super low
moments of frustration and discouragement and didn't know why nothing
was working out. But the interesting thing is that every time I cry to
the Lord in sorrow or self pity, He ALWAYS turns me around and has me
learn about His son, Jesus Christ.
As I come to learn more of the
Savior and His atonement, my love and appreciation for Him grows. I am
so very grateful for His sacrifice and because of what He did, I am
grateful for the knowledge that I can cheerfully say that it will all
work out.

Jesus Christ really is our Savior and our Redeemer, and I will sing
praises to Him forever. I am so blessed to be laboring now as His
representative, and I will gladly take any discouragement that comes
my way as I seek to worthily fulfill this work and bring my brothers
and sisters unto Him.
I love this work so much, and I am so happy to be a part of it. I love
this gospel, and I love the Japanese people.

Thank you all for the prayers and love and support, I really couldn't
do this without all of you. Have an amazing week and I will talk to
you all soon!

Sister Pickering

Shimogamo Jinja
The view from Alyssa's new apartment

Disney is a big deal in Japan

A piece of home
A sushi restaurant where the sushi goes by you on a conveyor belt

A map from part of her area

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Shimogamo! Nihon Week 19

Alyssa's last few words of wisdom as she said goodbye to her dear convert.  This picture chokes me up.
Well just as Alyssa suspected, she was transferred to a new area this past week.  From everything I can gather,  it was extremely difficult to say goodbye and leave her last area.  I am amazed how much she has grown to love those people in relatively short amount of time. 

Anyway,  she was transferred to the Shimogamo area (and I just recently figured out how to say and spell Yamatokoriyama and now I have to learn a new word) which covers the town of Kyoto.  Now when Alyssa got her mission call and told others about it, those that were familiar with Japan would get so excited hearing that Kyoto was in her mission.  Apparently, it a place rich with tradition and culture and when you think of traditional Japan this is the place that is often represented.  Movies and books and other things are based right in Kyoto.  So, if she had to be moved, then this is a pretty cool place to go.  I am sure it will pose all kinds of new challenges, in regards to the work, but I am equally sure she is going to love it.

Here is one brief description of the city that she shared in a letter to me:

Kyoto is a GREAT place to be. So many people which is awesome, but also kind of
overwhelming because I have no idea how to do missionary work when there are just people everywhere. Another interesting thing is that there are like a bazillion tourists and white folk roaming around, so it could be like I am back in America. I will have the chance to teach some English lessons and some of our investigators are foreigners as well, so it should be fun!

I had the chance to attend a summer festival in downtown Kyoto on Saturday with a less active and some members to go visit this other less active...holy cow it was so crazy. More people than I have ever seen in my entire life. It was like Disneyland in the summer, meets a BYU football game after party, meets Culvers after Priesthood session. SO CRAZY but so cool. Definitely something I will remember forever. Lots of kimonos and lanterns and music and cultural stuff and food. Super super cool.

And of course her group letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!
It has been another crazy busy week here in was arguably
one of the most emotional weeks of my entire life, but it was so good
and filled with so many tender mercies.

The beginning of last week I received the phone call that I would
indeed be transferring from Yamatokoriyama. When I first found out, I
was DEVASTATED. I loved Yamatokoriyama with my whole heart, and
leaving just was not something I wanted to do. However, when I heard I
was being transferred to Shimogamo in the Kyoto zone, I instantly felt
peace. The Lord let me know in that instant that He needed me in my
new area for some reason, and I was grateful for that confirmation
that made the departure a little easier. I was able to have peace of
mind through the Spirit, and I was so grateful.

The next few days were a blur of packing and visiting people and
saying goodbye. Oh my heavens it broke my heart to say so many
goodbyes! It is truly crazy how much I was able to come to love these
people. They truly changed my life, and I know I will definitely not
be the same person because I served as a missionary in the
Yamatokoriyama Ward. The hardest goodbye I had to say was to my sweet
Ayaka Chan. Soooo many tears were shed from both of us! She will
always have such a special place in my heart and as hard as it was to
say goodbye, at the same time it made me happy to know that I was able
to make some small difference to someone by helping them come a little
bit closer to our Heavenly Father. If she is the only one my entire
mission that I got to help be baptized and stay active, it has already
been 100% worth it.

Thursday was the day that I headed out from Yamatokoriyama to get to
my new area, Shimogamo! I arrived at the Kyoto eki and the first thing
that struck me was how many millions of people there were EVERYWHERE!
So many tourists and Nihonjin and it was a little bit overwhelming how
different it was from my last little quiet area! At the eki I had the
chance to meet my new companion, Uchida Shimai! I have a Nihonjin
companion and I am so excited! She is from Saitama, Japan and is
probably the cutest and nicest and most perfect human being I have
ever met in my entire life, and I adore her so much!  She is a 12th
transfer and just finished up being an STL in Okayama, so she is of
course such a boss and I am learning SO much from her. I have this
goal to serve my companion every single day, and it is kind of hard
because she is Nihonjin and is like ten steps ahead of the game in
serving me and being kind and considerate...she is just so great and I
feel so happy to be serving with her for this next transfer! It is
also sort of an adjustment to be doing Japanese 24/7, but it has also
been so fun. I found out that I know A LOT more than I thought I did,
so that is always gratifying! I really like speaking my mission
language all the time though, and I feel myself improving a lot. And I
am teaching Uchida Shimai English as well, so it has been a blast!

After we met at the eki, the longest day of my life started from there
haha. The last sisters in the area had lost the key to the apartment,
so another sister going to Kobe to pick up a trainee was going to grab
a spare key from the mission home and bring it back for us, but that
wasn't going to be until like 5 and it was only 11. So we navigated
the crazy of Kyoto with our luggage and barely made it to the church
and ate for the first time that day and then got some stuff figured
out and taught a member, before having to turn around again and go
back to the eki to meet the other sister! We finally got there and
FINALLY got our apartment key, and then made this other crazy
adventure to our apartment  and got there at like 6:30...from that
point on, we realized that we had the wrong key. We were so exhausted
that we just laughed our heads off, and then after calling our zone
leaders, we found out we would have to take a 2 hour train ride and go
BACK to Kobe to get the right key and then spend the night there. It
was quite the ordeal and one problem after the other, but my companion
is so sweet and positive, and so we made the whole thing into a fun
adventure. The good news is the NEXT day by like eleven, we were
finally able to enter the apartment! Hurray!

Shimogamo is a great area. We are right in the middle of touristy
Kyoto and so there are so many people everywhere all the time,
especially for things like the summer festival that has been going on
lately. I am not quite sure how to dendo in a big city yet, but we are
trying our best to figure it out! It is sooo different from
Yamatokoriyama, but I already feel surprisingly at home, and I know I
am supposed to be here!

Uchida Shimai and I had the chance to fresh start this area, and so
that has been a little bit of a challenge.  Neither one of us know the
area or the investigators or the ward, and so these past few days have
been sort of crazy and stressful just trying to figure out what the
heck is happening. We are finally getting the hang of things thanks to
the elders and this great ward, but are slightly nervous as almost
none of the investigators have contacted us back....yikes! BUT!
Something so neat about this area is that we have a FAMILY of
investigators here, and we have already met them! It is a dad and mom
with four cute kids, and they just want the best for their family and
are super open to the message and keeping commitments. We are so
excited for them and know they will make great members, and so please
keep the Hirokawa family in your prayers!

This ward is super strong and excited about dendo, and that is another
thing that makes me happy. My first Sunday was great! Everyone was so
kind and welcoming, and I am excited to be working here. Something
kind of cool is that there are lots of foreigners in this ward that
don't speak Japanese, and a lot of LDS tourists attend this ward as
well, and so I spent the last two hours of church translating! It was
kind of stressful because I have never done anything like that before,
but it was also SO fun and something that I will probably get to do
every single week. Please pray that my Japanese will be able to handle

Sunday night was super fun because we went to this huge dinner with
the Mizoguchi family and the elders and an elder that just finished
his mission with his family. The food was delicious and everyone was
so fun and kind, but the worst was that they informed us that they
have a gishiki (ordinance/initiation) for all the new
missionaries...they made Uchida Shimai and I stand up in front of
everyone and sing a solo of our favorite hymns in Japanese in front of
like 20 people! It was so embarrassing and scary and I wanted to die,
but it was also kind of hilarious. Like a million videos were taken,
so please don't look for that on YouTube, but overall the night was so
great and we had an awesome lesson afterwards. I think I am going to
really love this area!

I know this is already way long but just one last thing really
quick...before I left Yamatokoriyama, Ayaka Chan gave me this note and
it was so sweet and was her testimony and a bunch of things like that,
but something she said really touched me. She told me that since being
baptized, she is always smiling and her confidence and self worth has
increased. That really struck me, because in the MTC one of the
speakers talked about how we don't need to have self confidence to do
this work, but Christ confidence
. That has become something of a motto
for me, because I do not trust myself or my Japanese at all, but I do
trust Christ, so I find the strength to do hard things. It was special
for me to be able to see that in action in the life of my recent
convert, because she has truly epitomized that phrase. She loves
Christ so much, and since trying to follow Him and emulate His life,
she has found greater happiness and confidence, and I know this is
true for all of us. As we lose ourselves trying to seek Christ, we
will always find ourselves as better and happier people.

As always, thank you so much for all the love and the support and
prayers, I couldn't do it without all of you. I love this work and I
feel so very blessed to be a part of it!

Have an amazing week everyone! Aishiteimasu!
Sister Pickering

So many goodbyes
Yamatokoriyama Ward Members
Pickering, Ayaka, and Edwards
More farewells

My last hug with Alyssa at the MTC was heart wrenching.  This one looks equally tough for my daughter.

One last hug
Her English class threw her a goodbye party.  So sweet.

This was a companionship that was tough to break up.
These new friends will meet again at BYU.
Faithful ward members.

First look at her new area.
The church in Kyoto

Summer festival in downtown Kyoto.
Members and missionaries in her new area.

Alyssa and her new companion Sister Uchida
Apartment adventures.

Snail Mail

It is always a joy and delight when we receive an actual letter in the mail, even if it is outdated.  We can truly see Alyssa's personality come through.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Life is Busy: Nihon Week 18

Sister Pickering officially passed her 6 month mark this last week.  When we first dropped her off at the MTC I couldn't even imagine reaching this point.  The days were very long.  But now, I finally agree with Alyssa in saying that time is flying.  In fact,  I could actually start saying things like "this is the last 4th of July without Alyssa and only 11 more fast Sundays."  But then I was humbled.  Alyssa informed us that her mission goes until the end of July next year which is almost a full month later than anticipated.  I am not going to lie, the news kind of hit me in the gut.  But then I remembered how much Alyssa loves the people and her mission and what a special blessing it is that she will have more time doing what she loves.  So I have repented :) and have quit counting down once again.

I loved her email this week and I love those wonderful people of Yamatokoriyama.  If Alyssa is transferred this week I know it will be heartbreaking for her.  She has grown to love so many in that area and has had remarkable experiences there.  So I, along with her, will have to put trust in the Lord knowing that He has a plan and whatever it may be, will be the best thing for Pickering Shimai.  Now we just have to wait and see.

Group Letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!
I can't believe another week has gone by and that I am writing yet another group email...I used to think that P days were forever away but now every single time I turn around, it is Monday again and I am left trying to remember what has happened to me in the blur that has been the past seven days (as well as trying to come up with some clever email title amidst the jeering from ai suru companion, who is insisting I have failed)! But as usual, life is good and I am happy to be here, and so I may as well jump right into it!

The beginnings of my weeks usually start off pretty normal and this week was no different. Monday night we went and celebrated the 4th of July with this couple in my ward who served a fufu mission in SLC, and it was so much fun. They made us hotdogs and gave us watermelon and it was almost like I was back in the states for two seconds. The members in this Ward are so amazing (speaking of which, at the request of my companion,  I am adding that we have been fed ridiculously large meals 7 out of the past 8 nights, and so if we are looking a little pudgier in the photos, now you know why. For some reason people think that we just starve to death as missionaries, and this is most certainly not the case! Good thing Japanese food is like the best ever. Okay sorry, tangent over) and I adore them so completely.
Tuesday was kind of funny because we spent the afternoon going to survey apartments because my companion can speak boss Japanese and communicate with Real Estate people, because the elders are moving out of Asuka and into Yamatokoriyama and so we needed to go preview the apartments that the office had picked out. It was kind of fun but also kind of an annoying break in the schedule when you have the world to try and baptize!
The rest of the week was good and super busy. We shifted a lot of our focus this week to teaching active members, and we went around and challenged almost all of the families in the ward to try and invite to friends to ward conference the upcoming Sunday. This Ward is so amazing and they all accepted the challenge, even though it was something admittedly nerve wracking for them. It was really cool to try and teach about how our duty as members is simply to INVITE others to come unto Christ. We can't force people to do anything, and so whether or not people say yes or no to our invitations is almost irrelevant...what matters is that we try our best to give people to accept the gospel in the best way that we can. I was so proud of this ward as they all valiantly tried their best, and we were able to see a bunch of new people come to church as well as some less actives return! You guys, we can't do missionary work without the is literally impossible, and so I just encourage you all to do anything you can to help further the work in your area as much as possible!

Friday we had ZTM which is always great, because I sincerely love training meetings so much. I have found that if I try my best to diligently seek the Spirit before meetings, I will ALWAYS leave having learned something new. Something that Edwards Shimai has said that I really love is humility is the willingness to learn from anyone at anytime, and I have really been trying to apply that in my dendo and life in general. I have received some great revelation from other missionaries and members and even random people we meet and teach, and it is just such a rewarding experience. Ahh, missions are just the best!

Ayaka Chan our recent convert is still doing amazing and being such a boss. She is being monumental at helping retain our other recent converts, and she is so excited to share the gospel with those around her! She has also been crucial in helping her brother gain a testimony, and after she invited him to church and some other things, yesterday he officially picked a baptism date and became a shigansha for the elders. We were so thrilled! The Lord has been SO involved in the conversion of this family from the very beginning, and it has been such a miracle to witness. Seriously such happiness!

One experience that I want to share really quick is one that is kind of near and dear to my heart. Saturday we only had a limited time before we were supposed to meet to go do an activity with some members and recent converts and investigators, and so we felt like we needed to go visit this one investigator pretty strongly. However, our time was looking pretty yabaii and we weren't sure we were going to make it in time, but Edwards Shimai has only met this lady once and so we had to get her over there to meet her. So we hopped on our bikes and started going on our merry way (in a spirit of haste, of course) and were riding along this river and pretty overlook. We are about to cross the road to go get to the house when I see this cute little grandpa sitting on the ground staring off into space. The Spirit told me that I needed to go talk to him SO strongly. I called at Edwards Shimai and let her know my first we were worried about whether or not we would have time to visit Angela but I mentioned again that I just felt like we had to talk to him, and so she agreed and we went over there.

I started talking to him and he was kind of quiet, and we asked him about things he believed and he said he didn't know anymore. He just seemed SO sad and it broke my heart, and suddenly the strongest feeling of love for this man just came over me. I started testifying how the gospel has blessed me and made me happier during even the most difficult of times in my life, and we taught him about how the Plan of Salvation is truly the Plan of Happiness. I kind of got the feeling that he had just lost his wife, and as we continued to talk, he cheered up a little bit and even told us his name and where he lived so we can go back and visit him again. The experience was just so touching and I am still not entirely sure why it needed to happen when it did, but I was grateful for the prompting we had to go and visit Angela in the first place, or we never would have found our little Iwamoto San. I am also grateful for Spiritual prompting to talk to him, because I just know it was what He needed that day, and I am so glad that the Lord trusted me enough to go and speak to Him. My testimony is growing so much that the Lord uses us to bless His other children, and so we always need to be strive to be worthy to reach out to love and help those around us!

One final scripture for this email before I sign off for the week...
Mosiah 18:30 And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever.

Now you might be wondering what the heck this scripture has to do with anything, but I came across it in my studies this week and it threw me back to my Book of Mormon class back at BYU with Brother Hank Smith. He talked about the significance of the waters of Mormon, because the people that were brought to the knowledge of Christ there were people who became solid and steadfast and never lost their testimonies. He then also talked about the possible symbolic significance it could be that the Book of Mormon is actually entitled the Book of MORMON....because we are taught that through the Book of Mormon, our testimonies of Christ can also become steadfast and immovable, even to the point that it is like we have met Christ personally.
I thought it was kind of a cool parallel and symbol, but I am definitely coming to recognize the reality behind it. The investigators that we have that become engrossed in the Book of Mormon and love and study it are the ones who become converted and are eventually baptized. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Book of Mormon not only in missionary work, but in our own personal conversion. I love getting to study the Book of Mormon in such depth every single day, because it is changing my life. My testimony is growing so much as I am able to prayerfully study this book, and I know the same can be true for all of you as well. Please always treasure the Book of Mormon like the amazing miracle that it is. As you read and study it, I promise that your testimony will grow and your life will CHANGE! I know it has definitely changed mine.
I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week. Odds are that next week I will be emailing from a different area with a different companion, but all is well. I am loving my mission and wouldn't want to be anywhere else. This gospel is so true and I am so happy to be here sharing it with my brothers and sisters in Japan. 
Have an amazing week, everyone! Aishiteimasu!
Sister Pickering
P.S. I sincerely apologize I am too lazy to label every single photo, but basically we played tennis, ate with members, had ZTM, saw some gigantic mysterious plants, and I found a patch of grass (which if you know Japan at all, is super exciting)