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.
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 members...it 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 thoughts...at 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!
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)