Monday, August 29, 2016

I Love Life and Dendo: Nihon Week 25

Pickering Shimai, Tomoko Shimai, and Folkman Shimai

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Well transfers came and went and I am still here in Kyoto, but I
unfortunately had to send off my cute Nihonjin companion to finish her
mission on Shikoku for the last six new companion is named
Folkman Shimai (and we were basically prepared from the foundations of
the world to be companions), but I will talk a little bit more about
her later on!

Last Monday was one of the happiest days, because after emails, my
cute little Ayaka Chan from Yamatokoriyama came and visited me here in
Kyoto! When I saw her across the street we literally ran to each other
like it was a movie scene and just hugged and my heart was so happy in
that moment, it could have burst haha. We spent a great afternoon
together shopping and talking and eating ice cream, and it was just so
happy. That little girl has literally become the epitomization of D&C
18:10-11 for me, and every single day I am just reminded of how
blessed I am to know and love her. She was also able to tell me that
her brother is getting baptized this weekend, and that was such happy
news! What an incredible miracle I was able to have a small part in.
Ahh missions are seriously the best.

Tuesday during studies we received the call that Uchida Shimai would
be transferring out of the area. It was super sad that we only had one
transfer to work together, but I learned so much from her and was so
grateful for the chance to learn from her great example (and Japanese
haha). So glad that Heavenly Father has let me be companions with such
wonderful sisters! That day we spent some time doing service and
visiting an investigator and a recent convert, but the highlight was
when a member went to Costco and brought me back muffins. It has been
seriously way too long!

Wednesday we went and visited this cute widow in the ward (I love
visiting old people, it has become one of my very favorite hobbies)
and other less actives, and did some good finding (we taught a lady
who is apparently healed and has faith in rays of light. Oh I love
apostasy), and then had DCS with our ward mission leader and came up
with some great plans to get the members more involved in dendo. I am
so excited, there is a lot of excitement in the area right now, and as
we are seeking to teach with more members and involve them in the
work, I just know it is the gateway to miracles. The Japanese members
are amazing and their testimonies are strong, and if we could just get
them sharing them more, the work would be unstoppable here!

Thursday I had the chance to spend about 7 hours at the Kyoto Station
while sending off one companion and meeting another one. In the
meantime I met a girl from Westlake who is in this mission now, as
well as the family of one of our AP's here who talked to us for a
while and bought us ice cream and just chatted. I love seeing members
from the United States here, it just feels so home. I love that we can
have that sense of love and family no matter where we go, all thanks
to the gospel of Jesus Christ!
FINALLY I had the chance to meet
Folkman Shimai, and it only took me about three minutes before I
realized that this girl and I were meant to be companions, and it was
through the revelation from our Heavenly Father given to President
Welch! She is a 9th transfer and is from Ogden, Utah, and she is one
of the happiest and funniest and most loving people I have ever met in
my entire life. We clicked so fast and have been laughing ever since.
I feel so blessed to be working with her, and I know that I have found
a lifelong friend. We teach in great unity and work hard and yet know
how to laugh and have fun, and so I have found so much joy in the
little daily bits of dendo again. It has been such a blessing!

Friday we had the chance to visit some members and less actives and
get Folkman Shimai acquainted with the area. It was funny, because we
set an OYM goal that day that would help us talk to more people than
we ever had before, and so the night before we just randomly decided
to stop every single person we saw that was wearing purple, no matter
what. I swear that Heavenly Father has a sense of humor, because I
have never seen so many people wearing purple in my entire LIFE. Oh my
goodness literally every single person was wearing purple, I swear,
and ever since then, we haven't seen nearly as much! Haha it was such
a testimony to me that the Lord wants and NEEDS His missionaries to
open their mouths, and He will go to whatever extremes He needs to
get us to fulfill that purpose. There was one point at like 4 PM and
we had probably talked to like 25 people at that point, and I just see
this grandpa from afar and I just say "Oh that grandpa is NOT wearing
purple pants" and Folkman Shimai just laughs and goes "Oh yes...he
totally is." That was about the summary of our day, but it was great.

Getting rejected really doesn't bother me anymore, it is just funny (I
was also denied that day by some lady who told me she was too busy to
talk because she had to go make tempura), and I know I am one step
closer to finding someone that the Lord has prepared.

Saturday we had an amazing lesson with Hirokawa San, his faith is
growing so much and we are shooting to get him a date this transfer.
He is so prepared it is crazy, and his daughter is as well. Always
such a wonderful reminder that there are people waiting and ready for
this gospel!  We also had a great lesson with a recent convert who is
going to be going through the temple next month, and it was incredible
to see how her testimony has just grown so strong. She thanked us over
and over again for helping her, but it was just funny because it was
all the work of the Lord. He is so merciful. That night we met with
the Relief Society president and taught her and then planned for some
sisters in the ward, and it was great. I love working with the
members! They are the best of the best.

Sunday was hilarious because I was translating again...but this time
it was in Primary. There was a family of tourists and the Primary
President insisted that she needed help with the 4 year old son, and
so she asked us to come and translate, but really it ended up just
being a 2 hour adventure of us trying to keep this wild child under
control. Holy cow I love kids, but I haven't realized how different
Japanese and American kids are until yesterday! He was running around
everywhere and telling us the most random things and trying to escape
from class and the whole while the sweet teachers thought we were
translating what was happening in the lesson.  Haha oh the adventures
we find ourselves in. We also went out finding for a while and housed
an entire apartment complex, and the awkwardness of my English came
out for the first time after being with a Nihongin for 6 weeks
straight, because some dude opened the door and spoke to me in English
and I was in so much shock the only thing I said was "You speak
English?" And then he looked at me all weird and was like "Umm
yeah..." I was so awkward I wanted to die and my companion tried to
make a good save, but he wasn't interested haha. Shoutout all my
English speaking missionary friends, because I don't even know how you
do it!

One final thought I want to share this usual we are
continuing along with our Atonement Challenge as we read the Book of
Mormon, and it just continues to astound me how much I learn every
single day. This week I was in 2 Nephi 2, and for some reason verse 25
really stuck out to me. It simply talks about how Adam fell that men
might be, and men are that they might have joy. I have used that
scripture in the past for a lot of different reasons before (i.e. God
wants us to be happy! The purpose of life is to have joy! Huzzah!) but
this time it took on a different meaning for me. I came to realize
that as Adam fell, he provided us the first opportunity that we have
to use and rely on and partake of the blessings of the atonement...and
because of that, we are able to have joy. Truly the greatest joys we
can experience in this life are all wrought through the power of the
atonement whether it be repentance, receiving strength during a
difficult time, or even receiving temple ordinances like the endowment
or sealings, but the fact of the matter is that it all comes from the
atonement of Jesus Christ. If you want more joy in your life, find
more ways to use the atonement
. Go to the temple, rely on our Savior,
and repent and be happy about it! I testify that as we take the chance
to increase our experiences every single day with the atonement of
Jesus Christ, we will not only become cleansed from sin and become a
better person, but I know that we will be able to experience true joy
as well.

 love this work and I have absolutely loved this week. Lots of new
adjustments but lots of laughs and adventures and I just know that we
will see so many miracles this transfer. I feel so very blessed to be
working here in this area with this companion at this time, and I know
that the Lord answers our prayers, because He certainly has been
answering mine.

Hope you all have a wonderful week wherever you may be, and remember
to be use the atonement and be happy! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

Alyssa's last moments with Shimai Uchida.

Alyssa's new companion, Sister Folkman.
Tracting down a scary hall.
A cemetery??
It's a small world in the church.  Alyssa met up with another Sister from Westlake in the Kyoto train station.

Monday, August 22, 2016

After the Trial of their Faith: Nihon Week 24

Alyssa's sweet reunion with her Ayaka Chan
 Since Alyssa transferred to her new area about a month ago, she admittedly confirms that the work has been challenging.  There have been many struggles and so called "lack of success".  (Of course anyone that has served a mission knows this is all relative and often can't be measured).  Anyway, this past week, things have changed.  Not that the circumstances did, but Alyssa's heart did.  She expressed to me that she was trying to do everything the way she thought she should and wanted to do.  Finally, after much struggle and prayer she turned her will over to God's will and that made all the difference.  Once she started accepting that whatever happened was the Lord's way, the miracles started to come.  Doesn't that make sense though?  God knows each of us individually and what we need.  He knows those people in Japan and clearly knows what needs to happen with each person.  Alyssa is just there to be His mouthpiece and hands.   Once she submits and lets Him be in control, then the work can progress.  What a challenging but valuable lesson she has been learning this past month.

On the bright side, her dear friend and convert, Ayaka, took a train from Yamatokoriyama to Kyoto to have a reunion with Alyssa.  I think it was a beautiful and necessary meeting for both of them.  I hoped it helped strengthen Ayaka, because I know it buoyed up Alyssa and gave her a renewed determination to keep working hard.  Such a sweet blessing.

Group Letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Well here I am writing you on my last P day of my fourth
transfer....crazy, right? This week we will be getting transfer calls
(I am assuming Uchida Shimai and I will both be safe here in Shimogamo
and I will kill her when she goes home in October), but then we start
all over again and are ready to see some more miracles! Also speaking
of things starting all over again, good luck to all my family and
friends that will be going back to school this week and next! Also
shout out Kylee Hazard who heads to the mission field in Spain this
week! Ganbatte kudasai!

This week started off strong after a great P day (I took a nap and it
was the best ever) where we went housing and finding and taught some
super solid lessons. We decided to really try and focus on getting
referrals this week and so I mustered up the courage and asked some
random people like it instructs us in PMG, and lo and behold, the
Quorum of the 12 knew what they were doing when they wrote that book.
We received some referrals to go and visit in this one neighborhood,
and it was fabulous! Definitely such a great lesson for me to remember
to always try and follow Preach My Gospel as exactly as possible.

Tuesday my companion was down and out for a little bit, so I had the
chance to study the gospel for about 8 hours straight that day and it
was so cool. I learned so much and received so much personal
revelation about how I can become a better missionary, and I felt the
guiding hand of the Lord so much and it was great. I HAVE SO MUCH
IMPROVING TO DO. But it is okay because I have learned when the Lord
gives us a correction, He always provides us a way to accomplish it.
That night we had the chance to meet with a member and an investigator
and go to this fire mountain festival for this big holiday they
celebrate in Japan. They light this fire on mountains in a way to send
all their dead relatives back to the Spirit world that came to chill
for a few days apparently, and we went and we were excited but then it
ended up being TORRENTIAL downpour and so the fire couldn't be lit! It
was kind of funny, and I have never been so wet in my entire life, but
I just loved it. I love all the adventures we find ourselves in as

Wednesday was also good, we visited some members and had a great
lesson with this less active we have been working with, and then we
had Eikaiwa (English lessons), which is always somewhat of an adventure, but hey, we
have fun with it.

Thursday we were FINALLY able to meet with this referral that we got
from the elders! We had a great lesson about Jesus Christ and built
some good kankei, and then had a good time trying to explain the
restoration and why Jesus AND Buddah AND Mohammed AND other various
people all can't be 100% correct...boy let me tell you am I grateful
for our knowledge of the restoration! After that we had another solid
lesson with a less active about tender mercies and gratitude (everyone
just be grateful please, life is so good and the Lord is so merciful
and then that night we had the chance to visit this older lady in the
ward who is recently widowed and her and her husband served five
missions together and her faith is just rock solid. I enjoyed the
chance to learn from her that night! Also! The JW's in Shimogamo found
us that day! Haha why they keep wanting to meet and bible bash with a
19 year old is so beyond me, but it is okay because we just have
another opportunity to share some of God's love with His children.

Friday was great because we had district meeting which I love as
always, and we had the chance to learn together about teaching with
the Spirit and why it is essential in missionary work. Basically the
moral of the story is without the just can't. This is
God's work and the Spirit we have is the only connection to knowing of
His specific will for each of His individual children, and so we NEED
that Spirit and guidance. When we have it in our work, it is the
neatest thing. Love it so much.
After that we visited some less
actives and it was WONDERFUL! Uchida Shimai and I really just had a
great day of teaching in unity and the Spirit was so present and we
saw some small miracles and progress in each of the people. We also
got to teach an AB lesson to a sister and it was the Restoration, and
I have to say that the Restoration is my favorite lesson to teach here
on the mission. The Spirit will, without fail, ALWAYS testify of the
Joseph Smith experience. Every time we discuss the sacredness of the
First Vision, the spirit in the room is so tangible and so sweet, and
this day was no different. I once again received an answer that day
from God that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, that this church is
true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. So grateful for
the chance to have my testimony strengthened everyday!

Saturday we did SKK (our dang long planning session for the next
week), and then we went finding in hopes of MAYBE being able to
finally find a new investigator...this week we worked so hard and went
finding in every spare moment and we're trying to show God in every
way that we wanted someone to teach, and at long last, the last week
of the transfer, He delivered. The last door we knocked that day was
opened by a 21 year old girl named Haruna, and when she smiled at us,
the Spirit just told me we had found our girl. The relief and
happiness we felt was overwhelming as we taught her and set up a
return appointment. GOD REALLY DOES ANSWER PRAYERS! He is so willing
to bless us and lead us to those who are prepared, we just need to be
willing to keep trying our best and working hard to find them. Such a
miracle, so so needed.....ahhh if was just so great.
We finished off the night by going to the church and watching the cultural celebration
for the dedication of the Sapporo temple the next day! I fell in love
with Japan and the culture and the people and my mission all over
again, and seeing their joy of the temple just brought me to tears and
made me want to work even harder so that the faithful saints in the
Kobe mission can have their own someday.

Well okay I guess technically it wasn't the actual temple itself, but
the church was dedicated as an extension that day for the dedication,
and the Spirit that I felt during the dedication was just as sweet and
familiar as if I was back home in Mt. Timpanogos. We had the chance to
hear from Elder Gary E. Stevenson, the Asia North area president, the
temple president and his wife, and President Russell M. Nelson, and it
was such a wonderful experience and I learned so much and was just
once again reminded of the importance of the temple and the saving
ordinances inside! I have really come to realize that missionary work
and temple work are one and the same, just for different sides of the
veil, and as we all engage in this work together, we are all engaged
in the work of salvation for the human family!
I feel so very blessed
to have been able to witness the dedication of such a beautiful temple
for such a wonderful people. The work is truly progressing here in
Japan and it is so exciting to see!

Sunday we also had the chance to FINALLY meet with some of our
investigators from the last sisters, and they were amazing! One of
them is married to a member and she wants to have the same religion as
her husband and so she is taking the lessons to see what she can
learn, and she has such amazing faith in Christ and real intent to
learn the truth, and it is so refreshing. The other is a 20 year old
college student who lately has felt distanced from God and wants to
learn from us because her best friend is serving a mission up at
temple square! She is so amazing and also wants to learn, and we are
just so excited to progress with both of these two and see what
wonderful things happen this upcoming transfer.

This week was honestly so wonderful and filled with tons of tender
mercies. Honestly there were a LOT of obstacles we had to face this
transfer with fresh starting an area, and sometimes it felt like we
were just running into wall after wall after wall. However, this past
week was just another reminder that the Lord will ALWAYS keep His
promises, because it went a little something like this:
Ether 12:12 For if there be no faith among the children of men God can
do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after
their faith.

My faith was DEFINITELY tried this transfer, but I am grateful that
the Lord allowed me to experience that and become a little stronger
and maybe a little more like the missionary He wants me to become. I
am grateful for all the miracles He is also so willing to shower down
upon us, as we simply just TRY our very best.

I know God lives and I know that this is His church! It has been
restored in its fullness on the earth today by Joseph Smith, and we
still have a living prophet today in Thomas S. Monson. The Book of
Mormon is true! It is changing my life every single day and I am so
grateful for that!

Well everyone, hope you all have a great week wherever you may be.
Lots of love being sent from Japan! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. The weird face things are these cleansing masks that Uchida
Shimai's home ward sent her and they requested that we take and send a
picture...they are meant to look like these Kabuki actor things, and
they might be the most unflattering thing on the face of the earth,
but hey, we have fun together

Monday, August 15, 2016

And Then My Companion's Tire Melted: Nihon Week 23

First of all,  I just want to thank all of you that are not only praying for Alyssa to have success as a missionary, but also for her safety.  I don't worry much about her most of the time but honestly the thought of her being on a bike is the one thing that has always had me a little nervous.  So when I casually asked about her current biking situation I expected her to express how it has gotten easier and that it is no big deal.  Instead I got this response:
"Ahh yes the is fun. The other day it hit like 101 degrees and that wasn't including the humidity which was rocking it at 90% so that happened haha. Honestly sometimes it is kind of painful and so we really have to break up our activities so we don't end up in the sun all day and then die. I have never been so exhausted in my life because the sun just drains you and then add biking on top of it, and it is just one adventure after another. Luckily enough, I am alive though! As far as your other questions go, yes biking is terrifying. I wish I could say "Lol I remember this one time that I almost got hit by a car" but it actually is more like "Psych, that is every single day of my life here in Kyoto." The drivers are free spirits and the roads are kind of scary so I am sure that there are angels working overtime on my safety!"
Thank you Angels!
Also, another little tidbit about her area:
"My area is a LOT smaller compared to Yamatokoriyama and there are like 6 areas here in Kyoto, so that is crazy. There are just billions of people everywhere. Right now in my ward we have us and the zone leaders, but I think every other area in the Kyoto zone has a set of elders and sisters too except for maybe one. We also bike everywhere unless we need to go to another area.  However if we want to talk about appliances, they don't have garbage disposals and ovens are like not a thing in apartments. What is up with that yo??"
It has been so fun learning about life in Japan, the people and the culture.  But I personally am not sure I would want to experience a heat that can cause a bike tire to melt :)

Group Letter:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

I can hardly believe that it is halfway through August and I am
already staring down the last full week of this does
this even happen haha? I always heard it from missionaries that time
flies by out in the field, but I never believed them until I got here
and experienced it for myself. It is crazy and I am just trying to
enjoy every moment that I can!

This week was honestly so amazing. (Also, as usual it was super hot. I
know I keep saying that every week but it just keeps getting hotter
and it's funny. This week my companion's tire melted, sooo that
happened haha)
At first I was not so sure what dendoing in a threesome
would be like, but it was seriously such a blast. Rees Shimai and
Nielsen Shimai are amazing missionaries, and we had way too much fun
together. We all decided that Heavenly Father knew that we would
become good enough friends that He would let us be companions, but
only for a week because otherwise it would just be way too much fun.
The week started off great! We went and did some shotengai (it is like
a covered street mall type deal) finding and taught some great
lessons, and we actually had really great unity which was super fun.
When you teach with your companion in unity, you are guaranteed to
have the Spirit there to witness what you are saying, and so that was
super cool.

Tuesday was interesting because I had my first lesson with some
Jehovah's is funny because when you think of Japan and
the most prominent religions you definitely think of like Buddhism or
Shintoism or whatever, and they are definitely the most prominent, but
here in Japan the Jehovah's Witnesses have a reputation for finding
and kind of harassing the Mormon missionaries. We had an appointment
set up with a former investigator who found us and asked to meet
again, but right before we went into the lesson we found out that he
was a JW who brought his friend and they were trying to dendo US. We
just made this goal to smile and not argue and just testify of Christ
before we politely found a way to not meet again. It was so
interesting to me because we get in there and this one guy was asking
us genuine questions and so we had the chance to teach a super solid
lesson on the Restoration and the Book of Mormon, but then his friend
kept trying to always argue with us and tear things down like about
our different names of Christ, or my personal favorite, as he tried to
tell us the exact date and weather of the day that Christ was born on.

It was interesting because as we tried our best to just emanate love
and testify, we all felt the Spirit super strongly and felt it protect
us in what could have otherwise been a hostile environment. At the end
of the meeting I was able to give away a Book of Mormon to the one
guy, and so we felt good about it. We definitely will not be meeting
with them again, but hey, maybe we were able to offer the one guy an
experience with the Spirit, and who knows what future seeds will be

Tuesday night was also kind of fun because there is this member in the
Fushimi Ward who is famous for feeding the joke he
literally fed us and the elders an eight course meal, and it was all
SUPER good food. I haven't been so full in ages and it was so much
food, that when he would walk out of the room we would all pull out
Tupperware and hide it away for later. Doke Kyodai was honestly so
sweet, and once again I am just so grateful for these Japanese members
that take such good care of us and are so devoted to the Lord and His

The rest of the week was just spent in teaching lessons to members and
visiting less actives and then getting ready and planning for the next
week. While Rees and Nielsen Shimai did SKK for their area, I had the
chance to just take the phone and contact literally every single
person in our Area Book. It was quite the process but I was able to get
some new appointments set up, and so I was super happy about that!
Friday we had a combined district meeting which was great, and we
focused a lot on goal setting and why it is important to us as
missionaries. Truthfully I am not super good at making daily goals
because I don't even know why, but as I was pondering I realized that
as I set a daily goal, I am merely recognizing an opportunity to rely
on the strength of the atonement each and everyday. That was a neat
revelation, and it is something that I have been trying to apply as I
repent and become better!

nother neat experience was on Friday night when we visited this like
80 something year old less active and we taught her and her daughter.
We each shared our favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon and why
it is important to us, and the Spirit in the room was so sweet. At the
end of the lesson this lady was in tears and she thanked us over and
over again for visiting and coming and helping her to feel loved and
to feel the Spirit. It is moments like that where my heart just warms
and the mission just becomes worth it one hundred times over. Numbers
and stress and homesickness and exhaustion just melt away as we take
the time to focus on and minister to the one, a Christ would have us
do, and it is just the best feeling. Experiences like that honestly
make me want to be a missionary forever.

The end of the week eventually rolled around, and I headed back to
Shimogamo where I met up with my sweet companion and we began to get
ready for this upcoming week here in our area. We have lots of goals
and things we want to accomplish, and so we can't wait to see what
miracles we have in store this week.
My testimony this week is of two things...first and foremost, it is of
the Book of Mormon. I spent a LOT of time deeply searching that book
this week, and I just know it is true. The feelings that I feel and
the revelation that I receive while reading must come from God, there
is just no other explanation. I learn so many new things every time,
and it is such a wonderful opportunity to have a daily encounter with
the Spirit. I have seen the Book of Mormon change lives out here, and
I know it is changing mine, so please, if you are not reading daily,
take the time to do so. I promise that it will only bless you!

My other testimony is of the importance of remembering. In the Book of
Mormon there are two types of people....those who remember their
experiences with God, and those who do not. The first group are the
people who remain diligent and steadfast and endure to the end while
keeping covenants and strengthening their testimonies. The second
group is people who will remain righteous for a while, but then
eventually slip back into the habits of the natural man. I was truly
pondering that this week and the impression came to me personally that
I need to be even better at recording my spiritual experiences and the
tender mercies in my life, so that I can always remember them. Of
course it is essential to strive daily to have new experiences to
build our testimony, but personally I am finding it is just as
important to reflect how God has always been here with us all along.
As we truly remember those experiences in our lives, remember how we
felt when we repented or were endowed or when we had a prayer
answered...we can never go astray. I challenge you all this week to
try and remember those times where your testimony has been
strengthened, and maybe if you have the time, jot down one or two. You
never know who might need to learn from your experiences, whether it
be a loved one or maybe just your future self.

I love this gospel and I love the chance I have to be sharing it. I
love missionary work and I feel so blessed to have this amazing chance
to be here doing this work that I love. I know God lives and that this
is His church. I know that Christ is my Savior, and I know that the
Book of Mormon is true.

I hope you all have an amazing week wherever you may be, and don't
forget to remember! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

Alyssa knows I love condensed milk.  This photo is for me!

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Life is an STL Kokkan: Nihon Week 22

A couple of excerpts from my letter this week:

Life is super good! Just super super holy cow Mom I think this past week was the hottest I have been in my entire life. Some days you just want to die. You HAVE to take breaks or else you would die. It hit 100 degrees here with almost one hundred percent humidity...and then there is just us smiling and biking around like hooligans. Please enjoy all the glistening of my sweat in every single photo of my life.

The work...well it is going. We still haven't found any new investigators yet and so that has been hard and kind of a point of stress for us. We fasted for it on Sunday, so hopefully things will be able to start coming through soon, but if you wanted to pray for that for me, I wouldn't even be mad haha. I don't know why we are struggling so much, but I just have to have the faith that it is for a good reason, you know? And although we haven't had a lot of success with investigators, we have been able to really focus on less actives, and I love doing that a lot. Seeing them come back to church is such a rewarding experience and I just always know the Lord is so happy to see them there. When I come home that is something I really want to focus on, helping those come back to church and helping everyone realize that church is just a place where sick people go to be healed by the Savior. Simple as that.

Group Letter:
Minasan, Konnichiwa!

First of all, I just wanted to take a second and wish my parents a
very happy anniversary! 22 years on August 12th and I am so grateful
for them and their loving example. I can only hope to someday be as
lucky to have a marriage like they do. Love you Mommy and Daddy!

Can't believe it is time to write another letter, and this time I am
actually writing you from the FUSHIMI area in Kyoto! My beloved
companion Uchida Shimai was needed on the other side of the mission
this week to help another sister translate for some sort of EFY event
going on for all the youth, and so I moved to Fushimi until Saturday
night and I will be working in a threesome with the STL's, Rees Shimai
and Nielsen Shimai. They are both so great and we have already had so
much fun together. I absolutely love having a Japanese companion, but
I also forgot how nice it is to be able to speak English all the time!
The little things you take for granted haha. But we are super excited
to work super hard this week and see some miracles in this area, and
in Shimogamo on Thursday when we go back to make some appointments
there. Can't wait, it should all be super great!

This past week was another fast and good (and of course, HOT) one for
us in Shimogamo. We spent a lot of time trying to visit members and
less actives and not having much success (AreaBook isn't always our
friend here on the mission), but it was great because we were able to
meet a lot of people and have some cool experiences along the way. One
little miracle was that someone I randomly felt prompted to invite to
Eikaiwa on the street ACTUALLY came! And she brought her mom and her
younger sister and they are super cute, and we are going to try to
start teaching them soon! We were pretty excited because lately our
investigator pool has been needing a little bit of a revival, so we
can only hope for the best with them!

We have been really trying to focus on building relationships with
members this week and get a lot of mutual trust going so we can really
work together, and as always, I am just so amazed by the Japanese
members. They sacrifice so much and are so dedicated to the Savior,
and them and their testimonies are what give me hope when we sometimes
go days where it feels like nobody is ready to accept the gospel. We
just smile and keep working with the knowledge that the Lord is
definitely preparing someone for us, we just need to keep working hard
and having that faith and knowing we will find them. I really love the
members here so much. They have all influenced me and changed my life
so much, and I am so grateful for their kindness and love. We went and
had dinner with this cute family with some less active daughters on
Saturday night, and they basically adopted me as one of their
daughters and take such good care of me and brought me a ton of ice
cream (shoutout to the missionary profiles they have up at the
church), and it was just great.

I also had a kokkan last week with Rees Shimai (before I actually
moved to Fushimi), and that was super fun. As always I learned a lot,
and we had a great time. The Lord was SO involved in our work that day
as we ended up exactly where we needed to be in order to teach certain
people. It was interesting because our plans got COMPLETELY rearranged
from what we thought, but as always, the Lord knows best. This is His
work, and it is just fun to be a part of it and see what happens

We also had ZTM, which is great as always. We got some great training
from our zone leaders and the STL's and as usual, I came away and
learned a lot. One of the elders asked us to ponder what it truly
means to us to be a missionary, and so that question has been running
through my mind a lot this past week, and I have just come to the
conclusion that it is a feeling of special trust and sacredness that
the Lord trusted us enough before this life to place us in positions
where (if we chose and lived so that we were able) we could serve
missions for Him. He trusted me then to do this work in the best way
that I can, and that can give me confidence when I have the tendency
to doubt myself. If I trust the Lord and truly have faith in Him, I
can know He will help me do anything He asks of me. What an incredible
blessing it is to be a missionary, I still can't get over it

One final thought for this week....on Sunday during the sacrament I
was sitting there and pondering how things have gone for us so far
this transfer. Honestly as I was reflecting, at first I felt like we
hadn't really accomplished a ton and we hadn't had any super amazing
new investigators pop up, and I was starting to be a little sad, but
then the Spirit told me to look around and when I did, I realized
something wonderful. Sitting next to us in the meeting was 4 less
actives and 1 recent convert that we had visited that week and invited
to come to church, and the Spirit reminded me in that moment of the
importance of being a full purpose missionary. Sometimes when we think
about missionary work, we just have this image of a font and white
clothes, and while of course yes, that is central to our purpose,
working with reactivating those less actives is something just as
important. Christ loves and numbers every single sheep from His fold,
and that includes those that have wandered off temporarily after
baptism. I realized in that moment that even though I hadn't found
like ten golden people this transfer, I was able to be a part of
something wonderful as we extended love and helped some of these
members make their way back to church. It was such a sweet peaceful
feeling, and one of the best realizations of my entire mission. Please
love those less actives in every single one of your wards, because
they are just as precious to the Lord now as they were when they were
baptized. He desperately wants them to come home, and oftentimes that
is through our love and help, and so I encourage you to look for
opportunities that you can help with that, wherever you may be right

I love this work so much, and I am so blessed to be here. I know this
gospel is true, and I love it with my whole heart. I know it is the
way to happiness and blessings beyond what we can imagine, and I know
it changes lives everyday. Please let it change yours too!
Have a wonderful week! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. We went to a memorial of an unmarked solider and Kiyomizudera for
P day today...lots of frolicking today and other days of life, so
please enjoy!

"This is Japan's memorial for the tomb of the unnamed soldier from World War 2, so that is kind of cool. Instead of having a guard at the memorial all the time, they just have Buddhist monks that say prayers and chant and stuff. Sometimes the culture here really frustrates me, and then other times it is cool to step back and appreciate the wonderful culture of the people that I am serving. This country is pretty dang neat." 

"This is Kiyomizudera or the temple of pure water and it is right in super ancient Japan"
Zone Conference

Monday, August 1, 2016

Return of the Gokiburi (Cockroaches) and the Doctrine of Christ: Nihon Week 21

Each week, Alyssa's letters never cease to amaze me.  The amount of growth and insight she offers in the Gospel has taught me so much.  I was especially touched by this thought she shared with me: 

Kind of an interesting experience from earlier this was after sort of a tiring and rough day and I was biking home. I thought to myself "I am not good enough to be here doing this" and the Spirit almost immediately shot back at me "No, you're not. And neither is your companion or anyone else doing this work." But then immediately after it dawned on me that it is impossible for me to try and do the work that the Savior did exactly as He did. Not only that, I will never be perfectly worthy to wear His name on my chest. But the Spirit really taught me in that instant that it is okay, because the Lord knew He was calling somebody imperfect. I am incredibly imperfect trying to do this perfect work, but He is going to help me every single step of the way. I do not have to be alone as long as I let Him help me through all of this! 
Life here is good. I am happy to be a missionary in this beautiful place with people that I love so much. As much as I miss you all terribly, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I know this is where I am supposed to be and I know this is where the Lord needs me, so how could things be better? 

Group Letter

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Hello again from the lovely city of Kyoto, where it is almost as
hot as the place where people will go unless we get to teach them our
message (jokes, jokes, jokes...but no is dang hot here)!
We had another great and busy week here in the Shimogamo area, and it
wasn't even slowed down one bit by the fact that the heat made us all
want to die a little bit, but it is okay because 7-11 sells 2 Liter
bottles of water that we have no shame in biking around with :)

The week started out super good with a super fun P day with my lovely
companion. We went to downtown Kyoto and went to the Disney store (I
walked in and "Soaring Over California" was playing on the speakers
and I almost cried) and other places, and then I went to a conveyor
belt sushi place for the first time and it was SO good. Japan has so
many quirky things about it, but I just love it all so much!
Tuesday was amazing! We had the great opportunity to have interviews
with our wonderful mission president, President Welch, and it was so
very amazing and so very needed. Every single time I speak with him my
testimony is just reaffirmed even stronger that he is called of God to
lead this mission, and revelation is REAL. He was able to offer me
counsel on some things that I had been wondering about or struggling
with that nobody else knew about besides the Lord, and I was just so
grateful that he had sought the spirit beforehand so that he could
know what to say and how to show that love from my Heavenly Father.
I started the interview with a prayer in Japanese and at the end of the
prayer he just gives me the biggest smile and compliments my Japanese
and says "I am so proud of you". It was just the fatherly comfort that
I had been needing, because sometimes Japanese still has a tendency to
stress me out, but it was so great. We had some amazing discussions
about the Shimogamo area, the Book of Mormon, and most importantly,
what I am doing to live and exercise the power of the atonement in my
personal live every single day. He told me that it all comes down to
living the doctrine of Christ to the fullest in every way we can. I
get up in the morning on time, exercise, and begin my studies, all
acting in faith that it is what I am supposed to do. I act in faith
when I open my mouth to the stranger on the street, or when I try and
extend a bold and loving commitment. I repent when I realize that the
next day I can improve even more, and try to be a better missionary,
companion, and person. I remember my baptismal covenants every time I
partake of the sacrament, and as I try and always remember Jesus
Christ. I use the gift of the Holy Ghost as I follow promptings to
help life the lives of those around me, and share the gospel with
someone who needs it. And then I endure to the end by doing it all
over again the next day and the next day and the next day. As we
talked about that, I realized how true it was, and how completely
amazing and profound it is as well. I can testify that if you want the
power of the atonement to flow more powerfully in your life, study 2
Nephi 31 and then find ways you can live the learned principles every
single day. I promise you your life will change and you will feel the
Spirit more abundantly, because I know it certainly has happened for

The rest of the week was great and a blur of visiting people and
teaching lessons and just trying to be the best missionaries that we
can be. We had a super solid lesson on Tuesday with our investigator
named Regine, who moved here from the Philippines not too long ago.
She shared with us some hard experiences that led her to have faith in
Christ, and then we were able to testify to her that through this
gospel, she will become closer to Him than she ever thought possible.
The Spirit was SO strong and we were all crying and sharing
experiences, and it was so uplifting. Moments like that always remind
me why I love being a missionary! We also had the chance to meet with
our investigator family, the Hirokawa's again! I love them so much,
they are so great. We were able to meet the 11 year old daughter, and
she is so stellar. She loves Christ so much and really desires to
follow Him, and once again I am just left in awe at the faith that a
child can have. No wonder Christ asks us to all become like them! We
extended the baptismal commitment and they aren't quite ready yet, but
think they will desire that for the family as they continue to learn
and come closer to Christ. So exciting!

Another funny story really quick....we had the return of the
cockroaches unfortunately. After Eikaiwa we were in this big room
talking with investigators, and me and this one elder see this
cockroach fly in and land on this guy's leg. We exchange this look but
didn't dare say anything, and then we look outside in the hall from
where it came from, and there were cockroaches flying around
everywhere! It was basically the stuff that nightmares are made of as
we went on this frantic cockroach massacre while all these other
people are just having this pleasant conversation inside the Eikaiwa
room. Goodness I love Japan, but I will NOT be sad to say goodbye to
the cockroaches!
It was just a super solid week for us here. Things are finally
starting to come together in our teaching rhythm and with
investigators and with getting to know the members. The Shimogamo Ward
is really so sweet, and I love being able to be here and serve with
them. We have had the chance to really work with some less actives and
see them come back to church, and in my mind, that is one of the most
rewarding things ever. Christ would do anything to go find that one
lost sheep, and trying to emulate Him in some small way in that aspect
of the work is just such a blessing.
I love being a missionary!

One final thought...yesterday before church I had the chance to have
some personal study and I felt prompted to study the atonement
chapters in the New Testament in preparation for the sacrament. As I
did so with that mindset, the experience became so special and
spiritual. When I actually took the sacrament, it was so sacred and
like a completely new experience. I feel so sad that I have missed out
on having that complete spiritual rebirth every Sunday, and I cannot
wait for it again next week! I encourage you all to do whatever you
can to prepare to take the sacrament each week, because if you enter
that meeting having repented and spiritually prepared, it will change
you and set you off on the right course for the rest of the week. That
much I can promise!

As always, thank you for all the love and the support and the prayers,
I definitely could not be doing it all without you. I know this work
is true, and I feel so blessed to be apart of it. I love serving my
mission in Japan, because I know this is where the Lord needs me to
be. This church is so true and I cannot wait to share that with
everyone I can!

Have an amazing week, everyone! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

Photos: We had the chance to go to Ginkakuji (the silver temple) for P
day today, and it was so fun, so enjoy some photo selections from that
and other various missionary life activities!

2 liter water saves the day. ( I have followed the weather app for Alyssa's area and it is no joke when she says it is hot.  Often times the 90's temps plus 90% humidity puts the real feel at 108+ degrees.  Good thing she doesn't melt).

"There were some Peruvian flute dudes the other day, and so I got
to pretend I was serving a Spanish mission for like two seconds.

 Here is a song that is an excerpt from one of the new Meet The Mormons movies.  The story is about 4 siblings from Tokyo Japan that are Entertainers in the music industry.  They have found a way to balance their careers and still maintain their values and Christian beliefs.  This story is especially touching to me since these are people that Alyssa loves and is currently serving.