Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Earthquakes are Fun: Nihon Week 33

I am very grateful for the Lord's protection over his missionaries.  We received this email last week before we even knew there had been an earthquake:

Dear Parents,
There has been 6+ magnitude earthquake with the epicenter near the city of Kurayoshi which is in the Japan Kobe Mission.  This email is to let you know that all the missionaries in the earthquake affected area are accounted for and safe.  The Sisters in the Kurayoshi area have reported aftershocks but all is well.  There is no tsunami warning
We are grateful for God's continual guidance and protection in our lives!
President and Sister Welch
Thank heavens for good news and a wonderful Mission President that keeps us informed.

I am also struck once again by the sacrifices of our missionaries.  It is so hard out doing what they are doing day to day.  I read about Alyssa's discouragements and the rejection she faces every day and my mother's heart feels for her.  And many of her dear friends are out in the world as well doing the same thing every day.  I know they have each had their trials and frustrations as well.  And yet they are so amazing and so strong.  I have been so impressed with their positive attitudes and the ability to find the Lord's tender mercies every day.  I have much to learn from these strong and valiant young people.  The work is in good hands.

Group Email:

Minasan, konnichiwa!
Another busy busy week gone by for us here in Shimogamo, and as missionaries when we are busy, we are happy! Can't even believe that Halloween is in a week from today, especially because that means I have to come up with a costume by Saturday for the ward party..haha stayed tuned next week to hear how that one turns out!
This week really was special though, we saw a lot of tender mercies and small miracles and I couldn't be more grateful to be laboring in this part of the Lord's vineyard to have the chance to witness them all.

Last Monday for P day was amazing because we did nothing...seriously I just put on sweats and emailed and relaxed and it was so needed, because it was basically the first chill P day I have had since coming to Kyoto! So very needed because I was dead haha. After P day ended we went out and did some street contacting and weren't able to find any new investigators, but it was still great as always to be able to share the beautiful message of the gospel.

Tuesday was super good also! We went and did service for this one investigator (once again we were the elders quorum and had to move a bunch of boxes and carry heavy bags of clothes places, and that was interesting because my companion is TINY and so I was trying to take all this stuff and pretend like I am all American and tough and am really way pathetically weak, but hey it ended up okay), and then streeted around her place. We met this super cool college student and had a great contact and were able to give her a Book of Mormon...she said she was too busy to meet again, but she really had interest in the BOM and so we gave her our contact info and hope to hear from her soon! This work has a lot of planting of seeds in it, which admittedly is sometimes really annoying for me, because I hate gardening haha, but really it is just allowing me to try and put more faith in the Lord's timeline than my own.

Wednesday was super strange haha. It was one of those days where we had a bunch of plans but then they all fell through and it just had a weird vibe like we were supposed to be somewhere and do something but we weren't sure finally all started to fall into place in the later afternoon when we first met this super genki old grandma by the river and had a great contact with her...she doesn't live in our area but we gave her a BOM and she was way pumped to read it and was just super hilarious. She was like 90 or something and was SUPER hard to understand, but she kept randomly smacking my stomach and was probably commenting on my fat (thanks a lot, Japanese bread and rice), but she was just too funny. Lucky for the missionaries that will get to teach her in their area.

That night we were also led to go and visit these former investigators named the Tanaka's...they were former shiganshas but dropped before their baptismal date because their daughter was hantai, but we dropped by to see if we could meet them and they happened to just walk in the door and we were able to teach them and open the correspondence for teaching them again. Small miracles! Super cute little grandma and grandpa, we will see how they do seeing as they have forgotten almost everything!

Thursday was a day of big tender mercies for me. I was feeling SO down. It hit me that I have been in Shimogamo for almost four months and have been a part of finding like 2 investigators that actually are somewhat solid and learn....I was just really really struggling and feeling like a complete failure and it was weighing on me the entire day as I worked. Every rejection just started to hurt worse and worse and I was honestly on the brink of tears like all day. On our way to our last appointment of the night, I was just praying so hard to Heavenly Father that He would help lead us to someone who we could teach...I was praying so fervently and just needed a miracle. We get to the piano center where we are gonna teach our Piano grandma Tanaka, and see she is talking to this girl. Next thing we know, she tells us that this girl is coming to our lesson with us too. We were super confused, but were all like "Okay, whatevs" and so we went in there and taught the Plan of Salvation. This girl is 25 and a medical student at Kyoto University, and her name is Rika. She is WAY sweet and actually knows the missionaries because when she was little, she went to Eikaiwa all the way up in Saitama. She loved the lesson and had interest in coming to church and exchanged info to meet again....I was just so blown away. Finding her had NOTHING to do with our own efforts, but God in His infinite mercy reached out to me on one of my lowest days of the mission, and delivered a little miracle. I know He heard and answered my prayers, and I cant be grateful enough that He cared enough to answer. We have a new investigator!

Friday and Saturday we had kokkans in Fushimi! I had the chance to work with the lovely Luczak Shimai, and it was so fun. She is such a beast missionary and I think in our 24 hours together we taught like 31 lessons. It was crazy but I learned so much and had such a great time. We also got to go run to Fushimi Inari in the morning, and it was BEAUTIFUL.

ALSO. That day we were standing outside this appointment complex exchanging contact info with this lady, and all of our phones started freaking out....haha once again it was the earthquake alarm. We had like 20 seconds and then all of the sudden everything just starts moving and it was the weirdest sensation. Luczak Shimai and I just look at each other and have no clue what to do, but the Japanese were not concerned by it in the least and just kept chatting even though the bikes were swaying and the ground was kind of like jelly. It wasn't that big and everything was okay, but it was seriously the weirdest sensation. Can't even imagine how scary a bigger one would be!

Saturday and Sunday were just super good days of working hard to baptize everyone. Did a lot of contacting and finding and met some cool people who will be coming to Eikaiwa and hopefully the Halloween party this weekend. Ended out the week with some great numbers and some great PI's and tender mercies. Love missionary work. 

One final thought...been reading in the Book of Mormon and came across these verses in 2 Nephi 21 this week:
6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

Out of context, these verses might seem kind of random, but you need to keep in mind that I have been reading and studying everything through the lens of the atonement. The verses before and after are talking about Christ, and then I read these verses and realized something really profound. Before when I read these verses I always just thought "Woohoo, all the animals are gonna be nice when Jesus comes, yes!" But then I realized it has a much deeper me these verses show that the atonement has the power to change even the very NATURE of creatures. The atonement has many aspects to it...cleansing, strengthening, empowering...but the one that has stuck out to me the most lately it is the power it has to change. As we use the atonement, we truly can change to become saints. We can go from being ravenous wolves to being tame like sheep, we can go from being natural men to someone who can one day be worthy to live with our perfect father again. Isn't the atonement just incredible?

I love you all so much and hope you have a great week. Remember that this gospel is true and that it is everything :) Aishiteimasu, minasan!

Sister Pickering

P.S. These photos range from today's P day adventure to Gion Michi and this random park and shrine, me eating Takoyaki (which is basically octopus pancake balls and is so dang good), and then just random dendo photos. Enjoy :)


The weather is finally turning cooler.  So time for hot chocolate.

Octopus Pancake Balls!?


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

DENDO GO: Nihon Week 32

Hibiki Chan and Pickering Shimai doing street contacting in Osaka

 This has been a fabulous week.  Especially on my receiving end.  Alyssa was able to write so much this week and really fulfilled a "mother's need to know" about the details of her physical and emotional well being.  On top of that, she was able to give me some solid advice and perspective on an issue that has really been troubling me for the past while.  How she got so wise beyond her years, I just don't know.  But she was an answer to my prayers.

And, I was contacted by not one but two different individuals that had the opportunity to meet and interact with Alyssa this past week.  I received a surprise text with a picture and a story and also an email, also with pictures.  I didn't expect that to happen with her being so far away.  But it was amazing to hear from someone else's perspective about how Alyssa is doing and the type of missionary she has become.  They touched my heart.  I especially loved hearing about how Alyssa was an answer to someone's prayers.  We often talk with her about missionary service and how so much of it can not be measured.  There are hundreds of ways to act as a representative of Christ and do his work.  And most of it won't translate into baptisms.  But that is okay.  That is not what is important.  It is about the people you serve and being an instrument in the Lord's hands.  She was a specific answer to someone's prayer.  She was blessed for listening to the Spirit.  They were blessed because she helped them.  I was blessed because they then shared this experience with me.  And I was reminded of what I could be doing in my own little world.  Isn't it wonderful how much God is aware of each of us?  It truly is amazing.

I have included the those messages from those thoughtful members here in the blog:

10/6, 6:22am

Kristin! I met your darling daughter tonight in Kyoto. We were meeting a family my brother taught on his mission and she is in the Ward now so came along with her new companion to help translate. Her Japanese is amazing, and she is so adorable and sweet! I told her I'd pass along this picture.

10/6, 6:22am

10/6, 6:23am

She got her new companion, Sister Fujii today. I am from Farmington, Utah and live in Shanghai right now. My parents are visiting us so we are in Kyoto. I'm sure my mom will email you when she gets home.

Sister Pickering - serving in Tokyo!

The Bulletin Board in the Kyoto Ward 
The lovely couple who Alyssa met and helped with translation at church

Group Email:

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

This week was so so so so busy..but so good! I have to shout out my
amazing companion Fujii Shimai, because she is seriously such a
trooper. I dragged her around like a crazy woman this week as we biked
all over Kyoto and tried to teach everything that moved and most of
the time ended up with dinner at like 9:30 at night, but she never
once complained or did anything other than be cute and helpful. I feel
very blessed to be serving with her at this time!

Monday after P day we had some plans fall through and so we decided to
go do some streeting on one of the busier roads (we need new
investigators so badly, it isn't even funny), and it was super great.
Didn't meet anybody who really wanted to meet again, but we added some
new students to our Eikaiwa class (which means that we are basically
going to end up baptizing them someday whether they like it or not).
Kind of a funny story happened to us like the last contact of the
night...there is this super funny poster here for governmental
elections thing and it just cracks me up and so I have always wanted
to take a picture of it. I told Fujii Shimai and she said okay, and so
we finally saw one heading home and she pointed it out to me and so I
was excited and then said "You know we are probably gonna meet someone
golden by this poster" and then lol, we actually contacted this
Vietnamese girl who really wanted to have religion and some hope in
her life, so we were able to exchange information and make a plan to
meet again! It was just funny because I know the Lord has a sense of
humor, because we see it in the work all the time.

Tuesday was great because we were able to make the rounds to some
members and really focus on receiving some referrals...people here are
super super nervous to refer their friends to the missionaries and so
we have been working super hard to overcome their fears and barriers
and get to the point where we can have some people to teach. A lot of
the members were super great and showed a lot of faith and were
willing to tell us about some of their friends and family members, and
we have some plans in the future to go and visit these people
together! So exciting!

Wednesday was another day of visiting lots of members and then finding
in any spare moment we had. We had similar results and success to the
day before, so that was super happy! At one point we were in this
apartment complex and wanted to house one apartment...Fujii Shimai and
I both had the feeling that we should go to the 7th building and house
there and we did, and were very solidly rejected...until the 6th floor
and the last door. We were able to meet this lady and teach her and
give her a Book of Mormon, and overall it was a super great contact
and I know we were led to her. Now before you get all excited and
think that we were just like super cool and the example of Elder
Uchtdorf's recent talk from Women's Conference, you should know that
we started at the top of the building and worked our way down haha.
But it was still super cool! You never know where you will find

Thursday was super happy because the promptings of the Spirit were
evident all throughout our day, whether it be random people to contact
on the street, or the order of which to visit members, or other things
like that...we were so led to be where we needed to be at the times we
needed to be there. It was so neat and I love those days where we are
able to feel His hand in the work. The best part of the day though was
where Tanaka San, our piano grandma, became a progressing
investigator! She is praying and feels good when she does and loves
the chance she has to learn from us. She is still super nervous about
coming to church and so that is our next goal, but she is doing so
well! We gave her a Book of Mormon and she is reading and likes it a
lot, and has a crush on Moroni and so has read his whole book and had
a dream about him the other night haha. She is a funny lady but has
such a good heart and is slowly making her way to conversion.

Friday was the first district meeting of the transfer, and it was so
great. As a district we received the revelation and made the goal to
hand out 100 Book of Mormons collectively this will be
a stretch with only six of us, but we felt guided to make the goal and
so we are working hard and excited to see those miracles!

SATURDAY WAS THE BEST DAY EVER! We had the chance to go to Ibaraki in
Osaka to be a part of this activity called "Dendou Go", which was
basically a spin off for the youth and YSA of Pokemon Go, and it was
all about missionary work! All of the youth came and got badges and
then went on splits with a real missionary and did some dendo in the
city for a while. It was basically the happiest day for many reasons.
For starters, it was a day of AMAZING reunions. For the first time in
5 months I saw some sisters from the MTC, and one of them was Park
Shimai who is one of my best friends ever, and we liked screamed and
cried when we saw each other haha. Then, I saw my MOM! I was reunited
with Kenney Shimai for the first time since saying goodbye in June in
Yamatokoriyama, and that was so fun. I love her so much! Then all the
youth started coming in....and I almost fell out of my chair when I
saw that youth from my last area were coming in too! It was so so
happy to see the youth from Yamatokoriayama and to be able to work
with them again! And then tender mercy of all tender mercies, we had
companionship announcements and I was paired to work with Hibiki Chan,
a YW from the area that we had spent a lot of time working with. We
had such a great experience and taught a lot of lessons and saw a lot
of small miracles, and were able to place a Book of Mormon (place to
iu ka, I basically took away this lady's agency and made her take the
book, because the dendo dreams of this 17 year old rested on this
contact haha) the last contact of the day, because that was the one
thing Hibiki Chan really wanted to do. It was just such a special day
and I felt so much EXCITEMENT and fire abut missionary work again.

Welch Kaicho came and gave some training in the morning, and of course
that was amazing too. He told all the youth that going on a mission is
easy...but becoming a missionary is what is difficult. That really
stuck with me, and it has inspired me once again to focus on the
missionary that God needs me to be. At the end of the 2 hours we all
had to be working out in the city, they gathered us back together and
told us that in a little under 120 minutes, that 40 companionships had
had 553 gospel conversations, had given out 592 fliers, 46 Book of
Mormons, borne 306 testimonies, and found 12 new investigators. WOW.
The power of working with members in missionary work is REAL.

Sunday was insane, but so good. I ended up translating for almost all
of the 3 hours and that was always an adventure, but the Spirit was
there helping me every step of the way. I had the chance to translate
for this couple in sacrament, and they were so sweet because as they
were leaving after the meeting they thanked me so graciously and told
me that that morning they had prayed for the gift of tongues so that
they could understand the meeting...they just smiled at me and told me
that I had been the answer to their prayers that morning and I was
their gift of tongues. It touched me so much and made me super
emotional as I was once again just SO grateful to be here and to be a
vessel for His work.

Okay finally last thought (I am sorry, I type WAY too much haha, I
probably just have so much English I want to say now that I only am
speaking Japanese again!)..last night we had a broadcast devotional
with Elder Bednar, and it was fabulous. He spoke about so many things
that were so incredible, but there was one thing that impacted me a
lot that I wanted to share. He talked about how life can be hard and
complicated and we have lots of lists of things that we need to do,
and sometimes we wonder how on earth we can do it all and what even
matters...he said that if we ask ourselves ONE question, our lives
will become instantly more simple and better and more worthy...the
question was "Will this behavior, action, or attitude invite the
Spirit into my life? Or will it cause it to withdraw?" Such a simple
question, but SO profound. If we truly pondered that question before
we did anything, we would never have to wonder about gray areas or
what we should is outlined so simply.
He said that everything
we do in the church (i.e. Praying, reading the BOM, going to church,
etc.) is meant for the promoting of bringing the Spirit into our
lives, because as we have the Spirit, we will do things and live in a
way that will bring us home to our Father in Heaven someday. Such a
simple question, such a simple principle, but through simple things
are great things brought to pass. I know that that is so true, and it
is definitely something I am going to be applying, and I would like to
invite you all to do the same as well!

Thanks as always for all the love and the being a
missionary! This church is true. Love being here in Japan to share it!

Have a wonderful week! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. Shoutout the Webster family for helping our apartment become all
suteki and ready to go for Halloween!

A political advertisement for the future Prime Minister
Halloween decorations courtesy of the Webster Family

Still can't believe that Alyssa can read this stuff

Exchanges with the Youth

Reunited with her trainer.
MTC Reunion
Even I can read that  Japanese "Finger Lickin Good"

These were Alyssa's words, "Oh Japan what are you doing?"  Apparently you can get chocolate and pumpkin covered French fries at McDonalds.

Fall in Kyoto

Yamatokoriyama Youth

Monday, October 10, 2016

Shimogamo Round 3, Nihonjin Round 2: Nihon Week 31

Minasan, Konnichiwa!
Well you probably could guess my current life situation based on my
cleverly titled email....I am here in Shimogamo for a third transfer,
and I am blessed to be serving with my second Japanese companion! Her
name is Fujii Shimai and she is from Hokkaido, Japan (kind of near
where the new temple was recently dedicated), and she is such a
sweetheart. Honestly she is just like a little ray of sunshine, and I
don't know if I have ever met someone with such a kind and pure heart.
She is a great missionary and I am excited for all the miracles that
we will see together in this upcoming transfer!
My last few days with Folkman Shimai were super great (and hard,
because either one of us was prone to crying anytime we thought about
the fact she was leaving haha), and we saw a lot of tender mercies as
usual. We were pretty busy between getting her packed and doing normal
dendo and then visiting some last members really quick before the
transfer, but it was cool. Kind of a funny thing that happened was on
the train on like Tuesday...I was sitting next to this lady and had no
idea how to start talking to her because she was like super into her
phone, and so I decided to compliment her bracelet. Before I even know
what is happening she is taking it offer her wrist and shoving it into
my hands and telling me I could have it despite all my insistences and
pleadings, and then suddenly she darts out the door at the next stop
like 2 seconds later. I was left there so confused and Folkman Shimai
thought it was hilarious that as I tried to dendo this lady, I instead
indeed up with this super nice rose quartz bracelet. Japanese people
are WAY too nice, they are gonna kill me, I swear haha.
Also side note, Kyoto in the fall is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. The weather
is perfect and the leaves are changing and I am just feeling way too
blessed to be here. For the first time in forever I wore long sleeves
and it felt good haha. Crazy how fast time is flying!
Thursday rolled around and I had to say goodbye to my best friend at
the eki and it was so hard...but Folkman Shimai will be the greatest
STL so it will be okay. Tears were shed but it is all good because we
know we will be together again soon and up to our crazy antics as
usual. Much later that afternoon, Fujii Shimai came in and so we
headed out and started the new transfer!
Thursday night we had a special experience because this family in the
ward (the Ishida's, love them to death) called and asked us to come to
dinner with them. The parents of the missionary that baptized them
were coming to Japan, and they wanted to eat and talk together, but
neither one of them could speak the other language....and so I went
and translated! Let me tell you that the gift of tongues is real
because I got through the entire evening without a hitch...and it was
such a neat experience. The Spirit was so tender and sweet as Ishida
Shimai and Kyodai shared their love and experiences and gratitude for
this elder in helping them to find the truth nine years ago and now
their kids are able to be raised in the gospel, and this American
couple was so sweet and grateful to see the fruits of their sons
labor. It was just such a tender night all around, and such a great
reminder of the eternal perspective of missionary work. Most of the
time results are not immediate, but the lasting ones are of eternal
The next day we hit the ground running and taught some solid lessons
and did some solid finding in search of the ONE who will be success that day but we know that God is simply waiting
for us to keep showing that we are willing to work until we find this
person! That evening we got together with the elders and did some
service for this lady in the ward and I wore pants and dug a hole and
it was way more fun than it probably should have been haha.
it just so wonderful? The Spirit you feel as a missionary during and
for conference isn't really describable...once again I cried at the
conclusion of the conference just because I didn't want that Spirit to
go away...but then I was instantly uplifted as I thought that we
should be seeking to live our lives in a way that would allow us to
feel that all the time. Once again before conference I wrote down and
prayed fervently to find the answers to certain questions I had been of the questions I had asked God was "Why am I in
Japan?" Don't get me wrong, I love my mission and this country and
culture and language and people...but it can be hard sometimes and I
am imperfect and human and I struggle. I just wanted to know why the
Lord needed me HERE. You can imagine my surprise when Elder Yamashita
got up and spoke about being Ambitious for Christ, and that EXACT
question came out of his mouth at the pulpit...I immediately started
to cry as the Spirit gave me the answers that I had been desperately
seeking. Seriously, what are the odds that my exact question was to be
stated during conference about the EXACT same place from the mouth of
a Japanese general authority? I will be the first to tell you that the
chances of that being an accident are zero. I know that these men are
called of God, and that as we listen to conference and restudy what we
learned, we will receive personal revelation. God knows us and hears
us and is PERSONALLY aware of each and every one of us. I have
absolutely not qualms about testifying of that reality, because I know
it is true.
ALSO! This was so crazy! These three college students just showed up
to the church and watched conference and now want to read the Book of
Mormon and take lessons..we were so blown away! This one girl is
totally golden and really wants to learn and meet with us, and we are
so excited. The Lord is way too merciful....we haven't been finding
many people on our own, but He has seen our efforts and is blessing us
abundantly. Truly on the mission, the miracles never cease.
Sunday night we had the chance to go to dinner with the Mizoguchi
family, and there was a family visiting from NZ that we were supposed
to meet and help guide at 6:30...the time rolls around and
nothing...nothing...finally it is 7 and we have heard nothing from
them and are now going to be super late. Fujii Shimai and I, somewhat
disgruntled hop on our bikes and start to leave, but then I had the
strongest impression to go back and write a note for them. Honestly I
was annoyed haha, I didn't want to bike back to the church and then
leave a note they probably wouldn't see, and be even more late. But,
the impression wasn't ignorable so we turned around and went back. The
second we got off our bikes and started writing the note, our phone
started buzzing and we were able to make contact with the family that
had gotten terribly lost. This experience is silly and seemingly
simple, but if we hadn't followed that prompting, we would have left
them behind because I definitely would not have heard the phone. So
grateful for the promptings of the Spirit that will always lead us to
do good and be good!
One final thought before I peace out...I was pondering conference and
the very specific question came to my mind "If you aren't going to
change, what was the point of listening?" I knew in that moment that I
had changes I needed to make in my dendo to help further the work of
the Lord, and if I wasn't willing to act on what I learned, my faith
was in vain. I would just like to extend the same invitation to all of
you. If you don't change based on what you heard and learned at
conference, what was the point of listening? I know the Spirit gave
you some promptings of how you can better improve and become more like
our Savior, so now it is up to you to get out there and do it!
I know this church is true. God lives and loves us. Christ died for
us, and He knows us all personally. We have a living prophet today,
and if we heed him, we will never go astray. It's true, all of it, I
Hope you all have an amazing week! Aishiteimasu!
Sister Pickering
P.S. Shoutout to my amazing family for overwhelming me in love and
packages this week as I hit my halfway mark....y'all are the best!
Alyssa's new companion Fujii Shimai