Monday, January 30, 2017

Last Week of Transfer 8?:Nihon Week 47

I asked Alyssa how she approaches people on the street and starts talking to them about Christ.  I was curious how they do missionary work in such a predominantly non-Christian country.  This was her reply:

So it is really funny, but it is actually hard for me to teach Christians now. I am so used to the Buddhists or the people who don't believe in anything, and so now when somebody says they believe in Christ it kind of throws me off and I am awkward for a second haha. It is really interesting, but what is also interesting is that I am finding I like teaching the Buddhists more. They are always kind and usually open to other religions (whether or not they accept it is another story), but they are always kind to us and will at least listen. Other Christians I have come in contact with are not always the same...they are sometimes a little unkind and whatnot, so now I am team Buddhist. Most people have at least HEARD of Christ here from like history class, so we usually ask them what they have heard and build off of that. I LOVE testifying of Christ and teaching Him in the first lesson, it is always so powerful and brings miracles. We do a lot of connecting people to their ancestors and the good feelings they have in nature to God. We connect prayer to their chants at shrines and whatnot and really just try to add on to what they believe. Sometimes it is tricky, but it is really so cool. 

Minasan, konnichiwa!

Hello again from another great week here in Sakai! It was pretty usual
here for us in that we froze to death, had an earthquake, and saw tons
of miracles. Missionary life is seriously the best!

So Monday after we had to help the elders look up a bunch of medical
kanji (one of them got an eye infection, that was fun), we went out to
go and visit one of our progressing investigators and she opened the
door and after we talked she went back into her house and brought back
the Book of Mormon and told us that she couldn't take it anymore
because her culture was "too different" and all this stuff. We begged
with her and plead and did everything we could to try and help her see
the importance for her and her life and I was using every persuasive
tactic I had, but she wasn't having it. My heart was absolutely
crumbling the entire time and when she shut the door on us, we just
walked back to our bikes, not sure what to do....and then all of the
sudden I just started crying and couldn't stop. I kept apologizing to
my companion because I felt like I was losing my mind and I didn't
know why I was so upset, but then it just hit me how I have changed.
My love and charity for these people have grown so much, and my love
for this gospel has grown even more. For even just a second it gave me
a glimpse into what God must feel like when we choose to reject His
words and His gospel, when He knows how much they will bless us. Godly
sorrow is an interesting thing, it is a hard thing to feel, but it is
also beautiful to know how much God cares for us, and yet how much His
hope for us will never die.

Tuesday and Wednesday were busy as usual, working hard and just trying
to baptize everyone haha. We have been working hard a lot with the
members lately, and it has been fun because we have been going
together to visit LA's and then work with the young women that are
preparing for missions. I love the Japanese members so much, I know I
say it all the time, but they are honestly just the best.

Thursday we got up bright and early (4AM baby) to head to Wakayama! We
were doing a blitz of the sisters areas and so we got together with
all the sisters in the zone to go out and work! It was way fun because
I went on exchanges with my trainee and then Sister Gusman, a sister I
actually was in the MTC with. She is way cute and we saw lots of
miracles in her area while we worked! That night it was basically just
a party to be in the same apartment with all the sisters in Sakai
zone, I love all of them so much!

Also fun thing that happened while we were in Wakayama...we had the
chance to watch this world wide missionary broadcast! It was awesome
to receive training from some members of the 12 and other general
authorities as they talked about the importance of really teaching
REPENTANCE. One of my favorite things in the world that Elder Bednar
said is that when we cry Repentance as missionaries, we are really
just crying the need for a Savior
. What a beautiful message to share
with the world! It was also interesting because they released some new
changes which basically allow us to have more sleep and exercise time
and choose when we was so crazy and I feel so disobedient
sometimes as I have time to actually relax now haha, but it was meant
for our productivity and I know it was inspired. I already feel so
much more energized and ready to get out and work, which is awesome
because missionary work makes me so exhausted haha. Another change we
had is that we now only send in four key indicators now! Baptisms,
church attendance, Baptismal dates, and new investigators. It was
interesting and kind of stressful to think about the implications at
first, but I also know how inspired it is. It has already changed my
entire way of how I dendo and how I approach contacts, and we have
seen miracles. We are being blessed with people to teach, and I can't
wait to see how Sakai is going to continue to flourish! God is so

Something I have really been pondering lately is how much I love
bearing testimony of Christ and working here as His special witness.
We had two experiences this week, one in finding where I bore
testimony of the Savior to this lady and the Spirit was just
overwhelming and she just started to cry and she didn't know
why...another time we were working with this LA who is really
struggling with her life and her testimony and we just were able to
testify of the atonement and the Savior and the love in the room was
tangible. It is just so special to bear testimony of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ, because the Spirit will inevitably always bear
witness of that eternal truth. One of my favorite things in the world
is to bear testimony and promise blessings as a disciple of Jesus
Christ, and the idea of not being able to say that or have this name
tag anymore just breaks my heart. I might just stay here forever.

In other random events or news...our investigators are doing well.
Everyone is progressing, slowly but surely, but progressing. We are
finding new people to teach, our LA's are coming home, and the
miracles and tender mercies are everywhere. We also had another
earthquake on Friday night (it was like normal to me and I continued
on in life, but my companion freaked out and was way pumped haha), and
a well-off member took us to dinner and dropped like 300 bucks on us to
eat meat with the elders. All in a weeks work haha.

Lastly I just wanted to share my thoughts with you all on the doctrine
of I study the BOM I just keep learning more and more and
love it more and more. I have truly come to know that the goal of our
lives should be to live the doctrine of Christ daily, and as we do, we
should strive to let it CHANGE us. As Elder Bednar beautifully put it
this week "Faith is believing in the Savior, Repentance is relying on
the Savior, Baptism is following the Savior, and enduring to the end
is walking with the Savior...all things are gathered together in
I invite you all to read 2 Nephi 31 this week and see what
you can learn and apply for yourself!

I love the Savior more than I can even describe. More and more He
becomes everything to me, because I know that He is with me every
single step of my mission and every single step of my life! He lives!
He lives and He loves us and because He does, we can all live and be
with our loved ones as well. So so blessed to be hear wearing His name
and introducing Him to my brothers and sisters here in Japan.

Hope you all have a wonderful week and that you keep the Savior more
in your life! All the love in the world to you all! Aishiteimasu

Sister Pickering

Weather problems
Our investigator named Shyouko! She is precious and loves prayer
and is progressing way well
Goat dendo
Exchanges in Wakayama!
Snowy days
P Day in Namba
Eikaiwa class

Monday, January 23, 2017

17(+) Miracles: Nihon Week 46

Minasan, konnichiwa!

First of all, ignore that I accidentally resent the same email from
last time is short and so my fingers are flying everywhere
and technology hates me, so Gomen ne!

I want to share a few miracles with you this week! First of all let me
just say that God is so so good...this week we were literally showered
in blessings and tender mercies from our Heavenly Father and I really
can't even number them all or adequately describe them, especially
with the shortness of time I have. But God is real and He answers
prayers, that is one promise I can make with certainty.

So it was Tuesday and we were in the process of dropping one of our
investigators who just wasn't progressing anymore...before we could
talk she insisted that we needed to go to some cafe and we went and
ended up wandering around for like an hour because all these places
were randomly closed but she was not backing down and I was just
pleading with God forgiveness for wasting His time and begging there
to be a reason for this whole scheduling mess. We FINALLY find this
one cafe and we walk in and this lady who owns it starts talking to us
and ends up being this boss who has a Christian family and a desire to
learn English and so wanted to meet with us and learn about the church
AND get English help! She is so cute and crazy prepared and she came
to Eikaiwa and then we dropped by her shop again last week and taught
her again and she is awesome. I can't wait to keep teaching her, her
name is Hisako and she was truly such a miracle! I was so glad that
Heavenly Father put her in our path as we were trying to be obedient!

Okay so now it is Tuesday night and almost returning time...we went to
go and visit this less active and she was blatantly ignoring us. It
was freezing and I was discouraged and didn't know what to do. We
walked down to our bikes and then all of the sudden we see this
apartment complex and I know we need to go there...but our time was
way sketchy and so we knew we NEEDED to teach or we would be late.
Well we bike super quickly over to the apartment and pray and long
story short, we end up with this "4th Floor, Last Door" experience
we found this 80 year old grandma named Fujioka Shimai who is just
PRECIOUS. She was so prepared and has such an open and sweet heart and
accepted the Book of Mormon and has been reading it to find the
questions of the soul she has been needing about the Plan of
Salvation. SUCH A MIRACLE! I was just so so grateful to our Heavenly
Father for leading us to her, as she can meet almost daily and is now
progressing and is doing awesome. Goodness I love being a missionary.

This weekend we had Stake Conference and were blessed to hear from the
Welch couple, our local leaders, and Elder Aoba of the 70. Such great
meetings and we were blessed to have Investigators and so many less
actives come! They were so uplifted and it filled my heart to be in a
room with so many people I love. My favorite part was when Welch
Shimai got up and bore her testimony in Japanese (and she speaks
literally NO Japanese) and the Spirit was SO strong I just cried. I
know the language of the Spirit has no barriers, and what a blessing
that is for us out here with all our minimal skills. The Spirit will
teach everything, we just need to let Him.

Really quick, our faith and repentance Book of Mormon challenge is
amazing, and I learn so much everyday. One theme that I have really
noticed lately is that a natural result of our faith in Repentance is
ALWAYS a manifestation of the Lord in our ways. I don't always know
how and I know it will be different for everyone, but I know that to
be true. I know He loves us and that He wants to be involved, and as
we seek him in faith and try our best to repent, we won't be able to
stop the manifestations of His love and His atonement in our lives. I
know I see that here EVERY single day.

I love this gospel so much, and I promise that it is true! Christ
lives and He loves you, rely on Him and everything will be okay.
Sorry this is sporadic and crazy...just know I am happy and alive and
well and can't wait to see a million other miracles that the Lord has
in store for us here in Sakai. Aishiteimasu minasan!

Sister Pickering

Photos: ZTM and we had exchanges and Smith Shimai and I with our new
investigator, Hisako!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas: Nihon Week 45

Alyssa had another fantastic week and her biggest concern is whether or not her fingers and toes will freeze off because of the freezing cold humidity.  She would take the super hot summer (remember it melted their bike tires) over this weather.  I am super impressed that she is persevering and finding success.  It is so great to see her growth week to week.

Minasan, konnichiwa!

Not that long ago, somebody asked me what the scariest thing I have
seen on my mission is. I am pretty sure I just recalled some
experience and gave it offhandedly, but upon reflection I have come to
the conclusion that by FAR the scariest thing on my mission is how
fast time goes. Is it seriously already Monday again?

Okay so now to explain the email title because I am so excited I can't
even wait! The other day it was FREEZING (like I am wearing two layers
of tights, gloves, adhesive heat pads, hand warmers, fuzzy socks,
cardigans, a winter coat and a scarf covering my face like every
single day now haha, who knew I would actually be serving in Siberia),
and then out of nowhere I see some suspicious white stuff start
falling from the sky...I wait a sec and think it is probably something
else...but then it continues and you better believe it was actually
SNOW! I was so excited! Haha it was pretty pathetic, just like a few
cute little flakes here and there, but it was the first time I have
seen snow in Japan and so I was STOKED. It didn't stick or anything
which was a disappointment, but I was just happy to say I could see
it. Then today we go on a P day adventure to Osaka and lo and behold,
it starts snowing again, but this time like legit flakes. I was so
happy, I have missed a good old Utah winter. Merry Christmas to me!

Anyways, this week was super good for us here in Sakai! We worked
super hard, received a lot of revelation, and saw a TON of
miracles...all while trying not to freeze to death on our bikes! We
actually have started making daily goals to not complain about the
cold, because I am sure it is building character or something. The sad
thing is that it is a little harder to contact people in this type of
weather because people don't really want to talk, but I am sure that
we will and are receiving blessings for our efforts here.

Training is so much fun! Epperson Shimai is doing great and it is
seriously such a joy to watch her grow as a missionary and increase in
confidence and excitement about the work. She has been doing awesome
talking to people on her own and trying to share the gospel. She is
learning lots and has improved tons and I know she will bless this
area and this mission so much. So proud of her and all that she is

Monday night we saw a cool blessing from following PMG exactly. We had
received a referral and so we went to go and visit them and it was
kind of far and out of the way, so we're understandably disappointed
when they couldn't meet with us. Not sure of what to do with an
awkward amount of time, we remembered that it told us in PMG to ALWAYS
go finding around referrals you receive, because you never know who
you are being led to. We decided to do some housing (I am still
awkward and not good at it by the way haha) and weren't having any
success, but the last house we decided to hit up RIGHT next to the
referral ended up being this Christian lady who loves church and
Christ and stuff and was way impressed with us as missionaries and
wanted us to come back. Hurray for obedience!

Wednesday we had Eikaiwa! Super fun as always, especially because my
class lately has exploded and now involves me running around for an
hour trying to teach 7 adults who speak like no English to so-so
English on top of wrangling 5 energetic little boys between the ages
of 4 and 9. They are cute but I have my hands full! Shoutout to Moms
everywhere for doing what you do.
But after Eikaiwa was cool because
we had a former investigator show up and ask us to come and teach us
and his family again, as well as the news that one of our other
investigators is reading the Book of Mormon! Slowly but surely people
are making progress here.

Thursday was super special because we had the opportunity to have a
General 70 come and do a mission tour! We went to Abeno in Osaka with
the Osaka and Kyoto zones again and got to have a day of wonderful
conferences with the Welches and Sister and Elder Whiting. The
revelation was amazing and so real! I walked away with so much
revelation and things I want to improve, it was crazy. We talked about
spiritual erosion, and the importance of doing the little things in
the gospel in order to always remain strong, we talked about grace and
the enabling power of the atonement that makes good men better, and we
talked a TON about recognizing the Spirit in our lives and letting it
change us for better.
It was seriously so special. At one point he
also opened the meeting up for Q&A and that was neat, because I had
come with personal questions and he somehow managed to answer every
single one of them without me opening my mouth once. Heavenly Father
is just so cool. One of the things that he said that I loved was in
regards to how we should dendo and treat our members...he quoted the
prophet Joseph Smith and said that if we all as members were doing our
job right, our chapels would smell like smoke and all sorts of things
as it is full of people trying to overcome. I loved that lots, are we
helping make the church a place where we all as sinners can go to be
Another thing I absolutely loved (Okay so I loved like all of
it) was simply "How blessed you are to be have a God that
loves you, a Savior that redeemed you, and the Holy Ghost that wants
to guide blessed you are to be you." Seriously everyone, we
are SO blessed.

Something I have personally been working on lately is improving my
prayers. You would think as a missionary that my prayers would be
amazing, and they have DEFINITELY improved since before my mission,
but I can't even tell you how many times I have woken up in the middle
of the night still on my knees, not able to feel the lower half of my
body from falling asleep while praying (I'm a sinner too, we are all
working on it)...needless to say I wanted to level up a little bit, so
I have started going out on our little balcony in the cold and praying
out loud. I honestly cannot even tell you the difference it has made
in my week. I truly feel like I am CONVERSING with my Father in
Heaven, and the Spirit has led me to pray for specific things that I
have seen come to pass during the next day, all because my prayers
have improved. I feel closer to my Heavenly Father and even more
grateful for all of my blessings. Something kind of cool that came
from this is the other night I felt prompted to pray that in the next
day I would have an experience with the Spirit, follow the prompting,
and then see something amazing. Kind of strange and specific, but I
went for it and hoped. Flash forward to the next day and I am biking
along the side of the road and I see this woman with a cute dog and I
just feel like I need to stop her so I do. We get talking, she is
super sweet, and then she finds out we are missionaries. Turns out
that she has been reading the bible and looking for answers as to the
purpose of life and resurrection, because her brother is currently
dying with cancer. She was wanting answers and wasn't sure where to
look, and she had actually met Mormon missionaries before. It was
CRAZY and the Spirit was just SO strong. We talked for a long time and
did some hardcore testifying, and it was neat to see her faith in
Christ lift a little. We ended up asking to meet again and she said
she would love to, but was too busy right now always being in the that moment I was pretty much wanting to join team Satan
and take away her agency because she was CRAZY prepared...but we
settled for giving her a Book of Mormon. She was so excited and
grateful and promised to read it and then contact us after we gave her
our number. I know that she will be baptized someday, I don't know if
it will be in my time here or sometime down the road, but heavens was
I grateful for that miracle from my Heavenly Father. Prayer is real, I

Something I have been pondering lately is the difference between a
testimony and conversion. I used to think they were the same thing,
but experience and studies and the Spirit has shown me different. I
have come to the conclusion that a testimony is the words we say and
the beliefs that we have, and conversion is the life that we choose to
live based on them. At the end of the day, we all truly need to be
CONVERTED to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When the winds are strong and
the seas of life and rough and choppy, only a conversion to our Savior
and His precious gospel will give us enough a grounding to survive the
storms around us. As we seek to follow His will and stay true to Him
and His teachings no matter where we our in our lives, I promise that
we will all become as converted as He would have us become. Really all
in all I want it to be my CONVERSION that gets me out of the door in
the wind and freezing when I am already exhausted from the past year
of work, not just my testimony, and I know if I do my best and turn to
Him, He will change and strengthen me beyond anything I could do on my

I love this gospel with my whole heart, and I love my mission more
than I can describe. Every single day I am so grateful I have for the
privilege to share the beautiful message with a wonderful people in a
wonderful place. To quote Elder Whiting, "How blessed I am to be me"

Hoping you all have a wonderful week wherever you might be! Stay warm
and don't forget to say a good prayer tonight! Love you all and talk
to you soon! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

Companion Selfie because why not
The rascals in my Eikaiwa class
Japanese Sunsets
Life lately
P Day Adventures at Osaka Castle featuring the Mikunigoaka and
Sekime Elders, and snow

Osaka Castle


Monday, January 9, 2017

ONE YEAR: Nihon Week 44

I am not sure which picture reflects Alyssa's true feelings about hitting her one year mark; this one or  . . . .
. . . . this one.

Alyssa's thoughts at hitting her one year mark:

As always thanks so much for the email...and wow we have been emailing back and forth for a year, holy cow! It feels like ages ago and yet at the same time, it flew. I too was reminiscing about packing and then that time at the MTC, especially because my companion just came from there, and holy cow. Seriously a lifetime ago haha. I have grown and changed so much (I think and hope) and can kind of sort of speak Japanese now (or at least pretend to), so I have that going for me! But I have loved this past year so much. It has been so hard, but so wonderful. Wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. 
I am continually amazed at the insights Alyssa offers each week.  Just when I think she couldn't learn anymore, she does.  Here is something she shared with me in my email:
Something I have really been reminded of this week is how much I would rather do things the way of the Lord. Shockingly enough, you know I am a fairly prideful person...but over the mission I feel I have changed a lot. At the start I had all these great ideas and things I wanted to do, and none of them were bad or wrong, but just over my mission I have just come to learn how His way is best, whether that be through exact obedience to the white handbook, following PMG and exemplifying those principles, living the doctrines in the BoM, or following the Spirit...His way is ALWAYS better. My sight and perspective is oh so limited compared to His, and my testimony has just been so strengthened lately that His way is always better than mine. So grateful for that learning and knowledge! 

Minasan, Konnichiwa!

Hoping that this email finds you all doing great and surviving the
snow for those of you in Utah (seriously so it is cold,
but no snow. Dang it, Japan haha)! We had a great week here in Sakai
(yes...the entire week was FINALLY spent in Sakai and it was
glorious!) and as always we saw lots of miracles and tender mercies
from our Heavenly Father. Missions are seriously the best.

So with the beginning of the week still being Shogatsu and all the
celebrations that that entails, we weren't able to meet with like any
of our investigators because they were all busy and so that was a
little bit of a downer, but we were determined to not let it get the
best of us! We hopped on our bikes and tried to talk to as many people
as we could to share the message of the Restoration and although we
didn't really get any new investigators this week, I am absolutely
positive that we received so many blessings for our efforts. We had an
awesome chance to work with lots of less actives this week, and that
is always such a special experience. I don't know why, but I have such
a special place in my heart for them! On a whim on like Thursday I had
this impression we should go visit this one sister named Yoneda
Shimai, and when we showed up, it ended up being exactly what she
needed. Her husband is always home sick and so she can never leave and
is sort of lonely and it ended up being a total tender mercy that we
showed up when we did. We went on a walk with her and had a good talk
and just shared some of the love that God has for her. It was even
happier because she ended up coming to church on Sunday, where the
ward just welcomed her with open arms. We have this other less active
named Tsuneishi Shimai that we are working with, and she has been
doing great with trying to start reading the Book of Mormon and
whatnot. She also has started introducing her husband to us to slowly
start teaching, and he even came to church on Sunday! Super excited to
see where it all goes.

Seriously though, the Sakai ward members are the best. I have so much
love for all of them and their strong faith and dedication to this
gospel and to their Savior Jesus Christ. They are all so faithful and
are so willing to help us with anything, as well as share the gospel
with all of their friends. It is such a joy to work with them! They
really spoiled us around Shogatsu and so we had like a million meal
appointments which was awesome, but at the same time I wanted to die
haha. So much dang food! But it was a great experience and definitely
a couple of days that I won't forget.

Training is going super well! I am so proud of Epperson Shimai, she is
seriously doing so awesome. She is working so hard and is trying to
talk to as many people as she can, even though it scares her to death.
It has been cool because I have seen several times where the Spirit
has just worked in her and told her to do something and she looked
terrified, but then me being the mean trainer that I am, I kind of
shove her into it haha. But then she does it and opens her mouth or
knocks on the door and we always see miracles. The other day she
stopped this lady on her bike on the street and taught the entire
Restoration, and I was so proud of her! She is such a good trainee and
I feel blessed to be learning from her faith and good example. She is
working till she collapses every single night (and I have proof with a
funny picture I will attach later haha), but she is seriously
precious. Love her lots.

Another awesome blessing we had this week was interviews with
President Welch! In the next few weeks there are going to be some big
changes made to the missionary program worldwide, and one of the
changes we have already seen is that we now have zone Conference AND
interviews every single transfer! Seriously so excited but Welch
Kaicho and Shimai are so otsukaresama haha. Anyways, it was such an
awesome 15 minutes as always. We had a good chat about the things I
learned from training and our baptism challenge and our mission
reading of the Book of Mormon, and it was neat. As always the Spirit
and revelation was in abundance, and I learned so many things I want
to apply and improve! One thing I took away is that I really want to
learn how to teach Repentance better for the joyful thing it
is...still working on it, but we will get there. I was pretty stressed
about training and about how everything was going with the area and
whatnot and he just gave me a smile and told me that he and Heavenly
Father were proud of me and my work and the love and the Spirit was SO
strong and I was so relieved that I cried a little bit haha.
Interviews are seriously my favorite, so blessed to be working under
President and Sister Welch!

Another thing we have been working on is really cleaning out our
Areabook and trying to find those that are progressing and prepared
and those that are not. It can be a little hard and scary to drop
investigators sometimes, but I know as we exercise that faith, we will
see miracles and find those who are prepared to receive the gospel!
Something I have really been pondering lately is the simplicity of the
gospel. The longer I am on my mission and come to know the gospel
better, instead of learning more crazy deep doctrinal things, the more
I am struck with the beauty and simplicity that it all really is. As I
have been studying the Book of Mormon with an emphasis on faith and
repentance, I am just so amazed at how our faith and repentance truly
are the basis of who we are and what we do in this gospel....and of
course that all must be centered in Jesus Christ. I know that faith is
a belief, an action that leads us to repentance.. and repentance is
simply a turn to our Savior. I have come to find so much joy in
repenting daily, because it is truly just the chance to pray to my
Heavenly Father and ask for the atonement to change me. This gospel is
incredible and of course there are aspects we will never fully
understand in this life, but what I do know is that it is true. All of
it :)

I love my mission and how it has changed me to become a little more
like the person God wants me to be. Heavens knows I am not perfect and
that I still have a lot of work to do, but I am so grateful for the
chance to see the atonement work in my life and the lives of all those
that I love. This gospel is true, I promise! If you aren't sure for
yourself, all you need to do is ask, and I promise you will get the
answer you need. Christ lives and loves you, turn to Him and He will
take you as you are and do wonders. Of that much I testify!
Hope you all have a wonderful week and remember how much I love you
all! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. Perks of serving close to your first area for your whole mission
is that you get the chance to meet your favorite people often...I was
blessed to have my cute convert Ayaka come and visit me here in Sakai!
Love her to pieces.

Meeting up with Ayaka
Why does so much of Japanese cuisine include eyes?

Alyssa wore out her companion.

I love Japanese signs.  They take their shopping seriously.