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.

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