Monday, February 27, 2017

All Out of Creative Titles: Nihon Week 51

Brother and Sister Minamimoto

Minasan, konnichiwa! 
Hope that this finds you all having a wonderful week wherever you might be and whatever you might be doing! Things here are going great for us here in Kawachinagano, and we have even some hints of it MAYBE becoming Spring soon...the other day I didn't need gloves AND I have seen people start to water their driveways again (don't ask me why, Japanese people do what they want haha), so we are hopeful that we might be able to start unthawing soon for the first time since like November! 
This week was super good and super busy for us although it was honestly one of the weirdest weeks of my entire mission because we were in so many meetings and planning sessions and interviews and conferences and on SO many trains (Tangent: the other day I had to take home my bike from Sakai to Kawachinagano finally because my bike box got ruined in the rain and so the people wouldn't ship Manwill Shimai and I are super buff obviously and so we decided to be like the elders and use their bike bags and carry my bike on some trains to get back to our area and it was fine and all except for the fact that it was time for everyone to go home and the trains were like almost Sardine packed and then you have us standing there like idiots with this large awkward mysterious black bag and we are all smushed in and taking up tons of space. Pretty sure we offended the entire country with that breaking of social norms, but it's all for the sake of dendo, so it's fine right?), and so it felt like we had no time to actually work in our area, but it was good because seriously Heavenly Father blessed us with so many miracles. 
One of the highlights of the week was that we had Zone Conference in Sakai! Seriously love Zone Conference so much and the chance we have to learn from President and Sister Welch and our wonderful mission leaders. We focused a lot on finding, working with members, using the white handbook and PMG and Book of Mormon as the three pillars of missionary work, and obedience and unity. Manwill Shimai and I had the chance to give a training (and I was scared out of my mind about it haha) in front of everyone and it ended up being way good. We talked about the Anti Nephi Lehites in chapters 23 and 24 of Alma and how they buried their weapons of war in order to be obedient and unified with God...talked about how in life we all have our own weapons of war and rebellion that might keep us from being completely obedient and so we talked about how we can go about burying them in order to become more converted. Super fun lesson and I learned tons from teaching, and was just able to get more excited about repenting and then getting out to work! The best part of course was the training from President Welch, and he focused on something that I loved, and it was about the three baptisms that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  We have the baptism of water (like actual baptism by immersion), baptism of the Spirit (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost), and then the baptism of FIRE which he emphasized. He talked about how we all need to have personal baptisms of fire during our lives and our missions, and they are simply trials that purify us and strengthen us to become the missionaries and disciples that God needs. It was super powerful as he asked us if we are all willing to go through our baptisms of fire to see miracles and change and growth, or if we all stay back from the flames in order to only survive. Way thought provoking and made me way grateful for all the baptisms of fire that God gives us because He loves us so much. 
So Kim is doing absolutely wonderful. It was super special because at the beginning of the transfer Manwill Shimai and I prayerfully set the goal of having a shigansha (someone on date for baptism) by February 26th...well this past week rolls up and we are super nervous because we are working way hard but still don't have it. Well Kim is a boss and so we have been meeting her daily and she has just progressed and changed SO much...and so we feel impressed to bring up baptism with her again. We first talked about Matthew 11:28-30 and how Christ invites us to take on His yoke and we connected that to covenants and to taking His name upon us through turned into a WAY spiritual lesson about the atonement and she opened up to us SO much and the lesson ended with her committing to be baptized on March 26th. We were literally so thrilled we about cried. She has really decided this is for her and what she wants and the change it has made in her is awesome. The main issue now is that her husband is hantai (doesn't like religion or the church) and doesn't want her to be baptized...they were discussing it all weekend and we are super nervous to hear how it went so PLEASE keep Kim and her husband in your prayers! Truly such a miracle and so excited for her. 
Want to really tell you all super quickly about some of my favorite people in the world this week. They are named Brother and Sister Minamimoto, and they are an older couple in the world who just returned from a couples mission in Fukuoka back in December. They have more dendo fire than anyone I have EVER met times like 500 and they are the best in the world. This week we had the chance to work with them lots and they just amaze me with their faith and dedication to this gospel. They visit less actives and part member families of their own accord on a daily basis and always invite us and our investigators over for meals and drive us and investigators everywhere to meet, honestly talking about them makes me emotional because their example and love for this work and their Savior and for us has changed my life. I always ask them how they do it, how they are still so converted and excited and finding daily joy in the gospel, and they just get all modest and truly don't see that what they are doing is extraordinary. They have just always done the little things and it has brought them closer to perfection than anyone I have ever known. I love them with my whole heart and I am so grateful for their loving example and for how they have changed my life. Missions and the people you meet here are just the best. 
To end I want to share this beautiful quote I discovered by C.S. Lewis:
"We say we believe in Christ as we believe in the sun at noonday, not that we can see it, but that by it, we can see everything else."
 love this quote so much because this is truly the definition of my entire mission experience thus far. Before I got here, I had a testimony that this gospel was true...but now since being here, I have a testimony that there is no way it CAN'T be true. I love everyday getting to go outside and find those that are prepared for the beautiful truth, I love working with my sweet Investigators and less actives and watching them change as they embrace their Savior and the principles that He teaches...all of the experiences that have built my testimony here have come from the fact that I have seen the influence that Christ has everywhere in this country and these people that I love...I may have not seen the Son directly here, but because of Him, I can clearly see His hand and the miracles and the truth of the gospel in everything else. 
I love this gospel with my whole heart and I hope that everyone I ever come into contact with knows that. I love my Savior! He has changed my life and I want Him to continue to change me into someone He can better rely on and trust to help our brothers and sisters come home. 
Hoping you all have a wonderful week and that you remember to look for His influence in your life, because I promise you it is there :) talk to you all again soon, okay? Aishiteimasu! 
Lots of love, 
Sister Pickering 
P.S. Shoutout to one of my very favorite people Spencer Brian Sabey that turns 20 this week, if you know him send him an email and some love, I'm sure he would appreciate it! 

Photos: Super awkward Zone Conference picture, us and the Minamimoto couple, my companion and I at a service project and after having biked a massive hill, and then views from Kawachinagano

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Sun Will Always Come Up: Nihon Week 50

On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend the homecoming of one of Alyssa's former companions, Folkman Shimai.  It was such an incredible meeting.  Sister Folkman was so humble and yet shared such a powerful message on the atonement.  I could totally understand why Alyssa loved her so much and learned  a lot from her in their time together.  The entire meeting I couldn't help but picture my daughter having similar experiences that were shared by Sister Folkman.  The love that she has for the Japanese people was so evident and you could strongly feel how much she misses them already.  I know that it will be a difficult transition for Alyssa when she comes home. I do not look forward to seeing Alyssa's sorrow as she is separated from the people and doing the work that she has grown to love so much.  But I know I will be amazed at the growth and changes that has transformed my daughter over the course of this mission. Folkman Shimai also gave me hope that there are still many amazing miracles yet to come for Alyssa as she finishes strong.  I know that her body is exhausted but thank heavens for her sheer determination to keep going and giving it all that she has left.  It was truly a blessing for me to attend this great Sacrament meeting and to feel a little closer to my daughter once again.

Folkman Shimai's Homecoming

Minasan, konnichiwa!

This week was another wonderful one for us here in Kawachinagano! I
seriously am just loving this area and my companion and everything so
much, and being a missionary is still the best ever. I can't believe
that I have actually been in Japan for 50 weeks's like I
don't even remember America or what is weird here anymore! It is okay
though because I am embracing it and loving every minute that I can.
So blessed to be here in the Japan Kobe mission!

Like I said earlier, the week was good but so so busy! It is funny
because I feel like last P day was ages ago because so much happened,
but at the same time it feels like yesterday because days are just
flying. I have really come to appreciate how good it feels to just be
working hard and so focused on what is going on...working for the Lord
is the happiest thing to do! I have to say though I have never been so
exhausted in my entire life as I have been this past week haha. Every
night I just want to collapse and fall asleep but then we still have
stuff to do and I am pretty sure I would die if I wasn't companions
with Manwill Shimai, because she is an angel. She is the kind of
person where after a long day of fasting and we have no energy and are
walking our bikes up a massive hill, suddenly it gets easier for me
and I look back and notice she is shoving my bike up behind me as well
as her own. Seriously I swear I am becoming more Christlike just from
living with her!

We had a super cool finding miracle this week that started last Monday
at the grocery store. We were biking there and some girl cut me off
accidentally and I had to do some fancy maneuvers to not die, but it
was chill. Then we get in the store and she accidentally cuts us off
AGAIN but this time in the line to pay and she got all apologetic but
it was fine so we waved her along and it was the end of it. Flash
forward to the next day and we are biking and in the distance I see
two cute young collegeish age young girls walking on the side of the
road. I feel like we should stop and talk to them and my companion
agreed and as we stopped, I suddenly just felt like it was the girl
from the day before and we start talking and lo and behold, it was
her! We started talking to her and she told us that she had wanted to
talk to us the day before but was embarrassed because we were
foreigners and she was way cute and nice and then she told us that she
wanted to meet and learn all about God! It was way exciting because
she was so pumped to give us her contact information so we could set
up an appointment! We were stoked out of our minds and then the best
ever was when we accidentally ran into her AGAIN later that day. Her
name is Haruka and so please pray for her to meet often and be able to
progress! We really felt like God needed us to meet her and it was
cool to see Him work His hand in our lives and hers multiple times so
that we FINALLY had the chance to meet and talk.

Our investigators are doing great! Our investigator named Kim from
Korea is a total boss. Her life is way hard and her husband is super
sick and so she has been thinking tons about life and the purpose and
all those questions of the soul. She is praying and reading the Book
of Mormon daily in 3 languages and just soaks it all up, and tells us
constantly how she feels that she is changing as she prays. We have
been teaching her commandments and how they are ways to receive
blessings, and that made her so excited because she wants blessings
haha. She also has such a great ability to feel the Spirit and she
tells us how much she loves the peace that comes into her heart when
we meet. She wants to be baptized but is waiting for an answer to her
prayers about Joseph Smith, so please keep her in your thoughts and
prayers as well!

We also had a great chance to have exchanges with two wonderful
sisters this week! On Wednesday I had the chance to work with Sister
Hokanson serving in Wakayama, and then Friday-Saturday I worked with
Sister McGuire that works in Sennan! It was so much fun to get to work
with both of these sisters because they are such good missionaries and
so enthusiastic about life and the work, and they pumped me up to go
out there and baptize everyone. It is way fun because I love getting
to work with these sisters and learn so much from grateful I
have been blessed with this responsibility to get to serve them! We
did lots of visiting PI's and less actives and we basically had tons
of waking in pouring rain because I still don't know my area entirely
haha, but the work was still fun and I have learned that the Lord will
always bless us as we simply TRY. If we try and do our best and try
and work hard and try and do what we need to, the blessings won't be
contained and they will always come eventually!

So last night we had an incredibly special Devotional that was
broadcast to all of the stakes in Japan, and it was with Elder Holland
and holy cow. If I could even adequately put into words the feelings
and topics of discussion that were brought up, I would be happy. The
message that he shared was so beyond perfect for Japan and these
special people, and He talked a lot about what we do when we face
trials in our lives. He talked about faith means nothing unless we
have it when it matters most, like during trials or when prayers go
unanswered and miracles unobserved. He talked about how it is okay for
all of us to be broken at times because of heartbreak or trial or
sickness or whatever, because God loves broken things. He loves us
just the way we are and can and will fix us if only we let Him!
(I am
totally butchering all of it as I try and paraphrase but really...the
Spirit was one of the strongest experiences of my entire life) He also
emphasized how God love us in our broken state the most...especially
when it means a broken heart and a contrite spirit and how we can come
and be healed every single week during the sacrament. The Spirit was
so incredibly strong and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Something
that really touched me was the translator and he too had to just pause
because he was overcome with emotion as we all just felt the love of
the Savior so strongly. I will just end with one thing that Elder
Holland said at the end that I absolutely adored..."Of all the names
that is given to the Savior that I love the most, I love the one that
comes from the Book of Revelation...and it is the Bright and Morning
star. He is the sun! He is the sun and the light of the world and no
matter how long and dark the night may seem, the sun will ALWAYS come
up in the morning."

I know this to be true! No matter how hard and dark and crazy life
might seem at times, the sun will always rise over our trials, and it
will come to us because of our Savior. He loves us so personally and
perfectly, with all of our flaws and sins and imperfections. Because
of His atonement, we can cry unto our Father to be fixed and we can
and we will be Every. Single. Time.

This church is true! The Savior lives and I know that with such a
certainty that I can know way deny it. I love my Savior, my Redeemer,
my everything, even Jesus Christ. So blessed to be here as His
representative at this time in Japan.
Have a wonderful week everyone! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. Sorry if I don't email everyone back today...District P day at
the aquarium in Osaka plus pouring rain plus messed up trains equals
no time. So sorry but I love you all! Enjoy pictures instead :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Since I am old and the were no such things as STLs when I served my mission,  I asked Alyssa to explain a little bit about her new responsibilities.

"So being an STL is like being a zone leader for sisters! We go on a Exchanges with every companionship twice a transfer or so (we are over three trainee-trainer companionships in the Sakai zone) and follow up with them on the phone once a week individually for 30 minutes and with the zone leaders. We plan zone conferences and zone training and go to Mission Leadership Council once a month in Kobe..basically we just are super busy but it is awesome. I love the chance to serve in this capacity and even though I in no way feel good enough to be here, I feel blessed to have this chance. I am learning lots about love and revelation and time management!"

Also more evidence of the continual growth that Alyssa has experienced:

"Random spiritual thought...I was sitting at the table the other day talking with my companion (because we literally never stop talking because she is the best) and I was thinking about all the hard things I have experienced on my mission and I just felt the weirdest sense of gratitude come over me and the thought came into my mind "I am so grateful that God loves me enough to put me through that". No WAY would I have thought that before my mission, but now I know it is true. He loves us so much that He is willing to test us a bit on the hope we choose to progress and follow Him and return to live with Him someday. Literally every experience we are given in this life is designed to bring us closer to God if only we let it, and boy am I grateful for that." 

Group Email:

Minasan, konnichiwa!

Hello hello from the beautiful Inaka (countryside) of Kawachinagano! I
am safe and sound in my new area (although dead exhausted as per
usual, but I am okay with that now haha) with my new companion, and
life is so so good!

Okay so literally this week was so insane and so fast haha...I know I
say that every single week and I have become one of those
stereotypical missionaries that you all want to punch when I get home,
but for reals...this week was one of those weeks where I felt like I
did everything and nothing at the same time! It was a blur and I am
not sure what exactly to say but I will do my best!

So after I got my transfer call on Monday, we were literally thrown
into a frenzy of nonstop packing and preparing the area for me to
leave Epperson Shimai with her second trainer to come in. There were
calls to be made and the records to update and all this packing stuff
to happen...and then we get the news that Epperson Shimai would ALSO
be transferring and so two new sisters would be coming into Sakai next
transfer. Not gonna lie, the stress level rose a little bit as we
tried to get both of us ready to go! It was way hard and sad we would
both be leaving, but actually it is kind of funny because both of our
elders are leaving too, and so the area was filled with six new
missionaries. Sakai is so boss and is a great training area, and so
since Elder Samuela went to go be a zone leader, Elder Booth wasn't a
trainee anymore, and I went to go become an STL, they just decided to
bring in three trainers and brand new missionaries. Needless to say it
was only a little insane, but Sakai is such a great ward and handled
it all like champs. Seriously a huge part of my heart got left there.

Tuesday we got up bright and early (the hour of 4AM is becoming all
too familiar to me) to go have a companion exchange with the STL's
that we already had planned haha, and so I ended up going to my new
area a day early to go and scope things out. It was also nice to haul
some of my luggage there early (but seriously suitcases plus packed
Japanese trains in the morning don't always go so well haha), but the
best was that I had one last time to work with Sister Smith before she
went home this past week. Holy cow I love that girl, and she
influenced my mission so much. She is truly one of my best friends and
saying goodbye was hard, but I feel way blessed to try and go and fill
her shoes in Kawachinagano. We had a great exchange and made some
great memories and overall had a wonderful day.

Wednesday we returned BACK to Sakai to finish packing and get all our
records in order for the new sisters, and then the goodbyes started. I
was way proud of myself and was holding it together really well until
I went to go and see my favorite less active Sakaguchi Shimai and say
goodbye and then all the tears just started and didn't want to stop on
and off all day haha. Transfers are hard. You just come to love these
people so much and then you leave them, but I have really just come to
learn to be grateful for the chance that I had to love them in the
first place. My Eikaiwa class that night spoiled me with treats and a
goodbye poster. I really don't even deserve the love these people give

Thursday was another day of 4 AM arising as we hurriedly left our
empty apartment and walked in the pouring rain to the station with our
luggage (it ALWAYS rains on transfer day, why?? haha). It was a day of
in some way happy reunions when I got to see my trainer unexpectedly
at a station and I cried, I love Sister Kenney with my whole heart and
am just continually so grateful for her love and example for me. She
changed my life and my mission! And then at the mission office I was
reunited with my beloved Sister Folkman before she went home, and that
was like the epitome of happiness. I basically tackled her with her
suitcases and all and didn't even care, because she is one of my best
friends in the universe. Can't wait to room with her at the Y come
this fall! Then the goodbyes came...we dropped Sister Smith off and
almost cried (but then remembered we would see her Tuesday when she
came to visit with her parents) because our threesome was finally
splitting for a while, and then I had to leave my precious trainee.
Holy cow I am so blessed I was able to train Sister Epperson. Saying
goodbye to her like cut my soul into a million pieces, but I am so
proud of her and know that she will do great things in her next area.
She blessed my life so much! After all that, I finally was able to
head home to my new area with my new companion, Sister Manwill! (Also
fun little Umeda Station in Osaka which is MASSIVE by the
way, some lady runs up to me and throws a small package in my hands
and yells "Ageru!Ageru!" (which basically means to honorifically give)
at me and then runs on her train...we just stand there way confused
and are way scared we just got like sucked into a National Treasure
movie or something but then we opened it and it was a fancy Japanese
hand towel haha. At this point tons of people are staring at us but we
just play it cool and try and leave haha. Japanese people are crazy
but I love them).

So for those of you who don't remember, Manwill Shimai is one of my
favorite people on the planet. She is from Layton, Utah and plays
goalkeeper for the BYU Women's soccer team (so she is a boss and
working out with her is kicking my butt haha), and is one of the most
Christ like people I have ever met. She is so kind and faithful and
obedient and has a smile on her face 24/7. Going out and working with
her is seriously such a joy. The laughter and smiles are real, and it
is such a blessing because as an STL I am now living my life
perpetually exhausted! Can't wait for all the miracles we will see
this transfer!

Friday we were able to meet with some investigators and holy cow this
area is boss and the area is filled with so many prepared people. We
are working with this woman named Kim and she is Korean and is
awesome. She loves praying and reading the BOM every single day and
wants to be baptized but just doesn't think she is ready yet, but we
are working with her and I love her to death. Her heart has changed so
much since I met her in December, and I just know the gospel changes
people and their hearts so much. We also work with tons of way
precious less actives, and some of them even came to church on Sunday,
so it was way happy!

The rest of the week was spent in finding and working on Area book
records and meeting with members and investigators and PI's and just
learning how to be an STL. We have two Exchanges this week and I am
scared out of my mind, but also excited, so pray for me please haha.
Going to church on Sunday was awesome because all the members
remembered me and welcomed me home with open arms. They are a word of
about 80 people and are all WAY strong and excited about missionary
work! Feel super super blessed to be here.

Okay so since it is Valentine's, I feel obligated to give some themed
message here, so bear with me haha. Ever since my mission, my
perception of love has changed so much, and it really all just comes
down to charity. If you want to do a great study of the topic, I would
invite you to turn to Moroni 7 and take a gander there, and you will
learn some great things! I am just so grateful that we are a gospel
that is centered on love and charity...we are all here because of the
love the Father has for us, we can return to Him because the love the
Son has for His brothers and sisters and His father, and we can
someday become like them both as we show love to all those around us.
I am so grateful for the love that our God has for each and every one
of us individually, because it can be a lifeline through all our
trials and troubles if we allow it to be so. You have a God that loves
you as His child! And not only that, you have a perfect older brother
that loved you so much, He died for you. He knows you perfectly in
every way possible and loves you and will never stop, no matter what.
When we realized the love they have for us, ultimately it should
change us...I know for sure it has changed me.

So this Valentine's when you are buying chocolates and roses for that
special someone, take a second to remember the love that God and Jesus
Christ have for you. It is real and it is there, I promise :) I get to
see it and feel it for others and myself literally every single day
here in the Japan Kobe Mission.

This gospel is true and I am so blessed to be here sharing it. I love
my mission so much, I love my Savior, I love my God, and I love all of
you. Hope you all have a great week and I will write again soon!
Aishiteimasu minasan!

Sister Pickering

Photos (please ignore how tired I always look Help haha)
1. Costco
2. Exchange with Smith Shimai
3. Sakaguchi Shimai
4. The Dream District
5. Living it up at problems are fun
6. Yoshinaga San, our investigator that is a parking lot guard
7. Hisako! Our golden cafe lady. Miss her so much!
8. Eikaiwa class/Old person social club
9-12. Hellos and goodbyes
13-15: Kawachinagano
16-18. Kawachinagano Sisters!