Excerpt from Alyssa's letter to me:
I love being an STL, the chance to serve these sisters in these capacities is such a blessing and has me learning so much. I found a true love in just forgetting myself and focusing on others, and I just know with my whole heart that that is the secret to a happy and Christ centered life. Seriously though, think about the Savior and that is all He ever did...up until the very end He was focused and helping other people and just putting them above himself and at the end of the day, I think that is what characterizes the person that Christ is. He always turned outwards when others would turn in, and THAT is the goal of who and what I am striving to be (and not by the end of my mission because that would be impossible because I have soooo far to go) but by the end of my life. It will definitely be the quest of a lifetime, but I am okay with that seeking and learning in the progress of it all.
Visiting Sakai was so wonderful. I saw so many people that I just love so so much and it made my heart so happy. All of my investigators are doing well (including Hisako, the cafe lady, and Kae Nishida the golden referral from the open house) and the less actives are good and alive so I am happy. I was able to go on exchanges with a brand new sister from Fiji and it was way fun. She is a cute girl with a huge personality and reminded me so much of my angel MTC companion so it was a good day. I sure love Sakai, I was not ready to transfer, I thought I would still have time haha. Funnily enough Heavenly Father always seems to have other plans, but His ways are definitely always higher.
Well everyone I will basically let the title speak for itself...this week I hit my ONE YEAR in this beautiful country I have been so blessed to serve my mission in. It seriously feels like I just barely got here and yet that was 52 weeks ago. Wow how time flies when you are serving the Lord and having fun.
We had another super wonderful week here in Kawachinagano...seriously all the love for these people and this area and my wonderful companion. I have just spent so much time lately pondering on how blessed I am and I honestly just can't even handle it. Putting it into words would be way too hard so I am just going to give up and leave it at that haha.
I first of all would like to start off and thank you all so much for your prayers of faith on behalf of Kim! We were able to meet with her on Tuesday after she had had 3 DAYS of discussion with her husband about baptism and so we were super nervous. We were fasting and praying along with our district and zone so that his heart would be softened, and when we met with her we had such a MIRACLE. She herself seemed so much happier and lighter and couldn't stop smiling and talking about baptism-after some long talks with her husband, they came to the conclusion that he is NOT opposed to her being baptized! He still doesn't like religion and is way wary of everything, but he did tons of research on our church and said that he thought it looked like everyone was super good with great values and if it made her happy, she should go ahead and do it.....in time. He did ask her to take some more time to study and learn because he wanted her to be able to make sure she commits fully when she joins the church (which is another blessing in and of itself)...but then it gets better. He told her that after researching he was very impressed with the fact that it is a FAMIY oriented church and so when his health improves (he is currently way sick and is hospitalized on a weekly basis) he wants to investigate and take the lessons so that they could enter the church as a couple! Manwill Shimai and I were literally blown away and the Spirit was just SO strong while she told us all of this, and readily recognized that God had answered one of her prayers because He loved her. Oh my heavens Kim is so changed and being here to witness it is one of the greatest blessings ever. We still have some hoops to get through as far as the health of her husband and him wanting her to take more time so we aren't sure if she will make her current date, but she wants to be baptized so bad and she is on her way to becoming an ETERNAL FAMILY. Literally all I have wanted my entire mission is to help a family enter the church, and the chance to be even such a small part in helping one is so humbling. Missionary work is the best. Please continue to keep her in your prayers!
This week we also had the great chance to take the Sakai sisters on an exchange, and it was the best because I got to go back to my last area and see so many members and investigators that have my heart. I love that area so much and the happiest part of it all is that all of the investigators that I left are still progressing wonderfully and working towards baptism. Ahh so exciting! Anyways that day I was blessed to work with a sweet sister named Maiwiriwiri Shimai who is on her first transfer! She is from Fiji and was so cute and happy and enthusiastic. She was really focused on opening her mouth and so we spent the day talking to everything that breathed (in the pouring rain, classic Japan right there) but it was so fun. It was neat to see her excitement and joy for the work build in just a day. Missions and the changing power therein is so cool.
We have been continuing to really work with the members here in Kawachinagano, and they are such blessings in my life. Love them all to death. This week we got to have a meal with the Yamamoto couple, and they have so much love for the gospel and for missionary work that it basically just explodes out of their very beings like 24/7. We walk into their house and they immediately pray so that they can give us referrals, and then they just lay this big binder on the table and it is of all the names of their friends (and random neighbors and associates that they kind of stalk haha) who need the gospel and so we walked out of there with some names to visit and just so pumped to go baptize the world after that. We went and immediately visited the referrals and nobody was home which was sad, but then we decided to follow PMG and house around a bit and the first door we knocked ended up being a young girl with interest in English and the church and we have plans to try and meet her this week! It was so exciting to go back and report to the Yamamoto couple about the miracle that happened because of their faith, and they were so excited that Yamamoto Shimai tackled us with a hug and I am pretty sure Yamamoto Kyodai nearly cried. These people in this country just will forever have my heart.
As far as other news, spring is finally rolling in! The blossoms are coming and people are emerging from hibernation and unthawing from the freezing winter. Miracles are everywhere and God is so good to us, even in our ridiculous failures and complete exhaustion daily (literally my companion and I are so tired that we are slowly losing it, I am pretty sure, we like to go housing for fun to relieve stress now)...I just feel so blessed to be here at this time and see what the Lord has in store for us this upcoming week (But fun fact not in our area at all, because we will only be in Kawachinagano for 2 days this week due to exchanges and meetings haha help pray for us)!
Sunday was so wonderful in that it was Fast Sunday and I just wanted to bear my testimony of that for a moment. I grew up fasting and knew it was good and stuff, but I also REALLY loved food and so the struggle was sort of real. Flash forward to my junior year of high school where I gained my testimony of fasting in such a real and personal way that I could never doubt...and it was gained in my selfless fasting for someone else. I had fasted for myself plenty of times and had seen blessings, but the second I turned my fast outward I saw MIRACLES. I have seen that over and over again on my mission and I just know it is true! As we put our desires for food below the needs and wants of those we love, I promise that God will hear the prayers of our hearts and shower us in blessings more than we can imagine. I know fasting is real, and I know that SELFLESS fasting brings miracles, and I feel so blessed that we have such an incredible opportunity on a monthly basis!
One last thought (sorry this email is forever long, at least it will make my parents and former companions happy haha) is something I have really been pondering in that it is that we have such a loving God who always keeps His promises. Our Heavenly Father is eternal and unchanging and desires to always bless us, but I think sometimes we have a tendency to forget that when we aren't seeing immediate blessings and results and miracles that we desire. I have truly come to realize this week that the definition of faith (one of many) is being okay without immediate answer to prayers and instant results...in missionary work it can be hard when we knock a hundred doors and don't find a single new investigator and go home discouraged that night with the knowledge we have to wake up and do it all over tomorrow....but what faith has come to mean to me is getting up that next day CHEERFULLY and still working hard, whether or not we find someone golden that day. Faith means asking everyone you meet to learn again when it seems like nobody ever will want to, faith means paying your tithing even when you don't feel like the windows of heaven are open, faith means praying when you aren't sure anyone is listening, and continuing in what we are asked to do with the KNOWLEDGE and ASSURANCE that those answers and blessings and investigators WILL come. I don't know when because I don't know His timing, but I know that they WILL come. Because God is our loving father and He wants to bless us and has PROMISED that He will and He does not lie and He does not change. Of that I leave my testimony :)
I know that God lives and that He loves all of you. To quote our beloved Elder Oaks remember this week to "keep on keeping on and do it more effectively". Write you all again soon, okay? Aishiteimasu minasan!!
P.S. Here is a funny excerpt from my companion's email this week because it made me smile and I thought it might make you smile as well. Enjoy :)
"Friday was awesome. District meeting was full of the spirit as usual and also the funniest story about an answer to the Elder's investigator's prayer. So... he just learned how to pray and lives at home with his sister and parents (he is thirty). He wanted to strengthen his relationship with his family members at home and he saw a stray cat on the road. So, he stopped everything and right there folded his arms and said a prayer to ask if this cat was what would bring unity into his home. Well, as soon as he stopped praying, the cat came over and rubbed it's head against his legs. He accepted that as his answer, picked up the cat and took it home. Since then, no one has fought in his home and everyone talks about the cat they named, "Rosy". Haha. He knows that God answers prayers because god gave him a "blessing cat".
Photos: We finally made my birthday cake! Exchanges in Sakai, I love my companion and Spring Blossoms and crepes haha