Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunshine in my Soul Today: Nihon Week 59

This week Alyssa shared a very visual yet spiritual lesson with me.  I loved it so I will share it all with you.

"So every Thursday night we go over to this member's house and teach English to her daughter and her small friends and then share a spiritual message with the mothers. We were there setting up and were trying to pull out this table and the little girl Mashiro (she is three) wanted to help us, so we let her. She was "carrying" this tiny corner of the table and because she was there it took like 500x as long and was hard but she was so proud and happy that we let her do it. In that moment I was so filled with love as I realized that is how God is with us. He can do everything on His own if He wanted, and He could do this missionary work thing so fast and efficiently on His own...but because He loves us He lets us grab this little corner of the table and walk alongside Him. We the whole time feel way proud and think we are so strong and can do things, but really we are just blessed that God loves us and lets us help Him in this amazing work, because He knows it will bless us and make us happy. He is so good to us."

Isn't that story amazing and simple and yet so powerful?  And it definitely applies to all of us as we serve and work in our small corner of the world.  We just need to remember who is carrying the majority of the load.

Minasan, konnichiwa!

First and foremost, I wanted to give a quick shoutout to my wonderful
mother who has a birthday this Thursday! I seriously am so blessed to
have been raised by someone so amazing and I am so grateful for her
every single day. For all of you that know her and would like to
either send her some love or go and give her a big hug for me, I would
appreciate it tons :)

We had a super good week here in Kawachinagano! Nothing super terribly
extraordinary happened but the fact that we were just able to be home
and get out and work in our own area with our own investigators and
members was seriously such a blessing. The weather has been warm, the
people are great, and we really have nothing to complain about life
here! I am always just so hit with how happy and blessed I am to be
here. Life is good, people.

Tuesday was pretty calm but fun, as we got to go out and do visiting
teaching with some sisters in the ward. I really love these people so
much, their love for the gospel and excitement to be about their
Father's business is infectious. We spent the morning together
visiting a lot of less active sisters and everyone was uplifted by the
situation. In the evening we spent time getting ready because we
spontaneously decided to throw a late Easter Party for Eikaiwa. It was
a lot of fun; we had some ridiculous games and culture things that the
Japanese people were way confused by but it was fun to teach them and
then teach about our Savior and the reason why we have the season. Our
Eikaiwa program here is way cute, it ranges from fluent people to
little old grandmas who know absolutely nothing, so it is always
entertaining to say the least. That night we had our last lesson with
Kana for a while because she is moving to Australia indefinitely. It
was sort of soul crushing but we trust she is going where she needs to
be and you better believe we will continue to haunt her and send the
missionaries her way so she can continue learning and progressing
towards baptism.

Wednesday we were back on the road, this time to Sennan to have a
koukan with the sisters there. I was blessed to work with the one and
only Sister McGuire, and we had one of the funniest and coolest days of
work my entire mission. First of all I love this sister with my whole
heart, it took us like two seconds and we became amazing friends, and
we just tell everyone we are EXACTLY the same...but a little different
and it is so true haha. Because we have so much love and so much fun
in our companionship, we were able to teach a lot in unity and see a
lot of miracles. We had a super boss companion Study where we both
felt prompted to specifically pray to find specific investigators and
the Spirit was way strong and guided us all day. We ended up finding a
super solid new investigator for Sennan, and it was awesome. I have
really come to know that our relationship with God can be as specific
as we want it to be, and the more we pray to Him about our specific
challenges and desires, the more personally He can reach out to help

Thursday we had a lesson with Kim. She still isn't doing amazing, but
came to the lesson and was definitely softened as she has started
praying again. Prayer works, people! It changes people and their
countenances and I have seen it time and time again. We talked a lot
about the resurrection and plan of Salvation and I think were able to
help her a bit. Please keep her in your prayers. That day we also met
with some less actives that we are helping through the 12 Step
Recovery program so we can get them clear of addictions and get them
to the temple. It is honestly one of my favorite times of the week.

Friday we had district meeting in Hashimoto which was great as always,
and then that night we had some appointments with some families to
teach them the 30/30 Program of English and the gospel. The first one
went great, but then the second one fell through but thanks to our
amazing angel couple the Minamimoto's, we were able to spend the
evening visiting less actives instead. I seriously want to be like those
people, I love them with my whole heart.

Saturday was wonderful (and it was warm and I got a sunburn, so that
is also a plus)! We started out bright and early to go and do this
service cleaning thing at this pond we do with the ward on a monthly
basis. Usually we just do random stuff like pick up trash or gather
sticks or whatever, but this time was fun because tons of youth were
there volunteering for school clubs. I wanted to talk to them but was
overwhelmed by the sheer number, but eventually felt drawn to these
two girls named Nanami and Yurika. They were way cute and we had a
great time talking about life and whatever, but then Yurika saw my
name tag and she got SO excited as she told me all about how she has
ALWAYS wanted to learn about Christ. She is basically this kinjin and
we had a great talk and exchanged contact information and set up an
appointment to meet with and talk with them BOTH this week. They are
so cute and prepared and I can't wait to see where things go with
them! That afternoon we had a ward party which was great, and we
basically got to go build a lot of Kaneki with the members and random
less actives and investigators that filtered in throughout. I love the
Kawachinagano Ward with my whole heart!

Sunday was amazing because we got to be back in our own area for Ward
conference. The talks were amazing and the Spirit was real and
basically the Sabbath day is just the best day ever.
So this week we were blessed to start the "Doctrine of Christ" Book of
Mormon challenge as a mission! It is kind of crazy because we are
reading in unity about four chapters a day so that we can finish
before President and Sister Welch return home, but it has been so
awesome. Basically all our spare time is dedicated to reading, and I
already just feel myself and my testimony changing so much throughout
this process. One thing that has really stuck out to me during these
first few chapters of Nephi is how ACTIVE faith needs to be, and in
order for it to be strong and driving we need both belief and desire.
So often we have this image of faith being passive, but it is truly
just the opposite. In order for miracles and for our faith to truly
grow, it takes patience and dedication and desire...but it is
beautiful because the outcome is always amazing as we inevitably
become closer to our loving Heavenly Father, and our Savior, Jesus

I love this gospel so much-it is everything to me! I feel so blessed
to be here sharing it with these amazing people that I love so much in
Japan. They have my heart so completely and I can't wait to keep
working to find those prepared to receive this message and have their
lives changed.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and remember to look for the hand
of the Lord every single day! Love you all so much! Aishiteimasu,

Sister Pickering

Photos: Some members heart attacked us, Kids Eikaiwa and Easter, Kana
and I, exchanges with my homegirl Sister McGuire, District Meeting in
Hashimoto, Yurika and Nanami, and some squirrels at the park where we
had the ward party

Monday, April 17, 2017

Not that I am counting . . .

Being in Your Own Area is Overrated: Nihon Week 58

If I were to pick the title of this week's email it would have been CHOOSE TO BELIEVE.  I loved Alyssa's insight on how faith begins with the choice to believe.  It is so simple and yet so profound.  Alyssa has grown so much and has come to deep understanding on so many gospel principles and of life itself.  I am just so amazed.

Minasan, konnichiwa!

First of all just a quick shoutout to my baby brother Ryan who turns
17 today in America! Can't believe he is so big now, but I love him to
pieces and if anyone wants to give him lots of hugs and embarrass him
for me, I would appreciate it so much haha. Love you Ry!

We had a wonderful week here in the Japan Kobe Mission as they all
tend to be, even if it did end up being a little unique. Due to
scheduling and other life circumstances I ended up being on an
exchange with every sister in our zone this week haha, and so my
companion and I were literally together only on Monday and half of the
day on Saturday...haha life is crazy but I love Larsen Shimai so much
and feel blessed to be back home and working with her again!
So the first of our many adventures this week was to head over to
Sakai to have an exchange with those sisters before Zone Conference! I
was blessed to once again work with Sister Maiwiriwiri from Fiji and
it was so fun. She is such a bright and vivacious individual, and I
learn so much from her! We did a lot of great work together and had
some of the most awkward housing experiences of my entire mission
(like this one time this dude invited us into his gate of his yard but
we got stuck because his gate got jammed and then he tried to kick us
out and then we got stuck again and it was literally the most awkward
five minutes of my life), but it was neat to see such a young
missionary work so hard to be bold and share her testimony with
others. It was also awesome to have the koukan in my last area Sakai,
because we were able to meet with some of my favorite investigators,
Mayumi and her precious son Taichi. They are doing great and it made
my heart so happy to see them.

The next day started off bright and early with an ultimate frisbee
game for exercise before we got ready and had Zone Conference! I love
Zone Conference with my whole heart, President Welch came and gave
some amazing training on the Doctrine of Christ and he really talked
about how if we are all wanting to baptize more, we need to understand
this doctrine more...and so starting on the 22nd of this month we are
doing ANOTHER Book of Mormon challenge where we will be studying and
focusing on the Doctrine of Christ, and I am so excited. Because
President Welch leaves in about two months we are all going to be
reading four chapters a day to finish before he leaves, and I just
know the revelation is going to be crazy so I am excited. I love the
Book of Mormon with my whole heart! My companion and I also gave a
training on working with members and had some of our wonderful members
there to help us teach which was a blast, and we learned tons about
goal setting from the zone leaders. I absolutely love meetings, they
are such great opportunities for revelation and to know more of what
Heavenly Father would have us do.

After the conference and leadership meeting ended, we were finally
headed home where we had another exchange with the Wakayama sisters. I
worked with Sister Harada who is from Northern Japan, and she is such
a sweetheart. Her goal was focused on listening to the Spirit and so
we had some great Study and discussions together and were also able to
apply it in some lessons. Really wonderful exchange!

Our next exchange was with the Sennan sisters! I was working with
Sister Ashdown who is still in training, and she is just a dendo
fireball. She is way solid and loves working hard and so we had a
great day of just hitting the pavement and seeing some miracles. The
weather was BEAUTIFUL and so we did some good Finding in a nearby
park, and also had some good lessons with other investigators. Our
last contact of the night was super miraculous because it was this 16
year old girl who wanted to learn about Christ and eagerly accepted a
Book of Mormon. She won't be able to meet for about a year because she
is not allowed to until after she graduates, but it was just exciting
and humbling to some small part of her eventual conversion. Next year
she will be golden and a miracle and when we focus on that eternal
perspective that God has, it is just all the more rewarding in the
end. Never been happier to be a humble sower.

Finally this weekend we were back in Wakayama and I was able to spend
a lot of time with Sister Hokanson. She is an amazing sister with so
much love and charity and I was able to learn tons and tons from her.
We actually were companions on Easter, and it was neat to be able to
really think on and focus on the Savior together. I love Jesus Christ
so much and I just wish I could adequately put that into words. He is
everything to me, and He is the reason and I am able to do everything
that I do.

Our investigators are doing well, but it has also been a challenge to
be able to meet with them lately because of schedule issues. Luckily
Sister Larsen was able to have a lesson with Kana earlier in the week,
and she says she wants to be baptized and so we are excitedly working
with her on that goal! She is just so prepared and cute and it is fun
to work with her and help her seek her conversion through the Book of
Mormon. Kim has honestly been struggling with so much turmoil in the
world lately, and had a lot of questions about where God is for the
innocent who struggle and die whether it be in war or poverty or
whatever. They were some tough lessons but they were also awesome
because the Spirit was so incredible. I know for a certainty that God
loves all of His children and that He has a plan for us, and as long
as we trust Him we can know with certainty that it will all work out
in the end. I would be so lost without this gospel and the hope and
joy it brings.

Something I have really been reflecting on lately is faith and how it
truly begins with a CHOICE to believe. Being perfectly honest, if we
really wanted to, I am sure that every single one of us could go back
and doubt every spiritual experience we have ever had, but having
faith is CHOOSING to believe...choosing to believe that God is there,
choosing to believe that things will work out, choosing to believe
that there can always be hope found through our Savior. We had an
investigator who was struggling with wanting to choose to believe, and
it really just made me think on my life and experiences with the
gospel, and honestly I have said it before and I will say it again,
but if in the end by some crazy chance this gospel ended up NOT being
true, I would have no regrets. I have been brought so much peace and
joy and hope from this gospel and from God and Christ, it has changed
me. Even if my faith was just a choice to believe and it ended up
being for nothing, I wouldn't even care.
But the most beautiful thing about all of this is that it IS true.
God really does live and He does love every single one of us. Jesus IS
the Christ and did live, die, and even now lives for every single one
of us. Joseph Smith really saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and
through Him we really do have the restored church. The Book of Mormon
really is true and families really can be forever and this gospel is
really everything to me.

I feel so blessed to be here and sharing this gospel and beautiful
message with the Japanese people. I love them so much and I want them
to have this more than anything, because it is true and has blessed me
and my loved ones more than I can even begin to put into words.
This church is true, I promise. If you aren't sure, choose to believe
me and believe that it is true! I love you all so much and hope that
you have an amazing week, wherever you may be. Aishiteimasu, minasan!

Sister Pickering

Photos: Exchanges for days, Zone Conference and frisbee, Mayumi and
Taichi, shots from the ward hiking party, and random views from
working this week.