So we had a fabulous opportunity this past weekend to Skype with Alyssa because it was Mothers' Day. This skype felt a little different than the last two. I am not sure if it is because she has been gone for a long time now and we are settled into a routine or because we know we will see her in a short two months. But it was less tense and more joyful. Alyssa was just radiating and looked so beautiful. You could see how much she loves being a missionary. Every now and then she would slip into Japanese as we spoke and she still took delight in the simple things such as seeing the cat or comparing how much her siblings have grown. It was just so wonderful to hear her voice and talk back and forth.
Near the end of our conversation we did bring up a few things about the end of her mission. Roger and I are picking her up in Japan, when she is done, and we had a few details to discuss. As soon as we started to talk about her coming home, you could see her physically deflate before our eyes. It was painful to see the trepidation and worry that she has about coming home. She can't imagine not being a missionary and that is hard to accept. It proves to me even more that she has given 100% and loves those people wholeheartedly. A mission is truly a wondrous thing. It is difficult to go on one and just as difficult to return. I am hoping that she can focus on these last 2 months and give it all that she has left. We will continue to pray for her strength and success.
We ended with her sharing he testimony in Japanese. And boy, did she get emotional. He testimony of this Gospel has grown so deeply and means everything to her. You could feel in her words and see it in her tears. She knows without a doubt of the truthfulness of the work she is doing. That is priceless.
First of all, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! Especially wanted to send a super special shoutout to my own mother and grandmothers and aunts and basically any other women in my life who have made a difference and have helped me to be here. Truly so grateful!
It was another wonderful week for us here in Kawachinagano! I love this area and this ward so much and I am just so crazy blessed to be here.
Monday after a nice P day of nothing (honestly we are just so tired and so like taking naps basically every week haha) we decided to start combing through our Area book and called TONS of former and potential investigators. We were working for a while and had no success until we finally made contact with this 15 year old who wanted to meet with us again. Super exciting! We ended off by heading out to go and visit this elusive less active that we were FINALLY able to make contact with and have a good lesson with. Success in the little things!
Tuesday we were up bright and early to head to Kobe where we had MLC! I know I say this like every single month but I seriously love MLC. I love going and seeing so many missionaries that I love and respect (and it was fun, because some other elders from my MTC days were made Zone leaders and so it was like having this giant family reunion) as well as receiving training from President and Sister Welch. The entire morning session we spent having this giant discussion on what we are learning from the Doctrine of Christ Book of Mormon Challenge, and how we can better apply it as leaders, missionaries, sons, daughters, future spouses, etc. It was super neat and the Spirit was definitely present and able to teach me lots of things I needed to learn and hear. One thing I really liked that was talked about was the essentiality of having our lives and our countenance be the biggest testimony that we share of the Doctrine of Christ and its ability to change people. We can share about it all we want, but until we experience it, it means nothing as we share it with those around us. It was a cool moment for me to sort of sit back and reflect on how I have changed these past 16 months. Alyssa used to be a good person and all but through the doctrine of Christ, Sister Pickering has been able to change into someone so much better (haha I hope).
Wednesday was another super happy day just being back and working in the area. Had some good studies, had a lesson with a member, taught some less actives, visited a former Investigator, and contacted all along the way. Nothing crazy memorable or miraculous, but just good and happy nonetheless. That evening we packed up and headed on a train to go to Wakayama where we would have an exchange with the sisters down there, which brings me to Angel #1.
So it is 8:15 PM and we are walking along this dark country road in a random place in Japan called Wakayama when I receive a phone call from an investigator that is incredibly dear to my heart. We talk for a second and she proceeds to drop us...but this wasn't like a nice "Thanks for everything, maybe someday" drop, but it was one of those gut wrenching drops where it feels like your heart gets torn out and thrown in a blender. Basically I was being called a child and was told that none of this is worth it and I am wasting my time here. I was pretty devastated and was walking to this apartment with tears just coming uncontrollably, when I see this car pull up to us. I am about to be annoyed when I assume it is some random Japanese person being racist and suspicious about the gaijin walking alone late at night when I hear a familiar voice say "Pickering Shimai?" I look inside the car and it just so happens to be one of my favorite members in the WORLD, Minamimoto Kyoudai. He reaches out and shakes my hand and gives me a smile and just thanks me for everything and in that moment I was so overwhelmed with comfort and the Spirit. Wakayama is like 2 hours away from Kawachinagano but God cared enough to send me one of His angels in that moment to comfort me when I really needed it.
The next day we were on exchanges with the sisters in Wakayama! I was super blessed to go out and work with Sister Morris from Orem, Utah and it was so much fun because she had literally been out in the field for like a week! Her faith and testimony was so strong and she was just way cute and fired up about the work, and it was awesome to work together and see tons of miracles that day. Honestly it made me miss training so much! Being with a new missionary is one of the coolest experiences of all time. That night we all had a good time back in the apartment and it was awesome to catch up with Sister Miller, one of my dearest friends ever as we tried to catch up about our lives and missions for the past 16 months. She is awesome and I am way grateful for her!
So Friday was supposed to be Zone Training Meeting in Wakayama but it sort of got spontaneously cancelled indefinitely which meant we were up early again to catch a train over to Hashimoto (and on the way we taught a man from the Dominican Republic and got him committed to go to the church, and no I don't remember any Spanish FYI hahaha) for a district meeting. It was a super great meeting with tons of Spirit as we focused on testifying and teaching from personal experience, and as always I just learned so much. That evening we taught the Oonishi family about Jesus Christ (we used a tatoe with books to explain the atonement and it was super good), and then we went and taught Yuto and read a picture New Testament book together and he soaked it up. Kids are incredible.
Saturday was a super rainy day but it was filled with tons of small miracles! We had some appointments fall through with people, but it ended up leading us to some other areas where we met some other solid potential investigators and found some awesome neighborhoods with tons of new families. I was also over the moon because we found the SUPER countryside part of our area, and I felt like I was just living the dream as I biked through the Japanese countryside and the rain. We met with a former Investigator that day who was sadly only interested in foreigners (but the good news is I held a hamster and a ferret during that experience), had some good contacts, placed some Book of Mormons, and ended the night teaching a less active. We also found a cockroach in our apartment which basically brought me PTSD from the plethora of crises we had last year, but we will see what we can do to overcome this summer.
Sunday morning brought Angel(s)#2 and it was simply the fact that I was able to Skype my amazing family. There were lots of tears of joy and just all the emotions basically at seeing them again, but I was just so struck at how blessed I am to have such amazing parents and awesome siblings. I love them more than I can describe and even though I am in no way ready to not be a missionary anymore, I will be excited to see my eternal family again.
After Skyping was the usual church block and it was awesome as usual, and then we went on splits with the members which bring me to all the rest of the Angels. I was blessed to go and work with a sister named Kyoutani Shimai and we went out and passed out tons of flyers for our new Eikaiwa program and guitar class and church, and she was just a fireball and contacting everyone before I could even get over there haha. She is way sweet and I learned lots from her example. While I was doing that, my sweet companion Larsen Shimai went with the Minamimoto couple to go and visit the family we found last week! They are named the Oonoya Family and it is a mom and dad and two daughters, ages 9 and 7(?) and they are SUPER excited about taking the lessons and reading the Book of Mormon together as a family. Seriously the blessings in this place are unreal, and Minamimoto Shimai was a dream of a companion for Sister Larsen. Couldn't do this work without these angel members.
I know I say this all the time, but I am always just filled with so much love and gratitude for my mission. It is the most special experience and has changed me so much. To close I would just like to share a scripture that prompted me to serve a mission, and one that I read this week during my studies:
Mosiah 4:9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
To all my wonderful family and friends back at home, Believe in God. He is there. He loves you. He wants your happiness. Turn to Him and you will never be disappointed.
Hope you all have a wonderful week! Aishiteimasu minasan!