Monday, June 26, 2017

I'm not Creative Anymore: Nihon Week 68

There were a few times when reading Alyssa's email this week that I just laughed out loud.  I am so grateful my daughter has kept her sense of humor and enthusiasm for life and I was reminded again how much I have missed her.  But, how lucky that so many people have been able to enjoy her for the last year and a half.  Don't forget the check out the fun videos at the end.

Some of Alyssa's thoughts on her mission as she is winding down:
"The mission is crazy. So so different from any and all of my expectations and I have had to change in ways I never thought I would or would need to, and yet God is good and everything has worked out better than I ever could have hoped for. I am so grateful for this experience and the lessons and memories and experiences. It has been hard and exhausting and challenging and exciting and I would never trade any of it for the world. Now I wouldn't go back and relive like all of it haha, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Thank you so much for helping me to be here." 
Group Email:
Minasan, konnichiwa! 
Hope this email finds you happy and well wherever you might be and whatever you might be doing! Summer here in Kawachinagano is in full swing with the fun side effects of sweating out of every pore every moment of everyday, ridiculous tan lines, frizzy humidity hair, bug bites (and bugs flying into your eyeball while biking, that is always a fun experience), and a nice and newly working air conditioner (ours has been broken for the entire summer up to this point, so apartment life hasn't been fun, but thanks to the beautiful office elders we finally can sleep without fear of heat stroke any longer. Blessings!), so you could say life is GREAT! Happy to be here as always. 
So Monday night after a super gloriously chill P day, we had a planning session with the elders because this past week was basically insane-we had a musical number in church (AGAIN, literally I don't know why these people think we have any musical abilities at all, because newsflash we don't haha), an open house for members and nonmembers, a talent show, AND a dendo Fireside. Basically the planning was a bit nuts but the Spirit was there and guided us a lot so it was super cool and everything went smoothly. After that we ran over to a Members house super quick because we had accidentally left a bunch of flyers over there and we were able to share a quick message and then in return learned how to properly bow like a Japanese person. I am now officially set for life if I ever meet royalty or like just go to a local sushi joint or something. Hurray for culture haha. 
Tuesday we had one of our classic visiting teaching sprees with some sisters in the ward where there was visiting less actives and taking selfies galore. This ward is amazing but seriously so quirky and sometimes I think it would make a really good reality television show haha, but that is aside the point. We had a great time working with the members as usual. Later that afternoon we had an appointment with another member named Ritsuko Shimai and she is getting married soon and so we were able to have a good lesson with her about the temple and eternal marriage and the gospel blessing families. She is so excited and way cute about her upcoming marriage, and she then took the opportunity to bear strong and passionate testimony to me about the importance of attending the temple with someone you love and then getting married there ASAP (shoutout the Kawachinagano ward members who love pointing out to me I go home soon every two seconds, and then consequently offering me dating advice followed by the classic "Haiyaku kekkon shinasai" which is translated to me being commanded to get married quickly in scary command form Japanese), but it was a good time nonetheless. She is also such a boss though and told us how lately she felt prompted to share the gospel with her friends more and so we then were able to set up an appointment to meet with her and start teaching one of her friends again. Hurray for member missionary work! 
Wednesday was an exchange day for us here in Kawachinagano and it was SUCH A happy and miraculous day! We were blessed to have the Sennan sisters come to us and so I was able to work with the wonderful Sister Noftle from the great land of Canada, eh. She is still a super young missionary but is a way hard worker and very driven by the Spirit and so it was a cool day filled with tons of miracles. In the morning I was a little classically stressed as our schedule fell apart during daily planning, but through LOTS of prayer (and pleading and praying on my behalf that the day wouldn't just die haha) we made some new plans and ended up EXACTLY where we needed to be. We ran into investigators and less actives at perfect times, shared some cool messages through the Spirit, got a lesson set up with a former, had a boss lesson with a member, received an ashtray from the LA brother we work with on a weekly basis, and so much more. The happiest miracle for me was when we felt prompted to go this certain way and NOBODY was had been pouring rain all day and so people were hiding inside but we just felt like we needed someone to meet. After a while of walking and nobody to talk to but still feeling like we needed to be there, we turned a corner and saw ONE person on the road....and it was Kim. Like my dear dear friend past baptismal candidate who had a crisis and smashed my heart into oblivion and told us to never contact her again. I immediately froze and wasn't sure what to do but then she saw us and excitedly ran up to me and we hugged and I started to cry with joy on the street and she apologized and we had an amazing reunion where she told us basically she wants to start meeting again. She told us she was so glad God put us there in the street, because she was too embarrassed to call and apologize but He obviously wanted us to reconcile. Heavenly Father is so so so so good. We are so never alone in this work. 
Thursday after sending the Sennan sisters home, we headed out and had a great lesson with a less active sister at the church all about the Spirit and revelation and that was also TOTALLY cool because it had not been planned that way at all but it ended up that way so the Holy Ghost sort of took the wheel on that one and it worked out. Afterwards we biked out to go visit this former investigator we had an appointment with, and she was way cute! Her name is Aiko and she is 22 and met with the missionaries in the past but was too busy.  Her schedule freed up and so now she can meet and wants to learn about the Plan of Salvation and so will be investigating again! Miracle! The rest of the afternoon we actually headed back to the apartment so Sister Gusman could sleep because I am literally the worst luck ever and just break all the immune systems of my companions haha. Please pray for her to get better! She is such a trooper though, especially because I have been driving us around like crazy people. That night we taught our kids English class which is always an adventure, and then called it a day. 
Friday was District meeting in Hashimoto! This is a super fun district and super weird because we have all been here for 3-4 transfers and so are pretty tight like a family but also sometimes get on each other's nerves like siblings as well. But this meeting was good haha, we practiced a lot with using the Book of Mormon in our contacts and helping people to gain more interest in it and understand it despite being written with super difficult kanji. After we got home from the meeting, we had a long afternoon of SKK and prep for the upcoming ward activities and set up and jazz like that. In the evening we taught the Oonishi family, and then the Ueda kids and they are both doing SO WELL. I love these families so much and seeing them slowly accept the gospel into (or BACK into) their lives is awesome. Being a missionary is so cool. 
Saturday morning we were up bright and early to head to the church to practice our hula on the fancy church stage (I am terrible at hula, just as a general FYI) before heading to the local pond for our classic monthly cleaning project. After that we had plans to go and visit some less actives and potential investigators but when I got to my bike, one of my tires was COMPLETELY flat...haha it was SO unfortunate and the first time that has ever happened, so we had to do this walk of shame to the nearest Asahi to get it fixed. Luckily there is only one Asahi in my area and it is usually really far from where we go, but we just happened to be super close by that day #blessings. After that we sped on our merry way to this train station where we had two lessons back to back with former investigators, where both want to learn and investigate again, what what. Then after that we sped again back to our apartment to greet our friend the AC fixing guy who did us a solid and relieved us from heat stroke, and then we got ready and headed up to the church to set up for the open house and Talent Show (Also fun side story, NEVER leave the elders and your ward mission leader in charge of making a creative display for missionary work or else you show up at the church and instead of displays on baptism and missionary activity like originally planned there is like 25 large posters of Joseph Smith covering every available wall space instead). The event turned out to be a huge success! We had a fair amount of investigators come, and a lot of members brought friends as well. Our display room and open house turned out way nice, and the talent show was a blast. I danced the hula (shoutout my companion for being an amazing teacher) and nobody died and I didn't fall off the stage despite the fact the members got their hands on a spotlight machine and went a little crazy out of excitement, so overall I would call it a happy and fun success. This ward is the best! 
Sunday was of course just a happy day. A special moment was when we were singing the sacrament hymn and I hear the door open and in bursts the LA brother we work with regularly, and he had come alone again despite his wife being sick. I saw him sing and partake of the sacrament and feel the Spirit and it just made me so emotional to reflect on the change in this man because of Jesus Christ and how blessed I feel to be a witness of His power to change all of us. After church we had a Fireside with the members about seeing a WARD baptism-and it was so good! We had them split up into groups and have a discussion about the converts the ward wants, and where we would go to find them and how we would invite them, and what our respective roles as missionaries and members would be. I was SO stressed about how it would all go leading into it, but it also ended up super successful and boosted the morale of the ward a TON, and now we have more plans to work with members help their friends be introduced to the gospel. This work is just the happiest thing ever, I swear. Literally there is no place I would rather be. 
A few thoughts to end! First of all, today is the ONE YEAR mark of my sweet convert Ayaka being baptized clear back in my first area in Yamatokoriyama. I cannot believe how fast time has flown, and I also am just so overcome with gratitude to still be in contact with her. She hasn't missed a week of church since we met her at a vending machine back on that hot day in what feels like a lifetime ago, and she is still actively learning and living and LOVING the gospel and preparing to attend the temple with my parents and I in a little over a month. I never really understood the scripture from D&C18 about our joy being great with just one soul being brought unto Christ, but because of her I can finally catch a tiny glimpse of the meaning. She is the greatest joy of my mission and if I came here literally only for her, it would all be worth it like a million times over. 
Second was that this week we had the chance to finish up the Book of Mormon Challenge and I just wanted to testify again that it is true. It is true, I know it is, it has changed my life and I love it for that. The Doctrine of Christ is amazing and I feel changed just by extensively studying it! 
Third, was this week I was just so struck with how FAST and willing God is to bless us as we keep His commandments. Earlier this week I received some impressions on how I needed/wanted to change and I was a little grudging but the SECOND I committed to change and do it, we saw miracles and blessings left and right. 
Mosiah 2: 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
I love this gospel and I love being here in Kawachinagano to share it with these amazing people! 
Until next week! Have an awesome week and talk to you again soon!
Aishiteimasu minasan! 
Sister Pickering 
Hula costumes for the ward talent show

Service at the pond

Alyssa trying to be "cool" at the rice fields

1 year ago, a glorious day.
Pickering Shimai and Gusman Shimai dancing the Hula
Alyssa loves the children
I am not sure what to make of this . . . :)
Finding joy in all situations

Monday, June 19, 2017

I'm the Queen of Sakai: Nihon Week 67

Alyssa and her new companion Sister Gusman

First of all, transfer news...I am still here in Kawachinagano! Woohoo! I will be ending my mission here in this beautiful area of Kawachinagano and I am so so happy. That makes it transfer four for me here, and transfer six in this amazing Sakai zone. I will have literally spent more than half of my mission in this amazing Stake (literally I have been here so long that me and the Stake President have a secret handshake haha), and I couldn't be more blessed to be in this special part of the vineyard. Literally heaven and I am so happy to still be here. 
My new companion is named Sister Gusman and the best part is that I actually met her back in the MTC many moons ago! She is from the big island of Hawaii, and is literally one of the kindest and sweetest and most charitable and happy people I have ever met. Everyday I am getting to go and work with a ray of sunshine, and it is so fun. I am so lucky to have started and to be ending my mission with a Hawaiian companion haha, and the other fun thing is that all of my morning workouts have been turned into learning the hula for our upcoming ward talent show. Should be a Hawaiian rollercoaster ride haha. 
Monday night after P day we had a cool miracle as we did some Area Book work and were super blessed to be able to make contact with some former investigators who were willing to meet again! That has been a somewhat rare occurrence on my mission and so I was super excited. We have appointments this week and I can't wait to see what happens! 
Tuesday was a crazy day of getting a bunch of stuff prepared for my companion to go home, and then we were able to go visiting Teaching with some sisters in the ward and I honestly love it so much. These sisters are so diligent and good and getting to be a humble witness to how they magnify their callings has been such an inspiration for me now as a missionary, and for goals I have upon returning. Literally I say this so much but I mean it every time, that these Japanese members have forever changed my life and I am so so grateful. That evening we had our classic English classes which was super fun as always! 
Wednesday we had some great lessons with some less actives that I adore! The first in the morning was with a Sister named Tsuruta Shimai and we had a great lesson out of the Book of Mormon and were all able to share our favorite parts and how they have shaped our lives. For that day my favorite chapter (it changes a lot okay haha) was Mosiah 14 which is all about the atonement of Christ, as we taught it and explained I couldn't help but once more just be so overcome with love and gratitude for my Savior. I love Him so much. He is truly everything to me and I couldn't be here doing this without His help and love every single day. I have loved my time coming to know Him as His representative! We also had another lesson with our couple who is working to get to the temple and they are doing SO WELL! Kyoudai went out and did dendo with the elders last week and I guess was way cute and tried so hard and chased some people down with flyers to invite them to various events. He has changed so much through the atonement of Christ and it has been the best thing ever to witness. He also came to church yesterday by himself, even though his wife was sick. Small miracles! 
Thursday was Transfer day and that was just craziness as always. We were up bright and early to send off my beloved companion Sister Larsen for her next transfer as an RM in America! I was blessed to work with her for the time that I did, I learned so much and know that I found another friend for eternity. I will be seeing her again soon, so it was okay. We then spent a loooong time at an Eki and other various places while we waited for the rest of the sisters to transfer into the zone! We have three new sisters including my companion, and they are all bosses. I can't wait for all the exchanges we will have this transfer! After my companion finally got here (she was banished off on the rock of Shikoku and so took a while to get in) we ate some food and then headed home where we had the big long and beastly weekly planning session/how to be an STL 101 speech. Sister Gusman is such a trooper and I am so excited for this transfer with her! 
Friday was a wonderful and yet miraculous day for us! Being honest we didn't really have any appointments and so I was a little nervous on what to do and was praying SO hard for us to be in the right place at the right time, and the Lord and the Spirit totally answered my prayers. After some morning studies we went out to go and visit a LA named Tanya that had been LA for a looong time and nobody had really been able to meet with her...but we did! She was super Genki and we had a great talk and were able to set up an appointment to go to lunch today (which we did, and it was awesome and fun and delicious and ended up in an adventure drive through the mountains, but that is aside the point). We were so elated to meet with her! As we were leaving I had this weird prompting to go back and house this one specific house but we decided to do it anyways and then nobody was home...I thought it was odd but then the second we hopped back on our bikes we saw Tanya come around the corner and we met and talked AGAIN and she bought us drinks #blessings. God works in mysterious ways but heaven knows He is there. After that we headed to visit a member and do some service there, and then back to a big Eki for a Chirashi Kubari (like flyer handing out party thing?) to try and get our English class rolling. It was fairly successful, and during that time we also had an adventure where we saw a former pursuer of my love and affection (the dude from the Dominican Republic of the Congo, for those of you who read or remember my emails haha) which meant we had to pull a secret agent movie and flee through this crowded train station and end up hiding in a restaurant. The mission never gets old, I tell ya. We ended the night with our weekly lesson with the Oonishi kids, which then turned into a meal appointment across the street with them and the member family named the Kitous and their nonmember kids and grandkids. The members here are angels. 
Saturday after studies we headed out bright and early to go and visit this LA and I didn't know her address so we had to use my handy dandy google maps. We got the address in and everything and it was great, and we started out on our merry way. Along the way to the destination my iPad thinks we are going, we actually end up finding her house accidentally, which means my iPad had somehow been mistaken. We shrugged it off and tried to visit, but sadly nobody was home. We left a note and then had some awkward time, so we decided that we should obey google maps and see where it was trying to lead us. We ended up in this young Family neighborhood and the first door we knocked was this super nice young dad with three kids that went to a Christian school and interest in bringing them to children's Eikaiwa. What?  God is so good. The entire day was filled with tons of little miracles like that as we biked around and worked hard and tried to find a lot. We tried to go hit up some universities we found on the map and accidentally ended up biking into my former area (whoops), and basically climbed several mountains. Sister Gusman has been such a champ on the Kawachinagano hills in this crazy summer heat, I have been mean and basically dragging her all over the place to super far locations. 
Sunday was of course just special and wonderful. We had a great set of meetings and ward Council and studies and then were able to go out and try and visit some people. Nobody was really home or available, but as always it is just a privilege to be a servant of the Lord and doing His work. The blessings and joys are really endless. 
I had sort of a funny experience this week where I was having one of those off days that we all as humans and missionaries have from time to time. I was just sort of feeling down and tired and sort of done and the thought came to my mind "Okay if only we had a miracle right now or someone who would listen, THEN I would change my attitude and get happier" and then in that moment I was so lovingly corrected by the Spirit in a way that was basically like "Oh snap, are you asking God for signs?" It was really humbling in that moment to realize I was totally being like Laman and Lemuel and asking for some sort of sign in order to make me happier or to strengthen my resolve and faith. Something that I have really learned over my mission that faith doesn't need signs. Faith is a hope and a belief that it will all get better and if it doesn't, it will be for our good, and faith is choosing to be positive and happy about whatever comes that way. It was cool for me to recognize and remember that our faith and our happiness is independent of our circumstance, and if we only choose to use our eyes of faith to see, the blessings and love of God are ALL around us. 
I love this work and this mission so much. Everyday I am just so struck with how blessed I am to be here! Love being a missionary and love these people and this gospel so much. So so so blessed. 
Have an amazing week and I will talk to you all again soon!
Aishiteimasu, minasan! 
Sister Pickering 


Monday, June 12, 2017

Here's To Transfer 12: Nihon Week 66

Quote of the Week:
"The happiest life is one where we are not at the center of it!"
This just in:
I stay in this area as an STL and I am still here with my beloved members! Yay!
My new companion is Sister Gusman and she is from Hawaii. We were in
the MTC together and I ADORE her. So cute. It will be an amazing
transfer. So excited.
So so happy and blessed. Can't wait for it all!!!

Minasan, konnichiwa!

First of all before I get started on things I have some shout outs for
people just because I can haha. First of all, my baby sister turns 13
this week! If any of you know Brianna at all, please go and harass her
and buy her ice cream for me. Love her so much! Also my best friend
Spence finishes up his mission this week...seriously also can't
believe that but am way proud of him and all the work he did in El
Salvador. And finally (a week early, but whatever time difference
haha) HAPPY FATHERS DAY DAD! I was so blessed to have an amazing daddy
that showed me all about the love that God has for me as His daughter.
So grateful for Him in every single way!

We had an awesome week here in Kawachinagano just working hard and
seeing all the great miracles that God has in store for us. I don't
know if I will ever get tired of being here.

Monday night after P day we headed on some trains and made our way to
Sennan for a companion exchange! Woohoo! Nothing too crazy but we had
some good train Dendo opportunities and had an adventure where my
companion lost her name tag near a rice patty in the dark. We also saw
fireflies so it was a successful night I would say.

The next day we were in Sennan and I was able to work with Sister
Shumway! She just finished up her first transfer here in the field and
was super sweet. We didn't have bikes and so it was sort of a super
long day of walking all over this super countryside place where there
weren't a ton of people unfortunately, but it was still good. We were
able to role play and prepare a lot for a lesson we had that night
with a member to teach the Restoration! After that and a good old
Eikaiwa, we were kidnapped by the classic "Loves the missionaries but
refuses baptism" English student that bought us ice cream and took us
to this bridge to see all these crazy fireflies with lots of families
and people. It was awesome, I love the experiences we have on the

Wednesday we headed back to Kawachinagano in the POURING RAIN, because
it is the start of the rainy season here in Japan! Woohoo! Hurray for
six weeks of wearing rain suits and looking dorky on bikes, but it is
okay because it is still super fun. That day was super chill because
by time we got home we had to have our weekly planning session (last
one of the transfer, so crazy) and then go to ping Pong night with our
ward where I once again ALMOST won, but didn't. My companion was
starting to get a little sick again (poor girl seriously can't kick
whatever has been bothering her the past three months) so we went back
and she rested and I studied.

Thursday we had another companion exchange with the Sakai sisters! I
was blessed to work with Sister Maiwiriwiri and it was SO fun. I have
known her since she came to the mission and it has been such a
blessing to watch her grow and progress like she has. We had a super
cool miracle where I had felt prompted to have us take a train out and
go visit this potential investigator but when we got there, she wasn't
home. Still confused but whatever, decided to House around because we
just felt like there was someone waiting for us. After almost an hour
of this and literally no success, I just exasperatedly cried out "Okay
there is SOMEONE here who needs us!" and then rang this doorbell. This
woman comes out and is WAY kind to us and we get talking and she knows
like ALL this stuff about the church. I'm freaking out because I think
we found a golden person, and then through the conversation we piece
together that she is a less active and had been for many years. She
was way sweet and invited us in and we had an awesome discussion with
her and totally opened the door of communication for us to go back and
start working with her. After further investigation after the fact we
found out that this is a LA we had been told we were not allowed to
meet because she didn't like the missionaries...but it appeared her
heart had changed and it was SUCH a miracle. Such a cool thing to see,
so grateful that God truly led us to find her! Later that day we also
taught another less active the Restoration lesson and the Spirit was
crazy strong. All of us were moved and it just made me once again so
grateful for this gospel and amazing message that we share. Then that
night we had plans to go visit this OTHER less active but on the way
ended up meeting with one of our 3 young women in the ward and her
friend. We played basketball with them for a bit and then taught them
a lesson and now we are going to start teaching her cute friend!
Seriously we were blown away by God's timing, the miracles were crazy
that day.

Friday was District Meeting in Hashimoto! We were all asked to give
trainings on our "strengths" and I was able to teach on working with
members. Good meeting, learned a lot, we then went back to our area so
my Dying companion could sleep before our Eikaiwa appointment that
night with the Oonishi girls. They are just so cute, teaching children
is the best.

Saturday was another awesome day because I got to fulfill one of my
mission dreams and go up into the mountains and labor and do service
in a Japanese rice field. It was sooo fun, we basically just frolicked
in this mud with frogs and planted individual sprouts(?) of rice. We
were there with one of our PI's, and it was way great because we were
able to serve and develop good relations and get her committed to come
to church (and to potentially date a young guy in the ward, because
they are literally a match made in heaven, flirt to convert anyone?).

That night we had a meal appointment with a member family and one of
our investigators named Serika. She is 20 and living away from her
family from school, and is doing way well. She is still clinging to
Buddhism pretty hard but has also attended church and is reading the
Book of Mormon like a champ, so we are excited to see where it goes.
The members were AWESOME and we had a great lesson on the Book of
Mormon and I was just once again so grateful for the members in this
amazing ward here.

Sunday was a little crazy but in a good way. For the first time in my
mission I had to give a real talk in sacrament (don't ask me how I
have avoided it up until this point, I have noooo idea haha) and so
did my companion AND we had a musical number AND had to help teach AND
had an investigator it was madness but good madness! I spoke
on why I decided to serve a mission and if was cool to reflect back on
all the little decisions and all the amazing people that helped me get
here. So blessed. After the meetings ended we went on splits with the
members and I had a miraculous few hours with my favorite couple EVER
and the RS President as we went crazy visiting less actives and
inviting them to upcoming events. My companion went with another
sister and visited all of her friends, so that was also way boss. This
ward is the best! That evening we had a meal appointment with the
Nakata family and had a spur of the moment lesson plan (thanks Spirit)
and had a great meeting with them. God is really so good.

One thing that has really struck me this week is how much God loves us
and how much PATIENCE that He has with us. Something I have really
noticed as an STL is that it is so easy for me to see these issues
that the sisters have and the solution is SO obvious and SO simple and
yet they won't do it or will ignore it and then it ends up ridiculous,
but then they end up going back and taking our advice and it all ends
up great. Sometimes it is hard for me to want to continue doing this
and guiding and helping in my frustration, but in those moments I
learn so much about God. He is so merciful and filled with everlasting
patience, and I am sure it is so the same when He looks at us and sees
our problems and tries to tell us the answer, and yet we are stubborn
and just try and do it our own way. How grateful I am for his love and
His patience, because I would truly be nothing here without it. Isn't
it just the most comforting thing ever that we are in the hands of the
most perfect teacher and He will NEVER EVER abandon or lose hope on

Every single day I am just so grateful to be Kawachinagano,
in Japan, as a missionary, whatever. This week we have transfers and I
have no idea where I will end up and who I will be with, but all I
know is I trust God and know that things will work out for the best as
they always have a tendency to do for all those who rely on Him. I am
grateful to be here and to show the Lord my love and dedication for my
last six weeks here, and to see what miracles He has in store for us.
It is only just gonna get better from here!

Have a wonderful week! Aishiteimasu!

Sister Pickering

P.S. We went to the beach with some sisters in the Zone for P day!
Seriously so much fun. I love the summertime and it is great here in