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

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