Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sakachinagano 2.0: Nihon Week 71

Alyssa and Ayaka
Excerpt from my letter:
Something I have been pondering lately is gratitude. Of all the crazy emotions of sad and happy and exhaustion and relief about my mission drawing to a close, the biggest emotion of all that I feel is just gratitude. I am so grateful to be here. I am so grateful God allowed me to serve a mission. I am so grateful you and Dad raised me and helped me to be here. I am so grateful for the areas I have served in and the people I have met. So grateful for the Japanese language and culture and country and people. I just have so much gratitude in my heart and despite the sorrow and occasional heartache the gratitude always wins out. Gratitude truly is a catalyst for other Christlike attributes and that is what I will be clinging to in these coming days. 
Thank you for helping me to be here and thanks for pushing me out the door. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, this mission has meant the world to me and more and I will never get over it. Seriously though, there is no way I could be here without you. So thank you. So much gratitude for you too :)
I too am full of gratitude.  Grateful to Alyssa and her example.  Grateful for wonderful members, companions,  Mission Presidents and the Japanese people for taking care of her this last year and a half.  Grateful for her safety and protection.  Grateful for all that she has learned and experienced.  Grateful for the blessings we have received as a family because of her service.  Grateful for the Savior and His plan and this Gospel.  And grateful that I get to hug my daughter soon.  Taking from Alyssa's constant words: "God is good"!

Minasan, konnichiwa! 
Okay so first of all to clear some stuff up, yes, last P day I lied to every single one of you, I apologize, my homecoming will actually be August 13th at 9 AM instead of the 9th because we don't have church on Wednesday as my Father so kindly brought to my observation haha. My baaaaaaad. 
I can't believe another week has come and gone already....time is just flying by and Heavenly Father is keeping me busy right until the end. Just happy to be here and pushing and working until I can happily collapse at the finish line tape (and then probably stay down and take a nap for like four days because I am actually really really tired haha, but it's whatever). This past week was wonderful though! 
Monday night after another P day of chilling and resting (nobody really wants to go out and do much in this heat anyways haha) we had a meal appointment with a member family named the Suzuki's, and their LA daughter and nonmember granddaughter. We had prepared a lesson based on what Suzuki Shimai had asked us to the day before and felt good about it, but it was interesting because while studying for the lesson I received what felt like some totally unrelated promptings and learnings, but it was good and I learned anyways so sort of just set it aside. We get to the appointment and find out that the LA daughter and nonmember granddaughter won't be able to attend...disappointing but also okay because I love the Suzuki family with my whole heart and soul. We had a great meal and then when it came time for the lesson we shared the lesson we had planned but were able to adjust it a little bit to meet needs and circumstance and it was actually way cool because the things I had learned that morning came flooding to my mind as I realized God had planned for this lesson change long before any of us knew it would be happening. It was very humbling and actually sort of sacred to have Suzuki Shimai look me in the eyes and thank me for being an answer to a prayer she had offered that day, and it made me SO grateful for the Spirit. The greatest privilege I have had out here is to act as an instrument for our Heavenly Father, and it is really one of the best feelings in the world. 
Tuesday morning we got up super super early to head out for an exchange we had that day with the Wakayama sisters! I was super blessed to work with Sister Miller, because she has become one of my best friends out here and I just love her to death. It was awesome to spend an entire day just working super hard as the two oldest sisters in the mission (ouch, that hurts to say) but also seeing tons of tender mercies and blessings from God. I think we ended up with like two new investigators that day and several way solid PI's, so it was awesome. It was also CRAZY hot and we both got completely fried haha, nothing like a summer in Kansai. 
Wednesday morning we left Wakayama to head to Sakai where we had planned to do a Zone blitz with all of the sisters, but then some craziness went down and due to one of our sisters having to go to Kobe for some health issues, there ended up being an emergency transfer that we ended up going and helping with as far as like packing and preparing the apartment...we found out that in the process, there would be no Sakai Sisters for two weeks and since that is super rough on an area and since we are the closest sisters and I know the area like the back of my was decided that my companion and I would spend the rest of my mission covering both the Kawachinagano AND Sakai areas! For those of you who remember, I actually have already done this two area deal twice already, and once was the Sakai and Kawachinagano areas back in December, so I guess you could say I have had more than a little practice haha. It is going to be absolutely insane for these next 10 days, but I am so excited to be back with two areas I absolutely love. Sakachinagano 2.0 here we go!! The other cool part about Wednesday was that I had my departing interview with President Smoot....holy cow emotions. I support that man fully as my priesthood leader, because there were things he told me and counsel he gave me that could only have come from my loving Father in Heaven. It meant everything to me to hear after eighteen months of my imperfect and yet heartfelt service that it was accepted of the Lord. Not a feeling or experience I will be able to forget. 
Thursday was a day filled with visiting lots of less actives and having those lessons super guided by the spirit which was just boss. Something kind of funny that happened is that I messed up in assigning a reading assignment (thanks Japanese) to the Fukumitsu couple we teach weekly and when they were supposed to read the section on "Hope" from PMG they accidentally read the "How do I better learn my mission language?" section and they took super diligent notes and got way into it and somehow Sister Gusman and I were able to pull it off as a real lesson for addiction recovery and act like nothing ever happened haha. The mission gives you valuable improvisation skills, that is for sure. 
Friday we had a super great district meeting in Kawachinagano, and it was way fun because the Sakai elders have been temporarily added to our district and they are just great. The meeting was based off of teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, and we were able to learn a lot about charity and how we need to let it drive our daily actions as missionaries and affect who we are seeking to share the gospel with. Super great, way strong spirit, learned a lot. The afternoon was spent visiting Teaching with some sisters in the ward (always a party, lots of old women talk to be heard and pudding to be eaten by all), before going to our weekly appointments with the kids we teach. The Oonishi girls are doing way great, we have been reviewing the Plan of Salvation with them and they just love it. I LOVE how accepting children are, it's so awesome. Then we visited the Ueda kids who are also doing has been a joy to work with them and help their mom slowly work towards activation which means helping the kids work towards baptism. Super super happy stuff! 
Saturday we received the news that one of our sisters who we thought would only be going to Kobe for medical treatment would actually having to be returning to America for further help, and so we spent the morning and all afternoon back in Sakai helping her pack all of her things and clean the apartment some more and then head to the hospital to get some stuff done for her. Lots of strength and bravery from that lady, I have learned so much from the sisters I have been blessed to serve with out here. In the evening when we got back to Kawachinagano, we went with the Minamimoto couple to go and visit a billion less actives and ended up meeting some new potential investigators in the process. Those two are such miracle workers, I swear. I love them with my whole heart. 
Sunday rolled around (way too fast as usual haha) and was just wonderful. Awesome meetings with lots of people that I just love so much, which led into a series of ward council type meetings. After that we decided to shake up our finding a little bit and head to this free Japanese Class that the community puts on for foreigners to help them learn Japanese and get accustomed to the country and language and whatnot, and so we followed the elders and decided to check it out and it ended up being SUPER effective. We ran into a former investigator we will be meeting next week, and found some new people to teach including one of the teachers and these three cute kids from Pakistan. Literally God is so good. The evening was spent with a member named Ikeuchi Shimai and we ate and had a quick lesson there. Kawachinagano is seriously heaven on earth. 
I have been studying about the Savior and His miracles a lot this week, and it has been cool how real and personal it has become to me through what I have read. One thing that really struck me is how Christ could have possibly healed and saved so many people when He was in a community with thousands and could He have done it all? Would people not have been forgotten? As I was pondering this and studying some more the very clear realization came to me that EVERY SINGLE PERSON that approached the Savior for healing and mercy received it...He never turned a single one of them away, and anyone who asked received. Is this not so true for us now? We live in a world with millions and millions and might sometimes have the natural man tendency to feel forgotten by our Savior, but I testify that every single one us that cry out to Jesus will receive whatever help and healing we need. Every. Single. Time. He knows us, He loves us, and He is simply waiting for us to even make the slightest movement towards Him, and in so doing He will run to us and catch us and bring us the rest of the way. 
I love my Savior Jesus Christ so so much. It is hard to put into words how I feel about my Savior and how I have come to know Him and love Him more over the course of my time here in Japan, but it can just be simply summarized in love and gratitude. I am thankful for His sacrifice for me, and I love Him and will love Him forever for it. I am so grateful to know Him and to love Him and to be here as His representative to the Japanese people. 
I hope you all have a wonderful week, and that you feel the love of the Savior in your individual lives. I pray for you all, and can't wait to see you all soon! This is my last full week in the mission field and so I am excited to see what blessings and miracles the Lord has in store for us in BOTH of my wonderful areas. Only time will tell! 
Love you all so so much! Aishiteimasu minasan! 
Sister Pickering 
P.S. Today for P day we went to Osaka to go to Harukas which is the tallest building in Osaka and the second tallest in Japan. Super super cool and the best was that my convert Ayaka came too. Just so much happiness today. 


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Big 18: Nihon Week 70

I cannot not believe that we are down to the last couple of weeks of Alyssa's mission.  It is just unreal.  I loved her deep thoughts on the scripture in Nephi 3:17.  She just painted a vivid picture of not only the scripture story but of what she has been doing the past 18 months.  It is just so incredible to know she has been a part of this amazing work that she loves so much and to understand the privilege that it is to bring people to Christ.  She has taught me so much.

Our family also had the incredible opportunity to attend the Homecoming of her Mission President and Wife, the Welches.  They were just with Alyssa last week and next thing we know they are sharing their experiences for all.  The meeting was phenomenal.  The spirit was so strong and I was so touched by their words and love for the missionaries.  I can understand why they influenced Alyssa so much and also why she loves them so dearly.  They have impacted her life more than they can even know.  There were easily 150+ returned missionaries at the meeting and they were invited t up to the stand to sing the Japan Kobe Mission song.  Wow!!  It was so emotional and beautiful and I just cried and cried.  I think I am way more emotional now than when Alyssa left.  A mission not only changes the missionary but her family and all those influenced by them.  It is just so remarkable.

Here is a copy of the words of the mission song:

Minasan, konnichiwa! 
Hope this email finds you Genki and well and that you all were able to spend a wonderful Fourth of July wherever you might have been. I can't believe it is already time to write another email, I swear I was just barely here doing this, but time is crazy so whatever I guess haha. 
So last Monday we had a glorious P day where we literally did nothing besides clean and shop and like lounge around and it was so good. I literally feel like an 87 year old, my body is just so tired and done and so any excuse to do nothing is just so welcome. Happy happy day! That evening to celebrate our wonderful Independence Day, the Minamimoto couple invited us and the elders over for a dinner, as well as the Fukumitsu couple that we have been working with for some time. We had an amazing dinner (Minamimoto Shimai makes food that makes me want to cry because it is so good) and then afterwards taught a lesson on Faith in Jesus Christ out of the Christlike Attributes section of PMG. It was such a sweet experience to be in a room with so many people I love talking about someone I love even more. I love my Savior so much. I have really come to know Him here in Japan and for that I am eternally grateful. 
Tuesday morning (The Fourth of July!!!) bright and early kicked off our marathon of being on the road for basically the rest of the transfer as we headed to Kobe for MLC!  As always it was such a great meeting, but the highlight of it all was getting to meet my new mission President and his wife, President and Sister Smoot. Honestly at first I had sort of a hard time with the idea of having a new mission President for the last three weeks of my mission but for some time now I have just been praying for charity and excitement and humility to be able to learn from them what I need to, and I can just say that the second they walked into the room I felt the greatest love for them. I love President and Sister Smoot so much and I can wholeheartedly testify that they are called of God to lead the Japan Kobe Mission at this time, and I know I will be leaving it in the best of hands. They are both very kind and incredibly humble people with a lot of love, and they have the dendo fire of a missionary straight out of the MTC so I am super excited to be working under them at this time. We had a great meeting focused a lot on finding and how we can better use our resources and PMG to find those who are prepared, and it was an excellent meeting where I learned a lot and found a LOT more to repent about haha. To close to the meeting I had to give ANOTHER departing testimony (I am really done with this game at this point haha) but it was just good and sweet and another moment for me to reflect on my gratitude for this amazing mission experience I have been blessed with. After some final goodbyes to some of my dear friends, my companion and I made our way back to Kawachinagano through a typhoon to catch the last fifteen minutes of our Eikaiwa class. Hurray for English! 
Wednesday we were BACK on the road, but this time to Sakai where we had a companion exchange planned with the sisters there! I was blessed to work with Sister Rees, who is a way cute sister that is from the same group as my trainee and we have had a good time working together these past few transfers. We had a solid morning of studies and then headed out (in the pouring rain of course, because rainy season in Japan) to go have a lesson and meal appointment with a recent convert named Daito Kyoudai that I just adore, and so it was a super good meeting. Unfortunately after we left his apartment, my poor companion for the day got super sick and so we headed back to the apartment so she could rest. That evening we met up with the other sisters to go to this dinner appointment with this Eikaiwa student that loves me/eternal friend zone investigator to this conveyor belt sushi restaurant which was good and all...except he like literally forces us to eat sushi.  Like command form Japanese is used like none other. So there is the four of us sisters, one of us has spent all day throwing up and the other just found out she is Celiac and Lactose Intolerant and so can't eat anything...and so the responsibility falls on Sister Gusman and I to literally eat so much sushi we wanted to die. He kept ordering things like crazy and we just tried to eat as fast as we could before it caught up to us and we got way sick. It was so bad haha, at the end of the night we were so full but we just kept praying that because we were eating out of charity that A) We wouldn't throw up and B) We wouldn't gain like eighty pounds and guess what friends, charity eating works because it all ended up okay. That night I went to go and teach Eikaiwa back in Sakai and saw so many students I loved, then we all went home and basically crashed. 
The next day was insane because it was my 18 month anniversary as a missionary. That was way surreal and the sisters were super sweet and made me pancakes shaped like an 18 (pictures to be included) but it was just crazy to imagine I have been here doing this for so long. We all got ready super nice (like for once these days) and then got on a train to Abeno (which is in central Osaka) for the Meet the President Conference so the rest of the mission could meet the Smoot's. We were combined with the Osaka, Sakai, and Kyoto zones so it was pretty funny to be chilling in a room with the only zones I served in my whole mission, but it was so happy nonetheless because I saw SO many friends and missionaries that I just love so much. It was also really cool to be reunited with 2 of the 3 sisters I came to Japan with on our 18 month mark, and to just reflect on how much time has changed and we have grown (sorry Park Shimai, you are banished on the other side of the mission at the moment). It was another great meeting, I loved the Smoot's even more, their testimonies are just so sweet and I learned a lot about the necessity to teach by the Spirit. President Smoot emphasized how we are simply messengers of light and how our purpose is to add to the light that people have whether they be contacts on the street or fully active members, but our purpose to invite and uplift remains the same. In the later afternoon we all played some fun games to get to know one another more before wrapping up. Then I had to say some more goodbyes which I really hate to a lot of elders I came here with, as well as to some sisters I have worked with on MLC or had in the zone, and  even to my sweet trainee Sister Epperson. She has grown so much and I am so proud of her! Regardless I am just glad for the mission and all the eternal friends it has given me. Can't be grateful enough. 
So Friday....I guess Friday actually started for us on Thursday night when we were confirming appointments and plans for the next day and to my horror literally all of our appointments and plans fell through. People bailed on us and things happened left and right and we were left scrambling trying to figure stuff out because we were actually supposed to go BACK to Osaka with an investigator for some concert there and spend the night with some other sisters but it was a mess and suddenly we had no plans. Not having plans equals not having a happy Sister Pickering. I go to bed flustered and just praying we can get it all worked out in the morning. 
About 12:30 that night rolls around and I wake up in lots of pain and moral of the story is I basically end up SUPER sick all night. Like way more sick than I have been in years. I probably get less than three hours of sleep and wake up at 6:30 the next morning like a zombie, my companion takes one look at me and banishes me to bed where I intend to sleep for only like 30 more minutes before trying to go to district meeting but accidentally end up sleeping like for a long time. I spent the entire day running a way high fever and not being able to eat or keep any fluid in my system which was super fun, but the good news is that I now have a greater excitement and appreciation for the future of our immortal and glorified resurrected bodies thanks to Jesus Christ (and I discovered a super quick and pain(ful) weight loss program haha, JOKES). Even though it was miserable the cool thing about it was that God totally knew I would end up sick and loved and cared about me enough in that moment to fix our schedule so we wouldn't be left scrambling. It was a huge testimony to me that He is involved in every small detail of our life, even when it may not seem like it. 
Saturday I woke up and was okay for like five seconds, but then not so much and still couldn't eat anything. However the sisters in Sakai still had a sick one among them and her companion was going stir crazy so we made the crazy decision to go on a train BACK to Sakai so Sister Rees and I could spend the day crashed out in their apartment while our companions got to do work for at least one area. It was a good decision, lots of sleeping and Book of Mormon and cheesy 90's church videos for all. Still couldn't eat but improved a lot and survived another day. Oh, and God also cancelled ALL of our Saturday appointments as well. He is too good to me, I swear. We ALSO found out that some of our investigators of their own accord had gone to Osaka the night before to see the concert and ended up bonding a lot with members. MIRACLES. 
Sunday I woke up and still wasn't 100% but was mercifully okay enough to go to church. I could finally eat which was super happy, but the happiest part was just being able to be in a place I love with people I love even more. After a few days of just being dead to the world, the sacrament was so rejuvenating and spiritual and I really felt my Savior near to me in that moment. The meetings were wonderful and spiritual and just so good. After church my companion went out to work with some members and I got to help with a Youth Fireside before going home and just sleeping haha. I woke up that night though and felt better than I had in a looong time and so all is well and I will be ready to work hard and baptize the world and everyone this week! 
My studies this morning took me to 3 Nephi 17, one of my favorite chapters in the entire Book of Mormon where Christ has come to the Americas and is ministering to the people. In verse 7 the Savior asks for all of the afflicted, sick, infirm, etc. to be brought unto Him so that He could heal them because He sees that the faith of the people is sufficient at that time. In verse 9 it says that all the multitude did go forth and bring unto them those that were sick and afflicted, and Christ "did heal every one as they were brought forth unto Him". That phrase especially stuck out to me this morning, because of the notion that those that were in need of the Savior had a need to be BROUGHT unto Him...a blind person could never find his way meandering aimlessly, just like a maimed person couldn't walk the distance, therefore they had a need for someone, anyone, a friend or a family member or even someone they just met to bring them unto Christ. 
As I reflected on that, I realized that this has been my great and sacred privilege these past eighteen months-to be one of those that has brought people unto Christ to be healed. It has been possibly the greatest blessing of my life, and every time I have been blessed to bring one of my beloved Japanese friends to His "presence" to be healed, my testimony and faith in Him has too been strengthened as I witness His power and healing and mercy and compassion again and again. As I draw to the end of my mission and this humbling and life changing experience, my emotions and experience is best summed up in verse 10 from the same chapter: 
"And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears."
I love my Savior Jesus Christ so so much. It has been an honor and a privilege to bring my brothers and sisters unto Him every single day here for the past eighteen months, and I feel nothing but joy at the fact that my role in doing so doesn't have to end now. I want to live in a way to always bring people unto Christ, to always be able to witness His power and mercy, to the point where I someday will be able to once more PHYSICALLY see Him and meet Him and fall at His feet and worship Him. 
Hope you all have an absolutely wonderful week! Take care, don't get sick haha, I will talk to you all again soon! Aishiteimasu minasan! 
Sister Pickering 
P.S. For those interested, my homecoming will be on August 9th at 9 AM....stay tuned for more details on that!
Editor's note:  Her homecoming will actually be on the 13th since we do not have church services on Wednesday :)  I will post exact information about this soon.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Another Week in Paradise: Nihon Week 69

Rice fields of Japan

Minasan, konnichiwa! 
First of all...HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! Hurray Independence Day and America and all that fun stuff! I know it technically isn't until tomorrow but I figure a few days early is better than a week late, so there you have it. Somebody go eat some watermelon and watch some fireworks for me, okay? I'll just be over here fanning myself in this humidity and trying not to melt away into a puddle whilst biking through miles of rice fields and eating with chopsticks :) I love Japan with my whole heart. 
We had another wonderful week here in Kawachinagano! I just fall more and more in love with this place every single day. The people are amazing, my companion is like the coolest cat around, and life is just so good. 
So last Monday after P day we headed over to one of the busier train stations at the recommendation of one of our members in order to try and pass out a million flyers for our English classes. We have really felt prompted lately as a companionship that that is a route we need to take more seriously for finding investigators, and so we have been trying our best to promote it. We had a good time and shared some awkward moments, and even made friends with the professional flyer hander out dude who was getting paid to be there and he gave us some sweet tips. Basically nobody will be able to reject a flyer from me ever again. Anyways we bought the dude a drink as a token of our gratitude, and then headed out to visit a less active before calling it a night. 
Tuesday after morning studies and lunch and whatnot we headed out and biked to a land far away called Tondabayashi in order to teach one of our investigators named Noriko! So she is actually a 30/30 student which usually means we teach 30 minutes of English and then 30 minutes of gospel...well fun plot twist she already knows English and so wants to learn Spanish instead. This was all fun and games when I had a Mexican companion, but seeing as how Sister Larsen is no longer here it suddenly became problematic very fast haha. Neither Sister Gusman or I speak (or remember) Spanish and so we spent our language Study scrambling through the church missionary resources to try and fake it until we make it, and miraculously we somehow managed to teach a 30 minute Spanish lesson (shoutout the gift of tongues, ole!) which led into a super good gospel lesson. Noriko is reading the BOM super well and absorbing a ton but is just having some troubles applying it personally as opposed to seeing it as a cultural or academic read...her way of thinking is super interesting though and I got to teach the classic "Why did Nephi kill Laban" speech so it was solid. After that we headed to go visit some other PI's and whatnot, not a ton of success but it was okay because we rolled into our two hour English class spree and we FINALLY had some new students to spice life up a bit. God is so good to us. 
Wednesday was a koukan day! We had the Wakayama sisters come to us and I was blessed to work with Sister Morris. She is just a trainee but has so much dendo Fire and so working with her is so much fun. We had a lot of cool chances to visit a lot of less actives and have some really neat and spiritual lessons with them, and I was just filled with so much love on so many occasions for these people. They are everything to me. That night at ping Pong I ended up making it to the championship game because everyone feels bad for me that I have been in this ward for almost six months and haven't won yet and so they all had pity but then in the end I lost anyways after the Bishop put me out of my misery haha. These people keep me humble, that is for sure. 
Thursday morning we headed out bright and early to go to Abeno because we were having our Bye Bye Conference with President and Sister Welch. They left us this past week, and it was such a bittersweet experience. I love President and Sister Welch with my whole heart and soul, they have been such an integral part of my mission and I know they will be a crucially important part of my life for the rest of eternity. I am so grateful for their love and influence and how it has changed me over these past eighteen months! Sister Welch bore her testimony to us and was just cute as always, and then President Welch gave us the "final interview" he gives all returning missionaries where he tells us the 13 steps to never going less active, and he had us all commit to him individually that we would NEVER go less active. As we all stood and looked him in the eyes and committed, the love and the Spirit in the room was SO strong. Easily one of the most powerful experiences of my whole mission, and I know it is something that will shape my life. He promised us he would be following up with us for the rest of our lives (and we all believe him and take him very seriously haha, he has resources), and he plans on being involved. It was a beautiful and tender meeting, and at the end a lot of the Polynesian elders and other random elders that wanted to participate performed the haka and we sang a goodbye song for them. At the very end we all got to go and receive hugs from the Welches and as President hugged me and told me he has seen me change so much and how much he loves me and how proud he was of me, it was honestly one of the best moments of my life. So so grateful to have been called here to be one of their missionaries at this time. Now I am just stoked for the chance to go down to Kobe tomorrow for MLC to meet President and Sister Smoot!
Friday was District meeting! Woohoo! We reviewed the things we had learned from the conference the day before as well as how we can better receive more personal revelation for our areas and for our lives (which is definitely useful, because this sister has no idea what she is gonna study or do with her life when she gets home, so that's cool). After the meeting we had a lovely Skype meeting with the zone leaders for fun zone stuff (actually not really that fun, but whatever haha) and then helped some members with translation for visiting Teaching between some Japanese and Filipino sisters which was awesome as usual. We ended our usual Friday night schedule with teaching the Oonishi family and the Ueda family! The Ueda kids in particular are doing great, and it has been such a miracle to see their mother return to contact with members and church activities after nearly her entire life. Once again, God is just so good. 
Saturday was like our only day with no appointments and so we ended up going on this long journey all day after studies in order to visit some less actives and members and go Finding around some colleges and I think we ended up biking like 30 kilometers which was fun but we ended up going through some super amazingly beautiful countryside places...I love Japan! It was one of those days where we put a lot of work in but didn't see anything and were sort of confused as to why we felt prompted to be so far away and go to all these places. Then of course, the last contact of the night we meet this super sweet woman who loved God and was SO excited to meet us. When she recognized us as missionaries, she got so stoked and that was cool for us, because nobody here knows who we are or cares like at all...but this woman was prepared and recognized us and our message as coming from God. It was a super humbling and special experience. We had a super good talk with her and shared some scriptures from the Book of Mormon with her (which she LOVED) and she felt the Spirit so much and it was really neat and apparent and such a tender mercy after a long day. She sadly wasn't able to make an appointment again due to family relationships and whatnot, but she excitedly took the Book of Mormon with intention to read it and I know we will see our friend again. I was struck with how much God loves us all individually, because He is down to drag us all over tarnation in the wicked heat to just meet ONE of His children that needed it that day. So so neat. 
Sunday was wonderful of course. As hard as it is to believe, it was my last Fast Sunday I will spend in Japan and when I went to bear my testimony I just got so emotional. It is crazy to believe how fast time has gone and how much this mission and these people mean to me. Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh. Anyways church was great, we spontaneously ended up teaching gospel principles class on fasting (a topic that I love with my whole heart) and then headed out to work. The heat and humidity was super killer but it was still fun to go and try and visit a lot of less actives and potential investigators. One of the fun things about the gospel is that even when things are hard, you can always find joy, and yesterday was definitely one of those days! 
Alma 5: 14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
Something I have really been pondering this week is repentance and what it really means to me...the biggest conclusion that I have been able to draw from my studies and own pondering that while we as humans can choose to change our BEHAVIOR, that isn't enough to be deemed repentance, because repentance requires a change of HEART and that can only be done with and through our Savior. I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice and infinite love, and how He has changed my heart over the past eighteen months (yep, this week I hit my 18 month mark) to the point I feel like I don't even know who Alyssa is anymore. I wasn't a bad person or worth less or anything before, but because of Christ and His sacrifice and His mercy in letting me repent out here, I have had the chance to become someone so much better than I ever could have on my own. And it is all because of Him! 
I love Jesus Christ so so much. I love Him for everything He has done for me and for all of my loved ones, and without Him I am nothing. What a privilege it is to be out here as His representative to God's special and beloved Japanese children! 
Love you all so much and have a wonderful week! Talk to you again soon! Aishiteimasu! 
Sister Pickering 
President and Sister Welch