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





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