|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"!
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 hand....it 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 great...it 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 thousands...how 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!
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.