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:
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!
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.