Sunday, March 16, 2014

Update from Oda Shimai (she's 9 months in, 9 months to go!)

Hello family and friends!

The sun is out and shining and it's really warm.  I like the weather here.  It's really nice.

As a follow up to my birthday, it was nice.  Obviously I'm a missionary, so the day was like any other day, but I did go out to eat for dinner and ate some meat and an awesome strawberry parfait.  Birthday cards have also been trickling in through our mail, but another sister currently has four of my cards because the mission home is sending MY cards to her because our last names are similar.  I'd really like those letters soon, but it's probably not that sister's priority like it is for me.  Patience.  Oh, and the elders gave me one of those head massage things that looks like a big whisk.  Best birthday present ever.  Sometimes I just leave it on my head.  And then take pictures.  I swear I'm not as fat as I look in the picture I attached.  That's what happens when you wear a flannel with a skirt...did I mention that sometimes I really don't like dressing up as a missionary?  Also, the fact that I'm sitting at my desk in that picture is amazing. I'm not very good at studying at desks either.  

I've mentioned this before, but there are quite a few old people in the Fukuroi Branch.  But even though there are a lot of old people, they come in all sorts of shapes and personalities.  One in particular is Totsuka Shimai.  I don't know how old she is, but her daughter is probably around 50 and unmarried, so she lives with her.  Anyway, last week we met with them to teach them about how to bring up our religion in everyday conversation.  (We're also teaching from Everyday Missionaries or whatever it's called, but we haven't actually read it.  Yamashita Kaicho just made thirteen different lessons we can teach from it and then members choose what they want to learn.)  Anyway, we had them role play a situation where they could talk about the Word of Wisdom.  The daughter was the cashier and Totsuka Shimai The Older (that's what we call her) was playing the part of herself.  This is how it went down:

Totsuka Shimai as Cashier: "Oh, you bought a lot of herbal tea.  Why?"
Totsuka Shimai The Older: "Because I like it."

Then Hodson Shimai said that was good, but the point of the mogi (role play) was to tie in the church or the Word of Wisdom.  And then she asked if they could try again.

Cashier: "Why did you buy herbal tea instead of green tea?"  (fyi no one would ask that, but it was a role play after all.)
Totsuka Shimai The Older:  "Because I like it." 

Yeah.  Maybe the saying "you can't teach old dogs new tricks" is kind of true.  She's funny.  She also told us multiple times at church yesterday that we looked like we gained weight.  She might need some help with missionary work, but she's got honesty down!

This past week has been great.  And filled with miracles.  Not huge miracles, but lots of small ones that any missionary would be happy to receive.  First of all, we got a referral last week from a Filipina who recently got baptized, and she wanted us to teach her sister.  We've taught Erica three times and it's going really well.  Last week while Hodson Shimai was on kokans (companion exchanges) with another sister she talked to a girl on the train and got her number.  I then sent her a text and invited her to the game night we put on that week.  And she actually came and brought her sister!  Then we asked if we could meet with them again and they were all for it.  So we met and had dinner with them on Friday night.  But that was after having first dinner with members, and then biking 21km in 40 minutes back to Fukuroi to meet them in time for second dinner.  Sometimes missionaries eat like hobbits.  Then the next day we were housing and met a Brazilian family that said they wanted to hear our message and gave us their number.  A new student at Eikaiwa turned into an investigator and has a lot of potential, and a lady that we met on the road and exchanged numbers with finally called us back and set up a lesson with her an her friend for later this week.  There's a good story for all these situations, but I don't have time to tell them all.  Some are super spiritual and some are mostly just entertaining.  I wish I could just dump my memories into this email and you could watch them.  Actually that totally exists.  In Harry Potter.  

I am continually learning a lot by serving in a different area and with a different companion.  And I actually get to work with a lot of different sisters and areas because we go on kokans so much.  It's really fun.  Right now we have three Filipina investigators, three Japanese, and one Brazilian investigator (and dropped a handful of Filipinos).  Obviously we're working on finding more, but it's really interesting to be teaching people of all different nationalities.  It's absolutely ridiculous how different it is to talk to a Filipino or Brazilian at their doorstep than a Nihonjin.  Actually, Nihonjin just don't talk to us.  But even though I'm serving in Japan and I'm teaching so many different types of people, it's the same message.  We teach very differently to meet their needs and previous knowledge, but it's still the same message about the same gospel.  Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and He wants us to become like Him.  He gave us our bodies and families to progress in this life and hopefully return to live with Him.  This life may be like a test; it may have it's trials and burdens, but through Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can overcome these things.  And we really can be happy in this life.  I'm happy and I hope you are happy!  Kiki (our new Brazilian investigator) said that when she prays she doesn't really ask for things, she mostly just thanks the Lord for all her blessings.  And she's not the first investigator I've heard say that.  I'm so grateful that I can teach people, but that they can teach me as well.

Love you all!!

Oda Shimai

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I'm leaving on a jet… train (Week 33)

I hope the title just got that song stuck in your head.  You're welcome.

But yes, I am transferring to Fukuroi in Shizuoka prefecture.  Which probably means nothing to you, but it really means that I'm transferring from the most northern zone to the farthest south I can get.  Which also means it will be warmer!!  I'm pretty excited about that.  Also, my companion is super old and is on transfer 10!!  Out of like 50 shimai, there like 5 that are above transfer 8.  I never thought I'd get a companion more than two transfers ahead of me.  And, we're opening our area. Apparently there are only like 20 members in our branch, so I'm fairly certain they've never had sister missionaries before. Which also means they'll be really excited for us to come ;)  I'm excited, but I'm also pretty nervous.  My new companion is pretty different from me, but I think I'll be fine with that.  Opening is really the scary part because we both don't know anything about the area or the branch, and we'll start off with zero investigators.  But I'm ready for the challenge!  

And even though I will be leaving Kanazawa's dismal weather, I'm really going to miss it.  I had to say goodbye to everyone at church yesterday and I didn't like it one bit.  Sometimes we get really jealous of state side missionaries because they can go visit their mission so much easier than we can.  Who knows if I'll ever see these people I've grown to love so much again.  I haven't had a break down yet, but I've teared up multiple times a day since transfer calls.  I never realized how hard it is for missionaries to transfer, but it totally is!  You put your whole heart and soul into your area, and then you just have to leave.  My heart.  It hurts.

So now that I got all my transfer blues out of the way, I can talk about 姉妹大会!  That means Sisters Conference.  I just thought I'd throw in some kanji to let you know I can actually read some things.  Anyway it was so awesome to meet together with all the other shimai and finally get to talk to everyone.  I've said it before, but I'm kind of banished up here in Kanazawa, and I haven't been able to see many of the other shimai in the mission.  And we NEED to talk to each other.  If you didn't know, missionaries' form of entertainment is eating, and talking about other missionaries and areas.  So yeah, I got to do a lot of talking and it was awesome.  We also learned how to give hand massages to our companion to relieve stress.  Yeah, that's what we do at Sisters Conference. 

Ha, but we also had training and learned a lot of good stuff.  I really did learn a lot, but mostly what I learned was not from the training, but from what I observed.  First, I'm gonna have to preface this with an explanation of how freaking hard Japanese is.  The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know, and how ridiculously complex this language is.  It's super hard.  And no missionary leaves Japan speaking like a native, or even close to that.  I could go on and on, but all you need to know is that it's a really difficult language, spoken and written.  So as a missionary, I am extremely aware of this.  And sometimes I get mad/envious of the missionaries in South America where they actually learn to speak the language well, and actually get baptisms.  I was just overwhelmed with how hard those two things are in Japan.  

But while I was at the conference, I watched a shimai (that's only one transfer ahead of me) translate to her Japanese bean.  It might sound pathetic that I was so impressed that she was translating in Japanese, but that's kind of really hard.  I was talking to Kawai Shimai about it afterward, and she said that she was actually translating the English into super super simple Japanese, but she did it confidently.  That's when I started to do a lot of reflecting.  Yes, Japanese is really hard, and yes, I'll probably never speak like a native, or understand everything I hear from a native, but that's ok.  My purpose is to bring others to Christ, and I don't have to be a master of the language to do so.  I just have to study hard, prepare hard, and then when the time comes to speak, I should do so confidently.  The Spirit can work with my weak Japanese, but it can't work with me if I'm apologetic and focused on how bad my Japanese is.  Since my time in the MTC my favorite scripture has been Ether 12:27 

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I  give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.  

I've read this verse countless times.  I've shared it countless times, but I didn't really grasp the full meaning of humility.  I thought my weakness was Japanese, and I thought I was humble because I was very aware of how bad it was.  But that's not humility.  I was talking about this scripture with Kawai Shimai during companionship study and she said that being humble is actually being confident in the right person, and that person is God.  My weakness wasn't Japanese, my weakness was the fact that I didn't have enough confidence or faith in my Heavenly Father.  Since then I've tried my best to speak confidently.  And I've been surprised to find that I can speak much more smoothly and comfortably because I'm not focusing on how hard it is to formulate sentences or ideas in Japanese.  It's been a great lesson for me, and I'm very grateful I had that little experience at Sisters Conference to finally realize that.

I do believe that I can speak Japanese and I do believe that we can have baptisms in Japan.  I know that Heavenly Father loves all His children, and that's why we're serving in a non-Christian country.  They might not know Christ right now, but everyone was Christian before this life.  We lived with God and Jesus Christ and we all wanted to come to this earth to gain bodies and return to live with Heavenly Father.  I'm so grateful that I was born into a family that knows of this plan.  I don't know why I was so lucky to have this knowledge my whole life, but I think the people of Japan deserve to know just as much as anyone else.  

 Pictures:  It snowed a lot this week, so we took a lot of snow pictures.  I also attached a picture with Yamaguchi Shimai, our dendo coach.  I think she's 30, but she totally looks like she could be another missionary.  Love that woman!  She is also really good at singing, so we sang "How Great Thou Art" a capella in Sacrament Meeting.  Yamaguchi Shimai sang the tenor part an octave higher and it sounded so awesome.  Music really does bring the Spirit and I think everyone felt it there. 

Love you all!

Oda Shimai