Japan, Sendai Mission

Japan, Sendai Mission

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 25, 2013

On May 25, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:


Ohayo gozaimasu, mina san!

So you might be wondering about the title of this blog post, "The Plague has Struck!" My entire district is really sick! It's so sad! We had one Elder in the ER last weekend, because he got really bad bronchitis, and then two Shimaitachi got nasty colds with coughing, then two more Shimaitachi got the stomach flu and have been in bed for three days, and then one other Elder has a cold! Holy cow! It is so bad! It's kind of hilarious though; I'm surprised they haven't quarantined us all. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

Good news though; this last Wednesday marked the EXACT half-way point of being in the MTC! WOOHOO!!!! I seriously can't even say how excited I am. Four weeks to go! Tuikolovatu Shimai is now the senior companion, and we are about to the point where ALL of our classes are in Japanese. It is insane. I can't believe how much Nihongo I can understand, even if I can't speak it very well yet. The hardest part, I think, is the everyday Japanese part. I know a ton of churchy vocab and such, but not very much about seikatsu (every-day life). I can talk about food, but that's about it. But! It's coming along. :)

This last Sunday's devotional was my absolute favorite so far! A woman named Mary Ellen Edmunds came to speak to us. She was one of the first 17 sisters to serve in the Phillipines, and there are now 21 missions there! Her legacy is incredible, and she was such an inspiration to me. She spoke about being a "happy fire." What a wonderful phrase! I have really tried to apply that in my life this week. What does it mean to be a "happy fire?" Well, it means that you press forward with a loving optimism, and steadfast faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ! Heavenly Father has blessed me with light and with optimism, and it was this last week that I learned that light is called my happy fire. I will always strive to be a happy fire. I encourage you to do the same. :)

Also this week, I have started to read the Book of Mormon in Nihongo! Talk about crazy! It's all in hiragana and katakana (Japanese characters). I can't understand everything that I am reading, but when I read aloud, it really helps with my pronunciation and fluidity. I am reading in Alma chapter 7 right now, and I can only do about five verses in half an hour, but it is going well and it is improving my ability to speak! The Lord has blessed me so much.

On Monday, Tui Shimai and I were teaching Harukawa-San, one of our investigators. We were talking about the Restoration of the Gospel and Joseph Smith, and in that moment, I felt prompted to invite Harukawa to be baptised. In halted speech, I quietly said, "Harukawa-San wa, Iesu Kirisuto no mohan ni shittagatte, Kami no shinken no kenno o motsu hito kara, baputesuma o ukete itadakemasu ka?" which translated means, "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptised by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?" He paused, and then said, "Hai." Yes! We have a baptism!!!!! In that moment, my heart was flooded and overwhelmed with Heavenly Father's love for his precious son, Harukawa-San. Wow! What an incredible thing. Tui Shimai and I are so excited. You may have guessed that Harukawa-San isn't an actual investigator, but he is who we are teaching here in the MTC for practice. He is a wonderful person, and I am so grateful for the oppurtunity I have to teach him.

On Wednesday, Tui Shimai had out-patient surgery! What really happened was she got her in-grown toenail cut off. Gross! But it allowed her and I to take a field trip off the MTC campus to the BYU health center to pick up her prescription! It wasn't very far, and I was a little disappointed there wasn't a 7-11 close by (I wanted to get a REAL Diet Coke, haha), but it was so nice to leave jail for half an hour! haha. It's not a jail here, but there sure are some days when it feels like one. Tui Shimai is doing very well, and her toe is healing quickly.

Perhaps one of the best hours of this week was Thursday gym time. It was about 80 degrees that day, with a nice cool breeze, so we decided to go outside. I layed down on the grass in the sunshine for 40 whole minutes!! Yes, I did get a sunburn, but it was SO worth it. I have been in good mood since that day. Yesterday though, I got a little bit of the stomach bug that's going around the district, so I took a nap yesterday, and then went to bed early last night, and now I feel good again!

Overall, this was a pretty good week. It's funny though; time here is so strange. Days drag on, but weeks fly by. I definitely have my ups and downs, but I am determined to always be a happy fire! The Lord is my Light. He leads me along, and guides me every day. He wraps his arms around me when I'm feeling low, and rejoices with me in my successes. I love Jesus Christ. He is ALL the reason.

I love you all. Thank you so much for the love. Keep it coming. :)
Ai shite imasu! Iesu Kirisuto wa Sukuinushi da to akashi shimasu! :)
-Johnson Shimai

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 18, 2013

On May 18, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Konnichiwa, mina san!

Holy cow, it is the end of our fourth week already! Where did the time go?! I seriously can't believe it is May 18th today. Five weeks to go; Japan or Bust!!!! :)

This last week was probably the most uneventful, in regards to awesome spiritual things happening to me, but there were some exciting things that I will talk about! We have devotionals every week here in the MTC, and this week on Tuesday night, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to speak to us! It was great and he offered many words of encouragement. He is a funny guy and talked a lot about being a happy missionary. It was a wonderful uplifting experience. Also, in our Sunday night devotional, the speakers were incredible! I can't remember how they are involved with the MTC, but they were wonderful. Brother and Sister Littlefield were their names. Sister Littlefield spoke about how we need to find joy and be joyful in everything we do as missionaries. She also spoke about mothers and how much they love us. (Mom, she spoke about Heavenly Mother and about how She is aware of everything we do and She hears our prayers. It was AMAZING! She reminded me so much of you, and it made me miss you so, SO much. She was so strong. :) You don't have to put this part on my blog though.) Brother Littlefield then spoke about how each of us as missionaries has the opportunity and right to create our own "mission culture." He spoke about the culture of the MTC and how it can be both positive and negative, but that we can make it to be whatever we want! That was really important to me because the culture here has been SO HARD for me, but I can now create my own! My mission culture statement is this: "In this mission, we rejoice in Jesus Christ!" What a great thing to rejoice in. :)

This week, as a district, we had an S-Y-L workshop, which stands for "Speak your language." Basically, it just means that from now on, I am to speak as much Japanese as humanly possible, both in and outside the classroom! It has been both a good and terrible experience. I am learning so much, and I'm learning more everyday-life Japanese, as opposed to just churchy stuff. But it's hard, because I might not know how to say something in Japanese and I can't figure it out and it's frustrating, but I am still learning. It has been interesting to extend myself and my intellect in ways I didn't think possible. I can't believe how much Japanese I actually know already! Subarashii desu ne!

This week, we got new kohai! That means that we got brand-new Japan-bound missionaries! It means that we are no longer the noobs! Haha. It has been so fun to meet all of them and to help them feel loved and welcome here. They have so much energy and spirit, and I love them all already! It has been said that by the end of July, there will be over 300 Japan-bound missionaries in the MTC!! When I got here, there was only one Japanese branch, and now there will be four! The work is most definitely rolling forth in Japan, and I can't wait to get there!

Tui Shimai and I are doing so well together and we grow closer every day! I adore that girl. This week, we got called to serve as the Branch Music Coordinators! I am beyond excited! It means that we get to go around to all the districts during the week and ask them to play the piano or pick hymns, or to sign up for musical numbers, and it's so much fun! It's right up my alley, and I love it. Music is a wonderful thing here, even though we can't listen to our own iPods (that's a rule that I might break on a kind-of regular basis... haha). I'm excited for the opportunity to serve in my branch here at the MTC.

A couple of days ago, I received one of the best compliments ever. Johnson Shimai (not me, a different one) and I were running on the track in the gym and later she said to me, "Johnson Shimai, are you a runner? Because you have amazing form!" I just laughed and said, "No, I'm not, but that just made my life!" What a wonderful compliment to receive! I have been running a lot here, but I think I need to stop because my cycling shoes are NOT good for running, and my ankles have been killing me. So I think I should just stick to the bikes from now on. I have been lifting a lot too, and as per usual, I am the only girl doing so! I maxed out the leg-press machine a couple of days ago, so now I need to find something a bit more challenging! haha. :) I love gym time here; it's so fun. Yesterday, I played four square with the girls in my district, and I couldn't believe how sweaty I got! Just from four square! It was a fun blast-from-the-past childhood moment for me. There are also sand volleyball courts outside, so we go out there a lot as a district and play volleyball. Gym is the best!

So, let's talk about the food here at the MTC! If you just started thinking potatoes, and rice, and beans, and bread, and every other kind of carb, then you are SPOT ON! It is so hard to be healthy here! Every morning, they have every kind of breakfast food imaginable; however, the scrambled eggs are made from powder. So, I have learned to love hard-boiled eggs! Something that I did not like at all before I got here! But, they are real, so they are real protein, so I eat them every day! I also eat some ham or sausage, usually. Then lunch comes around. Lunch is the best meal here, I think, because they have lots of sandwiches and soups and wraps and lots of other stuff. The chicken sandwich is my favorite because it's real chicken! Everything else is so carb-y. Dinner is always carbs. Always. It's the only option for dinner, which is unfortunate, but I make due. The elders in my district are so funny; they eat about 7 donuts a day each! I don't know how they can do that. The hard thing about the food here is the schedule. We have breakfast at 6:45 in the morning, lunch at 11:10 and dinner at 4:10. That is the absolute WORST time for dinner. I am never hungry, and then I get totally famished when 9:00 rolls around! Silliness. But, I'm surviving!

I am so grateful to be here serving a mission, but I can't wait to get out into the field. My heart is already full to bursting with love for the Japanese people in Sendai, and I can't wait to be immersed in their language and culture and customs, and to share with them my most valued possession: my testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ. I love the Lord, and I love the Gospel, and I love the opportunites and blessings I have in my life.

I love you all and miss you so! Keep sending love! I will send it back. Ai shite imasu, mina san!

-Johnson Shimai

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 2013

On May 12, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

There is sunshine in my soul today!!

Ohayo gozaimasu, hitobito!

Wow, what a whirlwind of a week this has been! So many wonderful things have been happening, and I can't believe it's already preparation day again! This week has truly been a manifestation of God's love for me and for all His other children, and I am growing into the missionary He wants me to become. :)

The most exciting thing that happened this week was that I got to play a cello!! I played once and then decided that I wanted to audition to perform a special musical number in a campus-wide devotional, so that's what I did! The music library had a beautiful arrangement of O Divine Redeemer for cello, so I found a pianist and got to work! My pianist's name is Gass Shimai, she is a music student at BYU and is also going to Sendai! She is in a different district, but we see each other all the time. We got to work rehearsing and then on Thursday, we went into our audition. Sister Nally, one of the MTC mission presidents, is in charge of the musical numbers. She is a very, VERY accomplished musician, so at first, I was a little but intimidated, but she is so sweet. The whole time we were performing, I had a prayer in my heart that I might be able to convey my feelings about the Savior, Jesus Christ, through my playing. After we were finished, not a soul in the room moved until the last vibrations from the piano died away. The Holy Ghost filled the room. I looked up and saw tears in Sister Nally's eyes, and she said, "Wow. You are a definite 'yes.' We usually don't like to use this piece because it's about sin and can be very dark, but you made it soar. Yes, yes, YES!" What a happy moment! I have such a testimony in the Atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I can share it through music. I can't wait until I get to perform for a devotional; it will be sometime before my departure in June. Yay, cello! :)

As a district, we got to attend a session at the Provo Temple last week! All I have to say is WOW! That temple is positively massive! I have never been in one so big in my life! It is a very pretty temple, but my heart will always have a special place for the Denver temple. It was wonderful to go and feel close to my Heavenly Father and Savior. :)

This week, Tui Shimai and I had two investigators, Kimura-San, and Harukawa-San. They are both great and come from such different backgrounds. Harukawa comes from a Buddhist background, but has been most receptive to our message of Christ. A miracle happened this week while we were teaching him. On Thursday, I got really overwhelmed by Japanese and was so lost. I couldn't speak anything and nothing was making sense and I was so frustrated. My teachers (Todd and Kosaka Senseitachi) gave me some words of advice. Kosaka Sensei said "You can't be perfect at Japanese right now, Johnson Shimai. All you need to do is become a master of the things you already know. Take the structures we've taught you and study those. Teach with those. You will succeed!" Tood Sensei said, "what if, instead of taking all your Japanese phrase books into your lesson with you, you just took some scriptures, a dictionary, and something to write with? What would happen?" That night, Tui Shimai and I practiced very thoroughly the structures and vocabulary and then next day, I was skeptical of what Tood Sensei had said, but I decided to act in faith. With a plea in my heart that I would be led by the Spirit, we entered to teach Harukawa-San. As I asked him how his family was doing, he said that his gramma has been battling cancer, and that his whole family is very sad and confused. He asked me, "Why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do these illnesses exist?" The next thing I knew, I was bearing testimony to him of the amazing comfort that comes from the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In perfect Japanese. The words were there. They were flowing from my mouth and they were supported by the language of the Holy Spirit of God. Tui Shimai had a similar experience. At the end of the lesson, we invited Harukawa-San to pray, and he gave the most sincere prayer of gratitude and humility. We invited him to continue praying and to read in the Book of Mormon, and that we would be back. What an incredible experience! I learned so much, particularly that I need to submit to the will of my Father in Heaven with faith in Jesus Christ and He will pour out His love and blessings upon me. :)

I want to thank you all so much again for the letters you are sending me! They always make my day and I really am so grateful for your love and support. Thank you also to those of you who have sent me packages and so many fun things! Please continue sending your love and I will do my best to write you all back! I love you all so much. :)

I want to leave you with a short message, a scripture that Tui Shimai and I studied this week. It is from the Book of Mormon, the second book of Nephi, chapter 26, verse 33:
"[Christ] inviteth them all to come unto Him and partake of His goodness; and He denieth none that come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and He remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."
I testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a universal message. He lives, and He loves every single person on the face of this planet. He is the Prince of Peace, and He beckons all to "Come. Follow me."

Mina san wa ai shite imasu! Iesu Kirisuto wa Sukuinushi desu! :)
Ganbatte Kudasai.
-Sister Johnson
Mom, it isn't letting me attach pictures. I'm so sorry. :( next week!

Monday, May 6, 2013

May 4, 2013

On Saturday, May 4 Sister Johnson wrote:


Good morning from Utah!

Well, today is Preparation Day! The sun is shining, I have freshly-done laundry, and I get to sit here and tell you all about the life of Shakira as Johnson Shimai!

This week has been so eventful and has FLOWN by! I can't believe how fast it went! I am starting to get into a groove finally, and am feeling less out of my element, so that is making life better. My first few days in the MTC were really rough, not going to lie. I felt like I was suffocating and that I could not be myself AT ALL! It got to the point where on Sunday night, I lost it. I cried for hours and hours until I was all dried out. The stress was so much that it even made me physically sick! And now I have laryngitis and no voice! :( Sunday night was hard, and I spent about an hour on my knees (in the bathroom... gross) begging Heavenly Father to give me some comfort and some confirmation that I was doing the right thing and that's it's okay to be who I am. I went to bed, and even though I was really sick the next day, I decided that I'm going to laugh and have humor and have fun in my life, and that has made ALL the difference! I have had a smile on my face all week and I can see the influence that sunshine has on those around me. What a great thing to know that Heavenly Father loves me for me!

We finished teaching Kato-San this week! We invited him to be baptised, but he said no. Well, actually he said something along the lines of "baptism is a very big step, and I need to make a few smaller steps before I can make a covenant with God." Granted, he was speaking perfect Japanese, so I could be totally wrong about that... Haha, but it was a great experience. I really was able to feel the love that Heavenly Father has for Kato-San and I think that Tui Shimai and I were able to communicate that effectively. The day after we finished teaching, our teacher announced that we would be having a new teacher, and guess who it was! Kato-San! Well, his real name is Kosaka Sensei, but it was really cool to see him speak English when he came to teach us. It's great having a native speaker as a teacher, as well as an English speaker.

The language is coming along! I really need to learn better study habits, but I can now read one of the two (that are actually used) Japanese alaphabets! I don't really know what it says, but at least I can read the characters! One of my goals for this week is to learn how to read and speak with more understanding and fluidity. We'll see how it goes! We finally starting learning about how the Japanese language actually works! The other day we talked about conjugations and some basic sentence structures. I have learned that the first few days in the MTC are meant to stress you out and try and test your resolve to be here. I really don't like that. It took a toll on my body. But! Now I am actually learning and it's going better.

My very favorite part of class is when we talk about the fundamentals of teaching as a missionary. That means for about two hours or more a day, we talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I absolutely love that! It's my favorite part about being here. I love talking about and testifying of Jesus Christ. That's why I'm here. That is my purpose as a missionary. It is Johnson Shimai's special assignment from Heavenly Father! It's really simple and I think that it's one of my missions to be here and help people understand that Jesus Christ is what it's really all about. He's it. Everything else is secondary.

I forgot to mention this last week, but I have been assigned as a senior companion! What that means is that it is my responsibility to watch out for the well-being and progress of Tui Shimai, and that I am to hold companionship inventories and make sure we are doing everything to the best of our ability. It's a good thing, and I really appreciate the opportunity I have to love unconditionally! Hopefully it will help me focus more in the coming weeks.

I wanted to write about my district because they are seriously the best. You already know about Tui Shimai and how awesome she is! There are four other sisters: Luk Shimai, George Shimai, Thomas Shimai, and Miskin Shimai. Sister Luk is from Hong Kong! Japanese is her fourth language and she is probably the cutest person ever. I adore her. George Shimai is from Rexburg, Idaho, and so so small and quiet. She finally started opening up to us, and I love the things that she has to say. She's a modern dancer and is so cute. Thomas Shimai is from right here in Spanish Fork, Utah! She's a chemistry major at U of Utah, and is wonderful. She is so diligent and I really admire that about her. Miskin Shimai is from Hollister, California and is a RUGBY PLAYER! How cool is that?! We love talking about rugby and about all sorts of other things. She is so kind, and she's half Japanese so she helps us all out so much with the language. I really appreciate her. There are four elders in our district: Elders Sellers, Bradley, Sharman, and Connell. Elder Sellers is from Gilbert, Arizona and is one of the funniest people here! He is a musician and loves puns. He is a great missionary too. Elder Bradley is from Canada and is so awesome! At first, he was really quiet, but him and Elder Sellers are our class clowns. They are so hilarious together, and they eat about 12 donuts between the two of them each day. Elder Sharman is also from Gilbert, Arizona. He is a creative writer and is so witty. He is our district leader and always helps me study. I appreciate him. Elder Connell is from Seattle, and is so much fun! Him and I have a trade-off that he will help me learn vocab and hirigana and I will help him learn to read and understand music! The other day we spent about an hour quizzing each other and I got to teach him theory! That was one of the greatest days this week. He is awesome. On Tuesday night, we gathered together as a district to discuss the devotional (President Packer's son spoke about family), and we ended up having a wonderful testimony meeting about the truth of eternal families. I learned a lot about the other senkyoshi and we really bonded as a district. The Spirit confirmed to me that this is where I'm supposed to be.

My second favorite thing about the empty sea (MTC...haha) is gym time! All we do here is sit, sit, SIT! So it is beyond nice to go out and be crazy and play and run and cycle. I love getting all my energy out.

I want to thank all of those who have been writing me letters and sending me dearelder mail. They seriously are my lifeline, and I really appreciate and feel your love. Please keep sending them! I miss you all so much. I hope that you take some time to find joy in your own life and that you think about the little things that really matter most. Love those around you and always uplift and give encouragement. Keep on the sunny side and always serve others with a loving optimism! I know that as you do this, you will find greater happiness and joy in the world around you. :)

Ai shite imasu!
-Tsunami Shak