Japan, Sendai Mission

Japan, Sendai Mission

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 23, 2013

On Monday, September 23, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:



Holy cow, do I have a lot to tell you!! Boy, oh boy do I love this little mountain town called Aizuwakamatsu! But first, I will tell you about my new companions!
I have two fantastic super-wonderful adorable little companions! My new bean chan is named Sister Robertson, and she is just the greatest! Her and I actually met on Facebook before we both came out on our missions and now I'm training her! What a great thing. Her and I have become great friends already, and I love her because she wants to work hard, and she loves the Lord. But also, she is very fun, and knows how to be a good, fun missionary. Yay! My ADORABLE Nihonjin companion is Morita Shimai, and she is probably one of my favorite people in the entire world. She is 21 and is so fun! She knows how to be relaxed and still be effective, so we work really well together. She likes to play jokes, like locking me in the toilet and turning off the lights, and she likes to be goofy on the streets and talk to people in a very caring genuine manner, and I love that! This is going to be a wonderfully fun transfer, especially since I will be training, and I have two incredible companions. I am so happy, and so blessed. Heavenly Father really does answer our most fervent prayers. (and the ones that aren't so fervent, but I am so grateful for this change.)

So, let me tell you about this amazing little place I'm in right now called Aizu. Aizu is a little city of about 100,000 people, and it is nestled right in the heart of the mountains. It is SO BEAUTIFUL here, and the sunsets are absolutely glorious. They rival Colorado sunsets, which is saying quite a lot. My favorite part about Aizu is the people. I have never met kinder, more genuinely caring people in my entire life. EVERY SINGLE PERSON you greet on the street says hello back with a warm smile, and a "domo," which is the warmest of Japanese greetings. They then ask you why you're in Aizu of all places, and then you can have a wonderful conversation about life and love, and Eikaiwa and the Gospel! Our very first day here in Aizu, we met a man on the street named Arahari San. He was so nice, and eventually the conversation led to our name tags. So we explained who we are and we were on our way to the church at the time, and so we invited him to accompany us there to hear a little bit more about our Church! He happily agreed! We were able to teach him right then and there about God and His true nature. He asked us about families and we were able to testify that families torn by discord could be healed through the teachings of Jesus Christ. He asked us about what happens after we die, and we read with him Alma 40:11. All souls, whether they be good or otherwise, are taken home to that God that gave them life. It was a great lesson, and we all felt the Spirit so strongly. We asked Arahari San for a return appointment, but it turns out that he was visiting from Tokyo for work and was headed home the next day! But, we were able to get his phone number and address, and so I think we are going to send a referral, so someone can contact him in Tokyo. It was such a great experience, and we were able to see many miracles that day, one of which was when we were knocking on doors. We decided to take Robertson Shimai on her first real tracting adventure, housing! She was fantastic, by the way. Her Nihongo is so good. Anyways, we found a small apartment building that was across the intersection from ours, and we prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to someone whom He was preparing to hear the Good Word. Afterwards, we walked to the top story, to the farthest door, and knocked. There, we met a woman named Inagaki San. We were able to have a great conversation with her in her genkan, and she said that it would be fine to contact her again! The very first door we knocked on turned out to be a great potential investigator!! There have been many miracles this week, and I am incredibly grateful.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Church in Aizu! I am serving in a Branch (shibu), that has about 30 members. And they are all SO wonderful! I love them more than words can say! I have never met more Christlike people in my life! They are all so full of love, and they all have a wonderful zest for life and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I love them all so much. Our branch president's name is Takegawa Kaicho, and he is so genki and has the greatest smile. His wife teaches Relief Society, and her lesson was so beautiful. It was 100 percent focused on the Savior, and it was also very fun! They way she talks is different than other Japanese women; she speaks robustly and full of power. I can tell that I am going to like her a lot. Then there is the Saito family! Saito Kyodai is President Rasmussen's first counselor, and he is the happiest person I have ever met in my life. He also speaks very good English. Him and his wife have ten children, all of which are grown and are doing their own things, but their family is so happy. Then, there is one family, the Takahashi family, that I love! They invited us over for dinner on Sunday night, and it was so fun! They knew that Sister Robertson was brand-new, and so they played a joke on her. They placed in front of her the most disgusting looking fish thing in the entire world, and just as she was about to take a bite, we all laughed, and there was lots of great love and fun in the room. It was wonderful. The Takahashi family have a daughter named Miruka, who is 18, a son named Kento who is 26 and a son named Seiito who is 17. Right now, all three of them are preparing to go on missions!!! I love them all, they are so great and they want to dendo with us, which is so fun! Miruka Shimai is adorable, and I can't wait until she's a missionary. She has a bright light, and a great smile. She will be a great messenger of the Truth. :) So yeah, long story short, I LOVE IT HERE!

I asked Heavenly Father to send me a confirmation that I am to be serving here at this time, in this place, with these companions, and among these people. Long story short, Sunday was the greatest day of my entire mission. I was overcome by the Spirit as I stood in Sacrament to bear my testimony to the Aizu branch, and the peace that I felt in that moment was peace I had never before felt in my life. Heavenly Father has a plan for me here in Aizu. I have eternal friends in this place, and as I pay attention and lose myself, I will be able to find them, and there will be much rejoicing in the kingdom. I am grateful for the love and the peace that I feel here in this little town. I am grateful for the deep spirituality that I can feel in the trees and in the wind. There is something deeply spiritual about the mountains in Japan, and I love that I can breathe in the peace that I feel here. This place is great. You would love it.

Something else that's fun is that yesterday, instead of having P-Day, we were able to attend the Aizuwaka-matsuri (which is a play on words, Aizuwakamatsu and matsuri, which is festival, but that's besides the point.) with President and Sister Rasmussen! Aizu is a town that has a very rich history, especially from the Samarai period (yes, that's right. They have Samarais here, and it's basically the coolest thing ever). In the center of Aizu lies one of the biggest castles in all of Japan, and boy, is it cool!!!! It is a renovation of the original one because the original was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1600-something, but since then, it's been demolished and rebuilt several times. But what's really cool is that the original stone wall and moat are all still there! So that's where we went for the festival! There was a beautiful parade and cool martial arts demonstrations and amazing food and such cool history. We used it as a dendo day, and we were able to talk to a lot of people about the Gospel and Eikaiwa, and I even was able to introduce the Book of Mormon to a woman I was sitting next to during the parade! It was a wonderful day, and it was a great thing to experience some real history. This place is great. (Momma, you should Google a woman named Yae and Aizuwakamatsu and read about her. She is a fiercely powerful warrior who saved the whole city from being taken, and I LOVE HER.)

So yeah. We don't have any investigators yet, but we are working, and we have already seen miracles. This is a blessed place, and I am so grateful to be here.

So yeah, there was an earthquake! It happened in the middle of the night and it woke us up, but nothing bad happened. It was funny actually, but yes, we are fine. Also, we don't have a fridge yet because it hasn't arrived... so I think I ate something that was bad because it had been sitting out too long, and now all of us are a little tummy sick! But, that's okay. We will survive. Lots of spaghetti the next few days.

All is well. The Lord is aware. The Savior lives, and He is guiding me. I love being a missionary here. :)

Love, Shak

From Michelle: Including a little note that Shakira's mission president wrote on some of the pictures he forwarded to her, which she forwarded to me:

"Sister Johnson,
We had a great time in Aizu yesterday with you Sister Missionaries and the Saitos. Thank you for your good example of always smiling and opening your mouth to everyone!
Love, Pres Rasmussen"

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16, 2013

On Monday, September 16 Sister Johnson wrote:

Ohayo gozaimasu!!!!

So yeah, changes! I am being transferred! :D I will be going to Aizuwakamatsu, which is a town south west of Fukishima, so it's about three-ish hours from Izumi! I ship out tomorrow! I will again be in a trio, which will be hard, but I hope it will be good! I will be with Sister Morita, who is in her fifth transfer, and is ADORABLE! She is the most fun Nihonjin I've met, so I'm way excited! Together, we will be training a brand-new gaijin sister! Well, Sister Morita is the official trainer, and I will be the "senior companion," I guess! But it will be so much fun! Another cool thing: Aizuwakamatsu has never had sisters before, so we will be opening the area, just like we did here in Izumi! Right now, there are four Elders in Aizu, and so with their help, it should be a smooth transition. I am way sad to be leaving Izumi because the members are so strong and fantastic here, but I am really excited to go serve out in the sticks! It should be a good, fun experience, and I am looking forward to it very much. Both Kubota and Takata Shimai will be staying in Izumi, and both of them will be training brand-new missionaries! Two of the Elders will be training also, so there will be four brand-new missionaries in Izumi! That will be nuts. Well, I'm pretty excited. Thank you for your prayers! Even though I won't be in a companionship, I know that this will be a good experience. I am looking forward to it.

I have been praying for Colorado because of all the flooding! Browne Shimai in my ward was telling me all about it. She's from Loveland, and so she's feeling very sad too. I hope that everyone will be okay! Roads and all! It sounds scary. Speaking of rain, right now, as I type, we are in the middle of a big taifun (typhoon)! The rain is absolutely INSANE, and we've almost been blown off our bikes a few times. Crazy! But, we are planning to spend most of the day inside because I need to pack like a crazy person. We head to the mission home tomorrow, and then to Aizu on Wednesday after we pick up our bean. Yay!

So, this week was good! We had zone conference, which was great. President Rasmussen wants to see 25 baptisms by the end of the fourth quarter, so he is asking for lots of hard work, and I'm ready to get to it! He has asked us all to sacrifice something to show the willingness we have to the Lord, so I will not be drinking Coke Zero until January first! (Hopefully...) That will be very hard for me. We'll see how it goes. On Thursday, we had another opportunity to have another concert at that little restaurant where we performed before, and it was absolutely wonderful! It felt great to play, even though I can feel my technique going the way of all the earth...haha. But it was great, and we were able to really feel the Spirit through the music we performed. There was no immediate result of that concert, but I hope that someday, someone in that room will accept the Savior, Jesus Christ, and that they will remember how they felt that day during the music that was performed. I hope that works out!

So, this whole week, I had a feeling that I would be transferring. I was spending a lot of time thinking about what I've learned here in Izumi, and as I sat pondering in Sacrament meeting yesterday, I had a very wonderful, profound, comforting experience. I was reading hymn 230, which is called "Scatter Sunshine," and as I was reading the words, I felt a voice in my head, a very calm and comforting voice. The voice said, "This is who you are, Sister Johnson. You are a happy fire. I have given you this bright burning light because I need you to use it on behalf of those you will meet in your next area." It was the voice of my Savior, reminding me of one wonderful gift He has given me to be a beacon for those who do not know Him yet. He needs me to be a burning light, a beacon of love and optimism. So, my motto and goal for my next area is to enrich and strengthen my happy fire. I am excited to do so, and I will be placing my trust more fully in the Savior, and taking Him by the hand, so that He can guide me. With His help, we will be able to find those whom He has prepared to hear and receive the fullness of His everlasting Gospel. I love my Savior. He trusts me, and is just waiting for me to trust Him.

1. In a world where sorrow
Ever will be known,
Where are found the needy
And the sad and lone,
How much joy and comfort
You can all bestow,
If you scatter sunshine
Ev'rywhere you go.

Scatter sunshine all along your way.
Cheer and bless and brighten
Ev'ry passing day.
Scatter sunshine all along your way.
Cheer and bless and brighten
Ev'ry passing day.
Scatter the smiles and sunshine all along over your way.
Cheer and bless and brighten
Ev'ry passing, passing day.

2. Slightest actions often
Meet the sorest needs,
For the world wants daily
Little kindly deeds.
Oh, what care and sorrow
You may help remove,
With your songs and courage,
Sympathy and love.

3. When the days are gloomy,
Sing some happy song;
Meet the world's repining
With a courage strong.
Go with faith undaunted
Thru the ills of life;
Scatter smiles and sunshine
O'er its toil and strife.

Happy anniversary to you and Dad! I hope that you will be safe in Glenwood, with all the flooding and such. I love you so much, and I miss you. I got your card this week, and it was very great to hear from you. I think that as soon as I find out where I live, I will give you that address so you can send me things directly. The mission home takes money out of my account for forwarding mail, so maybe we shouldn't do that anymore... I'll let you know next week. I adore the picture of you and Jada and Sylvie! I miss those adorable girls, and George! I printed the picture of him and cardboard Shakira because it is SO CUTE! Love, love.

Have you ever considered reading the four Gospels in the New Testament? I know that I wouldn't have been able to make it through the last 12 weeks without the light I gained from those books. I love studying the Savior, and trying to pattern my life after Him. It brought me so much hope.

Well, that's about it, really. Please keep me in your prayers (I know you already do) as we make this transfer that all will go smoothly!

I love you more than words can say!
-Johnson Shimai

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9, 2013

On Monday, September 9, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

So this week was interesting. We had an opportunity to teach two investigators this week (we have four total! Isn't that great?!), and one lesson was really great and the other was really bad!

The first lesson we taught was a woman named Kotake San. She is Sister Browne's Japanese teacher, and so we were able to have Sister Browne there during the lesson, which is always the best! Kotake San speaks very good English, so I tried my best to speak in Japanese, but when I couldn't express myself fully, I could speak English and have her understand! That was wonderful. It felt great to be bearing my testimony of the Savior in the best way I could, which is English! Kotake San is what the Japanese members call "kinjin," or in English, a "golden investigator!" She is so wonderful! She has such a strong desire to learn about the Plan of Happiness and about how she can become the best person and mother possible. She reads the Book of Mormon and asks questions, and she loves to pray! The only problem is that her husband is a Buddhist, and is very hantai (opposed) to her joining the church. She is worried that by joining the Church, she will offend her family and her friends, and she doesn't want to do that. So, we are going to have to work with her through that. The lesson was great though; we taught the Plan of Happiness and we focused on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We talked about how through the Atonement, we can overcome any sort of weakness or trial. He is there to help us, and He wants to support us. Kotake San was very open and receptive to the message. The Spirit was definitely there, testifying of truth. I have lots of hope for Kotake San. She is wonderful, and I know that she can feel the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for her. :)

Our other lesson was with our "Eternal Investigator," _____ San. She has been investigating the Church for about 7 years now, and doesn't want to change, or get baptized, or follow the commandments, or anything else that we've invited her to do. She is very hard to teach, and this week, we tried to teach her the Law of Chastity. The lesson started out very well, but as we invited her to make commitments, the environment became more and more hostile, and by the end, I was so sad by the things that were being said that I wanted to cry. One of my companions decided to read a scripture that was very hellfire and damnation, and I was so upset by that, as was ______ San. It was a very unfortunate incident, and I don't think we will be hearing from her anytime soon. Not all is perfect when you are a missionary, that is for sure. I hope that some sort of healing will take place with _____ San, and that she will be able to forgive us. I feel so sad by that, but all I know how to do is love. I will do my very best to love and reach out to her, and be like my Savior. His love can heal any misjudgement or wrongdoing. I hope that all will be okay.

This week, one really great thing happened! On Saturday night, we were biking home from somewhere very, VERY far away, when we decided to stop and visit the Kikuchi Family. Kikuchi Shimai is probably the sweetest woman I have ever met in my life. She is so full of love and light, and she is so caring. She was just released from the Relief Society presidency. She has taken it upon herself to hand-deliver every month a copy of the Liahona Magazine to every less-active sister in the ward, and she does so by bike. So Saturday, it was raining really hard, and it was very cold. As we were biking to the Kikuchi Family's house, we happened to meet Kikuchi Shimai at a crosswalk! She told us that she was on her way to visit some less-actives's and invited us to join her. We were able to meet with two less active members, and give them Liahonas. Afterwards, Kikuchi Shimai invited us over for dinner with her and her husband. Kikuchi Kyodai is so great as well. He is so fun, and he likes to do magic! He also is very artistic, and makes the most beautiful, delicious salad. After we ate dinner, he told me (in Japanese, of course), "Johnson Shimai, you are so full of light! I think I am going to call you Sunshine from now on." Needless to say, that compliment made me so happy! He proceeded to tell me that he has always been impressed with the light that shines in my face, and he is so happy to have me here in the Izumi ward because I make it a brighter place. It's amazing how the Lord sends angels to us through the people we interact with. Kikuchi Shimai and Kyodai have definitely been my angels for the week. I am so grateful to know the Savior like I do, because He is the only way any of this is possible.

Find some light. I have found a lot of light in the New Testament lately. Lots about the love of Christ. It has been good.
Love you!

About the other pictures:

So, the giant bird is the Sendai Soccer mascot. Soccer is HUGE here in Sendai, and the team is really good! The stadium is about five minutes away from our apartment, and he was handing out flyers, so I wanted to take a picture with him.

This week, we had a music concert after church! I performed the Prelude to the First Bach Suite, and lots of other people performed other classical pieces on piano and flute. It was really great, and it made my heart soar. It also made me realize how much I miss school, and symphony in particular...

The baby is about two months old, I think? I can't remember, but he's very cute. And the two girls are Natsuki and Rina Shimai, two young single adults in our ward. They had my camera during the concert, haha. Love!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September 2, 2013

On Monday, September 2, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

The weeks are starting to go by faster, and for that, I am grateful! That means that I am finally starting to lose myself in Japan. I am growing to love it here more every day, especially as my ability to speak grows. My ward mission leader gave me a huge compliment a couple of weeks ago that totally made my day. His name is Kajihara Kyodai, and to be honest, his Japanese is IMPOSSIBLE to understand. So, I told him that as a joke, and we all laughed. Afterwards, he pulled me aside, and said, in Japanese, "Sister Johnson, I am amazed by how well you speak Japanese. I really think you are a genius, especially with language. You will be so good!" Needless to say, my heart soared. That was a great tender mercy from the Lord, one that was much needed and very timely. It's amazing how that happens--how, when in our greatest time of need, our Heavenly Parents send us something that lets us know They know. I absolutely love that, and I am so grateful that they are looking out for me.

This week, all of our teaching appointments fell through, but we were able to visit and build relationships with so many members! We have recently divided the Izumi area with the Elders (which was my idea, by the way), and it is amazing how effective it has been for visiting members! We have been able to visit and get to know so many people in the ward. One of the members we visited was Kumagai Kyodai. He's about 45ish and lives by himself in a small apartment. We went to visit and stood in the genkan. He proceeded to tell us the story of his conversion, and it was amazing the Spirit that was surrounding the four of us. It's times like that that I really love being a missionary. Seeing the beautiful change in people that only Christ can bring about is absolutely incredible, and it brings my soul so much joy.

This week's English class was especially fun! I love teaching English here. I am learning that I have a natural ability to teach and to connect with people, and Eikaiwa is one of the best places to use that gift. This week, we had 11 students in the class! That is huge! Usually we only have four or five! Also, President and Sister President Rasmussen surprised me by coming to my class! It was so much fun and the students were so enthusiastic as we learned about shapes and colors. I loved watching them all learn and stretch themselves in English. Afterwards, both President Rasmussens told me how great I am at teaching, and how usually they have some things to improve upon when they visit Eikaiwa classes, but they told me that my class was absolutely fantastic and to keep doing what I'm doing! Yay! That was great.

It's AMAZING how trustworthy Japanese people are! This week, I left my scriptures on the bus, and I was so devastated because I thought they were lost forever, like they would be in America. So there was lots of tears and sadness, and my companions thought I was crazy reacting that way. Long story short, everything people find on the bus makes it to the lost and found center in Sendai. Nobody steals things here, EVER. I was absolutely amazed as we made our way to the Sendai station to get my scriptures back, and everything was there, and it wasn't a big deal at all! I was so grateful for that. I was so sad to lose them, but Nihonjin are incredibly honest in their dealings with their fellow men.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve here in Japan, even though the last five months of my life have been the hardest I've ever experienced. It's amazing the things that I have learned about myself and about my Savior, and I am grateful for the opportunity to commit myself to change. I'm still me. I still think the same way and have the same opinions, but I am slowly but surely becoming the woman my Heavenly Parents and Savior would have me be. They are always aware of me, and I can feel Their love all throughout my days. I am grateful for that.

This week, I was brave! I tried two new food things that I wasn't expecting to try! First, I tried umeboshi, which, according to my Japanese dictionary, is an apricot. But it does NOT taste like one! It's a bright fuschia color, and it's pickled, so it tastes like a pickle, but a really weird and sour and bitter bright pink pickle. It was so odd. But! I got it down and was glad! The next day, I ate a raw egg over rice with shoyu (soy sauce)! That was delicious! Nihonjin eat raw eggs almost every day, so I decided to try it. The texture was way weird (that frothy texture an egg gets when you scramble it), but it tasted good! Afterwards, I only got a LITTLE sick, so that's good. I have resolved to be brave every week and try one new thing! I hope that I can follow through with this! This week might be nato... I haven't decided yet. Scary! It's amazing how healthy Japanese food is! I think I've lost about 15 pounds here, at least. I am looking and feeling very good.

This transfer and training are almost over, just 14 more days, YAY! I can't wait. We'll see what happens... maybe I'll get shifted to the great cold north...

Well, there isn't much else to report. It's really hot here, and for the first time in my life, I have acne! It's from my helmet, and it really sucks. But, shoganai! (c'est la vie).

I love you Momma. Thank you for the letter about Grandma Duncan. I love that woman. I can feel her every time we go to visit Fukutsu Shimai, a little 88 year old woman in our ward. Grandma Duncan is always standing right beside her when I am there. They are great friends, those two. :)