Japan, Sendai Mission

Japan, Sendai Mission

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

From Michelle: Several things are included in this post. First, some excerpts from letters Corbin and I received last week. Second, Monday's email.

Mom's letter dated October 15, 2013:

Right now, I have the most wonderful companions. Can I take a moment to tell you how much I love them? Morita Shimai is one of the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. She is so kind, but also so much fun. She has become one of my most dear friends, and I am so blessed to be serving with her. Robertson Shimai is wonderful, too. Her and I come from MUCH different backgrounds, but I am so impressed by her capacity to love and her diligence in the work. my companions both are incredible missionaries and set great examples for me. I have learned so much from them. I am so sad that it will just be the three of us for only two more weeks! But, I'm about 99.2% certain none of us are getting transferred, so we will still be in the same apartment. That will probably allow us to become even greater friends. Yay!

This week, I had a relapse of grief for Fisher. It hit me as I was studying the Plan of Salvation, and I could not control it. I miss him so much. My companions took me in their arms and prayed with me and for me, then they prayed for Fisher in the Spirit World, and they they prayed for Buddy and Shelly and Sadie. I was overwhelmed by the love and comfort I felt from my companions and from my Parents in Heaven, and especially from my Savior. He has His arms wrapped around my Fisher. I am so grateful for that.

Momma, I love this place so much. Aizu is so great. The people here are so nice. the town is so richly steeped in history, and I can feel Christ in the wind and in the mountains. The souls of the people here are so good. I just love it. I feel a connection to this place. I know that there are people here in Aizu that need to hear the Gospel from me. My Heavenly Family has called me here because it is expedient for the salvation of souls. How incredible is that?! They trust me enough to send me to the people here. I have gained a testimony of divine callings. Not only am I called to serve in the Sendai Mission, and in Aizu, but I am called to be with my companions and I am called to serve the PEOPLE OF AIZUWAKAMATSU. I have also gained a new understanding of the phrase, "called to serve". I don't really know how to explain it, but I have learned that as a missionary and representative of Christ, i am first and foremost a servant. I serve my God, I serve my Savior, I serve my mission presidents, I serve my companions, and I serve everyone with whom I come in contact. if you look at Christ, He is the perfect example of this, as with everything else. He was and is the greatest of all, and He spent ALL of His time serving others. Not only did He serve willingly, but He served with love, compassion, and JOY. I am called to the same ministry. I am called to be humble and serve others with love and compassion. I know that as I do so with a willing heart, not only will I be blessed, but those whom I serve will be able to feel their Savior's love through me. There is no greater gift than that of the Savior's love.

I have learned that teaching of the Savior with simplicity is one of my missions here, not only with my investigators, but with my companions, other missionaries, and other members.

I love being a missionary!! I love this place!! I love these people!! I love Japan!! I LOVE YOU!!!!

Dad's letter dated October 9, 2013:

Well, in two weeks, I will have been on my mission for 6 months! It feels like it's been longer than that, though. We all have had to go through some very difficult trials, and I feel as if I have aged, in the spiritual sense. Never has my faith in the Savior been more tested, tried, beaten upon, or relied upon. I know that those are all good things, but boy, it is hard.

My bike here in Aizu is the same bike I had in Izumi! Well not the same ONE, but the same kind and color and everything: Renault, 6-speed, girl bike. Heavy like you wouldn't believe, and slow as all get-out. Rust colored. Brand new. it's nice, but it kicks me out of fifth every time I try, and I have no idea how to fix it.

Our apartment is AMAZING. It's twice as big as the Izumi apartment, and it's way nice. Our neighbors are a bunch of super nice families with cute kids who like to practice their English greetings with me. They are so fun, and very genki! We live in a SUPER nice neighborhood with a bunch of old people. I really don't think homeless people exist here...I haven't seen any the entire time I've been in Japan. So, I don't think anyone digs through our trash! Trash here in Japan is so interesting.Everyone in the entire country recycles and sorts their trash. Different things are collected on different days, and it's amazing. There is no litter here. Japan is so clean.

I love ramen! As far as ramen goes, the smaller the shop, the more delicious the ramen. There is a lot more seafood here in Aizu, and I have tried so hard to be brave, but I just can't do it. I cannot change my taste buds to like seafood. I wish I could. I feel so bad. The other day, we had a big ward activity called "imoni kai", which means "a bunch of people get together and eat potato soup!" The soup is called imoni and it is something unique to the tohoku area. It has about six different kinds of potato-type things, three-ish different kinds of mushrooms, negi, and pork usually. And the broth is make out of shoyu and other things. It was so weird and so delicious. I love Japanese soup. A big thin in Japan is pizza toast, which is bread with ketchup, cheese, and whatever else you want. It's great. I have gone out for sushi with my companions twice, and I ate ebi (shrimp) and sake (salmon)...both were very difficult. So I had pork, hamburger, and bacon sushi. It was wonderful. Ha.

The trees here are amazing, dad. The forests are thick and lush, and full of life, and they speak to me. The pines are some kind of lodge pole pines. They are tall and skinny and very close together. They are so strong and so old. Sometimes, there are huge cedar forests, too! After it rains, and we bike past a cedar forest, the smell in absolutely enchanting. The trees are one of my favorite things about Japan. I love the mountains in Aizu. I can feel Christ in the nature around me here. The stars here are the same, but the nights are always cloudy. I rejoice when I can see them.

I can feel the grandfathers here, but they aren't indian grandfathers. Well, I suppose they are Japanese indians. But I can definitely feel them. And the grandmothers, too. They are all around me. They are the senzo that LOVE their shisun. Ancestors that LOVE their posterity. I can't wait until you can come here and you an feel what I feel.

Thank you for teaching me about my Savior. He is my best friend. I know Him and love Him.

And Sister Johnson's email on Monday, October 28, 2013:

I miss American Halloween. Well, I miss our funky Halloween stuff that we do because we're cooler than the rest of America. :) Halloween in Japan just isn't as big of a deal. They already have Christmas stuff in the stores here though, all over. It makes me miss you, and think about the day I get to call you! That will be so wonderful! Hopefully it will be over Skype. And it will be in the middle of the night for you! Haha. Yay. :)

Well, bad news. I can't do pictures anymore because we got kicked out of the place where we normally do email, so we have to be here at the library, and I can't attach pictures here. BUT! I printed a bunch of pictures and am putting them in the mail for you today! I am so sorry. It's the best I can do, unfortunately.

So! You're probably wondering about transfers... Lots of change! Robertson Shimai and I are now companions! I have become the senior companion and an official trainer! We are staying in Aizu (thank goodness)! So that will be wonderful! I am so excited to have her as my very own bean! But I'm also scared out of my wits because of Nihongo.... AH! Please pray that we will have the gift of tongues.... My dear sweet Morita Shimai is the new sister training leader for the Koriyama zone! She will be staying in Aizu (YAYYYYYYY) and will be getting a brand-new gaikokujin bean! How great is that?! It will be so fun! I am way excited for this transfer. Two of our elders are getting transferred. One is becoming and AP and the other is becoming a zone leader! They are both Nihonjin and are being replaced by gaijin! There will only be two nihonjin missionaries in Aizu now. So crazy! But so fun!

This week was good. We went on splits with the sister training leader, Saito Shimai, and we had a great time! She gave me lots of nice compliments, which was wonderful. I feel so inadequate... but she told me that she was very impressed with my Japanese skills.... I don't believe her. Oh goodness, Nihongo! I am so praying...

I want you to know that I am happy. I love it here, more than words can even say. Aizuwakamatsu, Japan, is a blessed place. I am so grateful to be here serving the Lord. What a great opportunity.

4th transfer, here we go! Keep us in your prayers. :) I love youuuuuu! Loveeeeeee you!
-Johnson Shimai

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

On October 21, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Thank you so much for the package!! I loved it so much! Japan actually does have Halloween, and we are putting together a BIG party for Eikaiwa that night! It is going to be so fun! My companions loved their socks, and they send their love.

You would not believe how cold it is here in Aizu! This last week was bone-chilling and there wasn't very much sunshine. I am grateful for a good coat and boots to wear. And from here on out, it will get colder and colder and colder. Fun stuff!

I LOVE Brad Wilcox. SO MUCH. He gave a talk called "His Grace is Sufficent" in 2011 that gave me a whole new understanding of the Atonement and of the Savior. You should watch it. It's great. It was at a BYU devotional.

So, things here are good. We were able to find two investigators last week! One is an 81 year old woman named Kawashima San, who can kneel and talk for three hours... My knees were dying. So much. But she's awesome and I love her! Our other new investigator is Kawashima San's daughter, Hirano San! Hirano San is in her 50's and is so much fun! She is a professional chef and Japanese tea artist (that will be so hard to talk about....) and is so nice! Then, Hirano San's daughter is one of my students in my English class! Last week, Kawashima San, Hirano San, Hirano San's (other) daughter, and her kids all came to a church activity we had together! There were FOUR GENERATIONS of that family there together! How awesome is that?! I've been thinking about that a lot, and I KNOW that there is SOMEONE in their family that is ready to accept the Gospel. We will be able to see miracles with this family is we follow the promptings of the Spirit and invite them to come unto Christ with love and peace. I am so happy about this.

This week, we got to teach lots and lots! Something that I've learned about teaching is that it is just testifying about the Savior, His nature, His love, and His doctrine, and testifying about the Restoration. My main purpose is not to spew information; my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, and I do that by inviting the Spirit into the heart of the person listening to me. It's simple, really. Everything about Christ is simple. I love that.

On Wednesday this last week, Tohoku (Tokyo) had a crazy big typhoon! All of the missionaries in the Sendai mission were ordered by President Rasmussen to stay in the apartment all day, so it was basically like a day off, haha. We did our regular study schedule, and we cleaned really well, we organized our area book, and made an Eikaiwa poster to hang up in businesses and stuff, and then we got bored, so we drew funny faces on ourselves with eyeliner, and then I took a nap! It was a good day.

I am anxious to see what happens in this next transfer! This week is the last of this transfer, and so I will know by next Monday morning what will be happening! I'm very excited, and very nervous and overwhelmed! I have lots of relying on the Lord to do.

Oh! I found out that I will be returning on November 14th of next year. So that's cool. Only a year-ish left! Wow.

I love you!

Love Shak

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 14, 2013

On October 14, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

I'm so sorry that I am late in writing you this week! We had a crazy awesome work day yesterday, so we decided to move P-Day to today! And then we are late in writing because the place we normally go to email was closed, so now we are at the library and we only have an hour to write, so I will be quick!

This week was wonderful! WE FINALLY FOUND A NEW INVESTIGATOR!!!! YAY! His name is Otaki San and he is in his 50's. He lives by himself, and is super genki. He builds in-home Buddhist alters for a living, and he has the coolest comb-over in the entire world. We met him housing a few weeks ago and asked if we could come back to share a message about Kamisama, and he agreed, so that is just what we did! It was short, only about ten minutes long, but he agreed to have another appointment, so we are headed there tonight to meet with him again. I like him, and I know that The Big People love him. That is what is most important. The same day we taught him, we were able to receive AND CONTACT three referrals with a member in our branch named Kuwahara Shimai! We drove about two hours (yes, it's still in our area) to her friend's house and we were able to meet her and her parents! Three people! We spent a few hours eating with them and talking, and we made a great relationship with them! I hope that we will be able to go back in the future! This week, we were able to receive five referrals from members, and contact them all! What a huge blessing that is! The members here in Aizu really trust the three of us with their loved ones, and I am so grateful for that.

This week, we were able to have personal interviews with Presidents Rasmussen, and I am so grateful for that day. Both of them call me Sister Sunshine, and that makes my day! In my interview, President Rasmussen told me that I would be staying in Aizu this next coming transfer, but also that I will have more responsibilities... ?????? Zenzen wakarenai!!!! I don't understand what that means! Haha! But, I do know that we will be getting another sister, so I will FINALLY be in a companionship! How exciting! I don't know if I will be getting a new bean, or if I will be called to do something else... I'm not sure, but that will happen in two weeks, and I am excited. Until then, I will work hard!

This last weekend, we were able to watch Conference. I absolutely LOVED the talk given by President Utchdorf. What an inspired man he is. Him, President Eyring, and President Monson really understand. I also loved Neil Anderson's talk, and I thought the talk given by Carole Stevens was really good too. I need to study them more when I get them in the mail.

This week, I'm not sure why, but very serious grief for the loss of Fisher hit me again, hard. I am so grateful for wonderful caring companions and great sensitive elders in my district. It was a hard day, and I spent the whole day with a red face and puffy eyes, but I am so grateful for loving Heavenly Parents and a redeemer named Jesus Christ that has His arms wrapped around my dear beloved Fisher. I am so grateful for my Savior. He is the answer, really, to all.

I'm so sorry that this isn't as long as I would like it to be, but I still have to write Pres.

I love you so much. So so much. I miss you.
Love, Sister Sunshine! :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 7, 2013

On October 7, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

I didn't know that Sister Morita wrote you a letter! That made me cry, reading that! I love her so much, I can't even tell you. Today is her birthday, and we are taking her shopping because she is so fantastic and we love her so much. She really is the most wonderful companion. We are becoming very good friends, her and I.

This week was good, but really uneventful. We are still trying to find people to teach, and we haven't had any success yet. But! I have faith, and I know the Lord is preparing people. This week, we spent a lot of time on a bus because we had zone meeting! We had to go all the way back to Sendai, and then to a place called Yamagata, and then back again, and then yesterday, we went to a different branch that was an hour away! We have spent about 12ish hours on a bus this week, and will have more this week because we have interviews with President Rasmussen. But, that is okay.

Yesterday, I fasted that we would be able to find the prepared people that we need to find! I hope that we will be able to as we redouble our efforts to do so.

Last week on P-Day, we got together with the elders in our district and did lots of fun things! We went bowling, out to dinner, and then we went to the Japanese version of a haunted house, which turned out to be a real place, that is rumored to be haunted. It was way fun! We went at night, and hiked about 2000 or so steps, and when the path ended, we were at this crazy old and cool shrine on the side of a mountain in the middle of a super dense forest. It was so cool! The elders played a joke on us too, to scare us. One of them went to look and then disappeared for about 10 minutes while we looked for him. It was funny, but I wasn't really scared. To be honest, I totally felt the Spirit while we were there! Like I said last week, I LOVE the Buddhism in this country, and so that place was SO COOL. I loved it, and it was great fun to hang out with the Elders. They are awesome.

So, I'm almost out of time, but I have a really great scripture to share with you. Alma 32:23. It's about women. LOVE.

Love you!
Johnson Shimai

P.S. We were having fun with double chins. haha.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

On Monday, September 30, 2013, Sister Johnson wrote:

Happy Fall! It's amazing here in Japan, like clock-work: the seasons are EXACTLY in line with all the planetary stuff, equinoxes and solstices. Monday came and went, and it got cold cold! The wind started to blow and all the trees are shedding. There are still flowers in bloom though, which is nice. But it's sweater weather, which I love!! Apparently come winter, it gets bone-chilling cold here about these parts. But, I'm still loving Aizu and everything that comes with it.

So this week was interesting. Well, actually it wasn't. We are trying to find people to teach and so far aren't having much success, but we will keep trying! I know that the Lord has people here in Aizu for us. We just have to have the faith to find them. I need to learn to be more brave. Something I realized a couple of weeks ago is that I have no reason to be afraid of people because all I'm going to tell them about it how they can have eternal joy through Jesus Christ! That is the greatest thing to tell someone, EVER! That, and free English! The worst thing that can happen is that they say no! Sometimes they say no by yelling and slamming doors in your face... but that's besides the point. I need to get over my fear of opening my mouth and just do it. I've been better, but there is still massive space for improvement. That is one of my goals.

So tomorrow, the fourth quarter of the year begins! The last three months of the year. President Rasmussen has given us a challenge to raise our faith and our vision. We want to see 25 people receive baptism in the next three months! In order to do so, we have been asked to sacrifice something that is dear to us, something that we love but that might not be necessary for missionary work. My sacrifice is first, Coke Zero, and second, the classical music on my iPod. I have thought a lot about it, and those are two things that I love and cherish, but that aren't necessary. So, for the next three months, I will give them up! Morita Shimai is sacrificing negitoro, her favorite kind of sushi, and Robertson Shimai is sacrificing bread! (She is nuts. I love bread). Please keep us in your prayers! Through these sacrifices, we are hoping to see many miracles here in Sendai, and we could use your help.

We were not able to watch the Relief Society broadcast here. Everything as far as Conference is concerned happens a week later here, I think. So the second week in October, we will gather as a zone (because we are not in a Stake, so we gather as a zone instead) and watch Conference on a Japanese translated DVD. I am hoping and praying that they will have an English version... We will see. But I am so grateful it's conference time! It's so weird to think that the last time we had Conference was right before I started this whole missionary adventure! I have almost been out for six whole months. That is hard to believe! Wow. But at the same time, I feel like I've been here for a lifetime. But I love Japan!

The Big Guy is definitely taking care of me, that's for sure. And I am so grateful for the mercy and love of Him and Jesus Christ. Sometimes we do really stupid things, but when we repent and reach out, the Savior is always there, unfailing, waiting with open arms. I am so grateful for that. And for the opportunity I have to repent and partake of the Sacrament each week. I love reading about the Savior and about Him administering the Sacrament. The love and the care that He uses in those verses is precious to me, and carries a deep resounding message of the importance of the Sacrament deep into my soul. I am so grateful for that saving ordinance and the peace that comes with it.
Our Savior is so good. I really want to become like Him someday. I can feel Him here, in the trees and in the wind. I can feel the majesty of His love and power as I look to the mountains that surround this little town. There is something deeply spiritual about this part of Japan. For me, it's not just the mountains and the rest of nature, but the people here are so deeply steeped in history and tradition that I can feel it deep inside me. I don't really know how to describe it, but every time I greet a little old man on the street, or whenever a little old woman smiles to me and says "domo!," I can just feel something. These people know the divine, of that I am sure. They just don't know that that divine is called Jesus Christ. I really think that I am a buddhist at heart, a buddhist who knows and believes in Jesus Christ. I think this because whenever I hear gongs sounding in shrines, or see big statues and sanctuaries, I feel an incredible sense of peace. It makes me feel at one with the Earth and with Those who look down to me and help me every day. Like I said, I can't describe it in words, but I'm grateful and I love it. I love it here. With that being said, there is the deeply spiritual part of Aizu that I love, but there's also the negative side of that, and the spiritual side that doesn't come from Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ. This week, we decided to visit one of the old investigators that the Elders passed to us, and she definitely has some stuff going on inside of her that I do not understand. All my hair was standing on end as we entered her apartment, and I could just feel something bad there. That was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life. One of my companions felt the same as me, but the other was totally fine being there. I wanted to be there to try and help here, but she is in such a bad place and a bad environment. I don't know what to do to help here. She is caught up in things that I do not want to be involved in at all. I am praying fervently for some guidance. I hope that all will be well.
Yes, the humility cycle. I am learning A LOT about that right now. My head is way too big. Like I said, I:m grateful for repentance and for the atonement of my Savior.

I haven't tried nato yet, but it's actually on my to-do list for this week! We FINALLY got a fridge in our apartment (we didn't have one for two weeks. It was way hard, and we all got sick. But now we're okay), so I want to try nato this week. We will see how that goes...

I love you all, and I miss you so.

Johnson Shimai