Tuesday, January 28, 2014
On Monday, January 27, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
Wow, that print is beautiful!!!! Please tell Heather I say thank you! What perfect timing that gift was, indeed! I could feel your missing me this week, and it made me cry too. I had a very trunky week this week, to be honest. It has been hard to be in Japan this week, but it's okay because guess what?
MY MISSION IS MORE THAN HALF-WAY OVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have less than nine months left! How crazy is that? I was telling Luk Shimai the other day, if I were married and starting a family, I would have a kid by now! Haha, yay, measuring time in 9-month intervals!
I hope that you are finding some light in your life, even though everything seems so dark sometimes. When my days are dark, I have found great strength in studying the scriptures, especially scriptures about light, sheep, the Good Shepherd, and love. Those key-word searches have always yielded me answers to my prayers. Momma, you said a while ago that you wanted to try and start the Book of Mormon over again from the beginning. How is that going for you? I hope that you are remembering that goal because I know it will bless your life. As a missionary, we have an hour each morning for personal study, and how grateful I am from the bottom of my heart for that time! That hour has become so precious to me. Every morning, I am able to drink from the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon and the four gospels. I have been able to weed out all the "presiding"-ness, and I have learned to read the scriptures though a "humanity" point of view. This has brought the scriptures to life for me! The people in the Book of Mormon and the Bible were just that, PEOPLE! They had to learn to rely on the Savior just as we must also learn. They were tested, they had trials of their faith, and they learned about the redeeming powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ for themselves. Just like us. Approaching the Book of Mormon this way has made it so much more personal, so much more real. So much more human. I am so grateful to be able to see things the way that I do, the way that the my Heavenly Parents and Elder Brother want me to see. I am learning to see with the eyes of my spirit, hear with the ears of my spirit, speak with the tongue of my spirit, and feel with the heart of my spirit. I am learning so much about the nature of my Savior and my Heavenly Parents, but also about my personal divinity as a woman, and about the divinity of all humankind. I am so grateful for the scriptures! They are true! They are light!
This week was a little bit slow, but it was good! Transfers were this past week; I am now in my 6th transfer (I can't BELIEVE that), which means I am officially old in the mission. Crazy! But, I'm excited to be here in Ishinomaki with Luk Shimai still. This week, our beloved Elder Ohori went home! He finished his mission and headed back to Kobe! We were all super sad. He was such a great missionary! But, we have a new Nihonjin district leader now, named Elder Akiyama. Him and Luk Shimai are good friends; they served together in a different area a while ago. Akiyama Choro is cool, I'm excited he is here.
This week, we were able to teach Yuki San again, finally!! We haven't been able to teach her for a while! We had such a great lesson, too. It was a different kind of lesson; we were not able to mark anything off on the teaching record, but through the spirit, and the relationship of trust we have been able to establish with Yuki San, we were able to discern her needs. We are building a plan to help her overcome some of the things that are holding her back from coming closer to the Savior, and she is well on her way preparing to receive baptism! I adore Yuki San, and I am so grateful for the love and trust that she has in God and in Jesus Christ. Now, we are working on the action side of her faith, and helping her to make and keep commitments that will prepare her to make and keep covenants with God and with her Savior.
I am so blessed to be a part of the Savior's work here in Japan! It is amazing the guidance and the little miracles that I am able to see in my life everyday. I will be honest: this has been the most difficult nine months of my life. But, through all of the darkness and hardship, there has been so much pure Light, light from the Savior. However hard times may be, I know that my Savior will be there before my face. He will be on my right hand and on my left, and His angels will be round about to bear me up. What a beautiful, incredible promise that is. I know that my Savior lives and that He is aware of me every moment. I know that He knows and loves the people of Japan, and I am so blessed to be able to feel a portion of that love in my heart.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Cling to it. Cherish it. Love it, and live it. Let's be like the Savior.
I love you Momma. I hope you have a better week! Me, too!
Love you, Johnson Shimai
And some excerpts from Corbin's letter:
Thank you for your testimony. I always look forward to your emails because I know I will be uplifted by your testimony of the Savior! Your testimony is precious to me; there are some days when your testimony is the only thing that keeps me going! I am so grateful for your handwritten letters. Have you written any lately? I have lots of time to write today; I will send my Psalm-in-the-works your way today.
I am happy to read your talk of Spring! Spring is HOPE! Japanese spring, well, spring in Ishinomaki, means cold and CRAZY WIND. Holy crap. I got blown off my bicycle yesterday! But, I hope that spring comes soon. Everyone says that February is the coldest part of the year in Japan, so that should be fun... But from there, I get to see cherry blossoms! I am so excited about that! Yay, spring in Japan!
I am so grateful for our apartment. We have a west-facing apartment right now, so we get a fabulous blast of sunshine in the morning during personal study because our study area is on the east side of the apartment! It is so great! Ishinomaki has great sun. I'm so thankful for that.
Dogs in Japan...hmmm. I have seen a few huskies. They are quite rare though, to be honest. Most people have little yappy chihuahuas and terriers, and there are a LOT of long-haired wiener dogs. They are quite good-mannered actually, just like their people. Some are annoying, but that's true of all dogs. I LOVE Japanese kitties though. They are so cute. And so Japanese. I miss kitties. I want one. But that's against the rules, unfortunately.
So, I was reading my patriarchal blessing yesterday (I really need to do that more often), and I read the WHOLE thing completely differently than I normally do. I learned that I have three main spiritual gifts: I have the gift of charity. I have the gift of love in my heart. I have the gift of being able to read and understand correct principles. From those three gifts stem all of the other talents that I have, and the Lord expects me to use all of those talents to become a better teacher. It's amazing how much my blessing talks about teaching. I also reread the part about my mission, and it says "If you desire and are worthy, you will be able to fulfill a mission for the Savior." How cool is that statement? Not only will I go on a mission, but I will FULFILL that mission. Through the guidance of the spirit, the Savior will help me FULFILL my mission. I thought that was really awesome. Just another testimony to me that the Savior is guiding me everyday. Continuing, my blessing says, "You will be called to serve and to teach the gospel to others of the house of Israel and to the Gentiles." That got me thinking, who are those others of the house of Israel? Those are the people who have entered the covenant, meaning people who have received baptism already! I have discovered that a huge part of my mission is working with less-active members of the church! They are members of the house of Israel, and my blessing promises me that through the spirit, many souls will be CONVERTED to the Gospel! It doesn't say many will join the house of Israel, it says that many will be converted. That is such a cool blessing! Wow! The Lord has sent me to Japan to work with members of the Church who need to feel the Savior's love through me! How incredible that is! How overwhelming that is! I am so grateful that I am not alone in this great work! I simply cannot do it without the Lord's help. But, I know that He is helping me. He is leading me and guiding me to those whom He needs me to love.
Well Pop. I love ya! SO much. I hope that you have a good week and that you keep having sunshine! Me, too. I need as much as I can get!
Love, Johnson Shimai
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
On Monday, January 20, 2014 Sister Johnson Wrote:
I'm so happy you got my kanji! It is a tradition in Japanese culture to paint your goal for the year in kanji and then hang it somewhere where you can see it everyday, so a member in our ward helped us to that. No one is teaching me how to do kanji, but I am slowly learning it myself. I can read a TON more than I can write, which is super fun. Japanese people are always super impressed when I read the Book of Mormon at church. Haha, it's so funny to hear their reactions. But yeah, that was a fun day. The one that is hanging above my desk in my apartment says "Umi no mono: ai." Which, in Shakira Japanese, means "love the things of the sea!" That is my goal. I will eat fish.
I have a lot of other goals, but that is one that I really want to work on.
My release date is November 14th. Will I be flying home from Japan by myself?
So, today is the start of transfer number 6! Luk Shimai and I will be staying companions in Ishinomaki! I am so grateful for that. President Rasmussen came to our sacrament meeting yesterday, so I asked him about transfers and was so relieved when he told me nothing would be changing. I have too many people in Ishinomaki to love for me to be transferred! I would be okay staying here until the end of my mission, I think. Which actually might be possible to be honest... We will see what the Lord has in store in the future, but for now, I will work, work, WORK!
So this week was good. It was still hard though because I got over my cold, but as soon as that was done, both Luk Shimai and I got the same stomach bug and got really sick. It wasn't fun. But we both got blessings last night from Elder Ohori (my first blessing in Japanese, that was a cool experience!) and today, we are feeling much better, thank goodness. I am sick of being SICK! Bleh. But, I am on the mend, and for that I am grateful.
Aside from being sick, this week was a really good one! The miracle that I wrote about last week continued this week; we were able to have our first lesson with Kato San! What a wonderful day that was! Luk Shimai and I prepared diligently and sought the Spirit as we walked to her house on Wednesday. When we got there, Kato San ran to the door and let us in very excitedly. She led us to her living room, and told us that she has been looking forward to this all week. To show her gratitude for us, she bought us all kinds of cookies, and they were DELICIOUS. Japan has ridiculously good baked items. But anyways, the lesson was wonderful. We talked about a lot of things with Kato San, things like the Book of Mormon, where we were before we came to this earth, why we are here, etc. We talked a lot about the nature of God and how much He loves us. We talked about how we all are daughters and sons of God and that we have the potential to become like Him. We talked about prayer and about how we can commune with God as we seek Him in humility. Kato San used to be an elementary school teacher, and she was telling us that when the earthquake and tsunami happened in 2011, a lot of her elementary students were killed. She told us that she was very sad about that, so we decided to share Moroni 8:17, which talks about how God loves little children (And I am filled with a charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation). After we read that scripture, she said "Yes, of course! This was my thought when that happened. I was looking out my window one night after the tsunami, and was feeling sad about my beloved students. But I looked up and there were new stars in the sky, stars that were brighter than the others, stars that I had never seen before. I knew that these were my students and that was God's way of telling me that He is taking care of those little ones. He loves them so much, so yes, of course this passage is true." The Spirit was so strong and filled Kato San's living room as the Spirit testified to her of the truthfulness of our loving Heavenly Father. The lesson went on, and we were able to talk about prayer. Kato San told us that she prays everyday, morning and night. She said that she feels gratitude with she prays and that she feels like her family will be safe from harm. We were very naturally able to teach her how to really commune with her Heavenly Father and how she can feel His love as she prays to Him. We also talked about how answers from Heavenly Father come through the power of the Holy Ghost, who is manifested to people in different ways. As soon as we talked about that, Kato San said, "Oh yeah, I've felt that before! That's what I felt when you came to sing to me the first time. That is what we have felt the whole time here today! That is the Holy Ghost." It was absolutely incredible to see her recognize the Holy Ghost that clearly! We then invited her to pray at the end of the lesson, and my heart was filled with warmth and love as Kato San offered her first prayer to her Father in Heaven. It was so simple, and so sweet, and the Spirit was there, confirming to her that she really is a daughter of God. We invited her to read from the Book of Mormon, to read about the Plan of Salvation, and to pray everyday to know the truthfulness of this beautiful message. It was a wonderful lesson, and Kato San is willing and ready to learn. From here, we will talk of the Savior and explain who He is and why He is the most important. We will testify of Him and it is my prayer that she will feel His love through us, because He loves her SO much! My heart is full with the Savior's love for Kato San! I am so excited to teach her again! We don't have another appointment with her this week though, unfortunately. She said that she really wants to take time to read, understand, and pray about the things we taught. She is so genuine in her desire, and I am so excited to see her progress. It was a great experience.
Yesterday at church, it was Elder Ohori's last Sunday on his mission, so our sacrament meeting was packed! He is such a wonderful missionary that so many people who love him but don't normally come to church came to church to see him off! It was so wonderful! Our other investigator, Yuki San, was also there! She is so great. She has made friends with all the women in the branch, and they were all fighting over who got to sit with her! It was so wonderful; the members love her and want to help her learn and progress. We also had our potential investigator, Sugiyama San (the wealthy man) at church yesterday too! He has never come to church before, and I think that he enjoyed it! He even stayed behind afterwards to have lunch with us and the members! It was wonderful! I hope that we will be able to made a solid teaching appointment with him in the near future.
So, with the start of this new transfer, I have been doing a lot of evaluating. I have been evaluating my mission life, my testimony, my faith in the Savior, and my commitment to follow Him. I have been evaluating my resolve to work my hardest, to be exactly obedient to mission rules, and to courageously heed the promptings of the Spirit as they come to me throughout the day. I have learned that my mission is to love as the Savior loves. I am here to guide people to Christ by loving them with a love deeper than they have ever felt before. I have learned that the Savior has love for each and every single person, and it's not ordinary love as we know it. The love of Jesus Christ is deep, abiding, strengthening, redeeming, forgiving, and perfect. I am very far from perfect, but my mission is to love everyone with whom I come in contact in a way that they will feel the perfect love of the Savior through me. That is what he has called me to do. Christ has called me to love, and I am so humbled that He trusts me enough to do this for Him.
I was reading yesterday in my personal study from the Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith about the Savior. As I read the testimony of the prophet, I felt the Savior's love for me. These are His words:
"I sit and reflect at times, and in my reading of the scriptures, I think of the mission of our Lord, what he did for me, and when these feelings come upon me I say to myself, I cannot be untrue to him. He loved me with a perfect love, as he has done for all men, especially those who serve him, and I must love him with all the love I can, even if it is imperfect, which it should not be. It is wonderful. I did not live in the days of our Savior; he has not come to me in person. I have not beheld him. His Father and he have not felt it necessary to grant me such a great blessing as this. But it is not necessary. I have felt his presence. I know that the Holy Spirit has enlightened my mind and revealed him unto me, so that I do love my Redeemer, I hope, and feel it is true, better than everything else in this life. I would not have it otherwise. I want to be true to him. I know he died for me, for you and all mankind that we might live again through the resurrection. I know that he died that I might be forgiven my follies, my sins, and be cleansed from them. How wonderful is this love. How can I, knowing this, do anything else but love him, my Redeemer."
My thoughts echo President Smith's. Let us the love the Savior with the most perfect love we are capable of. Let us be true to Him who is our Light and our Redeemer. Let us all love others as the Savior would love, and let us always remember and be grateful for the Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I love Him, and I am so blessed to be here in Japan serving Him.
I love you! I hope that you have a good week! Miss you!
And some excerpts from Corbin's letter:
This morning in personal study, I was reading 2 Nephi 4, which is also known as the Psalm of Nephi, and it got me thinking. Psalms are music. I am a musician. Why don't I write my own Psalm? So, that is what I did! It is still in the works, but I would like to send it to you via snail mail as soon as I am finished. What better way is there to express my love for the Savior then through the very sacred gift He has given me and expects me to use! It was a wonderful personal study this morning; I feel very enlightened.
It's amazing how great personal study is each morning. I LOVE that about being a missionary. I have an hour every morning to immerse myself completely in the scriptures and to learn of the Savior! It's such a great opportunity. I have loved personal study my whole mission, and I will continue to do so until the end of my mission, and I hope that I will be able to develop a habit of good consistent scripture study when I get home from Japan. What a blessing it is to be able to study the life of the Savior and His words from ancient prophets!
Well, I love you. I love the Savior! He loves you too! He loves you perfectly.
Monday, January 13, 2014
These are pictures from a P-day trip to the mangakan, a Japanese anime museum!
On Monday, January 13, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
I had a hard week. I haven't been feeling super stellar this week. I caught a cold, but it's not a normal cold. My throat is a little sore and my body is super tired and weak. I went to the doctor, but he said there wasn't anything to be done except rest (which I kind of figured), so that's what I've been doing, as much as I can. I feel bad for Luk Shimai; because I'm stuck at the apartment, so is she, and I think she's getting bored. Hopefully I will feel better soon!
This week, Luk Shimai and I had one truly incredible experience, one of the biggest miracles I think I've seen on my mission so far. The story starts a few weeks ago. Luk Shimai and I were on splits with the Sister Training Leaders. It was about 2 in the afternoon, and it was snowing like CRAZY, but Smith Shimai and I decided to go Christmas caroling! We knocked on a few doors, but no one was home. Then we knocked on one door, and we introduced ourselves through the little door-phone/intercom thing. We asked the lady if we could shovel her walkway for her, but we didn't really know how to ask that in Japanese (Smith Shimai has only been here six more weeks than me), so the lady told us to wait for a second while she came to the door. After that, we mimed shoveling the walk but she said that she could do it herself. Then we ended up talking for a few minutes, and she invited us to stand in her genkan (entry way), where we asked her about her religious background. She pointed to a beautiful painting she had of Buddah, and said that she is a Buddhist. After a little bit of talking, we asked her if we could sing a Christmas carol for her, and she agreed. Smith Shimai and I sang Silent Night (in Japanese, of course), and then we felt it was time to leave. She then told us her name is Kato San, and she gave me an umbrella right as we were leaving, telling us to be careful and stay warm. She was super sweet, and Smith Shimai and I liked her a lot. After that, I kind of lost track of her in my mind, but last week, I remembered that Kato San had given me an umbrella, and I wanted to go back and thank her and give it back to her, so that is what Luk Shimai and I did! We weren't really expecting anything to happen because she is a Buddhist, and seemed more devoutly so than most people we meet. We were just hoping to say thank you and ask if we could help her in any way. So, we took a break from weekly planning on Friday and headed over to Kato San's house. When we rang the doorbell, I said though the intercom "Konnichiwa, mae no Matsu Jitsu Seito Iesu Kirisuto Kyokai no senkyoshi desu" (which means Hello, we are the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that visited you before!), and she said "Aaaa, konnichiwa!!!!" and then ran to the door and invited us in. After Luk Shimai introduced herself, Kato San looked me right in the eyes and said "Thank you so much for coming back to see me. When you sang in my genkan before, I felt the warmest feeling in my heart, and ever since you left, I have been praying and praying to God that you would come back. It was God's guidance that brought you to my door before, and you coming back today is also God's guidance. You see, today is Friday, and usually I am out of town on Fridays, but today, I decided not to leave my house. Now I know the reason why: because you came to see me today. This is God's guidance." She proceeded to tell us that she has been so hopeful to see us again. She has been learning about God from some other churches, but she said that she felt something different when Smith Shimai and I were there. She told us that she wants to hear our church's "hanashi," which means she wants to take the lessons! We were able to set an appointment with her for next Wednesday. Wow, the guidance!!! Luk Shimai and I left Kato San's house with tears of gratitude in our eyes for the guidance that Heavenly Father had blessed us with. It is my hope and prayer that Kato San has been prepared to hear and accept the Gospel, and that Luk Shimai and I will be able to listen further to the guidance of the Spirit so that we will be able to know exactly what Kato San needs. This was a miracle, and I am so thankful for the guidance of a loving and concerned Heavenly Father who is preparing one of His precious daughters to find her way home.
That's my miracle for the week, and what a miracle it was! I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful work that is the work of my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is my Light, and I know that He is a guiding Light for all those that seek to do good.
Love: Shak Shimai
Monday, January 6, 2014
On Monday, January 6, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
Boy, do I have A TON to write about this week!!! Wow, where to begin?? This has been one of the best weeks of my entire life, for many reasons! I have gotten to experience real Japanese culture in ways that I didn't know I could, and I've been so blessed by so many people here in Ishinomaki, and I have felt more love this week than I have in a while, at least here in Japan!
Wow, where do I even start?? I guess I will start with Monday! We had such a busy day last Monday that we didn't even get P-Day! It was so hectic! But we had a great lesson with Yuki San that I told you about, and then we had a dinner appointment with a member in our ward who is a professional opera singer! At dinner, him and I sang together in Japanese, and it was so much fun! I love listening to him sing, especially hymns. He has a wonderful voice, and I felt the love very much. After that, we had a family home evening appointment with a less-active woman in our branch. She is about 70 years old, and cannot walk. She lives on the fifth floor of an apartment building with no elevator, so she can never leave her house. Her husband is in a nursing home, and she lives with her son, who is mentally handicapped. She would love to come to church, but since she can't leave her house, she can't sit for long periods of time, and she can't stand, she can't come. It is a very sad situation, but she is one of the happiest, most genki people I have ever met! Her faith in the Lord is huge and she loves Him so much! She is a beautiful artist, too. She has drawn so many people, including President Monson and Christ. Her drawings are beautiful, and they look like real photographs. But, we got to go to her house and have family home evening with her, and with one other member. He is 31, and is a less-active member as well! But he takes time out of his day EVERYDAY to visit this woman and to talk to her and help her. He is a great example of Christlike service. We had a great lesson! We talked about testimonies, what they are, and how we can get one and then strengthen it. At the end, we went around the room and had everyone bear really simple testimony, and it was amazing to hear and feel the words that were spoken by those two, and by the Spirit. The Spirit was so strong in that room that night, and we all grew from that experience.
Tuesday was a fun day! We spent ALL DAY, literally 9 hours cleaning our apartment! There has never been a cleaner bathroom in the history of clean bathrooms, let me tell you that much! It was awesome, and I was so tired. That night was New Years Eve, and we had dinner with our Branch President and his family again. They had learned a while ago that I love and miss Mexican food, and so they made burritos! It was such a treat! I haven't had anything remotely resembling Mexican food the entire time I've been in Japan, and it was so nice! They even had tortillas! It was so nice of them, and I really felt the love. That night, Luk Shimai and I stayed up until midnight playing card games. Haha, that is probably not the best, but it was New Years!
That next day was one of the best days I've had my whole mission! We woke up and had normal personal study, but we had the special assignment from President Rasmussen to read all of third Nephi. I decided to read and watch for "new beginnings." It was amazing to see that even in the times of war and carnage leading up to the Savior's ministry on the American continent that there were still new beginnings for the Nephites. People were learning of Christ and receiving the ordinances of salvation, even among all the strife and hardship. It was great to read about New Beginnings surrounding the advent of the Savior, especially on New Years Day. It was a time of great new beginnings for me. For lunch, we ate at a members house and had traditional Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year) food. Oshogatsu is HUGE in Japan. It's the biggest holiday of the year! Everyone has New Years Eve through January 3rd off of work, and everyone returns to their hometown to be with their family. Japanese Oshogatsu is like American Christmas! Everything was closed and the streets were empty, and everything was quiet. But, like I said, we had traditional Oshogatsu food for lunch. It consisted of a fish soup that had Japanese daikon, negi, ninjin, and mochi. Mochi mochi mochi, EVERYTHING in Oshogatsu has mochi. Mochi is pounded rice that become super sticky and has the texture of playdoh. Haha, but the soup was actually really good! It had all kinds of fish paste, and the broth is made by soaking fish in water for hours and hours. It sounds gross, and it was at first, but then it got better and better. Then, we ate dried squid! It was actually really good. It tasted like smoked string cheese. Then, I ate nato with mochi! Nato is the fermented soy bean stuff that has a texture of snot. It was... interesting. It was really hard to eat with mochi. But then we had other kinds of mochi that was served with anko, sweet bean paste. I'm usually not a fan of anko, but this was really good! I was amazed at how much Heavenly Father blessed me in that meal to eat all of those things. It was a miracle.
After that lunch, we and the Elders, together with their investigator, Onodera San, and one of our Eikaiwa students, Shige San, made our way to the biggest shrine in Ishinomaki, Hiyoriyama Jinja. We walked from the church for about 45 minutes, up onto a mountain that is in the middle of town. You would not believe the traffic jam! There were SO many people and so many cars, it was crazy! When we finally got to the top of the mountain, I looked to my left and I got my first glimpse of the ocean in Japan! It was beautiful! But as I looked out, I observed the coastline. There was nothing there, just a grassy field that was full of Ohaka (Japanese grave stones). Shige San proceeded to tell me that this used to be one of the biggest neighborhoods in Ishinomaki, but when the tsunami came, every single house was destroyed. Hundreds of people died, and all the houses were swept away. No one has rebuilt there because it is a place of such deep sadness in the town. It made my soul feel very heavy, but I found one little ray of hope while looking down on that coastline. There is a very small sign posted by the fence where we were standing, and in both Japanese and English, the sign says, "May peace prevail on earth." I have seen other signs like this before, but it was a beautiful reminder to me that I am here in this country to publish peace, to bring good tidings to the meek, to lift up the hands that hang down, and to liberate the captives through the message and the name that I bear. Really terrible things happen in the world, things that I can't explain, but I know that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all that has been broken can be healed. All that is wrong can be made right. There is pure hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am so blessed to be here in this place sharing this message of hope with everyone I meet.
As I turned away from the ocean, I was able to look up and see the jinja, with the concourses of people lining up to pray. The Japanese custom on Oshogatsu is to go to a shrine, and deposit 5 or 10 yen. After you have done so, you ring the bell, then you bow twice. After that, you clap your hands twice, and then bow again with your hands in prayer position, and then offer a prayer in your heart. As I stood in line waiting for my turn at the jinja, I watched the numberless Japanese people before me give their offering, and then offer their prayers. I was watching one man in particular who after he prayed, lifted his eyes towards the heavens, and said something that I couldn't hear. My heart was flooded with the Spirit in that moment as I observed the beautiful customs of this wonderful country. I was so overwhelmed by the Spirit and by love that I had tears streaming down my face. The Spirit was so strong around me that it enveloped me, all sound ceased, and in that moment, I felt the presence of my Heavenly Parents and my Savior standing beside me, observing with me the beauty of the worship taking place around me. Eventually, I was snapped back into reality as Onodera San asked if I was okay, but I learned something so powerful in that moment. These people know God. They KNOW the divine. They just don't understand that part of that divine is one called Jesus Christ. I learned in that moment that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are VERY aware of the Japanese people, and that They love them with a love that I cannot comprehend. In that moment, that love filled my heart so fully that it felt like it might burst. Finally, as it came to be my turn at the jinja, I went and followed all the customs. As I offered my prayer in silence, my heart was filled with peace and with the brightest hope. I don't think I have ever felt more at home in any place in my life than I did at the top of that mountain in front of that shrine. It's amazing to me the things that we can learn when we do as the prophets of old have said and "get [ourselves] into a high place." That day on that mountain, I had an incredible revelatory experience that I don't think I will ever forget. I am amazed by the richness of the divine that thrives in the hearts of the Japanese people, and it is my hope that I will be able to add to the light that these wonderful people already have. What a beautiful experience that was for me.
The rest of the week was really great as well; we were fed for nearly every meal by loving members. I have never been so full in my life! Mochi is incredibly filling! But, I want to talk about three things that I did in particular!
1. I got to wear a traditional Japanese kimono!!! I mentioned to a member a few weeks ago that I would love to have a kimono. They are so beautiful. So, she called us on Thursday morning and invited me over to see her niece in her kimono for Japanese Coming-of-Age Day! So we headed over, and after her niece left, she said, "Johnson Shimai, I have another kimono, would you like to try it on?" So of course I said yes!!! I seriously felt like a princess! The kimono that I put on was worth over 1000 dollars, and was suuuuuper pretty. That was so fun, and I felt so much love from that member.
2. I ATE OYSTERS STRAIGHT OUT OF THEIR SHELL! Yes, that's right. ME! How crazy is that?! And the best part is that I (kind of) liked them! We went to a member's house and her husband is a fisherman. He had very recently caught all of these oysters, and wanted to share them with us. At first, I was terrified. The silent prayer I offered in my heart is probably one of the most fervent prayers I've ever said, haha! But Heavenly Father blessed me SO much, and I was able to eat oysters! It was so fun! Heavenly Father is really helping me achieve one of my goals, which is to learn to love seafood. I am already being blessed! And for that I am so grateful.
3. On Friday night, our branch mission leader took us our to dinner. Let me tell you a little bit about him! He is seriously the best. His name is Brother Nagahama. He is 28 and is from Kobe! He served a mission in Tokyo, and then got a degree in marketing from Utah State University. His English is SO good! It's crazy. But, he is also a gangster, and is hilarious. So, needless to say, dinner was hilarious and so much fun. He took us out to Yakiniku, which translated means "grilled meat." But yakiniku is special. It comes from the most delicious parts of the cow. Oh man. That was the best meal I have ever had in my life, hands down. It was so delicious, I can't even describe it. He definitely spoiled us that night, it was awesome.
But overall, this has been an amazing week. I have learned so much about real Japanese culture, and I have had some of the most beautiful and wonderful experiences I have ever had in my life. I am so grateful to be here in this beautiful country, serving these beautiful people, and taking part in this beautiful work. I know that my Savior lives, and I know that He is aware of every single person that has ever lived, who lives now, and who will yet live. I know that Christ knows the Japanese people and that He is preparing them to hear the Gospel. I know this from the very bottom of my heart.
It is my hope and prayer that as we begin this new year, that we will be able to find a new beginning in the Savior, Jesus Christ. That new beginning doesn't have to be just January first, but it can be each and every day as we turn to the Savior with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We can achieve anything with the help of the Savior, according to His will. Let us press forward, feasting on the words of Him who is mighty to save. Let us turn to Him everyday, and even though this life can be incredibly challenging, let us have hope that the darkness with draw to a close and the sun will always rise, bringing peace and comfort of our souls. Christ is my Savior, and I am so thankful that I can find a new beginning everyday, and that new beginning comes because of Jesus Christ. Let us ever be faithful to Him who descended below all things so that we may be lifted up on high to receive all that the Father hath, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Love, Shak Shimai