Wednesday, February 26, 2014
On Monday, February 24, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote
This week was a good one! We found four new investigators! Two of them are high school students, 18 year old girls who are some of my eikaiwa students, so we started doing the family English program with them! The program is 30 minutes personal English study, and 30 minutes "introduction to the Church," for lack of a better term. The girls names are Hikari Chan (chan is the title for girls), and Sayaka Chan. I love them both so much! They are so fun, and they both came to Church yesterday! They said that they didn't understand much, but they asked really great questions, and they seemed to like the atmosphere of the Church. I'm glad the members here are so great because they made all the difference for those two, I think. They were so welcoming and warm to Hikari Chan and Sayaka Chan. It was wonderful. Our other two new investigators are Sato Tomoko San, and her daughter Ayaka Chan. We are also doing the family English program with them! Tomoko San seems really interested in our message; she is really receptive to the messages that we share. During the earthquake and tsunami, she was separated from her husband and Ayaka Chan for over five days, and she had no idea if they were alive or not. Their house was completely destroyed, and when she finally was able to get back home, her family wasn't there. Luckily though, she found them at the evacuation center (safe place on top of Hiyoriyama mountain), and they were all safe and sound. Tomoko San told us that those were the hardest, longest, and most heartbreaking days she has ever experienced in her life, and because she had those experiences, she is so grateful for everything that is around her. She told us "just being able to live life with my family is pure happiness." Both Luk Shimai and I feel that the experiences she had in the disaster prepared her to hear the Gospel. It has been really great to get close with Tomoko San, and we hope that we will be able to continue to teach her. So yeah, it was a great week here!
The weather has also been great! It has been very warm lately! Well, warm-ish. The sun has been shining, which is heaven for me in the morning during personal study! But the wind here is still crazy cold. It comes both from the mountains and the ocean, so we always are biking against the wind. It's crazy. But it's great exercise. Today I broke a sweat on my bike for the first time in months! It felt great.
How's the weather in Colorado? Getting warmer yet? I hope so. Something I've learned on my mission is how much I really don't like the cold. We are so lucky to be here in Ishinomaki where it doesn't get stupid cold and have crazy snow. The poor missionaries up north in Akita Ken and Aomori Ken are dealing with over two meters of snow right now. That sounds nuts. I can't even imagine. Heavenly Father sent me here because he knows that I would have hated that. He is so nice to me. This morning, I was wearing my coat out in the sun and I said "atsui!!!" Which means "hot!!" and right away a nice breeze came to cool me down. It was a nice little tender mercy.
Yesterday in Relief Society, the teacher asked my least favorite question in the ENTIRE world. She said, "Well, we all know that we all have our own roles within the home! What are our roles?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, my whole body tensed up and I thought to myself, "Oh boy, here we go." We went around the room one by one, and all the women before me talked about being good wives and cooking for their husbands because they are working hard all day providing for the family. Some of them said that it's their role to support the priesthood holders in their homes. Some of them said it's their role to clean and cook and make the home a nice place to be. I don't think that any of those things are bad, but the overtone of all of that was because we are women, these are the things that we must do. These are the things that are expected of us. When it got to be my turn, I had a very quick decision to make. With my limited Japanese, I cannot possibly address this topic adequately because this is a topic about which I am so passionate. So, I had to decide if I would stick to what I know to be true and right and try to explain myself in Japanese, or I could just bail and say, "I agree." I chose to speak my mind! I started by saying that my family doesn't fit the gender roles that have been placed in the culture of the Church. I decided to talk about my wonderful amazing mother, and how she is one of the hardest-working career powerhouse women that I know. I talked about how my mom has sacrificed so much for the sake of my family, and that her and my dad work together to provide a life for themselves and for my brother and his wife and I. As I was speaking about my mom, I was filled with the love of the Savior, and I was able to bear testimony that everyone is equal in His sight. Our Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ are no respector of persons. They don't care what your "role" is, or what it "should be." I don't think that being a mother who stays at home is bad, but I was just able to make the point that it doesn't always have to be that way. It turned into a good experience, which I am grateful for.
I got your package, and your letter this week, and they both made my day! Luk Shimai and I love our cozy slipper socks! Thank you. I also loved your letter. I am feeling the Savior's love on my cheeks! I hope you are, too!
Love: Shak Shimai
On Monday, February 17, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
Valentines does happen in Japan, and it's actually kind of cool what they do! So Valentines is on February 14th, and it is a day for girls to give chocolate and a message to the boy that they like. And then, on March 14th (White Day), it's the boy's turn to give the girl that they like chocolate and a message! So every girl that gives something away for Valentines hope that the boy will give something back to them on White Day. It's pretty cute, I think. I like that they have two separate love holidays. But, it is not nearly as big a holiday here as it is in the states. It's mostly just junior high and high school students, and people who are "involved" already that celebrate it. But we got some chocolate from some nice people, and we got to give out some chocolate, which was fun.
Comida sounds like a very interesting place! I am excited to eat there when I get home... IN LESS THAN NINE MONTHS! I am nearing the end of my 6th transfer! And gaijin sisters only have 12 transfers in the field, which means my time in Japan is more than halfway over, and my mission is well over halfway done! How crazy is that? I hope it goes by fast. (And I hope the reason it goes by fast is that we are working so hard that we don't notice time going past! That's the plan, anyway. We'll see how it goes.)
This week was a good one! We met with Yuki San again, and this time we had a lesson with her about the Law of Chastity. It was good lesson. The Law of Chastity is hard for me to teach, to be honest. But I have learned that the more love I use when I teach, the easier it gets! So, it was good. Yuki San will not have a problem with it, which makes our job a lot easier! It was funny though because the member that joined the lesson with us told her that we are not allowed to kiss people outside of marriage (I literally gasped out loud. BIG culture difference there, haha. Made me feel like a heathen, and the member definitely judged me, but hey! I'm an American! We do things differently.), so that was interesting. After the lesson, we ate lunch together, and then we played ping pong with Yuki San for an hour. It was so much fun! She has the most energy of any 63 year old woman I have ever met in my life! She is so healthy and so happy. She's so cute. I wanted to get a picture with her but she was sweaty, so she didn't want to take one! And then I told her that we would just take one at church, but she couldn't come yesterday! I'm sorry Momma. I tried. But, she is well. I will get one this week.
We had interviews with President Rasmussen this week, and those are always good. I told him that I have been missing the temple lately, and I shared with him my love of Japanese shrines. He encouraged me to spend time there! He said that if it's alright with my companion that we should take a little bit of time on P-Days to go there and pray. It was great to hear that President Rasmussen knows the value and the beauty that is in the religion in Japan! We talked about how prophets in the Book of Mormon and Bible get themselves into high places to speak with the Lord, and he encouraged me to do the same thing, since we do not have a temple in this mission. It was a great interview, and I will be taking his advice!
The biggest event this week was companion exchanges! We went on splits with the sister training leaders in Sendai. I was with Kubota Shimai (who was my trainer!!!) and we worked in Izumi, which is my first area!!! I will be honest, at first I was really nervous and not looking forward to the exchange AT ALL. Kubota Shimai and I did not have a good relationship when we were companions, and I was nervous that there would still be some negative energy between us. I spent a lot of time preparing and praying that I would have the guidance of the Spirit so that I could mend the wounds that I caused for her. I feel terrible for the way that I treated her and for my bad attitude. I have come to appreciate her so much because she put up with me even when I treated her so unkindly. So, when the split started, I prayed fervently in my heart that I would have an opportunity to apologize to her, and to ask her for forgiveness. Almost immediately, the opportunity presented itself, and as I apologized to her, my heart filled with the love and forgiveness of the Savior. I could feel the Savior's love for me, and I could feel the Savior's love for her. I told her that I admire and respect her so much, and that I appreciate her wonderful example of what a good missionary is. She seriously is Super-Missionary, that girl. WOW! But it was a beautiful healing experience for us, and we were really able to repair our relationship and become real friends. I am so grateful for her love and forgiveness and understanding. During the split, we did a lot of walking because it was snowing like crazy, but I remembered ALL the streets and paths and directions. It was so fun to be back in Izumi for a day! I even got to see some of the members, and I was AMAZED that I could understand their Japanese!!! It was surreal. I felt like I was in vertigo, but it was awesome. One really great experience took place at about 7 that night. The snow stopped just enough for us to be able to bike to a less-active member's house. We had plans to visit a Mom and her two sons, all who were less-active. When we got to the house, a boy answered that Kubota Shimai didn't recognize and had never met before. It turns out that he was the only member of this family that had not been baptized, and he didn't really know much about the Church. I watched in amazement as Kubota Shimai lovingly got to know him and then very naturally led into a Gospel conversation. We were then able to teach him about God, Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon. We set a return appointment with him, and we invited him to pray! He said the closing prayer! He had never prayed in his life! It was absolutely incredible, and the spirit filled that little porch as we bore testimony of the Savior. It was amazing to watch how naturally Kubota Shimai can lead into that kind of thing! We didn't plan on this happening, but Kubota Shimai saw the opportunity and took it! If that would have been me and Luk Shimai, we would have asked to see the Mom and if she wasn't there we would have left! What I learned from this experience is that I need to look for unplanned opportunities to share the Gospel within the plans that I set, and I need to be in tune with the Spirit enough that I will be able to recognize and take advantage of those opportunities. I have set goals for myself, and Luk Shimai and I have set goals together, and we are excited to work harder!
I'm grateful for my Savior and His love, and for the way that love fills my heart when I talk with other people. I can feel the love that the Savior has for the Japanese people around me, and I hope that I can be the kind of missionary that proclaims that love without fear.
I love you Momma! I hope you have a good week! I pray for you everyday! I hope you can feel it! I love you!
Love, Johnson Shimai
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
About the pictures: I found Cholula in Japan! And tortillas! So I made tacos and they were DELICIOUS! Oh, happy day! We also had sukiyaki for the first time! It was so good. Oishii. I want to cook that for you when I come home.
Look! I can write in Japanese! Craziness.
On Monday, February 10, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
This has been hands-down the most eventful week of my whole mission! So much GOOD! And craziness!
Last Monday was the warmest day we've had in a LONG time, but yesterday it snowed two and a half feet in Ishinomaki! That is the most snow this town has seen in 91 years! So, church was cancelled and we spent the day out serving, digging people out! It was great fun and a great workout, and it was a fantastic opportunity to serve! We got to talk with a lot of people. This week in Ishinomaki, we had EIGHT earthquakes! Yes, EIGHT! That is a crazy amount! And because they were all little and close together, it means that there is a big one coming soon, and no one knows when. But, we have all been asked to store water and food in our apartments that will last a few days. So, that's quite adventurous! If and when the big one happens, I'll try and get it on video. Momma, don't worry about me, okay? We will all be fine. :)
This last week, we were able to teach Sugiyama San about the Restoration of the Gospel of Christ! It was a great lesson, and he was very receptive to the message. He doesn't know if it's true or not yet, but that's okay, because we invited him to pray about it! First, he needs to pray to know if God is really there (which He is!), and then we will encourage him further to pray about our message. It was a great appointment.
But! The biggest news of this week: YUKI SAN HAS SET A GOAL TO BE BAPTIZED IN MARCH!!!!!!!! Woohoo!!! We are so excited for her! She is so ready to make a promise to God to always follow Jesus Christ! We had a wonderful lesson with her about faith and trusting in the Savior, which really naturally led to baptism. When we invited her to be baptized in March, she said that it might be difficult, but that it is a goal that we can work towards together! We have made a plan with her to meet at least once a week, really focus on the commandments, and really work to prepare her to make these sacred promises with the Lord! Yuki San is so great! I love Yuki San so much, and I can feel the love that the Savior has for her! She is a precious daughter of loving Heavenly Parents, and we are all rejoicing together that she has made the choice to come back home! What a miracle! She is such a great example to me of faith and trust in God. I am so happy for her.
So yes, like I said, this has been an eventful week! It is so nice to have P-Day today to take some much needed rest.
I'm sad that Church was cancelled yesterday. I have grown to love Church in Japan so much. I am finally at the point with the language that Church has become spiritual again, not just a giant three-hour-long language study immersion program. I was sad that I didn't get the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament and renew my covenants with the Lord. I have grown to understand the great significance of the sacrament and why our Savior put so much emphasis on it. Through worthily partaking of the Sacrament, we retain a remission of our sins, and we access the redeeming and cleansing power of the Atonement. Through sincere repentance and keeping our covenants, we receive spiritual power. Those two things, a remission of sins and spiritual power, are of such dire importance that the Savior pleads with us to be worthy to partake of the Sacrament. This is why I have grown to love Church so much, because at church, we can access far greater power than that of our own strength. And for that I am grateful.
I know my Savior lives. He guides me everyday. It is my hope that I can access the enabling powers of His Atonement so that I can work harder and be a better instrument in His hands. This part of His vineyard is precious, and how blessed I am to be working alongside Him here. As His personal representative, of Him I bear witness that He is the Savior of all humankind.
I love you! I pray for you every day! I hope that you can feel my love!
Wanna know something weird? This week, the 15th, will be a year since I got my mission call. Wow.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
On February 3, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
Happy Day of light and hope! Happy day of sun! Happy day of love and light, of peace and brighter times to come!
So, I think you'll be happy to hear that I have started to write haikus in Japanese! I asked my Japanese friend (and eikaiwa student) how to do it, and after he taught me, I decided to write one everyday for the rest of my mission! So far, I have seven! I wrote one about Groundhog Day! Well, I guess it's woodchuck day, because groundhog doesn't translate in Nihongo, but that's okay. I'm excited to show them to you when I get home.
This week was a good week! Luk Shimai and I have decided that we are going to spend a lot of our time working with less-active members in the branch, and so that is what we spent this last week doing! We have been able to build some really great relationships this week, and we hope that over the course of the next few weeks, we will be able to invite some of these members to come to Sacrament meeting!
There is one member in particular that we have really been working with; his name is Ganbe Kyodai (Brother Ganbe). He is about 45 and hasn't been coming to church for a while now. He is single and very self-conscious of his image (he has a tupee... it's awesome). When we first got to Ishinomaki, we would get a text message every morning from him that had the day's weather and a scripture for the day. After about two or three weeks of this, and not meeting him or talking to him, we decided to call him and set an appointment to do a role-play lesson with him! He happily agreed, and we had a fun lesson. After that lesson, he has come to EVERY single church activity! He wasn't coming at all before! Since then, we have had several lessons with him, we play ping-pong with him every Friday, and this week, he will be joining us for Institute with the branch! He is even working with the Elders and their investigators as a joint!
Yesterday was the true miracle; when Luk Shimai and I arrived for Sacrament meeting, there was Ganbe Kyodai, dressed in his finest suit, sitting on the back row! We hadn't even invited him to come to church yet, because we didn't think he would say yes, but there he was, by his own accord, in sacrament meeting! It was truly a miracle, and I am so grateful to see Ganbe Kyodai feeling the light and love of the Savior.
That was just one of the miracles we were able to see this week among the less-active members of the Ishinomaki branch. The Lord is blessing us and them to be able to build really strong relationships of trust. I am so thankful, and I am looking forward to what the future has in store for these members.
Our other miracle this week also happened yesterday! Yuki San came to church, and it was fast and testimony meeting. Last Fast Sunday in January, we taught her about fasting. Then, she told us that she didn't think she would be able to fast because she takes medication in the morning that requires her to eat, so it might be difficult. Yesterday, after sacrament meeting, she told us that she is fasting today! And she told us that she was confused about what an akashi is (testimony), so the sister sitting next to her explained what it was: a simple pure statement of belief, something that you know to be true through the power of the Holy Ghost. Yuki San told us after Sacrament that her goal from now on is to get one of those akashis so that she can get up next fast Sunday and bear her testimony! How awesome is that?! She is so ready to be baptized. We just have a few more things to work on with her, and we are hoping to be able to set a baptismal date with her in our lesson tomorrow! Yay!
We had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to attend a concert with a sister in our branch and our less-active friend. We were told that the concert was a handbell ensemble, and I was looking very much forward to it! When we got there, I was reading the program (yes, in Japanese), and the first half of the concert wasn't a handbell ensemble, but was a man named John Lucas and his Ishinomaki Gospel Choir! As John Lucas walked on stage, I was overwhelmed with the Spirit. John Lucas is a man in his 30's from Jamaica. He has lived in Japan for the last 13 years as a charity worker, and when the earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, he was also a victim. He has spend his time working tirelessly to help and serve the people of Japan, and one of the ways he does that is through music. He started to sing Amazing Grace, and my heart was filled with peace. Then, he transitioned into This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let it Shine!! and the tears wouldn't stop rolling down my face. Then, he sang John Lennon's Imagine, and I could quite literally feel the presence of my Savior and His, and all the others, standing beside me. After that, he was joined by his gospel choir, which was made up of about 30 Japanese Christians, and they started to sing (in English) Gotta Keep Busy Workin' for My Jesus. It was fantastic!!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Hallelujah praise of the Gospel! I SO wish that Mormons were more into that! I haven't felt the Spirit that strongly since I was at the jinja in January! Oh, how my soul needed that concert. Music is the medium through which I feel the Spirit the most. Sound. It was glorious, and my soul was so lifted. The handbell part of the concert was really cool too, but the best part for me was the Gospel part. What a great way to spend a Sunday. I so needed it, and I will have to figure out a way to adequately express my gratitude to Usui Shimai for taking us.
So, since yesterday, I've had Emile XY's Soul Shine Bright stuck in my head!
Gotta let my soul shine bright, and brighten up my life!
Gotta let my soul shine bright, make everything alright!
We must follow him, follow him, follow him!
Oh now, follow him, follow him, follow him!
We must follow him, follow him, follow him!
This little soul of mine! I:m gonna let it shine, SHINE SHINE!
This little soul of mine! I:m gonna let it shine!
So good. That is my song.
That's about it for this week. It's been a good week. I am grateful for the Spirit of the Lord, and for music. I am grateful that I have to opportunity to share my testimony through music. I am grateful for the talents that the Lord has blessed me with, and the opportunity I have to use those gifts as a missionary in Japan.
I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of all humankind. I know that through His love, His light, and His grace, we can dwell in peace, and that, to quote John Lennon, "The world can be as one. Imagine."
Of this I testify as a personal representative of Him, in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.
Love, Shak Shimai