Japan, Sendai Mission

Japan, Sendai Mission

Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30, 2014

On Monday, June 30, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

Hey Momma! This was a great week, and I am so excited to tell you all about it!

I will start with last Monday! So, we had a wonderful Family Home Evening with the Kawatsuna family! They have three young boys, Kouta, Yuuta, and Souta. Souta is preparing to get baptized in a year or so, and so Sister Kawatsuna asked us to talk about baptism! They also are living with Sister Kawatsuna's mother, who is not a member of the church, and she joined in for the lesson! It was so wonderful to teach so simply for Souta and for Sasaki San (the Mom), and then we were able to invite them all to come to Shimizu San's baptism! And guess what? They all did, even Sasaki San! And the great thing was that she came to church the next day too! She loves the Church, and thinks that it is a great thing for her grandsons, so maybe we will be able to talk with her more about the Gospel in the future.

On Tuesday morning, we had another opportunity to go to a temporary housing unit and do hand massages! We get to go every third Saturday and fourth Tuesday. So, we went and it was great, as usual. Then, our investigator Yuki San showed up, and told us that Sister Usui (a member who is my favorite Japanese person EVER) had invited her to come! It was SO GREAT to hear that Sister Usui is reaching out and becoming friends with our investigators. Yuki San especially needs the support, so I cannot even say how grateful I am for Sister Usui. Then, Sister Alcazar started telling the woman she was massaging that I have a great singing voice, and then Sister Usui chimed in and said "Sister Johnson, why don't you get up in front of everyone and sing??" And then everyone got involved and rallied me up to the front to sing for everyone. It was pretty nerve-wracking, not going to lie, haha. But, I decided to sing Amazing Grace. It was amazing the silence and the Spirit that filled the room. Almost all of the people there are not members of the Church and they ALL had a terrible experience with the tsunami. I could feel my Heavenly Father and Savior's love pulsing through me as I looked into their eyes. I know that they could feel it too. I absolutely love volunteering with those who have been so affected by the tsunami disaster. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had to share my love and the Savior's love for them though my music. Now I just need a cello!

Later on Tuesday, we had companion exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders! I will be honest, I was dreading it. It is not that I don't like the STLS; in fact, I love them both so much! But I always get the feeling that when they come to visit, they are "checking up" on us and making sure that we are doing what we are "supposed" to be doing. So, it has always been stressful for me because the way that I do missionary work is very untraditional, and I feel like they will try and correct me or something. But, it ended up being a WONDERFUL split! I picked the theme of "I want to introduce you (Sister Hamano) to people that I love here in Ishinomaki!" We spent our time visiting with members, potential investigators, and other people that I just LOVE!!!! And it was time very well spent. Sister Hamano and I really bonded over our desire to share love with everyone, and it ended up being a very uplifting time for both of us. Before the split, I had been feeling kind of down because I felt like I wasn't being a very successful missionary because the numbers have been really low recently. But through the split, and then through the Spirit, Heavenly Father assured me that I am doing EXACTLY what He needs me to be doing, and that I am loving in the way that the Savior would love if He were here. I am being the kind of missionary that the Savior needs in Ishinomaki right now. It was such a blessing to gain that reassurance though the Spirit this week. It was something that I really needed. And so, I am grateful.

This week, our beloved friend Yuka Chan moved to Canada! I miss her so, SO much! But I bet she is having the time of her life. Before she left, she handed me a letter that she wrote. In the letter, she thanked me for teaching her English, and for also teaching her about God. She said that she didn't understand anything really that we told her about God, but that because we taught her with love and friendship, she wants to know more about God! She said that she even wants to continue praying! She thanked me for being such an awesome big sister and that she hopes she will be able to come to Colorado to visit me when I come home! I love Yuka Chan so much. She is growing in her relationship with the Divine, and I am so blessed that I got to be a part of that seed being planted in her heart.

And then there was Saturday. Oh, Saturday was such a wonderful day! It was so full of joy! I thought my heart was going to burst because of the joy! On Saturday night, Brother Shimizu got baptized! It was a beautiful service and the Spirit was very strong. We all could tell that when he first got there, Shimizu San was suuuuuuuper stressed out and nervous, but as the evening went on, he was able to relax a little bit. The baptismal service was only about 35 minutes long, but it was perfect. Shimizu Kyodai (Brother) bore his testimony at the end, and the Spirit was so strong as he talked about his faith and hope in a brighter future. There were lots of other investigators and less-active members that came, and I can tell that this was the miracle that was needed to bring some changes in people's hearts. It was so wonderful to welcome Shimizu Kyodai into the Ishinomaki branch, and to see the light and joy that filled his countenance. The confirmation on Sunday during Sacrament meeting was also great! It was branch conference, and so there were a record number of people in attendance. Shimizu Kyodai was so happy and at peace. It was so great. During Sacrament meeting, we also get a new branch president! President Onuma was released after eight years of service (WOW!) and President Abe was called. Abe Kyodai got baptized a year and seven months ago, and is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. He is so full of love and he radiates with the light of the Savior. I am so happy to be working with him and I know that he is just the right person for Ishinomaki right now. I am excited for the future of the Church here in Ishinomaki.

So yes, it really was a great week. I am feeling very blessed and very loved. I am being better about recognizing the blessings that have come from my Heavenly Parents and from my Savior. I am being better about following Their guidance and direction. I am being better about giving myself enough credit and about not being so self-critical. I am so blessed to be serving my Jesus here in Ishinomaki. I love Him, and He is my light.

Let's keep seeing miracles! I love you Momma. Have a happy day!
Love, Shak

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014

About the photos: This is Sister Akatsuka from Izumi.
This is Sister Yuri and Sister Brown, both from Izumi.
This is Brother and Sister Hatanaka from Tokyo! They are the ones who organize oaal of the hand massage volunteer work that we do. I love them! And this is Sister Natsuki. She is a member in Izumi and I love her so much!
Elder Whittle fell asleep in the car to Stake Conference. Hilarious! This is me and Hiromi!!! So good to finally meet her!!!
Us and Yuki San!

On Monday, June 23, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

This week was insanely crazy busy, and I am exhausted! We were in Sendai THREE times this week! The first time was on Thursday; we went down for our last zone conference with Presidents Rasmussen. That was a wonderful day! I received lots of guidance and lots of motivation on things that I need to improve. I am working slowly but surely to become a better missionary. It was really weird to say goodbye to President and Sister Rasmussen. It doesn't seem real that they are going home! They leave this Saturday, so that is also when Presidents Smith will be here! I am excited to meet them; it will be wonderful to work with them. The second and third times we went to Sendai were on Saturday and Sunday for Stake Conference! Wow, talk about crazy amounts of Japanese Mormons!! I think the Sendai Stake is bigger than the Denver Stake! It was a good conference though; there was a broadcast of General Authorities from Salt Lake and they were speaking in Japanese! It was cool. Elder Christofferson spoke (him in English though), and I always like when he speaks. I also was able to see a lot of people from the Izumi ward, the ward that I was working in last year when I first got to Japan! Talk about a crazy trip down memory lane! It was so nice to see all the members and to actually be able to understand what they are saying now! Haha. I also was finally able to meet Hiromi Shimai, the girl that I became friends with on Facebook before my mission! She is SO CUTE! It was so nice to talk to her! We only got to talk for a little bit, but she is so cute and so fun. But yeah, Stake Conference was insane, and this week, we have branch conference to look forward to, so that will be awesome!

Speaking of awesome, WE HAVE A BAPTISM IN ISHINOMAKI THIS WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of Elder Whittle and Elder Aono's investigators, Shimizu San, will be getting baptized on Satuday at 6:30pm! Yay! Shimizu San is a golden investigator! He actually lives a stone's throw from our apartment balcony, in a temporary housing unit. He was found by a member named Brother Kaoru, when Kaoru Kyodai was putting church flyers into some mailboxes near the Church. There was a survey on the back of the flyer that had a question that said this: are you interested in learning about Jesus Christ? with a box to check 'yes' or 'no.' Shimizu San checked 'yes' and started meeting with the missionaries the very next week! Well, a little under three months has passed, and he is getting baptized! Shimizu San has been so prepared. He has had a very hard life, but has been experiencing many miracles as he has learned of Jesus Christ. His testimony is strong, and he loves God and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am so excited for him, and for the joy he has and will experience. I have a feeling that this baptism will be the start of many miracles in Ishinomaki! This miracle will change the way the members in Ishinomaki feel about missionary work, and then miracle after miracle will flow from heaven! I really do believe that. I hope for that. Ishinomaki needs some miracles.

This week was a little bit rough for us on the investigator side of things. We met with Yuki San and had a really great lesson with her about tithing. But, she hasn't been coming to church for a while, and so we asked her why. It turns out that she got in an argument with a member, and has been very offended with this member, so she decided that she doesn't really want to have anything to do with the Church right now. My heart is broken. I am so sad inside, and I don't know what to do. There have been so many times in my life that I have been in the same situation as Yuki San, being rundown and belittled by other members of the Church, and so I know exactly how she is feeling and why she doesn't want to come to Church. It is so amazing to me that people who claim to follow the Savior Jesus Christ, and who claim to be members of His Church can be so hateful and judgmental. But all we can do is find healing in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and we can love as He would love. Christ taught us to love our enemies, to pray for them that hate you and despitefully use you. This is what we can do. We can pray to love the way Christ did, and we can pray for the bravery to act the way that He would act, always with compassion. This is my prayer and plea for Yuki San. I hope that she will be able to move past this, that she will feel the love of the Savior enough to be able to forgive. Christ gives us forgiveness, and I know that as she learns to trust in Him, she will find relief. It is just the getting there part that is hard. But, I have faith in my Savior; He can do ALL things.

I am grateful for my Savior. I am grateful that I have Him to lean on, both when my days are sunny, or filled with rain. He is my Light. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I have His authority to proclaim His name, the Gospel of His Love. It is my hope and prayer that everyday I will grow more in unity with Him and with my Heavenly Parents so that I will be able to perform Their will for me. I pray for unity with my companion. I pray for unity with the members in Ishinomaki. I pray for unity with the other missionaries serving here. I pray for unity in Zion. It comes when we are "of one heart, of one mind, and dwell in righteousness," and "it is on the Rock of His Righteousness" where we must build our foundation of Unity. I know that as we do that, "we cannot fall."

I love you Momma! I hope you have a wonderful week full of love for EVERYONE! Love you!
Love: Shak

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

About the photos: This is at a Relief Society activity We had last week! This is Sister Date and me, and Sister Usui and me. I love them both so much! This is Sugiyama San. We went over to his house yesterday and he fed us deer meat (not sure how I feel about that). He was our investigator, but we passed him to the Elders which made me sad. But, I love him! He is so cute and small and awesome. This other picture is from bowling today with Sister Kikuchi.

On Monday, June 16, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

We have had a busy day today; a member and her sister (a potential investigator!!) took us to lunch at this suuuuper authentic soba restaurant and then we went bowling! And then after that, Alcazar Shimai and I went to the mall, and I got some rain shoes that are super cute and 100 percent made out of rubber so they are all the way waterproof! And the best part is that they were only six dollars! Yay! Thriftiness! So, now I am here emailing you.

The rainy season is going on and on, but this week, we actually had a few days of brilliant sunshine, which did WONDERS for my health! It was so nice, and we spent most of those days outside playing sports with our investigators. Right now, we are having frisbee activities twice a week, and a baseball activity once a week! It has been so much fun to play sports and become really close with our investigators and also other friends like students that come to Eikaiwa. It is such a great way to just relax and become really great friends. We also have a lot of members that are starting to get involved, which is awesome because they are also becoming friends with all of our investigators. It is so great to see all of the people coming together in Ishinomaki right now! The unity that we are seeing between the missionaries, investigators, and members has been so wonderful. Things are really starting to pick up here, and I am so excited for the success that Ishinomaki will be seeing in the future.

This week, we were only able to meet with one investigator, Yuka Chan, but we had a great lesson! We watched Finding Faith in Christ together, and the spirit was very strong. After the movie ended, we asked Yuka Chan how she felt, and she was like, "that movie was so awesome that I almost think it's all a lie!" Haha. 'Almost' was the keyword there. We then bore testimony that Christ really is the Savior and that He really did perform the miracles that were depicted in the movie. Yuka Chan ended the lesson by saying the closing prayer. Usually we give her something to say, but this time, she did it all by herself!! She said what she was feeling and everything, and it was wonderful! We all left feeling happy. A wonderful member, Sister Taeko, joined us for the lesson, and I am so happy that she was there. Taeko Shimai always bears really simple testimony that is really easy for Yuka Chan to understand. They are becoming friends, and I am so very happy. The sad thing is that Yuka Chan is moving to Canada in two weeks to do a foreign exchange there, so we won't be able to meet her anymore. That is super sad, but I am excited for her because she will have so much fun in Canada.

We had two other lessons lined up with Yuki San and Michiru San, but they both were cancelled, unfortunately. But that is okay because we have more appointments for this week!

There is a less-active member in our branch named Ganbe Kyodai (he is one of the people I am friends with on Facebook actually. He posted all those fun videos of rhythm games), and we have been working with him since Luk Shimai and I came to Ishinomaki. He is so awesome! I love Ganbe Kyodai. We have become great friends. This week, we had a mogi lesson (a role-play lesson) with him, and we decided to talk about following the Prophet. The mogi was pretty normal, us butchering Japanese and him being nice enough to pretend we did a good job, but after the mogi, we sat and talked with him for a while. I asked him about his experience with the tsunami. He had a crazy experience! He was at home that day because it was his day off. The day after was actually supposed to be his day off, but one of his co-workers asked to trade him, so there he was at home. When the earthquake hit at 2:46, his house was crumbled, but he was able to get his 94 year old Grandpa and 86 year old Grandma to the evacuation area safely. After that was when the tsunami came, and his house was completely ruined. The structure was still standing, but there was black water that filled the entire first floor all the way to the ceiling. He said that a few days after the disaster, he found out that the head of his company had been swept away in the tsunami because he decided it was safe enough to leave the evacuation center and go back to work. Him and a lot of Ganbe Kyodai's coworkers were killed. He said that if he had not switched his day off with his coworker, he probably would have been swept away too. After telling us the story, Ganbe Kyodai said that he has never felt God's love and guidance more than he did on that occasion. He recognized the Lord's guidance and hand in his life over those two days, and it was a huge testimony to him that God is aware of him and his family, and that He loves them very much. It was a wonderful story, and I could feel the Spirit very strongly. Ganbe Kyodai has such a strong testimony, and I am so grateful for his faith. I am sad that he is not coming to church right now, but I know that as he continues to have faith in the Savior, that he will come back.

It is amazing to see the hand of the Lord in my life here in Ishinomaki. There are times when I feel like I can do nothing right, like I am the absolute worst missionary in the whole world and that I should just quit. But then there are times when I can see in real time the Lord work through me to bless the lives of those around me. I can feel the love of the Savior flowing through me, almost as if it was blood flowing in my veins. My Heavenly Family has blessed me with the gift of Love, and I am grateful that they teach me how to use that gift to the best of my ability. They watch over me everyday, and I can feel Their love. For that, I am grateful.

I love you Momma! I hope that you get better soon! I hope you know how much I love you, and that you are the best Momma ever.

Love Shak

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

On June 9, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

The rainy season has officially started. We haven't seen the sun for about four days now, and we won't see it again until July 25th! Oi. I am already going crazy... but, I have my sunlamp from Brian, and I have some vitamin D supplement. So I should be alright. The rainy season will not suck nearly as bad as it did last year because I am much better equipped this time. I have a rain suit, and rain boots, and I will buy a basket cover for my bike today. So, I am going to have a better attitude and not complain about being wet ALL THE TIME.

We actually had a really great experience with a less-active member this week named Kimura Shimai. She joined the church when she was in junior high school, but never really was active. She really wanted to be involved in the Church, but she said that she never received an answer to her prayers that the Church was true. She said that she would pray everyday at least once, and she would read the passages from the Book of Mormon that the missionaries gave her to read, but she feels like she never got an answer. While we were talking about all of this, we were at her store; she owns a furniture shop in downtown. She then proceeded to tell us that she wants to pray with us, but not at her store. So she gave us her home address and said, "Come visit me at home and we can pray together there!" Last week, the Elders stopped by and she told them that her Book of Mormon was swept away in the tsunami and that she was pretty sad. So they gave her a new one, and when we visited her, she said that she loves the new one! The font is bigger, so the kanji is easier to read, and it also has been newly translated, so the scriptures are much easier to understand. We are hoping that the next time we visit her, we will be able to read some of the Book of Mormon with her, and pray for her. It will be so wonderful, and we are very much looking forward to it. She is absolutely without a doubt one of the people I was supposed to come to Ishinomaki and meet. I love her so much, and I want to help her feel some more love from The Big People.

This week was the anniversary of my precious Fisher's death. It was a hard week for me, to be honest. We had no appointments this week, and we had a lot of "free time," which translates into "finding people to teach" time, and so my mind had a lot of room to wander, which is never good when you are sad. There were lots of tears shed. But! I have felt Fisher by my side all week. Every time the tears would come, I could feel his arms wrap around me. It was very beautiful and very comforting. He is at peace, and is encircled about by the love of His Savior. He doesn't want me to be sad for him, but he wants me to rejoice in the fact that he is better. I love my Fisher, and I miss him terribly. But! He is doing well and is learning and growing in his knowledge of Light. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of hope, of light, and of love. I am blessed to have the knowledge that I do of loving Heavenly Parents, and a perfect Savior, even Jesus Christ. They live. They love unconditionally. They bless me everyday.

Love, Shak

Friday, June 6, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

On Monday, June 2, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

Hey Momma! It has been quite a busy P-Day, and I don't have that much time. I had to go to the doctor this morning because I have a sty in my left eye. It is super painful and itchy and swollen, and I look super gross. I can't wear make-up and I just feel awful and sick and bleh. Ugh. So that is not fun at all. But! We had a good day. We had a taco party with some members today, and then we went to a nearby mountain and hiked! It was super fun, and I am exhausted.

Yesterday was transfer calls, and Elder Canepari will be transferring to Akita, which is where Luk Shimai transferred! So that is cool. I am so happy that I get to be in Ishinomaki for another transfer working with Alcazar Shimai and with the wonderful Elders and members here!

Thank you so much for the beautiful blessing you sent me. It is amazing the love that I can feel from all of my mothers, from you, from Mother, from my grandmothers, and from my Japanese mothers and grandmothers. So much beautiful divine love. I can feel it all the time. I am blessed with so many angels leading and guiding me everyday and every moment! I really can feel them all the time.

So, I ate whale this week. We went with Elder Whittle and Elder Aono to Sugiyama San's house for lunch, and he made us whale! I felt really sad eating it. And then I felt more sad because it was DELICIOUS. Yeah... I felt like a terrible person, haha. But! It was a new experience, that is for sure. We passed Sugiyama San to the Elders, which made me really sad, but it is okay because we are still really involved with him, and we talk to him a lot. I love Sugiyama San so much. I just love Ishinomaki so much! I was thinking about that the other day; I absolutely love and adore every single person with whom I have come in contact here in Ishinomaki. I really, truly, from the bottom of my heart, love this beautiful wonderful place and all of these beautiful wonderful people.

We had the privilege of having two lessons this week, each with a member present! The first one was with Yuka Chan. A 28 year old from our ward, Taeko Shimai, joined with us. We talked about prayer with Yuka Chan again, and it was so wonderful to watch Taeko Shimai bear a very simple and easy to understand testimony of prayer to Yuka Chan. Yuka Chan was so receptive, and listened to Taeko Shimai very attentively. Yuka Chan still has yet to pray really sincerely, but I know that she is feeling the love of God through us. It was a good lesson.

Then, we had another lesson with Michiru San, who is Brother Utagawa's girlfriend. It was a GREAT lesson! Sister Alcazar led this lesson, and it was SO GOOD. Alcazar Shimai has a way of making people feel very comfortable and so at-home. She is so full of love, and it was so easy to feel in our lesson with Michiru San. We talked to Michiru San about prayer, also. She has never prayed before, but she agreed to pray once with Utagawa Kyodai this week, and once again on her own. She is also pretty receptive to the message, I think. She was opening up a lot more this time around. I am looking forward to seeing her again.

We have started doing frisbee activities about twice a week, and this last week, we had our Nepalese friends who own the Indian Curry restaurant come and participate. It was SO MUCH FUN! They are absolutely HILARIOUS. I love having Nepalese friends. They told us that next week, they want us to come in during break hours, and they will teach us how to make naan! How awesome is that?? I am excited.

Well... that is about it for this week I think. I am so grateful that I have the chance to still be here in Ishinomaki. I love it so much, and I am so grateful to be here doing the Savior's work. This really is His field. I can feel His love fill me every time I talk with people here. It is really an amazing thing. The Savior lives. He loves us all. One Love.

I love you Momma. I hope you have a happy day at work!

Love, Shak