Japan, Sendai Mission

Japan, Sendai Mission

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

On Monday, July 28, Sister Johnson wrote:

This was a great week in Kamisugi! Sister Gass and Sister Clark had their friend Oyama San get baptized! Oyama San is an ADORABLE little old woman who is actually from Ishinomaki originally! But they have been teaching her everyday for the past month, and she is the most wonderful person! Her baptismal service was so wonderful! Oyama Shimai bore her testimony after she got baptized, and she said so simply "I have been given a new start through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and for that, I am grateful." It was so simple, so beautiful, and the Spirit brought her words right into my heart. She knows Christ, and I am so happy that she has been found again. It was a great spiritual lift to share in that special day.

This last week, Sister Ishikawa and I were FINALLY able to meet with one of our investigators, a woman named Itosaka San. Oh, there are just no words to describe how much I LOVE that woman! I knew as soon as I met her that she is the reason I came to Kamisugi, and my heart was filled with love for her. She is very much like me, very free-spirited and very strong. She is a widow; her husband passed away seven years ago. She lives by herself, but she is very busy always working in her garden or volunteering at hospitals or volunteering with her friend Omiya San, who is a director of an organization called Women's Federation for World Peace. How awesome is that?? I want to be involved with her and volunteer together. But we had a great lesson! We spoke about God's love for all humankind, and we also talked about the nature of Christ. Itosaka San is a Christian; she has incredible faith in the Savior and a TON of knowledge about all kinds of religions. We talked about how you can find truth everywhere, and about how God loves us all so much. We also talked a little bit about Adam and Eve and the Fall. In previous lessons, Ishikawa Shimai told me that Itosaka San thought that Adam and Eve were terrible people, but when we talked about it this last week, it didn't seem like she thought that at all! We talked about how through the Fall, all people were able to come to the Earth and live! We talked about the blessings that come from the Fall and Brother Miura, the member that came with us, bore such amazing testimony of the love of God and the Savior. Brother Miura just recently got baptized and is so awesome! He actually reminds me a TON of Dad! It was wonderful to have them there with us. It was a beautiful time. Itosaka San and I really connected. I am not sure why, but I know for sure that she is one of those eternal friends that I came to Japan to reconnect with. She feels the same way; she gave me a call a few days after the lesson and said that she knew it was God's guidance that got her in touch with the missionaries the first time in 2008, and that they found her so that she could find me! When she said that, it reminded me of the first paragraph of PMG Chapter 9: the Lord will lead you to those who are prepared to hear the Gospel, or He will lead them to you. The Lord definitely led Itosaka San to me. I know that she is my sister and I am so excited for this opportunity to grow with her!

In other news, the rainy season is officially over!!! It was not nearly as bad as last year, I think! But now it is getting hot hot HOT! And here in the city, it is so humid, it's insane. Woohoo, sweat. But! It's a fun adventure. Yay! I am thankful to have a nice Camelbak water bottle that my Momma sent me in the MTC last year.

Well Momma, I love you so much. I hope that you have a fun week seeing your family! Please tell them all hello for me! I hope you have a wonderful time.

Love, Shak

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Tuesday (yes, Tuesday, UGH!) July 22, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

Hi Momma!!!!! I really am so sorry that we didn't have time to email yesterday. But! It was a special holiday in Japan: umi no hi! That means "Oceans's Day!" So, we celebrated it by going to the ocean as a district!! Oh boy, was that so much fun, I can't even tell you! We biked about an hour to the coast and played in the waves all afternoon! Don't worry, there was no swimming. We are obedient missionaries. It was so beautiful though, and the water in Sendai is so warm. We really bonded as a district, the ten of us. And we went with a member, Brother Miura, who just got baptized! He probably already posted pictures on Facebook of the beach (I hope he did!). He is a great member and he just got called as a ward missionary! We are so excited to work with him.

So yes, the November 7th thing is true! I didn't know about it either actually until this week! I got a letter from President Smith in the mail that was basically a "don't get trunky and be a finisher" letter, but at the end, it said that I would be coming home on the 7th of November! Apparently there is an Asia Mission President's conference that is happening and it shortens that transfer into five weeks! So I get to come home one week early! WOOHOOOOOO!!!! I cannot tell you how excited I was to hear that! That means I will be home one day or two after Dad's birthday! What a good birthday present! I am happy that you have gotten in touch with Gass Shimai's mom! I cannot even say how much I love that girl. She has been such a huge support for me during my mission. When Fisher passed away, she just held me for hours and let me cry in her arms. Then she helped me when I was a bean and was struggling really bad. She just has always been there for me with such HUGE love and I am so thankful for her. I am LOVING serving with her here in Kamisugi.

Things in the new area are interesting, that is for sure! There has been so much going on; I definitely feel like I am in the city again! Everything goes a million miles a minute here! It is much MUCH different from Ishinomaki. But! I love it! I am getting used to being a city girl again. The thing that I miss about Ishinomaki though is that everyone, EVERYONE greets you on the street. Here in the city, if you say hello to someone, they just look at you like you have three heads and then keep walking. I actually had kind of a sad experience with that this week. I was biking with Sister Ishikawa and the other four sisters to the store because we had to do some shopping for the ward party, and I said konnichiwa to a man that was walking past. He stopped and said, "Wow, it's really rare to have someone say hello to you on the street nowadays!" So we laughed and talked and I introduced myself as a Mormon missionary, and all of a sudden, his countenance got very dark and his expression changed. His voice became very rough and he got angry at me and said that I am a brainwashed terrible person and that I do not believe in God or Jesus Christ. He then started yelling at me for being an American in Japan trying to "change the spirituality of the Japanese people and brainwash them too," or something to that effect. Then he blamed me and my ancestors for World War II and then yelled at me in English and said "Stupid Yankee, go home!" It was frightening. I was really scared of this man, and I could tell that there was something else inside of him besides his own spirit that was controlling his thoughts and actions. I wanted to turn and run away as fast as I could, but I couldn't move my feet. In that moment of great alarm, I felt the power and authority I hold as a representative of Jesus Christ pulse through me and cool my head. I was like being plunged into a lukewarm tingly pool. I then stretched out my hand, and testified to the man of the love of God and of my Savior Jesus Christ. I testified that I know They are real and that They love all people equally. I apologized for the conflict that took place between Japan and America (before I was even born...) and told him that I loved him and that I would pray for him. In that moment, he was silenced. I wished him a good day, and walked away. It was a very unusual experience. I have only had one other person treat me that way in Japan, and it was when I was in Izumi last year. But this time around, I walked away feeling like I had (and God had) left an impression on that man that he is likely to never forget. Afterwards, I was feeling very drained and sad, but my wonderful companion said just what I needed to hear to help me cheer up again. I am so grateful for Ishikawa Shimai and for all the love that she shows me. She is a wonderful companion.

Sister Ishikawa and I spent a lot of time doing less-active rescuing this week. We have decided to focus on less-actives as a companionship, and while we were not able to meet anyone this week, we are still going to work hard. We also had a chance to volunteer at an old folk's home this week with the other sisters! We put on a concert! It was so much fun; we had violin and ukulele, and singing, and so much wonderfulness! It made me realize how much I miss my cello. I have got to find one here in Sendai. I am sure I will be able to.

I have learned this week that it is really very easy to get discouraged as a seasoned missionary, but I have also learned that when I become discouraged, I have power to overcome those feelings. That power lies in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is so much happiness and joy to be had as you lose your life in the divine. There is also much joy to be had as your allow your own spirit to be free and to commune with divinity in nature. These things are truth, and these are the things I cling to.

I love you! I hope you have a good week! I will do my best to have a good week too!

Love Shak

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

On Monday, July 14 Sister Johnson wrote:

Momma! You are so in-tune! Yes, we had an earthquake. It happened at 4:22 in the morning and was very big. We are on the fifth floor of our apartment building, and even that high, everything was shaking. My pen-holding-can fell off my desk and went everywhere. My adorable Japanese companion ran and got under her desk. Then all the sirens went off from our cell phones warning up of the earthquake (which is supposed to happen before the earthquake... whoops.), but then it was over after about 30 seconds, I would say. It was pretty wild. I heard that a tsunami came to Ishinomaki. Scary. I hope that everyone was okay. I can only imagine how scared the people must have been, and that breaks my heart.

So, yeah. I transferred from Ishinomaki to Kamisugi! It was a very emotionally trying week for me, to be honest. I could not believe how sad I was to leave Ishinomaki. I cried more than I have since I was a bean! We spent last P-Day with the Elders; we went to the awesome Pirate Ship place again! It reminded me of Dad. I would love to take him there. But it was way fun! It was Elder Whittle's last P-Day (he is home now!!! I can't believe it! I miss him so much) and so we decided to do something fun together. After that, Sister Alcazar and I spent lots of time visiting members and friends and less-active members. We had a miracle happen on Tuesday that was so eye-opening for me! We went to visit a friend named Keiko San, and she lives over by the ocean, so we biked to her house. When we got there, she wasn't home, unfortunately. So I wrote her a goodbye message and told her that I love her. When we were biking home, we passed a woman on the street who looked extremely familiar to me, but I knew that I had never met her, so I just kept biking. In that instant, a voice in my head said "GO BACK." and an image of a less-active record came into my head. The woman we had passed was Sister Melody Mori, from the Phillipines! I had only ever seen her picture once, but the Spirit brought her record out of my memory. So, we turned around and went back to talk to her. She was SO HAPPY that we came back! She said that she hasn't had any contact with the Church for a long time and that she had been hoping someone would reach out to her in some way. We ended up talking for a while, and Sister Alcazar was able to exchange phone numbers with her and set an appointment to visit her and her three year old daughter. I walked away from that experience so full of gratitude for the prompting that the Spirit blessed me with so that I could bless Melody's life. She is adorable, and I am so sad that I won't get to see her, but I hope and pray that she will progress with the Sisters in Ishinomaki, and that she will once again gain the desire to come back to Church. After the miracle, we visited and visited and visited EVERYONE, and it was so great. We went to see my beloved Sister Kimura, who is my favorite person in the world. We went to see Sugiyama San, who cried with me when I told him I was leaving. We prayed together and I asked Heavenly Father to leave a special blessing of love and guidance on him so that he will be able to grow in the truth. Then we went to Institute, and there were about twice as many people there as normal, and they all came to see Whittle Choro and I, and Elder Anderson off. It was a beautiful night full of so much love, and much testimony of the Savior. There are no words to describe how much love was in my heart that night; it was full to bursting! I was able to feel a fragment of the love that The Big People have for us. It was incredible. I will miss Ishinomaki more than I can even say.

But! Now, I am in Kamisugi! The big city! This city looks so much like Denver, it's INSANE! It has been bringing back so many memories of home; it's making me a little homesick, but it is still Japan, so no worries there. I have the CUTEST companion! Sister Ishikawa is adorable and she is a GREAT missionary! She is young, in her third transfer, but I have learned more from her example already than I have from anyone in a long time. She is so good at loving everyone and at opening her mouth. She invites everyone to come to everything and she has no fear. She is the only Japanese girl in our apartment of six, and so she is going to learn English really fast! Haha, but she also helps me with my Japanese, and it is way helpful. The other sisters serving here are so wonderful! Sister Gass, my super close friend from the MTC is serving here! It has been an absolute BLAST to be with her again, and we have already performed together (her on ukulele and singing and me singing). Our district is insanely musical, and so we are going to use that to do some great work here! The elders are awesome too! We have the zone leaders in our district, and then two other elders. Our district leader, Elder Willey is so awesome! He is a great leader and is super chill and fun. He also builds bikes and so we have a lot in common and have had a lot to talk about! I can tell that we are going to work well together.

So far this week, Ishikawa Shimai and I have been visiting members and have been planning. We are going to dive right into less-active work here; that is my favorite kind of dendo, and she hasn't really done much of that yet, so that is going to be our focus as a companionship. We haven't been able to meet anyone yet, as far as investigators are concerned, but hopefully we will have some appointments this week. We are teaching a woman from Nepal named Bindiya! I haven't met her yet, but I am way excited to. We are also teaching a man from China named Cho, and a woman from Vietnam named Diep (pronounced Jep). We are also teaching an American woman named Donna and a Japanese person named Itosaka San. How awesome is that???? DIVERSITY!!!!! I have missed it so much! WOOHOO! Yay for the city! I am so looking forward to working with all of these wonderful people.

Yesterday, we had church! WOW, talk about a big ward! The Kamisugi ward is twice the size of Capitol Hill! So crazy. There is no way I am going to be able to memorize everyone's names.... My goal is to have them down by the end of this month... We will see what happens! But, church was great. There was a man there on a business trip from America and so I translated Sacrament meeting for him, and that was a fun experience. The Bishop here is named Bishop Furukawa and him and his wife had the six of us sisters over for dinner last night. It was INSANE the amount of food they gave us; I thought I was going to die. But it was delicious pasta, and it was way fun.

So yes, so far I am liking Kamisugi. It is fun to be in the city! But cities in Japan are not really based on a grid system so it is going to take a bit for me to get oriented. But, I am looking forward to getting lost! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here in Kamisugi. The work is very different here, but I am ready to spread the love of my Savior. It is very needed in Kamisugi.

I love you so much! I hope that you have a good week!

Love, Shak

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 7, 2014

About the photos: Leaving my small mark on Ishinomaki. A joy. This is our favorite Indian curry place, with our favorite guys from Nepal, Hari and Katri. I love them so much. They made the Elders special naan for Aono Choro's birthday. Frisbee!!! I am standing next to Elder Whittle, he goes home this week. So sad. This sign says, "GANBAROU ISHINOMAKI!!!" That essentially means, "FIGHT!!!" This big sign was painted a few days after the disaster, and has become the city slogan. This slogan is in the window of every single shop in the city. Love. This is Onodera San. He is an investigator that we have been working with as a district since I transferred to Ishinomaki. I love him so much. He is seriously the Japanese version of dad. They are the same.

On Monday, July 7, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:

Big news! I am transferring! I am going to Kamisugi, which is the middle of downtown Sendai! BIG BIG CITY! Woohoo! I am so excited! So sad. But so excited.

My new companion will be a third transfer Japanese girl named Sister Ishikawa! She is way cute. There will be six (yes, SIX) sisters in my apartment including me, and there are four elders! Wow! I will be in a ward again, attending church at the stake center (that actually has pews in the chapel! Crazy!), and I will be readjusting to the city girl in me! Woohoo! Look out world, here she comes!

With all the excitement is a lot, a LOT of sadness. I have so many precious members of my family here in Ishinomaki, and I am so sad to leave them. That will be very hard. There have already been many tears shed, and there will be many more to come, I think.

I am so sad to be leaving Sister Alcazar. So sad I can't even say. She has become one of the most precious people in my life, and we have become very close friends. I am going to miss her. I am so grateful for the support she has given me in times of distress, and for the unconditional love I feel from her every minute of every day. But! The good news is that we are still in the same zone, and so we will get to see each other at least once a month. Oh man, I am crying right now. I am going to miss Alcazar Shimai so much.

Well, this was a great week here in Ishinomaki! We spent a TON of time with the Usui Family this week! Sister Usui's daughter and her husband and newborn kid were in town from southern Japan, and so we hung out with them a lot. We played basketball, softball, ping pong, and frisbee with them! We had crazy amounts of sports time this week, and it was so much fun. This week, I discovered that I am fairly good at softball (I was asked to be the pitcher for the game, and I striked out six of the ten people batting, and I hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 8th), so I am thinking that I might get involved with softball when I get home and get back into school... It seriously would be so much fun. Yay!

At all of our sports activities this week, we had a friend named Ryotaro come! He is 18 and is a really cool kid. We met him at the temporary housing last time, and we hit it off really well! This last week, Sister Alcazar invited him to meet with us and he said yes! He has a great interest in God and what we believe in. And, it turns out that he is family friends with the Usui family! So he has built-in fellowshippers! How awesome is that?! I am so excited to see where things go with him. I won't be able to teach him, but that is okay; I know that he will progress nicely with Sister Alcazar and her two new companions! (She is becoming a tri with Sister Robertson(holy cow! ALL of her companions have been related to me in some way! Crazy.) and Sister Kanno, an adorable nihonjin that I served with in Aizu!

This week, I took Sister Alcazar down to the coast that was hit the hardest with the tsunami. We visited the memorial, and we talked with a man who runs a yakisoba shop right in the middle of all the destruction. Most everything has been cleaned up, but there is a little shed that he built called the Arigato House, and it is where he serves his soba. He is actually a really famous man, well, the tsunami made him famous. He was in his shop with the earthquake happened and the tsunami came. Him and his wife, along with his house and his shop were washed away. He said that as he was running to safety, he looked back just to see his wife get swept away and killed. It was a very sad story, and he was showing us a bunch of news clips about himself and his wife. We cried together and then we talked of hope. Hope in life after death. Hope in God. Hope in those living beside us. Hope in the future. A really cool thing about the Arigato House is that hundreds of volunteers from foreign lands have visited it, and so the man started doing something really cool. He made wooden plaques and had all of the volunteers sign them, and then he nails them to the side of his shed-shop. He asked Sister Alcazar and I to make one, and so we did! And then we nailed it to his shop. We have officially left our mark on Ishinomaki! It was a beautiful experience. Also, while we were there, we met a couple from Tokyo named the Satos. They asked us what we were doing in Japan, and we got to talk about the church a lot and the kind of volunteer work that we go in Ishinomaki. The husband started asking us a lot of questions about the Mormons, and it was really cool to talk to him. It is amazing the way that volunteering in Ishinomaki has led me to meet and talk with so many beautiful and amazing people. Oh man, I don't ever want to leave this place.

My heart is exploding with gratitude for the incredible opportunity I have had to serve the people of Ishinomaki. As I look back on the last seven months, I am filled with humility and awe for the way that the Savior has worked through me to touch the people here. The theme for the Ishinomaki branch this year has been "Become the Savior's Hands." I really feel that I have fulfilled that mission. I have fulfilled MY mission here. The Savior sent me here to love people in the way that He needed them to be loved, and I am confident that He is pleased with the work that I have done. I haven't taught very many lessons. I haven't seen any success numerically. I haven't found very many people to teach. But, I have loved with all the room that my heart could give, and because of that, there are many, MANY people here in Ishinomaki that have felt the presence of God in their lives. This was my mission. This IS my mission. This place has forever changed me, and I have learned how to love with all my heart. The people in this city are the most Christlike people I have ever met, and they don't even know Christ! But, they know the divine, and because of that, they treat others with love and kindness and respect. Wow, what a beautiful place this is. I will never forget it.

Well, that is about it on my end. I know that my Savior is real. I know that He lives and that He loves me. I know that He loves all people unconditionally. I know that He is my Advocate and my Friend. He leads me along. I trust that He will lead me in bright paths in Kamisugi.

I love you all, and I hope that you have a great week filled with the Savior's Sunshine!

Love, Shak