Kobe, Japan

Monday, December 30, 2013

Week 21 - Testify

YES, NEWS DOES TRAVEL FAST! I will be transferring to an area called Otsu and it`s pretty close to Kyoto. I`m SO happy I`ll be able to see Scheffler Shimai! I`ve been DYING to see her! Her new comp is Larkin Shimai who was in my district (now) and in the MTC. Everyone here were just nervous wrecks this morning at the apartment...no one could do our normal study without someone saying every 10 minutes `oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh! Where are we going???`

The whole time I was super chill, just thinking that the Lord knows how much I love this place and that I want to serve here forever...well, it turns out, I`m the ONLY one in our apartment who is transferring! I almost cried when our Zone Leaders called to tell me. Transfers are really rejuvenating. It gives us missionaries a chance to start over, change and refocus ourselves. Now that I`m transferring out of my very first area, I`ll have a lot of change coming my way! I haven`t been this sad to leave a place since I moved back from Hawaii.

Heimuli Shimai & Ellefsen Shimai share one last hug as companions in Akashi

This morning I was thinking about my last 2 transfers and really pondered how much I`ve come to know my Savior in 3 short months. I was reading in Mosiah 18:30 `...all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer...`

It`s true. When I replace Mormon with Akashi, how beautiful Akashi has become to me because it`s here that I started my journey towards the fulfilling of my purpose `...to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel...`  Here in Akashi is where I have come to know my Savior better, through my difficult struggles and in my happiest moments. Akashi -- with its tall cement buildings, loud fast trains, some cold and some warm people, lots of hills and buses -- in Japanese, Akashi means Testify. I can testify how beautiful this place has become to me! 

Heimuli Shimai and Call Shimai head home on Christmas -- those baskets are loaded with goodies/gifts from the members in Akashi!

Although I`m transferring there are so many things I still need to learn. Yesterday our Bishop`s family had 8 of us missionaries over for dinner. Their daughter, Sayaka, is going to BYUH right now and she served her mission in Brazil. When they were driving us back home, I was sitting in the back seat next to her. She turned to me and testified: `A year and a half is really short. Please serve with all you`ve got. Japanese is difficult. Thank you for trying so hard to learn it! I promise you, this time will feel shorter than any other time in your life.`

She`s right. It feels like only yesterday I stepped off the train at the station behind our apartment in Akashi. Now I`m going to a whole new area where I get to learn even more about our Savior and Redeemer, and I get to invite more of God`s beloved children unto Him. We read in the scriptures about how weak we are and how much we can do if we rely on the Lord. I am coming into my 3rd transfer and I can testify to you that I am still SO weak. I can`t learn to speak Japanese in 18 short months by myself. I can`t change people`s hearts. But I CAN rely on the Lord, and He will make up the difference. As He promised, `...have faith in me, and then will I make weak things become strong...` 

Since I`m leaving, my awesome companion gets to stay and train a NEW missionary! Lucky new missionary! Ellefsen Shimai and I have had a crazy transfer together. We`ve been through a lot, and we have grown so much in just 6 short weeks. When we were told that I was the only one leaving from the 4 shimai, we both almost cried. She`s more than my companion…she`s my sistah!

Sistahs Ellefsen & Heimuli

I feel that way about the Chorotachi I serve with as well. We all just call each other brother and sister. It`s such a blessing to know that in the big picture we truly are brothers and sisters and we get to learn this beautiful culture in order to invite more of our brothers and sisters to be `...partakers of the glory to be revealed in the last day...`  This gospel has brought each and every one of us so much joy! I love that my only job right now is to share this with people.

Chorotachi (Elders Steers & Shinohara) & Heimuli Shimai wear kimonos for Christmas

Regardless of wherever or whenever we transfer, `God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth...` Alma 26:37. I know this scripture is true. I am so excited to start a new transfer in a new area with a new companion! I can`t wait to see what the Lord has for me to do. I just want to get to work! 

Thank you for all your love and support, fam. I loved talking to you all on Christmas...maybe not Houston, but everyone else. Just kidding, love you Houst! My FAVORITE part was the song...tears…Hema you are quite the songwriter and boys you are GREAT singers! I miss our jam sessions and the constant music. I cried, laughed, cried, and really enjoyed being able to just be with my family. I love you boys! I`m sorry we couldn`t talk for very long. Hope you all have a happy new year and don`t forget:  Regardless of where you go in life, God has numbered you. I testify that He is aware of you. LOVE YOU!

Heimuli 姉妹

Monday, December 23, 2013

Week 20 - Time is Very Short

[Note from Mom:  I love being a missionary mom.  But if you think weekly correspondence with a missionary is easy, think again.  For one thing, she's way busier than she’s ever been in her entire life!  For another thing, I don’t know about other missionary moms, but this missionary mom is pretty desperate for communication.  Pretty desperate?  Make that pathetically desperate.  And at rare times like this, it can pose a small problem.  To illustrate my point, this week I’m attaching an email string that took 17 minutes from beginning to end.  I would've preferred a 17-minute long letter instead but, hey, it is what it is.  My comments are added in italics.  Read on.]


From: Hevynn Heimuli
Sent: Sunday, December 22, 2013 09:10 PM
To: Heimuli, Pania - Salt Lake City, UT
Subject: Re: christmas 

[Picking up where we left off the previous week, planning our Christmas phone call with Sister Heimuli…]

The number is a cell phone.
[Right about here – or perhaps even before she began replying to this message – Sister Heimuli must've realized she'd be talking to me in 3 days.  Why bother emailing Mom when there are people she won’t be talking to on Christmas Day that she’d rather spend her time writing to today?]

oh btw i probably won`t have time to email you today so i`ll just talk to you on Thursday...my time! It`s a cell phone and it might be expensive. Yes cell phones have one more number than home phones. Love you!


On Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 1:12 PM, Heimuli, Pania - Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

You'd BETTER email me! We are driving home from uncle hema's house in the snow…me, dad, harry and aunty nei. Love you!!!
[Do you like how I included “in the snow” just to emphasize the potentially hazardous condition I was in at the moment...as if this might be her last chance to email me in this lifetime?  That wasn’t too pathetically desperate, was it?  Nah, didn’t think so.]


From: Hevynn Heimuli
Sent: Sunday, December 22, 2013 09:16 PM
To: Heimuli, Pania - Salt Lake City, UT
Subject: Re: christmas

I really don`t have time.
[Too busy to send a weekly email to Mom, huh?  If anyone else received an email from Sister Heimuli this week, please message me...haha]

[Not sure if I learned it from her, or if she learned it from me but I guess it's easier to deliver bad news – or no news at all – if you include the words “love you.”  On second thought...after reviewing this string again...I learned it from her.]


On Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 1:16 PM, Heimuli, Pania - Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

[Time to change up my strategy to something short, simple and difficult to determine “how mad is Mom, really?” … 'cause “love you” didn’t work.]


From: Hevynn Heimuli
Sent: Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 9:27 PM
To: Heimuli, Pania – Salt Lake City, UT
Subject: Re: christmas


Thank you family for the awesome package! LOVE my Weber State shirt, beauty stuff, bracelet, CD and all the Hawaiian candies (you know me too well)! Time is very short, but I want to wish all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas! Presents are nice, and I absolutely love the ones I received, but really nothing is more important than our Savior at this time. You know this is a special holiday when Satan tries his very best to distract us from its true meaning.

Super busy caroling to (and teaching) a part-member family
I love this gospel, I love this work, and I love my Savior Jesus Christ. Have a very Merry Christmas! I`ll talk to you soon ;)

All my love,

Heimuli Shimai


On Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 1:27 PM, Heimuli, Pania - Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

[Did I mention that I love being a missionary mom?!]

Monday, December 16, 2013

Week 19 - Christmas...When Santa Claus was Born

People are 10 times more excited about Christmas here in Japan than in America and they don`t even know why! I was talking to some kids playing soccer in the street the other day. I asked them why they liked Christmas and what Christmas meant to them. One boy responded, `I like Christmas because that`s when Santa Claus was born.` The look on my face must have obviously told them they were wrong because right after that, a little boy started laughing and he asked me, `Oh! Is that wrong?` People don`t even connect Christ to “Christ”mas here...it`s so sad!

Matt 26:31 reads `And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.` If Christ, the most perfect person to walk this planet, needed to fall on his face and submit his will to God`s, then don`t we also? It`s funny how we learn the same lessons over and over again. This week I learned a little bit more about what it means to be truly humble.

Saturday morning at 5:45 am the 3 shimai and I got up and got ready to head to Ako for a festival. We were called upon by their branch president to help with church tours that would be given as people traveled from every corner of Japan to come to the very popular parade. It was about an hour and a half train ride. We walked from the station to the church where we got our assignments and continued to prep for that day`s service project. I am in Akashi where there are lots of trains, lots of big buildings -- it`s very tokai, or city. But Ako is just the opposite -- super inaka, very country. At first, we approached people and handed out chidashis, but every other business was handing out chidashis, too, so we came up with a good way to be different. We started caroling in front of the church to catch people`s attention as they walked by. Lots of people stopped, snapped pictures, and shook our hands. They absolutely loved it! What`s even more amazing is that they liked the songs that we sang in English more than the ones we tried in Japanese...which probably means our Japanese is really, really bad! Haha. But a lot of people started walking in and around the church and asking questions about why so many of us gaijin (non-Japanese) were in their small town. It was really humbling to realize that thousands of people walked past the church that day, but the only thing strong enough to make them pause for a moment from the festivities and listen to us, were hymns we sang about our Savior.

Ellefesen Shimai and me, tired but happy, after spending Saturday in Ako
Yesterday, I gave my first talk in church! I was so nervous, yet so excited to try out my Japanese. I looked over the crowd and saw 3 other gaijin there. A cute couple from Australia and a man from California here on business. Turns out both of the men served missions here years ago. It was cool to meet them and talk with them. The cute Australian couple was Brother and Sister Oldfield. I translated for Sister Oldfield as we went to all our classes together because her husband has forgotten most of his language. She was darling, and ended up giving me her address, and invited me to visit them after my mission! Yah mate! She`s a doll! Afterwards, we taught an investigator how to pray for the first time. There`s something really special about teaching someone to pray. It must be how you felt, Mom and Dad, teaching us to pray as little children. People here truly can`t believe that they can actually communicate with God. This investigator prayed to her Father in Heaven. She apologized for believing in other gods. Incredible…she`s already repenting and we haven`t even taught her a single lesson yet! That Australian Sister walked up to our investigator after our lesson and told her, `Listen to these sisters. They will lead you to the truth.` Sister Oldfield doesn`t even speak a lick of Japanese, but I can tell you that our investigator really felt the spirit of what she was saying. I translated for Sister Oldfield and our investigator began to cry. It was such a huge blessing to have Sister Oldfield there! What she said really put into perspective why I am here in Japan. That was another humbling experience! The work is way too big for me to do alone. I know I can`t change the hearts of these people…but Heavenly Father can. I`m not here in Japan just to learn a cool language and eat some amazing food. I`m here as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am here to invite others to come unto Him. I am here to help others receive the same blessings I have received in my life. And I have the great privilege of doing so, and I love it! I was so grateful for that Australian sister and for the testimonies of all those who helped our investigator feel comfortable at church yesterday.

After church, a big group of members and we missionaries went caroling at an old folks home. On the way back we drove past Okura beach...it was gorgeous! You already know how much I love the ocean and how much I want to jump right in it. That is usually what I think about whenever I see the beach. But last night, as we drove past Okura beach, I thought a lot about how small I really am. Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves, learning a difficult language, adjusting to a different culture, thinking about lessons, and impressions we leave when we meet people, and a million other things! But really, we are so small. Yet at the same time, we mean everything to our Heavenly Father. God loved us so much that He gave us His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christmas is a time to celebrate the beginning of His life…which life changed all of our lives for eternity.

As we gear up for Christmas, don`t forget that gifts and presents are nice. Mistletoe and Christmas trees are pretty, too, but Christ`s sacrifice was the best gift of all.

`And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.`

Christ was born into humble circumstances, and He left this earth humbly, too. I know I personally need to keep working on humility, and I hope we can all try a little bit harder to be just a little more humble as we celebrate the time when our Savior`s life on this earth began. I love Christmas! I love the Savior! I love you all! 

Thank you, family and friends, for all the love and support, and for the amazing examples you are.

Package from the Bolens...they're the best! I love them!
Enjoy your Christmas with the ones you love most!

All my love,
That Sister in Japan

P.S.  More notes & pics:

I loved Housty's pics. He looks so handsome! And Haley just looks gorgeous.

Maggot we found in our rice...gross, right?? Haven't eaten rice since. I know that's problematic, being in Japan and all.

Lunch today with Matsumoto Shimai from the ward. She took all 4 of us shimai out to a steak house! Soooooo good!

Steak house...it probably seems that all I do is talk about food...well, yah.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Week 18 - I Have NO Idea What Nihonjin Need

I have to tell you about an absolutely bizarre experience that happened yesterday...We were sitting in DCS, which is a meeting we have every Sunday morning with the Dendo Shunin and all the senkyoshi in our area with ward senkyoshi. We discuss the progress and needs of investigators and how we can accommodate those needs. We had about 15 minutes left when one of the Bishop`s counselors interrupted and said, `There`s someone downstairs for you.` Surprised, Ellefsen Shimai and I jumped up. We ran downstairs to the foyer and there was one of our former investigators whom we had dropped about a month ago. We talked with her and sat down in the chapel. Some members walked past and talked with all of us as we waited for sacrament to start. Turns out, she only came to church to tell everyone what she believes. Nothing wrong with that, but I felt bad for Ellefsen Shimai who sat next to her the whole time, when it became apparent that instead of telling what she believed, this former investigator really just wanted to bash everything we believed. Sometimes I am so grateful I can`t understand everything everyone says in Japanese! Ellefsen Shimai was so exhausted as she tried to testify and understand this lady`s Japanese. We asked her why she came to church if she doesn`t believe anything she hears and she told us that she wanted to tell everyone about her religion because we are all fools from America and we have no idea what nihonjin need. 

I have to say she is right about one thing, and this week I`ve really learned that lesson: I have NO idea what nihonjin need. I only know my investigators PRETTY well…but God knows them PERFECTLY. She`s also right that we Americans have no clue what they (Japanese) are going through. The scriptures confirm this and I also `...believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.` (Mosiah 4:9) `...and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.` (Mosiah 23:24)

Only God knows His children`s hearts. The only way I can know is through the Holy Ghost. If I don`t have the spirit with me, I honestly can`t understand a word of what`s going on. Yet I have this overwhelming desire to love these people regardless of how much, or how little, of their nihongo I can understand. However, when I have the spirit I can know their hearts and their desires like God does. 

We had dinner with some Potential Investigators last week. They are two really cute nihonjin daigakusei about 19 years old. We laughed, and talked and enjoyed some delicious pasta and pizza. When it was time to head home we had a 15 minute walk to the nearest bus station...you can bet we taught a lesson in 15 minutes! They loved every single thing we had to say. It`s crazy how much more natural it is to speak nihongo when I talk about the gospel. And even though it was freezing cold, and we were walking at a brisk pace, and it was super dark, we all felt the spirit, and I know that they really came to know a little bit more about their Savior and their Heavenly Father. They are both our new investigators. They are both coming to church next week, too! One of the girls asked us if we taught a lot of people about our church and we said we teach anyone and everyone who is ready to learn about it. She said that all the questions she`s had in her heart ever since she was a little girl were answered as we walked and taught. There`s no way I could`ve known what kinds of questions she had been asking herself since she was a child, but through the spirit we were able to have an opportunity to teach and we did. We opened our mouths and the spirit helped our words to make sense. It`s truly amazing what kinds of things we can do when we have the spirit with us. 

There is a scripture that has been running through my head for the past couple of weeks and I have really come to love it. It is when Alma is praying for the Zoramites and he says, `O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ. Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.` (Alma 31:34-35)

There`s absolutely nothing else I desire more at this time in my life than to bring my brothers and sisters here in Japan home to their Loving Heavenly Father. I can`t believe how crazy excited I get when someone asks to meet with us again, or takes our chirashi and tells us they`ll see us at church, or when an investigator starts progressing...there`s no sweeter joy than that! God knows the people of Japan, my brothers and sisters, perfectly. I promise you that God knows YOU better than you know yourself too! God just wants us all back home with Him again because He knows, being able to see the end from the beginning, that this is what will bring us the most happiness. It`s also why He has tens of thousands of missionaries and missionary efforts around the world telling people about His gospel. He knows us better than we know ourselves, He knows exactly what we need. 

It`s been a crazy busy, rough week. Missionary life is SOOOOOOOOO different than you would think it is. I have never laughed more, and cried more, than I have since I`ve been here...it`s a blessing to experience. I really do love being a missionary and focusing on Jesus Christ all day every day. 

Sometimes when it gets rough the only thing that helps me to keep going is thinking about Christ and His sacrifice, that He came to this earth, showed us the way, and died in order for me to be here, so I should keep pushing forward! 

Sorry no mission pics this week, we were way too busy, but maybe this coming week!I am so grateful for a loving, unchanging Heavenly Father who loves us. I am grateful that He`s given me an awesome family that sent me an awesome package last week! Yes I got my winter package and it`s been very cold recently, so I`ve definitely been using everything in that box! Thanks for all your prayers and your hard work. I love you all so much and I hope you all have an enjoyable Christmas season! Until next week...

All my aloha,

Heimuli 姉妹

P.S. No word about calling home for Christmas...I probably won`t know until next week or the week of Christmas. But I am just calling, no skype. Love you!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 17 - I Don't Believe In Coincidences

What? It`s been a week already?! I am exhausted enough to where, for once, it actually does feel like it`s been a week…but at the same time I feel like it was Preparation day only yesterday...omoshiroi ne! What an exciting week we`ve had. We taught more lessons this week than Ellefsen Shimai (4th transfer) and I have ever taught in our short missionary lives. We haven`t had time for dinner…we`re always rushing from appointment to appointment and planning and practicing. The harder you work, the faster the time flies...maybe we shouldn`t work so hard, haha. D&C 112:28 ``But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it.``

I know I’m doing something right when I wake up on junbi no hi (prep day) and feel exhausted from the week. But junbi no hi`s are way more busy than normal days! We had appointments this morning, did some shopping in between, and went to lunch with our Stake President`s wife. I have to say the Akashi ward is hands down the best ward in the mission! She took us to Costco where we ate Costco pizza and drank Mountain Dew (thought of you, Dad!). I thought we time-warped back to the US or something. She was so sweet do drive us all the way over there and buy us a huge, delicious lunch. She said she and her husband were talking about us the other night and said how bad they felt that we don`t have a real Thanksgiving or Christmas. I assured her that there`s no where else we`d rather be than walking the streets of Akashi, or struggling through a lesson in Japanese, on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We love what we do and if it weren`t for awesome members like her we wouldn`t be able to fulfill our purpose.

Lately there`s been a lot of talk about members and missionaries working together...I would just like to add my testimony to the testimonies of our prophet and his counselors that there really is no other effective way to dendo than through our wards and their members. I have seen so many blessings as we combine our efforts to bring more of God`s children to the knowledge of His gospel. Saturday, we had an `outreach` activity and our yakusokusha taught everyone how to make gyoza. After we made it we all ate yummy gyoza together, laughed, took pics, sang songs, it was great! If we missionaries didn`t have the ward members` help in organizing and inviting we could never have pulled off such a fun event. I promise that as you work with missionaries in your wards or stakes you will see miracles, too. As a missionary that always loves the help of kaiin, I promise that we missionaries really appreciate it too!

I want to share a miracle that happened this week. About 6 months ago a lady came across some sister missionaries and exchanged numbers. She`s been super busy for the past few months and could never meet with them. She`s an english teacher for elementary students. Out of the blue, she all of a sudden texted us the first week of transfers. She said, `November 29th is my only day off. I really would like to meet at your church. I will be there at 1, can you come?`

I replied so fast! YES in all caps. So we planned for her and met up with her at our church on Friday. We brought her inside and talked a little bit and really got to know her. We`ve never met before but she just kept saying, `I feel like I`ve known you two for years. Why do I feel like this?`

I asked her why she decided to finally meet with the missionaries. She told me that she had stopped by once before and there was a couple here at the church. She walked in and felt immediate peace and relief. She said she just wanted to feel that way again so she texted us and came. I said a quick prayer of gratitude that members were here at that time. If they weren`t, she wouldn`t have come in and felt that peace that we all can feel. So we grabbed lunch and went back to the church. I gave my first church tour. We talked about families and how we believe families are the most important thing in life. She has a family of her own and she said not many people believe in families as strongly as we do. Our church building has 3 levels; the 3rd is classrooms, the 2nd is the chapel, and the 1st is where you enter. When we were on our way to the 2nd level, I invited her to church that following Sunday before we entered the chapel. She said that Sundays were her only days off so it was really hard for her to get her kids ready and come to church so early (church is at 10 a.m.). I told her we understood, then we walked into the chapel. We explained to her that this is where we worship, and that members come here to church one day out of the week to rest from their busy lives. We lingered in the chapel for a bit. She described how peaceful and how comfortable she felt there. We walked back down to the first level and she asked to hear a message. We taught her a little lesson and she wanted to make another appointment! She`s not Christian…she doesn`t know much about Christ…but she does believe there`s something more out there. Ellefsen Shimai and I just couldn`t stop smiling for the whole 2 hours we were with her because we know she was lead to us, even if she doesn`t know it! She`s now a new investigator and we`re excited to begin meeting with her and helping her become acquainted with her Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I told her I don`t believe in coincidences. I don`t believe we meet other people by accident. I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe prophets keep telling us to work together with members for a reason. God has revealed that working together can hasten His work so we just need to put our faith in Him, move forward and do it! I am so grateful for our members here in Akashi. They give us loads of food every week. They help us out in lessons. They call us and check up on us. They really are Christ-like examples and I am so blessed to be able to learn from them. I know we`ve all got jobs, school, football, music, friends, and life gets busy with the little things. Working with missionaries might be scary or seem like a hassle but it`ll bless so many investigators` and missionaries` lives as we work together. First Nephi 14:3 says, ``For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.``

Let`s not make this mistake. Yes, sometimes we are asked to do hard things, but I promise you it`s worth it.  ときどきたいへんあことがあるでもできますよ! Love you all! Inquire of the Lord. Be patient with your area`s missionaries. And help us missionaries out!

Heimuli Shimai

At the Eki with my favorite...person?  lion?  flower?

One of our awesome PI's. We like to play volleyball together -- she kills it on the court.

Gyoza party with our amazing yakusokusha

Facials last night...we were just ready for some spa treatment, LOL (scary!)

Akashi ward members at our gyoza party!

Zone Taikai (Heimuli shimai is sitting next to President Zinke)