Kobe, Japan

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.

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