Kobe, Japan

Monday, January 27, 2014

Week 25 - What Is This?

Whoooooooaaaaa!!! Heels is ENGAGED?! What is this?! Heels you need your best man, and currently I am in Japan on a mission, so sorry Alyssa, you guys will have to postpone the wedding until next February when I get back. Haha, congrats you crazy kids! I am so sorry Alyssa that you will have to deal with Helam for eternity...eternity is a long time, are you sure you want to do that?? Hahaha, all jokes aside I am SO pumped and so stoked for you two. I will have a new sister when I get home, wow, look at that! I am pretty blessed in the sister category, first Normz and soon Alyssa. And like Mosiah says, `Yea, blessed (are ye) who are willing to bear my name; for in my name (ye) shall be called...` (Okay, maybe I changed that scripture just a little but it`s the same principle, haha). But for reals I am so happy for you guys!! I promise you will be blessed for being a Heimuli. Yes, it`s rough and us Heimulis are hard to deal with sometimes, but welcome to our family!

Another girl joining the Heimuli fam!
Want to know something else really exciting, mis hermanos?? I said my first prayer ALL in Spanish last night. Mom, you asked for the highlight of my week, and yesterday was the highlight! I like to start my weeks on Mondays because Sundays are the best days ever here on the mission. I like my weeks to end with a bang, so MY calendar starts on Monday and ends on Sunday...

Anyways, we tried SO hard to invite everyone we possibly could to come to church. On Saturday we went finding at the lake because it`s been weirdly warm recently and everyone we talked to we invited to church. We got home late that night and made more phone calls and emailed people to invite them to church.

On Sunday, Sacrament Meeting was about to start and no one was there. The elders had 2 investigators but none of ours showed up! It was really sad and we were kind of discouraged. We just kept our eyes on the doors in hopes that someone we had invited would walk in. Some random Mexican guy walked in and sat in front of us. He sat right next to the Elders and I thought, `What is this?! They have a Hispanic investigator, too?!`

As soon as Sacrament Meeting was over, I introduced myself in Japanese. He looked at me kind of funny, so I spoke to him in English and his English was perfect. He`s actually a member and is here in Japan on a business trip. He`s traveled to Japan a few times for work so he knows a little bit of Japanese. I think it says a lot about his priorities and his devotion that even while working in Japan on business, he`s willing to step out of his comfort zone and attend a Japanese ward. We talked for a bit and he`s here for a week. After church we had a shokuji (it is sort of a Japanese version of a luau…except with chopsticks and waaaay smaller portions, ha) and he stayed for that, too! When it was over and we were cleaning up, my wonderful companion mentioned to him that we are teaching a Peruvian and we had an appointment later that night. He said he wanted to come and we thought, `Great!` And this is where the best part of my week began.

We met at an eki (train station) close to our investigator`s house and walked over to his apartment together. Us three caused quite a scene on the streets. Imagine a white girl, a polynesian and a mexican walking the streets of Japan! We got to the house and our investigator wasn`t home yet -- which is typical, because just like polynesians, hispanics are never on time either. So we had a good amount of time to talk with our Mexican brother. He told us about his wife and kids at home and about his business trip. He served a mission in the Mexico, Mexico City mission about 10 years ago so he knows exactly what it`s like to be a missionary. We talked about the lesson we wanted to share and told him that our investigator would benefit greatly from hearing his testimony. I have never been more excited to teach a lesson! Finally, our investigator came home and we started the lesson. I gave the opening prayer in the little Spanish that I know. Colter shimai (in her awesome Spanish) started asking our investigator follow up questions about God and who he thinks God is. He answered that he THINKS God is his father and that he`s God`s son, and Colter shimai asked, `Do you believe that?`

He replied, `Uuuhhhh, si.` Not a confident si. The guy we brought with us had quickly built a really good relationship with our investigator before we even started our lesson, so he was able to be bold with him. He said, `Whoa, wait. This is important. If you don`t believe this, then there`s no use in listening to the hermanas.` We read Alma 32 together and talked about Faith. Hermano Ari (the Mexican brother who came with us) shared his testimony and his conversion story. He joined the church when he was 19 (just a couple years older than our investigator). Then he went on a mission. He relayed to our investigator that you don`t need to know everything now but over time, sincere faith turns into knowledge. I have never felt the spirit so strong the whole almost 6 months I`ve been on my mission. Homes here don`t have central heating. We were crammed in a small room huddled around a tiny space heater. But as I listened to Hermano Ari`s testimony and read the scriptures we shared, I felt warm all over. It was a different kind of warm…a warm that starts in the heart. As Hermano Ari testified in his native language, my heart was full of gratitude for having him there. You know, people are put in our lives for a reason and Hermano Ari probably never dreamed he`d be in Japan, preaching with 2 sisters from America, in Spanish during his business trip but there he was, right when we needed him. We had originally planned to teach about prayer but as we followed the spirit, and with the help from Hermano Ari, we were able to discern our investigator`s real need, `...For it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.` (Alma 32:28)

Picking my favorite fruit ever here. MIKANS!!!
Miracles don`t produce faith. In fact, I know faith precedes miracles, but miracles also often confirm our faith. No, we didn`t have anyone show up at church after hours of inviting, but we showed our faith, and Heavenly Father blessed us with an amazing experience I will never ever forget. Faith is a principle of action and power. It`s more than mere belief. Yesterday was a miracle. We left our appointment a little late and needed to make it home on time, so we literally ran back to the eki (which was about a 20 minute run) and then we had 30 minutes to bike home, up hill, which we did miraculously! 

Running to the eki after our lesson. Hermano Ari took the picture! He`s awesome.
I am telling you, if we just work, the Lord`s got our back. We taught an amazingly powerful lesson, we made it home ON TIME, and I actually made it through a whole prayer in Spanish! Miracles are all around us. We`ve just got to have the faith (action and power) to see those miracles.

We`ll have more miracles this week, and I can`t wait to write to you about them! Love you, family and friends. Heavenly Father and I love you!

Hermana Heimuli

Went to the skate rink with our 12 year old investigator but couldn`t skate because of mission rules, lol.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 24 - What He Knows We Need

I got a letter from Elder Ah Sue (South Africa Johannesburg mission) this past week! It was so good to hear from my old surfing bruddah. Mom, remember when I was moving back to Utah and I was almost late for my last night at work because we lost track of time surfing all day?? Well that kook is still the same! Haha it`s really cool to see that we`re both serving missions and we`re loving the places and the people we serve. He told me that there are all kinds of people in his area, Zulus, Afrikaans, Indians, etc., and I`m here in Japan with Peruvians, Brazilians, Japanese, etc., and they`re all God`s children. They ALL deserve the opportunity to have the gospel in their lives, and it`s a blessing to know that Elder Ah Sue and I and many others have the sacred responsibility to bring it to them. I can`t even describe how great a calling it is to be here, and I know it is the same for my friends who are serving all around the world. This gospel never ceases to amaze me.

You asked me for the best thing that happened this past week? One huge miracle began on Wednesday night. I met this really cute 23 year old girl who is an Opera singer and is also job searching. So she came to Eikaiwa to learn English because she thought it would help her resume look good for future jobs. I met her before class and talked with her a little bit, but she was headed to the beginner class. Colter Shimai and I teach the Intermediate class. I was sad we wouldn`t be able to have her in our class, so I invited her to stay afterward so we could meet again and chat. We also were having a party! So Eikaiwa finished, college and high school Eikaiwa students stayed, and we ate and laughed and had a good time speaking half-English half-Japanese to each other. By the end of the party, we had scheduled lunch with her on Saturday. We met up with her on Saturday and lunched at a really good sushi place. She asked us what we were doing after lunch. We did not have an appointment but our plan was to go back to the church, study, then go housing. So we said, `We`re going back to the church.` Then she said, `Okay, let`s go to the church together. I don`t have practice until 6. So we can hang out until 5.`

We were SHOCKED. Nihonjin don`t usually invite themselves to do things like that. We happily accepted (while also wondering what we were going to do with her for the next 4 hours). We got back to the church and sang some songs. Colter Shimai is amazing on the piano! We helped her with some english songs she`s learning and talked about life.

While we were practicing her songs, a few members walked in to clean the chapel. They absolutely loved her! The Otsu ward here isn`t huge -- we have about 70 people who come to church every week. So it`s not very big, but our members are very kind and very helpful. They want to dendo alongside us, and they`re exactly the kind of people our Prophet and apostles have been telling us to be, working together with missionaries. Colter Shimai and I realized what was happening and thought, `Hmmm, the Lord`s helped us out this far. If she`s interested in the gospel, we should help her!`

After the members left, we decided to show her some Mormon Messages to help her get a feel for what we`re all about. I asked what the number one most important thing in life was to her, and she said Family. Everything in the Church is centered around families, so we watched Mormon Message after Mormon Message, and we could tell she was feeling the spirit. She would cry after one, then laugh after another. She asked us questions about what we do and why we do it. We knew that this was exactly the opportunity to teach that Colter Shimai and I pray for every single day.

We asked her if she wanted a tour of the church and if she`d like to hear a little message we had prepared for her. She accepted right away. After the church tour, we sat down and gave a short 15 minute lesson about Heavenly Father and a simple overview of the gospel. She was super focused the. whole time. She recognized that God has played a role in her life thus far and she wanted Him to continue to be in her life. We set up another appointment with her!! Afterwards we played ping pong for a little bit before her train came, and then she was off.

Heavenly Father will give us what He knows we need. We needed to teach, He gave us that opportunity. She needed to hear about the gospel, He gave her that opportunity. We already had our day planned, down to the T, of what we were doing, when we were doing it, and how we were going to do it. But our plans changed real fast. We just followed the promptings of the spirit and said and did what felt right. And we got a new investigator from it! No, things didn`t go exactly according to what WE had planned, but I testify that as we are willing to do what the Lord needs us to do, we will never feel unaccomplished or empty. He`s waiting to bless us! We`ve just got to be willing and ready to be worthy of those blessings.

This week wasn`t crazy-eventful. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened. We are just working in our tiny corner of the vineyard, trying to do everything the Lord expects of us every day. It`s so fun being a missionary, just teaching and struggling the way missionaries do. I know that everyone reading this has normal day-to-day things they`ve got to do, and normal people`s problems are different from missionary`s problems. But I promise that regardless of whether you are wearing a black nametag or not, the Lord will bless you as you do what He asks. I know that it`s those little things He asks of us that often trip us up...praying, reading, serving, being patient and kind.

Don`t lose faith. Just keep being faithful and He`ll keep blessing you in ways you could never even imagine.

I hope you all have a great week! I love you all!

All my love,

Sister Heimuli

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 23 - Things We Can't Do

Okay, let`s be clear...my Spanish is just as bad as my Japanese. So at this point I am not speaking English, Spanish, or Japanese very well at all. I`m just a mess! 
A contrast in study areas. Notice Sister Colter’s clock, book, pencils and tissue box neatly arranged while my lotions, creams, pics and puffs are strewn under my ninja turtle feet-like socks (a gift from the bishop).
Anime is huge here -- even the “Beware of Cat, Rhinoceros, Chicken & Alligator” signs are in anime! That’s not really what the sign says, I just thought it was cute.
Really though, it`s fun teaching the gospel in other languages because no matter what the language, the gospel is the same. The spirit is felt whether you string a broken sentence of Spanish, or a broken sentence of Japanese, together. I have always known how important the Holy Ghost is, but being a missionary I really have come to know that He`s the only way we can accomplish what we`re sent here to do. He takes our broken words and pieces them back together for those who are listening, then carries the message to their hearts, which is something we missionaries can`t do.

This past week I thought a lot about things we can do and things we can`t do. Missionaries can`t make the gospel click in someone`s mind. We can teach what needs to be taught, but we can`t make anyone accept the gospel. We can work hard everyday and use every resource available to find those who are searching for truth, but we cannot make them give us their numbers or compel them to let us visit on another day that`s more convenient. For example, every Saturday when we proselyte, we invite everyone we come in contact with, to come to church the next day, whether they are interested or not. We can`t force those strangers on the street to show up at sacrament meeting. It comes down to how someone chooses to exercise their free agency. I do know that with the help of the Holy Ghost every single person can feel the happiness that comes from us and our broken Japanese, then I can pray and work hard, and hope their choices will lead them to desire what makes us happy: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Last week I told you about finding at Biwa-ko (or Lake Biwa in English, or El Lago Biwa in Spanish. lol). While there, we were saying hi to people and doing what we do best, which is pet everyone`s dog, tell them their kids and their dogs are cute, and hopefully spark a conversation. I know it`s hard to believe, but sometimes people just plain ignore us. And that is not easy to do! We`re the tallest people on the street and we`re gaijin so we stick out like crazy.
Sister Colter & Sister Heimuli
But when people see our name tags and that it says Christ`s name on it, sometimes I see them purposely crossing the street just to avoid us. Last week this guy was riding his bike towards us, saw our tags, literally jumped off his bike, and tried to quickly turn it around to start biking back the way he had just come! It was funny. He was old so it took him a lot longer to get back on his bike…we decided to just stand there awkwardly, then we bowed, smiled and said hello – of course he just ignored us. Then we stood there some more, just looking at him while he tried to get back onto his bike.
Afterwards, we started walking towards the mall to find more people to ignore us, jk, to find more people to talk to. When we rounded a corner, this really nice guy who had been checking out the lake, turned around and started speaking a little bit of english to us. We were shocked! Not so much that he spoke English, but more because he was speaking to us! We started talking to him and he began telling us that he has a friend who lives in Utah and she`s a Mormon. We asked him if he`d like to learn more and he said yes! He gave us his meshi, which is huge because people here don`t like you to know their name, let alone their number, email address, and home address. He`s probably in his 50`s and he`s a really cool guy. We laughed, joked around, talked about his beliefs and invited him to church the next day. He accepted and we parted ways. So like I said before, we can`t make people come to church…but the next day at exactly 10 o`clock he walked in! After Sacrament meeting, we set up another appointment to meet with him later that week. We did meet with him again and he wanted to learn more. We invited him to church again, and he came yesterday! We taught him about God and gave a simple explanation of how important the Sacrament is and why we partake of it. I am so thankful that when we teach him his heart is so open. He`s definitely one of those people whom God has prepared, `...mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts...` D&C 29:7. He is now our new investigator, one of two from last week. He actually just sent us a message this morning while we were shopping that said he`s learned so much from us already, and that even though we`re young he believes the older generations have a lot to learn from the younger ones.

I know that people like him are the reason why I am here, why I wake up before the sun comes up just to study, and why I struggle and experience a little bit of humiliation due to my lack of language ability. Thanks to the Holy Ghost, he was prepared, we were led to him at Biwako, and he`s getting a little taste of the happiness that comes from this gospel. I know that when we missionaries work together with the Holy Ghost, when we`ve figured out our roles, we are able to find the Lord`s elect and bring them home `...to that God that gave them life.` Alma 40:11.
The Holy Ghost has been a huge blessing to me in my short 2 weeks of being here in Otsu. I am so grateful for His guidance. I am so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who loves me enough to send the Holy Ghost to help me. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who loves my investigator enough to give him this opportunity to experience the joy we find in this gospel. Our work is far from done, however, I know the Lord will continue to bless us through our diligence as He prepares the hearts of those He wants us to find.

I love this gospel! Like I said before, it doesn`t matter what language you speak – with the gospel, it`s all the same. Our Heavenly Father promises us the same blessings in English as he does in Japanese and in Spanish. And as you endure through this life, He promises that one day you will `...sit down in the kingdom of your father; yea, and your joy shall be full...` Keep choosing the right. Keep doing the things that will help you keep the companionship of the Holy Ghost…and this promise will be your reward. There`s nothing I want more than for my brothers and sisters here to enjoy these same blessings, too. I`m excited to see how this next week unfolds and to meet those whom the Lord has prepared for us this coming week!
Love always,
Sister Heimuli

(Below) New Year's Eve pics of Matsumoto shimai (one of my favorite ladies!) patiently helping me don a kimono.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Week 22 - The Big Picture

I have been called to serve in the Japan Kobe Spanish speaking mission...no, but really. My first lesson taught in Otsu was all in Spanish! My new companion is a 4th transfer, Sister Colter. She`s from Orem, went to MIT and she`s super smart. She speaks Spanish fluently and most of our investigators are Spanish speakers. She`s exactly what they need. I was so nervous to teach in Spanish but I did it. And I sounded weird. Though I have to say it was a lot easier teaching in Spanish than in Japanese! Our investigator is a really shy 17 year old from Peru. He and his family live across this huge lake called Biwa-ko. Lake Biwa is beautiful.
The Prince Hotel - I took this while riding my bike on the edge of the lake.
As we were riding our bikes across the bridge, I looked to my left and saw this small canal in which people were fishing. The sun was setting behind it. I remember thinking that it was so pretty right there in that golden canal. Then I looked to my right, and that`s where the REAL beauty was! This lake is massive! You know how much I love water. When I realized there was more blue on the ground than in the sky, I freaked! Hallelujah! There is a huge white boat called the Michigan just that floats around on the lake. There`s a shore line crawling with dozens of jobbers and families. Absolutely breathtaking. The pretty little canal made me ponder about how sometimes we`re so caught up with what we think is good, that we settle. When really, if we just step back and change our perspective a little bit, we find there`s waaaay more we are missing out on! `...time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers...` Jacob 7:26. What a blessing it is to know that we don`t have to feel like wanderers. We have the whole picture. We may merely need to make that effort to change, just a little bit, in order to be able to see the big picture.

Here in Otsu there are millions of tiny hills, so we have to basically have to bike up a mountain in order to get to the church. We study at the church every morning so I`ve decided not to worry about working out in the mornings anymore, haha. Otsu is a beautiful city hidden up in the mountains. It is so cold and so dry here! 

Even though it's been snowing, the flowers still bloom. If they can do it, I can, too!

Snow on palm trees?  What the weird?

Temple in Otsu, about a 45-minute bike ride for us!
My first couple days here were rough as I tried getting used to biking uphill every single time we left our apartment. This area is fairly new for sisters. My companion opened this area 2 transfers ago when she was a new transfer, which is great, because everything we have here is new! New apartment, new bikes, new dishes...it`s wonderful. When I arrived in Otsu we immediately began planning for our investigators. That`s when my comp broke the news that we will be teaching mostly in Spanish. I figured the Lord is probably trying to teach me something: He loves His Spanish-speaking children here in Japan just as much as He loves His Japanese-speaking children. Us English-speaking children? Maybe not so much…because He keeps torturing me by having me try to learn all these languages, haha. Amazing though…I thought about how I really wanted to be called to a Spanish speaking mission like Hema and Helam, and how they both guessed I would go Spanish speaking, remember? When I opened my call and saw that Harrison was the only one who guessed correctly, I wondered if the boys were bummed that I wasn`t going to speak Spanish. And look what happened! Regardless of the hills, mountains, language(s) or the freezing cold here in Otsu, I`m here to do exactly what I was called to do in Akashi: preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all those who will hear it.
We met 2 adorable ladies this morning. They are Jehovah`s Witnesses but they`ve really come to like us gaijin. I got the feeling they were probably trying to dendo us as much as we were trying to dendo them. But as I sat there and listened to their testimonies about why they believe what they believe, and how hard it is to talk to people about religion, I really started to count my blessings that we have the Holy Ghost to guide us and help us. These women told us about how difficult it was to share their message door to door and I told them I could totally relate! But it was sad for me to think that they are preaching something that will only last on this earth. `...spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness...a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.` Alma 40:12  The gospel of Jesus Christ makes it possible for our happiness to be perpetuated beyond the grave. THAT is the big picture.
Sometimes I meet missionaries who are miserable…they work themselves to craziness! I’m not sure why. Our gospel is one of hope. We share a happy message! With the gospel, we don`t have to wander. We don`t have to pass our days wondering if this is all there is. We can enjoy a full life because of the simple knowledge that comes from the gospel. Everything in this life that most people think brings them happiness has an expiration date. But not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the millions of hills I have to bike up every day, I really do love Otsu. I love that I can see the great big beautiful Lake Biwa from our balcony and I love that there are more of God`s children here who are ready to finally see the big picture.
It`s the beginning of a new year! 2014...woohoooooooo!!! No, we didn`t do anything on New Year`s, we just worked. As the year begins we always make resolutions that we usually quit working towards by the end of February. But let`s not forget the big picture this year. Always remember how special this gospel is and recognize the blessings we receive from merely knowing about it. I love that I can write 2014 now. This year`s ganna be AWESOME!
All the way from Japan,
The Chick with the Rice Cheeks,
Sistah Heimuli

PS. Here are a few pics from Christmas in Akashi. Will send you one of me & Sister Colter soon!

Ellefsen Shimai, Steers Choro, me & investigator

My adorable Akashi companion...miss her!

Ellefsen Shimai, investigator, Giles Choro (from Woods Cross) & Santa Shimai