Kobe, Japan

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week 38 - Seiza...On Bended Knees

Can you believe it`s almost the end of April? My mind is blown. In no time it`ll be October and I will have been in Japan for a year! It`s funny that you mentioned stuff about reflecting on the first half of my mission. Every week we get an extra half hour to plan and so it gives me extra time to reflect on that past week. Every day Hall shimai and I talk about the best thing we did that day, the thing we need to improve on for the next day, and the funniest thing that happened. As a missionary I am constantly reflecting, and thinking about how to make the next day better.  

Yesterday`s most funny thing (we call it kyou no omoshiroi koto) was when all 4 of us Ootsu missionaries went to an old man`s apartment who wanted to learn more about the church. We all walked into his tiny apartment and sat seiza, or sitting on our knees for about a half an hour straight! Usually, the custom is that you sit seiza for a very, very short while (like 1 minute cuz it's tough) and then they`ll offer for you to "kuzushite kudasai" which means you can relax, and then you can sit however you want. It's all in the name of being polite. Well, he`s old and probably didn`t notice that we were all dying because not only was it super hot in there but we`re all american and never sit like that for more than 2 minutes. Jackson choro, who is from Sacramento California and he`s been out for about a year and a half, looked totally calm and just carried on. All of us are a little younger than he is. We were swaying back and forth, and poking our feet trying to get the blood circulating back in them again. The funniest part was when we left, we all pretty much crawled out of his apartment. None of us could stand, and we were trying so hard not to let it show on our faces! As we left and tried to walk back to the church, we couldn`t stop laughing about those little things we missionaries put up with!

Although that was one of the most hilarious experiences I`ve had, I also had one of the best spiritual experiences thus far on my mission. We went to visit a less active sister, but when you visit less actives it`s a whole new ball game. You can`t just waltz in and introduce a mediocre message and pray the spirit helps them understand, because less actives know about the gospel. The fact that we`re foreigners isn`t intriguing anymore, and they have already made up their minds about doctrine and so on. So Hall shimai and I were trying to plan effectively for this sister. We were having a mental tug a war between what approach might be the best, so we got down on bended knees and prayed. That`s when the tiniest thought crossed my mind that `hey, you should sing a hymn with her.` so we did! We decided to sing `I need thee every hour` and bear really simple testimony about how, regardless of our circumstances, God`s not only ready, but He is willing and He desires to help us. We knocked on her door, chatted for a second and we told her we had a special song prepared for her. She hesitatingly agreed to let us in. She had all these pictures of a man around a butsudan. We knelt at her table and began to sing. During the song she started humming along with us. After the song she told us she hadn`t heard a hymn in a long time and she had forgotten how much she liked them. We testified to her and closed with another prayer on our knees. As we were about to leave, both Hall shimai and I were prompted to ask about the pictures of the man. She said he was her husband. She walked over to the butsudan and grabbed a picture and brought it to us. She went on to explain that her husband suddenly passed away in December. We paused to look at the picture and she began to cry. I think I may have mentioned before how it`s very unlike nihonjin to show emotion, especially in front of strangers like us. But she cried. We held her hands as she went on to tell us how much she missed him and how she wanted nothing more than to see him again. I asked her if she remembers what the missionaries taught her about being with him after this life and she answered yes. We explained that if we could continue to meet, we would share with her in more detail how to be with him again. We have an appointment to meet with her again this week.

It`s amazing how when we follow the spirit, doors are opened that we didn`t even know were there! For example, if we didn`t follow the spirit and decide to sing a hymn for her, she might not have let us in her house. If we didn`t ask about the pictures when prompted, she might have never explained what happened, and it allowed us to see her as she really was. `For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost...` 1Nephi 10:19 God`s promised, if we seek, we WILL find, and mysteries shall be unfolded. This experience was evidence of that promise. God cannot lie! He keeps his side of the deal always! Following the spirit is a skill like many other skills, and we have to practice in order to get better at it. We need to get on our knees and ask for the spirit to guide us. Then when He prompts, we must act. Even the tiniest promptings will lead us to do great things! This week, try to follow every prompting you receive from the spirit. If you`re not sure it`s from the spirit, do as Pres. Uchtdorf counseled and `doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.` In other words, if it is something good, just do it!

I love you all and I pray you have a wonderful week following the promptings of the spirit! Let me know how it goes ;)

Love always,

Sister Heimuli

The man is one of our investigators. The woman is a member we love! The Elders are there too. The restaurant is famous among missionaries because you get a lot of food for cheap. Missionaries call it The Dirty because it`s dirty in there! Japanese Health laws are definitely different. But it was good.
My District
This is one of our investigators! Went to dinner with her after the baptism. Wanted to go with her husband too so we could meet him, but he ended up not being able to come.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week 37 - Happy Birthday Baby

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABYYYYYY!!!! It`s April 21st here in Japan. I know it`s not your bday yet in Utah but hey, I`m already celebrating it for you! I sent you a few birthday presents, I was hoping they would come by now but maybe you`ll get them later this week. 
As soon as Harrison read his sister's letter -- LATE Sunday night -- he ran to check the mail...yesss
I love you baby boy, and I can`t believe you`re 9 already!!!! I still remember the day you were born and holding you in my jacket because you were so little. Now you`re bigger than me! What a great time to have a birthday, after the celebration of Christ`s resurrection, Easter Sunday. It`s really sad, here in Japan they don`t celebrate Easter. But yesterday there was a baptism of a little boy in our ward so there`s nothing better than seeing a baptism on Easter!

Well this week was crazy busy! We had interviews, and went on exchanges (my first one ever!) and we`ve been working with our investigator who should be getting baptized soon so it seems like there`s just never any time! Thursday to Friday night I went on my first exchange. The Sister Training Leaders slept over our apartment and I was companions with Uryu Shimai who is from Tokyo. It was so nice to be with a Nihonjin and just speak and hear japanese for a whole 24 hours.

Uryu Shimai
Even though I struggle to say simple things, I really do love this language! We taught a lot of lessons but I learned 2 really important things from that exchange: 1. Love everyone no matter what setting they`re in, and 2. The key to a powerfully spiritual lesson.

1. As we were walking the streets we had 20 minutes to find while we were on our way to an appointment. We passed a little convenience store and this younger man was just standing outside smoking a cigarette, kind of lost in thought. As we passed, Uryu shimai said really loudly, `Hello! We are missionaries and we talk to people about things we do at church. Have you ever wondered what church is like?` He said, shocked, `Yeah, I guess.` She said, `Great! We missionaries are at the church everyday, so come next week. Bring friends that like to learn English and we`ll introduce you to our 2 friends (the elders).` He agreed and took our little flyer with information about the church on it. I was shocked because my trainers always told me not to approach people who were smoking because there`s `no way the spirit can testify if you are in that enviornment` but those couple minutes of talking to that man played over and over again in my head. I came to realize that it doesn`t matter what setting they`re in -- we are missionaries, we are members of God`s true church, we always have the spirit with us. They are children of God, and He loves them whether or not they`re smoking a cigarette, or sitting in the chapel. He loves us all equally and nothing can change that. As she contacted people, something just lit up in their eyes when she talked to them because she really made them feel her love, and God`s love, even right there in the middle of the street. It was really humbling to know that there`s so much I can improve on even though I am already half way into my mission.

2. We taught a lot of lessons within those 24 hours which is good! In 2 of those lessons we invited 2 investigators to baptism and they accepted. But the hours leading up to those lessons were full of me calling everyone in our phone and our address book, trying to find members to sit in on the lesson. Those stressful calls paid off because their testimonies really invited the spirit and helped our investigators realize that this isn`t just an American thing...the gospel is for all of God`s children. Sometimes investigators say, `Well, if I was American, I would believe in God.` or `If I was American, I would be happy.` It was a blessing to have our members there who are japanese and could sincerely testify to them that the gospel can help anyone and everyone.

At the end of exchanges the sister training leaders did a final overview with us -- things we liked, things we didn`t like, how we could improve. Uryu shimai pointed out to me that the members are the key to creating a spiritual experience for investigators. I love our investigators so much, I would do anything to help them receive the gospel. And I`ve finally learned the key! It`s all in the members!

The exchange was a huge eye opener for me. I learned a million other things but those 2 things stuck out to me the most. It`s amazing how we can really get a lot out of General Conference, church meetings and, as missionaries, exchanges -- if we humble ourselves and look at the big picture. This work isn`t about me and what I came to the mission being able to do. It`s about the Lord, and learning the things the Lord needs me to learn in order to bless people`s lives. I know we watched conference about 2 weeks ago but some of us are probably already falling out of our good habits we were so determined to pursue after hearing the words of the prophets. I can promise you that the tiniest bit of effort goes a long way! Keep striving for worthy goals and keep doing what`s right even though it seems like it isn`t helping you. I promise you, it is!

Thank you for all the prayers and all the time and money spent in my behalf. I love you all and hope you had a truly inspiring and uplifting Easter weekend! The Lord Jesus Christ lives.  He loves each and everyone of us. I feel that love everyday, I can`t deny He lives. Happy Easter everyone!


Sister Heimuli

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week 36 - The Lord Feels for His Children

Wow! Dad`s going to start coaching?! It`s funny, one of my first weeks here in Ootsu a woman in our ward asked me if my dad played football for the Chicago Bears and I told her yes. She asked if he also played for BYU and I said yes. Then she started jumping up and down (which is so unlike japanese people) and I was shocked! She said that after her mission she moved to the U.S. for school and she remembered watching dad play football. Yes she is an OLD woman, haha. She always thought his name was interesting so when she heard my name it seemed familiar so she wanted to see if we were related. Haha! So good on dad, and I`m so happy to hear Harry wants to do something that doesn`t involve TV or the Xbox.
This weekend was the best weekend ever! At least, until next General Conference. Oh! I saw Scheffler shimai this weekend since we watched Conference together. She`s doing amazing too! I love that sister so much! When we see each other it`s like seeing family. I`ll send a picture of us. She looks great and she`s doing amazing! I hope my japanese gets as good as hers some day!

Me with Scheffler shimai, isn't she gorgeous?!
It didn`t even matter that General Conference here in Japan is delayed by a week...it is awesome no matter when, where, or in what language one enjoys Conference. I too learned SO much and found so much that I can improve on. I really like how all the talks highlighted the same theme...being a True Disciple. That`s something my mission has been focused on for years now. I was extremely humbled as I saw how revelation given to my mission president was the same revelation given to so many of the apostles about Discipleship and our role to bring others to (or back to) the path to Heavenly Father`s presence. Besides General Conference, my favorite part of the week was visiting some less active sisters in our ward. We talked with one sister whose husband passed away suddenly and how she`s kind of been all over the place since he died. It broke my heart to see how this woman has forgotten all the truths she learned about eternal families and how this principle of the gospel could help her put her life back in order again. She didn`t say she wanted to begin attending church again, but I could see her need for love and for members in our ward to reach out to her.
I really liked what Elder L. Tom Perry said about the nature of family relationships. These aren`t his exact words, but he said that when we`re with our families, it`s a little piece of what heaven will be like. And I could not agree more. I think back to the times when we had dinners, parties, game nights, jam sessions, and how happy everyone was (and I`m sure "is"...even without me there) because our family was/is together. I also think about how heartbroken we are when a loved one chooses the wrong path because we see their potential and know what they`re capable of, but they chose not to fulfill their potential. `...The God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept...` `...Behold, these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them...` (Moses 7:28, 32) 
I think if we could all feel at least a millionth of what the Lord feels for His children when they wander off the path, I know we would all be better missionaries! I`ve had many investigators come into my life. Some seem strong and promising. 
Went to the museum with our investigator. She is so cute. She calls herself my "Japan Mom."
But many fall away and disappear. If we could all feel what the Lord feels for His children I believe we`d all try a little harder to not only do what`s right, but to also help those around us to return to our (and their) Heavenly Father. I`ve been working with less actives a lot recently and I am only starting to scratch the surface as to what it means to truly love God`s children. These people accepted the gospel once. They can do it again! We just need the patience and the love to encourage and help them.
Hall shimai and I are doing fantastic! General conference was the boost we needed to pick up this last half of the transfer! We have big things coming up...an investigator`s baptism and we are so excited for him! 
Front row: me, Hall shimai, investigator's mom (she's adorable), investigator
Back row: Elder Jackson, Elder Maeno, Elder Novak, Elder De Oliviera
The weather has gotten absolutely amazing. We are so blessed to live close to Lake Biwa so that we can ride past it everyday. I love you all, I pray for you daily. Keep being True Disciples!
Love always,
Sister Heimuli

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week 35 - Does the Lord Change?

Thank you for the pictures!!! Beebz looks gorgeous, and I miss my little niecey Finnley. I wrote to Tai...there better be a huge package from him for me by next week...(hint hint, TAI!). Man, everyone`s getting beat up so bad! Heelz needs to take it easy or there won`t be any part of him left by the time I get home. Football`s cool but he`s got to be careful! Everyone looks happy and pretty healthy...hope you`re all doing well!

I don`t have very much time so I`ll keep it short. I want to tell you about something really cool that happened this week. So every night there`s a chunk of time set apart just for planning the next day: where you`re going, who you`re teaching, what you need to study, all that stuff. During planning Wednesday night we prayed and felt like we should be in a totally opposite part of town called Kusatsu where we usually don`t go. We finished planning and the Elders called us and said they needed our help for a lesson which happened to be in that area that we had already planned to be in. So the next day as we were making our way to Kusatsu and realized we had an awkward 15 minute interval of time that we didn`t really plan very well for. So we decided to do some streeting and hand out free english class fliers. Usually people are way willing to take the fliers as we talk to them in English. But on this particular night NO ONE wanted them and no one would stop to talk to us. We had circled around the same block a couple times and I thought okay let`s just go around one more time. So we did. All of a sudden this lady passed us on her bike and slammed on her brakes, making a really loud screetching noise! She yelled, `SISTERS!` Which is crazy because no one knows we`re called Shimai. She then started telling us about how she had just been praying and she thought we were an answer to her prayers. She was on her way home from work and she had been praying the whole time while she had been on her bike. We asked her if she`d met missionaries before and she said only once. She started to tell us about how she`s changed a lot since the first time she met missionaries and that the question she wanted to know was Does the Lord change? We reassured her that He does not -- and she began to cry...right there in the middle of the street! You need to know that here in Japan, people don`t show emotion very often, and NEVER in public. She was in a hurry to get home but she asked for a Book of Mormon and we exchanged numbers. I thought it was really amazing how the night before we had an impression that we followed, the Lord opened our schedule for just a few minutes just for us to find this woman, and He guided all of us toward each other. We haven`t been able to meet with her yet, but she`s definitely in our prayers and we look forward to talking with her again.

With General Conference approaching for us in Japan (it will come on next week!) it never ceases to amaze me how well the Lord knows us. Through modern-day revelation, He tells our beloved prophet and His apostles what to tell us. Those words are means of comfort and sometimes means by which many people are admonished to change their lives. I hope you all listened to conference carefully! Use the revelation these servants of God receive, apply it in your lives, and I promise you can be like the woman we met on the street on her way from work...finding answers to your life`s deepest questions and concerns.

In order to watch Conference here we all have to travel to Kyoto. There will be about 300 members there! I know our ward back at home is about that size, but 300 members is HUGE here! I look forward to seeing everyone`s testimonies strengthened, along with my own of course. I`ve been really blessed to serve here in Otsu, we have an AWESOME ward and stake. Sister Hall and I absolutely love working with the members here. I`ve learned so much about what kind of member I want to be when I return home, just from being in this ward. We`re good! We`re healthy! And it`s warming up again. Temps dropped last week but now it`s finally going to be Spring again! I love you all and you`re in my prayers!

Love Always,
Sister Heimuli

PS. Just for Mom:  Pics!  (Note from Mom:  Yay!)

Beautiful Springtime in Japan -- cherry blossoms are everywhere!
Our 13-yr old investigator and her mom love to do hair
Our 13-yr old is such a doll!
YSA activity at the church
(Front) Investigator; (Back) Bishop's daughter who just put her mission papers in
Cherry blossoms, Lake Biwa and outfit from Aunty Nei...doesn't get any better than this!
Ahhhhh, P-day