Friday, January 22, 2016

New Blog

So, in case anyone is actually still paying attention over here...

Since I'll be posting about more things outside the realm of missionary work, I have a new blog to reflect that shift:

Whoever you are, you're welcome to check it out and/or follow it, if that strikes your fancy.
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Home Again

I played a lot of video games growing up.  Some of those games had a world map, with a little dot that showed where your character was in the world.  In a way, the distance between your little dot and your home town was a measure of how far ahead you were in the game, how much you'd grown, the challenges and monsters that you now had the power to overcome.

One day last summer, sitting at the kitchen table in the mission-office apartment, I happened to open Google Maps on my iPad.  I zoomed all the way out to look at the world.  I saw the Great Salt Lake, and the cities and valleys next to it that had been my home for almost a decade.  And then, all the way on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, I saw that dot.

In that mind-blowing moment, I realized I could go anywhere in the world.

I've been home for two weeks now.  (Two weeks exactly, now that I think about it...)  I wanted to write this post a few days after I got back, but it took me a little longer than I expected to get things together.  It wasn't until I started pulling boxes out and unpacking them that I realized how much stuff I left at home.  I wiped my computer and I've been using a new email address, and I got a new phone a couple days ago, so it's been a fresh start in a number of ways.  

But, home is home.  Most of everything is right where I left it.  The biggest change is inside myself.  Even though I'm basically going back to doing the same thing as before my mission (college and work), I feel like I can do it better now.  Like my capacity has grown.  A lot.

It seems like there was a bit of an eruption of noise and controversy right when I got back, with some uproar about an updated Church policy, and terrorist attacks in France, and maybe something else.  (Something's telling me there was a third thing, but I can't remember what it was.)  I feel peace, though.  Direct experience from my mission tells me that God is still firmly in charge, and thus everything will work out fine in the end (however much it hurts in the meantime).

Right now I'm planning on setting up a new blog, though I'm not quite sure when exactly I'll be doing that.  I may also keep this blog up as a place for Gospel-related thoughts directed towards members of the Church.  We'll see.


Monday, November 2, 2015

The Ghost of Halloween Past

Well, it's my last week.  I fly home on Friday.

I'm not sure what I feel.  It's sad, to some degree, to leave Japan, but through Facebook I'm already connected to so many people here, so it'll be easy to keep up relationships.  It's almost like when I moved from Pleasant Grove to Hooper, except this time I'm going back to a place I've been.  I'm looking forward to seeing my family again, and being with them for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The gospel will stay with me, and so will all the growth I've had on my mission.  I guess it mostly just feels like moving on to the next chapter.

It just occurred to me that one thing that might feel really weird about being home is not having an iPad anymore.  The missionary iPads were intended to replace the paper-and ink Missionary Daily Planners, and so while some other missionaries have been desperately hanging on to paper planners (they're kind of a rare commodity now), I quit using them altogether as soon as the iPads came out last year in January.  I've been relying on this iPad to keep track of things for the past two years.  My family has a cheap smartphone waiting for me when I get back, so we'll see if that can replace it.  :P

We got permission this year to wear costumes at ward Halloween events if the members asked us to.  I ended up just wearing a cardboard sign that said「好きな仮装を想像して下さい。」(Please imagine a costume of your choice.)  We had a talent show and a trick-or-treat (using the church classrooms) and a costume contest and piñatas.  Halloween isn't normally celebrated in neighborhoods in Japan like it is in America, but there's Halloween decorations up in all the shops and some people put together Halloween-type events.  And then yesterday, our investigator was showing us pictures from Shibuya on Halloween night.  (Shibuya is a major downtown area of Tokyo that's outside of our mission boundaries.)  Apparently there were a lot of people in costume there.  

Two years ago, Halloween was my second day in the MTC.  I remember that night back in the dorms so well; the decreasing disorientation, the anticipation of our first lesson in Japanese the next day, the older missionaries running around crazy and throwing candy at everyone and hiding acorns in our closets.  A year later I was in Atsugi, surprised at the huge crowd ofkids that were running around wild at the ward Halloween party.  Somehow we had ten times as many kids at that party as there were in the whole ward.  We had piñatas there, too.  Piñatas are fun.

I feel like I've had a strange mission... but looking back at it now, I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Monday, October 26, 2015


So, I only have so much time and energy available for emails each week, and lately I've been using it for personal emails (mostly to my mother) rather than these blog posts.  In stark contrast, my brother (who started his mission last month) has written a novella of a weekly email every single week so far.  o__O  I wonder if he'll manage to keep it up.

It's interesting to see the contrast between my brother's mission and mine.  Down where he is, people love to talk about Jesus, and he finds six or seven investigators in a week.  (That doesn't happen very often here in Tokyo South... at least, not yet.)  But then again, it sounds like he still has roughly the same level of challenges.  

This week is the last full week of my mission.  It's kind of surreal, and quite the mix of emotions... honestly, it is sad to leave.  I love Japan.  I love the language, I love the busy city, the narrow streets, the food, and especially the people.  It'll be sad to leave, and at the same time I'm really looking forward to seeing my family again, and to see what's waiting for me in the next chapter.  And just recently, I've been learning so deeply-- not really anything new; but it's like a lot of the things I've known or believed in all my life just make sense on a whole new, whole deeper level.  And they feel real.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Kouhoku Castle

So, I got transferred again for the last six weeks.  This makes ten
areas and fifteen companions over the course of my mission.  My last
companion is Elder Ikeda, a native of the Kansai area.  I've been in
the same zone or district as him for more than half of his mission, so
we knew each other fairly well already.  He was a railroad worker for
seven years before his mission (doing electrical work for the electric
trains, I think).

The area is called Kouhoku.  The ward building (which happens to also
be the stake center) is shared with the Kanagawa ward, and because the
number of missionaries in the mission has gone down, the Kouhoku and
Kanagawa areas are now the same district.  Up until yesterday I'd been
going to church at 10 am every single week, but Kouhoku Ward meets at
1:30 pm.  It makes for a somewhat different Sunday experience.  :P

The missionary "apartment" in this area is actually a two-story rental
house on the edge of a sizable cliff.  It was opened last year while I
was working in the mission headquarters, so I got to see it between
the furniture getting put in and the missionaries moving into it.  I
moved into it myself last week, and when I got there the owner was
around back looking for leaky pipes with a jackhammer.  Turns out that
it's a much older house than I realized.

Monday, September 14, 2015

We went Christmas Caroling

The elder's quorum in our ward planned this "Super Home Teaching"
event, which originally was going to be a thing where everyone went
out and visited less active members.  We had four elders from the
quorum and four missionary elders (including myself) show up, and
somehow it was decided that what we were going to do was go all
together and visit three not-less-active households and sing to them.
The first one was a new member who was baptized last week.  When we
piled out of the two cars and were next to his apartment building
discussing what song to sing, someone suggested a Christmas song and
the elder's quorum president was like, "That sounds good!  Let's do
it!"  and so we went up and rang his doorbell and sang Angels We Have
Heard On High as soon as he came out.  XD

The next family got to their apartment complex at the same time we
did, so we didn't get to ring their doorbell.  They invited us in,
though, and we ended up singing Joy to the World and Ye Elders of
Israel.  The family was quite entertained.  :P  We just sang Ye Elders
of Israel at the third house.

I get my last transfer assignment this Saturday.  My current companion
and I are going home on the same plane come November, so if they keep
us together for this last transfer then they'll have to whitewash the
area the next transfer, and that probably wouldn't be very good.  So
we're pretty sure one of us is going to transfer.

We got a pretty good earthquake the other day.  It happened early in
the morning and woke us all up.  It doesn't seem like it damaged
anything, but afterwards all the trains were running late that

These pictures are from the JMA website (  If
you look up Yokohama in Google Maps you'll see roughly were I am.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Castle on a Mountain

The Kamioooka (上大岡) area is full of hills and hills and gigantic hills.  (That's why it has three of the letter o in its name.)  There are some flat parts, but other than that it's all hills.  We live in a really nice (and very visible) apartment complex on top of a really, really big hill.  It's basically a castle on a mountain.  This area is also very densely populated.  Any square meter that's not a park is covered in buildings.  

They had the Bon festival last weekend.  I wish I payed more attention to what it was about (it has something to do with ancestors) but it was a good chance to talk to people.  Apparently there are going to be a lot more festivals coming up here soon.

Lanterns floating down the river in the Bon Festival

These two were going at this drum for hours... and then one of them got on the stage and started dancing with these clappers.  I talked to one of the drummers afterwards (the one who's drumming in this video), and he said he'd been doing it for eighteen years.