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Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Japan

So.  On Saturday the 20th, we had the ward Christmas party.  There was
singing and guitar-playing and ocarina-playing and a shadow-puppet
show and delicious chicken and cake.

On Sunday the 21st, we went to an old folks' home and sang Christmas
carols and old Japanese songs.  One of the ward members dressed up as
Santa and gave presents to everyone.  Afterwards, the ward gave us
each a big box of presents from the ward.  Mostly candy.  ^___^

On Monday the 22nd, we all got sick.

On Tuesday the 23rd, I was the only one still sick.  I was well enough
to leave the apartment, but not well enough to eat a proper meal.  We
did P-day today instead of Monday because we were all too sick to do
our shopping on Monday.

On Wednesday the 24th, we all went up to Kichijoji for the
mission-wide Christmas conference.  We watched presentations by
President and Sister Wada, and then we all sang Christmas songs
together.  We all have the LDS Music app on our iPads, and some
Spanish-speaking missionaries in the mission, so they told us we could
pick whatever song in any language we wanted.  The entire Japan Tokyo
South Mission ended up singing Silent Night in German.  XP  After
that, we all got to watch Meet the Mormons!  (It's really good, I
highly recommend it~)  We had a white elephant gift party, too, in
which I got hot chocolate mix from the Czech Republic.  I haven't
tried it yet.

On Thursday the 25th, I got to skype with my family.  It was still
Christmas Eve where they were.  My Christmas package had arrived the
day before, so I got to open presents with them.  :D  Other than that,
it was a pretty standard day with weekly planning.  Japan doesn't take
a day off for Christmas; they just eat chicken and cake.  And go see
pretty lights sometime during the month.

Boxing Day passed without incident.

On Saturday the 27th, we met a drunk guy with a guitar.  He was like,
"hold on, I'll go get you some coffee", and Elder Parks was like, "We
don't drink coffee", so he said, "how about tea?" and Elder Parks
said, "We don't drink tea either," so he was like, "okay, I'll get you
some juice."  So he ran off (leaving us with his guitar and all his
other stuff) and came back with a warm lemon-honey drink for Elder
Parks.  We talked to him for a minute, and Elder Parks played that
guitar behind his head because he's really good at guitar, and then
this guy said to me, "hey, I'll go get you some coffee," and I was
like, "I don't drink coffee", and the guy said, "okay, how about tea?"
and I said, "no, I don't drink tea either", so he was like, "okay,
I'll get you some orange juice."  And then he ran off to 7-Eleven,
bought himself another beer, forgot to get the orange juice, and came
back and was like, "oh, I forgot the juice."  We had to leave at that
point, but we left a flier with him.  <shrug>

On Sunday the 28th (yesterday), we went to a fireside for Spanish and
Portuguese speakers.  Elder Soto (my MTC companion~!) interpreted it
into Japanese with the missions's radio interpretation kit, but there
weren't enough headsets for the missionaries, so I didn't understand
much of it.  I did sing Away in a Manger in Portuguese with my zone.
President Wada gave the closing remarks (in English, with three people
interpreting into three languages xP), in which he said he'd been
praying for a way for all of the South/Central American people here to
be able to hear the gospel in their own language.  I realized at that
point thatt's a miracle that the missionaries have been able to gather
these people together, strangers in a strange land.  I'm glad I got to
be there to see it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dawn

Last night, my companion and I walked to the church after dinner, and there we saw a police car sitting in the parking lot.  (The church parking lot is not a normal place to see a police car!)  We walked in the front doors, and found a large gathering in the foyer: the other two elders, their investigator, our bishop and our ward mission leader, and two police officers who were getting everyone's names and addresses.  

Turns out that what happened is that while the other two elders were walking to the church before us, they stopped at a crosswalk because the light was red.  There was another guy standing next to them waiting for the same crosswalk, so they asked him how he was doing.  The guy responded that he was not doing well, he had no money, he was coming home from trying to jump off a bridge, and he was planning to kill himself at home.  And then he walked away, and then the elders called the police to go get him.

While the officers at the church were collecting everyone's information and the details of the story, they got a call from another officer who said they'd found the guy (still alive).  I suppose it turned out all right.  

A few days before, we had a lesson with a young man.  We taught him about our premortal family--how we all lived together and knew and loved each other before we were born.  He said it was a miracle that we met.  We taught him to pray (Alma 34:17-27), and he said his first prayer to Heavenly Father.  The Spirit filled our hearts with joy--and a testimony that God, too, was rejoicing to hear from His child again.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Season in Japan

So, transfer calls were today, and I'm staying in Atsugi with Elder Parks for another six weeks.  :3

We didn't do anything really interesting for Thanksgiving.  Japan just doesn't celebrate it.  Christmas lights started going up about a month ago.  I don't know how many people actually do anything special for Christmas Day here, but the stores are all doing Christmas decorations like American stores do.  They put up a Christmas tree at the church, too.  They also put colored plastic paper on the front doors to make it look like stained glass.  It looks really cool.  :3

The new year is a really big deal in Japan, but it'll be a few weeks before I know much about what goes on then...






These are the Christmas decorations they set up at the church.  Apparently the Primary added more decorations to the tree since I took these pictures, though...


Thursday, November 20, 2014

I want to study Spanish

So.  Last Saturday night, we had a first lesson with a man from Bolivia.  This man testified to us about prophets, about the Bible, about God's unconditional love for His children, about discerning truth through the Holy Spirit, about the Atonement, and about faith and repentance.  It was amazing.  He seemed a little skeptical about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but I'm sure he'll recognize very quickly how true the Book of Mormon is.  This man is very spiritually strong!  It's really different teaching someone who already has a Christian background.  o.0  He was really glad to meet us, and he said he wants to have us get together with him and his friends and talk about the word of God and eat Peruvian food together.  He speaks pretty good Japanese, but his Spanish is better, so during the lesson he spoke mostly Spanish with interpretation.  I want to study some Spanish now so I can communicate better with him and his friends.  o.0

Monday, November 10, 2014

Halfway

I passed my one-year mark about two weeks ago.  We happened to have a special zone conference on that day with Elder Ringwood, the Seventy who presides over Japan and Korea.  One of the things he talked about was identity.  As we teach people, we ultimately want them to change their behavior, and there's a lot of things that go into that, like values and attitudes, but it all starts with identity.  Among the first things we teach people are that they're sons and daughters of God with divine origins and potential, and how to communicate with our Father.

I liked that.

We had a ward Halloween party on Halloween, but it ended up not being quite a ward social activity like I'm used to seeing in America.  Everyone from the ward's kids' English class came, and I think one of our English class students who's a kids' English class teacher brought all of her students, too, and it ended up being a huge group of moms and kids, most of whom only had a relationship with the Church through English class.  It was strange.  o.0  We also had our ward mission leader come (he dressed up as a half-zebra-half-okapi) and a couple of our investigators.  We also found out right before it started that the ward decided that us missionaries were in charge of most of the activities, while we'd assumed that the ward was taking care of it.  o.0  It ended up turning out well, and everyone had fun, so, it worked out.  :P

The other weekend there was a huge street-performing festival in our area.  I saw a guy juggle a knife, a torch, and an apple -- while eating the apple he was juggling.  o.0  Street performers are really cool.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mountain Climb

Last Saturday we hiked Mount Tonodake as a ward English class
activity.  It was a long, beautiful hike.  My legs are still sore.  At
the top of that mountain there's a lodge where hikers can stay
overnight and watch the sunrise the next day.  They also sell
delicious udon noodle soup.  We played some games on top of the
mountain and ate udon and took pictures of Mount Fuji.

It was good time spent with our English class students, too.  One of
the Atsugi ward members invited one of her calligraphy class students
to come to the hike, too, and Elder Parks and I made really good
friends with him.  It's really helpful when people have time like
this to warm up to us.  We now have someone who we're going to start
teaching soon, thanks to that hike.  ^^

Yesterday, we felt like it would be a good idea to call every phone
number we could find in our area book, even though the missionaries
who were here before us said they did that every week without success.
We actually got to talk to a few people and invite them to the ward's
Halloween party this week, and we found out which numbers were bad.
Then, that night, we got a call from Elder Soto, my MTC companion who
just got transferred to Yamato.  One of the people we talked to on the
phone earlier that day is a Spanish person (also speaks Japanese) who
was referred to our area by missionaries in Yamato.  We only talked
for a minute, but later that day he called the Yamato elders to tell
them that he got a call from missionaries in Atsugi and that he felt
bad because he was busy and couldn't talk much.  Elder Soto (who
speaks native Spanish) was the one who talked to him, and he felt like
he should talk to him about the Light of Christ.  From that
conversation the Spanish person decided he wants to take the
missionary lessons.  :D

[I attached a couple pictures from the top of Mount Tonodake.  You can
see Mount Fuji in the distance.  ^^]


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Typhoon Stole My Helmet

There was a typhoon last weekend, from Sunday night to Monday morning.
The most intense part was while we were asleep, but on Sunday night
the rain and wind was still strong enough that all the books in my
waterproof bag got wet. >_< On Monday, after it cleared up, all of
the bikes had fallen over, and we couldn't find my helmet. The only
thing we could think of was that it probably blew away in the typhoon
during the night. o.0 We had to rearrange our plans for the day so
that I could buy a new helmet, and then that night after we'd done all
our shopping and emails the other pair of elders found my helmet.
Apparently I accidentally left it sitting on the umbrella rack at the
church. 0.o Fortunately I hadn't bought a new helmet yet. ^__^

I loved General Conference. :3 I was a little anxious last week
because it had happened and I hadn't seen it yet. Japan doesn't get
the broadcast until a week later.

There's another typhoon coming tonight, and I've got my helmet inside
the apartment this time. ^_^

Friday, October 3, 2014

Emergency Transfer

Well. On Thursday morning around 7:30-ish, I got a transfer call from President Wada. Around noon on Friday, I was in Atsugi with all my luggage. On Saturday, I was harvesting rice.

President Wada did hint at the Wednesday morning staff meeting that he might need another elder in Atsugi and that the new elder would probably come from the mission office, and somewhere in the back of my head I knew that I was the most likely pick. It was still a little bit of a surprise when it actually happened. I spent Thursday packing and saying bye to my district, ward members, and investigators, and then on Friday the assistants to the president drove me and my luggage down to Atsugi.

From having been in Atsugi for two days, it seems to be a fairly normal "countryside" city. There is a river that runs through it, with some awesome bridges. I'll have to see if I can get some pictures sometime.

On Saturday, we went out to another area to help harvest rice as a service project. About ten or so missionaries put on rubber boots, picked up little scythes, and tromped out in the muddy rice paddies. There were places where we'd sink down six or eight inches in the mud just by stepping on it. There were also so many spiders, beetles, little green frogs, praying mantises, crabs, crawdads.... Someone told me that there are fish that live there in the mud, too.  o.0   We didn't get bit by anything, though. One elder did the whole thing barefoot because there weren't boots big enough for him.

Rice grows on a plant looks kind of like wheat, but a bit shorter. We bent down and cut the stalks down at their base, bundled them up, and hung them from racks that were made of bamboo poles lashed together.  We might go back in a couple weeks to help with the next phase, where we actually remove the grains of rice from the plant.

Elder Parks is my new companion. He likes ninjas and samurai. A lot. He's also really good at reading & writing Japanese. I feel like we're going to get along very well.

For all I know, I might stay in Atsugi for a few transfers, or I might get called back to the mission office in three weeks when they have the normal transfer, or I might get transferred somewhere else. o.0 Elder Gammon is handling the tech staff work on his own right now (he's companions with the other office elders). In the meantime, I have this feeling that I want to work with the youth and YSA in Atsugi Ward.



Golden rice fields, all ready to be harvested



Rice stalks hanging in the sun to dry



Elder Bennion (barefoot with baseball cap) & Elder Parks (my new companion)



It's very muddy work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Beginning of Autumn

I've had a relatively nasty cold since Friday.  Elder Gammon thinks that the new missionaries brought it from the MTC.  With so many people coming in and out of an isolated facility and living there for a few weeks, it makes sense that it would have a unique cold that's just evolved over the decades going around all the missionaries.  Because of that, a lot of elders get their first chance there to deliver priesthood blessings.

The big project that Elder Gammon and I have been working on is preparing the entire mission to take an online language speaking assessment that the MTC wants us to do as part of a three-year study they've started.  It doesn't work on our iPads yet, so missionaries need to get computer access, which actually isn't very easy in Tokyo.  Libraries don't have public computers, we're not allowed to use Internet cafes, and there aren't very many family history centers in the mission.  And all the missionaries need to take the assessment in the same week.

Hopefully they'll have it ready for the iPads before we have to do this again in December. :P






O-Mikoshi Parade

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Festival

We had a summer festival at the church the other evening.  They had booths out in the parking lot with various foods (tacos, banana bread, okonomiyaki, watermelon, etc.), games for the kids, a BB-gun shooting range set up in the gym, and a family history exhibit set up on the second floor.   At the end they gave sparklers to all the kids, like we do in America for the 4th of July.

The family history exhibit was really cool.  The other office elders made some awesome display boards, and we used some other display pictures that were already in the church, and we set up an adjacent room with a projector and a playlist of family history videos on repeat.  We had some really cool conversations about family history.  As much as I love stories, I hadn't thought much about how many cool stories we find just looking up our own ancestors.  :D

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tachikawa

We have three areas in our zone: Kichijoji, Kunitachi, and Fuchu.  My companion is one of the zone leaders, and we're in Kichijoji.  The other zone leader is the companion of the district leader in Kunitachi.  The zone leaders decided to do a companionship exchange with a companionship in Fuchu, which means that Elder Berube (my companion) brought one of the Fuchu elders to Kichijoji, the other zone leader went to Fuchu to work with the other elder, and I went to Kunitachi to work with the other zone leader's companion for a day.  It was good to get out of the office. 

We taught a lesson to a new member who hasn't been able to come to church, and it was awesome to see his hope grow as the Spirit spoke to him.  Afterwards we went around Tachikawa Station and talked to some people.  I was impressed by the city feel of that area.  In Kichijoji I was impressed with how densely packed everything was, but Tachikawa feels like it's built up a lot higher.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Transfer Week in the Mission Office

Well, transfer week is over.  That was a mixture of interesting feelings, seeing all the new missionaries come in and all the returning missionaries head home.

The new missionaries landed at Narita Airport on Tuesday last week, and arrived in Kichijoji by bus in the evening.  We helped them bring their luggage into the church, and then we went into the mission home for dinner.  They were all exhausted.  We had a bunch of rental futons delivered earlier that day for the new elders to sleep on.  The elders slept on the second floor of the church and the sisters slept on the top floor of the mission home.  
On Wednesday, there was lots of training.  We got to eat Sister Wada's delicious cooking for breakfast and lunch, and then for most of the day Elder Berube and I were in the mission office setting up the new missionaries' iPads and preparing for the iPad training.  In the afternoon, all of the missionaries in Kichijoji paired up with the new missionaries and took them out to give them their first experience with street contacting.  And then they had some more training at the mission home, and then we took them out to eat, and then they got to help teach English class.

On Thursday, the trainers came to the mission home for breakfast, and then there was more training.  After lunch, Elder Berube and I delivered the iPad training and handed out the iPads to the new missionaries, and then they all went off to their respective areas.  And then all of the departing missionaries came to the mission home and slept there that night.  The next day, we all had breakfast together (the parents of three of the missionaries came to pick them up, so we had breakfast with them, too), and then Elder Berube and I went back to work while the departing missionaries went to the airport.

And that evening, everything went ske-wompous.

A couple of website domain names were suddenly suspended, which caused our mission website to become inaccessible.  The departing missionaries' flight was canceled because the airplane's sewage system broke.  And a missionary out in the furthest area of the mission broke his arm very badly.  

The mission office became rather noisy.

For a while the people at Narita Airport weren't entirely sure if they were actually going to cancel the flight or if they'd be able to fix the sewage, but they ended up putting the departing missionaries in a hotel for the night, and they managed to get out the next day and make it home safely.

We got involved in a massive email chain between a bunch of people in the Area Office and the ICS department in Salt Lake City about getting the websites back up.  We managed to get all the important stuff fixed by about two o' clock in the afternoon, and there was much rejoicing.

Elder Pesce (the one who broke his arm out in the countryside) ended up taking an ambulance to the hospital on Friday, and they patched his arm up, put it in a sling, and told him he was going have to go back to America and get surgery because it was so bad.  He showed up at the mission home on Saturday.  I got to be his companion and spend the night up in the mission home on Saturday and Sunday nights.  On Sunday he gave his testimony in church and helped us teach a lesson afterwards, and today he got on an airplane.  He had a great attitude about it, and he's hoping to come back into the field if the surgery goes well.

Now things have calmed down quite a bit, even though Elder Berube has a bunch of zone leader responsibilities now.  It looks like I'm going to be going with him to three different district meetings every week, and going on splits with people all over the zone.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lightning

Our church got struck by lightning last week during sports night.  It didn't actually damage anything except that it blew out a couple fuses in the fire alarm system, which made the fire alarms all go off.  We had to grab the master key and go into the room with the fire alarm control panel and figure out how to reset it.  Of course, the control panel was all in Japanese.  It was an adventure.  x3

In other news, they had transfer calls today.  President Wada made some huge changes.  All of the zone leaders have been split up.  Normally, each zone has two zone leaders, and those zone leaders are companions with each other.  Now, each zone leader is in a different area, and in most cases each zone leader is companions with their local district leader.  (There are still two zone leaders per zone.)

I'm still in the mission office, working as tech staff, and Elder Berube is still my companion, but Elder Berube is now a zone leader (and still tech staff).  This is going to be an interesting transfer.  ^__^

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Week in the Life

Sunday: We got word that a typhoon would be coming later in the week.

Monday: We went out to a Thai restaurant.  My food was literally boiling when the waitress put in on the table.  I naively assumed that the bowl's handle was okay to touch, and burned my little finger.  The waitress kindly brought me a bag of ice, almost as if she were expecting that to happen.  Silly gaijin, right? xP  Also, that evening, a 19-year-old young man named Yuki waltzed into the mission office, wanting to know about English class.  Elder Yagui, our wonderful commissarian, offered to introduce him to the gospel.  Elder Yagui and Elder Etchu taught him about Joseph Smith and they gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday: Zone conference.  We all received emergency 72-hour kits and get emergency preparedness training.  We also learned about teaching the first missionary lesson.  They tell us that Typhoon Neoguri is going to arrive on Thursday or Friday.

Wednesday: Yuki came to English class for the first time.  He was really nervous about it at first, but he had a good time.

Thursday: Between the wind, the gathering clouds, the atmospheric pressure, and the news of Typhoon Neoguri, it felt really ominous.  Sports night went well, though.  Yuki came to sports night and made friends with everyone.  He wasn't nervous anymore by the end of the night.  ^___^  Sister Wada told us that Typhoon Neoguri was supposed to arrive around midnight, so we made sure everything outside was secure before we went to bed.

Friday:  In the morning when we woke up, there was a little puddle outside our door and everything else was dry.  The sky was the bluest it's been in weeks.  And it was hot.  And the air was thick.  Apparently Typhoon Neoguri hit Okinawa pretty hard, but it died out before it reached us, and we got a heat wave instead.  I also started doing video editing.  We've been making training videos lately.

Saturday: This was an eventful day.

Around 4:22 in the morning, all six of us were sleeping peacefully, and then the earthquake warning alarm went off on all five cell phones at exactly the same time.  Everyone just kind of rolled over and groaned and waited for it to stop.  I felt my bed shake a little bit.  When we got up in the morning and checked the weather website, it turned out that the reason we got that alert was because there had been a 6.8 magnitude earthquake up by Fukushima...

...but the epicenter was a ways out in the ocean, so it didn't actually damage much of anything.  Which is good, because probably the last thing those nuclear power plants need is another natural disaster.

 Elder Berube, Elder Etchu, and Elder Yagui drove out to the countryside to look at apartments for missionaries, and I went and worked with the full-time proselyting elders for the day.  We spent most of the day in the park.  Since it was the weekend, there were a bunch of craftspeople with booths set up in the park, and a number of musicians hanging out, too.  We talked to an old man in a Batman & Robin tank top who said he'd been playing blues for 45 years.  He was selling CDs out of his guitar case.  He had a belt with an amp on it, an awesome steampunk-looking guitar, and a contraption with a built-in microphone that went around his neck and held a harmonica.  We asked him if he would play, and he put all that gear on for us and totally rocked out in that park with his steampunk guitar and harmonica, singing and playing old American blues songs.  He was way good at it, too.  It was awesome.  x3

Elder Yagui and Elder Etchu had another appointment with Yuki.  Turns out, he read the entire Book of Mormon in four days, and compared it side-by-side with the Bible (which he's read before) and drew some pretty awesome connections.  And he's not even Christian.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain...

One of the cool things about working in the mission office is that I get to see a lot of what happens behind the scenes.  We're working on a lot of projects, including setting up emergency preparedness systems, figuring out ways to use Facebook as a more effective tool, preparing and delivering training to missionaries, working with the local Area Office to create media content for the missionaries to use, setting up new apartments to accommodate the growing number of missionaries, making sure everyone has air conditioning for the summer, and so on.  There's a lot of work, which means time goes by really fast.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life at Headquarters

So, I'm now working in the mission office as tech staff.  My first day on the job, I got to deliver a presentation to the new missionaries about an app on their iPads.  Lately I've been helping a lot of the recently-transferred missionaries get their new area email accounts set up on their iPads, plus handling calls about other weird glitches and things.  Elder Berube and I also handle broken iPads, website maintenance, filming training videos, and other odd jobs.  We usually get an hour or two to proselyte each day, too.

The other day, I went on an exchange with the commissarian and we drove out to help four sister missionaries move into their new house.  They moved from an apartment to a three-story house.  (There are only a couple rooms on each floor, though.)

Including the six elders in the mission office, there are fourteen missionaries assigned to the Kichijoji ward.  That's a lot.

Life at mission headquarters is very busy.  But it's fun.  :3

Monday, June 16, 2014

Transfer #5 Begins

Well, today was transfer calls.  Last week on Tuesday night I got an email from the mission headquarters that said "please answer these questions by tonight".  The questions were about college (where did I go, how long was I there for, when do I expect to graduate, what was my major, etc.).  There wasn't any explanation as to why they wanted that information, and the only reason I could think of was that maybe they were thinking of putting me on the tech staff.  Usually, when they transfer elders to the mission office, they transfer them a week early so that they can be trained before their predecessor leaves, so I'd been anticipating an early transfer call since Wednesday.  My heart would skip a beat every time the phone started ringing.

Then this morning (Monday) I got a call from our zone leaders, and they said I was staying in Sagamihara.  I wasn't really surprised, because I'd heard before that when both elders stay in the area they get their transfer call from their zone leaders instead of the assistants to the president.  Our zone leaders sounded like they were a little confused, though.  After they talked to me they talked to Elder Watanabe and then he was confused when he got off that call.  "I guess we're staying here unless we hear otherwise," he said.

Then we got a call from the mission office (not one of the assistants' cell phones, where transfer calls normally come from), and it was Elder Berube (the tech staff) who happened to be helping the assistants with transfer calls today, and he told me I was transferring to Kichijoji on special assignment--I'm joining the tech staff.  And then asked I him about the email I got last Thursday.  Turns out they needed to have my college information for national health registration or something like that--nothing at all to do with transfers or tech staff.  

Then we went to the church and met the other elders in our area, who apparently had the same thing happen--our zone leaders told them they were staying, and then they got a different transfer call from Elder Berube.   And then some point our zone leaders realized there was a mistake somewhere and called us to find out what was going on. 

Transfers are exciting.  XD

So, yeah, I'm going to the mission headquarters in Kichijoji, and I'm going to be the on the mission tech staff.  Elder Berube is going to be my new companion. Over the last couple of transfers they had just one elder doing tech work full-time (it was Elder Berube last transfer), but now they're switching back to having two elders handling both tech work (including writing/maintaining mission software) and normal proselyting.  That's why I didn't transfer early for training--Elder Berube's not leaving, so they'll still have someone who knows what's going on.  I transfer on Thursday, so next week I'll write more about what the tech staff does.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rainy Season

Somewhere around Thursday or Friday last week, we looked at the weather forecast... and it said 100% chance of rain every day for the next two weeks.  It's been very wet since then.  xP  It cleared up for a little bit this morning though, so we got to do a service project.  ^__^  But we didn't bring any rain gear... and later that day, as we were biking home, it started raining again.  And a few minutes later I decided to quit trying to avoid puddles because there was no way I was getting any wetter.

Fortunately, my bag is waterproof.  ^_______^

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Countryside

So, it turns out that there are places in Sagamihara where you see farmland and no apartment buildings.  It really does feel like countryside there.  ^^

Elder Quentin L. Cook came to Tokyo, and last Saturday they set up a combined mission conference for the Tokyo and Tokyo South missions. There were about four hundred missionaries there.  o.0  I don't think I've ever seen so many missionaries in one place since the MTC.  It was a great conference.

This morning we worked with a volunteer group that helps keep the city clean.  The other missionaries trimmed hedges by a main road while Elder Watanabe and I swept sidewalks.  We were using these really old-style brooms that I'm pretty sure were made of bamboo.  They looked more like Quidditch broomsticks than something you'd sweep with.  :P

Thursday, May 22, 2014

モルモン書

The other week, while teaching a lesson, I had a thought.  We tell people it's really important that they receive a witness from God that the Book of Mormon is true (see Moroni 10:3-5).  The Book of Mormon has answers to a lot of pretty serious questions, like where we were before we were born, where we go after we die, what kind of relationship we have with God, and so forth.  And these answers are really good news.  If the Book of Mormon really is true, that's good news!  (And it means we have some homework, too.)  That's a big reason why we tell people to find out for themselves if the Book of Mormon is true.  It makes life so much better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sagamihara

I've been transferred to Sagamihara.  It has more of a city feel to it than Tama does (aside from the fact that both cities have plenty of ten-story apartment buildings).  I finally had to get a bike, since things are quite a bit more spread out than they were in Tama.  The elders' apartment is about a thirty-minute walk from the church.  (It was just around the corner in Tama.)  So, I got a little six-speed folding bike.  It's just fast enough for what I need, less expensive than a mountain bike, and it should be easier to transfer with.

I'm now living in the same apartment with two native Japanese elders. That's rare.  Right now there are about twenty-five missionary apartments in the mission with elders living in them, and only thirteen native Japanese elders.  The Japanese elder who's not my companion has been in the field for about six weeks, and he's training a brand-new missionary from Utah.

And I've got a ton more to write about, but I'm out of time.  XP

Monday, May 5, 2014

Golden Week

I'm getting transferred again!  My new companion is going to be Elder Watanabe.  I've worked with him before and he's pretty awesome.

Right around now there are a bunch of holidays right next to each other, making it what they call "Golden Week".  They've got a festival set up around Tama Center Station with lots and lots of people and lots and lots of food stands.

We had a bit of an earthquake last night.  We all sort of woke up and everything was shaking.  o.0  Nothing fell over as far as we could tell.  Apparently that happens all the time here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hot Water

On Friday last week, Elder Medlyn got sick, and I wasn't feeling great myself.  So I took a shower while he slept it off, but the shower water suddenly got cold, so I got out and went to my scriptures and read forty chapters of Isaiah.  (see Mormon 8:23)  I liked the stories about Hezekiah in chapters 37-38, but that might have mostly been because they were a nice change from all of the destruction-and-restoration prophecies in the preceding thirty-six chapters.  We discovered that night that our water heater wasn't working at all.  The next morning we all took freezing cold showers, and then when lunchtime came around we found out that our gas wasn't working either. This meant that our meal options were severely limited, since we cook almost everything on the stove, but it also explained why our water heater wasn't working.  So we called the mission office, and fortunately they got someone to come fix it later that afternoon.

Most water heaters I've seen here in Japan have electronic control panels.  As long as the water heater is turned on, the water is hot.  I've never heard of anyone running out of hot water.  As soon as you turn the heater off, the water goes freezing cold.  When you turn the heater back on, in a moment the water becomes hot again.  I think they just heat up the water as it's flowing instead of heating up a tank of water like they do in America.  The control panel also lets you adjust the temperature of the hot water.  Our apartment in Tama doesn't have a control panel for the water heater, but if you let the hot water in the kitchen run for a minute, it gets hot enough to make hot chocolate with.  ^__^

We had a "zone blitz" last Saturday.  All of the missionaries in our zone came to Tama, and under the zone leaders' direction we all swapped companions three times for an hour each and did different kinds of finding activities.  That day we were focusing on family history.  Our mission, and especially the Machida Stake (where I am), is working on learning how to use family history in missionary work. I happened to meet one of the board members of Toys 'R' Us that day, playing with a remote-controlled boat in a park.  He was friendly but he wasn't very interested in what we had to offer.  We also talked to a bunch of junior-high-school students who were practicing a dance at the park.  Junior-high kids who speak English (or try to) are really entertaining to talk to.  ^__^

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kamioooka

Yesterday I went down to a place called Kamioooka.  It has three of the letter "o" because it has HUGE hills!  (In Japanese it's 上大岡 in kanji, or かみおおおか in hiragana.)  We watched a family receive baptism there.  They were so happy!

There's a squirrel zoo in the next area over from us.  We've been talking about going there some P-day.

They have waterproof pocket notebooks at the dollar store here in Japan.  They really work.  You can use them in the rain and they don't get damaged at all.  They do take some time to dry, though.