I hope everyone's had a wonderful week. We're doing great here. The weather has been fun lately with huge, unexpected downpours and lightning storms hitting every once in a while. Elder Olson and I are blessed to be able to drive places if it's raining; normally we'd only have the choice to either walk or ride bikes. We try to talk and take the trains as much as possible because that way we can talk with a lot of people, but sometimes we don't have time and use the car.
This week we said goodbye to five great elders. They've each worked hard for the past two years and have been blessed to participate in many miracles. It's bittersweet to let them go. Most of them were elders that Elder Olson and I were in the MTC with. Elder Olson and I are the oldest companionship in the mission at transfers 15 and 16. We don't feel that old, though. Of course we feel like we just got here as we still have so much to learn and do.
I went on exchange with Elder Ige this past Friday to Saturday. Elder Olson and I went down to an area called Odawara (almost two hours by train from Kichijoji) and worked with their companionship for 24 hours, myself with Elder Ige and Elder Olson with Elder Ige's companion, Elder Staheli. Elder Olson and I both agreed that it was one of the best exchanges of our missions. We had an amazing time. Elder Ige and I had a great time reconnecting and working together. We haven't worked in even the same zone since we've been in the field so it was really good to work together in a companionship. We saw miracle after miracle as we worked hard to find people to teach. We ended the exchange with long lists of new friends and soon to be friends.
Elder Ige and I were walking down a street and there was a man sitting on the side drinking a can of beer. We went to talk with him and he was very nice. We learned that he had been working at a big company but had gotten sick and couldn't continue to work. Then he and his wife divorced four years ago and he hasn't really been living for anything since. He told us he really wants to come to church on Sunday and we exchanged phone numbers. Later as Elder Ige and I were passing out flyers for eikaiwa we met a few groups of high school students and one of them really liked us and invited us to come to a school festival they have coming up. On Saturday we were passing out flyers again and a Japanese lady with her young son walked up to me and said with surprise, "A Mormon missionary." We talked and ends up she used to live in Rochester, New York about 20 years ago and attended church there each Sunday and has read the Standard Works. She and her family moved from New York to England and they began attending another church nearby because of convenience. Now they're living in Japan again but not attending church. She said it had been about 20 years since she'd read the Book of Mormon so I told her it's time to read it again. I explained where the nearest church was and hope she will begin attending again. While Elder Ige and I continued to meet many great people, Elder Olson and Elder Staheli were doing the same. They met two younger Filipino boys who were excited to attend church this next Sunday. Overall, exchanges just go really great when the missionaries are 'on the right path' in a sense. When they understand their purpose and do all they can to fulfill it, there really is true joy to be found, and exchanges are just great fun.
Later that day, Saturday evening, we had a great devotional with Brother Brad Wilcox of the Sunday School General Board, to make the day even better. It was a truly wonderful devotional where I felt great appreciation and gratitude towards the church and the opportunities I've had in my life because of it. There was much humor and laughing as well as great spirituality and humility. I really enjoy the things Brad Wilcox has to say. I've read the talk he gave two years ago at BYU, 'His Grace is Sufficient,' probably about 20 times now.
Some of the things he shared (as the devotional was geared towards parents raising families):
"Sometimes I feels like we're testifying of the best breakfast cereal, but nobody eats breakfast anymore." We live in a world where the majority thinks and believes that there is no need for church. The youth are greatly influenced by that, and sometimes don't realize the greatness of the spiritual blessings of the church. Thus he outlined many of the temporal blessings of the church that we must be sure to help the youth know and understand. He began his remarks with a story from when he was a mission president in Chile. There was a mother who had been less-active for many years. The missionaries visited her and she ended up returning to activity. Her young son who wasn't baptized soon desired to be baptized. His mother was overjoyed, however his father said, "If mom wants to be a part of a crazy church, that's her problem, but my son will not!" The elders went to then President Wilcox pleading for help to convince the boy's father that it was okay for him to be baptized. He said he'd do what he could and set up a meeting with the father. They met, shook hands, and the very first words out of the father's mouth were, "So what does my son get for being a Mormon?!" President Wilcox shrugged his shoulders and said a little sheepishly, "Salvation." That didn't convince the father much because really any church can promise that. Anybody can say that in the world to come there will be roads paved with gold and lined with mansions. So President Wilcox put the spiritual blessings, which are immense, to the side and did his best to explain the temporal blessings of the church. He doesn't really remember exactly what he said to the father but it must have done something because the boy was baptized. The father was at the baptismal service. The boy was dressed all in white. One of the elders all in white as well. The boy's mother beaming with joy and a few tears. And as President Wilcox watched the boy's father as the baptismal service went on he knew that he was feeling the spirit. A few months later there was another baptismal service in that ward, this time for the father. President Wilcox walked up to him and said, "So what do you get for being a Mormon?!" The father looked around and said a little sheepishly, "Salvation." The focus of the talk was on the temporal blessings of the church, things such as an international network of friends, a stronger family and better marriage, and a culture focused on education. It was a really great talk. Elder Olson and I were able to have a friend of ours, Jett, whose Gospel music class we went to, and his wife in attendance and they had a great evening. They were befriended greatly by the church leaders in attendance. President Wada thought the evening with Jett went so well he asked me to document the experience, so I wrote a small article type thing:"Jett’s a middle-aged man born in North Carolina, moved to California, and lived in Japan for almost the past two decades. We first met him on the street. It was later in the evening and already dark when we called out to him as he was with his wife and their daughter on bicycles. He told us he was busy saying he, “didn’t want none of our Jesus talk.” We persisted a little and he stopped long enough to tell us he’s very Christian and that he teaches a Gospel music class every once in a while. We traded numbers and off he and his family went. We called him the next day and had a great time at his Gospel music class the day after that. In return, two weeks later, Jett attended a sacrament meeting and an hour of Sunday school where he really seemed to enjoy himself. We sat with him and a great member on the third row of the chapel during sacrament meeting, and he met Sister Wada as well as she happened to be attending meetings here in Kichijoji.
Since that Sunday we’d been in touch with him a little but not yet able to meet again. Then this past Saturday we were blessed to have Brother Brad Wilcox of the Sunday School General Board speak at a wonderful devotional. A few nights before the devotional we gave Jett a call to invite him to hear what Brad Wilcox had to say. He was excited and ended up coming with his wonderful wife.
The devotional was really great as Sister Wilcox, Brother Wilcox, and Elder Whiting, (newly called to the Area Presidency,) spoke. Jett really connected with Brother Wilcox’s talk about “What you get for being Mormon.” Along with spiritual blessings and salvation, Brother Wilcox outlined many wonderful temporal blessings such as an international network of friends, amazing role models, and a culture focused on education. Brother Wilcox was very animated and Jett was laughing for much of the meeting. Elder Whiting ended the meeting on a very humble and spiritual note.
The truly amazing part of the evening, however, was actually after the devotional ended. President Wada asked the church leaders present to talk with Jett. In turn, he was able to not only meet, but really become friends with, Elder Ringwood, Elder Whiting, Brad Wilcox, Bishop Martini of the Senzokuike Ward, and President and Sister Wada. Jett told Brad Wilcox, “Who wouldn’t want to be a Mormon?!” and Brad Wilcox replied, “I’d love to attend your baptism!” They exchanged email addresses and plan to continue communication via email. President and Sister Wada also set an appointment to have him and his family over for dinner this next week.
Our investigators need to be converted not only spiritually, but also emotionally, intellectually, behaviorally, and socially. Remember that that is how they continue through the entire path of the gospel. This night was a huge step in Jett’s conversion. He felt the Spirit, he understood many of the blessings of the gospel, and he enjoyed good company and made many great friends in the church.
Some lessons to be learned from our experiences with Jett thus far would include: Love and do things for your friends and investigators. Attend their Gospel music class if they have one. Bring your friends and investigators to meetings and other events. There’s much growth and progress to be made when surrounded by wonderful people listening to a wonderful speaker. Ask members and leaders to talk with your friends and investigators. One member to fellowship is good, but it’s amazing when a group of members, church leaders, or even an entire ward lovingly befriends an investigator. There is power in church meetings and events. There is power in the fellowship church members and leaders can provide.
This is the wonderful work of salvation!"
Saturday was just a really great day. I wrote in my planner at the end of the day, "One of the best days on my mission."
This week will be another good and, of course, busy one. We have two two-zone conferences coming up this Wednesday and Thursday. We'll basically be reviewing all of the training we've given the zone leaders. I know that there is true joy to be found in the world. I know that that is within families centered on the gospel. I know that there is great joy to be felt through sharing the gospel. I know that we are children of a loving Father in Heaven. I love you!! Have a great week!
0023 - Dinner with Bishop Hasegawa and family (8/12/13)
0010 - Dinner with the Matsushima Family (8/6/13)0003 - With Ryuichi, investigator from Nakano who came to see us here in Kichijoji (8/3/13)