Thursday, October 27, 2016

See you all this week!

October 24, 2016: Week 104
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Well, the time is finally here! I can't believe that my mission is actually coming to an end this week! Its weird to describe the feelings you have as it comes to a close. But I just want to say how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to serve in the Japan Sendai mission these past two years. Its been a crazy ride which has pushed and challenged me, but it has helped me learn things that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I love the country of Japan and it makes me so sad that I will have to leave it for a while, but I hope I can come back someday and experience its amazing culture and its awesome people. Thank you for all of those who stuck with me and supported me my entire mission. It sure means a lot to me. 

I'd type more but I will see you all on Friday so I will save it till then. I love you all and thanks so much. Look out because on Friday afternoon there will be an awkward and culture shocked returning missionary coming down the escalator! See you guys soon! Love you guys!

Nathan Didericksen 長老

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Amazing Ride!

October 17, 2016: Week 103
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey everyone!

Well, this is it! It's my last full week as a missionary! I can't really explain how I feel right now. I'm both super excited and anxious on one hand, but nervous and sad at the fact that I'll be leaving Japan, its people, and won't be able to use their language anymore. It's definitely a mixed bag of emotions. But it's been an amazing ride that has pushed me to my limits, but in hindsight, it has blessed me and helped me in ways I never imagined. I've grown to love a people that I never really even thought about before my mission, but who turned out to be some of the most amazing and caring people I've ever met. I've even learned how to speak their ridiculously hard, but beautiful language (to an extent!), but most of all, I've come to know a loving God who loves His children, and Jesus Christ, who is always standing by our side. It's been an amazing ride, one I will never forget. 

Well this week was pretty good. I'm kind of low on time, so I will make it quick; plus I can tell you about it next week, so this will hopefully suffice! 

I was in Aomori from Monday night to Wednesday morning doing splits with the zone leaders. I got to go on splits with Elder Hawkley who was actually a bean when I was in his district last fall, so it was fun to work with him again. We basically just rode our bikes around trying to talk to people and went housing. It was a good time. We also got caught in a rainstorm at night and had to walk like 2 to 3 miles home so that was fun I guess!

Then on Thursday, I went back to Aomori for my last zone conference with President and Sister Smith. I'm sad it was my last one; they are always way good and I was able to learn a lot from all of them. And it's fun to listen to Sister Smith's funny comments from the back when her husband is doing a training. This time, we talked about becoming Christ-like teachers. The church has been focusing a lot on that topic, saying if we are to become like Christ, we need to teach like Him too. I also got to give my last testimony at the end (they always have the dying missionaries do that at the end of zone 大会). So it was a good day. Plus, some random elder in the zone gave me a package of some massive tortillas!! So I was stoked about that. They wouldn't fit in my bag, so I got to hold them the whole way home. It probably looked weird to see a white guy standing in a packed train with nothing but tortillas in his hands. 

Friday was pretty solid. We met with our investigator and Elder Livermore and I were determined to set a baptismal date with him. We taught the gospel of Jesus Christ going through faith, repentance, baptism, etc. After we taught it, he was very accepting and the spirit was definitely present when we were testifying of it. I then asked him when he knew it was true if he would be baptized and he said yes!! So for now, his date is November 26th (I obviously won't see it if it goes through, but i hope it does!) It is still pretty early in the process; we have only taught him 3 times, but he is a really solid guy looking for peace and joy in his life. I'm so blessed to be able to find and teach him my last few weeks.

I also got to speak in Sacrament meeting yesterday because it was my last Sacrament meeting before I go home. (We have district conference next week.) Originally, I wasn't scheduled to speak, but I got a call like an hour before church and was asked to speak for 10 minutes. I was a little stressed with that, but I was able to throw some thoughts together and was actually able to give probably my best talk I've given on my mission. I had to rely on the spirit a lot and just told mission stories and the things that I've learned through these two years. It was also a cool gift of tongues experience too because I was able to just speak and not really think about what I was saying. The Japanese just kind of flowed out smoothly from my mouth. It was really cool. It was fitting to be able to give both my first and last talks in the Hirosaki branch. It was cool to see how far I've come and grown these past two years. Afterwards, a lot of the members came up to me and thanked me for serving these past two years, especially for spending 25 percent of it in Hirosaki. It was a cool moment; the members here mean a lot to me. 

Lastly, we had the opportunity to watch a devotional put on my Elder David A. Bednar that was broadcast in Tokyo last night. He talked about finding joy in the gospel and having the right priorities. It's so fun to watch Elder Bednar in a devotional like that because he kind of lets his hair hang down and has a lot of fun. It was really good.

This week should be pretty busy as we have splits in Odate, district conference in Aomori and Misawa and other stuff. Its going to  be crazy. I will write a short email next week, but for the most part, this will be it! Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me and followed me throughout my mission. I appreciate your love and support so much! See you all next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

 Eating grilled squid (There was still ink in it, it was way weird!)

 Grilling fish

 At the barbecue

My last Zone Conference

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

No creative title ごめん!

October 10, 2016: Week 102
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey Everyone! 

The week started out with splits in Odate. It was my first time working there since April of 2015, so it was pretty fun to be able to work there again for the day. I also got to work with Elder Mendoza who is in my district. We both started our missions together, so he goes home with me in a couple weeks. It was actually the first time in my whole my mission that I've gotten to work with someone who was in my group that came to Japan. So with that, we had a fun time reminiscing on memories and experiences we've had on our missions. 

We had a good day of work in Odate. I had forgotten how tiny and old Odate is. Legit, like everyone there is over 85 or 90 years old! During the split, we had a service activity that the elders do every week. So, we went to an old person home (you know because everyone here is super old) and helped them out for a bit. What they have us do is give them drinks and stuff while they all wait for the workers to take them one by one to bathe them. It's a little awkward standing there while like 15 or so grandmas are staring at us, pointing, and talking about us because they don't think we can speak Japanese. They'll say things like we are some handsome foreigners or that I'm super tall. Anyway, after they are done being bathed, we get the privilege of drying their hair and combing it. I never thought I'd get the opportunity to style a Japanese grandma's hair while on my mission! I didn't really know what I was doing though, I was just moving the comb around in random directions through their hair and hoped it sufficed. So yeah, it was a good time I guess, a little strange though...

We were also able to teach their investigator named Ishikawa San. He is a pretty good guy who has been coming to church and keeping his commitments. He wants to get baptized, but he loves his Sake (Japanese alcohol) way too much. He is a little strange too. We were talking about the gospel and following up on his commitments and stuff when all of a sudden he turns to me and asks if I was circumcised or not...... I don't know, maybe that's his go-to question to break the ice with people he meets. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. So we had an awkward conversation with circumcision and were some how able to transition back to the gospel. So that was an odd lesson. But overall, it was a solid split with Elder Mendoza in Odate. 

Thursday was a good day. We got up way early in the morning to go to a orientation/follow up meeting for the new missionaries and trainers held in Morioka. We rode the 2 hour bus down there and attended the meeting. It was a good time where I was able to see a lot of friends that I haven't seen in a long time. It also was a big goodbye because it was the last time I'll see them before I go home. 

We also got to teach Kudou San again. We taught him the restoration all the way through and it went pretty well. He listens and accepts everything fairly well, so we are excited. We are meeting with him again this Friday. I hope it goes well!

Lastly, I finally got to watch General Conference which was great. We went up to Aomori and watched it with the other American elders who live up there. It was way good and I learned a lot, especially of how I can be of service and help people out when I get home. Since I will be kind of useless 'till school starts in January, it made me want to find those who are lonely or who need help and be there for them and help them out. 

It was also way fun to hear Elder Stevenson talk about Japan and hear from Elder Yamashita who has visited our mission several times. Conference as a missionary always has a different feel to it. It's weird to think that was my last one that I will ever experience as a missionary. I'm excited to watch the next one with you guys and to sit next to Dad in the priesthood session though!! But yeah, it was a great weekend to hear from God's chosen leaders and to learn how I can be better. 

Sorry for the short email, but those are the highlights of the week. This week should be another busy one. We are going back up to Aomori tonight for splits with the Zone leaders until Wednesday morning, then my last Zone Conference on Thursday in Aomori; so I'll be in Aomori like all week. It should be fun. I hope you all have a great week. Love you guys and see you in 2-ish weeks!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Massive thing of ice cream we ate on splits

We ran into a member from Kitakami when I was in Morioka!

 District selfie using the selfie stick

 The ramen shop guy wanted a picture with us

Getting Dendoud (people proselyting to us) and Sketchy Coffee Shops

October 3, 2016: Week 101
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey friends and family! I can't believe it's already pday again; this week flew by. My last three weeks are pretty much filled with meetings and travel so just like this last week, they are going to fly by. It feels kind of weird.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed seeing conference. I've yet to see it because we are waiting until its translated into Japanese so we can watch it with the rest of the missionaries and members. And since we don't have a church, I'll be going up to Aomori for the weekend and watch conference there, which is the same place I watched it last April, so that will be fun. 

This week was pretty good I guess. We had a ton of appointments cancel on us and a few weird/silly stuff happen, so I've got some good stories to tell!

Well, Monday and Tuesday consisted of mostly finding. Not much to tell there, but we had one funny thing happen. We needed to set up an appointment with a less active member named Brother Koizumi. He's one of my favorite people here. He has no top teeth, so when he gives us the famous Koizumi Kyoudai grin, I die laughing. His Japanese is pretty hard to understand and I remember teaching him when I was a new missionary and not being able to pick out a single word. It's pretty fun to teach and talk to him now because I can understand what he's saying and he's a way funny guy. 

Anyway, for some reason, he is always without a doubt hanging out in this mall by the train station, so if we ever need to talk to him, we just go to this mall. So, we went to the mall and sure enough, he was there. We were talking to him when all of a sudden, this lady shows up and sits next to us. I guess she sort of knew Koizumi Kyoudai, so she came up and sat down. Then suddenly, she pulls out this pamphlet and starts talking to us about her Buddhist religion. She was reading from this pamphlet asking if we'd heard about it and saying stuff like "if you join this church, you will be really happy!" She said their leader back hundreds of years ago was set to be executed and the people tried to behead him, but he was so powerful that they couldn't cut off his head. She then proceeded to slam us saying Christ wasn't powerful because people killed him. (Sad misconception.) She gave us these pamphlets and told us to study Buddhism.The next day, we saw that lady again where she ran us down and told us to read that pamphlet she gave us. I don't think she realizes that we can't read it because the kanji is too insane. Oh well.

The other interesting story happened on Thursday. We met with the guy we found on the street the week before who speaks English. We met him in front of the station and he said there was a shop nearby that he likes to go, so he suggested we do the lesson there. We said that was fine and we went. It turned out to be a super sketchy coffee shop. When we walked in, I had a pretty eerie feeling. It was dark, filled with cigarette smoke, and had some sketchy people in there. It just was an unsettling atmosphere. Well, we were talking and drinking some hot chocolate (which cost me 4.50$!), but then things starting getting a little weird. 

Elder Livermore and I noticed that all of the people were looking at us, talking about us and such. They didn't think we understood Japanese; they were saying things like, "Hey those people are those missionaries that wear dumb helmets and try to talk to you on the street" and things like that. It was just an uncomfortable situation. Then one of the guys came in and sat with us and started talking to us in English (his English was surprisingly good) and started asking us about the Church. He had some huge misunderstandings and heard a ton of stuff about the church and specifically missionaries. He said people at his work (he is a teacher) tell their female students to stay away from those white guys in white shirts and ties because they are going to go after you and try to talk to you and hook up with you.

 While we were talking to him, the people in the back were still talking about us and mimicking what we said and then one girl covered in tattoos and not wearing modest clothes came and tapped me on the shoulder asking if I would come play some sort of game with her. At that point, I said we had to leave because we couldn't take the weird atmosphere with all of this attention on us. We were worried that it would escalate to something bad so we finally left with our investigator. We tried to see if he wanted to meet again, but he said he's not really interested in the gospel and is never planning on changing, so we lost him. It was just an overall weird, uncomfortable situation. When that was over Livermore Choro and I looked at each other and all we could say was "what the heck just happened?" We were a little down after that because we lost an investigator and it made us sad that is what some people feel about missionaries. 

What happened next made us feel way better. We got to meet with a new investigator named Kudou San. It's kind of cool how he was found. About 2 or 3 weeks ago, Elder Livermore  and I were housing and I saw Kudou San walking on the street, so I contacted him. He was really nice, but seemed in a hurry and not so interested, so I gave him a pass along card and that was it. But two days later, the sisters were housing and they saw the same Kudou San and contacted him. They asked him if he'd seen missionaries before. He was like "Yeah, like two days ago! I have this card!" and pulled out a temple card from his pocket. They talked to him, gave him a Book of Mormon and set an appointment to meet with us. In the lesson, when I asked him why he decided to meet with us after telling us no the first time, he said something like "I was so surprised to be contacted by missionaries two days after the first time, I thought I should listen this time. Maybe God has something to do with it." We taught him and it was a really good lesson. When we asked if he had any questions, he just said, "I love what I'm hearing. These are some pretty awesome teachings!" and stuff like that. So, we are super excited to teach him. We are meeting him this week on Wednesday. Pray for us so that it goes well!!

So yeah, that is what mostly happened this week. It was a bummer losing an investigator, but being able to teach Kudou San makes it so much better. This week (and the rest of the transfer) will be super busy. Tomorrow, I have splits with the Odate elders. I'm going to Odate to be with Elder Mendoza who will go home with me so that should be fun. We also have a meeting for new missionaries and trainers in Morioka on Thursday, then we have conference in Aomori for the weekend. Should be tons of fun. I'm excited to see what the last three weeks have in store! I hope you all have a great week! Love you guys! See you all soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Transfer 16 week 3

September 26, 2016: Week 100
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey everyone!! It was great to hear from you all! I can't believe its already starting to snow in the mountains back home. I'm just hoping and praying that it won't get cold here before I go home because Japan's winters are super rough! We will see though!

This week was a pretty solid week! We have been busy running back and forth to appointments and meetings, taking trains and things like that. It's been fun with my second full week back in Hirosaki; I'm thankful to be ending my mission in a way that I was dreaming I would since the day I left this place. 

Like I said last week, it's been so fun to meet with people that I grew to love when I was a bean here in Hirosaki. I never thought I would see them again, so it's been a wonderful blessing to be able to see them and be able to talk to them. I had another one of those experiences this week when I met my Japanese grandpa. He was the first investigator I ever taught. I remember my first full day in Japan, waiting in the room for my first ever lesson as a missionary to start. I was shaking and in a cold sweat, so nervous at the fact that I would be teaching a real person for the first time. I was scared who this man would be, hoping he would be patient with a brand new missionary who couldn't speak his language one bit. My fears were all calmed when the nicest, goofiest, kindest Japanese grandpa that I've ever met walked in the door. Over those three transfers, I had many opportunities to talk to Akimoto San and was able to build a really solid relationship. He is a rich man, but has lost everything (family, etc.) and he knows that money doesn't bring happiness, so he has made it a goal to help as many people as he can. (He is even financing someone to go to college in Nepal right now.) When he saw me on his doorstep this past Saturday, he got a huge smile on his face and gave me a big hug saying, "You came back!" It was an awesome experience. He has had some health issues and has had a rough year and a half since I last saw him, but we think that it is preparing him more for the gospel and helping him realize what is important in life. We had a good lesson with him about faith. I'm so excited that I get to spend four more weeks with him!

We were able to teach some of the other people we are meeting with. They are all going okay, but we are stuck on what to do to help them progress. They are all in kind of a stand still stage, so I hope that we can help them before it gets apparent that we need to drop them. 

I'll tell one more highlight from the week. We were out on the street trying to talk to people (yo, I forgot how many super old people live in Hirosaki; I swear only 90 year old grandmas live here!) We were about to call it and go do something else after an hour or two of no success when I saw a man sitting under a pavilion so I decided I'd go talk to him. When I started talking to him he looked at me and said "I can speak English" in English! I was way surprised to hear that. His name is Tazawa Hitoshi and he has been living in Tokyo for 30 years writing English textbooks for schools in Japan, but recently moved back to Hirosaki. We talked to him about what we are doing and a bit about the gospel and he said he wanted to meet with us again! We should be meeting him this week! We're way excited and grateful for that miracle!

Sorry my emails are getting shorter, but I guess I can just tell you what went on this transfer in more detail in a few weeks cause my energy to write has gone way down! Sorry! I hope you all have a wonderful week! I'll try my best to make these last 4 weeks of this mission experience something to remember! Love you guys! Talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Return!

September 19, 2016: Week 99
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey y'all! It was great to hear from all of you and see how you are all doing! I'm glad you are doing well!

This has been a pretty solid week as I've kind of relived my days as a green bean missionary with coming back to Hirosaki. It was a lot of fun rolling into the city as I reminisced where I had walked in blizzards, tried to talk to people in broken Japanese, etc as a new missionary all those months ago. I never thought I'd be able to come back here, so it's been a cool experience so far. 

My new companion's name is Elder Livermore from Oregon. He is a convert of about 4 years and he is a stud. He probably will be the best Japanese speaker in the mission within a matter of a few transfers. He has studied Japanese for like 5 years and also did a home stay in Sapporo before, so he is super fly. It's a lot of fun to be able to work with an American who can speak really well; it makes teaching pretty fun. I feel bad for him though because he just barely killed (sent home) his first trainer and then he will be killing off his second trainer in 5 weeks, so he will have plenty of blood on his hands come October. Haha!

The work in Hirosaki is pretty solid right now; there is a lot more to do here and more people to work with than there was in Izumi for sure. I've probably taught more lessons to investigators this week than I have for the past 5-6 months or so, which makes it pretty good. We only have like one sort of solid-ish one right now, but the others are listening and keeping their commitments, so its really nice. We have mostly been teaching and running around to different appointments since the day that I got here which makes it really fun because I'm gonna be honest, I got pretty tired of housing and streeting all day for 4 months. It really feels like I'm fulfilling my purpose as a missionary as we have been teaching all of these people. I hope we can make some progress with them before I go home! It is a super good situation for me to end my mission on. 

Also, it was so cool to see the members and other people I worked with when I was here over a year and a half ago. It was fun to be standing in the chapel and see members walk in, see me, do a double take, and run up to me to say hi and to ask what the heck I was doing there. I was surprised with how many people remembered me! And it's been so fun to be able to talk to them like normal this time, whereas when I was a bean, I couldn't really communicate with them at all! I also got to speak in Sacrament meeting a bit and tell them how happy I am to be back and bear my testimony. It's been a really fun time being able to experience that.

The one interesting part with Hirosaki is that the church that I went to when i was here got torn down and they are building a new one. In the meantime, they are renting out a room in this fancy-ish hotel for only two hours for Sacrament meeting. Church is super chaotic because we have to get out immediately as soon as the clock strikes noon and don't really get to talk to members a whole lot at church. Also, the only place we have to use for lessons and things like that is this tiny little shack by the church construction site. It's not too bad of a set-up, but it's hard to have lessons with the sounds of machines and construction going on. But other than that, it's not too bad. 

But yeah, its been super great being back here in Hirosaki and I'm very excited to spend the last 5 weeks of my mission here. It's starting to feel really weird, I can feel the finishing line drawing near. I'm super super stoked and excited to see you all again and have it be like normal, but in the meantime, Elder Livermore and I will do our best to find and teach and hopefully baptize before it's all said and done! Sorry, I don't have any crazy stories or anything like that and I'm slowly getting lazier in my emails, but that was the gist of this week! I hope you all have an awesome week!! I love you guys! Talk to and see you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

 Elder Erickson and I. We came into the mission together and are
both ending our missions as trainers in our bean areas. He's an
awesome friend.

Last week's eikaiwa. They bought Elder Everett (he went home) a bye bye cake.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to Finish Where It All Started!

September 12, 2016: Week 98
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey everyone! It was so great to hear from all of you! I appreciate you guys for not forgetting about me and sticking with me for these almost two years. 

Well, I got my last transfer call of my mission and I couldn't be happier with how it went! It went kind of like this, "Elder Didericksen, you only have one more transfer right? I've thought long and hard and I feel you should finish your mission where you started; I want you to go to Hirosaki and finish as a trainer." I'm gonna be honest, I don't know exactly what he told me after that. I was too busy running around and freaking out in excitement that I get to finish my mission where it all began. I get to go back to the place where I fought and struggled with the language, where I first attempted to learn this unique culture, and where I came to love the people of Japan. Words can't describe how excited I am for the last six weeks of this adventure. It should be a way awesome way to end the ride. 

With the excitement that transfer calls brought, it's hard to think about what happened this week. It was a pretty good week I think, I just can't really remember a lot of it. 

This past Tuesday, I went to Furukawa and did splits with Elder Koide, an elder that I left the MTC with to come to Sendai. Working in Furukawa reminded me how in the middle of nowhere the kind of place it is. He and I went housing way out in the boonies where a bunch of old, rice farming houses are and it was pretty fun. No one was interested, but we got to meet some funny "grandpa" farmers who were pretty nice. It's always fun to work in an old area!

Wednesday, Elder Bruce and Robb came back to Furukawa so we could end the split and then Elder Bruce began to head back to Izumi. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the time and our bus back to Izumi rolled away right as we got to the bus stop. I was not too happy to be stuck in Furukawa for another 4 hours, but then a nice grandma directed us to another bus to Sendai. So, we rode to Sendai and then took a subway to Izumi.  Thank goodness for nice, old Japanese grandmas. They are the best!

Thursday was pretty crazy. Sendai got hit with a pretty big storm and it rained all day. SO with that, we weren't allowed to ride our bikes and had to walk everywhere. As we were walking back from about an hour walk to a less actives house (they where not too happy to see missionaries on their doorstep), we got caught in perhaps the biggest downpour of my life! It was absolutely insane. It rained 10 times harder than last weeks "typhoon" that kind of missed Sendai. I got straight hammered; everything in my bag and every inch of me was absolutely soaked. We were sprinting to the church to get out of it and I was so glad when we did. It was kind of fun though and reminded me of playing in the huge storm in the parking lot at the St. George condos with the family. 

Friday was the highlight of the week. The other two elders found some dudes playing basketball and they are pretty interested in the gospel. They invited all of us to play basketball in Sendai, so we got permission to play in a park in downtown Sendai. When we got there, there were already two guys playing who were insanely good. I've never seen a Japanese guy that good at  basketball. So, we all went up and asked if they would like to play some pick-up ball and they were down with it. I can't even describe how crazy this one guy's handles were. He plays in a street-ball league somewhere in Japan and is ridiculous. If you have ever seen the Pepsi commercials called "Uncle Drew" with Kyrie Irving, this guy had handles as good as that. He also has a scholarship to play at a college in Seattle I think. He about made me fall over on several occasions. They were really nice guys though and it was fun to play with all of them. I haven't played people that good since high school so it was super fun.  It got me pumped to play some ball with the guys again! We also gave them all Books of Mormon and a few of them seemed interested so I hope it goes well. 

But yeah, that is the basic gist of what happened. It was a fun week full of finding and getting my ankles broken by some Japanese ballers. I can't wait to face these last six weeks of my mission in Hirosaki. Time is starting to wind down pretty fast so I will work hard and try my best to leave my mark in an area that I really love before the final buzzer sounds. It should be tons of fun. I hope you all have a great week! Love you!  Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

 We bought nice Japan soccer jerseys like what they wore in the

The rice fields of Furukawa