Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2015

Got to see and talk with this kid on Christmas Eve! Best Christmas present ever!!

Kind of a Quiet Week

December 21, 2015: Week 60
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey y'all! It was so great to hear from you guys. The Christmas season over there sure sounds fun. I'm glad the MoTab concert was good! We will have to try and go next year! 

Well unfortunately, my week wasn't too exciting. Our only investigator got sick so we couldn't meet with him and he couldn't come to church. That kind of worries me with preparing him for his baptism, which we will definitely have to move back a couple weeks. We have a long way to go with him, including teaching him the majority of the lessons. Keep him in your prayers! Hopefully he can continue to feel the spirit and prepare for his baptism!

Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of going around to less actives and old Qs and such to invite them to the Christmas party. Unfortunately, no one was really home so not a lot happened. One less active, who I actually gave a blessing to a few weeks ago, opened the door and said in English, "no appointment" and slammed the door in my face. Fine, if she doesn't want to come to a Christmas party and have a good time, be my guest. Haha! So yeah, not a lot to report on that.

Friday was pretty fun. I went on another split in Ichinoseki with Elder Hanson. It was probably our 5th or 6th split because we've been in the same district since April. We had a good time. We got to visit a less active, share a message and play some cards with our feet underneath the "Koutatsu," which are the tiny little tables you sit under on the ground. There's a heater underneath the table and a blanket over it, so it's like a mini foot sauna. They are way comfy in the winter. Then we tried to street for a bit, but everyone was being pretty cold. The highlight of the split was the American food. The Mowers recently went to Misawa and brought back a bunch of American food from the base. So for breakfast, we had Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms and Pop Tarts. It wasn't the healthiest, but it was glorious.

Saturday morning, Elder Hanson had to help Mower Shimai and a Filipino member practice for a musical number, so we were at the church for a while. While we were waiting for the member to show up, Sister Mower and I sang a duet of Music of The Night, Think of Me, and other Broadway favorites with Elder Hanson at the organ. It was so fun, just like back when I was home, gathering around the piano and attempting to sing like the Phantom. We will be doing that for sure when I'm back!

Then to finish the week off, we went to the Takahashi family's house for dinner. They are such a fun family. Takahashi Shimai is not Japanese I swear! She's so hilarious and not at all quiet! I've been teaching her some hymns in English because she wants to do a number for our Christmas party with us and a few other people. Her voice is incredible, so hopefully, me, my comp, and Elder Mower don't bring it down. It'll be good nonetheless. The visit was way fun. We had some curry, played some cards, and shared a message on Christmas. It was such a fun night!

Well, that is about it. This week should be good, even though it won't be a normal Christmas. Right now, I'm sitting in the Mower couple's apartment having homemade pancakes for the first time in 14 months! It's gonna be great; I'm way pumped.

I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas, even though me and Kelsey won't be there! And I get to Skype with you this week!! I will fill you in on more stuff then! 

I love you guys so much! Have a wonderful Christmas week! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

A member gave me this Christmas sweater. It's way comfy!

Hitting the streets!

Our Christmas Ekaiwa lesson.

Monday, December 21, 2015

One Year in Japan!

December 14, 2015: Week 59
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey everyone! This week went by pretty fast; December is just flying by! I'll be skyping you guys in no time! I loved your emails and pictures. Thanks for all of them. I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season so far. I loved the pictures of Aves and Dax with Santa and looking at the lights. Looks like a ton of fun! It doesn't really feel like Christmas here, not even December for that matter. It's been kind of warm here since it snowed tons last week. It's either warm and sunny or when it is cold, it's like a summer thunderstorm.

Also, tomorrow, I hit my one year mark in Japan! That's crazy! It's been an awesome year! It's definitely had some hard times, but I've gotten to experience a new culture, language, and people that I've grown to love so much. I remember stepping off that plane tired, scared and straight homesick. I thought I would be miserable forever, not being able to survive in this strange culture. But now I love it. I know I have a long way to go, but it's cool to look back and see where I used to be, a scared, deer in the headlights new missionary. I'm excited to see what the last 10 months hold!

My week was pretty solid thanks to one event so I'll just start with that. We taught Suzuki San, our twenty year old investigator, on Friday night. We were planning on giving the baptismal commitment and we were really nervous. I've never really had an investigator on my mission who is that sincere or at the point of considering baptism, so it was pretty much my first time. We were teaching about the plan of salvation and it was going good. I was a little flustered cause I was so nervous, causing me to not speak very well, but it was going good. Then when we got to the part of the atonement and I told him that in order to receive a full measure of the power of the atonement, we need to have faith, repent, be baptized and confirmed. He then asked what baptism was. Perfect! We taught a little about that, while reading from 2 Nephi 31. We read the part where it says "Follow Thou Me" and talked about we can follow Christ through baptism. I then extended the commitment, and to my surprise, he said yes!! So we set the date that we had prayed about earlier and for now it will be January 2nd! Wahoo! I don't know if we can make it by that time though. He still has a long way to go.

Frankly, I don't think he really understands much of what we are teaching, nor does he really understand the depth and the Importance of the commitment of being baptized. It's almost like we are teaching children because Japanese people have no idea about anything that has to do with religion or God or anything of the matter I want to make sure he is prepared and has received some sort of conviction through the spirit. He's definitely felt it I think, just doesn't understand yet what it is. But something I read in Preach My Gospel gave me some hope. It says that most converts who had no Christian background honestly didn't understand what they were being taught, but they did what the missionaries asked because they trusted them and felt good.

I guess I'm just nervous, I don't want to be the one who holds him back from baptism due to my weaknesses. Also, I don't want to create another less active for this area. There are so many less actives in Japan unfortunately. But for the time being, we have a date set, the first of my mission! I sure hope it goes through! It might not happen while I'm here in Kitakami, but I pray that he will realize the happiness that will come into his life through accepting the gospel. He did tell me he's not like most Japanese people, and he's sensed that this is something that could bring more happiness. He's doing good; he came to church again yesterday and has been praying. Now we just need to help him read the Book of Mormon more.

Church was way awesome yesterday. We had a member from the mission presidency come visit and speak. He gave an awesome talk about his conversion, the power of the atonement, and the birth of Christ. I felt the spirit pretty strongly while he spoke and I bet Suzuki felt it as well. Then, as we sang Silent Night, for some reason I felt it a lot stronger than usual. I think since I haven't had a normal Christmas for two years now, I haven't really had the chance to get caught up in the season. I've been able to focus on the babe in the manger, and God's love for us in the form of the babe in the manger. Without a doubt, I miss the music, the lights, and of course spending the joys of the season with my family, but like Elder Holland once said of his first Christmas as a missionary, you can come to
understand Christmas and understand God's love for us. It's been hard at times, but very rewarding.

Well, sorry for the shorter email, but that is about all that's on my mind today. This week should be fun. We have splits this Friday with the Ichinoseki guys and just enjoying the Christmas season with the members and missionaries. It should be a lot of fun. I love you guys so much! I hope you have a wonderful week! I'm so excited to Skype with you! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Small Miracles and Japanese Pizza!

December 7, 2015: Week 58
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear about your week! I loved the pictures from Temple Square Erin! Your family is so cute! And that was way weird to see PG playing in the new gym. It will be weird walking in that thing when I get home. I still like the one I played in, but I guess it's pretty nice.

My week was pretty good. We saw some small little miracles here and there. I'll start with the one on Tuesday. 

We had a lot of time on our hands so we did a ton of door to door contacting. I usually don't like door to door, but sometimes you just gotta do it, and sometimes it can get pretty silly. Like one house we knocked on, this super old grandma answered the door, saw us and just started laughing. I was just going along with it and tried talking to her. She just starting waving her hand and basically said, "I'm super old, I have no idea what's going on." And basically said that four or five times. So we kind of just slowly walked away. It was weird. 

We did find a couple of people who said we could come back so we will see! But the cool thing that happened was when we were out in the boonies crossing a bridge to house a neighborhood, I saw a man taking pictures from over the bridge and felt a prompting that I needed to talk to him. So, as I passed by, I just said it was a good view and asked about his pictures. He responded and starting talking to me. He turned out to be way cool! And get this, he has been to Salt Lake before! We talked about that and if he saw Temple Square and stuff. I gave him a pass-along card and an Ekaiwa flyer and he said he'd come. And as he said, he and his wife came to Ekaiwa the next day! He's a retired dentist and his English is way good. Now he just travels the world, climbing world famous mountains and taking pictures. He isn't an investigator, but it was cool to follow a prompting and then find out later why you were prompted to do it.

Friday, I unexpectedly woke up to a blizzard outside!! I looked outside and thought, "oh no....it's begun!" So we braved out into the snow and walked to the Eki cause we had ZTM in Morioka. The train that 
usually takes an hour to get there took about two and a half. The snow caused a lot of problems with the trains so it took forever. So we stood shoulder to shoulder in a packed and muggy train for over two hours. It was a swell time.... And we were about 30 minutes late to the meeting so it was a little awkward to walk in and have everyone stare at me. Oh well!

After the meeting, the Mowers took me and my companion out for lunch. Elder Mower wanted to go to an all you can eat pizza place, but he got lost so we settled for another all you can eat it pizza. I have no idea what I was thinking; you should always avoid Japanese pizza. I now understand why. It was the weirdest stuff I've ever eaten. So the restaurant was like Tuchanos where they bring it around to you and put it on your plate. First of all, the waitresses were like scared of us because we were American and didn't really treat us the best. Second, this "pizza" was, I'd go as far to say that it was an abomination. I could just imagine the cook in the back thinking, "what random things can I put on this one!!?" There was one with octopus and clams on it, another with ham and French fries, and my personal favorite, tuna and French fries. Oh man it was weird. I can't wait to have normal pizza when I'm back! It was disgusting, but definitely a funny experience.

The second cool miracle that happened was on Saturday. We were riding the train to Hanamaki and a woman came and sat next to me. She actually started talking to me, asking if I was a student. I answered and we started talking. Then she began speaking fluent English! I was way surprised. She went to language school in Sendai, so she's pretty fluent. I asked if she was religious, trying to shift to the Book of Mormon. She said she was Buddhist and wanted to learn about God and Christ, partially because her English professor is apparently a famous Jamaican gospel singer named John Lucas, so she wants to learn about Christ because of him. I explained the Book of Mormon in English and got her number and plan on meeting this week!! It was way weird teaching in English to someone. I felt kind of awkward; I'm not used to it, but it was awesome, God blessed us with a miracle even when I didn't do anything to deserve it. It was awesome.

And lastly, we had a lesson with Suzuki San last week about the restoration. It went pretty well. He is finally starting to understand why we need the Book of Mormon. He liked the concept of prophets and 
has been trying to pray on his own, so things are still looking good. He was going to come to church yesterday, but his work schedule suddenly changed and he couldn't come..... Next week though!

Well I hope you guys have a wonderful week! I love you so much! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

It's begun!!

Beautiful view of the Kitakami River and the city in the back.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I'm grateful to be in a district with a senior couple!

November 30, 2015: Week 57
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear from all of you! I'm glad you had a great Thanksgiving! I sure do miss everyone's cooking! Also, those pictures from Bryce Canyon are absolutely amazing. We definitely need to do that next winter! And Erin and Todd, your house all decorated looks way good. It looks like the coziest family room of all time! I can't wait to see your house next year!

My Thanksgiving was actually a ton better than I thought it would be. It was one of the greatest nights I've had in a long time! With me staying in Kitakami for the holidays, it means that I get to spend the holidays with the Mower couple, who have basically become my missionary mom and dad for the last 5ish months! We had a great Thanksgiving, but I'll get to that later.

So with Elder Trane transferring, (He ended up in Miyako, which is in my zone. He was originally supposed to go there before he got sick. But I'll be able to see him at zone meetings so that's legit.) we spent a lot of the first half of the week packing and saying goodbye to people he wanted to see. Unfortunately, it was dumping buckets of rain for like 4 days straight, so we had to walk everywhere which took the majority of our time.

Wednesday was solid though. It was Elder Trane's birthday so we tried to have a little fun. We went out to his favorite udon restaurant for dinner. He loves that place and since we/he's been there so many times, he's like on a first name basis with all of the workers. He told them he was moving from Kitakami and they were all sad. It was pretty funny. After dinner, we were riding our bikes to Ekaiwa and we ran into Suzuki San on the street so we stopped to talk to him. We said we were going to set up for Ekaiwa and he told us he wanted to go, so we walked over to the church together. Then we were able to talk to him for a little bit and teach him a lesson. We read 1 Nephi 1 together and talked about it. It's still really hard for him to understand; I don't really know how to help him understand it more. Hopefully, he continues to read and pray and he'll start to receive answers and understanding. He loved Ekaiwa and said he wants to come again.

Thursday, Thanksgiving day, we went down to Sendai for a transfer meeting. So President Smith had everyone line up along the wall and he'd call up a missionary to the front and tell them where they were going and who their companion was. It was pretty fun to see everyone's reactions. My comp is named Elder Mitchell. He is fresh out of being trained so he's still pretty new. He played ball in high school back in Idaho so we have that in common. It should be fun. Then after the meeting. Sister Smith made us a Thanksgiving type lunch. She made us ham and turkey sandwiches and also homemade pecan pie and and pumpkin pie from Costco! It was awesome! Plus, I got to see all of my buddies from past transfers that I haven't seen in forever. It was great to catch up with them.

Friday night was incredible. The Mowers invited us over to their apartment in Hiraizumi for Thanksgiving with the Ichinoseki elders and a Filipino recent covert named Ofelia. Let you tell ya, it was one of the most beautiful sights on my mission! We had your typical Thanksgiving favorites such as stuffing, chicken (it looked like turkey!), mashed potatoes and gravy and rolls! I have no idea how Mower Shimai pulled it off in her tiny apartment kitchen. It probably would have been pretty funny to watch us elders see it and eat it. We looked like little orphan boys who had been eating bread crumbs for weeks. I've sure missed home cooked American food that's for sure. It was so awesome, I just felt like I was with my family in a way, my own little missionary family.  I feel so indebted to the Mowers; I couldn't believe they did it for us. They want to do something for Christmas too! I can't believe how lucky I am! I didn't think I would have a Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, but I guess I was wrong! We want to make something for the Mowers to repay them for Christmas, so we have about a month to figure out what we can make them through trial and error. Wish me luck!

Saturday night, we played basketball with the district and a few LAs and the Takahashi family. I actually played decent this time! A lot better than I usually do on my mission. I'm still awful now, but it felt good to get out there and hit some jumpers in people's faces. Speaking of basketball, it was weird to see videos of PG's team now and see Coach Mac. I sure do miss those days. It's weird to see the little sophomores that I know starting varsity. Times have changed I guess!

Lastly, Sunday was way stressful. I had a talk on tithing in sacrament meeting, and they decided to give me the Sunday school lesson as well (which is basically teaching the entire branch from the front of the room). It was a little stressful, but it all turned out okay. Then we had a shokujikai which is basically a food party thing after church, so we rolled out the tables and ate food with all of the members. And what was great was that Suzuki San came to church again!! And the members were so great with him, just laughing and having fun and treating him so kindly. It was way awesome! It was during that shokujikai when I realized how much I love some of the members here. Since I've been here for a long time, I'm pretty close with most of them, and I'm noticing their funny personality quirks that make me laugh. It was a great time to be with them. And I actually was able to feel their love for me too. I had several tell me how much they appreciate me and how they're happy I stayed in Kitakami and it made me feel way good. Although the work is hard here, I will definitely miss the members a ton whenever I leave this place.

Well that is about the jist of my week! It was a little slower due to having to walk everywhere, but we saw some good things happen. I'm so thankful for my opportunity to serve here and learn the things I'm learning and experience the things I'm experiencing. I'm also so thankful for my wonderful family who send their great support and for the love they constantly show me. You guys are the best! Enjoy the Christmas season with the lights and decorations and Christmas music! I love you guys! Talk to you next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Still here in Kitakami!

November 23, 2015: Week 56
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Trane Choro

Hey beloved family and friends! It was great to hear from you guys. It looks like Thanksgiving and Christmas is in full force. I hope we can all survive the season! In all reality though, now that I'm over a year out, I feel this holiday season will be a lot better than last year! I look forward to it!

I can't believe another week and another transfer is past. With that being said, we received transfer calls this last week and it's been decided that I'm staying in Kitakami for another transfer! So now I'll be here until at least January. Man I've been here forever! It will be fun though. It might be a little difficult to get a ton done due to the fact it's gonna be dumping snow here pretty soon, but hopefully some good things can happen before the time comes that I leave Kitakami. I'm pretty close to some of the members so it will be fun. However, to my surprise Elder Trane is being transferred. President Smith is doing this thing that if you transfer, you go to Sendai on Thursday and then he'll tell you where you're going and who your comp is. So right now, I have no idea who my companion is. I guess I'll let you know next week!

This week was a pretty solid week in regards to being able to meet with investigators. We finally got to have a lesson again with one of our investigators. I hadn't been able to teach her for two months because she is way busy, but she thought I would be transferring so she wanted a lesson before I would leave. We taught her about following the prophet and how God speaks to us today just like In olden times, then we invited her to be baptized again, but she didn't accept. She still says she doesn't want to commit and she wants to study more. I really think she knows it's true, but she just doesn't want to do anything about it. Something is keeping her from baptism and I don't know what it is. Hopefully we can figure it out soon!

Also, we had an investigator in church yesterday!! It was the first time in months that I've had an investigator come to church! The young college student guy that I found on the street two months ago came yesterday! It was so great to have an investigator there. The members were nice to him and I think he liked it. I was a little scared for him, but he said he wants to come back. We also were able to have a lesson with him during the second hour with a return sister missionary jointing. It was good. We used this new pamphlet that is on a trial period right now in our mission. It's about Christ. It's pretty good, but pretty hard to understand I think, especially for Japanese people. I think it was hard for him to understand but he is coming along!

Thursday, we kind of had a sudden meeting for all of the trainers and new missionaries in Sendai so we got to ride a bus down there, go to my favorite restaurant in Sendai and attend a meeting with President Smith. It was fun to see everyone including some of my old companions and district members. And it was great as always to hear from President Smith. It was kind of a review of the training type meeting. It was a time to reflect on what went well and what didn't go well in regards to training. I definitely made some mistakes and had some poor judgement while training, but I did learn a lot from it. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to train a new missionary (even though he sure didn't act like one at all.)

After the meeting, since there are no late buses to Kitakami, we took the Shinkansen!! It was so much fun. It put a major dent in my wallet but fun nevertheless. Waiting in the Shinkansen part of the Sendai station honestly felt like i was in the airport waiting to board a train. And the Shinkansen is sooooo fast! It got us home in like 45 minutes compared to a 2.5 hour bus ride. It was way cool!

Then on Friday, we had District meeting and then Elder Hanson and I had splits in   Ichinoseki. I love splits with Elder Hanson; they're fun. We've been in the same district for 6 straight transfers so we are pretty close. We got to meet his investigator from Kenya who is training to run in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. And we also had a dinner appointment with a member. She is a great cook and made us sukiyaki, one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I don't know if we can eat it in America though because you can't eat raw eggs there. It was way fun. Then to top it off, we are both stoked for Christmas so we listened to Christmas music and hung up Christmas lights after planning. It was a great time.

To end, I'll tell you about some stuff I've been studying. I gave a training on following the teaching model that Christ set. There are countless examples in the scriptures where Christ shows us how to teach effectively. And since we should do our best to become like Him, we should try to teach like Him as well. He not only asked effective questions and listened intently, not only taught using scriptures, but He loved those he taught. And when you do that, focus on their needs and how much you want to help them, then they will open their hearts and understand. It was a pretty fun training to study and prepare for.

Well that's about it. It was a fun week. I'm excited for Thanksgiving this week to go to Sendai and also have a Thanksgiving meal with the Mower couple and the Ichinoseki elders. Should be a ton of fun. It won't be the same as home, but it will feel like I'm with family a little bit, especially with a missionary couple! I hope you guys have a great turkey day! Make sure to eat plenty of stuffing, turkey and deliciousness for me! And then Kelsey and I will be there next time! I love you guys so much. I'm so grateful for you and your loving support. Have a fantastic week!  Love and miss you!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

With the Mowers and the Ichinoseki elders

Abura soba is amazing!

Getting into the Christmas Spirit!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Three Nephite Sighting in Kitakami!

November 16, 2015: Week 55
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Trane Choro

Hey everyone! Wow! It sounds like it was a crazy week! I'm glad Daxton is back home and doing better. That's crazy he had to spend the night in the hospital for the croup. And it snowed in Utah?! That's awesome! It's not cold enough yet to snow here, but it's been raining for like three days straight. It will probably snow soon though.

My week was pretty good I guess. It had some of its disappointments, but it was okay. I'll try to give you the rundown, but this email might be a bit shorter.

Tuesday was kind of a bummer day. We started off visiting a less active and since she is always inside and it was a beautiful day, I suggested we do a lesson in a nearby park and she agreed. We met her there and taught her about faith. She said she didn't even know what she believed in anymore, that her testimony of the gospel is gone. We taught her how she can strengthen her faith. It was kind of sad to see yet another example of how fast Satan can cause you to lose a testimony. It brought me back to my days in priest quorum talking about the importance of feeding your testimony. I remember learning that you are either growing in testimony or weakening in testimony. It made me sad to see another example of someone who stopped doing the small things which led to a loss of testimony. What made it worse was that she called me during church and told me she was done and to stop visiting her.....so that was a bummer. Maybe one day she will find her way back.

Later, we went to visit our new investigator but some unexpected things happened there as well. She told us that she is going be hospitalized for about three months I guess.... We also asked what she thought about our message and if she had prayed about it and things. All she said was she thought it was interesting.... and kind of left it at that. She was kind of out of it because she was on a bunch of medicine, but I think we might have to drop her unfortunately. That kind of lowered our spirits. Right as we thought we were starting to see some good things happen and find an investigator who wants to come to church, she dropped us. So that was a bummer as well. 

On the bright side, we had a pretty solid lesson with our other investigator. We just taught simply about God and Christ. He has no background whatsoever, hasn't even thought about God that 
much. He did however give a pretty cool prayer at the end of the lesson though! He straight up asked if God really did exist. We meet with him tomorrow so I sure hope he can recognize an answer to his prayers and come to know of a loving Heavenly Father. I think he really likes the concept of prayer though. When we taught him and testified of it, he felt the spirit for sure, so I hope we can get him starting to progress towards baptism!

Wednesday morning, we had another good lesson with our less active sisters. For some reason, they wanted to learn about Noah's ark, but since there's not a lot written about it, we kind of turned it into a follow the prophet, keep the commandments lesson. It went pretty well. It was fun studying for it, going through the recent general conference talks and reading various scriptures. It was a good time to reflect on the reason we have commandments, and if we seek to understand that, we will come to know how much God loves us. They truly are a protection from the adversary and through them we can make it safely home.

Here is one funny story from this week. We were in the train station to go to Mizusawa, but we stopped in this small store so Trane choro could buy some stuff. He had a couple of candy bars in his pocket and was going to buy them when this guy comes up to him, snatches the candy bars out of his hand and basically says, "anything for Christianity" and went and bought them and gave them back to Elder Trane. It was way funny, I couldn't really believe what happened. The weird part is that he kind of just disappeared. We saw him walk into the big waiting room and right as he went through the door, he was gone!! We may have seen one of the three Nephites! No, probably not; I bet they have better things to do than buy a missionary a Snickers and a Kit Kat. Haha!

It was raining all weekend and since we can't ride our bikes in the rain, there wasn't a ton to do. We had district meeting in Ichinoseki and then a humble Thanksgiving feast/ birthday dinner for three of the people in our district. It was fun to just hang out and have a meal around the table. It felt like a Sunday dinner with the family. Then I went on splits with a first transfer missionary, Elder Meyers, which was a good time.

We also got invited to play basketball with some foreigners and members in Ichinoseki, as well as a family from Kitakami. It was fun to get out and play again with the other missionaries and people. I know I say this every time I play basketball on my mission, but I'm sooo bad now. It's insane. I feel like the slowest, most non-athletic guy alive now. It's a little hard to realize all of those years of getting up early and shooting or working to get in shape, all of those efforts are kind of gone right now. It makes me motivated to get in shape and get it back as soon as possible after the mission because I hate feeling out of shape. It's just a bad feeling! It was a fun time though playing with everyone.

Well, that is the basic jist of my week! Sorry, this isn't as exciting of an email, I'll try to make next week's better. I'll end with some stuff I studied and things that touched me this week.

I've been going over a talk by Bishop Gerald Causse called "Is it Still Wonderful to You". It's a great talk about constantly marveling at the beauties of the gospel and the importance of always renewing your testimony and to continue discovering and rediscovering the truths of the gospel. That's one thing I want to help the members here realize. Life is hard sometimes, but the beauties of the gospel can help us through any trial. A quote he used in the talk is, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes". The simple truths of the gospel can help us in any situation. We just have to continue discovering and rediscovering the truths of the gospel, and to always marvel at the beauty of it.

Well, I hope you guys have a wonderful week! It's the last week of the transfer, so next week I'll let you know if I stay in Kitakami for my fourth or if I'm headed somewhere else to freeze my face off for the winter! I love you guys! Have a great week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Our district birthday party! It was a great time.
I'm definitely gonna 
miss the Mower couple when I transfer. They're amazing.

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings

November 9, 2015: Week 54
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Trane Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear from you guys. I can't believe it's Monday again. This week kind of flew by for a reason. I'm doing good here; we had some good things happen this week, but a lot of it consisted of meetings. On the other hand, winter is looming in the air and it will be here in no time! 

I can't believe it's already time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's crazy to think of all of the things that have happened since last Thanksgiving, but at the same time it feels like it was yesterday. I'm already getting in the Christmas spirit by listening to the small amount of Christmas music I have as well as watching Christmas devotionals on pday. 

I'll try to give you a run-down of the week. Since we had zone training meeting in Morioka on Friday, and then district conference in Morioka on Saturday and Sunday, we had to pack all of the things we wanted to do in like three days. Tuesday was probably our best day work-wise. In the morning, we met again with two less active sisters along with a brother from the ward. It was a pretty solid lesson. One of the sisters has been studying a lot from the scriptures and had some questions regarding the plan of salvation so she wanted us to teach it to them in depth. Everyone was halving a good time and one of the ladies was just having a blast studying the gospel. It was a lot lighter lesson than the intense one we had with  the week before. She still won't come to church yet but I think she is on her way back.

Last week we were housing and we found this woman who is actually Christian and was really willing to talk to us and accepted a Book of Mormon. We went back and taught her Tuesday night. When she saw us, she apologized and said she hadn't read the whole Book of Mormon yet. She also later asked me if she needed to be baptized to enter the church. I said we do have the ordinance of baptism and that she could be baptized when she found out for herself that this was true. I was kind of caught off guard when she asked that. We were able to teach her the restoration on her doorstep. 

Also, she mentioned that her younger brother had died and she really misses him, so we testified of eternal families and the plan of salvation. It was pretty cool! The one thing with her is that she has lots of tattoos and facial piercings. She asked if it was okay for her to go to church with those piercings and tattoos. I said everyone can come to church. I hope that through hearing the message, she'll have the desire to change and take out all of the piercings. In the meantime, I hope the members don't judge her when she comes to church. We were able to teach her and set an appointment for tomorrow, so she is a new investigator!! It's awesome! We are finally starting to find some people to teach because lately, it's been kind of rough. We are pretty excited about her potential. It's cool to see this area finally starting to pick up a bit because it was pretty down a few months ago.

Wednesday was kind of a slow day. We decided to go find some old investigators and potentials around town, but we quickly realized Japanese addresses are ridiculously difficult to find, and none of them were interested or home, so it was a bummer slow day.

The rest of the week pretty much consisted of meetings. We had zone training meeting with the other missionaries in Morioka. It was pretty solid. We talked about keeping the sabbath day holy because the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have been stressing it a lot. Then we got some delicious karage, which is basically fried chicken. It was really good. The bad part is that they are way hot and sharp, so they basically destroy your mouth, but I guess that's the price you must pay to eat delicious food.

The weekend was good with district conference. It's always cool to see a big congregation of Japanese members because I'm so used to being in tiny branches. It was really nice to just be around other people and missionaries and to hear the talks and sing hymns together. I realized that I took firesides and things like that for granted before the mission, because I really enjoy them now. 

On Saturday night, since all of the areas are so far away form Morioka, we packed about 14 missionaries in the elders' apartment. We didn't sleep at all because we were all on the floor with no padding, but it was okay. It was fun to be with everyone. 

Sunday session was way good too. President Smith talked about keeping the sabbath day holy. He shared a story from when he was in college, he decided not to do homework or study on Sundays, meaning he had to work his tail off for six days. He told of the blessing he received from doing that and how God always helped him on tests, homework and things even though he didn't study on Sundays. It was a good time of reflection for me on keeping the sabbath day holy. Obviously as a missionary, we keep basically every day holy, but I know I can change some things when I get home. 

I read President Nelson's talk from last April, as well as doing some other study about the sabbath, and I've come to realize the true importance of it and the blessings that are promised through keeping it holy. It's been a great opportunity to reflect on the things that I could do better with regards to the sabbath, as well as why we have the commandment. It truly is the Lord's day and if we truly love Him, we need to show, like President Nelson said, a sign to God that we love him.

And since I'm in a Christmas mood and I've been really itching to listen to the MoTab perform Handel's Messiah, my scripture of the week is 2 Nephi 19:6.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called 
Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

He truly is our wonderful counselor and the Prince of Peace. I'm excited to enter into this season once again and take time to reflect on the magnificence of His Birth and the things He did for us. (I realize I'm kind of skipping Thanksgiving, but since that's an American holiday and I probably won't be celebrating it this year, I'm getting an early start!)

I love you guys! Have a wonderful week! You are all in my prayers! Thanks for all of the love and support you send my way! Love and miss you!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Monday, November 16, 2015

Final Halloween as a missionary, meaning the end of mediocre costumes!

November 2, 2015: Week 53
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Trane Choro

Hey everybody! Is everyone on a candy and doughnut hangover?! I wish I could say I was! Halloween looked like a ton of fun though. The kids were super cute and it sounds like you guys did some really fun things to celebrate. I can't wait to take the kids to hee-haws next year! And good job on all of the pumpkins; they looked great!

My Halloween was okay. The Halloween party with the branch was a success with a solid turnout. I'll talk more about that later.

I'll start with last pday, our district pday. The Mower couple drove up to Kitakami to take us to Ichinoseki. While we were waiting for them in front of the church, two cops came up to us and asked for our ID's and what we were doing here and things. I guess two white dudes standing in front of the church looked suspicious or something. It all worked out though; they were pretty nice. Then we went down to Ichinoseki to this place called Geibikei or something. It was this big river gorge where we piled on an old boat and had a river guide take us through the canyon. It was pretty cool. If you compare it to the views and nature you see in Utah this time of year, it's nothing special, but it was cool nonetheless, especially when our tour guide serenaded us with old Japanese folk songs as he rowed us down the river. That was pretty cool. 

Another way funny part was we were looking at a boat that was passing by us and we could see there was a white family riding in the boat. We just thought "oh cool a foreigner family," but then as we looked harder, we noticed it was the Chapman family from my last area in Izumi! We shouted and waved at them. They even waited for us to finish our tour so that we could talk to them. It was fun for me and Elder Hanson, having both served there, to be able to catch up with them. So that was pretty cool.

Tuesday was pretty solid. We had a lesson with the recent less active who got offended by some members and who just doesn't really like them so she went less active. There was another less active there, as well. It was a pretty intense lesson, probably the most intense of my mission. Right as we started, she ranted at me and just laid out all of these different things. It felt almost as if she was attacking me. I leaned over to Trane Choro and said we might have to just call the lesson because she wasn't going to accept anything we were going to say; I felt she just wanted to argue. She also said the church was too strict and that they expect too much.

After she finished, she asked me in a very angry  tone, what it means when it talks about the straight and narrow path and enduring to the end. I answered that I felt it was keeping our covenants, as well as striving to become like Christ throughout our entire lives. Throughout the lesson, we used President Monson's talk "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet" and Elder Renlund's talk "Latter Day Saints are Sinners Who Keep on Trying". We talked that because we are all imperfect, we need to strive to follow the perfect example that Christ set, as well as letting others do the same while showing love, patience, and understanding. We then testified how much the gospel meant to us, how it was the biggest treasure you could have. I told her that she had found the world's greatest treasure three years ago and that she didn't need to throw it away over something so small as this. It shouldn't matter what other people are doing, only your commitment and love to God and Christ. 

After sharing those thoughts and experiences, the attitude of the whole lesson changed. Trane Choro was crying, I was crying a bit, and even she was crying. She definitely felt the spirit. So after almost calling the lesson because of her horrible attitude, the spirit quickly changed the atmosphere and it ended up being one of the most spiritual lessons of my mission. Unfortunately, when I called her a few days later, she said she still feels there are people who are insincere and aren't following in Christ's footsteps, so she won't come to church until they apologize and change. So, I'm thinking we have done what we can, we literally bore our souls to her; it's now up to her to soften her heart or not. We will still continue to meet with her and help her feel the spirit, but other than that, I don't really know.

One cool thing happened on Wednesday. We were housing and we didn't have much time so we decided to knock on one last door and this scary looking lady with piercings all over her face answered the door. She actually turned out to be way nice and she believes in God and Jesus Christ. She accepted a Book of Mormon and said we could come back next week! Yay! Hopefully that turns into something good.

Thursday was way good. We had a zone Conference in Morioka with President and Sister Smith. We talked a lot about the Book of Mormon and the converting power it has and how we should use it as a main source in our teaching. It was cool to go to the conference with questions I had been pondering and have them answered throughout the conference. One of them was answered very directly. Since the family we're teaching can't understand the Book of Mormon at all, I was wondering how we could help them overcome that and come to realize that the book will bless their lives. Apparently, the father had quite the rough time with even the first few verses in 1 Nephi 1. 

Another question was why is 1 Nephi 1 the first chapter in the book? Why have investigators start from there? Well in the conference, we had a two hour session about these very topics. We went through the first chapter, picking apart each verse. President Smith pointed out doctrines and insights that can be learned from each verse in the chapter. It introduces the importance of families, prophets, God answering prayers. revelation, etc. It was way cool to see all of the things I hadn't realized when I read that chapter. I now understand why we have investigators read from the start, and to help them understand, we should read it along with them. It was a way cool conference. The spirit was really strong and as always, when President Smith taught, I felt a reassurance that he is called of God and his guidance of the mission is how God would do it. At the end of the meeting, we had a testimony session and I was able to bear mine. It was a really good, uplifting meeting.

Friday was solid as well. We had a lot of finding time so we spent a lot of the day streeting. Usually, streeting is pretty hard here because there usually isn't anyone in the street ever, but this time there were some people walking around here and there. We were able to pass out six Books of Mormon in like an hour which is unusually high for this area recently. You are lucky to see six people period! So that was pretty cool to be able to do. Plus on top of that, we were able to meet with a college kid I met on the street a few weeks ago and teach him, making him a new investigator!! Yay! He seems pretty interested. He believes in God and had some questions about prayer! I'm excited to teach him.

The rest of the week consisted of Halloween. Since me as a missionary has little time as well as few resources, my costume this year wasn't the best. I ended up wearing a Peyton Manning jersey and putting some war lines with marker on my face. That was about it. The party was solid though. We had a great turnout with some Ekaiwa students and investigators coming as well as all of the members. We played some Halloween games and just had a good time. They definitely don't celebrate Halloween like we do in America, but it was still fun.

Well, that's about it. It was a fun week with some intense lessons and some Halloween fun. I can't believe it's already November. I feel like it was just yesterday when I was in the MTC last November. I sure hope you guys have a great time with the approaching holiday season! I love you all and you're in my prayers! Talk to you next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Our trip down the river

Our river guide who serenaded us.

A branch member made this for the party. I guess it's from a movie 
that came out while I've been on my mission. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Winter is quickly approaching and happy Halloween!

October 26, 2015: Week 52
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Trane Choro

Hey everyone! I can't believe it's pday again! This week kind of flew by for some reason. It sounds like your week was way good. Mom and Dad, you're an inspiration to me with your diligent workout routine! I can't wait to join you when I'm back because I need more cardio! Everyone's Halloween plans sounds fun. I can't wait to see what Avery and Dax look like in their costumes! We are doing a Halloween party here, but I have no idea what to do for it with regards to a costume. We will figure something out last minute! That's also a bummer the Halloween train ride is done; I loved that thing. 

My week was pretty good, I'll try to recap it the best I can!

Tuesday was way fun. I got to go on splits with one of my zone leaders, Elder Aono, who may be the nicest Japanese missionary I've ever met. I got to work in Morioka for the day which was way fun, especially because I usually work in the small town of Kitakami where it seems that no one lives here at times. It was fun working in a city for a time. We visited a less active and his non member wife in their apartment. Their relationship is a little rocky. I guess they got in a full on fight last time the missionaries were there, so we taught about charity. We showed a Mormon message called "enduring love" which is about showing love and caring for one another, then we testified of the pure love of Christ and how they can receive it and be blessed with it through prayer. The wife was touched and was crying. I hope it helped them. 

Later, while we were streeting, Elder Aono was talking to this college student about the Book of Mormon when this older guy approaches me and asked me if I was a Mormon and if I was from Utah. I answered affirmatively and he told me he had met missionaries 30 years ago and he said he has been interested in Mormonism for a long time. We started talking to him and at first we were thinking this guy was golden, but slowly, that excitement turned to "wow this dude is crazy". He lives in the mountains all by himself with no electricity or anything like that. He's like a hermit, mountain man. He started asking us if we believed we can heal people and bless people. We answered that we have the priesthood and stuff. He then tells us that he can heal people and he offered to heal Aono Choro's sprained ankle. We were like " okay let's get out of here!" Elder Aono politely declined and we made an excuse to leave. 

It was a fun split. I was the only English speaker in the apartment with 3 Japanese elders and we had a ton of fun. It was great not using any English all day. I've missed having a Japanese missionary in my apartment. 

While I was gone, Elder Trane taught the Gando family with the other ZL. I guess it went pretty well. They couldn't understand the Book of Mormon at all and the Holy Ghost really confused them, but they still want us to teach them. They're really interested in the plan of salvation so we will teach them that next time. We are still excited about them.

On Saturday night, we got invited to go play basketball with an Ekaiwa student and his friends. We thought it would be a good opportunity to meet new people so we went. Holy cow! After a year of being out, all of my athletic ability has gone out the door. I felt so slow and everything I did felt so awkward and un-athletic. I made a few good plays, but it's all gone. I'm going to work so hard to get that back when I get back, mark my words!

And lastly, we had a pretty good sacrament meeting yesterday with some pretty good talks. Elder Trane had to speak and it was actually pretty good. He did it on forgiveness. He gave me his talk to help translate and read over and after looking at it, I told him it might not last his given time. So he found a missionary book filled with Japanese proverbs and put all of the ones that had to do with forgiveness in there. It was so funny when he started saying them in his talk. Slowly, the congregation started laughing harder and harder. I guess it actually made sense and flowed through the talk; it's just that the proverbs are very difficult Japanese. It was fun. 

There was one talk that impressed me a lot. It was given by probably one of my favorite people I've ever met in my mission named Brother Seiko. He just got up and testified how much the gospel meant to him and how valuable it was to him. He said something along the lines of even if he was the richest man in the world and didn't have the gospel, he would actually be the poorest man in the world. He testified how much the gospel is a treasure to him, and how the moments he is happiest is when he is either with the missionaries being taught or studying together, or helping them in joints and things like that. His talk gave me another reminder how blessed we are to have it in our lives. It really is a "treasure" and it is of the greatest value. It was a great talk, and one that really needed to be heard by a few of the members who told me the are thinking of going less active over small little things. That's one thing I've come to realize over this past year, is the need to cling and grasp to the gospel because it is a treasure.

Well that is the gist of what went on this week. It's starting to get really cold over here. We haven't pulled out the heaters yet for some reason, so our apartment is freezing at night and in the morning. And Halloween is coming up! Any fun plans? It's weird to think I was in the MTC last Halloween. I really miss normal Halloween, dressing up like Hansel and doing fun stuff. Oh well, this is fun too!

Sorry for the short time, we are going down to Ichinoseki with the other missionaries to go see a cave and take a boat ride down this cool river gorge. Should be pretty cool with he changing leaves! I hope you all have a great week! I love you all! You're in my prayers. Have a happy Halloween!!

p.s. My scripture of the week is Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

God doesn't care who we once were; he cares about who we are going to be. It's easy to look back and beat ourselves up over dumb things or screw ups we have had, but if we learned what we needed to learn, we must look forward to the future with faith and press forward! 

Have a great week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Us with the ZL's and an investigator

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hump Day and Rotten Tofu (Don't eat if it smells like yogurt!)

October 19, 2015: Week 52
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Trane Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear from you guys! Thanks for the hump day package Mom! I loved the Kneaders pumpkin bread and the American cereal! It has been way too long! I loved it! And thanks for the videos, pictures and letters. I love getting those.

Yep, I passed my hump day this week! It's hard to believe it's been a year since I walked into the MTC as a freaking out 18 year old. I'm soooo happy that day is over. It feels good to be on the downhill though, even though it's sad how fast it will go by. But nevertheless, I'll be stepping off that plane about a year from now!

This week wasn't super crazy. Not a ton really happened so I'm kind of struggling to find interesting things to tell you. I'll try my best though.

It's starting to get pretty cold over here in Kitakami. We just pulled out the big heavy duty heaters; we have been using this cheap small one, but it broke unfortunately, so we have been freezing our ears off in the mornings. I don't know if I'm ready for another northern Japan winter, they are soooo cold and snowy! But hey, I only have to do it one more time. Wahoo!

Let's see....

On Tuesday, we went to a neighboring town called Rokuhara to visit a less active family. Let me tell you, this was the sketchiest town of all time. We got off and the station was like a tiny little hut with no one there, and the street leading from the station was surrounded by empty apartments being taken over by vines and stuff. It was the sketchiest place I've seen so far in Japan. I felt like I was walking in a zombie apocalypse. It was way weird. We enjoyed it though. We eventually found the house and the lady answered the door. She told me that her family relationships have gone down the hole, that there is no love in her house, and they've even talked about divorce. She admitted that the spirit wasn't in their home because they aren't going to church and doing those things that bring the spirit. I scrambled and opened to Moroni 7 and taught her about charity and how we can receive it. It was sort of intense. We encouraged her to apply that scripture as well as doing those things that will bring the spirit into their home. This Tuesday, I'll be on splits, so Elder Trane and one of the ZLs are going to give her a blessing. I hope everything works out for that family. It's sad to see how Satan works to rip families apart.

Wednesday was pretty fun. We were able to see an investigator who told me a few weeks ago she couldn't meet for a while for some reason. We decided to heart attack her door. We wrote a bunch of stuff on a ton of sticky notes and covered her door with them. It was a lot of fun. Then since we had some time, we housed around the area. But we made the mistake of leaving our bikes by her house and when got back to retrieve them, she was out picking the notes off her door. We tried to be sneaky and get the bikes without her noticing, but we got caught pretty fast. We got to talk to her for a while. We still have a good relationship; she says she's just been pretty sick lately. She was way stoked about us heart attacking her. She thought it was way funny that is a thing in America.

Later that night after Ekaiwa, we taught a mom and her high school age daughter really quickly. We tried using these pamphlets the church is trying with our mission that explains what to expect when meeting with missionaries. It wasn't the greatest lesson. We were super rushed for time and they didn't seem too adherent to the message. I think it kind of freaked them out. I think they're only interested in English, so that was a bummer, but at least we tried!

Thursday was my hump day! It was fun to open the package and have some American snacks. I'm telling you, if I was serving in America, I would gain so much weight. We didn't really have time to do anything special for my hump day on Thursday. It was a pretty busy day. That night, I made some stuff using tofu and I knew it was a little old, but I thought it would be okay, even though it smelled like yogurt for some reason. That was a huge mistake! Don't eat expired tofu!! Especially if it smells like yogurt!! We were feeling pretty sick the rest of the week due to that.

On Friday, we had a good District Meeting in Ichinoseki. We talked a lot about faith. Recently, Elder Ballard asked another mission why Japan isn't baptizing more. People starting saying that it's a Buddhist country and that they don't like religion and things like that. He fired back telling them that those were just excuses. He said we need more faith in this country. It kind of hit us because it's not news that Japan is pretty low in baptisms and "success" and it's not news that it's a Buddhist nation and they don't really like Christianity. But it was a wake up call to have more faith. It was a cool meeting, talking about how we can grow in and show faith through obedience, opening our mouth, and doing our best. I don't know if I'll see a baptism here or not, but I hope to say when I'm done that I tried my best and I worked faithfully.

Last night was definitely the highlight of the week. A family in our branch invited us over for family home evening with another member. First of all, this family is the funniest family in Japan by far. They aren't a typical Japanese family at all. Their house isn't typical Japanese either. It's like a cozy, messy, log cabin that you'd find up in the Uintahs in Utah. It was so much fun to spend time with some of my favorite members that I've met in Japan. Sister Takahashi is great! Her English is pretty good and she is so loud and talkative, which is a complete opposite of a Japanese person! Needless to say, it was a way fun night. We got to share a spiritual message using Saran wrap and wrapping someone up. It was a great night. I'll miss that family a ton when I transfer.

That's about it from this week! It's beautiful over here with the changing leaves, but the daunting feeling of the approaching winter is lingering..... Wish me luck! Also, Halloween is approaching! I remember having a small dance party in our room in the MTC last year on Halloween. You guys planning on doing something fun!? I don't think Halloween is a huge deal here. We are in the middle of planning a Halloween party with the Takahashi kids for the branch, which should be fun. Make sure to listen to Monster Mash and Thriller while eating sugar cookies this season for me and I'll be back to spend it with the you guys next time! Have a good week guys! Love you all! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

p.s. My ponderize scripture is 1 Nephi 21: 13-16

13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who
are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O
mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath
comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord
hath forgotten me--but he will show that he hath not.

15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have
compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I
not forget thee, O house of Israel.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls
are continually before me.

Christ will never forsake us! He has the prints and scars to prove it!

This a cool wall we found in Hanamaki the other night.
No idea why 
it's there, but it's pretty cool.