Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I was a Sea Man!.................I was a Sea Man!

June 15, 2015: Week 34
Area: Izumi

Companion:  Hirano Choro

Hey Everyone! How are all of you doing!? It sounds like you all had a great week! I loved Matthew's and Erin's pictures and videos! They were awesome. I miss seeing those mountains, and also Erin's cute kids! 

My week was pretty good; it was kind of a whirlwind with all of the change. It was weird transferring so quickly, but with that, I'll try to recap the highlights of the week.

So with us transferring, Hill Choro  and I had to quickly say goodbye to as many people as we could, so we spent Tuesday doing that. We went to say bye to Ujie Shimai which was a good time. Even though she was frustrating to teach because she believed that all churches are A Okay, it was fun to meet with her. She told us to come visit Furukawa with our kids when we are older, but hopefully before she is dead. She also randomly gave us some corn on the cob, which was cool I guess.

Wednesday, we packed up our stuff and went to Sendai for transfers. Before meeting at the church, we went to this sushi place where you sit around this conveyer belt and grabbed sushi that you wanted to try. It was pretty good, pricey though. After that, we went to the church to meet our companions. I got to see Canepari Choro; he was transferring out of Hirosaki. He said all of our investigators are still eternal and they won't progress at all. That was a bummer to hear. Then I met Hirano Choro and we took the subway to Izumi. Izumi is way pretty with a lot of trees and stuff, but it also has a ton of hills! My thighs are going to get in great shape riding bikes up those all summer long! And the apartment is way nice too; it's pretty big.

Thursday was pretty boring. The Elders here are pretty behind on putting in records into the iPad, so we spent most of the day doing that and updating me on the new area. So not a whole lot going on there.

Friday was pretty cool though. They go to a Japanese class here with a bunch of other foreigners who live in Izumi (and there are a lot of them). But last week they had a cooking activity, so we went and made a bunch of food from different countries. I made some gyouza and sushi which was pretty fun. The lady who is in charge of it though was pretty annoying. She apparently doesn't trust our Japanese at all, so she will always talk to us in super broken English which doesn't make any sense. After the meal, she told us in Japanese we owed her 300 yen, but then tried to explain it for like 3 minutes in broken English, which we didn't understand at all. Oh well.

Later that day, we did this service thing which ended up being pretty hilarious. So, Hirano Choro and his last companion every week would volunteer at this old person home and talk to them and just help out,  so we did that. There's like 10 or so super old Japanese grandmas there and we talked to them and played games. But now I'll get to the thing that will explain the title of this email. There's this one guy, probably in his early 70's there too. After the game, I sat down and talked to him for a while. I learned very quickly that he had crazy bad short term memory loss. Apparently, back in his young days, he was an engineer for a shipping company. so he was a sea man. The first thing he told me was "I was a sea man!" I was like "Oh that's way cool, where have you been?" and things like that. We would be talking about that kind of stuff for maybe a minute or two, and then he'd get this blank stare and look at me and say "I was a Sea Man! Chief Engineer of a big shipping company". I was a little confused, but I just rolled with it. This probably happened 20 to 30 times! It was ridiculous! I felt like I was in Groundhog day, living the same day over and over again. I got to the point where I knew exactly what he would say next and I would try to beat him to it. It was a great time, I had a lot of fun with it! The guy was way nice, he's just super crazy! So I get to do that once a week. That should be way fun. I was a Sea Man!!

Later that night, we got to go to a play of Cinderella. There is an American family from Herriman in the branch here. The dad, Brother Chapman, is a pilot for a Japanese airline. Their three kids are going to an international school and they had a showing of Cinderella which their kids were in. It was way fun. I felt like I was in America again. There were a ton of white people there; it was kind of weird. I'm not used to that. It was a pretty fun time. Riding home in the pouring rain wasn't so fun of a time....

Sunday was pretty good. The ward here is a pretty solid size and we have the biggest church building in the mission. It was fun to be in a normal chapel again with benches and people actually sitting in them. The members are way nice and there are lots of youth and kids so its pretty fun, and the Chapman family is way cool too. It's fun having an American family in the ward. They come every week, but we have to follow them around so we can translate for them during all three meetings. We are going to their house on Tuesday! I got to speak in Sacrament meeting again. (I've been doing that a lot recently.) It went pretty well. It was a little scarier doing it in front of a big crowd, but it was good. Then we got to go with Luke Chapman, their younger kid to his classes. I got to attend primary, which was a riot. Japanese kids are crazy!

Yeah that was my week! I'm excited to serve here hopefully for a little while. Our situations with our investigators are a little weak (we only have one and he knows the bible really well,) but he believes that we don't need commandments or laws. We met with him, but it was kind of hard for me to follow along with conversation so well because I'm not used to having a Japanese companion. (They we were talking about some deep stuff). So hopefully we can build this area up a little bit.

I hope you guys have a great week! I love and miss you!! Till next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Us with Ujie Shimai

Cinderella Carriage 

With investigator in Furukawa 

Furukawa rice fields

Farewell to the "Old River"

June 8, 2015: Week 33
Area: Furukawa

Companion:  Hill Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear from you guys. Well it's another new week and the start of a new transfer! And to my great surprise, after only 6 weeks in Furukawa, I'm transferring again! The area is going down to 2 missionaries so me and Elder Hill are transferring, Elder Olsen is going home, and Elder Hanson is staying. I'm going to Izumi which is about an hour away from Furukawa. It's right outside of downtown Sendai, so I'm in more of the suburban part of Sendai. I've driven through it once and it looks way pretty and like a fun area. Elder Hanson served there when he came to Japan and he loved it, so I'm pretty excited. Also, I'm getting my first Japanese companion! His named is Elder Hirano and I think he is about 5 transfers ahead of me. So it looks like I'll be throwing away English for a while. I'm a little nervous, but I'm also way excited; it'll help me a lot I think.

Man with all that happened this weekend, I can't really remember what happened the rest of the week, but I'll try my best.

Tuesday, we met with Chiba Yuya San. We are getting the feel that he's nervous to come to church because most of the members are pretty old and he is in his thirties, so we got Brother Iwabuchi, who is his age, to joint. It went surprisingly well. We taught about the priesthood and the sacrament and he testified really well. Chiba Yuya told us he would come to church this week, but he didn't show up, so that was kind of a bummer. All he needs to do to get baptized is go to church, but he hasn't been so I don't know when that would happen. I was hoping we could get it done before I left, but oh well. 

After that, we taught Kanno San. We decided to be a little bold with him because he told us he believes in the Book of Mormon, but he still won't come to church, even though he lives across the street from it. We shared the scripture in Mosiah saying "if ye believe in these things, see that you do them" and talked about the blessings of obedience. We then invited him to church and he said no again. We pretty much begged him to try coming, but he said he won't, so I don't know what's up with that. 

Thursday was good. We went to teach a less active named Ujie Shimai, but when we got there, she wasn't home so we housed around for a while until she got back. We tried helping this way old grandma doing stuff in her yard, but she turned out to be a crazy lady so that was kind of fun. Then we went back to teach the less active. She went off asking why we keep the word of wisdom and why us young people keep commandments. There's a rule that if there is only one female in the house, elders can't go past the genkan. We told her that but she kept insisting that it was fine, that she was a grandma and not a temptation! We taught her about the plan of salvation.

After that lesson, we went to the Eki to hand out Books of Mormon. It went pretty well; we only had three and we got them all out in like 10 minutes. One guy who I talked to said he was kind of interested, so hopefully, something happens with that.

Friday, we had zone training meeting in Sendai. We heard some awesome trainings on goal setting, pride, and teaching to needs. I learned I'm awful at setting goals and focusing on goals, so I decided to recommit myself and use goals to help me grow. It was a good conference. I also realized that I'm not using PMG enough and I haven't been reading it as much as I should, so I'm getting back to studying it everyday.

Saturday, we taught Uno San with Yamauchi Kyoudai as a joint. We taught the last half of the plan of salvation and it went well. It was kind of hard for him to understand, but he was asking good, even some pretty deep questions. Uno San is doing really well.

Sunday was our last Sunday in Furukawa. It was kind of a crazy day. A family who lives in Lehi came to church. The mom grew up here, married an American missionary and they came with their sons to visit their grandma. One of the sons leaves next month on his mission to Fukuoka. Since the mom, after living in American for more than 10 years, can't speak English all that well, the kids are basically fluent in Japanese. They were way cool though. But then me and the other two were able to bear our testimonies. We didn't really have a ton of time so they were really short and simple, but they went well.

Furukawa was fun, but it is a pretty tiny, run down area with not a lot going on. I'm pretty sad to leave our few investigators, especially Uno San. He came to church yesterday and he's starting to progress a lot; hopefully he'll continue to progress while we are gone. It's pretty weird leaving already; I barely even know Furukawa or even the members that well, but they're good people. It nuts I'm leaving so fast but I'm way excited for my new area and the new experiences I'll have. I love you guys! Have a great week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I can't come up with anything creative, sorry....

June 1, 2015: Week 32
Area: Furukawa

Companion:  Hill Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear from you guys! Sounds like you all had a good week. I wish I could have been there to go on a jeeping adventure with you; I miss those a ton. Can you believe it's already June!? It's nuts that it's been a year since I graduated. That felt like yesterday. I still feel like an immature 15 year old kid, not a year out of high school! Anyway...

My week was pretty good. We saw some good things happen with our investigators and got to do an odd service project, which was pretty interesting. I'll tell you some of the highlights. Sorry, this email probably won't be as exciting as last week cause last week was pretty nuts, but I'll try my best to make it interesting.

Well, like I told you last week, since we were busy attending a cremation, we did some of our pday stuff on Tuesday, so we didn't have a ton of time to work. It was kind of a slower day; everyone we tried to visit wasn't home and every door we knocked on rejected us pretty fast, so not a whole lot to report on that one.

Wednesday, I got to do the famous Furukawa service project. I've heard about it from the other missionaries, that it's really "fun," but they would never tell me what it was, just that we did it once a month. It turned out that it is going to a care center for handicapped Japanese people and we entertain them with some other volunteers for an hour. It was a pretty interesting experience. We sang some Japanese songs that little kids sing in school, danced around and played games. My favorite guy there was this mega obese dude who is a spitting image of Rauz (I don't know how to spell that) from Monsters Inc.; you know that old slug lady who ends up being an undercover agent. The guy would always make these sounds that sounded just like her. It was hard for me to not just bust out laughing every time I heard him talk. It was a good time I guess, just a little weird and awkward. I'll probably be able to do that a couple more times before my time in Furukawa is finished.

The rest of the day was kind of tough. I was kind of in a bad mood because we were trying to visit a bunch of less actives, but they all told us to leave or their house didn't exist anymore. One thing we get sometimes here is when we approach a door and the person sees us, they give us the "batsu" sign which is making an X with your arms. We got that a few times too. It was kind of a frustrating day. It was just one of those days.

The next day was pretty awesome though. I had splits with Elder Hanson. He is in his 7th transfer, so he is still relatively new, but we were able to do some awesome things. We didn't have any appointments, so we had a bunch of finding time. We decided to go to the front of the station to try to talk to people. The first guy we approached was way nice. Elder Hanson's approach was telling him that I was still pretty new in Japan and I needed to practice my Japanese, so we asked if we could tell him about ourselves a little bit. It was cool. The guy is actually an interpreter for the military, so his English was decent. We got to know him a bit and I taught him some of the first lesson and gave him a Book of Mormon. He lives in Misawa so he won't be our investigator, but hopefully, he finds them up there. Later, we were able to do the same thing with a girl in a nearby park. At the end of the day as we were about to head home, we started talking to this 18 year old kid who was pretty cool. We got his contact info and the other elders are going to teach him this week, so we may have found a new investigator! It was a way cool day; even though we are both young and didn't really know what we were doing and our language skills aren't amazing, we tried to talk to everyone and were able to find some success. It was pretty awesome.

On Friday, we were finally able to meet with Chiba Yuya San. He has been in Tokyo so we haven't been able to contact him, but fortunately, we finally got to teach him. He said he still wants to be baptized, but still won't come to church. So hopefully, we can help him exercise some faith and come to church and trust his that job will be okay.

We were able to teach Uno San again on Saturday. We taught him the first half of the plan of salvation and it went pretty well. He has a hard time understanding the Book of Mormon because he's pretty old, but he asked us how long before he will know that the church is true. At first, he didn't really care about finding if it was true or not; he just wanted to study the Bible, but he told us that now, he really wants to learn if this is the true church. He is progressing really well and he said he'll try to come to church this week, so we are pretty excited about him.

While I was on splits, the other elders taught our investigator, Kanno San. He said he believes in everything we taught him and that the Book of Mormon is true, but he said he still won't come to church, although he lives right across the street from it. We don't know what's up with that; hopefully we can help him to have a desire to come.

The weekend was pretty uneventful. We had Stake Conference Saturday and Sunday in Sendai. It was way cool to see all of the stake members gathered in one meeting. I haven't seen a congregation that big since I left home. I'm used to having 15 people at church, so it was awesome to see. The talks were pretty good, at least the parts I understood. They talked a lot about keeping the sabbath day holy and taking the sabbath more seriously because that is kind of a problem in Japan. There were some good meetings.

Well that's about it. Sorry that this week was kind of boring compared to last week. It was a good week though; we were able to see success with some investigators and talk to some cool people. I hope you have a good week! Love you guys! Talk to you next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cremations and barbecues: just a normal Memorial Day....

May 25, 2015: Week 31
Area: Furukawa

Companion:  Hill Choro

What's up everybody!! Sorry I wasn't able to email yesterday; some unexpected stuff went down and we didn't have time during pday so today is pday sort of. I'll get to it a little later, but yesterday may have been one of the most interesting days of my life. I love Japan, but things here are just so different. 

This week was good; some interesting things happened. We lost an investigator unfortunately. Miyamoto Atsuko actually wants to get baptized and she was doing well. But we went to visit her last week and she said she had been talking to a friend who just happened to be an old investigator. Her friend told her that she thinks that our investigator's 40 year old daughter won't be able to get married because if our investigator has religious ties, it would scare off the men for some reason. So she told us that she is done taking lessons and she's gonna wait till her daughter gets married....So that was a big bummer.

On Wednesday, we went to Sendai again for Zone 大会 and we were able to receive a training from President and Sister Smith. It was really good. President is really looking to pick this mission up because it's not seeing a ton of success. He said our focus is to try to teach as many lessons as we can to whoever, members, LAs, investigators, etc, and throughout my mission, he will slowly raise the standard as the mission starts to see more success. Sister Smith talked about believing that we can baptize. And to be honest, our mission kind of struggles with that because we aren't seeing a ton of success and it's sorta frustrating so it's easy to lose that faith sometimes. But we all recommitted and are trying our best to reach our goals and to pick up this mission and find some success in bringing others unto Christ.

Thursday, I went on splits with Elder Olsen. It was a good time; he's a way good missionary and a cool guy. I'm sad he's going home in two weeks. We visited some less actives that day and we were able to get a lesson with all of them. Elder Olsen's technique was telling the LA that I'm a new missionary and that I need to practice teaching a principle. So I ended up teaching prayer like 4 times in 2 hours. It was a good time though; the people we visited were way nice.

On Saturday, we had a good lesson with Uno San. We taught him the restoration and it went great. He was asking all sorts of good questions. And every time he asked one, it would always lead into what we were going to talk about next, so it worked out great. He always apologizes to us, because he's pretty old so his pace is sort of slow, but he really wants to learn. At the end of the lesson, he asked Heavenly Father to help him so that he can believe in the message. It was pretty cool. I love being able to teach the restoration, it's my favorite lesson to teach, to help them realize that there is a God that exists and loves them, and that is something that a lot of Japanese people have no idea about or never even thought of.

Now to the interesting part of the week. A less active that I only met like once died on Friday, which is really sad. He's had hepatitis for a while and was given like a year to live, so it was a little expected. Anyway, we were starting personal study yesterday and we got a call from the branch president saying they needed help to move his casket into the van. We ended having to go to his cremation too. It's a law in Japan to be cremated; you have to be when you die. So we had to lift the casket onto a gurney type thing and slide it into a big body burner after which they had a little Buddhist ceremony. We sat in this "funeral home" for like two hours waiting for the body to cremate. In the meantime, we strolled through the Japanese cemetery across the street. Now here is where it got kind of gross and weird to me. I didn't know this was Japanese tradition, but when the body is done being cremated, everyone gathers around the gurney where this guys body use to be, except all that remains are his bones and stuff. After you gather round, everyone is given some long chopsticks and you then proceed to pick up this freshly burned man's bones with chopsticks and put them in a container along with his ashes!!! So I had the opportunity to participate in that little practice. Let me tell ya, it one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I went from meeting this man for the first time a week ago, to picking up his burnt skeleton with chopsticks! On top of that, with my not so awesome chopstick skills, I was afraid I'd drop this guy's bones and someone would get mad at me or something. It was quite the experience I'd say.

After that, that really nice family with the rice fields invited us over for a yanki niku barbecue. Hill Choro and I weren't going to go, but only a woman came to pick the others up and since two elders can't ride in a car with one female, we had to go too. It was way fun though. We had all sorts of different meats and traditional Japanese food. We also had this stuff called takoyaki, which is little balls with octopus in them, which was way good too. They again treated us like celebrities and that we were the coolest people ever. It was really  fun! What are the odds that my first Memorial Day away from America, I still end up attending a cremation, strolling through a cemetery, and having a barbecue with a way cool family! It's like I never left. Just a normal Memorial Day!

Well, that was my week. Some good things and not so good things happened missionary work wise, and had a first hand experience with some Japanese culture that probably no missionary has ever done on his mission. It was pretty interesting. Well I hope you guys have an awesome week! I love you guys! I hope you enjoy the beginning of summer! Talk to you next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Memorial Day Barbecue

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

World Records and Rice Fields

May 18, 2015: Week 30
Area: Furukawa

Companion:  Hill Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear from you! And it was absolutely awesome being able to Skype with you guys last week. I loved being able to see you and hear your voices! It made my whole week!

My week was good I guess; it had its ups and downs. The week started off with a boom though with my first earthquake!! It was pretty crazy. The other elders were in Sendai, so it was just me and my comp to experience it. It happened around 6:15 in the morning. I started to hear this alarm from the cell phone and I was thinking it was just our alarm to wake up. But then we started feeling the shaking, so I woke up and was aware of things real fast. It was actually pretty strong too. It started out kind of soft, but it all of a sudden intensified and got bigger. It was a little freaky because it was my first time feeling an earthquake. We were all fine though, nothing bad happened. But like we guessed, no one really cared about it because they feel earthquakes all the time, and it was nowhere near as strong as the one in 2011. So yeah, good way to start the week.

Then Tuesday, Elder Hill  and I probably set a world wide mission record, and it's not a record that you want. We went to follow up house a big block of apartments that we had posted a few days earlier. NOT ONE PERSON ANSWERED THE DOOR! After we were done, we counted how many doors we knocked on and it was easily over forty apartments. It was ridiculous. We would hear people in some of the apartments, but no one would come to the door. It was pretty crazy. I think it's a record for most doors knocked on in a row without anyone answering. Also, we taught our investigator Kano San on his door step. We thought he was progressing really well and had promise because he has already read up to Mosiah and he keeps our commitments. We were teaching faith and repentance and then he suddenly told us that he has no interest in converting and being baptized, that he is Buddhist, and the only reason he's meeting with us is that he likes to study other religions. We told him that we knew this would bless his life and bring happiness, but he said he's Buddhist. It was pretty disappointing. We are still going to visit him and teach him, but that was a big set back. We will keep working with him though.

Then, our investigator, Chiba San, who had a baptism date didn't come to church again and we called him a million times this week, but he never answered so we couldn't meet with him. Also, our other two investigators that we set appointments with called and canceled on us so that was a bummer. Also, we set up appointments with a few less actives this week. We showed up to the church and waited for them to come to the church for a lesson, but they never showed up. So we got stood up 3 times this week too. Sorry to be a little negative, but it was kind of a bummer of a week for us.

One funny thing that happened last night was when we were doing some more housing.  This kid answered the door, so I asked if his parents were home and he said they weren't. So, I asked him if he was learning English in school and he said he was, so I invited him to Eikaiwa and gave him a flyer. He seemed excited and closed the door. After the door was closed for a few seconds, he opened it again and told us our Japanese was very good and shut the door again. It was kinda funny.

We got a pretty weird rejection last night too. Elder Hill told him who we were and what we were doing. He asked us if we were Christian and we said yes. He then got this way stern look on his face and yelled at us to get off his porch. But the weird thing was that he used a very polite, humble form of Japanese. So even when you are getting yelled at to get out of here, they still might be sort of polite about it. He politely told us in a yelling tone to get out of his sight. It was kinda funny.

We were able to do something really cool on Friday. The other two have an investigator who owns a bunch of rice fields way out of the city near the mountains and they invited us to go work in the rice fields! So, we ride our bikes around an hour to their house and helped them with the rice fields for a few hours. It was way cool and the people were incredibly nice. One had a video camera out and they were filming everyone and having us introduce ourselves in the camera. They were way excited we were there. Afterwards, they invited us into their way big and traditional Japanese house for lunch. They fed us all sorts of sushi, beef, and curry. It was so good. Even a small earthquake happened while we were eating too, which was kind of exciting. They had a cool, traditional type of table where you still sit on the ground, but below the table was a big hole to put your feet in. I felt very Japanese. It was pretty funny because they were all pounding alcohol and one of the guys was slowly getting more drunk as it went on. By the time we left, he was hammered. He came up to me and shouted "Diddy!" And hugged me and said goodbye. It was pretty weird. When we left, they treated us like celebrities, taking our pictures and kept giving us a bunch of food. It was a heroes send off, except we didn't really do anything heroic. They gave us each an expensive steak, hamburger meat, and a drink to take home. It was crazy, I felt so special! They want to have us back for a barbecue when Elder Olsen has to leave. I was pretty lucky though. Not very many missionaries get the chance to work in the rice fields of Japan.

So there's my week. It had its good points and not so good points, but we are keeping a good attitude and working hard. I can't believe we are already half way through the transfer and almost into June! It's nuts! I hope you have a great week and that the weather clears up so you can enjoy some summer fun! I love you guys! Have a great week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen