Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Rats! I Have No Time!!

August 24, 2015: Week 44
Area: Kitakami

Companions:  Uehara Choro and Morris Choro

Hey everyone! This past week kind of flew by. Sorry I don't really have a whole lot of time today. My Pday was kind of crazy and we lost most of our time. Saturday morning, right after we woke up, we got a call from President Smith. Everyone knows when your mission president calls you that early in the morning, something is up. So apparently, one of the APs is going home early for school, meaning they need to have the new AP a week early. So the Aomori ZL became AP and one of one of my companions got emergency transferred to Aomori. Because of that, we have been to Morioka today dropping off my companion, so it's been kind of a crazy week. Now it's me and Elder Morris left in Kitakami for another week until we have transfer calls. I'm a little nervous because it's my first time being the more experienced missionary in a companionship. It should be interesting. Hopefully, I don't burn Kitakami to the ground!

My week was pretty good. I'll have to think fast and give you some of the high points of the week. Tuesday, I went on splits in Kitakami with Elder Uehara and the Morioka zone leader, Elder Aono. It was a lot of fun. It's a little interesting to go streeting, especially as a three person companionship and me being the only American. Its pretty dang hard to enter a conversation! It was good though. We were able to hand out about 12 Books of Mormons in an hour, which is pretty good for Kitakami. I don't know if I usually see 12 people in a day! Just kidding, it's not that small.

Probably the highlight of the week was zone conference on Thursday. I love having zone conference and having the opportunity to hear from President and Sister Smith. Every time I hear President Smith talk, I know that he was called of God. In preparation for the conference, we read the Book of Moses. In the morning session, we talked a lot about the Plan of Salvation. President Smith taught and emphasized that each person on Earth accepted the Plan of Happiness in the pre-existence and our job as missionaries is to help them remember or come to know that. It gave us a great sense of realization that everyone on Earth are our brothers and sisters, but some of them weren't as lucky as us, being born without the gospel. So, it is our privilege as missionaries and members to help our brothers and sisters remember the choice they made before coming to Earth. 

Sister Smith talked about how we have the message of happiness and gladness and we should share it with gladness in our hearts and smiles on our faces. It was a very uplifting and inspiring meeting. It was a great day, except when we got home, I realized my iPad wasn't in my bag and that I had left it in the Morioka church. So now the zone leaders have it and I probably won't have it again until Sunday! Kind of a bummer...

Well that is probably about it. I'm sorry this is so short. I promise I'll be more exciting next week. Things in Kitakami are going well. I'm a little nervous for the upcoming week being an inexperienced senior companion and with transfer calls next week, but I'm excited to see what is in store! I love you guys! I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Japanese Holiday Obon

August 17, 2015: Week 43
Area: Kitakami

Companions:  Uehara Choro and Morris Choro

Hey everyone! 

I'm just gonna warn you guys in advance. This week was pretty uneventful, not a ton happened. A big reason was that this week was a Buddhist holiday called Obon. I remember when I was in Furukawa, Elder Hill warned me about missionary work during Obon. Now I understand why. All I know is that everyone's family gets together and they do Buddhist stuff like visiting the family grave and other stuff. I guess it's the festival of the dead. I don't really know, but I do know that it makes work pretty hard. The streets were pretty empty all week long. Kitakami almost felt like a ghost town where it had been abandoned at times. It was kind of weird. Also, housing didn't really work because Buddhist pride is real high and they're doing Obon stuff with family, so no one really talked to us. 

Another interesting part about Obon, is that on Saturday night, I don't really know what it was, but everywhere we went, everyone was playing this music that didn't sound Japanese at all. I think it was like from India or something. 

On Monday night, we rode the train down to Ichinoseki for splits because those elders are in our district. Morris Choro and I were with Elder Mitabi, who is also from Okinawa. As a matter of fact, he and my current companion are in the same ward and are best friends from before the mission. It was a fun split. Ichinoseki is a lot like Kitakami, it's kind of tiny and in the middle of nowhere. Basically, the zone I'm in right now, in Iwate and Akita prefecture, is the most country in the middle of nowhere area in the mission. 

Anyway, during the split on Tuesday, we rode out to a member's house who lives up the steepest hill in the world I'm pretty sure. After we trudged up that, we visited him for a little bit. This guy spoke the most difficult Japanese I've ever heard. I don't know what kind of dialect or accent he had, but I didn't understand a thing the entire time. It was crazy. We just looked at Elder Mitabi and told him to handle this one. He was hard to understand even for him. The man was way nice though. He brought us a bunch of food and kept telling us how nice it is to have us over because he's lonely. We shared a short message with him and then when we were about to leave, the doorbell rang and it was the pizza man bringing us pizza! It was pretty good; you don't really eat pizza at all in Japan so we were pretty excited. 

Then that night, we had a lesson with one of the Ichinoseki elders' investigator. We taught her the restoration and it went well, except she's kind of an eternal investigator so she's kind of hard to work with. One funny part was we were teaching about prayer and how we can actually talk to God and receive answers to questions. Someone asked her what questions she would seek answers for through prayer. I was hoping her response would be something along the lines of knowing that Christ was true or if God existed, but she said she wants to find out when she's gonna die. Well, I guess we all have our own interests and way of thinking. I thought that was pretty funny. 

Wednesday morning, we went to the station to meet up with Elders Hanson and Uehara to go back to Kitakami. Unfortunately, we messed up on train times and missed it. So, we sat at the station for an hour and planned for the days lessons. In the middle of planning, Elder Uehara all of a sudden realized that he left the open fire stove on in our apartment that morning. There was nothing we could do; we just had to sit there and hope that our apartment wasn't on fire. It was a low chance of happening probably, but still worrisome. It ended up being okay. Anyway...

On Saturday, we rode out to Hanamaki to visit some people out there. First, we tried to visit a less active, but she slammed the door in our face. Yay. Then we visited one of the members and gave a lesson to him. He's awesome. When we were about to leave, I asked if I could use the bathroom. The bathroom in his apartment ended up being a straight up outhouse. Just a hole in the ground. It was disgusting, I don't know how he can deal with that inside his house. That was just another count your blessings moment for me! I'm so thankful to have the things I have back at home. 

After that, we rode even further out to visit another less active. The ride there was absolutely gorgeous. It was in the middle of nowhere, but seeing the numerous amounts of tall rice fields with traditional Japanese style houses nestled in between was pretty awesome. And the blasting weird Indian music everywhere was just topping on the cake! We visited a less active. He is in his fifties, but actually served a mission. It's sad to see people who go less active after missionary service; I don't really understand how that happens. We talked to him for a bit about his mission and things like that. We asked him if we could pray together as we left, but he said no. It's sad after all of the things you experience and do as a missionary, and have that testimony falter and go away. It was sad to see that.

Oh yeah, and yesterday I gave a talk in church! It went pretty well, but get this, only like 9 people came to church yesterday. It was a super weird feeling. It's probably cause I was speaking! 

With no one being at church, we had no one to play the piano, so we had to sing a cappella. Now I realize why mom advised me to learn how to play the piano, being that in any situation a player was needed, I would be there to step in. Unfortunately, I didn't heed the warning. So with that, and me thinking about developing talents, I realized I need to become a more rounded person, more than someone who can just play basketball and tennis. So I decided when I get home next year, I'm going to find new talents and interests. I want to work on fixing cars and stuff with Dad and Matthew and learn how to play the guitar or piano from Mom; become more of a rounded individual. Anyway, that's my rant on special talents....

In my talk, I spoke on temples and family history. Studying about it really made me miss going to the temple. I loved the times me and Mom would go around to different temples and do endowment sessions. I really miss the beauty of the grounds and peace you feel inside. I'm super grateful to be from Utah where temples are so close. It's so hard for the members here in Tohoku to regularly go to the temple because they have to go to Tokyo, so I'm very grateful for where I come from. I'm grateful that through the priesthood and temples, I can be sealed to my family forever. It's a pretty amazing blessing, so I definitely look forward to being able to attend the temple again someday.

Well that's about it from me! It was a pretty slow week, but we had fun and got some good things done! I hope you guys have a great week! I can't believe summer is winding down! I love you guys! You're all in my prayers.

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Festival Season

August 10, 2015: Week 42
Area: Kitakami

Companions:  Uehara Choro and Morris Choro

Hey everyone! Wow! I can't believe it's already Monday again; this week was pretty fast. This weekend was the big festival here in Kitakami and the parts that we were able to see were pretty dang awesome. Japanese culture is pretty incredible; I've never experienced anything like it. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see a ton of it, but I'll get to that later.

Monday night, we had a joint lesson with our investigator. She believes in God,but is having trouble believing Christ is the son of God and is our Savior. We were talking about faith in Christ and it was going good, but then one of my comps invited her to baptism and and it kind of threw her off a bit. She fired back at my comp saying, "if a Buddhist missionary came to Utah and just said over and over that he knew it was true and then told you to convert to Buddhism, would you do it?" It turned pretty awkward and we just said we aren't forcing her to believe in anything, that we are here to teach her and it's up to her to make a choice. So we are going to just slow down and go at her pace. Even though it was an intense lesson, it ended fine and we were able to find her needs.

Tuesday was pretty solid. We met with a less active named who went less active a few months ago because she was offended by a member (who is also less active) and stopped coming to church. We taught her how through the atonement of Christ, he can take away the hurt and the pain and it can change us. She started to cry and told us how she felt and the hard times she's been having. It was a pretty cool lesson. 

Later in the day, we visited with a lady whom we are hoping will become a new investigator. She answered the door and right as we were about to teach her, her husband pulled into the driveway. We were kind of bummed, thinking he was going to be like most Japanese men and tell us to leave. Instead, he started talking to us and asked what was going on and we told him who we were. He was all good with it and listened to our message too. We testified how the gospel has blessed my family and how it will bless theirs. It was pretty cool, and we made both of them investigators! The one thing we are worried about, like I said last week, if they are Mahikari, they will listen to any religion cause they believe all religion is right and good, but they don't convert. We will see what happens.

Friday was pretty cool. I went to Morioka for the first time since April for zone conference. I guess once you are in the Morioka zone, you are stuck there forever: it's called the Morioka black hole. Pretty much every missionary in the Morioka zone is there for a very long time, so I could go there a lot in the near future. We had a good training from the ZLs. Our zone is crazy young; basically the whole mission is. It's tiny too. Our ZL, Elder Nebeker, said when he was new, there were like 200 missionaries in the mission, but now there's like 87 or something. We talked about President Smith's new assignment for all of us. So, a month ago, he decided that the mission would memorize every principle, word for word, in PMG in Japanese. It's really hard to do, but we have already seen how much it helps when we teach. We obviously don't recite it when we teach, but like it says in D&C about treasuring up the words of life, it helps a lot. 
We got back to Kitakami that night right as everyone was getting ready for the festival to start. It's weird, during the festival, everyone in the city comes out of their caves and comes to the center of the city, but after it's over, the city goes back to being way quiet with no one around. Anyway, Friday night, I got to see some onikenbai, the ancient samurai dance. It wasn't the main onikenbai; this one was high school students but it was still pretty cool. It's like the Japanese version of the Hal's. They're were wearing these cool ogre masks, wielding swords and shouting and moving intimidatingly. It was cool to see.

Saturday, we did weekly for a while. Saturday night was going to be the biggest part of the festival with the main onikenbai performance. There were going to be over 200 going at the same time with swords and all sorts of awesomeness, but we couldn't see it. For some reason, we scheduled an appointment with a less active way far away at the same time. We were pretty disappointed we couldn't see it, but we had a good time at the family's house. We had an outdoor barbecue. It was fun to get to know them and help strengthen them.

Last night was way cool. Two members, wanted to see the firework show with us, so we all went together. It was sooo crowded! Everyone gathered at the bank of the Kitakami river where they launched the fireworks on the other side to music. It was pretty legit. We felt super bad though. Apparently, the members didn't really understand the sabbath day. They kept buying us food and we didn't know what to do because we couldn't just tell them, "you're breaking the sabbath!", so we just rolled with it... The fireworks were amazing though. I love festival season!!

It was a pretty solid week! We got to see the festival and found two new investigators! Well, I hope you are having a good day and have a great week! I love you guys; you're in my prayers!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Me and my sexy ride. This thing is way too small for me.

The Kitakami Festival

Monday, August 10, 2015

What time is it!? Summertime!

August 2, 2015: Week 41
Area: Kitakami

Companions:  Uehara Choro and Morris Choro

Hey everyone! It was great to hear about your week!  Our week was pretty good. We saw some small, but pretty cool things happen this week for which we are pretty grateful. People listened to us a little more than usual this week, so it was fantastic! 

Monday night for our work time, we did some housing, and when we were riding back to the apartment to do area book stuff, there was a random festival going on in the center of town. I think a high school was putting it on. They were doing traditional Japanese dances and singing. They also had a cheerleading squad doing routines. There were a ton of people gathered there. I had no idea that many people actually lived in Kitakami! But the highlight was the cheerleading routine. We were walking down the street when we heard the song they were dancing to and one which I wasn't expecting to hear. It was the "It's Summertime" song from High School Musical. I was so surprised to hear it and had no idea they had that in Japan. It was a lot of fun; we had a party jamming to High School Musical. It was pretty funny. It was the English version too so Elder Morris and I were the only ones in the whole festival that could sing along. We were also able to hand out some Books of Mormon and talk to some people too.

Speaking of festivals, this weekend there's going to be a way cool festival in Kitakami. It's one of the most famous in the mission. They have a huge firework show and dance where a couple hundred people do a traditional dance called Onikenbai, which literally means ogre sword dance. They put on these crazy scary masks and do the dance. It's a dance that the samurais did before going to battle. We are pretty excited.

Tuesday was pretty good. We visited a potential investigator. We were pretty scared to meet with her again. Elder Uehara has a suspicion that she belongs to a sketchy religion here called Mahikari. They believe in healing abilities, and we have actually heard stories where someone is healed by these people, but then they are sort of possessed by the power of the devil in a way. Pretty creepy stuff. We went to visit her and and we were able to teach lesson one on her door step and give her a Book of Mormon. She said we could come back, so she's technically a new investigator. We don't know how strong she is and she could be a Saran worshipper of some kind. I don't know, I'll just go with what Uehara Choro says on that one. 

We then went housing and a few minutes in, we approached a guy in his side yard chilling and he let us come sit down and talk to him. We were also able to teach him a lesson on the spot right there about the restoration and the Atonement. It was pretty cool; I've never had an experience like that when someone is totally willing to listen to us on the spot. It doesn't happen too often so it was awesome. I don't know how sincere he is, he kind of was just a nice guy, but we were grateful for the opportunity.

Wednesday morning we had district meeting. I'm way excited to work in the district. We have the Mower couple, two people from Okinawa, and I know Hanson Choro really well. It should be a ton of fun. 

Thursday, we found a bunch of old investigators and less actives who live in a town about an hour or so away called Mizusawa. The ride over there was soooooo hot. I about killed over I was so tired, especially cause I'm on a mamachatti bike which is way too small for me. But I made it alive! The first house we visited was interesting. A man came to the door in basically in his underwear and wasn't too happy to see us. I guess the LA who lived there moved and he was still there, but we didn't know that. He yelled at us saying to quit coming over, that we were annoying, and that he didn't need God or Buddha or anything, so that was fun. 

We went around visiting the people in that town all day. One cool thing that happened was we were looking for a house and a lady came over and asked if we're lost. We said we were missionaries and we were looking for a house. We were able to talk to her a little bit and tell her what we did. Next week we will try to visit her and teach her a lesson. It was pretty cool.

Saturday, we rode out to another far away town called Hanamaki to visit people. I got to meet a recent convert here who is already less active. She's way nice. Her problem is she decided to do this volunteer thing on Sundays which prevents her from going church, but she doesn't think it's a problem. We taught her about the importance of the sacrament and the Sabbath and gave her a talk from last October conference about the sacrament to read. 

On the way back to Kitakami, we decided to stop at this other town and try to meet with old investigators and less actives. We knocked upon one door and a grumpy Japanese man came in his underwear. When he answered the door, all he said to us was "Why?! Why!?" And then yelled at us to leave and slammed the door.

Something awesome happened again while we were trying to find a house. It was dark and we were in this pretty sketchy area of town. We couldn't find the house, so we knocked on one door. A woman came and we asked her if she knew the person we were looking for. She invited us in and starting searching the address on her phone. She then got her shoes on and told us to follow her outside. We walked a block with her, talking to her and introducing ourselves. We got to the end of the  street and she couldn't find the house, so she just walked up to the door and knocked on it without telling us. It was crazy; we were housing with a random lady we had just met. We couldn't believe it. A man answered the door and the woman told him that we were Mormon missionaries and were looking for someone. He told us that the person wasn't there anymore, but we all had a nice conversation. We said goodbye to the man and walked back to her house. We talked to her a little bit more about what we do. She actually gave us her business card and told us to call her anytime if we were in trouble or needed help. We then told her how we teach Eikaiwa and she got kind of excited. She said she has four daughters and that she and her daughters will actually come! It was crazy how things just fell together. 

After we left her house, we were talking and felt that we were in a sense guided to her. We weren't even planning on housing or anything, just trying to find an old Q, but it led us to this lady. We prayed and thanked God for his guidance and that we would be able to teach her. We all felt a warm feeling that only the spirit can bring. It was pretty cool. I know we can't get too ahead of ourselves, but I've learned you can't take things like this for granted, especially in Japan. We all felt it was a tender mercy from God, that he had seen us working hard and not seeing much success, but he blessed us with this small thing. Hopefully, something comes of it!

Yes, that was my week. It was pretty solid and we saw some promising things that hopefully turn into something good. I hope you all have a great week! Have fun in the summer heat. I can't believe it's August! Summer is starting to wind down a little bit. Time flies! Love you guys! Have a great week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Us with our song writing member. He's great!


Monday, August 3, 2015

New area and new/interesting people

July 27, 2015: Week 40
Area: Kitakami

Companions:  Uehara Choro and Morris Choro

Hey everyone! This week sure went by fast. I'm sorry I couldn't be with you guys in St. George this past weekend. It looks like you had fun even though Kelsey and I are gone. It's okay. When we are back, it'll be a party like usual when we go to St. George. I'm excited to play tennis with you guys down there too. We played tennis last pday and I wasn't as bad as I thought I'd be after not playing for about 10 months. I really missed playing tennis with Matthew and Kelsey.

Anyway, my week has been kind of crazy with transfers and stuff. Kitakami is pretty good though, I'll tell you more about it as I go.

Wednesday was mostly packing and stuff. Eikaiwa was way fun. The people there were treating me like I was going home. One student bought me and Hamblin Choro a Japanese flag and they had everyone sign it and stuff. It was so nice of them. I'll miss those students; they're lots of fun. The next morning, Hamblin Choro and I gathered our stuff and rode the train to Sendai so that I could go up to Iwate prefecture and Hamblin Choro could go to the honbu to go home. I'll miss that guy; we had a ton of fun together and he helped me a lot. There I met the two elders going to Ichinoseki and got on a bus to go up there. I was talking to a guy on the bus who was pretty nice. I eventually asked him if he was religious and he said no, but whenever he has a hard time, he looks at a Rock or a tree or something and says it's God. I guess he was Shinto or something. I don't know; it made no sense. The people here really need the gospel I've come to realize. Anyway, we got to Ichinoseki and I met Uehara and Morris Choro and we took a train to Kitakami.

My comps are pretty cool. Elder Uehara is from Okinawa and he's super chill. He's only an 8th transfer and his English is insanely good. He's worked really hard on it. Elder Morris is younger in the mission than me. He has been in Kitakami his whole mission so far and he's a way hard worker and fun to be around. Also, his whole family is less active and he came out anyway which I think is way cool.

Kitakami is pretty cool. It reminds me of Furukawa a little bit, the country and the rice fields and things like that. We are higher up in the mountains though and in some places, it feels like we are In a rain forest or something with the crazy loud birds and sakedas (I don't know how to spell it) everywhere. On Saturday, we rode over to a town called Hanamaki where a ton of members and less actives live. It's about an hour bike ride and unfortunately, it was pouring rain all day. In the summer here, you either wear a rain jacket and get super sweaty and wet, or you just deal with it and just let the rain get you. You will get soaking and feel gross regardless. We were soaking wet all day, but it was pretty fun. We went around and visited LAs and a member named Seiko Kyoudai. He's way awesome. He is actually a somewhat famous song writer here apparently. He writes songs and then goes to Tokyo and works with bands and singers and stuff. He's way legit. Then we were visiting other people, but most of them weren't home. 

At the end of the day, we were at a restaurant when this girl came and started talking to us. She asked us if we were Mormon and then started speaking to us in English. I guess she is half Japanese from Chicago visiting her mom. She was way nice. She told us how cool she thought it was we were here teaching about God to the Japanese. It was kind of cool. It's not often people start talking to you first here.

Sunday was pretty good. The members here are really interesting and nice and made me feel welcome. They all made a huge deal as usual about not being able to say my name and stuff like that too. They also already gave me an assignment to speak in three weeks so I feel welcome already! 

Overall, I'm pretty excited to work In Kitakami. There are tons of people we can visit and the members like to help us and it's a pretty area although it's pretty small. I'm looking forward to it. 

Yep, sorry it's a shorter email but that is what's going on. I hope you guys have a great week! Love you guys! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

The trio of Kitakami