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

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