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 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