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!