Saturday, January 23, 2016

Welcome to the Himalayas!

January 18, 2016: Week 64
Area: Aomori

Companion: Payne Choro

Hey guys! It was great to hear from you! Sounds like it was a crazy week! I can't believe Alan Rickman and David Bowie are dead! I really want to watch Harry Potter and listen to "Under Pressure" in honor of those two! Man that's sad! It sounds like you guys are surviving the cold and inversion in Utah! It's currently a blizzard right now as always!

Sorry last week was so short. I didn't have a whole lot of email time. We email at a mall because the church is like an hour away from the apartment, but the bad part is that if it gets crowded, the wi fi gets really weak. 

I'm sitting here, scraping for things to write about because to be honest, there isn't a whole lot right now. A major portion of our time is spent walking in blizzards. It's a great time...... Elder Brodie and I were talking the other day how sometimes when we are walking through a snowstorm, we feel like the fellowship walking to Rivendell on the big snowy mountain from Lord of the Rings. Matthew might know what I'm talking about. But yeah, there's my nerd fanboy moment for the day. Anyway.....

This week we had a way cool opportunity to hear from President Yamashita from the Asia North Area Presidency. It was a really good meeting. It was a combined meeting with the Aomori and Morioka Zones so we went down to Morioka for the conference. It was pretty cool; since Aomori is so far from Morioka, we were able go down south to spend the night. We rode a bus for about three and a half hours to Morioka. Then, since the Morioka apartment was really crowded, we took another hour long train ride and actually stayed in Kitakami for the night! I thought I'd never be able to go back there, but I returned within 2 weeks.We managed to to fit 8 people in that little apartment. We weren't able to sleep much, but oh well. 

The meeting was awesome. President Yamashita and his wife were so nice and funny. It was fun too because he did it all in Japanese with some English mixed in here and there. A lot of the conference was him encouraging us and telling us that we can do it. I feel every time a general authority comes, it has that type of feel to it because I think the Sendai Mission is one of the lowest missions in Asia number wise. It definitely encouraged and uplifted us to keep going and work harder. I felt he touched on a lot of things that I needed to hear, as well as the Aomori district in general. I loved how he and his wife emphasized the importance of working with a smile and a good attitude (not making excuses) while having faith in God and in oneself. Aomori is obviously a very cold and snowy place. There is a snow storm almost constantly. Due to the weather conditions, it can be very easy to make excuses for not working hard or for not having any success: "it's too cold" or "there's no point in trying because it's snowing hard, let's go home early," etc. It was an awesome meeting, partly because Sister Yamashita is a Japanese version of Minnie Mouse. Seriously though, she sounds just like her, but it's in a high pitched Japanese voice. 

I'm sorry, the rest of the week wasn't too interesting,  just walking around in the snow. President Yamashita challenged each companionship to have a baptism date by next month so we are kind of starting from the bottom and trying to work towards that goal. In the meantime, since we have no investigators to teach, we meet with members a lot and teach them lessons. It looks like this transfer will be full of trying to find people in the blizzards.

Today, we went to an Ekaiwa student's house to help shovel snow. For some reason, he has a flat roof house in a way snowy city so there was a ton of snow packed on the roof. So us four elders went there and shoveled snow off the roof for like 4 hours. My back is killing me! But, they fed us a way good lunch so it was worth it! Im way tired though. It was a great opportunity to serve and a solid exercise opportunity as well!

Well that's about it from me. Sorry it's such a boring email. Aomori really needs to be built up because it's super dead right now, so we are trying our best. Elder Payne and I are also going to Sendai by Shinkansen tomorrow because there is another trainer and new missionary meeting that we have to attend. Man, so many meetings! We also have a sports activity this Saturday so I'm looking forward to playing some basketball again! Hopefully we can get some people to come! Well I hope y'all have a great week! Love you guys!

Elder Nathan Didericksen 

p.s. I haven't done a word of the day since forever ago, so since I use the word blizzard all the time right now, I'll teach you that one. Blizzard=fubuki. Welp, there you go!

Monday, January 18, 2016

I'm freezing right now!

January 11, 2016: Week 63
Area: Aomori

Companion: Payne Choro

Hey everybody! Wow, this week seemed pretty long with all of the traveling and new surroundings and stuff. It was great to hear from you guys. 

Just to let you guys know, especially for the sake of my mom, I made it safe and sound to Aomori traveling all by myself! It was a tad bit nerve wracking though. I'll first say that it is absolutely freezing up here! It's like a blizzard 24/7 and it's so cold no matter where I go; even the apartment is freezing with only one heater. Everyone in the apartment just gathers around it like a herd of sheep. I'm alive though, which is good! Of all times to go back up to Aomori prefecture--it's in the heart of winter......lucky me! Seriously though, I thought I'd escape a cold winter cause I did my dues last winter in Hirosaki, but then I transfer to the snowiest place in Japan! 

Like I said earlier, traveling was a bit stressful. So I left Kitakami on Monday night and rode the Shinkansen to Sendai by myself. It was super weird to be by myself for that long, I'm not used to that at all. I made it to Sendai safe, found my subway and rode that to Nagamachi where the mission home is. I got off the train and was expecting to meet the Nagamachi elders at the station so we could go back to the mission home together. But I got there and no one was there. I searched around the station for like an hour almost trying to find them, but in reality they never came. I was getting a bit nervous since I had no idea where the mission home was, and it was pretty late and we aren't supposed to be alone if we are on the streets, just when we are on a bus. So I wandered around a bit and eventually found a pay phone to call the mission home, but right as I did, other missionaries showed up on a train so we walked together to the honbu.

After my meeting with the other new leaders, I took a train to Sendai and rode a Shinkansen by myself from Sendai to Aomori. It was so cool to basically soar over all of Tohoku and see the area. It really is a beautiful area. Then when I passed into Aomori prefecture, the landscape got more and more frozen. I was like "uh oh I'm back!" I finally got to Aomori station (it only took like an hour and a half, whereas a bus would take about 5 hours! The shink is way fast!), met my companion Elder Payne, and went to the apartment. It's fun to be in a city for once! It's so pretty and majestic with the snow and tall buildings and stuff. I have yet to see the ocean and the harbor but I'm sure I will soon! 

So like I said, Elder Payne was born and raised in Tokyo and is a Japanese citizen who is African American.  His first language is Japanese, but his English is pretty good because he lived in Hawaii from ages five through nine. He's trying to remember and get his English back. We use both Japanese and English with each other so it's kind of fun. He is the funniest guy I've probably ever worked with. First, I'm just not used to seeing a black guy speak fluent Japanese like a native (that sounds a tad racist but it's true,) and he's hilarious! I've been laughing for like a week straight. He will be great!
Other than that, apparently Aomori is a pretty hard area and it's had some of the lowest numbers in the mission for a while. I got to the area and found out there aren't any records left behind or anything, so I have no idea what's going on in this area. There aren't any investigators or less actives to work with either so I'm kind of lost. We will just have to go finding, which is kind of difficult where everything is so far from the apartment and there's like 2 feet of snow with constant blizzards. It will be a good challenge. 

Some other highlights of the week was on Friday we had a Zone training meeting and afterwards we went to a famous fish market they have here. You just go through different vendors and can buy fresh sashimi and it was so good. I had some raw tuna, salmon, squid, with rice and other good stuff. It was the most Japanese type food I think I've had here. 

Church was good; I'm not used to having so many members at church, I'm used to like 18 or so. I was a bit nervous speaking in front of everyone, but it went okay. The members are nice I think; there's some not so friendly ones, but it'll be good. I guess I'm just used to the members in Kitakami whom I got so close to. But after church, my comp and Elder Kugai were getting sick so we went back to the apartment right after church and they basically slept the rest of the day. I studied next to a heater for a while which was a good time I guess. 

But yeah that's about it. Sorry it's a bit shorter but not a ton went down once I got to Aomori. I'm just trying to figure out what's going on and how I can help this area as a district leader. Hopefully, I can survive the brutally cold and snowy winter in apparently the snowiest city in the world! This week, we go to Morioka for a mission conference where Elder Yamashita from the seventy will come speak to us! I'm pretty excited for that; it should be way good! I hope you guys have a great week! You're all in my prayers! Love you guys!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

January 4, 2016: Week 62
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey everyone! Happy New Year!! I hope you all had a good one! I can't believe it's already 2016! This last year absolutely flew by! It feels like yesterday I was celebrating shougatsu in 2015. It was such a privilege to spend all of 2015 in Japan serving as a missionary. I learned so much and experienced so many cool (sometimes straight up weird) things!  I'm looking forward to what 2016 holds! And it's weird to think that I'll see you guys this year! Wow, it's gone by way too fast!

Well, it's the start of a new transfer and we got our transfer calls on Saturday night, and it looks like my time is finally coming to a close in Kitakami. It's kind of bittersweet. I've been here since July so it's been a long time, but I have been able to grow really close with some of the amazing people here so it will be hard to leave them behind. I learned so much while serving here these past six months or so. It was a pretty hard area at times when it comes to the work and having success, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. 

I'm transferring up north for the winter and headed to the northern tip of Japan to a city called Aomori. Aomori is one of the places where I've always wanted to serve. I remember getting my call to Sendai and looking up pictures of the area on google and one of the places that caught my eye was Aomori. It looked super pretty and a pretty cool city, and now I have the chance to serve there. 

It's funny how last winter I was in one of the coldest and snowiest areas in the mission and while I was thinking I'd escape a cold winter this year, I transfer to one of the snowiest places in Japan just in time! I'm super stoked though. I'm also a new DL as well so hopefully I don't destroy this district. I guess all I really have to do is get everyone pumped to work so it should be fun. I'm also finishing up training a missionary named Elder Payne. But the awesome part is that he's a black guy who grew up in Tokyo, so I think Japanese is his first language, but he's fluent in English. It should be way fun! I'm super excited. And I finally get to see the ocean! Yeah!

So, I leave Kitakami tonight and take a Shinkansen (by myself!) to Sendai tonight and stay in the honbu. Then after a leadership training, I take a five hour bus ride to Aomori by myself! It will be super weird to be alone for that long; I'm not used to it at all!

So that's the exciting news for the week. Our week in itself was pretty uneventful because it was shougatsu. New Years is a huge thing here where it's like a week long break for everyone. Basically, all the shops are closed and everyone gathers as families and party and stuff. It was a pretty dead time for missionaries and we couldn't really do much. We were told we couldn't proselyte at all on the 31st and the 1st. On New Year's Eve, we spent the entire day deep cleaning the apartment! It was a grand time and I might have cancer or something from breathing in huge dust bunnies countless times. The apartment looks great though, just in time for me to leave! 

It was way funny. I was going to bed and I was at that point where I was just about to fall asleep when I hear this huge explosion which shook our apartment a little. Due to the fact I was half asleep, I thought Kitakami was being bombed or something! But then I realized that it was New Years and it had just struck midnight. I went to the window and there were huge fireworks going off near our apartment! It was way cool!

The next day on New Year's Day, we were allowed to just go around and visit cultural sites so we went down to Ichinoseki and saw some of the temples and jinjas. It was cool. Ichinoseki and Hiraizumi are considered the Kyoto of northern Japan because of its rich history. It was so cool to see the customs they have during this time of year. They go to the jinja, toss some money in, clap their hands twice, and ask for blessings for the coming year. I have no idea who they pray to though. It was kind of sad to see all of these people pray to some unknown God and basically just have no idea about the true nature of Heavenly Father. It kind of gives you more motivation to do more to help the Japanese people come to know the truth. 

Then we went to hiraizumi to see a famous temple there called Matsuji. It was sooo crowded there, it was insane--way too many people for a tiny town like Hiraizumi. It was cool though. They also had this huge kettle thing burning with hot coals. They would go to it, burn something and just cover themselves in smoke. They would wave the smoke in their hair, clothes, everything. It was so interesting. I guess it's for good health for the next year or something.

After seeing a few of the temples, we went back to the Mowers' apartment. They had this fun game they got for Christmas that tests your chopstick skills so we had a ton of fun with that. It was called Chopstick Dexterity and it was pretty hard! I definitely wouldn't have been able to play it last year. I couldn't use chopsticks at all!

After that, I stayed the night in Ichinoseki because I had splits with Elder Myers. Friday night, we had to study Third Nephi, so we did it while sitting at a nice warm kotatsu. It was the best.

Saturday wasn't too eventful mainly because it was raining all day and the city was still shut down so we couldn't do much.

Sunday I said goodbye to the members and have since been preparing to leave! It's been a wonderful six months for the most part in Kitakami, but I'm so exited to go to Aomori and serve there. Hopefully we can find some success up there and even maybe school a few Japanese kids in basketball with my new comp! I hope you guys have a wonderful week with getting back into the swing of things! I love you guys so much! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Missionary Christmas Round 2!

December 28, 2015: Week 61
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey everyone! Can you believe it's almost 2016!? It's crazy, time is flying by! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! It was absolutely awesome to be able to Skype with you guys and to actually see your faces! It really did just feel like we were all hanging out in the living room just like before the mission! Can't believe I only have one more Skype left; it's crazy.

Since I was able to talk to you guys and fill you in, I'll just write a bit about Christmas weekend. So after Skype, Elder Mower drove us to their apartment where we had district meeting. We had some delicious cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, courtesy of Sister Mower. We read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2, and just had a great time. My district has really just become a family these last few months, with the Mowers at the head as our missionary parents. I want to take a road trip to Washington to visit them after the mission! I've really gotten pretty close with them and I'm so thankful I've been able to work with them.

Later on Christmas night, we went back to Kitakami and opened our presents! Thanks for all of the gifts and the candy! I love it! Then we got super pumped to go out and work Christmas night. We got a bunch of Books of Mormon, some candy and stockings from the branch, put on our Santa hats, and hit the streets. We tried to talk to everyone we saw, wishing them Merry Christmas and just tried to spread some Christmas joy. Some people smiled and got pretty happy by just being said hello to and getting a Christmas present. Even though it was my second straight Christmas away from home and although I definitely missed my family and all of the festivities, I felt so much joy in being able to give the gift of the Book of Mormon to these people and to see the smiles on their faces. On the other hand, I felt some sadness that I won't be able to do this as a missionary next Christmas. 

At the end of the night, we handed out around 10 copies of the Book of Mormon and made a few people's day as well. I wouldn't say it was the best Christmas ever, but it was a special one in which I will always remember. I think me and my comp were able to grow closer with it as well. It was the most fun time we have ever had while streeting. We were just laughing and having a great time. It was a good last Christmas in the field.

Saturday we had our branch Christmas party! We had it after Christmas for some reason, but it was great. We had a decent turnout and the food and games were great. We also did the nativity. I was a wise man and I had a few lines! Then, unknowingly, they had scheduled the missionaries, the Mowers, and Sister Takahashi to sing "Angels We Have Heard on High" in English. I think it was good. Sister Takahashi is super super talented, so she kind of carried us through the song. They then told me to give a Christmas message of sorts, explaining the song and everything. They never told me I had a Christmas message to share, so that caught me by surprise. I just bore my testimony and talked about the significance of Christ's birth. It ended up going well I think even though most of the party was done kind of on the fly. Suzuki came too and had a great time. He didn't come to church yesterday which was too bad, but I hope we can continue to work with him to help him realize the importance of baptism.

Then yesterday after church, the members all gathered together and said they had an announcement. They then thanked us for working in Kitakami and brought out a tin of presents and food that the members got us for Christmas. It was so nice of them. I've grown to love the members here so much. It will be really hard to leave when I transfer because I'll probably not see them again. That will be a hard day.

This week we have a pretty interesting week planned. This week is shougatsu or New Years, which is basically the most important holiday of the year for Japanese people. It's a big Buddhist thing. So with that, we aren't allowed to proselyte on the 31st or the 1st. Basically, we clean our apartment all day on the eve, and then visit a jinja or a shrine and learn about the culture. On this day, Japanese people will go pray to their ancestors at the jinja and then gather as families and celebrate. It's definitely not as big of a party as it is in America; it should be fun though. I'm excited for what 2016 has to bring. It is weird to think I left in 2014 and it's already 2016. I can say that I spent the entire year of 2015 in the service of God, and that's something pretty cool I think. It's been a great opportunity. And I think this year will be pretty awesome as well!

I hope you all have a happy new year!  Enjoy the festivities and fun traditions and make sure to party hard for me! I love you guys so much! Have a great week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Our Christmas family picture! Do you like my sweater?
(One of the members gave it to me!)

Gifts from the members

At our branch Christmas party