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

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