Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Another Transfer Come and Gone

February 15, 2016: Week 68
Area: Aomori

Companion: Payne Choro

Hey everyone!! I hope you all had a grand Valentine's Day with lots of chocolate and calories! My Valentine's Day was pretty normal. They celebrate it here, but only the girls give stuff to guys, so it's kind of a sexist holiday. Haha! 

I'm sorry to hear the inversion is so bad in Utah right now. That's the one thing I don't miss;  there's no inversion here! 

The weather has actually been sort of warm the past couple of days! The majority of the snow actually melted off the streets and sidewalks. Elder Payne and I were thinking we'd go out running this morning to celebrate an early spring, but then we woke up to another snowstorm.... Looks like we will have to wait just a little bit longer. 

This week was really good. The entire Aomori district was able to hit the mission standard again, which was awesome to see.

Well, another transfer has come and gone. So with that, I'm now in my 11th transfer, which is nuts; it's going by so fast. President called right after church and I learned that I'm staying for another one in Aomori, but Elder Payne is leaving to go to Ichinoseki. I was sad to hear he was leaving; I was hoping so much we'd have another six weeks together, but I guess not. He was so much fun to be with and I sure learned a lot from him. He's so good at talking to anyone and making relationships with people. The people in Aomori love him. I honestly felt like he was training me instead of the other way around. But we will probably see each other and we will definitely see each other after the mission. He wants to live in America so we will see, or I'll come visit him and we'll travel Japan, maybe go to Hokkaido to visit his grandparents. He will be missed. We are also losing Elder Brodie too. I'm going to miss this apartment; it was probably the most fun district of my mission. I was laughing for six weeks straight basically. 

So my new comp is Elder Daniels who is a fifth transfer I think. I don't know anything about him, but it will be good. Apparently, he and his comp have been killing it in Ishinomaki, so hopefully he brings some of that success up here. I'm ready for this area to explode; hopefully we can start to find some new people and pick this area back up. It slowly has been picking up; it was completely dead when I got here, but the numbers are slowly starting to rise. I'm excited to see what will happen.

Like I said, it was a solid week. We were able to meet with a lot of members and less actives and teach them. We were also able to hand out quite a few copies of the Book of Mormon, which was awesome. We also met with a potential investigator on Wednesday, but that didn't go so well. 

We met the kid a few weeks ago streeting and got his number and stuff. When we contacted him, we did translate dendo which means I stopped him and talked to him in English the whole time and Elder Payne translated. We were a little nervous to meet with him because he's kind of strange and he was saying some weird stuff in his texts to us, but we went with it. We went to this famous fish market and ate lunch while we talked to him. So, during the conversation, he basically acted like I didn't exist. He probably thought I was just some foreigner who didn't know anything or what's going on, so he talked to Payne Choro the whole time. He is studying philosophy so he knows a ton about religion, but we got the feeling that it is kind of preventing him from feeling the spirit; he makes things too complicated. He also tried to talk about girls a lot of the time so he was pretty frustrating. At one point, when Elder Payne started teaching, he looked at Elder Payne, pointing at me and said, "he has no clue what's going on huh?" I answered back and said I knew exactly what's going on and started teaching too. He was pretty surprised! We taught a lesson, but he didn't really want to meet with us again, so that was a bummer, I thought we'd finally have a new investigator. Oh well, we'll keep on trying. 

We also had some solid finding opportunities. We met this one family housing and they looked like a great family. They had two cute twins and just looked way solid. We taught the mom about families on the doorstep and gave her a Book of Mormon. She said she couldn't change her religion, but she was really nice and said she'd read the book so we will follow up later! We also were proselyted by a Buddhist guy in the street. I stopped him and tried to talk to him and share the gospel, but he was really against that. We'd ask him questions about life after death and stuff like that, but he didn't know or care. When we were letting him go, he tried to get us to convert to Buddhism. He said if we were ever interested in being Buddhist, to look up some website and he'd send me Buddhism books. Honestly, I'm not sure I will ever understand Buddhism. I love Japan, but the one thing that stands in my way of loving it more, is Buddhism. It just makes zero sense. So that's one of my goals is to respect the culture and customs here more. 

Also, I finally got to do my first district meeting of the transfer. It was the first and last of the transfer because we've had so many conferences and stuff this transfer. It was good I think, I was way nervous for it though. I did a training on hope and looking to the future with faith. I did it because everyone's a bit disheartened because this area has been pretty low for a while, so I just wanted to give them hope that things can change. I even used bits from "Oh the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Suess. It was kind of like a send off to everyone for transfers. 

Saturday was pretty awesome. We had a Valentine's Day party with some less actives and we made little Oreo like balls which were pretty good. Then we had a cultural night for Eikaiwa where we all brought food. Since I didn't know how to make anything Danish, I just made Mom's cookie recipe. They turned out pretty good; I was proud of myself. Haha!

Yesterday after church, an eight year old boy in the ward was baptized. It was so awesome to see a baptism again and the little boy was so funny and excited to be baptized. There were a lot of people there to support him, which was awesome to see. It was a spirit filled meeting so it was great. 

Also, last night, the four elders went to the Kimura family's house for an FHE and dinner. We had some oden and gyouza and it was so good. Also, I think I told you this before, but their daughter actually was an exchange student in Pleasant Grove about five years ago and attended PG High So, Kimura Shimai showed me the 2011 PG yearbook. It was so weird to see. I never expected that a family in one of my areas on the other side of the world would have a yearbook from my high school, especially one that Kelsey helped edit. It was fun!

Well that's about it from me. We are doing transfers tomorrow and then we start again. Hopefully with the start of a new transfer, we can see some success here. Keep us in your prayers! I love you guys! Have a great week!! Talk to you soon.

Elder Nathan Didericksen 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Seeing old friends!

February 8, 2016: Week 67
Area: Aomori

Companion: Payne Choro

Hey everyone! This week flew by! The time just gets faster and faster. It was great to hear from all of you! Sounds like it was a good week despite all of the snow back home. I think we are all ready for winter to end huh?!

This week was pretty good. Not a ton happened, but we were able to teach the most lessons this week than any other week this transfer. 

The first half of the week was a little slow. We spent a lot of Tuesday and Wednesday trying to find some less actives. It took us a while to find each of the houses, but when we finally found them, none of them were home so that was a bummer. 

It snowed a ton at the beginning of the week so we also spent a lot of our time shoveling snow at members' houses and at the church. On Tuesday night after shoveling a member's house, we were on our way home and saw an old grandma shoveling snow, so we stopped and asked her if we could help. With most Japanese people, if you offer to help them, they'll say they are fine no matter what the circumstances, so we were pretty surprised when she accepted our offer. We helped shovel snow in front of her store for about an hour. She was so happy watching us. At the end, she went inside her store and came out with two bags and gave them to us. She said that since we were too young to drink alcohol, she gave us something else. She ended up giving us each a bag filled with cans of iced coffee so still pretty useless. It was okay though; we didn't need a reward  for shoveling the snow and it was just fun to help someone out.  But yeah, I'm so pumped and looking forward to this winter to be over. I love shoveling snow and all, but I'm ready to be done. 

Thursday night was way weird. So there is a guy who's been meeting with the missionaries for about six months named Kenta Kun. He is 18 years old and is dating a member in the branch. He actually wants to be baptized but his mom won't give him permission so he has to wait till he's 20. So we went to get ramen with him and his member girlfriend. It was a little awkward because Payne Choro knows them pretty well so they just talked the whole time and and when they weren't talking to Elder Payne, they just flirted with each other. The good part though is that we were able to teach a lesson and commit him to come to church.  

But the highlight of the week was Saturday. I went on splits with Elder Brodie and it was way fun. We were at the Church doing a practice lesson with a member when we heard that President Smith was coming to do a leadership meeting with all of the leaders in the branches in Aomori prefecture, meaning that some people would be coming from Hirosaki, my first area. I got sooo excited at the possibility of seeing some people from that area. I haven't seen them since I was a new missionary. I love the members so much in Hirosaki. So towards the end of the lesson, I heard from the hallway the voice of Takaya Kyoudai, probably my favorite person in Japan. We ended the lesson and I ran out and saw him. He remembered me and gave me a big hug and even tried to kiss my cheek. (He's insane; it's so funny.) It was so fun to be able to talk to him normally because I hadn't seen him in almost a year and I couldn't speak Japanese really at that point. It was so awesome to catch up with him. I'm totally gonna Skype with him when I'm home. I got to see a few other members too which was great. It made my entire week. 

Later, we went to visit a less active with the branch president, President Murase. He's way cool; he's only like in his early thirties and a returned missionary so he relates with us really well. I feel really bad because we all judged him pretty hard. He seemed like he was never interested in us and wouldn't talk to us. But in the car, he was way nice. I think he's just shy. He's the youngest guy in the branch who has the Melchizedek priesthood meaning he is over men who are all older and more experienced. He was also called right after he moved to Aomori so he has a lot on his belt. I look forward to getting to know him. 

The visit was fun, but the LA's room was like a hot box. The member sure likes puffing his cigarettes so due to that, we about died after 10 minutes in there. So much smoke! Murase Kaicho tried spraying me with some scent killer because it was way bad, but it only made it worse. My jacket still smells like a chemical bomb or something. Don't smoke!! Lastly, for dinner, we bought a bunch of meat and vegetables and did a yaki niku party at the apartment. It was delicious.

Sunday was good. All of us missionaries bore our testimonies in sacrament meeting which was cool.

Lastly, last night we went to a member's house named the Kanai family. They are a cute young family with two younger boys between 5 and 8. I love seeing good, stronger families in the church. They are pretty rare to come by, at least in the areas where I've served. We had a fun time getting to know them better. Sister Kanai made us a feast too. We had guouza, some sort of sashimi cake thing, okonomiyaki, wanton soup, and some fruit jello stuff. It was amazing! I'm going to miss Japanese food so much when the time comes that I leave. It was a way fun night!

Other than that, it was a pretty slow week finding-wise. We are trying to find people to teach, but it's been pretty hard. We are meeting with a kid we met a few weeks ago so hopefully it works out. He's a little mysterious, but we will see. We will keep working hard and finish the last week of the transfer strong. I'm grateful to be out here and have the chance to learn from the Japanese people everyday. They are awesome! I hope you guys have a wonderful week! Love you guys! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen 

It was so great seeing Takaya Kyoudai from Hirosaki.

Yaki niku party at the apartment.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Arctic Train Ride and Picking Up Our Game!

February 1, 2016: Week 66
Area: Aomori

Companion: Payne Choro

He everyone! It was so great to hear from you! I can't believe it's already February! Where did January go?! Avery's birthday sounded way fun, I'm impressed with the bday cake Erin! And the UVU game sounded fun. I sure do miss playing in that arena. I have a ton of good memories from that place. Anyway, things are doing well in Aomori. 

This week was pretty good. We are finally starting to see some good things happen in this area after almost a transfer of straight nothing. We were able to find another really solid potential investigator and had some pretty cool finding opportunities. Here's the rundown:

On Thursday, we had zone conference with President Smith, his wife and the APs. It was a pretty good conference. President Smith gave out an assignment beforehand to prepare a  five minute talk explaining who Jesus Christ is in our own words in Japanese and he would basically randomly call people throughout he conference to give their talks. So throughout the conference, everyone was so tight and nervous due to the possibility of getting selected. Fortunately, I dodged the bullet and didn't get picked! Yay! One of the themes from the conference was preparing the world for the second coming. It opened my eyes how it is our job to prepare these people who have no idea of what's coming. It gave me a new sense of urgency, to work harder to find and teach people. It was a solid conference.

Later that night, we visited a less active who actually used to be a sumo wrestler. He's not a massive sumo wrestler anymore, but is now just tall and muscular. I've never seen a Japanese man like it. It's crazy! He went from being an abnormally huge, fat looking sumo guy to that. Sumo wrestlers are nuts. 

Saturday was pretty fun.  A member named Brother Ishikawa wanted me and Elder Payne and the other two elders to ride a train up with him to the upper tip of Honshu to a town called Imabetsu. We were all way excited to go so we went up with him planning on doing some work on the train and in the city. The train ride was way cool, the tracks went along the ocean the whole way. You could see the ocean on one side, and if you look to the other side, you could see the base of some tall snowy mountains. It was way beautiful. At one point, we had to get off in the middle of nowhere and switch to a much smaller train. After that, Elder Payne and I sat across from a young man and started talking to him. He was traveling up here from Tokyo to come see the beautiful, Arctic like scenery. We were talking to him about life and then we were able to switch to the gospel. We basically taught him the restoration on the train! Elder Payne was awesome, he was fearless and bold while he taught. I was so impressed. He's way good at talking to people I've noticed. It feels like he's training me sometimes. We were able to give the man a Book of Mormon as we got off the train. We won't see him again probably, but hopefully the elders in Tokyo find him!

We got off at some station in the middle of nowhere. It actually reminded me a lot of Provo canyon or something in the winter; it was way pretty. We went to some tiny little restaurant and got some lunch, and looked around. We were way confused though because we expected Imabetsu to be bigger but there was nothing there at all. Then Ishikawa Kyoudai told us that we were still a ways from the actual city; he just decided to get off in this middle of nowhere town instead. Apparently he didn't understand why we came with him in the first place. So that was disappointing not being able to go to the very tip, but we were able to teach that man on the train so it was worth it.  We caught the next train back to Aomori. 

Sunday was another awesome day. We had a few hours remaining before I had to do reporting with the district members and zone leaders so we headed out on the freezing cold to go contact some people. We made it a goal to pass out three Books of Mormon within an hour, so we prayed for help and committed to talk to as many people as we could. The first kid we stopped was awesome. He was totally willing to hear our message and had thought about God before. We taught  him about the Book of Mormon and about the nature of God. He said he'd be totally down to meet with us again, but he's moving to another city for college in a week or two. Five minutes later, we talked to another kid and the same thing happened.

The last kid we stopped was way cool. I walked up to him and asked if there was any good sushi places around. He really wanted to help us out so he was pulling out his phone and searching for places and even called his grandma to ask if she knew. He was like, "there's a way good one, but it's about a 30 minute walk. I've got time, should we go?!" I love how Japanese people will drop anything to help you; it's awesome! Eventually, we transitioned to the gospel. He said he's thought about God many times in his life and why there were so many religions that seemed mixed. We taught the restoration on the street and were able to get his contact info! It was so awesome! I think we are going to teach him and get sushi together sometime soon!

So it was a solid week; we were able to see the hand of God in the work countless times this week. Lastly, I want to share something I read this week.

During my study, I read a story called the "Riccardi Letter" talking about an Italian missionary about 30 years ago serving in England. You've probably heard it before, but everyday before going out, he would look in the mirror and say several times "I fear no man". He was passionate about missionary work and knew his sacred calling. He knew that all he had to do was open his mouth. From reading this, one scripture that I am really starting to like is 3rd Nephi 5:13 talking about how we are disciples of Christ. If we ever feel scared of opening our mouths or feel weary due to our calling, we can read this scripture and remember the sacredness of our calling and who called us. With Aomori kind of on the rebuild, it's my hope that we can fear no one and have faith in the One who called us. By doing so, I know his area will start to pick up. I probably can't be as bold as this missionary was (some of the stuff he did would get you arrested here I'm pretty sure), but we are committing to stepping up our game and to opening our mouths.

Well that's it from me, I hope you guys have a wonderful week! Love you guys! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A New Investigator and the Ocean

January 25, 2016: Week 65
Area: Aomori

Companion: Payne Choro

Hey guys!

It was so great to hear from you guys! Sounds like it's been a fun week! Avery's birthday party sounded so fun! I can't believe Lone Peak beat PG at the buzzer! Man! Those guys always sneak their way on top. Oh well. I'm gonna hear about that from Hanson Choro tonight; he's coming to Aomori and went to Lone Peak. 

Anyway, this week was pretty good. It was a bit warmer than usual so it wasn't too bad walking in the snow, but we work with what we get!

On Tuesday I finally got to see the ocean!! That was the first time on my mission! Well it was only the Aomori harbor but it was water nonetheless. So that was cool. Sometime this transfer, we want to go up to the tip of Honshu and work up there. We actually talked to a member about going up to a place called Imabetsu. Apparently, you can see Hokkaido from there.  

The rest of Tuesday, we spent all day walking the streets to trying to find people who would like to meet with us. We have been really trying to find these people because we basically have no one to teach right now. We had one cool experience while walking around the station. We noticed this guy, maybe in his early twenties or something, staring at us as he walked by, so we hurried and stopped him to talk. It's really funny when Payne Choro stops people and says something and they'll be like, "Wow your Japanese is so good! How did you get so good? Why are you in Japan?!" They have no idea he's a native Japanese. So we've been taking advantage of that and been doing translate dendo where I pretend I don't know any Japanese and approach and talk to people in English and he'll translate. Anyway, that's what we did with this guy. I talked to him in English and Payne Choro would translate for me. We were able to testify of the Book of Mormon and about God's love for him. He accepted a Book of Mormon and gave us his contact info! We actually emailed him last night and he said he's been reading it and when he can he wants to meet with us! Yay! We finally may have a new investigator in the works. So that was a pretty cool experience. 

Anyway, we did that for like two straight days. Besides the experience I just described, we didn't have any success. We talked to a lot of people but none of them were interested. We found this dude from Nepal who couldn't really speak Japanese and his English was hard to understand. He asked us to help him buy a bus ticket to Tokyo because he didn't know how to do it in Japanese. So we helped him do that and then talked about why we are here in Japan and about the church. If we had an English Book of Mormon on us he would have taken it, but we didn't. Hopefully the missionaries in Tokyo find him!

Other than that, it's been kind of frustrating and discouraging here with the lack of results and things to do. It can be hard just walking around in the snow all day trying to find people but nothing turns out. There's been some really slow days where it seems we just walk for like 10 miles, but I'm trying to keep the faith and keep searching for good things that God has prepared for us here. That's all you can do right?

We did have a pretty weird experience though. There was a crazy dude that approached me and said something like, "Hey I've seen ya before!" And he started talking to us about random stuff: Buddhism, gun laws, what would get you shot in America, etc. It was weird. Usually when that happens, I just look at them and say in English that I don't know what they are saying so that they will leave. That didn't work though and he sat there talking to us for like 10 minutes. So that was a good time.

Also Tuesday night, we went to the Kimura family's house. They are a really nice family in the branch. Actually, apparently when I was a sophomore, their daughter did a study abroad and went to Pleasant Grove High School for a semester, so that was fun to find out. Also, Bro. Kimura is a doctor and he comes up to me and asked if I've had a flu shot and I said no. So he goes to his closet and comes out with a needle and gave me a flu shot! He said he loves giving people shots; it brings him the greatest joy. We also had a great meal! She gave us soba, sashimi, lasagna, and tempura vegetables. It was an awesome night. Kimura Kyoudai is so funny. He's my favorite!

We went to Sendai on Thursday for another meeting for trainers and new missionaries. It was fun to ride the Shinkansen again but it's taking all of my money. A ticket down from Aomori to Sendai is like 120 bucks! The meeting was really good, but it was like the third time I've been to that meeting so I've heard that same training a bunch of times. It was good though and I learned and reviewed some things we can do to be a more effective companionship. But that pretty much took all day including the travel to and from Sendai.

The last highlight of the week was that we had a sports activity on Saturday. Not a ton of people came, but I got to play basketball again! I was actually shooting pretty good too! Every time I play now, it makes me want to go play high school ball again so so bad! A less active in his 20s came and had a good time. We were able to get to know him and he even came to church yesterday! So I think we are going start working with him from now on. 

Well that's about it! I hope you guys have a wonderful week! Have a happy birthday tomorrow Avery! I can't believe you are 5 already! I still remember the day you were born really well. I remember playing Orem at Oak Canyon, beating them and then going straight to the hospital to see you! I was way scared to hold you because I'd never held a baby before! Thanks for 5 years (I guess 3.5 for me) of being so cute and sweet and making all of us laugh. You're the best niece ever! Love you Avery!

Anyway, love you guys! Talk to you next week! Pray for Aomori!

Elder Nathan Didericksen 

Aomori harbor