Friday, April 15, 2016

General conference weekend!

April 11, 2016: Week 76
Area: Aomori

Companion: Kudo Choro

Hey family! It was so great to hear from you as always! The pictures of Avery and Dax at This is the Place looked really fun! I can't wait to hang out with those two when I'm home! I hope they remember me! 

This week was pretty good, with general conference as the highlight. I absolutely loved it and it made for such a good weekend. General conference as a missionary is pretty awesome and this was probably my favorite that I've seen so far. The talks were so powerful and brought the spirit so strongly. I came in with some questions and concerns and they were answered as if the speaker was speaking directly to me. It was pretty cool. It was really sad to see President Monson declining; nevertheless, he was able to deliver some powerful messages, even though they were really short. My other favorites were Elder Hallstrom's about being a child of God, as well as Elder Hale's about the Holy Ghost. 

For the first couple days of the week, it was just me and Elder Kudo all alone in Aomori. The other two elders were in Sendai so it seemed a little lonely. On the bright side, my new companion is unreal at cooking. He makes us a feast every single meal. He's made us okonomiyaki, karage, hamburgers, etc. I recently committed to be healthier and to get in the shape I was in before the mission, but he's not helping too much with that! Oh well though, it tastes really good!

Here's an update on our investigators:

We met with our investigator who says he wants to be baptized but his father is against it. He's an adult so he can get baptized if he wants, but he doesn't want to disappoint his family. He still hasn't really done anything about that situation so we don't really know what to do with him. He can't meet for two weeks so we will wait and see what happens.

Our other investigator who has parents against religion, came to conference yesterday! He really liked it, especially Elder Oak's talk, so we had a lesson after the conference and taught about prophets. It was a pretty cool lesson. He thought it was so cool that prophets and apostles are on the earth today. It was also a cool opportunity to testify about prophets while using the things we had all just learned in conference.

And then there's the gymnastics master who we recently picked up. We taught him the plan of salvation. I think it's kind of hard for him still but he really wants to learn about Christ. We learned this week that because he was so good and busy with gymnastics, he didn't really go to school. We discovered it when we asked him to read something. He's at an elementary students reading level. I can't read much kanji, but I could seriously read more then he can. K that's a lie, but I'm just saying he's a little slower. And he doesn't have much of a Christian background so we need to go slow with him. He's way solid though! His desire to learn and and to change his life is way cool. I hope he's able to realize that the gospel is the thing to help him realize it. He's also been reading and praying which is awesome!

That's about the highlights from the week.

I guess I'll just end with my thoughts on general conference. General conference weekend was a really cool and spiritual weekend for me. I felt the  presence of the spirit throughout the entire thing, and felt it very strongly at some specific points. I went into the conference with some questions and concerns and they were answered. One question was simply how I could find joy in missionary work and just missionary life in general. Sometimes it's hard to get excited to walk in the cold all day and get rejected by businessmen all day. Not every day is like that obviously, but there's some harder days. 

As I was thinking of that, I was really touched by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom's talk, "I Am a Child of God". He talked about how we know that doctrine, but unfortunately, we sometimes forget it or take it lightly. He said that when we encounter trouble or sorrow, instead of doubting our faith or withdrawing from God, we need to remember that we are children of God and He loves us. When he said that, I instantly felt the love that God and Jesus Christ have for me. I felt that when I get rejected or disappointed, feel alone or forgotten, that they are standing there with me by my side, and they love me. God doesn't want me to get sad or discouraged, feel alone or forsaken. He wants me to remember the greatest eternal truth known to this church and that is I am, and the rest of mankind, are his children. What a simple, but beautiful truth that is. 

I also felt a love for my family. A lot of conference was focused on eternal families. It really made me miss mine and made me want to see them again. I'm so grateful for how close our family is and how we are set on gospel principles. I also felt the increased desire to help and serve others after I return home from Japan, whether it be a widow in the ward or someone who is having a hard time. The things I learned at conference made me want to be better. 

And lastly, Elder Holland ended it with a home run, encouraging us to hold on to the things we learned and felt this weekend, and keep going and know that God is always with us. It was a powerful talk. 

With that, my third conference on my mission is over. It was a wonderful, spiritual experience. I should be here for one more in the mission and I'm excited for the next time I get to hear from our leaders. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week! I love you guys so much! Talk to you next week!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

Friday, April 8, 2016

Transfer 12 week 1

April 4, 2016: Week 75
Area: Aomori

Companion: Kudo Choro

Hey family and friends! How are ya doing? I'm glad you enjoyed conference and got to see Shawn and Tawna! I miss those guys! Also, the pictures you all sent were way fun! 

This week has been kind of crazy with transfers and traveling and things like that. Things have finally settled down and we are back to normal now which is nice, but it was fun to get to travel a bit. 

Recently, the mission has been focusing on getting transfers done as quickly as possible so we didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare. Elder Kugai had to leave for his new area on Monday afternoon so Elder Robins was in a trio with Elder Daniels and I for the rest of the day. It was pretty fun; it had been a while since I've been in a trio companionship. 

In Aomori on Monday, there was a big Australian cruise liner that had ported in Aomori port, so the streets were just crawling with Australians all over the place. It was fun to see a bunch of clueless white people all over the place instead of me being the only clueless white guy. We tried to talk to a fair amount of them, but it was hard. We could barely understand their Australian English. Their accents were so thick and they were using expressions that I'd never heard before. And it's just awkward trying to talk to people in English now, especially when you are trying to share the gospel with them. I realized I'd be screwed if I served in America or something. I'm too awkward! 

Anyway, that same night, we went out to eat with an Eikaiwa student and his girlfriend. He lived in California for a while so he's pretty good at English. He took us to this fancy, Japanese restaurant. We had a bunch of super traditional Japanese foods like sashimi, fried onigiri, fried garlic cloves, soups, etc. It definitely wasn't cheap. When the waitress brought out the bill, we were all pulling out our wallets ready to drop some serious money, but it was only five dollars for the five of us. I guess his girlfriend has hookups at the restaurant so we got a 125 dollar meal for five dollars! Heck yeah!

The next morning on Tuesday, I rode the five hour bus by myself to Sendai for the trainers meeting. That was weird. I hadn't been by myself for that long since I've been home. It was kind of fun and adventurous. Finally, I got to the mission home and we had a meeting on training new missionaries. I was a bit nervous and anxious the whole time due to the fact I was training a Japanese bean; I didn't know what to expect. The meeting was good though. President gave some good trainings and insights and as always, Sister Smith brought the humor. She's the best. 

After the meeting, we all piled in the vans with the APs and President and Sister Smith and drove to the Sendai airport to pick up the new missionaries. That was super weird going to the airport. It was the first time being there since that cold December night about a year and 4 months ago. It also freaked me out that I'd be there again in six months to fly back to the States. Weird thing to think about. It was pretty fun to be on the other side of things instead of being the jet-lagged, scared new missionary out of the MTC. The new missionaries finally arrived and we drove back to the mission home, had dinner made by Sister Smith, and went to bed. 

Early the next morning, we had another meeting, an orientation for the new missionaries which was fun I guess.  It was a long meeting and then they had to get set up with their iPads and finances, so it took a while. Finally, after it ended, Elder Uehara, an old comp/new AP drove us to downtown Sendai really fast so we could catch our bus. I slept way hard on the bus which was awesome. Also, one cool thing...on Wednesday night when we arrived to Eikaiwa, there was a white guy with his son teaching a class. I guess he served in Aomori twenty years ago and was visiting his areas with his son during spring break. He's a dentist in Kaysville, really nice guy.

On the work side of things, we had a pretty good week. We were able to pick up 2 new investigators! One was an investigator who stopped meeting with the missionaries a year ago. He actually really wants to be baptized but his dad is super against it and he doesn't want to destroy his relationships with his family. So that is a little frustrating and we don't really know how to help him there. Hopefully his father's heart will soften.

The other one randomly showed up while we were playing ping pong for pday last week at the church and said he wanted to learn English because he really likes America and really wants to live there. He's unreal at gymnastics. He's the best in his category out of everyone in the Tohoku/Hokkaido. Anyway, he came up to us during Eikaiwa and said he wanted to take the lessons. He's interested in Christianity because he links Christianity with Americans and since he's so interested in America, he wants to learn why we believe what we believe. So, we taught him last night about the restoration. He has an absolutely non-existent Christian background. He didn't even know what the Bible was, or that Christ and a cross has any sort of relationship with each other. So basically, we started from ground zero, going very slow. 

That's one thing I've learned how to do here is to teach the gospel very simply. It doesn't need to be complicated. Obviously since its in Japanese, I have no choice but to be simple, but on top of that, no one knows a thing about Christianity, so you need to take it simply. The lesson was pretty good. He's kind of quiet so we don't know how he feels about it yet, but we are going to teach him at least twice this week so we will see how it goes! At least I have some people to teach finally! It's a start!

That's basically the jist of the week. We're all still trying to get used to our new circumstances. I absolutely loved being with Elder Daniels. We worked really well together and had a ton of fun. The whole district was just awesome. It's different now and I'm not really used to it yet, but hopefully we will get there. For the time being, I'm just trying to be a good example to my new companion and teach him the best I can. 

Also, I'm way pumped to watch conference this weekend. Conference as a missionary is the bomb! I hope you guys enjoyed it already! I can't believe it's my third general conference on my mission! Wow! Anyway, I hope you guys have a great week! I love you all! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Transfer 12!

March 28, 2016: Week 74
Area: Aomori

Companion: Daniels Choro

Hey y'all!! It was fun to hear from you as always. Easter sounds like it's been/is way fun! Everyone looked so snazzy in their new Easter outfits! I really want one of Dad's smoked hamburgers too! 

This week was pretty solid. No new investigators, but we found about 3 solid potential people by talking to them on the street, which was great. But before I get to the week, I need to tell about transfers!

I can't believe another transfer has come and gone; this one went by so fast! I'm already in my 12th transfer; it's insane. And it was probably one of the most fun transfers of my mission. My comp and district were way, way fun. Unfortunately, basically the entire district is being broken up..... So I'm actually staying for my third transfer here in Aomori, but my companion, Elder Daniels, is transferring to Miyako after only one transfer here. I really enjoyed being with him. We were always laughing and we worked really well together. I'll miss having him around for sure. 

So with that, I'm getting another new companion. This time, I'm actually training a brand new missionary, a Japanese missionary! I was so surprised when I heard that one! His name is Elder Kudo, but I don't know what part of Japan he is from. So I think I'm taking a five hour bus by myself to Sendai and then I get to go with President and Sister Smith to the airport to pick up the new missionaries! I'm so pumped for that! It'll be weird going there for the first time since I flew in as a new missionary! 

And then on the apartment side of things, Elder Kugai is transferring down south and Elder Okamoto is coming. Our apartment had such a fun time this last transfer. We were obedient, but we were able to find that balance. Elder Robins and I will try our best to keep the fun in the district. I'm also kind of nervous about training a Japanese missionary; you never know what to expect. But I'm sure it will all be okay and I'm grateful for the opportunity. We'll see what the next six weeks bring!

So back to the week. Monday was way fun. We had district pday and it was Elder Daniel's birthday, so we all went bowling together, my first time bowling since being home. It was super weird wearing normal clothes and hanging out with them. I felt like a normal person again. It was kind of a small glimpse of what it might be like 6 months from now. Anyway, I was pretty rusty the first game, getting last place with a score like in the sixties or something. I was a scrub. But game 2 was a lot better; I actually won! It was a good day celebrating his birthday and having one last hurrah with the district.

Tuesday was pretty solid too. We went to an Eikaiwa student's house to help him do some spring cleaning type stuff. And after helping him with that, his wife made us curry with karage which was way good! 

Later that night, we had an appointment with the Murakami family who live pretty far away from us. Since it was raining, we decided to take a train to another station and then walk from there to their house. We were in a hurry, so we quickly hopped on a train which I thought was the right one. Unfortunately, I didn't realize we were headed out of our area on the way to Hachinoe until like 20 minutes later! So we got off at some stop In the middle of nowhere, waited for the next train for like 30 minutes, rode it back to Aomori, and then rode the right train to Shin-Aomori. I'm so dumb! I've ridden the wrong train literally so many times on my mission! I guess I'm just not fit for public transportation! We finally made it to their house, but we were kind of late. They were nice about it though. It was a fun time at their house, I love that couple. They made us homemade pizza, watched a bit of the new face to face with Elder Holland, and shared a message. It was a good night.

Wednesday was probably the best day of the week. Elder Robins and I went on splits and we had a really good day. Last week, we really focused on the Easter initiative using the pass along cards and the video. We were able to find two potentials who gave us their contact Information! 

The second guy that we found was kind of a miracle in a sense. We went to set up for Eikaiwa, but the other two elders were setting up so we we ran back to Main Street to see if we could find someone in ten minutes before Eikaiwa. We talked to quite a few people, but no cigar. With only like two minutes left, I stopped a man and told him about Easter and said we were sharing a message about Jesus Christ. He said he would be down to meet another time and gave me his contact info! It's amazing how God pushes you to the last minute and then that is when you see the prize! That was a cool little reminder for me to use every precious minute because you never know when you'll meet someone who will listen to you.

A couple of days later, Elder Daniels and I were doing the same thing and we stopped a kid with only a little time remaining and he listened to us too! He said he was interested in religion (and Star Wars; he told me how it ends......) took a Book of Mormon, and gave us his number! He said he's pretty busy with track practice, but I pray we can meet with him and teach him! We will see!

Easter Sunday was good I guess. Easter isn't really a thing here, even among members. I was so surprised last year on Easter Sunday and it was the same yesterday as well. I didn't hear the word resurrection, Easter, or even Christ, for that matter one time. I was baffled. The only mention I heard of it was Elder Robins' talk. He had a different assigned theme but spoke about Easter instead to try to let the members know that yesterday was a celebration of the most important day of all time. When he said "today is Easter!", I heard several members say to themselves "that's today?!" And stuff like that. I was so baffled that Christians here still have no real idea what Easter is. I guess that is just part of the culture. Oh well, I'll have a normal Easter next time! Christian holidays in Japan just aren't the same..... 

But that is about it I think. It was a good week! I'm super bummed about the changes with transfers, but I will have to learn to like it. Hopefully, Elder Kudo and I will see some good things happen here. I love you guys so much! I hope you have a great week! Talk to you soon!


Elder Nathan Didericksen