Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Transfer 16 week 3

September 26, 2016: Week 100
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey everyone!! It was great to hear from you all! I can't believe its already starting to snow in the mountains back home. I'm just hoping and praying that it won't get cold here before I go home because Japan's winters are super rough! We will see though!

This week was a pretty solid week! We have been busy running back and forth to appointments and meetings, taking trains and things like that. It's been fun with my second full week back in Hirosaki; I'm thankful to be ending my mission in a way that I was dreaming I would since the day I left this place. 

Like I said last week, it's been so fun to meet with people that I grew to love when I was a bean here in Hirosaki. I never thought I would see them again, so it's been a wonderful blessing to be able to see them and be able to talk to them. I had another one of those experiences this week when I met my Japanese grandpa. He was the first investigator I ever taught. I remember my first full day in Japan, waiting in the room for my first ever lesson as a missionary to start. I was shaking and in a cold sweat, so nervous at the fact that I would be teaching a real person for the first time. I was scared who this man would be, hoping he would be patient with a brand new missionary who couldn't speak his language one bit. My fears were all calmed when the nicest, goofiest, kindest Japanese grandpa that I've ever met walked in the door. Over those three transfers, I had many opportunities to talk to Akimoto San and was able to build a really solid relationship. He is a rich man, but has lost everything (family, etc.) and he knows that money doesn't bring happiness, so he has made it a goal to help as many people as he can. (He is even financing someone to go to college in Nepal right now.) When he saw me on his doorstep this past Saturday, he got a huge smile on his face and gave me a big hug saying, "You came back!" It was an awesome experience. He has had some health issues and has had a rough year and a half since I last saw him, but we think that it is preparing him more for the gospel and helping him realize what is important in life. We had a good lesson with him about faith. I'm so excited that I get to spend four more weeks with him!

We were able to teach some of the other people we are meeting with. They are all going okay, but we are stuck on what to do to help them progress. They are all in kind of a stand still stage, so I hope that we can help them before it gets apparent that we need to drop them. 

I'll tell one more highlight from the week. We were out on the street trying to talk to people (yo, I forgot how many super old people live in Hirosaki; I swear only 90 year old grandmas live here!) We were about to call it and go do something else after an hour or two of no success when I saw a man sitting under a pavilion so I decided I'd go talk to him. When I started talking to him he looked at me and said "I can speak English" in English! I was way surprised to hear that. His name is Tazawa Hitoshi and he has been living in Tokyo for 30 years writing English textbooks for schools in Japan, but recently moved back to Hirosaki. We talked to him about what we are doing and a bit about the gospel and he said he wanted to meet with us again! We should be meeting him this week! We're way excited and grateful for that miracle!

Sorry my emails are getting shorter, but I guess I can just tell you what went on this transfer in more detail in a few weeks cause my energy to write has gone way down! Sorry! I hope you all have a wonderful week! I'll try my best to make these last 4 weeks of this mission experience something to remember! Love you guys! Talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Return!

September 19, 2016: Week 99
Area: Hirosaki
Companion: Livermore Choro

Hey y'all! It was great to hear from all of you and see how you are all doing! I'm glad you are doing well!

This has been a pretty solid week as I've kind of relived my days as a green bean missionary with coming back to Hirosaki. It was a lot of fun rolling into the city as I reminisced where I had walked in blizzards, tried to talk to people in broken Japanese, etc as a new missionary all those months ago. I never thought I'd be able to come back here, so it's been a cool experience so far. 

My new companion's name is Elder Livermore from Oregon. He is a convert of about 4 years and he is a stud. He probably will be the best Japanese speaker in the mission within a matter of a few transfers. He has studied Japanese for like 5 years and also did a home stay in Sapporo before, so he is super fly. It's a lot of fun to be able to work with an American who can speak really well; it makes teaching pretty fun. I feel bad for him though because he just barely killed (sent home) his first trainer and then he will be killing off his second trainer in 5 weeks, so he will have plenty of blood on his hands come October. Haha!

The work in Hirosaki is pretty solid right now; there is a lot more to do here and more people to work with than there was in Izumi for sure. I've probably taught more lessons to investigators this week than I have for the past 5-6 months or so, which makes it pretty good. We only have like one sort of solid-ish one right now, but the others are listening and keeping their commitments, so its really nice. We have mostly been teaching and running around to different appointments since the day that I got here which makes it really fun because I'm gonna be honest, I got pretty tired of housing and streeting all day for 4 months. It really feels like I'm fulfilling my purpose as a missionary as we have been teaching all of these people. I hope we can make some progress with them before I go home! It is a super good situation for me to end my mission on. 

Also, it was so cool to see the members and other people I worked with when I was here over a year and a half ago. It was fun to be standing in the chapel and see members walk in, see me, do a double take, and run up to me to say hi and to ask what the heck I was doing there. I was surprised with how many people remembered me! And it's been so fun to be able to talk to them like normal this time, whereas when I was a bean, I couldn't really communicate with them at all! I also got to speak in Sacrament meeting a bit and tell them how happy I am to be back and bear my testimony. It's been a really fun time being able to experience that.

The one interesting part with Hirosaki is that the church that I went to when i was here got torn down and they are building a new one. In the meantime, they are renting out a room in this fancy-ish hotel for only two hours for Sacrament meeting. Church is super chaotic because we have to get out immediately as soon as the clock strikes noon and don't really get to talk to members a whole lot at church. Also, the only place we have to use for lessons and things like that is this tiny little shack by the church construction site. It's not too bad of a set-up, but it's hard to have lessons with the sounds of machines and construction going on. But other than that, it's not too bad. 

But yeah, its been super great being back here in Hirosaki and I'm very excited to spend the last 5 weeks of my mission here. It's starting to feel really weird, I can feel the finishing line drawing near. I'm super super stoked and excited to see you all again and have it be like normal, but in the meantime, Elder Livermore and I will do our best to find and teach and hopefully baptize before it's all said and done! Sorry, I don't have any crazy stories or anything like that and I'm slowly getting lazier in my emails, but that was the gist of this week! I hope you all have an awesome week!! I love you guys! Talk to and see you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

 Elder Erickson and I. We came into the mission together and are
both ending our missions as trainers in our bean areas. He's an
awesome friend.

Last week's eikaiwa. They bought Elder Everett (he went home) a bye bye cake.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to Finish Where It All Started!

September 12, 2016: Week 98
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey everyone! It was so great to hear from all of you! I appreciate you guys for not forgetting about me and sticking with me for these almost two years. 

Well, I got my last transfer call of my mission and I couldn't be happier with how it went! It went kind of like this, "Elder Didericksen, you only have one more transfer right? I've thought long and hard and I feel you should finish your mission where you started; I want you to go to Hirosaki and finish as a trainer." I'm gonna be honest, I don't know exactly what he told me after that. I was too busy running around and freaking out in excitement that I get to finish my mission where it all began. I get to go back to the place where I fought and struggled with the language, where I first attempted to learn this unique culture, and where I came to love the people of Japan. Words can't describe how excited I am for the last six weeks of this adventure. It should be a way awesome way to end the ride. 

With the excitement that transfer calls brought, it's hard to think about what happened this week. It was a pretty good week I think, I just can't really remember a lot of it. 

This past Tuesday, I went to Furukawa and did splits with Elder Koide, an elder that I left the MTC with to come to Sendai. Working in Furukawa reminded me how in the middle of nowhere the kind of place it is. He and I went housing way out in the boonies where a bunch of old, rice farming houses are and it was pretty fun. No one was interested, but we got to meet some funny "grandpa" farmers who were pretty nice. It's always fun to work in an old area!

Wednesday, Elder Bruce and Robb came back to Furukawa so we could end the split and then Elder Bruce began to head back to Izumi. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the time and our bus back to Izumi rolled away right as we got to the bus stop. I was not too happy to be stuck in Furukawa for another 4 hours, but then a nice grandma directed us to another bus to Sendai. So, we rode to Sendai and then took a subway to Izumi.  Thank goodness for nice, old Japanese grandmas. They are the best!

Thursday was pretty crazy. Sendai got hit with a pretty big storm and it rained all day. SO with that, we weren't allowed to ride our bikes and had to walk everywhere. As we were walking back from about an hour walk to a less actives house (they where not too happy to see missionaries on their doorstep), we got caught in perhaps the biggest downpour of my life! It was absolutely insane. It rained 10 times harder than last weeks "typhoon" that kind of missed Sendai. I got straight hammered; everything in my bag and every inch of me was absolutely soaked. We were sprinting to the church to get out of it and I was so glad when we did. It was kind of fun though and reminded me of playing in the huge storm in the parking lot at the St. George condos with the family. 

Friday was the highlight of the week. The other two elders found some dudes playing basketball and they are pretty interested in the gospel. They invited all of us to play basketball in Sendai, so we got permission to play in a park in downtown Sendai. When we got there, there were already two guys playing who were insanely good. I've never seen a Japanese guy that good at  basketball. So, we all went up and asked if they would like to play some pick-up ball and they were down with it. I can't even describe how crazy this one guy's handles were. He plays in a street-ball league somewhere in Japan and is ridiculous. If you have ever seen the Pepsi commercials called "Uncle Drew" with Kyrie Irving, this guy had handles as good as that. He also has a scholarship to play at a college in Seattle I think. He about made me fall over on several occasions. They were really nice guys though and it was fun to play with all of them. I haven't played people that good since high school so it was super fun.  It got me pumped to play some ball with the guys again! We also gave them all Books of Mormon and a few of them seemed interested so I hope it goes well. 

But yeah, that is the basic gist of what happened. It was a fun week full of finding and getting my ankles broken by some Japanese ballers. I can't wait to face these last six weeks of my mission in Hirosaki. Time is starting to wind down pretty fast so I will work hard and try my best to leave my mark in an area that I really love before the final buzzer sounds. It should be tons of fun. I hope you all have a great week! Love you!  Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

 We bought nice Japan soccer jerseys like what they wore in the

The rice fields of Furukawa

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Robot Grandpas and Anti-climatic Typhoons

September 5, 2016: Week 97
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey everybody! Good to hear from all of you! Sounds like it was kind of a crazy week. I was way caught off guard to hear about Uncle Phil. He definitely will be missed. 

My week was pretty solid and busy. It feels like it flew right by. For those of you wondering about last week's typhoon, it completely missed Sendai pretty much. I was so pumped to get to see my first typhoon, but apparently the course of the storm changed and all we got was some heavy rain. It was actually a good thing though that it didn't hit us because I had planned to do splits with the Furukawa elders that day and we just did them regardless of the typhoon. So Elder Robb and I had a good time housing in the pouring rain for like 5 hours. (We had zero appointments because we canceled them all thinking that we'd get slammed by a typhoon.) Nevertheless, it felt good to get out in the pouring rain and work and show God that we were trying to do our best. No one listened to us; they all were like "what the heck are you doing out here?! Don't you know a typhoon is coming?! You'd better go home before it gets here! Be careful and be safe!!". That was the gist of most of our conversations with people that day. But yeah, no one was interested, but we were satisfied with our efforts and people were really nice to us so it was a pretty solid day!

On Thursday I had my last interview (before the exit interview) with President Smith. It was a pretty good one and I was able to learn a lot from his counsel and advice. Its weird to think that was basically my last interview. I will definitely miss sitting in the waiting room with Sister Smith; she is a riot. She says the funniest stuff. 

Friday was pretty solid too. We had zone training meeting in downtown Sendai and it was a good time. We talked a lot about counting our blessings and things like that. That's one thing I've been studying a lot on recently. Obviously, we always have trials and hard times and things we can complain about, but if we open our eyes to the ways God is blessing us, it can make the world a lot brighter. I've really been trying to apply that recently especially with how hard Izumi has been and it's really helped. After the meeting, the Izumi elders and the Tagajo elders went to Dominoes and bought pizza, it was delish.

Saturday was probably the highlight day of the week. Elder Uehara and I went on splits and we were able to see more success than usual. It was way nice to work with Elder Uehara, He is so good at talking to people and making people feel comfortable. He is a really good missionary. We went finding most of the day, streeting and housing. We were able to hand out 5 Books of Mormon that day which was super solid. We also went housing and actually got let into a house! That never happens! We knocked and the guy told us to open the door and we told him we were talking about God and stuff and he was like, "sweet! I love talking about God and stuff!" So he let us into his kitchen and we talked for a bit. His wife was way confused, not really happy at the fact there were two random dudes in shirts and ties in her house. She asked her husband, "who are these people?! Why are they here?!" and he answered,"we are talking about God, I like talking about God!". Then she asked, "Since when did you like God?" Then he answered sarcastically, "I hate God!" It was pretty funny. But we talked to him for a bit and gave him a Book of Mormon and stuff. We aren't quite sure if he is super interested or not, he might just be really nice. Elder Uehara thought he might have been drunk, so I don't know, but it was a cool experience. 

Something pretty crazy happened when we were housing as well. We knock on this pretty old looking house and this really old, rough looking man came out. When he was about to talk, he held this weird vibrating hand device to his neck and started to speak. Apparently he was a heavy smoker or something so he used this device because there was a huge hole in the front of his throat. It was a little creepy. He sounded just like a robot. I hope I didn't offend him 'cause when I saw the hole and heard his "voice," I kind of jumped and let out an audible "Whoaa". It was pretty nuts. He wasn't interested and we left. Check that one off the list of a weird experiences to be had. 

Then later that night, Yoichi San, an investigator/Eikaiwa student took us out for dinner with his Vietnamese girlfriend. I guess he just got a bonus at work and was feeling rich so he took us to some way expensive yaki niku. We had some really good stuff. He also had me try some interesting food. I ate an entire, massive shrimp (eyes, outer shell, everything) in one bite, which was pretty good. Then we had pig feet. That wasn't too good. They eat it cold here, which was way gross. We also has some of the best gyutan or cow tongue I've ever had. It was such a good dinner and I'm pretty sure Yoichi San dropped about 150 bucks or more on it. 

Now I want to end with telling you a pretty cool little miracle I experienced last night. So it was around 7:00ish and I was still fasting so I was like dying. I felt light-headed, weak, and tired. I had absolutely no energy. We had already tried visiting a few less actives and no one was home. I was about to just go back to the apartment early to get some food 'cause I felt super no bueno, but we decided to house just one more apartment. So we housed the top floor of an apartment and no one was there. Then we went to the bottom floor to house that. The first door I knocked at a woman came out and I told her we were teaching about God and families and straight up asked her if she was interested in religion and learning about God and she was like, "actually yeah".

I was so surprised! Usually at that point, I'm being told to go away. She said she believed in God, but wasn't quite sure because she said there is so much inequality and unfairness in the world... wars, and the tsunami five years ago. I didn't know what exactly to tell her, but I said that God gives us these hard times to teach us to trust in Him and that they are given to refine us and help us grow and improve as people. She seemed to accept that and I gave her a Book of Mormon. She said she might try to come to church later on and hear about the Book of Mormon and stuff. I was so blown away; that just never happens, like ever! It was a small miracle that helped me realize that God blesses us when we push to the end, even if it is really hard while you are doing it. It helped me realize that He is still aware of the work and has His hand in it. It was awesome. And after experiencing that small miracle, compared to before, I had plenty of renewed energy to climb the hills back to the apartment to do reporting. It was an awesome experience. I'm grateful for this mission experience so I can learn on the job how God is aware of us and is always assisting us. Even when it is hard and may not seem like it at the time, He is always aware. 

Well, this week is the last week of the transfer and then I will be onto transfer 16, my last six weeks in the field. I guess we will see where I will end my mission by next pday. I hope you all have a swell week! I love you guys and will talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Nathan 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Typhoons, rain and stuff

August 29, 2016: Week 96
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hello everyone! I can't believe I'm back emailing again; this week seemed super fast for some reason. This email is gonna be fairly short I think; this week wasn't too eventful. This transfer is winding down pretty quickly though; only two more weeks left,

Like I said, this week wasn't too eventful. We didn't have any appointments and our only investigator won't answer our phone calls or texts. He is the British guy we started teaching a few weeks ago. But he has been talking to ex-Mormons and reading anti-stuff online so he might be avoiding us now. I don't know, but it's kind of a bummer. So, we spent the whole week finding (knocking on doors or streeting,) but we couldn't really find anyone who wanted meet again so that's why I don't have a ton to report. 

One thing is that I experienced my first typhoon! That was pretty nuts. I don't think we got the full brunt of it, but on Monday night, it rained sideways really hard for like 4 hours. It was pretty nuts. Supposedly, another typhoon, a much bigger and slower moving one, is headed to Sendai and should hit tomorrow morning. We just heard that we aren't supposed to go outside for most of the day tomorrow so it should be pretty nuts. I'm kinda stoked. 

Tuesday was super rainy as well, just not crazy typhoon rainy. But we did get stuck in a pretty big rainstorm and got soaking wet. So for most of the day we walked around in the pouring rain housing and trying to talk to people. Most people weren't too excited about stopping in the rain. I don't blame them too much; I mean it was raining pretty hard. But yeah, that is the basic jist of Tuesday through Friday, so I will just leave it at that. 

Saturday was pretty cool. Furukawa had another baptism. The guy who got baptized is the husband of a member and he finally did it! So we rode down with our mission leader to Furukawa and saw the baptism. It was awesome to be able to see a baptism again, especially in one of my old areas. Also, because the branch in Furukawa is tiny, all of the members get so excited when there is a baptism. That was cool to see. 

But yeah, by Sunday night, I was feeling pretty bummed and discouraged with the really rough week I had. It seemed like no one was ever going to listen to us so I was getting down again. We had some time before reporting to work so we went out to try to talk to people at a huge park by the apartment. We were trying to talk to people, but no one was really giving us the time of day. So, I was still kind of down and dejected, but I then I saw a man just chilling on a bench next to a pond, so I went to talk to him and he was super nice. He had just sat down to feed ducks. Apparently it's a huge hobby of his, and he is way good at it. He was doing these duck calls and ducks from everywhere were responding to it and coming to him. So yeah, I got to talk to him for like 45 minutes; I got to learn how to feed ducks, learned about his family, etc. Eventually, we got to talking about the gospel. He said he was Buddhist, but really respected Christians. We talked about how following religion and having faith in something helps you be a better a person. I was able to give him a Book of Mormon and he was really happy to get it and said he wanted to read it. He didn't have a cell phone, but he said he is always there feeding ducks so if we see him, he would love to talk to us some more. It wasn't a new investigator, but it was a little tender mercy I got at the end of a trying week, so I was really grateful for that. I hope we can see him again. It felt way good to just have a normal conversation with someone. It felt so natural and flowed really nice so that was cool.

But yeah, that is about it! This coming week should be good. We have splits, a typhoon, my last interview with President Smith (except for the exit interview), and zone training meeting. Also, a super rich, groovy grandma member in Izumi is taking us out for steak on Thursday so that should be legit! I hope you have a good week! Love you all! Till next week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen

Dedications and concerts

August 22, 2016: Week 95
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey everybody! I hope you all had a swell week! This week was a pretty good week. We were able to teach some lessons and attend some cool meetings and stuff. The Sapporo Japan temple was dedicated yesterday so we got to see that, which was way cool. I'll get to more of that later. 

We started off the week going to Sendai to work with the Kamisugi zone leaders for splits. I got to work with Elder Okamoto again! We were together in Aomori like 4 months ago, so it was fun to be back with him. We worked really hard and talked to a lot of people. I about killed a lady on her bike though.... We were really focusing on talking to everyone that we could, so when I saw a lady coming towards me while we were walking in a neighborhood, I thought I would stop her. I swear, I gave her plenty of time to notice I was there trying to stop her so I wouldn't surprise her, but it wasn't enough apparently. She saw me and stared at me as she passed me, looking at me as she rode right into a curb and just wrecked on the concrete with all of her groceries going everywhere!.....whoops. We rushed over to help her up and gather her stuff. She didn't get hurt or anything, but it was still awkward. She got up and brushed herself off and politely said, "So what did you want?" I was like, "I'm so sorry, I was just gonna give you this pass along card or something." It was pretty funny, I'm just glad she didn't get hurt. But it was great to work with Elder Okamoto again and catch up on old times. He's an amazing and talented dude. I would not be surprised if he became a general authority someday. 

The rest of the week before the weekend was pretty normal. We just went finding most of the day. We got to talk to some nice people, but no one really wanted to hear the message. We will keep trying though!

But the weekend was super good. Saturday was full of meetings and events and we got to teach the guy again that we taught last Monday. The lesson didn't go so hot and I was pretty wrong on this guy's potential. He is definitely one of those guys who is being "blown around" by every piece of doctrine. He has studied lots of theories and philosophy, so his way of thinking is kind of messed up and confusing. But yeah, we were so excited to teach him, but as we started the lesson, we knew it wasn't going to go well. We asked him about how reading the Book of Mormon went and he started with all of the classic arguments that people come up with when it comes to the Book of Mormon. He said that there is zero archaeological evidence of the Nephites or Lamanites. He also had a beef with how it says that they had horses even though its generally accepted that there weren't horses in the Americas until Columbus. Later, he also brought up polygamy, black people and the priesthood, etc. He's basically looking up anti-Mormon stuff online and then contending with us, asking for explanations for everything. He also said he is talking to some ex-Mormons online who are also feeding him stuff about the church. He says he is on a search for truth, but in reality, he has too many doubts and things to even give it a try. He said that reading and praying and getting a witness from the Holy Ghost isn't good enough for him; he has to know from scientific evidence and stuff that it is true. Some of the theories and stuff he talked about were pretty ridiculous. I won't go into it, but some of the stuff he said, I was just like, "what are you even talking about". It was really sad to see how lost some people are with all of the different stuff about religion going around that they just get so confused and won't try to find truth without using the internet.

After that super frustrating lesson, we went to Sendai for a stake priesthood meeting. I don't have a lot to report about the meeting, but it was fun to see other members and missionaries. After the meeting, there was a concert at the church. I don't know if you have heard about them or not, but a group called Bless 4 came for a free concert. They are a group of siblings (two sisters and two brothers) who are Japanese, but grew up mostly in America so they are fluent in English and Japanese and are kind of a J-pop group. They are super famous in Japan. They were actually on a bonus feature for "Meet the Mormons" so you can see their segment at visitors centers around the world. They are incredible performers. One of the sisters is probably one of the best singers I've ever heard. It was so much fun. It was a legit concert too. They didn't just do church songs; they did most of their popular stuff. It was pretty awesome. Even President Smith was getting into it and dancing around. It twas a party. Even though I said I'd never get into J-pop, I will definitely get some of their stuff when I'm home. Plus, they do some of their songs in English too so its kinda cool. You should look them up when you have a chance. 

Then after that, we watched the cultural celebration over satellite. It was cool to see some cultural dances, as well as the history of the church in Japan, especially the Aomori and Hokkaido areas. Seeing it definitely increased my appreciation of the early faithful saints of this special country. Having another temple means so much to the people here. Even though it's really hard to see the growth of the church in Japan, it shows that it slowly but surely is progressing and that the people here are really excited about their new temple. 

Then for church, we went to Kamisugi again to see the temple dedication. President Nelson gave the dedicatory prayer. Elder Stevenson was also there. It was pretty cool to see. It helped me realize that even though I get rejected a lot and haven't seen any baptisms, I still have this awesome opportunity to be with some of the saints here in Japan, to learn their language and culture, and try to help them in any way I can. 

But yeah that's about it from me. It was a great weekend. This coming week we pretty much have straight finding all day everyday so wish us luck and pray for me! Also, there is a typhoon headed our way, so we will see how that goes! It should be fun! I hope you all have a great week! Love you guys! Talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen

Barbecue, basketball and a crazy cool lesson!

August 15, 2016: Week 94
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey everyone! How are y'all doing today? Well my letter is gonna be pretty short today I think. One reason being that my entire family (except you Erin!) is off traveling in Spain and I don't want to waste their time with me rambling and also we just got done teaching a pretty crazy lesson so my brain is pretty tired.

Well this week was pretty non-eventful. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty normal work days. We had one cool thing happen on Wednesday though. We decided to go finish housing the super rich neighborhood with the castle house, half believing we could meet someone else who would let us in. Who knows? Maybe that neighborhood is a gold mine?! So we were housing and getting rejected pretty hard, but when we knocked on another big house (just two houses down from Castle house), a woman came out and asked, "Are you Mormon?" You don't often get that when you first meet people. She invited us in to talk more! So we walked into her massive house, got to meet her husband and cute dogs and talked for a bit. She has been to a missionary Eikaiwa in the past so that's how she knew missionaries. Turns out she just wants to learn English, isn't interested in the message at all, but she was really nice and gave us some peaches and stuff. It was a great visit! I never thought we would get let into two houses when I first saw that super rich neighborhood! Its been a really nice area of town for us.

Other than that, we weren't really able to work this week. The ward had a bunch of activities and stuff, so we spent the majority of our time helping and going to those. It was super fun though. We had another basketball activity on Thursday which was pretty fun. We had some "investigators" come, which was fun.

Then that night we went to get ramen with the Elders quorum in the ward. It was fun to spend time with them and get to know them. The president is named Taketomi Kyoudai. He is from Okinawa and actually served in Sendai as a missionary. He was in Kitakami for a while so it was cool to talk with him about his mission and hear how it was 12 years ago. It was a good time!

On Satuday, we had a BBQ by the river that runs through Izumi. It was so awesome to just chill by the water, eat some food and have fun with the people. I got singed by the sun though. I always tell myself that I don't need sunscreen and that I'll be fine, but I forget that because I'm a missionary, some parts of my body has seen about as much sun these past two years as a brand new baby. I got burned pretty bad and I'm paying the price for it. I hope it turns into a tan! Kind of doubt it though...

But the highlight of the week was what just happened. So over a month ago, we got a self-referral from a guy named asking for a Book of Mormon. We've tried many times over this and last transfer to get ahold of him, but have never made contact, so we thought that it was just a fluke and kind of forgot about it. But last night, we decided to give it another try and call him and he actually answered! He said he could meet with us today, so we just finished meeting with him at the station in Izumi. 

He is from England, but has lived in Japan for 10 years. Surprisingly though, he doesn't really know Japanese all that well. And despite not really knowing the language, he married a Japanese women who he says is "good" at English but not "great" at it and has a daughter. He is a super nice guy though. We were able to share the restoration and answer his questions for like an hour and a half. He had some really tough questions though. He studied philosophy in college and a lot about Islam, so he is being influenced by a lot of different views. 

It was an awesome experience to be able to teach and talk to him though. I've never had a chance really to do that since being here in Japan. The majority that I've talked to don't really care about God or religion and if they do, they have so little knowledge about it that you have to take things super slowly. But this guy kept firing off question after question. I'm glad Elder Bruce was there because he kind of grew up in the Bible belt so he is very accustomed to sharing his beliefs to people like that. He did an awesome job answering his questions and teaching. It was fun to have a teaching experience like that, especially because it was in English, although at times it was pretty hard to actually do it in English. There were instances where I knew the Japanese word, but couldn't put it together in English. It was cool though. It just feels like the spirit is so much stronger when it is said in your own native language. 

I hope we can help him disregard all of the philosophies of men and the world that he is so worried about and to just take it to God and find out for himself. He wants to meet again this weekend, so we are really excited to teach him. It was cool to see missionary work from that perspective. I'm so used to finding all day and not really teaching people who know about Christianity, so it was a cool opportunity to do that.

Well, those are the highlights of the week. I hope you all have a great week! I'm doing good and trying to give it my best before it's all said and done in 2 months. I love you all! Talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen

Barbecue by the river

Japanese sunset

Got invited in and met the dog!

Getting treated like Celebrities!

August 8, 2016: Week 93
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey everyone! How are you all doing? I I hope you are all doing swell today!

Festival and Obon season is just starting up in Japan. It's basically the time of year where Japan explodes with parties and stuff. Basically, Obon is when everyone gathers together and they believe the spirits of their ancestors come down and dwell with them for a period. They party, and then the ancestor goes back. Everyone is just having a good time with their dead ancestors right now! 

My week was pretty good. We saw some good stuff, some disappointing stuff, and some straight up unexpected weird stuff. It was a full week, so I will just dive into it!

So for like the first 3 days of the week, we had straight finding all day. It's usually a rough realization when you turn to see your plans for the coming day and see that you have no appointments or anything and that you have like 10 straight hours of finding time, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. On Tuesday, we rode our bikes way out into the boonies and went finding and exploring, trying to find places that no missionary has been before. It helps keep me sane because I've been in Izumi forever and it feels like I know the area inside and out, so it's fun to go to new places. We did that for the day and didn't find anyone who was interested or wanted to listen to us, but we had a good time anyway. 

Wednesday was pretty awesome. Last week I talked about a potential investigator that we had found who lives in perhaps the biggest house I've ever seen in Japan. It looks like a straight up castle. Anyway, we decided to pay the castle another visit. Abe San was stoked to see us and we were able to talk to her a bit. I was also able to see a bit inside her house from the door and man it does look really nice. But she sure does like to talk; she talked our ears off. She is super nice though and seemed pretty willing to listen to us. We were able to talk more about our message and leave a Book of Mormon. She said her son really wants to meet with us as well. After meeting with her, we were super stoked. I thought I had finally found the reason why I was sent back to Izumi. We were pretty excited that we finally found someone.

That kind of got shot down on Friday though. During weekly planning, I called her up to set up an appointment with her and her son. She said she had read some of the Book of Mormon, so I was pretty excited about that. She then started telling us how awesome she thought we were and how much she respected us because we were young kids leaving our countries and trying to teach the Japanese people in a difficult language. She even said that she felt different when she talked to us and saw a light. BUT..... she said the Book of Mormon was too hard and that she and her son had absolutely zero intention or interest in joining the church or anything like that so she said we should use our valuable time elsewhere. She said she would call if she decided she wants to hear from us. I was really disappointed and down after that phone call. 

It felt like yet another one of those times after you work so hard and finally think you found someone that will be good and who will listen to us, but then that hope gets shot down. It shot down all of my missionary work fire and motivation. It was a pretty tough pill to swallow. But we finished weekly and went out to work, trying to forget about it. We went out housing for like 3 hours. Nothing too crazy happened, but we housed into a girl who took a Book of Mormon and said that missionaries could come follow up. I don't know how that will turn out, but it helped us to forget about what had happened a little bit, so that was cool.

Also, I have one more experience to share. On Saturday night, we were out housing again. Nothing too special was happening, just a normal night of housing. We heard some music coming from the distance, so we headed towards the music, wondering if there was a festival going on. As we went, we kept housing apartments along the way. At one point, I knocked on a door and was talking to a young mom when a bunch of other moms and kids came up to the apartment building, having just come back from the festival down the street.  It was getting a little awkward because they were all looking at us, so to get out of it, I pulled out some Eikaiwa flyers and said we teach free English. When I said that, we were surrounded by like 5 moms asking us about Eikaiwa. They seemed really interested in it and blown away at the fact that their were 2 white dudes in their small neighborhood. 

Then one of them said, "Since you guys are working so hard, have some pineapple!" and she gave us two sticks with big slices of fresh pineapple! So that was awesome, got some free pineapple! But it didn't stop there. We headed over to the festival to see what was going on. It was just some small neighborhood get together/festival with food and cultural dances, as well as some dudes playing music. As we were walking away, we heard someone yell out "WAIT" and we turned around to see a guy running towards us. He caught up and told me to come eat and enjoy the matsuri. I was pretty surprised and caught off guard, but i just rolled with it and said sure. So this guy buys us grilled corn on the cob, sausage on a stick, yakisoba, and a soda. Then he told us to come sit down with everyone and eat and get to know everyone in the neighborhood! I was like "is this actually happening?!". It was soo weird; we stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone was just looking at us and saying basically, "Why are there two white guys here? Who are they?" and stuff like that. So, we sit down and all of these people are coming up to talk to us. Half of them were pretty drunk too, but they were all super nice, treating us like celebrities. It was nuts. Even some high up people were there for some reason, like the postmaster of Japan. I have no idea why he was there, but yeah, it was nuts. 

I've never had anything like that happen to me before. Even some old grandma came up and gave us some yakitori that she bought for us. It was crazy. We were able to talk to the guy for like 2 hours though, as well as meet a ton of people. The guy was way cool. His name is Chiba Akihiro. He was telling us that during Obon season, Japanese people suddenly open up their hearts and are just super nice and party. He told me that he saw us and wanted to help us out and show us some of the friendship and happiness that is shared in Japan this time of year and that when I'm back in Utah and if I see some Japanese guy wondering around having a hard time, I would remember this experience and help him out. We talked about a ton of stuff. We were able to share the gospel with several people because they kept offering us alcohol and when we said no, we were able to teach about the church and what we are doing. It was a really funny, strange experience that I thought I would never have. It made me love the Japanese people even more. They all were so nice to us. We felt like guests of honor at this little neighborhood celebration. 

Well those are just couple of the highlights from this week, kind of crazy. This coming week should be good too. We have another basketball activity as well as a BBQ so it should be fun! I hope you all have a wonderful week! Love you! 

Elder Nathan Didericksen

The nice dude who bought us a bunch of food and the Postmaster of Japan
(No idea why he was there.)

Pineapple on a stick

Rice fields and sunset...beautiful!!


Transfer 15 (2 more!) Yikes!

August 1, 2016: Week 92
Area: Izumi
Companion: Bruce Choro

Hey Everyone! 

Well another transfer has come and gone and with that we got transfer calls yesterday. I felt like 100% sure that since I basically have spent two summers in Izumi already, I would transfer and finish my mission somewhere else, but I was wrong. I am staying in Izumi for at least another one with Elder Bruce. Actually, no one is transferring in the district really so it will be exactly the same. I was so sure I would be leaving, I have to change my mindset back to figuring out what to do in Izumi to help this area pick up. It should be fun to be with Elder Bruce as well as the other elders in my apartment for at least another round. We all just need to figure out how to help this area progress. It should be a good time. I might actually just finish my mission here being I only have 2 more transfers, but I guess we will see. It feels weird to be in my last 12 weeks though! It's sneaking up fast!

So I'll just get to the highlights of the week. Again, it feels as I get nearer to the end of my mission, the days just blend together and I don't really remember much of what has happened so I will do my best. 

Tuesday was a pretty rough day. I did splits with the Furukawa elders and recently they changed things for doing splits. Now both companionships work in the leaders area, so they came here. My companionship for the day got the short end of the stick and we didn't have the bikes, so we basically walked around all day in super humid weather. That was kindof rough, not much to report there, but Elder Bruce and Elder Robb had a big thing to report on. 

So a couple of weeks ago when Elder Robb and I were on splits, we decided to house this house that looked like a massive castle just for the heck of it. We were pretty sure they'd say no because that's what most super rich people say. The lady said through her answer box that her dogs were going to the bathroom and that she couldn't talk anymore, so I told Robb Choro he should come back in a few weeks when he's with my comp on splits. So that's what they did. They went back there around 8:30 at night and the lady came to the door and talked to them for a while on the doorstep. She would have let them in, but they said they couldn't go inside without a male present. At that moment, her middle aged son pulled into the driveway. When he did, the lady apparently yelled out "it must be God's will!" So they got to go inside the "castle"!! Elder Robb said that he and Bruce Choro looked exactly like those two missionaries from that Adele song parody video when they are like "Hello from the inside!!! and smiling in wonderment. They said the house was absolutely crazy with like 5 foot tall finely carved wooden elephants and super fancy furniture and everything! They talked for like an hour in this mansion. The lady and her husband seemed pretty interested apparently and the woman kept saying how she hoped me and Elder Robb could come back and that it was a miracle that we did. 

We all about died when they came back and told us that story. I guess they seemed interested and said they would call us in the next few days but nothing has happened. I hope they are interested because you usually don't get invited into people's homes in Japan for nothing, especially a straight up castle. So I guess with me staying, I'll have the chance to meet them and hopefully turn them into investigators! That would be so cool if that works out! I'm super bummed that had to happen of all days that I'm on splits. Darn it!

Also, on Saturday, we had the annual softball game in Ishinomaki where the Izumi and Ishinomaki wards play a game of competitive softball. It was super fun to get out there and play. Izumi wins every year and we weren't about to let that streak be broken so we smacked them. It was awesome. I hit 2 or 3 doubles and threw a few outs at shortstop! It reminded me of the good old days playing baseball and pitching with Dad in the backyard. I tried pitching again and it felt pretty good. Part of me regrets quitting baseball so early. Obviously it would have been impossible to play with basketball happening, but it could have been fun. Oh well, basketball is way better anyway!

I also got super sun-burnt, like really bad. Usually I need one bad sunburn before I start tanning and I need a tan real bad. I've gotten so white as a missionary. Haha! It's a big contrast to my senior year during tennis season.

Lastly, I'll just share a cool personalish experience from this week. I fasted last Thursday, asking for help to understand why things were happening. I was getting super discouraged and just sick of never having any investigators and feeling like a worthless missionary. I had hit my wall so to speak, having had it with people telling me to go back to America and that I was wasting my time trying to convert a Buddhist nation. I was asking for understanding and for some guidance to know what to do. As I did this, I was reminded of an experience I had back in Kitakami almost a year ago when I was with Elder Trane. We were teaching a less active who wanted to leave the church because she had been offended by someone. She gave all these reasons why she knew she should leave. When she said all these things, my companion (who was a bean) asked her "But do you love the Savior?". When he asked that, the mood in the room changed and we could feel the Spirit and her countenance change. She said she did and that everything else doesn't matter. That was one of the coolest experiences of my mission and when I thought that, I was reminded why we serve missions. Sure we grow and learn skills that will help us. Sure we are called to baptize and bring in converts. But I felt that the main reason we go on missions is to show that we love Christ and that we want to show our appreciation and love to Him through testifying and teaching of Him to anyone. If they say no or if they tell me to go back home and that I'm worthless, it doesn't matter. I realized that all that matters is our love for Christ and what He did for us. When I realized that, I felt at peace. Nothing crazy has happened since then, but I can be at peace that if I do my best, then it will be okay.

Well, I hope you all have a great week! I love you guys! Talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Nathan Didericksen