Monday, December 10, 2012

   Hey there everyone! So I have some interesting news for you. Sometimes, in Japan, the ground moves. It's this crazy thing called and earthquake. Woah. So, as I'm sure you may have already heard, there was a 7.3 earthquake in the Tokyo area. You may not have already heard, but all the missionaries are safe, so it's all good. We were actually in our apartment eating dinner when it hit, and over where we were it was only about a 2, maybe a 3, so we didn't even think about it. About 10 minutes later we got an email from the mission home informing us that parts of the mission just experience a 7.3, and told everyone to check in with their zone leaders and let them know if we were ok. So, in our case, it really wasn't all that exciting. What was really fun though was a few weeks ago when we were at a member's apartment and we had a 5.0 earthquake hit. Yeah, things did a little more than just shake a little bit. That was interesting. But, Japanese buildings are designed for these sorts of things, so there probably is no safer place to be in the world during an earthquake than in Japan.
   Other than that, things have been pretty busy this last week. Christmas is coming up soon, and Elder Nakamura and I decided we want to make Christmas cards for all the families in the ward. We took some time to buy paper and some markers and a few other things, so we're going to be spending a little time over the next couple days getting those all put together. Other than the typical activities of teaching investigators and trying to find new people to teach, there have been a few good highlights. For example, we went to a wedding reception on Saturday. It's really kind of interesting being a missionary in Japan actually. In the states you see the missionaries at church, you invite them over for dinner once in a while, and you don't really expect to see them much more than that unless you see them riding around on their bikes. Here in Japan (or maybe it's just the Yamato Ward), the members always invite us and expect us to come to ward activities, ward parties, and apparently even wedding receptions. So that was fun.
   One of the members in the ward, Brother Akasaka, has a less active son that we've been trying to contact for almost as long as I've been here. He's a high school teacher, so he's really busy all the time. Well, we managed for finally make contact with him on Sunday! Brother Akasaka is a way cool guy, and he's really nice, but if I didn't know already that his son is his son, I don't think I would have ever guessed. They don't look anything alike. He seems like a really nice guy like his dad though, so that's good. We're hoping we can start meeting with him once in a while, and hopefully he'll start coming back to church. That would be great to see.
   On sunday we also watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Basically it's just a small devotional from President of the church and his two counselors. They each share a 10 minute message themed on Christmas, and there's also music and singing. I highly recommend watching it. Here's the link:  There was some really good stuff that was said. I especially like Uchtdorf's message. Many times in an effort to improve ourselves and focus on giving, we almost become trained to think that receiving a gift is a bad thing, and we forget how important it is to be a grateful recipient. As he said in his message, there is no joy in giving a gift if the recipient is not grateful for receiving it.
   So, I've been waiting some time now for this legendary Japanese fall that I always hear so much about. You know, red leaves and all that. The kanji for fall is actually the kanji for tree and fire combined, so that should tell you something. Well, now that we're in December, we finally found some red trees. It's actually kind of interesting, because some of the trees just had their leaves die and fall off kind of like in Arizona, and thy already have no leaves left. Then there's these trees with all their red leaves, and then there are other trees that haven't even started changing colors yet. So I'm not entirely sure when fall actually started around here.
That's about it for now! Oh, and one last final thought. I can't remember where I heard this, but there's quote that's been bouncing around in my head for a couple days. "There are two types of people in this world: those who say to God 'Thy will be done,' and those to who God says 'Alright, have it your way.'" Humorous, but I think it gets the point across. So yeah, take care everyone! More adventures to come next week!

Elder Blake

Captain's Log, Entry 12.3.12

   The weather has been really nice since about October, but the last week or two the temperature has started to drop some more. I'm quickly finding out that humidity is a double edged sword. During the summer you feel gross, and during the winter it makes it feel twice as cold as it really is. But yeah! At least we have seasons in Japan!
   It's been pretty uneventful this week. Not much went on in the way of exciting news. There were a few highlights though. Last Monday, we were invited over to the Anderson's home on the base for dinner and Family Home Evening. The Andersons are a way cool family, and it's always a treat when they invite us over. Well, for Family Home Evening we got to participate in one of their family traditions that they do for Christmas; we got to help set up the nativity scene. The way they do it is pretty cool. The pieces are all wrapped up in newspaper in the box, so you can't really tell what the pieces are until you open it up. You go around the room, everyone taking one piece at a time. You open it up, share a little bit about what its significance is in the story of the Birth of Christ, and then place it on the table where the nativity would be displayed for the rest of the Christmas season. Some pieces are obviously less obvious than others, like a cow for example, but it was really interesting to hear everyone share their thoughts on the birth of the Savior and what we can learn from all the different players that took part in the event.
   So there's this sister in the Yamato Ward, Nami, who referred a friend to us about two months ago or so. This friend of hers lives nearly an hour away by train though, so we ended up passing him off to the Elders over by where he lives. I was talking to Nami at church the other day, and she told me that this friend of hers has a baptismal date now. Awesome! He's looking pretty solid too, so we're all expecting it to go through. The best part about it is that she only recently returned to activity in about July, shortly before I arrived in Japan. It's been great to see her coming back to church and already getting involved in the work. There are so many of our Brothers and Sisters all around us with so much potential to serve the Lord and receive the blessings he has to offer, but sometimes they just need that helping hand to get back up and moving on the path. It's really great to see the difference and improvements that can be made in just a short time.
   As we approach Christmas, as a mission we're focusing on two things. First, is what each of us, individually, is giving to Christ every day as we enter the Christmas season. Secondly, we're focusing on recognizing the miracles that we are blessed with every day as we serve the Lord. One of those miracles that we've had recently just happened last night. We have an investigator named John who we haven't been able to make contact with for nearly two months. He's Phillipino, married, and has 3 young children. The thing is, he works construction 6 days a week, and his schedule is always changing. He was having phone problems, so he got a new phone with a new number so we haven't been able to call him. The only way to get in touch with him has been to drop by his apartment and hope either he or his wife would be home. Well, as I said, this went on for nearly two months. Last night we get this impression that we should try to go visit him again, despite having just dropped by the other day. Well, when we went by, as we were parking our bikes, his wife walks out the front door. "Hey, is John home?" "Yeah! come on in!" Awesome. We were able to find out that he now has a regular schedule, so we can start meeting regularly again, and we have his new phone number. Hopefully things will continue to go up from here.
   Other than that it's been fairly routine this last week. Rations are running low, the weather is getting colder, and I've heard rumors of mutiny among the crew. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Captain Elder Blake
--End of Entry--

Monday, November 26, 2012

   Well hello! Another week has gone by here in the promised land, also known as Yamato. Things have been fun, that's for sure. There have been quite a few different things going on. To start out, there's a Peruvian invasion going on right now in Yamato. There's a Peruvian woman who started coming to our weekly english class a few week ago, there's a peruvian man that we found on the street who's family are members but he isn't (he came to church with us last week), and we found another Peruvian man while we were knocking doors earlier in the week last week. Oh, and here's the best part; all 3 of them are fluent in Japanese, so I can still talk with them even though I don't know spanish! Although, it does help that I know the few simple phrases that anyone who's lived in the southwest for any period of time will pick up. You know, things like gracias, como estas, that sort of thing. But yeah, 3 Peruvians. In Japan. And none of them know each other.
He carved the turkey and there's nothing left!
   Thanksgiving was pretty good for us this year. Seeing as how I'm in Japan and Thankgsiving is an American holiday, it was a bit different than usual. However, depite being in Japan, we celebrated Thanksgiving twice. How? Well, allow me to explain. First, on Thursday, we went on Atsugi Base and had Thanksgiving dinnner with the Smith family. That was really fun. The Smith family is awesome. Elder Nakamura has never celebrated Thanksgiving before, seeing as how he's Japanese, so I tried to explain the holiday to him. It went something like this "What's Thanksgiving?" "Well, it's a holiday to express thanks for what we have. Give thanks." "ok. so what do you do?" "umm.... We eat alot?" Haha! Yeah, I don't think he was prepared though. You could tell he was suprised at the staggering amount of food: a typical Thanksgiving dinner with potatoes, stuffing, corn, a dozen other dishes, and of course turkey. So that was our first Thanksgiving. Our second Thanksgiving was on Friday. The Kaimori family from the Yamato Ward invited us over for their Thanksgiving celebration on Friday. Why did they celebrate on Friday? Well, that's because in Japan Thanksgiving is actually on Friday. It's just a calender holiday though, nobody really does anything. But, Brother Kaimori's wife is American. That means that they celebrated the American way: eating alot. So that was our second thanksgiving. It was really fun.
   We've been able to visit quite a few of the Yamato members in their homes recently, which has been really good. We're trying to get the ward members more involved, so what we've started doing is we're passing around a calender for them to sign up and have us come over and teach a practice lesson with them. These practice lessons usually end up turning into us going over for dinner and then having a practice lesson. But hey, I'm not complaining. Since our focus is to help involve the members, we keep our practice lessons really short and simple, as a way to demonstrate that sharing the gospel doesn't have to be really lengthy or complex. It's been having some effect already, we've had some members really get excited about missionary work recently. Speaking of which, President Budge spoke at the adult session of Stake Conference for the English speaking stake. He shared about a friend of his who keeps a Book of Mormon with him at all times, everywhere he goes. That way, if he ever finds himself in a situation where he could give someone a Book of Mormon, he has one available to do so. He then went on to explain that many of us pray for missionary opportunities. But if two people pray for missionary opportunites, and one of them has a Book of Mormon and the other doesn't, who is the Lord more likely to send that prepared person that would accept a Book of Mormon to? He then challenged everyone to do the same, and keep a Book of Mormon with them all the time, in the car, in your bag, or somewhere. I also find it important to note that his challenge didn't have a deadline. He also didn't challenge everyone to give away a certain number of Book of Mormons. He simply challenged everyone to keep one on hand at all times so that if you have an opportunity to share, you are prepared and able to act on that opportunity.
Funny Engrish! Not sure what a rordside is...
   Sunday was also a good day. Sister Ishihara was baptized and confirmed. There was a really good turnout from the ward, which I was really grateful for. The Yamato ward is a really friendly ward, so I expect that Sister Ishihara will be well taken care of. Pretty soon, we may be able to start teaching her sons. In the last couple of weeks before her baptism she refered both of her sons to us, and one of them actually came with her to a lesson. If we could start working with her family and they get baptized too, that would be the best. After all, the church is all about uniting families for eternity. We're praying the Lord will open their hearts to the Gospel.

   That's about it for this week! I hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving as well! Oh, and guess what? Christmas is coming! What will you give to Christ this Christmas?
Elder Blake