Monday, December 02, 2013

Hey Everyone!

So, I just wrote a few days ago. There have been a couple of things that have happened though. This week will definitely be alot shorter than the last one though. I guess that'll balance them out just perfectly then. haha!

Friday there was an all Sister's conference here in Kichijoji. They had asked me to interpret for that as well because they wanted all the sisters to be able to pay attention and focus, and if one of them was interpreting that makes it pretty tough to take notes and whatnot. So, Elder Crandall and I were companions for the day and went to that. It was kind of strange. I mean, we were the only two guys at this thing, and it was specifically tailored to the sisters and their needs. 

Sunday was pretty good. We went out and hit the streets for a little bit, and got to talk to some pretty cool people. We actually found a guy who was baptised almost 40 years ago but hasn't been to church in who knows how long. We invited him to a Christmas Concert this next weekend, and he might come to that. We also gave him a Book of Mormon because he didn't have a copy of one anymore. So, we'll see where that goes. 

Today was pretty fun. We went and had lunch with Ishii. He's a member from Atsugi, but I met him back when I was in Yamato because he attends the English Branch in Yamato. I did bump into him a few times in Atsugi too though. Anyways, Ishii called me up last week to tell me something. I had completely forgotton until he called me, but the day I transferred out of Atsugi he called me in the morning and said he had a favor to ask. He wanted to apply to the BYU Provo English Learning Program, but the application had an essay portion that had to be written in English. So, we met him up at the church, I helped him write his essay, then transferred later that afternoon. Ishii was calling to tell me that he had been accepted, and that he is going to the states on December 12th. I told him that he should come see me before he heads off to the states, so he did. We went and had lunch together today, and while we were talking I found out that he knows Clark Sensei from the MTC. That's also when I found out that he's married now. Ishii showed me pictures on his phone. Looks like it was a great wedding. Ishii tried calling Clark Sensei right then too, but he didn't pick up. Oh well. 

Yup. And tomorrow is Elder Yamashita's Birthday. Elder Medeiros had the idea to fill his office up with balloons. Fortunately for him, I have experience in that department. Haha! We're still not quite done yet, but it's getting there. It'll be fun.

That's about it since Thursday! Take care everyone!

Elder Blake

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hey everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

How have you all been? It's been a pretty eventful week and a half since I last wrote. Hold on to your seats.

Last week was the start of the new transfer, which means that returning missionaries were going home and new missionaries were coming in. Tuesday morning, the day missionaries departed and came in,  we had a combined mission conference with the Tokyo North mission here at Kichijoji. It was alot of fun getting to see old friends from the North Mission. I was also pleasently suprised to see Elder McKnight there as well. We were in the MTC together, but he was in the group after me. We got along pretty well. Sometime in that transfer when I came and he was still in the MTC he went home, so when his group came to the field I was suprised when he didn't come too. I'm not sure why he went home, but I didn't think he was coming back, especially after several months and then a year passed. Then, at this two mission conference, I see him out in the crowd of mingling missionaries, and I'm all just like, "woah! When did Elder McKnight get back?" He had only been out in the field for a couple months, but he ended up in the North Mission. I'll tell you what, my respect for him went up alot more when I saw him there and found out that he came back after being home for over a year. 

The conference was really good too. Elder Evans, the head of the church missionary department, and his wife came and spoke. The AP's had asked me to interpret, but then the morning of when we were setting up all the interpretation equipment, Brother Westman who is a member in one of the wards here in the mission and is a professional interpreter, came over. Turns out President Wada had asked him to interpret. When he found out that I had been asked to interpret too, he had me go sit by him and help him out. He let me interpret Sister Evan's talk, and gave me some good feedback. Then I got to sit next to him and listen to him interpret Elder Evan's talk. I was really impressed. That was a real treat. So back to Elder Evans, he's the head of the church missionary department, so he rubs elbows with the First Presidency and Quorom of the 12 alot. He talked about alot of interesting things. One of them was why when they lowered the missionary ages, why sisters still only serve for 18 months instead of 2 years like the guys. He said he doesn't know all the reasons, but one of them is that one of President Monson' big concerns about returning missionaries is whether or not they'll be able to quickly and easily get married. The way it was before, when guys came home from their missions, a majority of girls available to date are several years younger, and when the sisters come home a majority of the guys available to date are still several years younger. But, because the ages are changed now, you figure that most young men will turn 18 during their senior year of higschool, and then leave for thier mission between 18 and 19, and a majority of departing sisters are now leaving at 19, that means that when they all go home a majority of them will be within about a year spread of each other. Pretty interesting I thought. Another really good part was at the very end, when he shared what are in his opinion the 3 most important rules in the missionary handbook. He said 99% of all problems missionaries have could be avoided if they just obeyed those 3 rules. The 3rd and final one he shared came with the disclaimer that it's not actually written in the missionary handbook, but he said, "Just don't do anything stupid." I laughed pretty hard at that one. 

Halfway through the conference the departing missionaries snuck out the side door and then got on a bus to head off to the airport. Well, everyone except Elder Rindi. He's from Hawaii, so his flight wasn't until 9:00 PM, so he stayed til the end of the conference, and then went to the airport with the Wada's and us after the conference. After he got through security we went over to the arrival gates to wait for the new missionaries. I actually ended up seeing a member from my first area Yamato there at the airport. That was pretty cool. When the new missionaries started coming through the gates, all the Japanese missionaries came out well ahead of everyone else because of Customs. Do you know who I saw? I saw Ryohei. He was on his way to Fukuoka with another group of missionaries going to the same mission, and they were tranferring flights at the airport we were at. That was a pretty big suprise. We got a picture together, and he gave me his email. I'll have to see if I can get that picture from him. All of our new missionaries finally arrived, and we loaded them all up on a bus and came back to the mission home. 

The next day consisted of trainings for the new missionaries, and then the trainers came to pick up their new companionsThursday morning. The AP's asked me to interpret again, so I was interpreting for the new missionary training all day. It was pretty fun. Really long though. There were some pretty interesting new missionaries in that group. 

The weekend was pretty normal. Saturday there was a YSA activity at the church next door, and when we were attending a baptismal service for one of the little girls in the ward I saw Ryohei's sister. She came home from her mission while I was in Ushiku. So, I got to tell her that I saw Ryohei at the airport. That was pretty cool. 

Then we come to yesterday. Yesterday was a crazy, crazy day. Elder Fukuchi got a call from Elder Farr in the morning, and he said that his bag had been stolen. Their apartment key was in the bag, so they couldn't get into their apartment. We had them come to the mission home and we gave them a copy of their apartment key. Then we got a call from Sister Kawajo, and she had lost her wallet, so we had to cancel her debit card. About this time it was almost 9:00 in the morning, time to get ready for staff meeting. Then President Wada comes in, and asks me the procedure for when a missionary gets in a bike accident. Turns out a fairly new missionary got in an accident, and dealing with those is one of my responcibilities. It all ended up getting taken care of, it just took a process of calling them, calling PBO, calling them back, talking with police, waiting, getting called back, etc. Elder Barker, the missionary who was in the accident, is ok. He went around a corner and hit a 16 year old kid who was on his way to higschool almost head on. Elder Barker faceplanted on this kid's chest and got a bloody nose, and this kid's bike's front tire hit Elder Barker's knee hard enough that it bent. Somehow he walked away with just a bruise. The amazing thing is nobody fell over, they both ended up on their feet straddling their bikes. 

After that finally got taken care of, I started putting Sister Sasaki's bike together for her. She transferred into Kichijoji, but had trouble getting her bike shipped here. It finally arrived, and I was going to put it back together for her before district meeting. That's when I found out that some bikes are just never meant to be taken apart. All the sisters in the mission get little beach cruisers with baskets instead of mountain or sports bikes, and Sister Sasaki is no exception. There were so many little tiny bits and pieces that I had no idea where they belonged because I've never used anything but mountain bikes. I eventually got it all figured out. you can ride it, and there were no leftover parts so I'm pretty sure it got put together right. It ended up taking enough time that we only had 10 minutes to eat lunch before district meeting though. District meeting went well, and then we all finally got a breather for a few hours before English Class that night.

English class went well as always. Then after class I was back in the office with Elder Fukuchi, and Elder Yamashita came in and I started talking with him. Then I passed out. Don't worry, this has a happy ending. Nothing is wrong, the doctor says it must have just been a fluke. Anyway, they called an ambulance, but by the time they had me on the stretcher to take me out to the ambulance I was ok. As they were strapping me in, I called over to Sister Yamashita to grab a Book of Mormon and some pamphlets for me. I wasn't able to give any away. I was in and out of the hospital pretty quick and didn't really get to talk to anyone except the EMT on the ambulance ride over and the doctor's assistant as he was prepping for the doctor to check me out. Oh well. 

And today is Thanksgiving! We had Thanksgiving dinner up in the mission home with all the Kichijoji missionaries, and we had permission to invite investigators. We invited Lily, and she came and had a great time! There was actually another Chinese investigator there too, so they were able to talk and have a great time. It turned out really well. 

Yup. That's today. Oh, and today's picture is my Thanksgiving Dinner. It was really good. 

Talk to you all next week! P-day is on monday like normal again next week, so don't miss it!

Elder Blake

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hey Everyone!

How are you all doing?  We had another great week here in Kichijoji. It's way fun. Today is the official start of the new transfer, but transfer day isn't until Thursday. Elder Nagaoka will be on his merry way to his new area, which means Elder Fukuchi and I will be in just a normal 2 man companionship from then. 

This is just a picture of some of the Elders here in Kichijoji
 from Saturday night. Elder Piland is going home tomorrow, 
so we went out to eat with him to celebrate. 
LtoR, Elder Fukuchi, Nagaoka, Nebeker, Piland, Me.
So, there were some pretty cool things that happened this last week. First of all, on Wednesday, I went with Elder Rindlisbacher and Elder Medeiros to the Driving Center so that Elder Medeiros and I could take our tests for our Japanese driver's liscences. While we were there, waiting for our tests, this Chinese lady (Lily, which is actually the same name as my niece who was born a couple months ago) starts talking with me. She starts telling me about how she used to work as a flight attendant at China Air, and she had been to Salt Lake before. She said that she really loved how our church was really focused on family. She then asked me if she was allowed to join our church. I said yes. Then I asked if she wanted to join our church. She said yes. We swapped contact info, and then took our driving tests. Unfortunately, we both failed. The driving test in Japan is super strict. The guy giving the test said he failed me because I wasn't looking in my mirrors enough. Oh well. I'll just have to try again in a couple weeks. 

I called Lily up and invited her and her husband to church, and they came. It was way good. They actually ended up oversleeping, and they arrived just as church was ending. They stuck around for a bit, and we had a really good conversation. We gave Lily a Book of Mormon in Chinese, and her Japanese husband one in Japanese. Turns out they actually live in the Tokyo North Mission though (Kichijoji is right on the border of the two missions). So, we'll end up having to refer them over there, but they live close enough that we'll be able to keep meeting with them. They're way cool, and super nice! I'm excited to see them again. They'll be coming to a Christmas Concert in Kichijoji on December 7th, which is apparantly Lily's Birthday. 

The other Elders here in Kichijoji had a baptism on Saturday. There was only one problem: the water heater wasn't working. The guy getting baptized was over 60, so it's not like we could just tell him to tough it out and be baptized in cold water. So, what idea did they come up with? Let's just fill up the font with buckets of hot water from the apartment! So, between 6 of us, we got a bucket brigade going from the apartment, into the room with the font through a window, and then into the font. Not sure how they came up with that idea, but it worked. Several hundred buckets of water and about an hour and a half later, the font was filled with warm water. 

That's the big news for the week. Thanks for all your emails. I hope you all have a great week this week! 

Elder Blake

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hey Everyone!

Sorry that I'm emailing a day late this week. We had temple p-day this week, which means we didn't have p-day until today. But, as always, it was great to go to the temple. 

So this last week has been pretty interesting. A couple of surprises along the way. Things have really been picking up in Fuchu lately, which makes me really happy. We've been blessed to find several new people to work with, and some of them have quite a bit of promise too.

So this week we had a lesson with the Yamada couple. They're the older couple we've been trying to work with whose daughter is married to an american, lives in America, and was baptizes several years ago. We were able to have a couple from the ward come with us, and we all ate lunch together at the church, then did a church tour with them to help explain what it is we do on Sundays and why it's significant. Mr Yamada didn't seem too terribly thrilled, but he listened respectfully. Mrs Yamada was much more interested, and you could tell that she was really feeling something. It was really exciting. 

So, the biggest surprise of the week was when I was on companion exchanges with the Elders in Fussa. We got a phone call from the AP's, and they wanted to talk with Elder Thurman (a new missionary who's still only on transfer 2). Then they wanted to talk with me. They told me that I was transferring to Kichijoji in that Thursday, and Elder Thurman would be my replacement in Fuchu. Well that came as a surprise to me. I mean, transfers aren't for another week. So, I was transferred early, and now I'm in Kichijoji, and Elder Thurman and Elder Otsuka (who are both only transfer 2) are alone in Fuchu. I hope they have fun together. haha!

Coming to Kichijoji has been fun. I'm in the same area as Elder Fernelius now, so we see alot of each other again. That's way exciting. So I have a funny story from the other day. I'm out streeting with Elder Nagaoka and Elder Fukuchi (my new companions... at least until the regular transfer in a week. Then it will be just me and Elder Fukuchi). We walk by this random small field in the middle of the city with this old man cutting down a persimmon tree all by himself. Like, this guy is old. He's 86. He can hardly stand up straight. So, the tree is already felled, and he's working on cutting it all up into small pieces with a chain saw. But, his chainsaw is so dull that it's literally burning the wood. He was sitting there for at least 5 minutes working on a section maybe 8 inches thick and only made about 2 inches of progress. We talked with him, and found out he was cutting the tree down because it wasn't producing good fruit anymore, all the fruit was bitter. Then, because of the way the tree was laying, the weight of the tree caused his chainsaw to get pinched in the cut he was making and he couldn't get it out. We tried to help, but we couldn't get it out either. He hobbles on off to his house just down the road and comes back with a hand saw. He starts going at it with this handsaw, and he's cutting faster with the hand saw than he was with the chainsaw! Talk about a really dull chain saw. Anyways, we helped him out a bit, and eventually we got his chainsaw free. He opened up a bit then, and we were able to talk with him for a bit. He's a really nice old man, but he's not super interested right now. We're going to keep trying to work with him though. 

The only other exciting news that come to mind right now is that this morning at the temple I ran into a member from the Ushiku Ward. Do you remember the Comba family I taught in Ushiku? Turns out that Sheila, the mom, was baptized last month! I was so excited to hear that! Jose still isn't baptized yet, but I know he will be one of these days. 

That's about it for now. Take care everyone!

Elder Blake

Monday, November 04, 2013

Hey Everyone!  

It's been another good week for us out here in Japan. Lots of fun stuff going on.
   So to start with, Elder Otsuka and I found a new investigator earlier on in the week. He's in college, and when we stopped him on the street, you could tell he was super nervous. Our conversation wasn't really going anywhere, and despite declining to trade numbers or set up a lesson he still wanted to talk. On a whim I asked him about his hobbies, and he said he likes taking pictures. I asked him if he had any pictures with him, and he pulls out a small album. It was full of pictures of trains. Just trains. Well you know who that made me think of? My Grandpa. He loves trains. That's his hobby. So, I pulled out my photo album with pictures from home that I carry around, and showed him the pictures in there of my Grandpa and his train. That got him to come out of his shell at last. As we kept talking and he looked through the rest of my pictures he realized that we're actually really nice guys, traded numbers with us and told us that when we first stopped him he thought we were going to kidnap him or something. Sister Swainstan's advice (more like a command really) way back in my first transfer to carry my pictures with me everywhere every day finally paid off. I'm pretty sure he would have been gone if I didn't have those on me to show him. We then also found out that apparently he gets bullied a lot at school (that would explain why he was so nervous when we called out to him). We met up with him again for a second lesson later in the week, and he starts telling us about how at school something of his got stolen, but when he reported it nobody believed him. I could see that. I mean, it is Japan after all. Crime is rare enough as it is, let alone petty theft in a classroom. I asked him what got stolen, and he told me that it was his eraser... now I really know why nobody believed him. XD Poor guy. He really needs some friends.
  Later in the week on Thursday (Halloween) Elder Otsuka and I were riding the train back home in the evening and I started talking with this guy sitting next to me. He wasn't very talkative, until I asked him if he was doing anything for Halloween. He said he wasn't doing anything for Halloween, but he was going around looking for smiley face pins that night. Turns out he collects Smiley face pins. He had one pinned to his bag, and I asked him if he had any others with him right then. He pulled out a little box with about a dozen pins in it. He started talking to me for about 5 minutes about just smiley face pins. I never knew that they could be so interesting. Haha! He said that in his collection he has 380 pins, and they're all different. I didn't even know that you could make 380 different types of smiley faces. But, anyways, he's a way nice guy, and after I got him talking a bit, I was able to slip in the gospel and gave him a Book of Mormon. He gave me his number, and a smiley face pin to boot. What a nice guy! It's great to know that the Lord will put these people in our paths, and if we're just being our friendly selves, opportunities to share the gospel will arise.
   Oh, this one's really short but I got a good laugh out of it. Elder Otsuka and I were out and about doing our thing one night, when we walked by this group of old retired bums that are always hanging out near the Fuchu train station. I overheard them talking to each other, and one of them says, "Hey, I have a job!" (it doesn't translate into English, but the way he said it in Japanese implies that he's telling brand new information to the listener, almost defensively). Another says, "really? What is it?" "Drinking booze." Then his friend replied with something to the effect of "you're an idiot." I got a pretty good laugh out of it. Elder Otsuka didn't think it was so funny. Something must be wrong with the kid.
   Well, that's about all for now. I hope you all have a great week! Take care!

Elder Blake

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hello Everyone!
How have you all been this week? I hope you're all having a great time!

For P-day last week we went with Bishop
Kawashima and two of his kids (Meimei and Rei)
to tour the Suntory beer factory. It was pretty
 interesting I guess. I was hoping to see more
of the machinery and how the factory works.
Instead I learned how the proper choice of ingredients
makes better beer, and how they produce the beer itself.
Oh, and I learned how to properly pour a
glass of beer. Haha!
   So, Wednesday we had a pretty cool experience. We had a pretty full schedule between the English class we teach every Wednesday, a practice lesson we had set up with a member, and trying to track down some names the Bishop gave us of people who are on the Ward list but nobody know who on earth the are. We had less than an hour to do any finding, but we set a goal to find somebody in that hour-ish window who would be willing to go with us back to the church and do a church tour. We hit the street, and we couldn't get anybody. Time was up, and we turned to head over to the church for English Class. From where we were, we had just enough time to make it to the church on time for set up if we didn't stop and talk with anyone. As we're walking, I see this guy, and I'm about to just pass him without saying anything so we can make it to the church on time. Then I had the thought that maybe I should try talking with him anyway, and before I had time to make a decision, I called out to him without thinking. It's a good thing I did, because he stopped and talked with us. He didn't go back with us to the church like we had set a goal for, but he traded numbers, we set a lesson, and he's really excited to meet and learn more. We even said a prayer with him right there in the street before we went our separate ways. We ended up being a little late to the church, but that's ok. I'd say it was a good trade off.
Ward Halloween party on Saturday.
One of the kids dressed up as Goku
   Sunday ended up being pretty cool too. I was already really impressed and very grateful for how kind and thoughtful everyone in the Fuchu Ward was for my birthday, but it turns out it wasn't over. There were a couple families who didn't find out it was my birthday until after the fact, so they threw together a "Birthday Party" for me after church yesterday. We had lunch, dessert, and everyone sang for me. How nice of them! But, that wasn't the best part of Sunday! There's a man who's been coming to English class for a couple of weeks by the name of "Paw". That's his nick-name. Not sure why. Anyways, we invited him to hear the missionary lessons, and he told us "maybe". Last week he said that he was thinking about coming to church on Sunday. We told him we would love to see him there. Saturday night we get an email from the missionaries in Kichijoji telling us about a baptism they're having the next day (Sunday). Elder Otsuka and I both thought it sure would be nice if we had somebody who could come to the Baptism. All of our investigators were busy and couldn't make it. We decided that if Paw came to church, we would invite him. Well, guess what? Paw came to church! That was already pretty exciting as it is. We invited him to the Baptism in Kichijoji that night at 7. He said he'd think about it and call us back. He did. And he went! The Lord is definitely mindful of us. Paw had a good time, and said it was a great experience. I'm excited to try inviting him to hear the lessons again now.
   That's about it for this week! Talk to you all later!

Elder Blake

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey Everyone!
Elder Otsuka doing his handstand
on his scriptures
   How are you all doing? I hear it's starting to cool off over there in AZ. So that means it's what, 99 degrees still? Haha!
   Last week has been a pretty good week. Lots of interesting adventures. To start off with, there was another typhoon that blew in Tuesday evening. It was raining pretty much all day Tuesday because of it. After being out in the rain for several hours, Elder Otsuka and I finally got back to our apartment at the end of the night. He starts to take his stuff out of his bag, and found out that it's not as waterproof as he thought it was. All his stuff got wet, including his scriptures (that he had just bought only a few weeks ago too). He freaks out, and starts scrambling around trying to save them. he pulls out a hair dryer (not sure where he found that...), and tries to blow dry it. That's not working, so he closes it and squeezes it shut as tight as he can. Some water starts dripping out, so he decides to pursue that course. He puts them on the ground on a towel, and then does a handstand on his scriptures, using the wall for balance. I started laughing, and asked him if it wouldn't be easier to just stand on it with his feet. He hadn't thought of that. Haha! It did end up working though. The gilding on the pages is a little messed up, but his scriptures are ok!
The delicious fruit-cream-cake-cup things
that the Bishop's wife gave me on my birthday.
   So Wednesday was my birthday. Thanks again for all the cards and well wishes! It ended up being a great day over here on my end in Japan as well. I got several calls from other missionaries and a member. At the Children's English class we teach, several of the member moms that came all remembered that it was my birthday and congratulated me. Before the regular English class in the evening, the Bishop's wife (who goes to the children's English class) gave us a call wanting to know where we were. She comes to the church, and gave me these fruit-cream-cake-cup things that were super delicious. Her story was that her 8 year old son, Rei, overheard her congratulate me at the children's English class. On their way home, he insisted that she go and buy me something for a gift. Haha! That kid is so funny. At the regular English class, one of the students also remembered that it was my birthday that day, and brought me a fruitcake. I had to keep myself from laughing just because of the bad rep fruitcake has. I've actually never eaten fruitcake before, but I've decided that it actually isn't all that bad. Granted, I'd much rather have a regular cake, but it's not terrible. That night, we even got a surprise visitor around 10:00. We had already finished planning, and were changed out of our shirts and ties when the doorbell rings. It was the ward mission leader and his wife, and they brought us some treats. That was nice of them.
   Thursday we had a zone meeting. I ended up using the cake mix my family sent me to bring a cake to that since there were a couple other missionaries in the zone who had birthdays in the last week. That ended up turning out really well. I mean, Elder Otsuka and I could eat a whole cake ourselves, but that doesn't mean it would be a good idea. Haha! After the conference we did companion exchanges with the AP's. It was pretty fun. Elder Rindlisbacher (good luck with that one :P) is a way good missionary. I really feel like I learned a lot, even though it was only for a couple of hours after zone meeting. Definitely showed me that I still have a lot of room left to improve. And just when I thought I was doing so well too. Haha!
There were quite a few other fun things this week, but I'm about out of time. Talk to you all more next week!

Elder Blake

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hey there everybody!

   Thanks to all those of you who sent me birthday well wishes and cards and letters! My birthday actually isn't until Wednesday, but I opened up the package my family sent me this morning, and there were lots of your cards inside. I really appreciate that you all are looking out for me and still thinking about me (at least once a year... haha!)
   So, I suppose first I'll start by giving you the results of transfer calls last Tuesday. I'm still in Fuchu. So is Elder Otsuka. Nothing new. Yay! I was hoping to be in Fuchu all the way until Christmas, but based on what President Wada has told me in the last day or two I'm pretty sure I'll be heading out somewhere else next transfer. We'll see. Sometimes he just likes to mess with people.
   Earlier on in the week, Elder Otsuka and I had our bikes confiscated by the... I'm not sure what you call them in English... let's go with "Parking Police". We had parked our bikes near the train station, and when we came back at the end of the day they were gone. There aren't any signs there that say parking is prohibited, but I guess they decided it was. So, there wasn't much else we could do but walk. We called the mission office and asked them what to do, and they said they would look up the address of the place we would need to go to get our bikes back. When they got back to us in the morning two days later, we headed off to go get our bikes back. It was a good hour walk away, and when we finally got there they asked us where our bikes were taken from. "Fuchu Honmachi station", we said. "Oh. All the bikes taken from that area are actually kept at this OTHER location way over HERE," they say as they point at a map. It was in the exact opposite direction from our apartment that we had come, and even further away. So then we walked all the way back past our apartment, and then another hour and a half or so to this other place. I'm convinced they put these places in the most obscure places on purpose. But, I did see something interesting on the way. We walked past a baseball field, and I noticed all the players were adults. I figured it was just some community league. Then I saw there was a big banner on the fence that said "Tokyo Over 60 Baseball League". I looked again and noticed that these were all a bunch of grandpas. Playing baseball. Hardcore and competitively. Once more I am astounded by the vitality of the old people in Japan.
   General Conference was of course good. I know it's been over a week for all of you, but you'll just have to try your best to remember what was said so you can know what I'm talking about. haha! My favorite talk was probably Uchtdorf's talk from Saturday Morning. He made a really good point that the Lord requires our all, and that as members we must be willing to give everything we have and be involved. It takes more than just "listening to sermons and 'dreaming of your mansions above'". I was also a little suprised that there were several apostles this time around that explicitly called people to repentance. One example would be when David A Bednar ended his talk. "If you are not paying your tithing, I would invite you to consider your ways, and repent." Not always a good sign when the apostles and prophets become blunt like that.
   One last story and then I'll wrap up. We had an experience this last week that I think typifies the direction the church leadership is pushing members to be more involved in the hastening of the work. We have an investigator family, the Shinomotos. We've been trying to introduce them to more members and help them build friendships, but it's been difficult because they're busy and haven't been able to make it to church yet. We talked with out ward mission leader about some ideas we could try, and what was decided on is that we would invite them to a family home evening at the church with a couple of families from the ward (that wasn't even planned at all, actually), and if they said they would come then we would put a FHE together. They accepted, and so we went to work. We invited several families, and the ward mission leader organized getting dinner set up. Everyone contributed a little something, so there was no expense to the ward at all. It was literally just a combined family home evening with the families providing everything themselves. We showed up Sunday evening, and to our surprise there were quite a few more people than we had invited show up. One of the families and taken the liberty of inviting several other members to come as well. When it was all said and done, It was almost like a mini ward party. nearly 30 people came and participated. Before our investigators arrived, we reminded everyone of the purpose and intent of the activity, and invited them to really fellowship our investigators. The entire evening, Elder Otsuka and I didn't have to worry about our investigators once. They were never left alone, somebody was always talking with them. Elder Otsuaka and I shared the spiritual message, and then we had dessert and everyone went home. It was the best to see these people in our ward pull together and put on this great activity just for one family we're teaching.
   That's about it for this week. Hope you all have a great one! Talk to you all more next week!

Elder Blake

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hello Everyone!

   Sorry for writing a little later today. We had zone p-day this morning, and afterwards we ended up having an unplanned shopping trip with some of the other Elders. And when I say shopping trip, I mean we tagged along while Elder Thurman went to go buy new pants. Why go back and sit in our apartment for several hours when we could be out with other missionaries?
Elder Otsuka took a picture with Elder Olson at his last sports night
 (Elder Olson is going home tomorrow), and Elder Nagaoka jumped in.
 Sister Brown and I managed to get the photobomb in the back too.
It's just overall a funny picture. Haha!
   I hope you've all had a great week! It's been a pretty good week over here. It was a little slower than usual, but we were able to get a lot of groundwork laid that will hopefully pay of in the coming couple of weeks. We've been giving a pretty heavy focus to General Conference coming up this next weekend (for Japan... time differences and all). We're trying to get as many people as possible to come. We've gone through all the contacts in our email and sent an invitation to everyone, whether we know them or not. We're also inviting all the students at the English class we teach every Wednesday for community service. On the church's website, they made banners that you can post on your Facebook page or on a blog to invite people to conference. I've been waiting for the Japanese ones to get put up so I can have the ward mission leader send the links to the whole ward, but when they finally got put up, I noticed that they had left the date the same instead of pushing it back a week to the date they're broadcasting it in Japan. So much for that plan. But, it'll be good! I'm really hoping we'll have a good turnout!
   Elder Otsuka has been having a really hard time this last week. Not emotionally or anything, he's just been having a lot of accidents. Haha! One day after study, I got up to go in the kitchen, and I call through the doorway asking him what he wants to eat. In a sudden burst of energy, he jumps up out of his chair and skips on over to take a look at what we have. As he goes through the doorway though, he hit his head on the door frame on an up-skip. I felt really bad for him, but just couldn't help but laugh. He laughed too though, so it was ok. Another day as we're coming back to our apartment, I rounded the last corner before we park our bikes, and as I'm getting off my bike I hear Elder Otsuka crash. I turn around, and he's on the ground all tangled up in his bike. I asked him what happened, and he said that he was trying to see how late he could wait to turn. That means he ended up putting the handlebars at 90 degrees, which doesn't exactly work very well. Poor guy.
   So, today is another new transfer. That means that transfer calls will be tomorrow, and if I transfer then I'll be moving on Thursday. I've only been in Fuchu for two transfers though, so I'd be surprised if I go anywhere. I'll let you know next week what happens.
Take care everyone! Send you more next week!

Elder Blake

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hey Everyone! How's it going with all of you?

   It's been a relatively quiet week over here. Just enough to keep busy, but not enough that we're going crazy.
There's a pretty cool older couple that we're working with right now. Their daughter is married to an American, and living in America. She was baptized several years ago, and she sent her parents' info to us through email so we could start teaching them. They're really nice, and really grateful to the church for the help and the change it's brought in their daughter's life. They want to learn more about the church because their daughter was baptized, but they aren't quite ready yet to actually make any changes. Or so they say. In our first lesson with them when we invited them to read the Book of Mormon, they said that they weren't ruling anything out yet, but they weren't quite ready to "abandon their ancestors" or change their Buddhist ways. Then when we went back for our next lesson the husband starts out by saying, "So I read a little from the Book of Mormon. It's pretty interesting." Haha! People can be pretty funny sometimes. I'm so excited to keep working with this family.
Match! Reflesh yourself!
   Saturday was a pretty interesting day. We went out to the East side of our area for the afternoon to try visiting some people the Bishop had asked us to go see. On our way back, as we were riding along we got to a section of road where I saw quite a few police officers. I thought it was kinda weird, but didn't think too much about it. Then we come up to an intersection with lots of police officers. Now I'm thinking maybe there was an accident or something. Then this guy in a suit steps in front of me and tells me to stop and get off my bike. He says that the car will be coming soon, so to just wait a minute. Ok, so maybe it's a funeral procession or something, I thought. But then I noticed that this guy in a suit had an ear piece in. And there were several men in suits on each of the corners, and they all had ear pieces in. So now we all know that there's something going on. There was one woman who I overheard asking a man in a suit why were all asked to stop. He dodged the question, but I couldn't help thinking to myself “cops everywhere, men in suits with earpieces, and they're blocking the intersection for a car that they say is coming in just a minute, and you still have to ask what they're doing? Clearly there's a VIP coming down this way.” Well, the car finally arrives with a full police escort. It had at least a dozen antennas on it and had tinted windows, but the back window was down, and wouldn't you know it, the Emperor of Japan rolled on past and was waving at everyone. Yeah, I'd say he's a pretty important person. So that's kinda cool I guess. I got to see an emperor.
   The day after (Sunday), I was talking with one of the members about how I saw the emperor of Japan. He shared something pretty interesting with me. But first, you have to know the basic background about the Japanese Emperor. Back in the day it was believed that the Emperor is the literal descendant of the sun goddess, and he's essentially the top guy in the Japan's native religion (Shinto). There are many times in Japanese history that the Emperor didn't have ultimate political control, but even still he's always been the figure head for the country. When Japan lost in WWII they were forced to renounce that the Emperor was a deity, so now he's just a figure head like the Queen of England. Anyways, what this member shared with me is the kanji for Emperor. The kanji mean "White Sun God". One of the most important events recorded in the Book of Mormon is that Jesus Christ, after he was resurrected and ascended to heaven, appeared to the people living on the American continent and preached his gospel to them as well. He taught them that when he had told his disciples in Jerusalem that he had "other sheep not of this fold" (John 10:16)  he was referring to the people on the American continent. He then continued to explain that there were even more lost sheep he must go to visit that were not in Jerusalem or in the American continent. There are quite a few theories already around about how one of the lost 10 tribes of Israel ended up in Japan. If that's the case, and Jesus Christ appeared to them too, I could easily see how over time the authorized leader of the "White Sun God's" church and his successors could erroneously come to be considered a deity themselves. Interesting...
   Well, that's about it for this week. Hope you all have a good one! Write you all later!

Elder Blake

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hey everyone!

How are you all doing this week? I hope everyone is having a great time!
I saw what I thought was an apartment complex and thought
it would be good to go knock on some doors over there.
 We get around to the front side, and see this. For those of you
who can't read Japanese, it says "Denmark Inn Fuchu".
 They're so punny! As far as we could tell,
 it was actually a nursing home of some sort.
   So there have been some pretty cool happenings this week. We set a new record for attendance at the children's English class that we have here in Fuchu. That was pretty cool. That evening, when we had the regular English class, there was a church member who came late. After the class, he was telling us about some Korean lady he had met downstairs in the foyer when he walked into the church. They talked a little bit, and she had a pretty cool story. Her son is pretty sick and often in the hospital. They've gone around to a lot of different Christian churches, but they always felt something was off. One example she brought up was that a lot of the ministers would tell them that her son's sickness was her fault, that she brought it on him because of her sins or something like that. Anyways, she and her son prayed that they would be able to find a better church to go to. A day or two later, while she's on her walk, she stumbles across our church. She just so happens to come by when we're having English class, which means somebody was inside and the doors were open. Pretty good timing, huh?
Lunch at a special training at the mission home.
Sister wada took this. I can't help but laugh when I look at it,
 because everybody is doing something so different.
Elder Nuttal is blankly gazing off into nothing, Elder Fernelius
 is acting all awkard, Elder Flack is posing all epic-like,
and I'm just doing... I don't know what I'm doing.
   Lately in the mission we've been focusing on becoming more Ammon-like missionaries, and finding more opportunities to serve people. Thursday I went on splits to Kunitachi, and we had quite the interesting opportunity while I was there. It was early in the afternoon, and we were handing out fliers on a busy street corner. I see this white guy go past, and I was going to call out to him, but he went inside a small store before I could. I decided I would talk with him when he came out. I could see him inside trying to talk with the cashier about something, then he goes to leave. He looked pretty frustrated and flustered. He walked out the door, and went the opposite direction from where I was standing straight to where Elder Orton was. Elder Orton tries talking with him, and he blows him off. The light is red, so he can't go anywhere, and Elder Orton tries again. Long story short, they guy was really grumpy, but quickly apologized for being so impolite. He said he was having a rough day, and shouldn't have been taking it out on Elder Orton. Turns out that he's from England, and had only been in Japan for a few days. He's here for 3 months to do some study for his PHD, but he has no support system of any kind. The college got him here, and then just dropped him off. He got to his apartment, and the electricity was off. He tried talking with the landlord about it, and he gave him some runaround about how the electric company needs a phone number so he can verify that the apartment isn't vacant. This guy then goes and is doing his best to find somewhere he can buy a phone, but is failing miserably. We ended up spending pretty much the whole afternoon with him, helping him get a phone, showing him some useful shops, helped him get a new futon (the one they provided him with was a children's size), and then arranged to have a member drive us all back to his apartment with him to wait for the electric guy. Needless to say, he was very grateful and very surprised that we would be so willing to help him out. He now trusts us more than he trusts his college or even the Japanese as a whole. That's good I guess, right?
   That's about it for this week! There were some other pretty cool stories, but I'm about out of time. Maybe I'll just keep them in reserve just in case next week I can't think of anything to write about. Haha!
Take care everyone!

Elder Blake

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hey everyone!

   Well, today promises to be an interesting day. There's a typhoon that's been rolling in since yesterday, and it's finally hitting our area right about.... now-ish. It's still pretty mild, but they're predicting the main typhoon won't actually hit for about another hour or so, and they're predicting about a half a meter of rain or so. Sounds exciting. So now it's a typhoon-p-day. A T-day! Yay!
   It's been a relatively quiet week so far. There were several conferences and meetings that we went to, but other than that it was a pretty routine week. I'm actually really struggling to think of something interesting to share today... We'll see what I can come up with.
   So, all of a sudden everybody is getting engaged. It's been over a year since I've left, and I can only think of one friend who's gotten engaged or married since then (that I've heard about at least), and that was way back in winter. Now, in just this last week, I've heard about several people all at once that are engaged. Is there something in the air over there? Haha! I was starting to wonder if anyone was actually going to get married while I was gone. So that's been pretty exiting. It makes me wonder how many more engagements I'll hear about this week.
   So, as I'm typing this, I keep looking out the window and watching the wind and the rain. There's a tree that is getting pushed around quite a bit not too far from our back porch. It's really making me think about how sturdy trees really are. I mean, you think about how much force it takes to uproot a tree, and it's pretty impressive. These trees get blown around, and they just go right back to how they were before. And to think that these trees all start from little seeds that you can hold in your hand without any effort. It reminds me of a place in the Book of Mormon where a man named Alma teaches about faith. He talks about how the word of God is like a seed. First we have to give a place in our hearts for it to be planted, and then nurture it for it to grow. As it grows, our faith increases, until eventually the seed reaches maturity and becomes a large tree that can weather the storms and adversities of life.  All of our testimonies start small, but given time they can grow into something that can weather a fierce storm like this one today.
   Anyways, back to last week. Saturday night there was a stake priesthood meeting. Fuchu ward is the only ward I've served in here in the Musashino Stake, but I still knew maybe about a third of the people who came to the meeting. Way to represent! Fuchu ward is the best. There was one really interesting talk that I liked. One of the stake presidency shared an experience he had about a woman he worked with. She pretty much had just a really rough life. He would find small quiet ways to help her out, and sometimes some larger opportunities came up too. One of those times she had mentioned that that was the first time anybody had shown her kindness. Later, while she was at his home, she asked why he and his wife were so kind? His answer: because we are Christian. We follow the example of Christ and love and serve those around us. Really the most effective way we can share the gospel is to live it, like this brother did.
   Well, sorry this week is a little short. Next week should have more interesting things to share. Talk to you all next week!
Elder Blake

PS 100 days until Christmas

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hey Everyone!

   How have you all been this week? I hope everyone is doing great. Things are going great over here! The weather is still pretty hot, but it's starting to cool off. It's not so hot that I feel like I'm in a sauna when I go outside anymore. That's always good, right?
   This last week hasn't had any really big things happen, but there have been lots of cool little things. Lots of small instances where the hand of the Lord has really been guiding us in our work. One of those was when we went to a lesson with an investigator that we had set up over the phone the day before. We rode all the way out to his house, and he wasn't home. We thought that he might be on his way back from someplace and was running late, so we decided to wait outside his front door for about 15 minutes or so. He ended up not coming home in those 15 minutes, so we went back to our apartment to finish study. On the way back to our apartment, we pass the pre-school that one of our other investigators sends her son to. As we rode past, she just happened to be walking out the front gate with her kids. We were able to say hi and talk for a minute. It didn't seem like that big of a deal, but then I thought about it. I had been disappointed that our lesson fell through, but if our lesson had held we wouldn't have seen this other investigator. Also, if we had decided to wait only 10 minutes, or not wait at all, the timing would have been all off and we would have missed her still anyways. What it all came down to is there was only a maybe 10 second window in the entire day that we both could have been at the front gate to the preschool at the same time, and we both happened to be there in that same 10 second window. Mind=blown.
Some funny Engrish. I laugh every
time I see this sign
   So, another pretty cool story from this week has to do with the weather. On Wednesday, we woke up, and it was pouring buckets. I wasn't too worried about it. When it rains early in the morning like that, it usually clears up around lunch time. It's rare for it to stick around all day. Well, when it was time to go out for the day, it wasn't raining, but it was still pretty cloudy and looking like it could rain again any second. Before we left, Elder Otsuka and I said a prayer together as usual. When it looks like rain, what do we usually pray for? That it won't rain, right? I was going to do the same, but just as I was about to say it, it came out instead as asking for it to not rain while we're outside. I wasn't really sure why I had phrased it that way last second, but rolled with it. We got on our bikes, and hadn't even gotten 200 yards from the apartment when we got a message on the phone. We needed to take care of it right away, so we turned around and went back to the apartment so we could email from the computer which is far faster than typing on a phone. We hadn't even been inside again for 5 minutes when it began to just pour. That was good timing. The rain stopped again just as we were getting ready to set out again. We went and dropped some stuff off at the church, delivered a thank you card to some members, then handed out fliers at the train station. Every time we went inside it started to rain, but would stop when we were about to go outside. At the train station it started to rain too, but just as we were going under the awning that covers the walkway. Even after that when we were knocking doors, it would rain while we were at an apartment building with a covering, but when we were going from house to house with no covering it was clear. Long story short, it rained a lot that day, but even without umbrellas or rain coats we stayed dry. Crazy, right?
   So, funny story. Yesterday there was a missionary who returned home from his mission during the week, so he gave his homecoming talk in sacrament meeting. He was sitting up on the stand, and as they were announcing that he had returned home and asked him to stand, he got a nose bleed. So he's standing up on the stand where everyone can see with his head tilted back, plugging his nose. Poor guy. It was pretty funny though. He didn't seem too phased by it though, so that's good.

That's about it for now! Until next week!

Elder Blake

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hey Everyone!

   How's it going? Is it finally starting to cool off a bit over there in AZ? It's still pretty hot over here, but I've been hearing rumors that the temperature should start dropping in a couple weeks. We'll see. It's strange to think that I"m already almost done with my second summer in Japan.
   So on Tuesday we had transfer calls. I was actually a little surprised to find out that Elder Fernelius was transferring out already. I thought he would stay for at least one more transfer. And my streak of one transfer per companion continues. We'll see how long that continues. It's been going since January when I became companions with Elder Christensen again. Anyway, I'm still here in Fuchu. My new companion is Elder Otsuka, from Sapporo, up in northern Japan. He's a pretty interesting guy. Boxes, likes cooking, knows some missionaries I went to the MTC with... yeah. Cool stuff. I'm pretty sure that we'll be companions for at least two transfers, but we'll have to wait and see. If that is the case, that would mean that I had Japanese companions for both of my birthdays on my mission. That would be kinda cool, right?
   There isn't really all that much to write about this week... Tuesday we had transfer calls, Wednesday Elder Fernelius packed and we had English class, then Thursday was transfer day. Saturday there was a summer Matsuri over in the Kichijoji ward, and one of our investigators decided to go to that, so we went too. We showed up, and to my surprise, we saw the Brother and Sister Harrison there! They're the senior couple I worked with in Yamato, and then they ended up working in the mission office. I never got a chance to say goodbye or take a picture with them before the mission split, so this was a perfect chance! It was great to catch up with them a little and say hi.
   Yesterday ended up being the best day of the week by far. Church was great, and afterward we had our typical meetings followed up with Shuwa (Japanese sign language) class with Sister Matsunaga, a deaf lady in the ward. That's always fun. When that was all finished up, we went over to the Shinomoto's house, and we had a lesson and they fed us dinner. They are very open to the gospel, and love having us come over. I love working with the Shinomoto family! They are so cool, and their kids are just hilarious! The Bishop is really excited about this family too. I'm excited to see how the gospel will change this family's life. Later that same evening, we went to have a lesson with Edna and Hendrix. They're the ones from New Zealand, and Hendrix is a pro rugby player. We rang the door bell, and Hendrix came to the door. He had the most surprised and bewildered look on his face I have ever seen. Apparently Edna forgot to tell him we were coming over. oops. Haha! It ended up being good though. We had just wanted to drop in and share a quick message, and this gave us extra incentive to be quick about it.
   Well, that's about it for now. This upcoming week should be a good one, so next week I should have some good stuff to share. Hopefully... Take care everyone! Write you more next week!

Elder Blake

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hey Everyone!
  How have you all been this week? Is it still blistering hot over there, or is it looking like it'll cool off soon? It's still pretty hot over here. It's actually been raining quite a bit recently too. Which is funny, because I feel like it's been raining more in the last couple of weeks than it ever did during the official "rainy season". Anyways, it was actually a much better week out here in Fuchu for us this week. The week before we were miraculously able to get a hold of nearly all our investigators an potential investigators, and set several appointments for this last week. Even better though, is that a majority of them actually held too. It's a nice change from having over half of your appointments fall through for one reason or another.
   I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure a few weeks ago I mentioned how we ran into a man named Cooper at the Fuchu station. He's from Australia, and he's here in Japan to play pro rugby. We had met him just a few days after he moved here when he called out to us. Turns out he's a member. We thought it was a perfect opportunity, because there's a less active woman we're trying to work with whose non-member husband also plays pro rugby. Well, the story continues now. This woman, Edna, was pretty nervous about us coming over and meeting her husband. He's a pretty direct guy, and she was worried he wouldn't like us. Well, we finally got a time set to go over and meet her husband, and it went really well! Her husband, Hendrix, is a way cool guy. He even invited us to one of their pre-season practice games against Toshiba, which is the team Cooper plays for. We ended up going to that, and it was great. We were able to talk with Hendrix and Edna, and we even introduced them to Cooper after the game. Cooper had seen us on the sidelines during the game, so he came over after the game had finished. While we were talking with Edna during the game, she told us how relieved she was that Hendrix likes us. She told us that after we had left their home the day before, she asked him what he thought about us. He said he thought we were pretty cool. She asked if he was going to invite us back over sometime. He said yeah, they can come over and play PS3 or whatever whenever they want. Haha! Edna then had to try explaining to him that we don't play video games on our missions.
   Later in the week, there was a disaster that ended up being a huge blessing. We have a Chinese investigator named Kosui. He goes to sports night at Kichijoji every week and plays basketball with us. He LOVES basketball. No joke. His interest in the church is pretty weak right now, but he comes to every sports night just because he loves basketball so much. The Fuchu Ward Elders Quorum decided to help us out and plan a ward basket ball activity specifically for Kosui. The reason being is we wanted to help him have friends in the Fuchu ward, and nobody in Fuchu Ward is able to go to sports night. So, we figured if we had a basketball activity with just the Fuchu ward members, it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce him to everybody and help him have some friends. Well, we invited him and he said he would come. Saturday morning, the day of the activity, he called us and said he actually couldn't make it after all. We were kinda bummed. But we went anyway, because he has several friends he brings to sports night, and we invited all of them too, so we were hoping at least one of them would come. The plan was to meet at the church at 8:30 in the morning, and then carpool over to the sports center with the gym and start playing at 9. At 8:50 there was only Elder Fernelius and I with 3 other people, and nobody had a car. We made a call, and they told us that they were already there, and to just go on ahead and walk there. We did. We didn't make it to the sports center until about 9:30 though, When we arrived, it turned out there was actually nobody there yet. And, we found out that that day wasn't basketball day. They were set up for indoor tennis and badminton. Elder Fernelius and I both agreed that Kosui was much better off not coming. Definitely a hidden blessing.
   One last story for this week! We were invited to go to the Chofu City Hanabi Taikai (fireworks show) by an investigator Saturday night. It's an annual event, and it's apparently really popular. Their big selling point for this year was that they were going to launch 9,000 fireworks in 60 minutes. You can do the math. That's alot of fireworks. They were launching them down by the Tamagawa river, and they had partitioned off sections of the river bank for a couple of kilometers for people to watch the show. We got there only 10 minutes before the show started. Rookie mistake. There were literally thousands of people that had come to watch the show. there were only 5 of us, but we still had trouble to find room to sit on the ground. We did eventually end up finding a place to sit. I'll tell you what though, that was the best fireworks show I have seen in my life. It was incredible. Makes all the shows I've seen in America look like weak sauce.
   Well, that's about it for this week. This week starts the new transfer. I won't be able to let you know where I'm at or who my companion is until next week though, because transfer calls have been switched to Tuesday. I'll find out tomorrow what's happening. Talk to you all next week!

Elder Blake