Monday, May 13, 2013

Hey Everyone! Sorry this week is going to be a little short. I'm pretty busy right now, and don't have much time to write this week. Why, you may ask? I will explain. I have been transferred  Yay! *cough* Haha! But seriously. I've had a lot of great times in Ushiku, and I'm going to miss this place. I am excited for my next area though! I'm in Atsugi! It's right next to my old area, Yamato! It's gotten pretty hot the last few days, so because of that in my mind I will probably always imagine the Kanagawa prefecture (which has Yamato and Atsugi) as blistering hot, and the Ibaraki prefecture (which is where Ushiku is) as ridiculously cold. I find it funny that my times in my areas have coincided with the seasons like that so far. We'll see if that pattern ends up continuing or not for the rest of my mission. But yeah, because of the transfer, all day yesterday was spent packing and then traveling, and pretty much all day today was spent unpacking, cleaning, and setting up in the new apartment. Anyways, I'll be sure to write you all an extra long letter next week to make up for this pitiful excuse of an email.  I hope you all have a great week!
Elder Blake

Monday, May 06, 2013

   Hey there everyone! How's it going for all of you in sunny AZ? Over here in Japan it's been pretty good. Rainy season is on its way though. Here in Japan there's about month long period between spring and summer where it rains almost every day. Saturday night we had a pretty good thunder storm (the first I've seen since coming to Japan), and lots of rain. It's been sunny since then, but it's only a matter of time...
   So, first things first, I suppose I should start at the beginning. That would only make sense, right? So we've been spending a lot of time with our ward mission leader this week. They've been placing extra emphasis lately on working with ward mission leaders and coordinating the work with them, asking for help finding members to participate in lessons and other things the ward can do to help investigators. So, we did just that. During our weekly meeting with him, we had our list of investigators, along with all of our scheduled lessons, and we asked him who he would recommend asking to go with us to the lessons. He sits down and looks at it, and offers to go with us to a lesson on Monday  Oh, and since we were going to be together anyway, let's go visit an inactive sister... oh, well we're meeting early enough in the afternoon, we may as well meet an hour earlier than that and have lunch together too! And then he also offers to come with us Wednesday to see an investigator in the hospital. Later in the week, we got in touch with an investigator who recently moved to ushiku from tsukuba, and we were having a first lesson with him (the Tsukuba missionaries have been teaching him for a while, but it was our first lesson with him). We emailed the ward mission leader, described this investigator, and asked who he knew in the ward that would be good to go with us and could be friends with this guy. We get an email back from him a while later that says "The person in the ward that would be a good fit for this investigator is me, right? I'll see you guys tomorrow at 6!". We were just like, uhh... ok. Cool. Don't get me wrong, it's great that he's all fired up, and it's been really fun working with him, but I wonder if he knows that he's allowed to ask other ward members to work with us... Funny stuff.
This is from last Monday when we had yakiniku 
over at the Nakamura family home. 
It was delicious. And it was fun. Good times.
   Later in the week, Elder Miranda and I had a pretty fun adventure. We went to a college that's in our area to do some finding, and we took the train. The train out to the college is pretty small though (only 1 car). We have to get on this one car train at the end of the line, and the college is at the other end of the line (2 stops away). Yeah, this train literally only exists to get people to and from the college from the main train line that goes to Tokyo  Anyways, the train pulls up, we get in, and we have to wait a few minutes for it to go back. I sit on one side of the car, and Elder Miranda sits on the other side, so we're facing each other. Our plan was to talk with people on the train when they came in and sat next to us. People came alright. A group of about 8 Philipinos. They were all in their early 20's except for one lady who was maybe 40, and there was only one guy. They came in and two of them sat on either side of me one space over, and one sat next to Elder Miranda a couple spaces over(he was on the edge of his bench, so he didn't get surrounded). Elder Miranda and I look at each other, and we both had the same thought: this can't be good. The girls actually started talking with us in English  and they were being super flirty. What was funny about it was no matter how many times we would reject them (and not very subtly either), they kept going. Here were some of the highlights: In Japan, having a companion that can speak English is like having a companion you can speak code with. You can say whatever you want, and nobody will understand. After being in Japan for so long, you just get used to that and assume that if you say something to your companion in English  nobody will understand. Early on in this adventure, Elder Miranda looks at me and forgetting that philipinos can speak English  says across the car, "This isn't good." They all started saying "what do you mean this isn't good? What's wrong?" Haha! Later, during the course of the conversation  Elder Miranda asked one of them how to say hello in Tagalog  She said something, and he repeated it back. They all start giggling, and Elder Miranda asks, "wait, what does that really mean?" She says that in means beautiful, and then Elder Miranda just says "oops..." She wasn't too happy about that one. But, they persisted! They asked if they could take a picture with us, and I said, sure, but only if that guy there in your group is in it with us. They get all excited, and one of the girls scoots over to the seat right next to me, an I immediately stand up and go sit next to Elder Miranda, leaving the girl behind. She definitely wasn't expecting that. So now I'm in between Elder Miranda and this other girl, with one space between me and her. I look at the guy in their group, and wave him over, and pat the spot right next to me, telling to sit right next to me. The girl one spot over starts frantically trying to slide over and sit right next to me, telling the guy to sit on the other side of her, but she couldn't actually move over because my hand was on the seat. I finally got the guy to sit next to me, and they took the picture. After all that, I think they finally got the hint because they stopped talking with us. Crazy people. Haha!
   Now, for a more spiritual adventure. We had something pretty cool happen Friday night. We were doing our nightly planning, and the next day (Saturday), we had a lesson planned with the Combas at 7, and the whole family was going to be there (which has been increasingly difficult to have happen lately). We were really excited for this lesson, but then Sheila calls us and says that something came up and said they had to cancel, but maybe we could meet on Sunday. Well that was a bummer, but what can you do? About 15 minutes later, we get a phone call from Mito, telling us that they were just finished a lesson with one of their investigators who had a baptismal date before but didn't make it, and they just set a new date for next week. Well that's good news to hear. Then they tell me that his baptismal interview was scheduled for the next day at 7. That means that I needed to go to Mito to do the interview. Well, I guess it's a good thing the lesson with the Combas got moved to Sunday then, otherwise we would have had to cancel with them! Of all the things I can do, being in two places at once is not one of them quite yet. What appeared to be a setback at first actually turned out to be a blessing. God works in mysterious ways!
  Well, there's more that happened, but this email has already gone on for quite a bit. I'll leave it at that for now. 
More to come next week!

Elder Blake

PS I'm a year old now!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hey Everyone!
   I hope everyone had a great week! This last week has been pretty interesting for us over here. The weather still can't make up its mind though. I actually packed up and put away all my winter gear because it had been really warm and I hadn't used it for several weeks, and then earlier in the week I had to get it back out again because it almost dropped down to freezing for a couple days. It's fun though!
Jose Comba's front door after we dropped by on his birthday. 
He's actually turning 47, but we were in a rush and somehow 
it ended up turning into a 73... Imagine that! Haha!
   So, earlier in the week we went on splits with the Elders in Tsukuba. I went over there with Elder Davis, and it was a pretty normal day. The next morning we had a meeting with the ward mission leader at 6. So, we set the alarm and went to bed. In the morning, the alarm goes off, and we both kinda sorta roll wake up and roll off the futons to pray. All of a sudden, I hear Elder Davis say "Oh no!" Well that's not good... somehow the alarm got messed up, and instead of waking us up at 5, we woke up at 6 when we were supposed to be at the church. Well, that was definitely a good incentive to get moving. I'm pretty sure that's the fastest I've ever gotten up and out the door. We made it to the church at 6:15. Definitely don't want to do that again. What a way to start the day, right?
   Elder Miranda had a pretty fun story from that split too. He and Elder Johnson were over by the train station handing out fliers for the free English class we teach every Wednesday  Some guy comes up to Elder Miranda and takes the flier, looks down, looks back up at Elder Miranda, and says, "I know who you are. I've seen you on tv. You're wanted. You're the Boston Bomber! I'm not going to this English class, it's a trap! I know what you're really up to!" Um... what? Yeah, this guy was a little nuts. But, he decided to call the police, and the police showed up. They come over and talk with Elder Miranda. They found out what was going on, and they just told him that they received a call about something else, and then left. Pretty crazy, right?
A car we found with a parking spot that is literally
only an inch (maybe) taller than the top of the car.
   Later that week we had an appointment with some members. We went over and talked about different ways they can invite their friends to learn more about the gospel. It went really well because one of the daughters has her mission call to the Fukuoka Japan mission, and we had Yamamoto Tasuku come with us who is leaving on his mission to Australia in a couple weeks (assuming his visa comes in time this time). They're both really excited to be going. It was definitely a good opportunity for them to realize how simple and easy it really is to share the gospel. We had planned to go over to a college that's in our area and do some finding over there after the visit, but the weather once again turned on us. What had started as a beautiful clear day had turned cloudy and dark, and it was definitely going to rain. We were on our bikes, and neither of us had rain coats or umbrellas, and it was about a 30 minute bike ride home. If we went all the way out to the college, it would turn into nearly and hour bike ride home. Getting caught in the rain didn't sound so fun, so we had to abandon our plans to go to the college.
   Friday night we were back in the apartment, and I was making the nightly calls to the district to see how their day went and make sure they were all safe and in their apartments. While I'm talking with the Tsukuba Elders, Elder Miranda keeps going back and forth from the main room to the extra room, and he keeps grabbing different exercise equipment. I thought that was kinda weird that he would be exercising so late at night, but I didn't say anything. All of a sudden, I hear this really loud noise, and then little bits of glass or plastic or something scattering across the floor. Well that couldn't be good. I ran over to see what happened, and he's just standing there with this really surprised look on his face, with an exercise band in his hand. I look at the floor and one of his... Ok, I'm really not sure what you call it, but it's for doing push ups. It's a bar shaped like a U, and you use two of them, one under each hand, when you do push ups to get a wider range of motion. Anyways, one of these things was on the ground in pieces. I had no idea what happened, but he's standing there with this exercise band, and his push up thing is sitting on the ground broken, and I just heard things rocketing around in the room. I start laughing uncontrollably, and he starts explaining what happened. Apparently he was experimenting with different ways to use the exercise equipment, and he decided to thread the exercise band under the push up thing and then stand on the base to pin in to the ground and do bicep curls with it. I'm really not sure why he didn't just stand on the band instead of trying to thread it through this push up thing. But it doesn't end there! Over the course of the next 3 minutes while I was in there, he managed to snap himself with the band twice while he was playing with it. Poor guy. Haha!
That's about it for the week. Hope you all have a great week this week! More later!

Elder Blake

PS I have an amendment to the vitamin drink recipe from last week. If you try this, use only half an apple. If you use a whole apple, it doesn't turn out very well. Trust me...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hello everyone!
   I can't believe it's already Monday again. This last week has really flown by. It sounds like everyone is having a good time back home. That's always good to hear. I have quite a few fun stories for you all this week. You ready? Here we go!
   So on Tuesday we went on splits with the missionaries in Mito. I stayed here in Ushiku with Elder Crain-Zamora, and Elder Miranda went to Mito with Elder Zamarripa. Mito is over an hour train ride away, so it's pretty far. Anyways, around 4 in the afternoon, Elder Crain-Zamora and I are out and about, and we get a phone call from Elder Zamarripa. He tells me to have Elder Crain-Zamora check his pockets. Um... ok. He does, and then he gets this look on his face and says "Oooh nooo". He pulls out the Mito apartment and church keys. Well, they obviously need the keys to get into the apartment, but they also had a lesson at 6 at the church, so they needed the keys really soon. What ended up happening was Elder Crain-Zamora and I ended up going out to Mito, giving them the keys, and since it's so far away we just stayed in Mito and worked out there for the rest of the night, and all four of us stayed in the mito apartment that night.
   So we went and had a lesson with Jose Comba last week during the day while his wife was at work. After the lesson, he starts telling me about this homemade drink that he makes for his girls every morning. I had this blank look on my face, and he started explaining it to me. I told him I had never had it or even heard of it, and he got this look of disbelief on his face. Apparently this drink is super popular in Brazil. Well, Jose had a problem to fix, so he got up, went to the kitchen, and starting making some of this "vitamin drink" for me. It's really simple. All it is is a banana, half an avocado, some papaya, and an apple (that's been peeled). Put it all in a blender with a couple spoonfuls of sugar, add enough milk to cover all the fruit and then some, and blend until it's smooth. So maybe it's not quite as healthy as the name "vitamin drink" would have you believe, but it is delicious. I would definitely recommend trying it sometime.
   Thursday we had a lesson with an investigator named Okawa. Brother Okubo came with us to the lesson to help out, and it went really well. On the way home from the lesson, Brother Okubo was riding in the lead and I was just behind him, with Elder Miranda trailing somewhere in the back. All of a sudden, Elder Miranda starts shouting and making all sorts of noise. I thought, "Oh no! My companion just got hit by a car or something!", right? We stop and turn around, and he's still riding his bike, but he's waving his arm at me trying to show me something. He got closer and I saw what it was: bird poop. Yup. We were riding our bikes, and a bird pooped on him. A one in a million chance, and Elder Miranda hit it. Once we realized that he was ok (but perhaps a little smelly), Brother Okubo and I couldn't stop laughing. Poor guy.
Here's Elder Miranda after he got pooped on by the bird.
   So I have some interesting news. On Friday we had a 3-zone conference, and during part of it President Budge was talking a little about the mission split coming up in July. There's some crazy stuff that's going to happen. Right now in the Tokyo Mission we have about 160 missionaries. After General Conference last October, the cap for the mission was raised to 250, and to get to that number a lot of missionaries have been called to Tokyo. Well, now that the Tokyo Mission is splitting in July, President Budge was asking what the new mission cap will be after the split when the mission gets essentially cut in half. The number he got back was 260. He thought that couldn't possibly be right, so he asked the soon-to-be mission president of the soon-to-be Tokyo South Mission what the cap was for that mission. He said 240. In other words, It's going to be like having 500 missionaries in the Tokyo Mission before it splits. Based on the number of wards and branches there are in the mission, we're gonna have 4 Elders and 4 Sister missionaries in almost every ward. I can't even imagine. That's going to be nuts.
Those are pretty much the big exciting things for the week. More to come next time!
Elder Blake

Monday, April 15, 2013

   Hey there everyone! Sounds like everyone's having a good time! Things are going pretty well over here for us in Ushiku. Last week was crazy, and this week is looking about the same. First, I suppose you'll all want to hear why we were too busy to email last Monday and it got delayed to Wednesday. Let me explain... no, there is no time to explain, let me sum up:
   So Monday was just a crazy busy day. We woke up at our normal time, but had to get up dressed, and out the door by 7. We went over to a member's home to weed his front yard along with a couple of young men from the ward and Brother Okubo. For various reasons, the yard had been neglected for a while, so there were weeds everywhere. They weren't big, but they were everywhere. That was actually the first time I've done any yard work in Japan. It's a pretty typical service project back in America, but here in Japan, not many people have front yards that need tending, especially in Tokyo. Anyways, after that, Elder Miranda and I had to run back to the apartment to take showers and then run on over to Sister Kuroki's hair salon for Elder Miranda's hair cut. She did a great job, and it gave us a chance to visit a little bit. Sister Kuroki is a really funny lady. After that we did some much needed grocery shopping, then squeezed in an hour of companionship study to prepare for our lessons that day. After Companionship study, we had to go straight to a lesson with one of the guys from Napal we had met last Sunday  He ended up flaking on us, but we're going to try getting back in touch with him. After that we went straight to another lesson at a member's home, and that lesson went pretty well. We then went straight from that lesson to the train station, and went to the other English class that we volunteer at on Monday nights. Yeah, that was our day. Super crazy.
   Why didn't we take p-day on Tuesday then, you ask? Well, we could have, except on Tuesday we went on splits with the missionaries in Tsukuba after zone meeting Tuesday morning. So, we had to wait until after splits were finished on Wednesday to finish p-day. The zone meeting on Tuesday itself was pretty crazy too. We're about to start zone meeting (which was in ushiku), when Elder Hansen and his companion walk in, and they tell me that they found a guy on the way to the church from the train station, and we have a lesson with him next Monday at 7. Well that's pretty cool. Later that afternoon, I got a call from Elder Murray, and he told me that they found a guy who lives in ushiku on the way home from zone meeting, and we had a lesson with him the next day at 4. Wow. 2 new investigators, and their first lessons already scheduled for us. I could get used to that. Haha! We did end up meeting with the guy on Wednesday  His name is Carlos, and he's from Peru. He's a pretty interesting guy, and really sincere. It was probably the best first lesson I've ever been in on my mission so far. We have a Peruvian member in the ward, Milusca Miyake (she married a Japanese guy). We asked her to come to the lesson to help out, and she did. She showed up a little late, but before she got there we had a great lesson going with Carlos. When Milusca showed up and they were instantly friends (typical south american culture, right?). Anyways, she threw down with Carlos. She told him that he needs to listen to what we're saying, then he needs to pray and ask God if it's true, and then he's going to feel something, and when he does that's how he can know that it's true. Then she pretty much taught the rest of what we had planned for the lesson, and even told him about how she met with the missionaries and how she gained a testimony. Then to our surprise, after the lesson, she took him back to her house and he had dinner with her and her family. Milusca is a superstar!
Friday had some fun moments. We got a call from the missionaries over in the Abiko area. They had found a peruvian guy, and set a lesson with him that day at 3, but he doesn't speak english or japanese. They were wondering if Elder Miranda could go and help teach him since he speaks portuguese and can understand spanish. We of course were willing to help out. We actually had gone on splits with the Zone leaders Thursday afternoon, so we were splitting back in abiko's area, which was the halfway point, around noon. Instead of riding all the way out to abiko, going back to ushiku for about and hour, and then turning around and going back to abiko again, we decided to stay in abiko until the lesson and do some work over there for a few hours. In the tokyo mission, every area has their own fliers that we hand out with maps to the church on the back. That being said, we met up with Elder Hansen at the station so he could give us some fliers for the Abiko area. He pulled out this stack of fliers well over an inch thick, and said jokingly, "is this going to be enough?" We laughed, the took the stack. Suprisingly, in the two hours we had before the lesson at 3, we managed to get out alot of fliers. By the time we met back up at the church, the stack we handed back was maybe only a quarter inch thick or so. That was definitely a new record for me. Lots and lots of fliers.
   Saturday and Sunday was general conference, which was really good. I think I explained this last time, but in case I didn't, we watch conference a week late in Japan because of the time difference. To watch it live, the Saturday morning session at 10 would start at 2 on Sunday morning. As I'm sure you can imagine, nobody wants to do that. But, I really enjoyed conference. There were a lot of really good talks. But, you all watched it last week, so you already know that.
   That's about it for this week! More later!

Elder Blake

So, this is picture number 2 out of 2 for the transfer, and we're already 2 weeks through. I should probably do a better job about taking pictures, or else I'm not going to have any from this transfer. Anyways, this picture is pretty funny. Elder Miranda pulled out some french fries from the freezer, and decided he wanted french fries with dinner. So, I started cooking them. After they were already in the pan being cooked, I asked Elder Miranda, "Hey, what are we going to eat with these fries?" Do you know what he said? "uhh.... I don't know. I hadn't thought about it." After looking around the kitchen, we discovered that there was nothing to make to go with the fries. Elder Miranda gets this great idea to try putting curry on it. After all, curry on rice is way good, so maybe curry on fries is good too. I went with it, figured it wouldn't hurt. Maybe we had stumbled on a new extraordinarily delicious dish. Turns out we didn't. I wouldn't recommend having curry on fries. Ever.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

   Hey Everyone! Sorry to be writing so late this week! Things have been absolutely crazy since this transfer began. I could probably write a whole email just about what we were doing on Monday that made us so busy didn't have time to take p-day. It's been fun though. Elder Miranda and I have had some pretty cool stuff happen since last Monday.
   The week started off pretty slow. A couple of lessons. A lot of finding. Then Friday came along, and things just exploded. We went over to a college in our area and did some finding over there, but there was almost nobody on the streets. We literally only talked with about a dozen people over the course of an hour, which is strange because we were so close to a college. But, out of those dozen people, one of them became an investigator. That was pretty exciting. After that we were supposed to meet up with the missionaries from the next area over and have a lesson with them and one of their investigators who's moving to Ushiku, but after we rode the train over there, we got a call from them telling us that he cancelled. Well, not much we can do about that, so we turned around and went home.
   So, for this next one, I need to explain that Elder Miranda just came from an area called Oizumi, and there are a lot of Brazilians out there. And when I say alot, I mean the missionaries there proselyte in Portuguese. So, when he came to Ushiku, Elder Miranda said that he wanted to find some Brazilians out here to teach. We've already got the Comba family, but we decided to go look for some more. So on Saturday I took him out to an area where we had found a couple of Brazilians before. They always live in clusters, so I figured there should be more around there somewhere. We started looking, and wouldn't you know it, we managed to find a few. One of them was a woman with a young child, and she started telling us about how when she was a young girl back in Brazil, her mom had met with the missionaries, but she didn't remember much about it. She then somehow ended up in Japan, and now here we are. She's going to come to church and bring her husband with her. Awesome. Later that night we had a lesson with the Comba family, and Elder Miranda gets along great with Brother Comba. I'm really excited to continue working with them now that Elder Miranda is here and he can teach them in Portuguese.
   Sunday after church we went out and did some finding. We decided to go knock on doors, and ended up finding a couple of guys from Napal that we set up lessons with. I'm not really sure how we're gonna pull that off, because their English is terrible, and their Japanese is even worse. But, we shall see. We ordered a couple of Book of Mormons in Hindi, so once those get here that should help out a lot. Hopefully we can get them to stick around long enough for the books to get here. Later in the afternoon, around 3 or so, we got a call from Brother Okubo in the ward. He told us to come over to his house at 6:30, because he was having a "gyoza party". He had mentioned it to us earlier at church and said that he was having this gyoza party, and I thought he was just being funny. If you knew Brother Okubo, you would understand. He's always making wierd jokes. Anyway, he calls us, and tells us to come over at 6:30. I then said to him, "oh, that wasn't a joke. You were being serious." He starts laughing and says of course not! Well, we went over, and found out that when Brother Okubo says "gyoza party", what he means is that we're going to have dinner with him and his wife, and there's going to be so many gyoza you can't hope to possibly eat them all. After returning to the apartment with a full (but somewhat distressed) belly, we called it a night.
   I could tell you about what happened on Monday, but then I probably wouldn't have anything to write about next week, so I'll leave it here for now. I hope everyone is doing well! Take care!

Elder Blake