Monday, July 1, 2013

Hello Everyone!

   Well, today is the official day of the mission split. Technically the mission already split the day of transfers, and President Wada technically took over when he returned from the Mission President training two days ago on Saturday night. But, July 1 is the date that they announced as the mission split back in February, and here it is. So, that being said, any and all mail needs to be sent to the Tokyo South mission home from now on, and then they'll forward it to me like usual. Here's the new mission home address:

      1-7-7 Kichijoji
      Musashino-shi Tokyo-to

   So, yeah. That's that. As far as the rest of the week goes, it was a pretty quiet week. We had a final "training" with President and Sister Budge on ThursdaySaturday we had another softball activity, and this time was the largest turnout I've seen so far. That probably had something to do with the fact that there are 8 missionaries in the Fujisawa ward alone, and the Fujisawa ward hosted the activity, which means they were all there. It was really good though. The Bishop of the Atsugi ward has a son who's less active, and we had a chance to meet him and talk with him at the softball activity. Every Saturday we have bible study in English with a man named Hirose. He majored in English back in college (but somehow became an insurance salesman...), and he says he's not interested in hearing the missionary lessons, but wants to study the bible in English with us as a way to practice and improve his English. Even though he claims to have no interest, he still comes to church (which is in Japanese, so English practice is not a valid excuse) nearly every week. So, he really is interested in something, he just won't admit it. Anyways, this time, he ended up asking about the scriptural pronouns thee, thou, thy, thine, ye, etc. What do they mean? If thee and thou both mean 'you' then what's the difference? Well, I certainly didn't know. So he pulled out his dictionary, and we figured out the nuances in difference between all those fun old words nobody uses anymore. So now in the future if somebody asks what the difference is between "thee" and "thou", I'll be able to tell them.
   Last Sunday there was a broadcast on missionary work given by the leaders of the Church, and because of the time difference, we got to watch it yesterday. It sounds like there's going to be quite a few changes to the way missionary work in the upcoming months. Missionaries will be able to start using the internet to email investigators, contact investigators through Facebook and other social media, etc. It was kinda funny though, because all the missionaries in the zone were all together in one little room off to the side so we could watch it in English, and quite a few of the things they announced we were just like, "been there, done that." The Tokyo mission has laptops in the apartments after all. Emailing investigators? Every day. Sending videos and links to articles on the church websites? Check. Granted, we can't use Facebook or blogs yet, but it was pretty funny to see the faces of some of the missionaries at the broadcast, and how excited and shocked they looked, while all of us Tokyo Missionaries are just sitting in our chairs all calm and relaxed. Funny stuff. After the broadcast, the member who gave Elder Hoshino and me a ride was super fired up. Instead of taking us home, he took us out right then and there and we went and visited some less active families, and we were actually able to meet with them and invite them to some upcoming activities. That was pretty cool.
   Sorry this week's email is kinda short. Hopefully next week will be a little longer. Take care everyone! I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Blake

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hey everyone!
   How are things going for you all? I hope you're all good! Things have been going pretty well over here in Japan. I suppose this week I should start with the biggest news first. As I mentioned last week, the mission is splitting on July 1, and I would find out which mission I'm going to end up in after transfer calls on Saturday. Well, those transfer calls were two days ago. I found out that I'm staying in Atsugi, which means that I'll be in the Tokyo South mission after the mission splits in a week. It'll be interesting to see what happens. The Tokyo south mission is really small. It only has 4 stakes, and 27 wards. If you figure that they're expecting to have around 200 missionaries by the end of the year, that's between 7 and 8 missionaries per ward. Right now starting this transfer, there's already a ward with 8 missionaries. The Fujisawa ward had 4 Elders and 4 Sister missionaries.
So on Wednesday there were two birthdays. One was Brother Kitajima, who helps us out a lot and participates in a lot of our missionary activities. The other was one of the students who regularly comes to the English class we teach for community service. We decided to make cookies for everyone at English class (which conveniently happens to be on Wednesday night) to celebrate! I asked my mom to send me the recipe for my Grandma's peanut butter cookies, and they were a hit. Everyone enjoyed them. Elder Hoshino made butter cookies. They were pretty good too, but they're called butter cookies for a reason. He told me the recipe. It's pretty simple: equal parts butter and flour, and half as much sugar. Then you can add whatever you like, such as coco powder, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, etc. Like I said, they were good, but it's a lot of butter.
   Yesterday we had a pretty interesting experience. We had a first lesson with a new investigator that we found last week. We showed up, and he unexpectedly brought a friend along. As you can imagine, we were more than happy to teach him and his friend. But, his friend had another idea in mind. He kept trying to teach us about Buddhist stuff. I just thought it was pretty funny. We showed up with the expectation of teaching them about the church, and his friend had the expectation of teaching us about Buddhism. However, the interesting thing, is that during the "lesson", the guy we came to meet didn't say much, and we were mostly talking to this guy's friend. Towards the end, the friend stepped out for a minute to take a call, and as soon as his friend was gone, he asked me if he could look at the Book of Mormon I had had out for the entire discussion, we gave it to him, and he agreed to start reading it. He also asked some other really good sincere questions. But, it was only after his friend stepped out. He's clearly interested, but for whatever reason he doesn't want his friend to know. We'll see how this one turns out. It should be interesting.
   Well, that's about it for now! This upcoming transfer will only be 3 weeks long. To deal with the increased number of missionaries, the MTC has started staggering entry and departure dates more than they used to. Instead of all the Japanese missions being on the same transfer cycle, half of them are offset by 3 weeks now. Tokyo South is one of those missions, so in order to get in sync with the MTC, this transfer is only half a transfer long. So, I may only be in Atsugi for 3 more weeks, or I could be here for some time yet. We shall see.
Take care!

Elder Blake

Pictures! I actually have some for you this week! So last week we had Temple day on Tuesday. It was the last time that the whole mission would have an opportunity to get together before the split, so President Budge wanted to take a mission picture. He set up his camera up some stairs on a porch thing, hit the timer, and ran to get in the picture. There was a low with a handrail for the stairs that kept going a little ways past the end of the stairs, so rather than running all the way around, President Budge decides to vault the wall. He couldn't quite get in the picture in time, so when we tried again we got a repeat performance. Except this time we were all expecting it, and a Sister missionary had her camera ready, and provided us all with a picture. Definitely a photo worth a 1000 words. 

This picture is the Fujisawa District from this last transfer. It was an interesting district to say the least. So, in a (mostly) left to right fashion, we have Elders Staheli, Alred, Orton, Burgin (sitting), Barlocker, Loyd (handstanding), Shumaucher, Hoshino (hiding behind me), me, Mangum.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello Everyone!
   How are you all doing? I hope everyone is great! We had a pretty interesting week last week. Let me tell you about some of the more interesting bits.
   Last Monday we had Zone P-day down at the beach in Shonandai and did a sports day. Well, I say sports day, but the only two sports we played were rugby (touch of course) and sand volley ball. It was a lot of fun! But, unfortunately, almost nobody walked away without some pretty good sunburns. Everyone had tan lines on their necks from their collars, which is an instant recipe for disaster when you spend several hours at the beach with a t-shirt on. It was well worth it though.
   Tuesday we went to a funeral. That makes two on my mission, when most missionaries I know out here in Tokyo have never even been to one. However, unlike last time which was a Buddhist funeral, this time it was a church member who passed away, so it was very different. It was a great opportunity though. The man who passed away has a daughter who is a member, and she and her family are very active and strong in the church. He has another daughter who is not a member, and neither is her family. After the service though, both the daughter who's not a member and her husband (who had never attended any funerals other than Buddhist ones), commented that they really liked the service, and there was a really warm hopeful atmosphere. Maybe they'll start investigating the church. We'll see.
   Sunday we had a pretty cool experience. So Elder Hoshino and I are at the Hon-Atsugi train station handing out flyers. After we finished that, we walked over to a less active member's apartment to try visiting him, and then back to our apartment to wrap up the day. We swung by the church on the way home to grab some juice out of the fridge that a member had given us but we forgot to take home. We actually ended up not being able to find it. Either the member forgot to put it there, or somebody took it by mistake. Either way, we weren't too upset about the loss. We left the church and headed back to our apartment. We got out to the main road and had only gone about 50 yards down it, when we saw a guy on the opposite side of the street that Elder Hoshino had talked to at the train station while we were handing out fliers. We tried waving to him, but he didn't see us. He had one of our fliers in his hand, and it looked like he was trying to follow the map and get to the church. We watched him for a minute, and when we saw him wait to cross the road and make the turn for the church, we knew he was definitely looking for it. We immediately went back to the church using a different route through the neighborhood, and we ended up walking up to the church just as the guy came around the corner. He was just a little surprised to see us there. We ended up showing him the inside of the church and we traded phone numbers. Talk about perfect timing, right? And if we hadn't gone to pick up the juice that wasn't actually there, we wouldn't have seen him anyway. Pretty cool stuff. God is definitely directing this work.
   Well, that's about it for now. Next week I'll be able to tell you if I'm going to end up in the Tokyo or Tokyo South mission. We'll see what happens. Until next time! Take care!

Elder Blake

Monday, June 10, 2013

   Hey Everyone! How's it going? I hope everyone is doing well! That 110 degree weather sounds absolutely delightful right now... Haha! Ok, seriously, that's one thing about Arizona, as great of a place as it is, that I don't miss. But, the humidity in Japan isn't that fun either, so it all balances out.
   But yeah, so anyways, It's been an interesting week here in Atsugi. Right now we're really working hard to get some solid investigators, so a majority of our time right now is spent finding. That means this weeks letter might be a little short, because even though we've been busy, there hasn't really been too much this last week that's actually happened, if that makes any sense. There were some good moments though.
   On Wednesday, the area president Elder Ringwood did a mission tour, so we went to Fujisawa and had a conference there. A portion of it was opened up for QandA, and a lot of questions about the upcoming mission split were asked. From what it sounds like, pretty much all that's gonna happen is we're gonna get transfer calls like usual, and then whichever mission you happen to be in on the day of the mission split is the mission you stay in. So, that means this next transfer in two weeks will decide who goes to the Tokyo South Mission, and who stays in the Tokyo Mission. Both missions will still have laptops, and both missions will still have a temple day even though the temple is in the Tokyo mission. Other than that, not much was really said about it. One funny part from the conference though, after lunch, Elder Ringwood got up to speak again, and he was talking about the cinnamon rolls that Sister Budge had made. There was a sign by them that said "1 per missionary". Elder Ringwood thought they were pretty good, and jokingly tried to convince Sister Budge to let him have seconds. He said, "I even told her I wasn't a missionary!" Everyone laughed a little. President Budge, sitting on the stand behind him, says just loud enough to hear, "Every member a missionary!" Everyone almost died laughing then.
   Later in the week we were having a lesson with Andrew, an investigator from Uganda. Because he speaks English, he's going to attend church in the Zama branch, so we asked the missionaries over there to come join in on the lesson so that Andrew could know them already when he goes to church. One of them, Elder Peterson, is from California. Why do I mention that? I will explain. During Andrew's lessons, there's always a portion of time set aside just for him to ask questions, because he always has a lot. So we're talking about degrading morals in today's society or something like that, and Andrew just after mentioning how loose some moral standards had become said casually and almost without thinking, "Which we have courtesy of you, California", and he gestured to Elder Peterson. Elder Hoshino didn't think it was that funny (because he doesn't speak English that well and didn't catch it), but Elder Posy and I could barely contain our laughter. For some reason, the fact that he's from Uganda and not from the states made it that much more funny.
   So, like I said, it's not the longest letter in the world, but that's what I've got for you this week. Hopefully there will be some more exciting news to share next time. Take care everyone! Enjoy!

Elder Blake

Monday, June 3, 2013

   Hey everyone! How's summer break going for you all? Well, for those of you who have summer break that is. Haha! My family has been out of town visiting family and friends this past week, and I'll tell you what, their trip sounds exhausting. Haha! Then again, missionary work isn't all that relaxing either. It's kinda funny, a couple of months ago I realized that even though I'm getting more sleep every night on my mission than I ever did in High School, I'm still more tired on my mission than I ever was then. So yeah. Anyways, on to what's been going on this week!
   So there's been some pretty fun stuff that happened this last week. First, I would like to share two stories that are completely unrelated events, but similar in nature. And what I say when I mean that is they're both the antics of young boys on the trains. First of all, I suppose I should explain that Japanese people are usually depicted as really quiet polite people. That's true. But when you get a group of friends together (especially younger guys), they become more bold and daring, and sometimes quite obnoxious. For example, if we try to talk to a high school student by himself, he will almost always listen quietly and respectfully, even if he has no interest whatsoever, simply because we're older than him. Get a group of them together though, and when we try to talk to them, they'll say something (anything really), usually in English, their friends all laugh, and then they walk away feeling so cool because they "talked" in English with the guy who's not Japanese. So, that being said, one night we get on a train, and we're standing next to this group of about 5 or 6 high school guys, and you could tell they just finished practice because they're still sweaty and carrying sports bags. One of them notices me (not difficult), and says to his friends (in English), "I am tired. Very, very tired." I guess they thought he was pretty funny, because they start to laugh, and then I say to him (also in English). Me too! I am very, very tired. That surprised him. He wasn't expecting me to actually engage him in conversation. He fumbled a little bit, and tried talking to me in English, I would help him out and encourage him, using a mix of Japanese and English. After a few minutes, he finally caught on and realized that I was using Japanese to coach his English. He's all just like, "wait! you speak Japanese!?" "uh, yeah." Haha! I thought it was pretty funny.
More Engrish! My pencil is pointing to my favorite.
Apparently they meant that you'll get a rash
by putting it in your mouth... I'm not sure how
that became bitten.
   So, the second story about young boys antics on the trains. This time we were on the train sitting down, and this kids soccer team gets on with their coaches. So now there's about 15 kids or so with 5 adults all packed into one section of the train, and the adults are doing their best to keep the kids from being too much of a nuisance for the rest of the passengers. The kids were all maybe around 10 years old. So, kids being kids, they're goofing around, obviously. I start watching them because I thought it was funny. There were 3 or 4 of them against the door, and they were playing some sort of game that they had just made up. One of them would stand with his back against the door, and another would stand facing him about a foot or two away. They would wait until the train rocked or turned, and then the one facing the door would lean forward, almost falling into the one against the door, and at the last second he would put his hands up to catch himself from falling, leaving the person against the door trapped between his two hands. What's the point of this game? I have no clue. But they're playing this game, and one of them kids goes to stand against the door. The other kid gets in place facing him. But instead of leaning forward and catching himself like they had been doing, he reached up and hit the kid in the forehead, which made him hit his head on the door. It wasn't very hard, just enough to make a really loud noise and they all start laughing hysterically. Well, except for the kid who hit his head. I must admit, I was not successful at keeping myself from laughing.
   So, on a completely unrelated note, we had a pretty cool day on Tuesday. We didn't have any appointments, so we decided to go visit an investigator who hadn't been picking up his phone lately. He lives about 10 minutes away by train, several stations down the line. We ended up deciding to walk there, and do street contacting on the way. At every station we planned to stop and hand out fliers for 30 minutes. At the end, after we visit the investigator, we would ride the train home and finish the day. It ended up being a really cool day, because at every station we stopped at, something happened. At the first station, we met a man from Camaroon (sp?) who was baptized recently over in another area. He told us he was moving to our area soon for work, so we were able to give him information about when and where church is here in Atsugi. At the next station after that, we found a new investigator, another Philipino. At the next one I saw the branch president from the Zama Branch (the English branch in Yamato) and got to talk with him for a little bit. We finally made it to the investigator's house, but he wasn't home. As we walked back to the station to go home, we were joking about how when he comes home from work, he would have to take the street we were walking on, and how cool it would be if we could catch him between the station and his home. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened! He said he would call us the next day after he checked his wife's schedule, which he did. So yeah, it was a pretty neat day. And to wrap it all up, while we were doing street contacting, I say a yellow VW bug. But, it's not a normal bug. It had not one, not two, but three wind spoilers. Yes, a VW bug with three wind-spoilers on it. I wish I was able to get a picture of it so bad. But, I saw it as it drove past, so that was pretty much impossible. I almost died of laughter though.
   Yup, that's about it for now. I hope you all have a great week! Take care!

Elder Blake

Monday, May 27, 2013

   Hello Everyone! How are you all doing? I hope everything is going well for all of you! We had a pretty interesting week here in Atsugi. Not a whole lot that actually went on, but the things that did happen were really exciting.
Usually apartments here have names to make
them sound really nice even if they aren't.
However these are just the "OK Apartments"
and I'd have to agree haha!
So earlier in the week we decided to go visit a less active member that our ward mission leader had asked us to go visit. We looked at the map, and found out he lives about 20 Kilometers away. We figured that 20 Kilometers wouldn't be too bad of a bike ride. It would take some time, but it wouldn't be difficult. What we found out after we left and while we were on the way there, is that there's a huge mountain on the way, and we have to go over it. We start riding up it, but we didn't realize it was a mountain. Because the road curved and there were lots of trees, we just figured it was one of the many hills out here. But as the road kept curving out of sight, and we kept getting to the next point where I thought it must surely peak, it just kept going up. Even when we finally got to the other side, the entire landscape was sloped uphill. It made for a great ride home, but getting there wasn't quite so easy as we were expecting. It seems that events were determined to work against me that day, because after we rode our bikes over the mountain and we made it back home, when all was said and done, I got hit in the face by 3 (rather large) bugs, and 1 car. Haha! Ok, that sounds alot worse than it really is. I didn't actually get hit by a car, I almost did. That's a fun story too. While we were riding home, I riding behind Elder Hoshino. This car passes me, but then goes to turn left (remember, in Japan you drive on the left side of the road), which means she was about to turn right into me. I hit the brakes, but I'm not stopping fast enough, so I squeeze even harder. The bike starts to flip, but instead of getting thrown I just dumped the bike and jumped. I was heading right for the passenger side door, so as I was in the air I hit the window with my hand and pushed off so that instead of hitting the door I went off at an angle and missed the car completely. I landed on my feet, and the car immedietly stopped, as I'm sure you would too if you suddenly heard a really loud thud on your window and then a person appears in front of your car. I look at the woman who's driving, and wouldn't you know it, she's on her cell phone. She was really scared, and wouldn't believe me when I told her I was ok and wasn't hurt. All that happened is my bike got a new battle scar. So yeah, that's that. I'm sure my Mom wasn't happy when she heard about that, but I think it's a fun story. Haha!
   So I was told by one of the other missionaries in the district that Atsugi has a history of having all of its investigators stolen. I can see why. So far every new investigator I've found since getting here, with the exception of one, we've ended up referring to other places. We found an American, and after teaching him only one lesson found out he actually lives near Akihabara, so we referred him to the missionaries over there. We've found a couple of Philipinos, but since they don't really speak Japanese that well, we're probably going to send them over to the missionaries in Yamato since there's an English branch there. We even have an investigator from Uganda that they found before I came here, but he's going to be referred to the Yamato missionaries as well since thy have the English branch, and there are several members in the branch from Africa. In fact, the only investigator we've found these last two weeks that we get to hang on to is Vietnamese, and he doesn't really speak Japanese or English, so we'll see what happens with him. I'm not sure why we can't find any Japanese investigators. I mean, we are living in Japan after all. haha!
   That's about all for now. I hope you're all having a great time! Enjoy your summer break! Well, those of you that have summer break anyway. For those of us who have no summer break, good luck! Keep up the hard work! Haha!

Elder Blake

Monday, May 20, 2013

   Hey Everyone! Hope you're all doing well! It's been a pretty interesting week over here in Atsugi so far. It's a new area, which means I'm back to square one again. I don't know where anything is, I don't know who any of the members are, and I don't know any of the investigators. But it's been fun! It seems like it's going to be a really fun area.
   Ok, so maybe I exaggerated a little. I don know some of the members. There are a few people here that went sports night back when I was in Yamato, and there's actually a student attending the English class here that move to Atsugi about the same time I transferred out of Yamato. Definitely didn't see that one coming. It's been pretty fun though. There's a lot of fire in this ward. They're all really excited about missionary work. I'm excited to get to know them all better.
   Elder Hoshino is quite a character. I still haven't figured him out yet, but we have only been companions for a week, so I guess that's to be expected. He's 23, and is from Iwate. He's a pretty good cook, and can play the violin. He's able to pop just about every joint in his body on command, and it's pretty gross to watch, especially when he does his hands. He just wiggles his fingers around and they start going crazy like pop corn or something. He's only done it the one time to show me though, so that was good. I'm sure we'll manage to have a lot of fun together.
    So, on Monday, we went shopping and found something pretty interesting. Dragon Fruit! What is dragon fruit? I had no idea either, that's why we bought it. It's pretty good. Not my favorite fruit in the world by any stretch, but it sure looks cool. The inside of the fruit is just solid white with black seeds everywhere, so it looks even cooler when you cut it open. Speaking of dragons fruit, do you know what else is cool? Dragon flies! And no, dragon fruit and dragon flies have nothing to do with each other. Haha! So, anyways, I didn't know this, but apparently dragon flies bite. Nasty little buggers. I found this out when we were riding a train, and this dragon fly flew into the train car and got stuck. It kept flying into the window trying to get out, so I just grabbed it. While I was getting my camera out to take a picture, it started biting my finger. That was surprising. But, thanks to my years of intense training, I was able to get the best of the dragon fly, and keep hold of it long enough to take the picture. Haha!  
Sorry this week's email is so short. I can't really think of anything else to say. I hope you're all doing well!  I'll be sure to try to write a better letter next week! See you!

Elder Blake