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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hello Everyone!

   Sorry again about the short email last week. We had zone p-day, and it ended up taking more time than we had planned on. Long story short, by the time we got back to our apartment, changed, got shopping and cleaning done, p-day was over.
   I hope everyone is doing well! We've had quite a few fun experiences these last two weeks. I'm a little pressed for time today too, so I'm going to have to (attempt) to be brief.
   We had our first lesson with the Shinomoto family last Sunday. We ended up going over to the Bishop's house and had dinner with them as well. It went really well! The Bishop and the Shinomoto's both have 3 kids, and they're all about the same age. The kids all got along great, and had a fun time playing after dinner. We did a family home evening together, and then we shared a simple message. The Shinomoto family is open to hearing more, and they're building some great friendships in the church. I'm really excited about this family.
Everyone who went on our zone hike
So on Monday, as I already said, we had zone p-day. We went and climbed mount Takao, which was really fun. We planned on meeting at 7 in the morning so that we could beat the heat, but wouldn't you know it, there were some sisters that ended up being 30 minutes late. I guess we can forgive them. They were all really young missionaries and still don't know the train system that well. It ended up being really fun though! Lots of time to talk and just do something fun with everyone. After we got back to the bottom, there were some missionaries that wanted to go check out a nearby trick art musuem. Elder Fernelius and I ended up going along. That was pretty cool. It's basically just a bunch of huge paintings that create optical illusions when you take pictures of them. If you've ever seen the 3-D street chalk art on the internet, it's kinda like that.
   That night, we had plans to go out streeting, and when we left the apartment, it was pretty cloudy and windy. Not good signs. We grabbed our umbrellas to take with us. That ended up being a really good thing. Before we could even make it to the train station, it started dumping buckets and buckets of rain. The wind was blowing hard enough that our umbrellas didn't help much. We still got pretty wet. There ended up being lots of thunder also, so we took shelter under an overpass bridge. We ended up spending about an hour under the bridge with 8 or so other Japanese people, waiting for the storm to calm down enough that we could get back out again. Yay for unexpected summer storms!
   This last week I went on splits with the Elders in Fussa. Elder Medeiros has been going running every day for over a month, and forgot to tell me to bring my running shoes. Well, that's not a problem. In the MTC, Clark Sensei always talked about how great barefoot running is. He runs nearly 8-10 miles every day, barefoot. He always said that once you try barefoot, you never go back. I was planning on trying it when I got home, but figured this would be a good chance to try now. Didn't turn out too well. I failed to realize until afterwards that asphalt is much more rough than paved sidewalks. In Japan, paved sidewalks are rare, unless you're in a commercial district. A majority of sidewalks are just asphalt with a curb in between them and the road. My blistered feet weren't too happy with me for a few days.
Elder Fernelius decided to use a shishkabob for a
toothpick while out at dinner since there were none.
Everything's bigger in Texas, right?
   Recently there have been quite a few experiences that have really reminded me that this is the Lord's work, and I'm just a tool in his hands. The other night, we were handing out flyers at the train station. Those are always great opportunities to find investigators, because there are tons of people, and usually you can get quite a few to stop and talk. Anyways, this guy just walks up to me, and starts talking with me. The conversation of course led to who I am and why I'm here. I invited him to hear the lessons, and he said yes, just like that. I couldn't help but think that it was too easy. Of all the people that I talk with every day, and I try so hard to get them to hear even just one lesson, and they all say no, but this one guy just says yes without me even doing anything. It's just another evidence to me that the Lord is preparing people out there for us, and I just need to be in the right place at the right time.
   Here are a few other quick stories on that same thing: we had decided to take a small gift to the Shinomoto family to say thank you for coming to dinner last Sunday. We were trying to figure out what to get for them, when the phone rings. It was one of the ward members, and he told us that he had just finished shopping at Costco and bought some cookies for us. He left them in the church, and said we can go pick them up whenever was convenient. Perfect! We'll just give them some Costco cookies! That same day, when we went to drop them off, as we were biking along, I saw Mr Shinomoto walking. We stopped and walked with him towards his house. Turns out that his wife was actually out of town with the kids, and he was on his way to a party with some co-workers. I was puzzled, and pointed out that he was walking in the opposite direction of the train station. He said that he had already gone to the station once, and when he got there he realized he had forgotten his wallet, so he was going home to get it and then go back. If we didn't see him between the station and his home, we would have missed them. If he didn't forget his wallet, we still would have missed them. Cool stuff.
    That's about it for now!  So much for being brief. Haha!

Elder Blake

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hey Everyone!
Sorry, I don't have time to write a proper letter this week. I know you all have been dying to read this all week long, but today ended up being more busy than we had planned on, and I only had enough time to read emails from my family, but didn't have enough time to write anything back. I guess all that means is that next week you all get to hear about two weeks' worth of adventures in one go! I hope you can all survive until then!
Until next week!
Elder Blake

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hey everyone!

   Sorry if this week's post is delayed. That would be because my amazing sister who so kindly puts these letters up on the blog for me every week had her second kid on Sunday (probably)! All I know while I'm writing this is that she's in labor right now, but chances are high that she'll be born today, and not tomorrow. I won't know for sure until next week, so I suppose none of you will either. Haha!
   It was a pretty good week for us over here. There was a little bit of confusion at the beginning of the week, trying to reschedule splits with the zone leaders. I got a call from the mission home last Sunday, and they invited me to a special training for interpreters that they're doing for the first time, and that training just so happened to be the same day we were supposed to go on splits with the zone leaders. In the past, for zone conferences and mission conferences, they just randomly select missionaries to do the interpretation for all the Japanese missionaries. From what I've heard, it sounds like President Wada wants to have a small group of missionaries specifically trained as interpreters, and it will just be their job to do it whenever there's a conference like that. I was kinda wondering what they could possibly teach us about interpreting other than study Japanese harder. It ended up being really good though. Brother Westman, who is a professional interpreter and also does alot of interpretation for the Church PBO came and did the training. He had lots of tips and tricks about how we can practice, ways we can improve our interpretation skills that are independent of our overall language ability. So yeah, that will be fun. We have a zone conference this Tuesday, so we'll see how that goes.
Group shot of the cinnamon roll activity
It was Kohura's birthday [daughter of an
investigator]. We told the Powell's
and they brought her a cake with candles.
   Saturday was a huge success. There's a senior couple in the district called the Powells. They came to Fuchu and did a baking demonstration class. Brother and Sister Powell opened up a largely successful chain of stores with over 50 locations, and it all started with selling cinnamon rolls in a little booth at a fair. So, apparently her cinnamon rolls are pretty good. And that's what they demonstrated. There was a lot of effort put in by the ward to plan this activity, and we put in alot of effort to invite everyone we could to come. When it was all said and done, there were over 50 adults (and a couple dozen children) that came! We didn't get an exact head count, but between 1/3 to 1/2 of the people that came were non-members. Friends that members brought, students from our English class, investigators, potential investigators, etc. It was great. The best part about it though was when the Shinomoto family came. They're the ones I wrote about a couple weeks ago where the Dad called out to us in the park. They had been on vacation in Okinawa all week, and got back Friday night. When we tried calling to remind them about the activity and ask if they could make it, his phone was off. Then the activity started, and they hadn't come yet. We were a bit disappointed, but not too surprised considering the circumstances. About an hour into the activity, they did end up coming though! And it was great! They have a 7 year old daughter, Koharu, who had her birthday that day, so I gave Elder Powell a heads up to bring some birthday candles. Everyone sang happy birthday to Koharo, and her parents seemed to really appreciate that. They got to meet several of the members, and we even got a lesson/dinner appointment set up with them at the Bishop's house for next weekend. What a blessing! I'm really excited to start teaching this family.
   Last interesting bit for today's email, and then I got to go. Yesterday I officially started my study of Shuwa. What's Shuwa? Shuwa is Japanese sign language. There's a deaf sister in the ward is going to teach us after I asked if she could. One of the missionaries I became friends with back in Ushiku, Elder Posey, had learned Shuwa, and I always thought that was kind of neat. I didn't really think too much about it, until I came to this ward and there was this deaf sister here. That makes Fuchu the second ward I've been in with a deaf member, and in the last several weeks, I've actually run into 4 deaf people while we're out and about. Every time, I thought to myself, "Man, I wish I knew Shuwa so I could try to teach these people". So, now that I'm learning it, hopefully these deaf people will keep coming out of the wood work.
   That's about it for now! Take care everyone!

Elder Blake

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hello Everyone!

   How's your week been? I hope it's been good! It's been pretty interesting over here. The weather has been pretty crazy though. I thought rainy season was supposed to have ended almost 3 weeks ago, but in this last week it's dumped some pretty heavy rain 3 or 4 times. I never saw it rain that heavy even once during the rainy season. What's up with that?

All of the junk that was sitting around
in the apartment. It's now so clean!! 
   This last week has been really full of lots of tiny adventures. Nothing super big has happened, but every day has had something. Last Monday after I finished emailing you all was a pretty busy p-day. Elder Fernelius doesn't really know how to cook, and neither did his previous companion, so there wasn't really much food in the apartment other than lots of instant/ prepackaged foods. So, we ended up doing a pretty big shopping run to stock up on real food. After we got back to the apartment, we went through and cleaned out the apartment real good. It actually wasn't all that dirty, there was just tons of junk that had been collecting for years, and more trash than you would believe that had been collecting on the back porch. Past missionaries would forget to set out trash on trash day, put it on the back porch, and then forget about it. Yeah. No bueno. But! I have good news! It's all cleaned up now! yay!
   Tuesday afternoon we had splits with the Elders in Kunitachi. I went with a new missionary who had only been in Japan for less than a week named Elder Huntsman. We were in Fuchu for the split, but seeing as I had only been here in Fuchu for less than a week, I could only find the apartment, the church, and the train station. I wasn't even sure if I really did know where those 3 things were, but we ended up successfully avoiding getting lost. That was pretty good. It was really fun to work with someone who's brand new to the field. They almost always have a special fire in them. They're all pumped up and ready to take on the world. I really hope Elder Huntsman is able to hang on to that. If he is, he'll be a great missionary someday soon.
I found a cousin of Lucious (the praying mantis 
from Yamato) trying to hi-jack my bicycle. 
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite mission 
pictures so far. I can't help 
but laugh when I look at it.
   There have been quite a few small miracles throughout the week too. Thursday was pretty much a full day. We had morning study, then I had to go register my change of address at the city hall, and then we were going to sports night with an investigator. Take out time for lunch and dinner, and that left us with only two hours. We decided to go to the train station and pass out fliers. While we were there, Elder Fernelius is doing his thing, and then hears a voice call out to him in English, "Hey Elders!" He turns around, and this huge guy (all muscle) is smiling and waving while he's walking on over. His name is Cooper, and he's from Australia. Turns out he had just moved to Japan on Monday to play on a Japanese rugby team. His family was coming in the next day or two, so he was out doing some shopping to the house set up before they got here. He's a member of the church, and it turns out he had tried looking up the nearest meeting house but wasn't able to find anything (probably because he used google maps, not the church's website... oh well). Anyways, it was a really good thing that he ran into us, because we were able to tell him when and where church is, and traded numbers with him. Of all the places he could have gone on that day, and of all the things we could have been doing in those 2 hours, we just happened to both go to the same place at the same time. Definitely the hand of the Lord. Oh, and here's the best part: there's a less active woman we're trying to work with whose husband is not a member, and he's a rugby player too. We've been trying to figure out how to better fellowship them and help them come to church, and then Cooper shows up. What do you know. Crazy, huh?
Well, I'm about out of time. More to come next week! See you!

Elder Blake

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hello Everyone!

Well, it's been another week. It's been pretty fun, and there's quite a bit that happened. Like I said last week, they've decided to change the transfer schedule in the mission and do transfer calls on Tuesday and then have transfer day on Monday. I guess it's supposed to make it easier for the mission home to coordinate transportation for new missionaries coming in and returning missionaries going home when they do it that way. Anyways, we had transfer calls on Tuesday. I'm no longer in Atsugi! I was really surprised that my stay was so short in Atsugi. I was hoping to stay a little longer, but I guess the Lord has something he needs me to do somewhere else. So now I'm in an area called Fuchu. It seems like a great area so far.

My new companion is Elder Fernelius. Don't ask me where that name is from, he's not sure either. He's only been out in the field for 9 weeks, but he's doing a great job. He's definitely going to leave a big mark on the mission by the time he goes home. He's really cool, and we get along really well. He's from Dallas, and he's actually half Japanese. But, he doesn't speak any Japanese. He never learned it growing up. I'm really excited to work with him.

There have been quite a few cool miracles this week too. One night while we were in our apartment getting ready to plan, I got a call from Brother Kitajima, one of the members from Atsugi. He told me that his parents, who are not members of the church, live in the Fuchu area, and he wants us to go meet them together with him next weekend. That was pretty cool. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe that was one reason I came to Fuchu. Maybe he was waiting for a missionary that he knew and trusted to go to Fuchu before he asked for help with his parents. I'm really excited to meet with them.

Speaking of reasons why I came to Fuchu, here's a funny story for you all. The light in the study room was broken when I got here. The chain pull had completely come out of the light, so you couldn't turn it on. To compensate, they had just been using their desk lamps for light in the study room. I figured it shouldn't be too hard to fix. After all, you just have to figure out what the pull hooks on to and re-attach it, right? So I opened the light up, played around, and couldn't figure out how to re-attach it. Maybe a piece was missing. Maybe I just didn't know what I was doing. Haha! Anyways, I did manage to turn the switch on the inside to the on position, so after we plugged it back in it and flipped the wall switch it turned on. So now there's no chain pull, but we can turn it on and off with the wall switch. As soon as it turned on, Elder Fernelius was just like, “alright, now we know why you got sent to Fuchu. You can call President Wada and ask to be transferred to your next area now!” Ok, so maybe it's not as funny as we thought it was... missionary humor....

One last cool story! Saturday we were going home from a training meeting to eat lunch. While we were walking through this park on the way to our apartment, there was this dad playing soccer with his 3 little kids. He calls out to us, “hey, it's pretty hot today, isn't it?” We answered, “Yeah, it's pretty hot.” That's nice. I was thinking this was a pretty friendly guy. Then he asks, “Are you two Mormons?” Elder Fernelius and I look at each other and we both thought, “ok, we now we HAVE to talk to this guy. How does he know we're Mormons?” Apparently he had met the missionaries nearly 20 years ago in Northern Japan, but was never baptized. He invited us over to his house for a drink and to meet his wife. While we were there, they ended up giving us lunch too. That was a surprise. I've never been invited to somebody's house on the street like that before. We almost always end up teaching people at the church or out in public somewhere. We invited his whole family to an upcoming ward activity, and they said they would come. We briefly introduced the idea of eternal families, and asked if we could teach them more. They accepted. I'm super excited about this family. They're going out of town for vacation this week, so we won't see them until the ward activity, but I've got a good feeling about this family.

I hope you all have a great week! Thanks for your emails! It's always great to hear about how you're all doing! Talk to you all next week!

Elder Blake