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