Monday, January 06, 2014

Hey Everyone!

   It's been another good week here in Kichijoji. Things have been getting colder lately. It'll probably be getting colder until about February, or so I've been told.

   Let's see, what happened last week... to begin with, we got a new group on missionaries this last week. We went and picked them up from the airport on Tuesday. We got there about 4:30 or so, but the plane didn't land for about another hour. We went to wait for them, and there was a huge group of mainly middle school girls in a crowd waiting for someone to come. They all had cameras and signs and stuff, so clearly they were waiting for somebody famous. We asked around a little bit, and we found out that they were waiting for some person named Ariana Grande... whoever that is. Someone said she's a singer, doing something for Nickelodeon. That was really fun to watch all these people waiting, getting false alarms every now and then. She finally showed up, and it turns out she was on the same flight as our missionaries, so when all the missionaries came out there's just this huge group of middle school girls just screaming and cheering. Yeah, they were confused. It was pretty funny. 

This is all 7 of the Kichijoji Crew (if you don't count the AP's)
  on New Years Day with the sunrise. After everyone got back
from the run they joined us up on the roof and got
this great picture. This is the morning of transfer day,
which means nobody had actually transferred yet, so this
 is the crew from last transfer. LtoR: Elder Fukuchi,
Fernelius, Me, Sister Brown, Wells, Sasaki,
Elder Hosoda, Eall
   We got our jet-lagged new missionaries back to the mission home and put them all to bed. Wednesday morning, the first day of the new year, everybody got up at 6 to "run with the president". President Wada goes running every morning, and in an effort to get more missionaries to actually exercise in the morning, he invited the whole mission to get up at 6 and go running with him from the 1st to the 3rd to try and get a habit formed. Of course, most missionaries wouldn't actually be running with President Wada, they would just be running at the same time as him. However, all the new missionaries staying in the mission home got to actually run with the president. So there we are, 6 o'clock in the morning, a group with 20+ white people just pelting down the road. The looks on some of those Japanese people's faces were priceless. Elder Fukuchi, Hosoda, one new missionary and I lead the pack out in the front, and we ended up breaking off and finishing way ahead of everyone. We got back to the church and went up on the roof to watch the sunrise on new years day. It ended up being really fun. After the sunrise, the rest of the missionaries all got back. Turns out that we somehow missed the memo that everyone was going to watch the sunrise from the park we went running at. Oh well. Even though it was just the four of us, it was still way good. The church roof had a great view of the sunrise.

   Thursday night, the 2nd day of the new year, all the missionaries in Kichijoji went to have dinner at a member's home. That is, except for Elder Fukuchi, Hosoda, and me. We stayed behind to go to sports night. There was a lot of debate as to whether or not we should cancel sports night for that week because of new years, but we knew that despite it being new years there was a good chance that somebody would probably show up even if we did decide to cancel it. So, just in case, we stayed behind. Turns out it was a good thing we did, because there were in fact three non-members who showed up. President Wada's two sons came down and played with us, and the two returning missionaries who were staying in the mission home that night came down too. when all was said and done, we were able to have a pretty good game. That turned out well.

That's about it for this week. Hope you all have a great one!

Elder Blake

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello everyone!

Sorry this week is going to be short. We ended up being really busy preparing for the new missionaries coming tomorrow. So, I'll just sum up the week real quick.

First major event of the week was the all mission Christmas Conference on Tuesday. That was pretty fun. Everyone got together, and we had some music, a few talks, lunch, and a white elephant gift exchange. I ended up getting... and elephant. A little wooden elephant carving. How fitting for a white elephant exchange, right? 

Christmas day ended up being a good day too. We had office staff meeting in the afternoon, and there were a few people who exchanged gifts. Sister Wada wrote a personal letter to each person in the office. The Yamashita's gave everyone these neat little book marks. Elder Fukuchi called his parents, and when they asked if his companion (me) was around and if they could say hi, he just sat there... then said no. Alright. Not sure why, but whatever. haha! I thought it was pretty funny actually. 

Thursday we went to look at apartments over in Machida. Elder Fukuchi was talking with the real estate agent in the car in between houses, and asked him if he had a family. "No," he replied. "Do you want a family?" "Yeah. Maybe when I'm 40 I'd like to get married and start having kids." I just sat there thinking to myself that I don't think I had ever met anybody I was aware of who planned on starting a family that late. I guess there's a first for everything. 

Saturday night we had an activity here in Kichijoji, a culture night. It was pretty low-key, mainly missionaries and their investigators. A few members came to. The main attraction was a pot-luck dinner with a musical variety show. All the musical performances were performed by missionaries' investigators or by missionaries with their investigators. It was really fun.

Sunday was probably the most interesting Sunday I've ever had on my mission. I woke up in the morning, and went into the bathroom to put in my contacts. The door was open, and in the mirror I can see the APs' beds and desks. All of a sudden I see President Wada in the mirror, sitting down at Elder Crandall's desk, dressed in a full suit, just smiling. Elder Crandall and Elder Medeiros weren't done praying yet, then Elder Crandall finishes, looks over, and President Wada is just right there. He jumped a bit. I was pretty surprised too. President Wada came in and told them that he couldn't sleep the night before because he kept thinking about the upcoming transfer, and there were some changes he wanted to make to the transfers that had just been announced the morning before. Alrighty then.

Continuing with the day, Brian (the guy from Zimbabwe) spoke in sacrament meeting. He can't speak Japanese, and he didn't' want to give his talk with an interpreter next to him, so he sent us his talk ahead of time and I translated it for him. He read his entire talk in Japanese. It was really funny to listen to him read it with his Zimbabwe accent. I understood what he was saying because I read the original in English and I translated it, but I wonder how much everyone else understood... 

Brian also brought two of his friends with him to church to hear him give his talk! That was great. After Sacrament meeting they stayed for Gospel Principles class. The teacher starts the class, and writes the topic for the lesson on the board: The Word of Wisdom. Well this ought to be good. The teacher dives right into the deep end by opening up the lesson with the question, "According to the word of wisdom, what things a forbidden?" We go down the list: coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Both of Brian's friends had gone out for a smoke break right after sacrament meeting, and when they found out we didn't smoke, they started apologizing. We told them not to worry about it. That's when the teacher realized they weren't members. But then, instead of continuing the lesson in a way someone who has never heard about the word of wisdom before would understand (you know, what it is, why we have it, where it came from, etc), the teacher went off on some tangent about whether or not there is biblical backing for the word of wisdom. When all was said and done, we had a group of missionaries repeatedly face-palming, two confused friends of Brian, and several tangential questions. Quite the eventful day. 

Today was zone p-day. We played volley ball here in Kichijoji, then everyone went out for lunch together. Wrap that up with some shopping, cleaning out the apartment real good, and an hour long talk with an Italian, and it was a good day. The Italian guy is a member that goes to another ward, but he dropped in to see if we could provide him with a Book of Mormon in Russian for him to give to his friend. I could tell he was a true Italian because his hands never stopped moving when he talked. Haha! He's a really cool guy though. I found out that he served his mission in Arizona back in 1985-ish. One of his areas was actually Gilbert. Pretty crazy. He gave me his number and invited me to go over to his place sometime so he can teach me how to make pasta the Italian way. I'm excited. 

That's about it for now. Talk to you all next week!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hey Everyone! 

Merry Christmas! I hope you all are ready for it! It's coming up quick. I'm really excited for Christmas this year. It's been a lot of fun getting ready for it this year. 

Seeing as how I'm in Japan, there are lots of opportunities to teach people about that meaning of Christmas: why we celebrate it, how we celebrate it, the meanings behind all the different traditions. I've had several opportunities to put to use a story my family reads every year for Christmas called "Teach the Children." It's a simple story that teaches about all the symbolism behind Christmas. It's a great story, so I recommend you take a look at it. I'll paste it to the end of this week's email so you can read it if you want. Anyways, the reason I've had so many opportunities to use it is that there are so many people that have no idea Christmas has any relation to Jesus Christ. Even if they do, nobody I have met yet knows that all the lights, the trees, etc are all symbolic of Christ. We had a dinner appointment at a member's home, and they invited all the missionaries in Kichijoji. The Sister misionaries brought an investigator, and I shared the spiritual thought. I used "Teach the Children", and it turned out really well. The Sisters' investigator had no idea that Christmas was so deeply rooted in the birth of Christ. This last Saturday was the Kichijoji Ward Christmas party, and the ward mission leader asked us to prepare some sort of presentation we could put up in the foyer as people walk in. Elder Fukuchi and I worked together on it and made a slideshow that looped. We made a slide for each of the symbols from "Teach the Children", and then shuffled them in amongst all the other slides (our church meeting schedule, information on upcoming ward activities, pictures of Jesus, etc). It was a really nice touch to the party. 

Speaking of the Christmas party, it went really well. Lots of members brought friends, and quite a few investigators came as well. There's a member in the Kichijoji Ward, Brian, who is from Zimbabwe. He's here in Japan going to college (studying sociology) until summer next year. And he's albino. It's pretty trippy. He shows you his family pictures, and his family is completely black, and then Brian is just sitting there with his white hair and pasty white skin. He's a way cool guy. Anyways, he was a total baller and brought a friend with him to the Christmas Party. His friend, Nickson, is also studying at the same school, and Brian invited Nickson to the Christmas Party. Nickson is a really nice guy. Brian explained alot about our church to him, and Nickson had lots of good questions, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself at the party. 

Well, that's about it for this week. Sorry it's kinda short. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Enjoy it and be sure to have an extra cup of hot chocolate for me!

Merry Christmas!

Elder Blake

Teach the Children

Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened...I just
finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed, when I
heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room and to
my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed
his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out.

"What are you doing?" I started to ask. The words choked up in my throat, and I
saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager,
boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement.

I was puzzled; what did he mean? He anticipated my question, and with one quick
movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood
bewildered, Santa said, "Teach the children! Teach them the old meaning of
Christmas. The meaning that nowadays Christmas has forgotten."

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it before the
mantle. "Teach the children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains
green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles
point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven."

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. "Teach the children
that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for
the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of His promise."

He then reached into his bag and pulled out a CANDLE. "Teach the children that
the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this
great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness."

Again he reached into his bag, removed a WREATH, and placed it on the tree.
Teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the real nature of love. Real love
never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection."

He then pulled from his bag an ornament of HIMSELF. "Teach the children that I,
Santa Claus, symbolize the generosity and good will we feel during the month of

He then brought out a HOLLY LEAF. "Teach the children that the holly plant
represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The
red holly represents the blood shed by Him."

Next he pulled from his bag a GIFT and said, "teach the children that God so loved
the world that he gave His only begotten Son... " "Thanks be to God for his
unspeakable gift. Teach the children that the wise men bowed before the holy babe
and presented him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. We should always give gifts
in the same spirit of the wise men."

Santa then reached in his bag, pulled out a CANDY CANE, and hung it on the tree.
"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds' crook. The crook
on the staff helps to bring back strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane is the
symbol that we are our brother's keeper."

He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. "Teach the children that it was the
angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang
'Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men,"

Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag, he pulled out a BELL.
"Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it
should ring mankind to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.

Santa looked back and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw that the
twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the children the true
meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the center, for I am but a humble
servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship Him, our Lord, our God."


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hello Everyone!

How have you all been? It's been a really busy week for me over here. But, I can't really think of much to share. Even though we were busy, most of it is stuff that's pretty mundane and not that exciting to talk about. It was still a good week though. Pretty fun.

The mission van after it was loaded up to go open 
the Tama Sisters' apartment. Driving through Tokyo 
without a rearview mirror: Check.
We're finally making some headway on finding new apartments for missionaries. This last week we've opened up two new apartments for the upcoming transfer, and we'll be opening a third this week as well. Right now in my companionship, Elder Fukuchi doesn't have a drivers liscence and Elder Hosoda has one but doesn't like driving in Tokyo. That means that I'm essentially the designated driver whenever we go look for apartments of set new ones up. I don't know if I've explained this before or not, but the process to get a foreign license converted to a Japanese license is considerably faster and cheaper than the process for a Japanese person to get a liscence from scratch. That's why I have my license (which the mission paid for. yay!), but Elder Fukuchi doesn't. Elder Hosoda already had his from before the mission. Anyways, so that means I've been getting to drive around Tokyo alot lately. It's pretty interesting. What I've learned is that without GPS I would be hopelessly lost. Tokyo's road system is a mess. Just a giant sprawling web of roads. Definitely keeps you on your toes.

Elder Hill at the returning missionaries' breakfast
 helping clean up the the food Sister Wada
dropped on accident. Turns out that kitchen
 dirt is one of Sister Wada's cooking secrets
There were some missionaries who returned home mid-way through the transfer this week. When the mission split and the transfer schedule shifted 3 weeks, that threw off alot of the returning missionaries' return flight plans. Since the mission split until now we've been having some missionaries go home at transfers like normal and some missionaries going home halfway through the transfer. It all just depended on whether or not the missionary was able to change their return flight plans. However, this was the last group of missionaries going home mid-transfer. From now on the return schedule is normal, and everyone goes home together. Anyways, This group of returning missionaries had Elder Mangum in it. I got to see him when he came in for his Final interview and then again the next morning. His parents came to pick him up, so he's still in Japan for another week, and I'll get to see him again Saturday before he goes back to the states. I'm gonna miss him. He was a fun companion. At least he lives just down the road!

Sorry it's kinda short. I feel like I've been saying that a lot lately. I really can't think of much else write for this week though. I'll talk to you more next week! Take care!

Elder Blake

Monday, December 09, 2013

Hey Everyone!

Sorry this is going to be short. Everyone kept stealing my computer throughout the day, and then whenever nobody was using it we had things we had to go do. So, now I'm typing this at the end of the night, and I haven't got too much time. Sorry!

It was great to read your emails today! It's been a pretty good week. There was a pretty big Christmas concert that we hosted here in Kichijoji Saturday. There were about 500 people that came, and our Chinese investigator Lily came to that. It was actually her birthday, and she brought her husband. They seemed to have a really good time. During the concert, the Kichijoji missionaries set up a "Visitors Center" of a sort on the first floor. We set up a few tables, Elder Fukuchi made a slide show we put on in the corner, we organized church tours for non members, and even opened up the baptismal font to show them that. That was pretty fun.

Earlier in the week, I went and took my drivers license test for the second time. Elder Medeiros and I both managed to get our licenses. I still haven't had to drive out on the main roads yet though. Tomorrow I will though. Elder Fukuchi and I are going to look at new apartments over in Hodogaya. 

Yup. Sorry it's short. P-day is up. Talk to you all next week!

Elder Blake