Sunday, July 26, 2015

Weekly Downpours, Typhoons & Life-Changing Experiences Mail

Monday we headed south & spent some time at the Shuri castle. Okinawa has had quite a bit of Chinese influence throughout its history, so this castle looks a little different to most that I've been to here in Japan.
Later that night we were housing & half-way through an awesome contact with a guy who took a Book of Mormon, right when we were setting a return appointment with him, it started down pouring! He gave back the drenched Book of Mormon & shut the door and we hung around with hope that the rain would die down but it turned out to be a massive thunderstorm. We rode back home through rivers of rain water in the streets but the classic Okinawa weather proved to be a friend yet again with perfectly clear skies the next morning, just in time for companion exchanges with, my favourite, Elder Mismash. 

After reaching our investigator Gima we had time for probably one contact before heading back for Dinner so we walked a bit through a street & felt impressed to stop at one house. It started with a woman who looked like she was in her 50s open up, see my badge & immediately say (in Japanese of course), "I love Jesus!" And I was quick on the reply, saying, "I'm not Jesus, I'm nothing more than a missionary," which got her laughing and she ended up letting us in so we sat in her Genkan (the space where you take off your shoes in between the door & where you step up into the house) and taught her the Restoration. She was really interested in our message,  she is studying or part of a religion that believes Christ failed because there aren't scriptures saying that he was married, but was instead crucified. We shared with her 3 Nephi 27: 13-14 and with all the sincerity we had, testified to her of Christ's mission & Atonement & how it was fulfilled completely. I felt the same feeling I get when I take the sacrament, when I say a sincere prayer, when I learn from the scriptures, when I go to the Temple, when we have a powerful lesson with someone with a willing heart - the Holy Spirit. I felt my testimony grow stronger of the words that I was saying, right as I was saying them. I don't know what will happen when we go back, but I know that on that day we were led to someone who needed missionaries to share with her the truth that she could feel for herself. 

We rode to Ishikawa, an area north of here that was closed down about a year ago when they combined its branch with the Okinawa Ward, and had a bit of fun up there. 
We also met with a few members and seeing the fire & appreciation that comes from visiting members & sharing missionary experience is so worth it. I hope I can be uplifted by the missionaries regularly after I return home, and I don't want to take it for granted, especially after visiting a member family in Ishikawa who, because there aren't missionaries there, never have the chance to be visited.
Saturday was inside all day due to a Typhoon, and to top off the week, I translated for a Japanese member during the Sacrament Meeting of the American Military branch. 

I love Okinawa & I love my mission. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Weekly kichi ni haichatta Mail

Here's the rundown of the random things we did this week:

-Infiltrated the U.S. Military base and had burgers for lunch (it was my second time on American soil, the first being the MTC)
-Went down south for companion exchanges in a place called Futenma. We had no luck all day, no one listened or would give us time to share our message with them, until the very last person who was a Christian with interest in the Book of Mormon. Gave him a copy & made a return appointment which I of course won't be at, but last door miracles!
-We blew up a few hundred balloons for a Stake Primary activity which Tagawa Shimai & Runa-chan from Ishigaki came to, I was so surprised to see them here that I stumbled over my words and probably sounded like a first transfer missionary unable to speak Japanese like I was when I was there a year and a half ago.
-Had interviews & a mini-conference with the zone and our new Mission President & his wife. They are super, super cool, way cooler than I was expecting, and they brought so much Dendo Fire with them so we're all super pumped right now.
-Played basketball & volleyball with the youth during Young Men's where it was Missionaries VS Nihonjin (Japanese people). I was on the Nihonjin team to make the numbers even, and every time seeing the young men since then we have made funny remarks about how much better us Nihonjin are than those Missionaries. 
-At Church I'm starting to get to know people, still a little overwhelming at how many members here are compared to my last 3 areas but people are remembering my name, and if not that they're remembering me for the missionary from Tasmania. From my experience in Japan you get celebrity points if you're white, but everyone assumes you're American, so when you say you're Australian there are a few gasps, but when you say Tasmania (which for some reason a whole lot of Japanese people know) they just about faint. Maybe that's an exaggeration. But そんな感じ.
-Talking to Americans, particularly off-base, is still frightening. Will keep you updated on that.

My testimony is growing and I'm having all these small experience, impressions, feelings & seeing all these seemingly-insignificant-tender mercies that are really shaping me and leading me somewhere in my personal growth. It's not something I can explain but I know so strongly that our Father in Heaven is there, He loves us & is mindful of everyone, and furthermore that He gives us what we need to become more like His son, Jesus Christ. I see it every day, and it's changing me.

Photos: My companion Elder Richards & I on base (nametags not allowed)
Elder spencer, who I had exchanges with. He's a real movie star.

And then we have our balloon efforts.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Weekly Typhooned Mail

Early this week we went up to a town called Nago and did companion exchanges, and we had quite the adventure. They are in a trio so I went with Elder Egan & Ishijima while my companion went with the third, Elder Chantry. We spent a lot of time in the sun walking and talking to people, I applied sunscreen four times, to protect my authentic whiteness, and after dinner we rode out pretty far to a place we prayed & decided on in order to find people who will let us teach them and as soon as we got there Elder Egan's bike decided it had had enough. After 45 failed minutes of trying to fix it we went just decided to continue with our plan, talked to 3 people and 2 said that we could come back and teach them next week! Then we had a lesson nearby, and by then it was 8:40 and we were waiting for a member we called earlier to come save us and by 9:45 we arrived home with a ute full of bikes, with us in another.

That was definitely the highlight of the week, because after getting home we spent the next two and a half days inside because a Typhoon came through Okinawa. Amongst other things we studied, called some investigators, practice teaching lessons... Then the cabin fever got to us and we made workout videos, made shaved legs (and arms too) and had a sweet EFY Music concert in our living room. 

Getting outside and Dendo-ing has never been so beautiful. Yesterday at Church my trainer now-Brother-Rogers gave his homecoming talk and I got a shoutout saying, "one of my companions is here, his name is Elder Wheeler and he's a great missionary so if you have any friends let him teach them." Nice plug.

I'm really loving Okinawa and the ward members too - American & Japanese. Still feel quite uncomfortable with English speakers, I feel so limited with my sad accent and my slangy habits ('cause the only English I've used in the last year and a half is with other 20 year olds!), but I'm getting here. This morning we went to Japanese seminary, and today we are going to the American Military base for lunch. This week we have another typhoon coming and tonight we are heading south to Futenma for companion exchanges, but these past few weeks of being Zone Leader with Elder Richards (my companion) have been super fun, and I've been trying to help our zone feel more united and everyone's working hard & happy so it's all going well!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Weekly Dokuritsu Kinenbi Mail

So it was Independence Day in America and because there is a U.S. Military base here in Okinawa City I was sucked in to a lot of patriotism this week. It started with a breakfast pancakes activity at the Church with the American wards and aside from being one of two non-Americans there, the worst was when they brought out the U.S. flag, everyone stood up, put their hands over their hearts and said the pledge of allegiance. I looked around and smiled, trying not to look like a communist. I embraced it during the American ward's Church meeting when we sung 'America The Beautiful' and other favorites. I mean 'favourites.'

Elder Richards had our first Zone Training Meeting together and it went really well, we focused on building ourselves up & building others up. It was, like usual, a really uplifting experience for me. 

Here's a sweet miracle. Earlier in the week we went to an A&W fast food restaurant, and I spent and ate way too much, which made Dendo super hard that night, but two days later we found ourselves at McDonalds (we're trying to use time more effectively by not having to return home and leave again for dinner) and a lady came up to us saying she saw us at A&W and wanted to talk! She has a lot of interest in seemingly everything from our English class to Church and wants to take us out to lunch this week, so that was exciting.

So far our white washing has gone well, we're out working hard and finding lots of new people to teach, so I'm grateful for that. 

Enjoy some pictures!