Monday, January 26, 2015

Smell the Roses

I know what you're thinking. WHY HAVEN'T YOU POSTED ON FACEBOOK YET? While I appreciate all the likes I got on my new profile picture and banner, I can't post anything yet! I can't even friend anyone I've met in Japan over the past five weeks. I need like eight missionaries' approval and my mission president's. It's a long process. But hopefully it wraps up before this week ends! I'm so excited to share my mission with you! I can't wait for you to see my new friends.

So I witnessed a bike explosion. Really. We were riding our bikes all day everyday like we typically do, when Sister O. noticed her tire had become a little dented looking. We didn't know what to do, so what did we do? Took it to the elders. They didn't know what to do either, so they pumped the tire up with more air. The next day, the dents and tumors just got worse and then finally, the tire exploded. Super cool. But super inconvenient. We had to walk home. And do you remember my old bike? The one I rode around for two weeks? The road bike with a single gear? Yeah now Sister O. gets her turn. She's named this bike the Furnace of Affliction. I like to call it The Crucible. No really, it toughened me up! That bike is so terrible it conditioned my legs to breeze through every bike ride since. It's the greatest. I think everyone should ride it.

On Wednesday we have an Area Seventy coming. For those of you who don't know, this guy is a General Authority for our church. His name is Elder  Aoyagi. Yes, he's Japanese. I really think you guys should look him up. He's really great. He met his wife in a REALLY interesting way but I want you guys to look it up on your own. I'm really anxious to hear from him. Apparently, the last General Authority that came talked about marriage. Imagine that! A bunch of missionaries are gathered and you talk to them about something that is quite useless for another two years. And especially since this Elder has such an interesting proposal story, he's bound to bring it up. It's a fragile topic here in the mission. Sister O. gets marriage announcements all the time from past companions. Some missionaries in the mission married other missionaries in the mission. How terrifying is that? I'll let you know how that goes next week.

I didn't think I was gonna talk about this kind of stuff, but here goes: We had a really cool lesson this past week. Right now, we're teaching this family through this brilliant Free Family English Program. As missionaries, we go around and find families and offer to teach their children English privately and to their own schedule. We teach them for an hour per lesson; Half an hour for English and the other half for the gospel. It's genius. So we've been teaching this family for like three lessons yeah? And at this point, the husband has asked to join in. This last lesson, we were all set to talk about the Book of Mormon when he says: You know, I really like that Last Supper painting. The one with Jesus at a big table with a bunch of plates? But I don't know what it means. Can you explain that to me?
I couldn't have been happier in that moment. I told him all about the Sacrament and how we still practice it today so we can remember Christ every week. I told him about how I felt during the Sacrament. I invited them to church so he could make that painting a reality. They were really into it! There was a slight confusion as to whether the bread and water was a meal-worthy amount but they were still excited when they found out it was only bite size amounts. They couldn't come this past Sunday, but they promised next Sunday.

This family was our closest chance to getting investigators to church. We had made a goal for five investigators at church and when Saturday night rolled around we realized we had none. I was really bummed.
But we get to church the next day and as people start filing in, we notice a ton of Less-Active members we'd been working with over the weeks. We had visited these people in their homes and got to know them and prayed with them. Some needed a priesthood blessing and some just needed a friend to sit with. Some of these people hadn't been to church since I got to Japan. That's a month!  But when all was said and done, we had five Less Active members at church yesterday.

I'm a new missionary. I don't know what it's like to have five investigators at church. But I know that when I looked around me, with two Less-Active members on both sides of me, my heart was full. I was so happy that all of these people had chosen to actively come closer to Christ, partake of His Sacrament, and remember Him. Our ward is a big one; we set up about 100 chairs every week, and it was nearly full that day. This year, their goal is to set up 120 chairs and fill them up too. Please pray that this can happen.

Sister M. is on her final two weeks as a missionary. She's taking it pretty hard. But at her final district meeting, she shared something really beautiful.
She said a mission is like a field of roses. You see it from a far and it's beautiful. I know that's true. I was so excited for my mission, I could have belly flopped into my field of roses. But then when you start walking through it, you feel the thorns and they hurt. You're constantly getting scraped up and cut open. A friend investigating the church suddenly says they don't want to meet anymore. Somebody cancels their baptism. A new convert is going through a really rough time but refuses to pray. Japanese people tell you every day that it's useless to preach religion in Japan because no one will listen. That stuff kills. But you look around and all you can see are roses. Despite how much hurt you feel, someone smiles at your pathetic attempt to speak Japanese and agrees to exchange numbers with you. An investigator prays at the end of a lesson. Five Less-Active members come to church. You hurt so bad but you're in the midst of beauty every day. And once you get to the other side of the rose field, even though you're bleeding, you look back and all you can see are roses. Now, here's my input: This isn't just a mission, this  is life. We're so lucky. We see these roses because Christ planted them. He walked through a field of thorns and planted roses there. He didn't take our pain away, He gives us beautiful tender mercies that make the pain worthwhile. I am so grateful for Christ's Atonement, because it truly is the fount of every blessing. If we saw blessings according to our worthiness, we wouldn't see any. It's because of the Atonement that we are blessed enough to see miracles.

I love you all. Don't forget it! God and Jesus Christ know you and love you! Don't forget that! See you soon.

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