Thursday, March 8, 2018

March 5, 2018--3 Miracles

It has been an amazing week!! The Lord’s hand has been guiding us in the work. We are getting to the point where we have lessons scheduled and people to teach! We are finding lots of investigators and dropping a lot, but some progressing people are coming out of the woodwork and we are getting excited!

First miracle! We come to an apartment building where you can’t get in unless someone who lives there lets you through the glass door. At the entrance there is a just an intercom where you can call to any of the rooms in the whole building, and they can talk to you and choose whether or not to let you into the building or not. And sometimes people get mad if you just ring up to every single room, so we have to be careful with who we were going to try and call. Looking at all the rooms from outside, we try to figure which rooms have people home. About half of the lights are on. I ask Mateaki Choro which room looks good to him, and he says he likes the look of a room on the 3rd floor with dark pink curtains. We aren’t sure which room it was, but I make an educated guess and push 3...0...5. 呼ぶ。 We wait as it rings once, then twice. Then we hear a voice on the other end, asking who it is.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” 
“What are you here for?”
“We would like to share a message about Jesus Christ.”
“Ok, come on in.”
I thought I had misheard him at first because no one ever lets us in at those type of apartments!! But sure enough, the locked door unlocked and opened to let us in to the apartment. We entered and walked up to the third floor, where we were able to teach our new friend the message of the Restoration and explain what the Book of Mormon is.

Second miracle—we are housing Saturday morning, and no one is home. An investigator we were planning on visiting wasn’t home, and we just finished a 2-story apartment building without a single answer. Looking over the city from the 2nd floor, we saw a prayer together for guidance. My eyes go straight to a gray and pink apartment up the street to the north. I point it out to Mateaki Choro and he says, “I was just thinking that that building looked like a good one.” We go there and not a single person is home—except one! A young, single mother and her adorable daughter. Clearly weighed down by months, maybe years of stress, we try to be really friendly and become her friends. Before we leave, we share just a little bit of how the Gospel has helped and blessed our lives and particularly our families. She took a pamphlet to read before we come to visit again next week!

Third miracle—Saturday afternoon, we are trying to contact a referral from 2 other missionaries who worked in Towada for just a day (during the blitz). We finally find the correct house, but the referral’s husband is not willing to listen to us for longer than a couple words before he slams the door. As we are leaving, we see someone pull up in a car, but immediately turn around and drive away. As we walk away, we see the same car pull out of a parking lot and come back to this house. The driver makes eye contacts with us and gives that laughing apology bow that Japanese people do when they feel awkward. We realize that it is our referral as we see her run out her car and into her house, worried that we would try and talk to her before she got in from the driveway. So we decide to drop that referral, but we still have hope that someone nearby is prepared for the gospel. We knock on door after door, but get only kekkoes and people who are offended that we go door-to-door trying to share religious beliefs. 

After enduring for a good while, I notice myself start to get a little cynical, so we decide to leave and try a different area. On the way out of this neighborhood, we pass by a street and my eyes are caught by this little sign on the side of a duplex house. The spirit says so clearly—knock on their door! But we had already decided to leave. Plus, I am sick and tired of this area. But with every step I take farther away, the still small voice pushes harder in my mind. I rationalize to myself, “we can always do it another day.” We continue walking, and my comp says, “we can always knock their door another day.” Yeah, that’s what was I thinking too. Then suddenly I stopped. “Wait, did you think we were supposed to knock on that door?” “Well, yeah. But, we were already on our way out of the neighborhood...” We said a prayer to confirm what we already knew through the spirit—and again I felt, go to the house! We knock on the first door—no answer. Second door—kekko desu. We knock on their next-door neighbor’s house—and an energetic 7-year old boy rushes to the door. えっー、外国人だ!! (Oohh! Foreigners!)  And his 3 sisters all come running to the door and ask us all kinds of questions. The mom comes to the door to see what all the commotion is about, and asks who we are. We explain that we are missionaries, and ask permission to share a message with her family. Before she can even respond, the kids cry out in chorus, “Yes! Of course! Please come in!!” We enter and share John 13:34 about love. We share a 5-minute message about love and giving hugs, and the kids are a little shocked about the radical notion of hugging their own siblings. But we promise them that they will become good friends if they hug each other. 

After autographing various pieces of paper, answering their questions about Santa Claus, being graciously shown their different homework assignments, and taking a picture together, we leave. The kids all run to the window and wave us down the length of the whole street until we turn the corner, out of sight. Until next week!

The Lord is really working right here with us!! Every time we turn to Him in prayer, He guides us. I know He lives and directs this work. This is His church, and His gospel. I know it. I live it. I love it!!


Elder Paskett

1-3: Bandai conference! See if you can find me in all of these pics ;)

We had a capture the flag snowball fight, played volleyball, went in the group o-Furo, and made little glowing snow cave things (see pic 7) for a music video!

I sneakily switched name tags with President when he gave me a hug
at conference, so now he calls me President haha.

The A Kazoku

Sunday, March 4, 2018

February 28, 2018--Happy March!

My beautiful, wise, fantastic mother who is mine,

Yeah I guess the cold really isn’t so bad! I think the coldest it has gotten is like -14, but usually during the day it get s up to 3 or 4. Nothing like Norway haha! Thats so cool about Rylee too! Tell her congrats for me :)

I had splits with my DL Terry Choro this week! We had a good time, we were able to go to a Shuwa circle and learn some sign language, and we taught English to a high schooler named U. He is so awesome! He goes to the American ward in Misawa every Sunday, mostly to practice English. He usually stays for the Japanese branch right after as well, which is where I met him first a few weeks ago. Apparently one of the sister missionaries in Hachinohe (where he lives) showed him a video of me singing a happy birthday song (the Michael Bolton one) a while ago, so he recognized me away and was like, “パスケット長老ですか?? ずっと会いたかったよ!” (You're Elder Paskett? I've been wanting to meet you!!) So we are tight now and had a good time learning English! He told us all about his future dreams, he wants to hug millions of people and help homeless people find jobs, haha he is great :)

We have a newish Investigator named H san who is Christian, but isn’t going to church right now. She doesn’t like crowds and is really shy, she lives alone with her dog. We wanted to make her feel comfortable enough to come to church, and our morning sacrament meeting right now is between 3-7 people so that actually helps. We do it at a member’s house, Tozaki shimai, so we decided to go bring cookies to Hatayama san with Tozaki Shimai, and invite her to church. She wasn't able to come this week, but she is friends with Tozaki Shimai now and is open to coming sometime in the future! When we went to the store to buy ingredients for cookies, we just happened to run into our Filipino friend J! He told us he was sorry he didn't add us on facebook yet, but he would as soon as he got to wifi. He is such a solid guy, we are excited to see where things go with him.

We brought cookies to our other investigator D who had the flu, and he told us he would for sure get better by Sunday so he could make it to church! We were waiting for him at our evening sacrament meeting at the community center, but he didn't show up. We went to visit him after to see if he was doing alright, and he apologized profusely that he had to stay late at work. As an apology, he took us on a tour of his bread shop and esthetician business, and gave us some sample bread and cookies and skin cleansing drink, and sprayed our faces with detox mineral water. Haha it was an adventure! He is such a funny, goofy guy. He felt pretty bad about not being able to come though, he promised he would come next week. We haven’t been able to teach any actual lessons to him yet, but I think he has a lot of potential.

We had a missionary conference at Bandai in Aizuwakamatsu, it was great! I got to meet a lot of new missionaries, we had some spiritual experiences and fun activities, I don’t have too much time to explain it all now but I’ll fill you in on the deets next week.:)

One cool miracle was on Saturday night, we had a goal to contact 100 people that day, and we were at around 93 but it was getting late so we started walking towards home. On the way, this good-looking apartment caught my eye for some reason. I turned towards Mateaki Choro and saw that he was looking at the same building. There were about 8 rooms so we decided to use a little bit of our dinner time to tract it up and try to reach our goal.

We got a few kekkoes, then person #98 was a super nice lady who had a lot of interest in the Book of Mormon! She was super interested in why a couple of young Americans were walking around in the snow too. We explained what we do as missionaries, and she happily accepted a Book of Moromon and said we are welcome to come back anytime!  That was a cool little testimony to me that God blesses and guides us as we do our best to carry out inspired goals. Our goals and plans don’t change God’s plans, but through making goals and plans, it enables God to guide us to accomplish His will.

I love being a missionary and I love Japan!!
Love you momma!!!
Elder Paskett

Just 1 today! This was our sacrament meeting on Sunday ft. the Sasaki
family, Hansen Shimai and Tozaki Shimai:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February 19, 2018--Good Times Abound

To the amazing woman I am honored to call my mother,

Happy Valentine’s Day!! We delivered some chocolate to people and also gave out hand warmers and Law of Chastity pamphlets, haha. At first I thought it would just be funny but it actually turned out to be a really solid dendo approach. We promised a few middle and high schoolers that if they followed the principles in the pamphlet that they would have more self-control, better relationships and someday a happy marriage and family! Commandments, even the ones that are awkward to talk about, really do bring huge blessings into our lives.

Can’t believe Taylor is 22! And Dad is getting up there too...time flies! Good thing I’ll never get old.

We met a Filipino man on Sunday, he was so great!! His English was not that great, but it actually worked out perfectly—I asked, “do you go to church?” Trying to get a feel for his religious background. Slightly misunderstanding my question, he responded, “well, I’m busy today. But I can probably go next week! What time?” So now we have a Filipino investigator and we are studying the lesson pamphlets in Tagalog, haha. His wife and kids still live in the Philipines and he just moved here a few months ago, so we are honored to be among his first friends here in Japan!

We met a super solid family called the U kazoku. We met the Dad housing and gave him a pamphlet, he seemed mildly interested. When we went to follow up the next week, the 2 little girls were playing outside in the snow, so we got to meet them and their mom! The mom actually saw the pamphlet we gave them and read a little bit of it! We still don’t know them super well but we are hoping things will go well with them!

There was a nice blizzard this week, the snow was coming horizontally and the wind was blowing it up off the ground so it was coming from literally all directions, haha. But we use went out and dendoed like normal. A lot of people who answered their door just looked at us like we were crazy and slammed the door, some more compassionate ones let us in or gave us hand warmers. Met some great new people who seem to have a lot of potential!

We had interviews with President yesterday. Basically he was like, “We really need to see some real growth here in Towada. That’s why I sent you here. So be humble and go do your thing!” I asked him for advice on lots of different things, and he was just said “honestly, I don’t know. You’ve been here longer than I have, I think you already have all the skills you need. Just have faith and love the people.” The biggest thing I learned from the interview was that I have been overthinking things lately. We are really trying to find out the Lord’s will for Towada, and I have been studying and praying and studying and praying trying to find out what we are missing and what we can do better. One night, I opened my scriptures to the New Testament where Jesus counsels Martha—“thou art careful and troubled about many things—but one thing is needful.” The one thing needful for us as missionaries is to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just to teach it, but to live it. I think sometimes we get so caught up in trying to find the best ways to find and teach that we forget the simplicity of our message. “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Who we are is the message. We can’t bring people to Christ is we are not Christ-like ourselves. So, I am putting forth a renewed effort to really live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To really represent Him, to have a perfect love for others. As President Sekiguchi taught me, “the real miracle is when people’s hearts change. Even God can’t force people’s hearts to change. Their hearts will change when they choose to open them to the spirit—and they will choose to open them because of the love they have for you. They will love you if you love them.”

I love the Japanese people! I love being here in Towada with such great people. I love dendo!!

And I love you!!!!
Elder Paskett

Valentine's Day Dendo

Shokujikai at Sister T's house

Indo Curry ft coconut naan

February 12, 2018--Towada

Two for one...first letter is answers to questions about the new area:

Questions about Towada
It’s good to be back up north! So cold though haha. It is way Inaka!! Probably as Inaka as Yokote. But the buildings are a lot older so it feels more like real Japan. Yeah I guess Towada lake is the deepest one in Japan! It’s actually pretty far from Towada city though.

So we do sacrament meeting in the morning at a member’s house who is part of the Misawa branch. There are a few members who live here in Towada but they are part of the Misawa branch so they normally drive to Misawa to go to church. We have a sacrament meeting here that is focused mainly on less active members and investigators. We also do an evening sacrament meeting at a little cultural center that is also just focused on investigators.

We are part of the Aomori Zone and the Hachinohe District! The Misawa missionaries are also in our district which means we have access to all kinds of goodies from the American military base! We are having them bring us toothpaste and peanut butter to our district meeting haha.

My comp is Elder Mateaki who is a half-Japanese, half-Polynesian guy from Hawaii! He is pretty new but he is way solid. We are the 3rd and 4th missionaries in this area, respectively. The area opened up 3 transfers ago. We have seen lots of miracles already and we really working hard to try and get a branch started here! Ten members is generally the minimum to start a branch and qualify to be able to rent a real building to meet in, so that is our long term goal. So far we have pretty much been working from ground zero, but I think things will really start picking up quickly :)

Elder Paskett

Dendo Fire
It has been freezing this week! Literally—the high yesterday was -3. But our dendo fire and burning testimonies keep us warm!!

We had a finding slump this week from Wednesday to Friday...It was so strange. We have found new investigators every single day I’ve been here but this last week it was like the people were just so cold and unreceptive, all day. We kept trying to seek revelation on where to go to find those who would receive us, but even in the spots we ended up choosing to go it was just slammed doors. During weekly planning we tried to analyze how we are doing and figure what we need to change, and we didn’t really come up with anything specific. But then suddenly, Saturday morning, we found a really receptive father, which was a huge blessing. He has 3 young kids. Usually the Dads are the ones who are the least receptive to the gospel, so to have the first contact with the dad and to have it go well was a huge miracle!

Thinking back on the slow days, I think that 1) God just tests our patience sometimes, and 2) Instead of changing any specific actions, we just needed to check our attitude. We needed to make sure we were looking for ways to repent and improve. I think just having the change of heart was what brought us back on track.

We had a wonderful but heart-breaking lesson with Sato Shimai on Friday. She is an 82 year old investigator to whom we have been teaching English, and the gospel. She tells us that she reads the Book of Mormon every time she feels down, and she always feel peaceful. Then whenever we come over, she feels happy and peaceful again. We told her that that is the spirit ! That it is how God talks to us. As we testified of the spirit, the spirt came into the room so strong. She felt it, and recognized that she felt it. She said “it would be just wonderful if this feeling could just keep going on forever.” It was a perfect transition into baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost—we explained it to her, and she said “that would be nice, but it’s impossible for me. My son is against it.” We encouraged her to talk to her son about her feelings, but she was just determined that her son will never change his mind and the only way she can preserve their good relationship is if she just does what he says and doesn’t get baptized. The spirit was there, we felt like we did all we could possibly do! But in the end it was her choice, and she chose not to act on that spirit. Which was heart-breaking. I understand a little more know how Heavenly Father feels when we use our agency to distance ourselves farther from what will make us happy and bring us peace. She called us later and told us she would like to stop taking lessons since she does not intend to join the church. That was hard, but we are praying that her time will come later!

On Sunday we were invited to attend sacrament meeting in Misawa (the nearest branch, 30 minutes away) so we ended up having Triple sacrament meetings that day. We got to know all the members in the Misawa branch though so that was great! I gave 2 talks (one in the morning, one in the afternoon) and taught priesthood quorum, on the spot, haha but I just prayed simply and fervently that God would help me to bring the spirit, and I think it went well. It was a class of 4 missionaries, 1 priest, and 1 Investigator, and we talked about the importance of following the example of Jesus Christ, of serving and loving others, and honoring our covenants as priesthood holders.

On Monday we had a “Blitz,” where all the missionaries in the eastern half of the zone came to Towada and dendoed for the afternoon!! We saw lots of miracles and a total of 7 new investigators were found. One was a young man whose door we knocked on. At first he was a little shy and closed off, but we tried to be as friendly as we could and really show interest in him without being deceptive about who we are and what our purpose is. We learned that he his parents are Christian so he has studied the Bible before! He recently graduated high school and is living on his own for the first time, with a job cutting lumber. Once he found out that we were both 19 years old too, the whole mood changed. He was glad to have new friends and we had a fun time conversing. In the end he was actually a little curious about our message, so we left him with a pamphlet and arranged a time to come visit again!

There area so many wonderful people we are working with here! There is a member in Hachinohe (a city about 45 minutes away) who is deaf, and wants us to teach her boyfriend! Who is also deaf. So we have been studying Shuwa (Japanese Sign Language) really hard in the evenings and mornings haha. Luckily she has a hearing aid so she can hear well enough to translate into sign language for her boyfriend, but we are still trying to learn as much as we can. We haven’t met him yet but will probably start teaching him in March.

Love you!!
Elder Paskett

Photos from the "Zone Blitz"

Thursday, February 8, 2018

February 6, 2018--First Week in Towada!!

My wonderful, beautiful, exquisite and fantabulous Mother,

Towada has been great! I love it here so much. Saying goodbye to everyone in Yamagata was hard though! 2 transfers felt too short.

I spent most of Wednesday riding buses up to Aomori ken, but I had a little bit of finding time with Elder Gagnon who was transferring up to Misawa. We had just a tiny bit of spare time before our bus left, but we decided to use every minute and went finding in Sendai. We got mostly just kekkoes but we were able to find one high school student who was interested in God, we got his LINE and have been chatting a bit. Hopefully we will be able to pass him to the Sendai Elders soon! After our DTM on Thursday, the Shurtleff Fuufu gave us a ride down to Towada! And it has just been straight miracles ever since.

Every day we have been able to find at least one new investigator. We have been trying really hard to seek revelation for where to go finding, and so far nearly every area we’ve gone to has had someone who agreed to let us come back. Every time we would knock doors for a while, and after getting rejected for a while, we would question if we were in the right spot. But we would decide to just try a little bit longer, then we would meet the person we were supposed to. Every time!

One night we had planned to visit a newish Investigator who is in college, and lives pretty far away. It was a crazy blizzard and it was almost time to head home, but we decided to sacrifice a bit of our dinner time and go visit them anyway. After walking through snow blowing horizontally for a solid half hour, we got to the apartment, knocked on her door, and she wasn’t home! But, I was sure we had been prompted to go visit her. And we were soaking wet and so cold! I concluded that the Lord was just testing us to see if we would follow the Spirit. But I was still ticked haha. Then, as we were walking away, we passed by a young lady looking at her car engine. We offered to help but she said her car was ok, she just had to check something really quick before she went inside. We started talking a little more and found out that she is a practicing Catholic, possibly the first one I’ve ever met in Japan! We asked if she had ever heard of Mormons, and she said she has heard the name but doesn’t know anything else. We explained what the Book of Mormon is and gave her a copy, which she gladly accepted! We have been chatting over Facebook a little bit and she told us she doesn’t want to change from being Catholic to being Mormon, but is open to hear a little more about what we believe.

We met with an Obaachan Investigator who is super nice! She said that she was thinking about being baptized but that she doesn’t want to be tied to her parents and siblings in the afterlife (I think her family was pretty abusive or something...not totally sure) so she changed her mind. We were able to explain how she wont be forced to be with any family members that she doesn’t like, and that the sealing ordinance is not mandatory after baptism. Besides that, families will only be together forever if they honor the temple covenants anyway. It was so cool to see the spirit soften her heart as we focused on her concerns. We called President Sekiguchi to get special permission to teach her at her house (she lives alone so normally we would not be allowed to enter her house), he asked how old she is and when we said 82 he laughed out loud and told us it was fine.

Yesterday we experienced the power of prayer—multiple times we felt like we were trying our best, but people just weren’t answering the door or people weren’t friendly, and we weren’t sure where else to go. We decided to stop and say a prayer; right after, I felt like we needed to turn left at the next road. We turned and I was keeping my eye out for good-looking houses or apartments, but didn't really see anything. Then all of a sudden I realized there was a college-age girl walking right towards us! We stopped her and she said he had metmissionaries before around Christmastime, and that she and her friend wanted to try coming to church sometime to see what its like!!! We were able to give her the info for our church services and re-invite her to come.

Later we were at a dead end with our finding again, but we prayed and found a new investigator at the next apartment we went to! When things started to die down again, we prayed and felt prompted to visit a less active member who the Elders have tried many times to contact in the past, but have never been able to meet her. But she was home when we stopped by, and super friendly! Then during our last little bit of finding time, we were in the same type of spot and decided again to pray. We had a goal to find 2 investigators that day, and had found 1 so far, and we were about out of time to find the second one. But we prayed to be able to find this 2nd new investigator during our remaining time. I looked up when we finished praying and my eyes just went straight to this 2nd story door a block or so away. We made our way towards the house, but it was really hard to find the road that led to this house. We ended up knocking on all the doors around it, walking in a big circle back to the road where we started,
but then eventually found what we thought was a gravel driveway but was actually the road that led to the house we were looking for! We went there and there were 2 doors—we knocked on one, and got kekkoed right away. But we walked up the stairs to door #2—the one I had looked at right after our prayer. We rang the doorbell and waited—and waited—and waited—and there was no answer. We started to turn back, and made it down the stairs when we heard the door start to open! A nice-looking grandma opened the door, and we started talking to her from the bottom of the stairs. As soon as she realized we were Christians, she slammed the door on us. Haha. I just thought...”Heavenly Father...why do you do this to me...” Because we had tried so hard to follow the spirit! And we felt sure that this was where we needed to be. We started making our way back toward the road down the gravel driveway, and realized that there was one more house on the way back. We decided it couldn't hurt to knock on it, and an old man came to the door. He was very open to talk, and even told us that he had read the Bible before. He is Buddhist, but says learning about religions is very interesting. We explained what is different about our message from other Christian churches, and showed him the Book of Mormon. He flipped though it and then handed it back, but we told him it was a present and he was so happy! He agreed to let us come back again next week...and we met our goal to find 2 new investigators! :)

I know God answers our prayers! Even if at first we think it’s too late, even if we are ticked off at God for not answering our prayers—the answer will come! They will come in His time, but they will come. I think sometimes He makes us wait so He can teach us to be humble and patient. But everything He does, He does for our benefit. He really does love us! I know it and I am so glad to be able to share it :)

Love you so much Mamasama!!!!
Elder Paskett


Last few days in Yamagata

Watanabe and Paskett


The new district

Elder and Sis Shurtleff are military relations missionaries, so he gave us a "challenge coin!"

More from Yamadera (last p-day in Yamagata)

Monday, February 5, 2018

January 29, 2018--Yamadera pics and off to Towada

Short version: I am going to the barely opened area of Towada! So I am not a Zone Leader anymore, I just get to focus on teaching and baptizing, and build up the kingdom in Towada with no branch yet, no church or members or anything just me and my comp preaching God’s word! I am so excited :)

Video Journal to be inserted here: