Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 30, 2017--1 Year in Japan!

My most lovely mother who is mine,

On Monday we had an appointment with a new investigator, an obaachan named Y san. We went over there with our ward mission leader (since we need another guy or we can't go in her house), but she was sick so we had to cancel the lesson. As we were walking away from her house, we got a call for, the Sisters saying that their investigator (M chan) wanted a blessing. It was perfect timing because we had another adult male with us and had an unexpected block of time with nothing planned, so we were able to give her a blessing right away! I said the blessing, it was the first one I've ever given in Japanese. Man I was so nervous. But I think it went well! 

We were in Morioka for splits on Tuesday, and M chan goes to school in Morioka so on our way back on Wednesday morning we surprised her with some (supposedly) Japan-famous Fukuda pan! She was so shocked because Morioka is like a 45 minute train ride away from Kitakami. That night, she brought a friend to English class! She told us that she shared the bread with one of friends during lunch and that led to them talking about missionaries and English class and her friend wanted to try coming! Cool little miracle there.

F is doing great! We have just about finished all of the lessons with him, so we are just reading the Book of Mormon with him and teaching what we feel like he needs. His date isn't until October 13th, but we are hoping he will move it up a little sooner. He is still trying to quit smoking, but once he is able to do that he will be totally ready for baptism. There will be a baptism for the Sisters' investigator on Saturday, so we are hoping that when he comes to the service he will get more excited for his own baptism and want to be baptized sooner. We'll see how it goes!

The investigator who will be baptized is AF san--she is 90 years old and her son is our branch president. On Sunday I got to do her baptismal interview, which was another first for me. She doesn't have the best hearing and sometimes she was hard to understand haha, but it all went well. After interviewing a 90 year old obaachan I think I could interview anyone.

Our branch has a pretty small building, and we might be getting a new one--President Sekiguchi told us that they would take the attendance count from the last 2 weeks to determine how bad we need a new building and how fast we would get it. Usually we have about 25 people, and Presidnet Sekiguchi said we probably need about 35 people there to be able to speed things up. Both us and the members went all out and we were up in the 40s for people at church on Sunday! It was great.

We also recently started a Gospel Principles class for the non-members who come, taught by M Kyoudai! It is so cool because he was less active literally 4 weeks ago, but after just 1 visit to his house he has been coming each week and now is so involved in the ward. He is an RM so he way good at teaching and the Sunday school hour is so great for our investigators. It makes me want to bring everyone because I know they will feel the spirit! Seeing that class on Sunday really helped me to see how much God is involved in this work--M Kyoudai coming back to activity right at the time when more and more visitors are coming to church and when the branch attendance is being recorded to see if we can get a new building, the timing of everything is just too perfect.

We had 2 dinner appointments this week, one with our friend Tm. and one with the T family (M chan and her Mom and brother). We have been able to meet so many new people recently and have been given lots of good opportunities to strengthen our relationships with them, it has been great! We also met a new family on Sunday. The Dad and his son were outside kicking a soccer ball in the street, we were going down a different street but saw them outside. Dads aren't usually very excited to talk to missionaries here so I was feeling a little hesitant about going over there, but we decided to just bike by them and say hi and then just keep biking if it seemed bimyou. But we said hi and the Dad was like "ええ?アメリカ人!?" [Ehhh--Americans?!?] and totally wanted to talk with us! He thought it was so cool that we are only 19 but are out volunteering in a foreign country and speaking a foreign language too. He said he wants his 15 year old son to be like us in 4 years haha! We invited him to English class and his Dad really wanted him to go, he seemed pretty excited about it too. We tried to give them a Book of Mormon but the Dad said it was too big of a gift for people who had just met. But he told us to come stop by their house and say hi whenever we are in the area! So cool. They are the S family, and I have really high hopes for them--from my experience, generally the most common source of problems when we have tried to teach families is with the dad. But just right off the bat we have a good relationship with the Dad, and both of the sons, so as long as the wife is isn't crazy hantai or anything I think we'll be able to teach all 4 of them :)

We had a cool miracle Sunday night with the very last door we knocked on--we were late for Houkoku so we were ringing doorbells and if it seemed like no one was home we left pretty quick. We knocked on the last door and no one answered so we walked down the stairs and were going back to our bikes when we heard the door open! We raced back to see a guy's head pop out of the doorway, and we were yelling back to him and we ran back to his door haha. The door started to close and I thought he was just going to ignore us and go back into his house, but it turned out he was just putting on his shoes so he could stand in the genkan and talk to us! We found out that he is from Aomori, so we were able to bond really quickly--he is going back to Aomori next week for Obon and Nebuta, so I talked about seeing Nebuta and Obon the first few weeks after I moved to Japan (which made me realize that I hit my 1 year in Japan mark this week--ahhh!). We had such a solid conversation and introduced the Restoration, he thought it was way cool. He was just so friendly and has a lot of interest in God and life after death, I think he's a Kinjin! Since he'll be out of town we can't follow up for another couple weeks but we'll see how it goes when he gets back :)

I have so many other stories that I don't have time to tell but we are doing great and having so much fun!

Love you mom!

--
パスケット長老
Elder Paskett

July 30, 2017--Last Natto Videos! (8-9)





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Friday, August 4, 2017

July 30, 2017--More Natto Videos (Eww, gross!!) (5-7.5)

Elder Paskett and Elder Holdaway continue their commitment to eating natto every day to show support for an investigator trying to keep the Word of Wisdom...

"Mom I actually kind of like natto now, I'm really getting used to it. It is still hard to swallow haha and the smell is pretty bad but yeah I think in a few weeks I will be able to eat it without the soy sauce."


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

July 24, 2017--Satou Shimai and Natto Challenge Week 1 (videos 1-4)


July 24 Bonus Material :)

"Does this face look familiar? Satou Shimai from Miyako says she knew you in Kumamoto! She heard my name and asked if my dad was Mark who went to Fukuoka on his mission. She has a 10 year old daughter Marie now."




Mark's response:
I remember her very well from Kumamoto.  She hasn't changed a bit.  Glad she is still faithful.  She was a very good missionary.  We used to play ultimate frisbee at the Kumamoto Jyo and one time my companion landed on top of her and knocked her over.  She was a good sport about it.  She was nice to me because my Japanese was horrible as Kumamoto was my first area.  Great memories.  I will find a picture of her and send it to you later this evening!


Eating Natto Videos: "We are eating natto every day to help M chan keep the Word of Wisdom (she loves matcha). I have like 5 so I will send them all, haha."

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July 24, 2017--Tons o' pics and a Video Journal Entry

Pictures from the week:



















Video Journal for this week:

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 17, 2017--Happy P-day!

My most lovely Mom,

We had a little bit of a scare with F this week--we taught him the Law of Tithing on Tuesday, and he had a lot of concerns but didn't really say anything about them. When we went over  on Thursday, he just wasn't his usual genki self--he we straight to talking about how tithing was Muri for him, so it was pointless to keep studying with us. He took his bookmark out of the Book of Mormon and threw it away, and handed his Book of Mormon and pamphlets back to us. We were both flipping out on the inside but managed to keep it cool and continue talking with him. I have never prayed so hard during a lesson in my life! We were trying so hard to follow the spirit, and as we talked, he started to share more of his feelings and concerns, and by the end he felt better about everything and decided he wanted to keep studying with us after all! He took his Book of Mormon and pamphlets back, it was wonderful. Most of his concerns were pretty simple, we just needed to take the time to talk about them with him. He told us he was grateful we have a relationship of trust! I think we are even more grateful than he is. He came to church again his week and came to the branch barbecue today and had a fun time!

M kyoudai had also been coming to church consistently the last few weeks--and he just got called as the Sunday School President! We are trying out a gospel principles class for investigators and new members for the first time ever next week, and he asked us if it would be ok for him to teach it. Of course we were so excited for him to teach, and he seems so excited too! So amazing that someone who was "less-active" literally last month is now prepping lessons to help investigators when they come to Sunday School! He is doing so well. His wife still hasn't been able to come yet, but we visited the 2 of them last night and we think she just needs some time and she'll come around.

This week is the "kekko challenge"! Sekiguchi Kaicho is a genius--he is having a mission-wide competition to see which district can get the most kekkos (it will be averaged per companionship). We have some crazy plans to talk to so many people and get so many kekkos! (kekkos = no thank you's = being turned down!)

We don't have very much time today since we had a branch barbecue almost all day but things are going great here and we can barely keep up with everything! Life is great :)

Love you so much!! Thanks for all you do!
パスケット長老
Elder Paskett
Big Boy's Burgers for Elder Holdaway's birthday!


Little birthday party at GoEigo!


Branch BBQ


Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 10, 2017--Greetings from Kitakami!

Watashi no ai suru haha,

Things are going so well! I think we have finally chipped down through all of our PIs, we dropped a lot but we know which ones we want to continue to visit.

On Monday, we went tracting almost the whole night--I think that was the first time this transfer we have knocked on doors for more than 30 minutes at a time, just because we have so many other things to do. We stopped by a PI who lives about 20 minutes away, then we felt like we should knock on some doors nearby. And it was a gold mine! We only had time to talk to 6 people, but we taught a lesson on the doorstep to 4 of them. We were trying hard to keep our "doorstep approaches" fresh and personable and tailored to each person we met. The first guy we met has a young family, so we talked about families and God and ended up giving him a Plan of Salvation pamphlet. He seemed way interested,  so we'll stop by again tonight and see how it goes!

His back door neighbor F was a lady who used to be married to a Buddhist monk, so she learned a lot Buddhism and thinks learning about religions is fascinating. She said she wants to try studying the Bible but doesn't have a Bible or anyone to study with. We offered her both a Bible and 2 Nihonjin sister missionary study buddies, all for free! The sisters went over to her house with a Bible and a Book of Mormon on Saturday, and they said it went so well--she wants to keep studying with them, and even committed to come to church next week! F's next door neighbor was a guy who told us that all religions are really the same, with the same purpose, and that he's already heard the Christian doctrine, and he likes Buddhism. We had a unique opportunity to talk about truth and apostasy and the Restoration on his door, and he started to listen a little more as he realized our message was different from anything he had heard before. He took a Restoration pamphlet and we will be following up with him tonight as well.

Then across the street from that guy, we met a high school student in his last year. He likes basketball and was way chill. We stared off with just an invite to English class, which is what we usually do for younger people, but we felt like we should talk a little more about the gospel with him. We introduced the Book of Mormon and he thought it was really cool--he took a copy and we'll see if he read any of it tonight haha :) So that may have been the most successful housing block I have ever been a part of during my mission, we only had time to talk to 6 people because they were listening to us! So great. We had 1 kekko, but that didn't slow our momentum at all.

F-san has been making solid progress--he has already cut his cigarette intake in half! We have been moving into teaching the other commandments, and he just tells us each time that he is already keeping them. We offered to set a baptismal date in August with him on Saturday, and he was kind of nervous and thought it was too fast. But we talked about just having the date as a goal will help us to be able to work together to be ready for baptism, and he told us that he would be ok setting a date next week! He wants to be baptized, but he still has some things he is nervous about--he told us it would be nice to read the whole Book of Mormon before he is baptized, and he wants to make sure he has all of the doctrine down in his mind. He also said that he wants to get baptized before either of us go back to America, so by June 2018 at the latest. I don't think he knows that we will likely transfer out of Kitakami before we go back to America, and that the next transfer calls come in August. It's hard because we don't want it to be a total surprise for him, but we also don't want to use the possibility of one of us transferring as leverage to persuade him to be baptized earlier, so we're kind of just waiting to see how things play out. But, we both really think that once he is able to stop smoking, he'll feel the spirit more and he won't want to wait to be baptized. He has been coming to church consistently and the branch members love him, so even if it takes some time, we're sure he will come around :)

We had an America-themed English class on Wednesday, we taught them some American slang and sang the Star-Spangled Banner together! It was a good time. We had another new student, which makes I think 4 weeks in a row with a new student! It's funny because we have been spending a lot of time giving out flyers to Jr. High and High School students on the street (we try to place ourselves conveniently near a different school each day around the time schools are getting out so we can catch the wave of students going home), but all of our new students so far have heard about the class through some other random way. One lady's friend's ex-husband used to come to Eikaiwa, and one lady saw a poster in a store 2 years ago and just recently had enough free time to be able to come, stuff like that. We went to a pretty far Jr. High School on Thursday to do some chirashi kubari, and this one san-nen-sei stud helped us out a lot--we gave him a flyer and he ran back to the school and got all his friends and brought them to us so we could give them flyers too. I think he was just trying to be funny, but he helped us talk to so many more students haha. He was trying so hard to talk in English the whole time, it was pretty funny. He even gave us hugs at the end haha.

Speaking of hugs, we kind of got hugged by this really old lady in a care center. We were doing service with the branch, each month we go to an old folks' home and change all the bedsheets. As we were leaving, this Obaachan in a wheelchair was super excited to see us. She couldn't really talk, but the worker was like, "wow she is so excited to see you guys. She loves young people, and especially young gaijin men apparently. I've never seen her this excited." Haha so the worker pushed her along so she could walk us out to the door, and she asked if we could take a picture with her before we left. Of course we said yes, but as we were crouching down next to her wheelchair, she put her arm around Elder Holdaway and pulled him in real close. I was laughing at him when she put her other arm around my shoulders and pulled me in too. Haha we figured that even if it might normally be against missionary rules, it was probably ok for that picture since she was close to 100 years old. Plus, it was visible on her face that she was just overjoyed, it was pretty cute.

We met Sekiguchi Kaicho this week! I am so excited to be working with him. We only met him for a few hours Friday afternoon, but he actually came down to Kitakami that evening to check out the church building. Basically he is just super funny and got everyone so pumped up to work hard and see lots of miracles!

We've had a great week here, glad you've had a great week too :) Thank for all you do and for raising us in the gospel. I love what you said about the RS lesson, that the happiest memories we have are centered in our families--so even if it sometimes feels like pressure, putting family first and doing the little things really brings so many blessings. Thank you for being such a wonderful example of putting family first and for being such an amazing mother! I love you so much!!

Love,
パスケット長老

Elder Paskett



Yakiniku barbecue ↑↓





One last photo shoot with Masaki before he moves this week. (Ft. Masaki, Elder Paskett, Elder Holdaway, Momone, Ishikawa Shimai, and Mitsuyama Shimai)







Birthday party and ice cream cake! I promise it tasted better than it looked. ↑↓





Church with our homies Momone and Masaki ↑↓


Our sunburns