Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 29, 2017--Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

My magnificent Mommy,

Kitakami is great! I still miss Yokote though. But, we have been so busy I barely have time to think about anything besides Kitakami!

So the members here are fantastic--the branch is sooo genki. The 15 minutes before sacrament meeting were so lively! And everyone was so jazzed to have Sister missionaries in Kitakami! There have never been sister missionaries here until this transfer, and they are both Nihonjin, so that just adds to the branch's excitement. They had the 3 new missionaries give a short self-introduction in sacrament meeting, I told them that we only eat potatoes in Idaho and people actually laughed this time! Then the sisters bore super spiritual testimonies and everyone was in tears, it was great. The first speaker got up (who actually happens to be the district president's wife) and she said she almost didn't want to speak because she would rather just listen to the missionaries the whole time! Haha. One of the branch presidency members came up to me after and asked me to give a talk in 2 weeks about dendo, he asked me to bear testimony of missionary work and make it so everyone wants to share the gospel. Basically the branch loves us so much and it is a great time to be a missionary in the Kitakami branch!

This branch is about 1.5 times the size of Yokote, the building is actually smaller though. We own the first two floors and the 3rd floor is some business. We actually have a very full area book, the problem is that we are not meeting with most of the people that are technically in our teaching pool. So this week has been mostly trying to make contact with people who are technically investigators but not really investigating yet, and people on our endless PI list. We've also been trying to help the sisters build up their teaching pool, they are definite otsukaresamas. (hard workers) One is new straight from the MTC and the other is pretty new and training for the first time, and they are whitewashing the area with a literally completely empty area book. They apologized profusely for not finding any new investigators yet (they had been here like 3 days), haha. Once our area book app's referral tool gets up and running again though we will be sending basically half of our area book over to them though, so that should be a nice boost.

Our district is the 4 Kitakami missionaries and then 2 Elders in Ichinoseki. We have 2 "beans" (new missionaries) and 3 Nihonjin, it is a great district. Our DTMs are in all Japanese, and for the first time in my mission I am the "oldest" missionary in my district. It is so weird to be one of the "older" missionaries. But yeah we have a great district and there is so much dendo fire! 

My comp is Elder Holdaway, he was actually trained by someone in my Doki so that is pretty fun. He is from Payson, Utah, and is the youngest out of 13 kids! He has great Japanese and he is a little on the quieter side, but a fantastic missionary.

We met with a new investigator, F san, twice this last week. He is a 70 year-old ojiisan who rides a moped and is way awesome. He has met with JW missionaries (among others) and read the entire New Testament before, so he understands Christianity pretty well. His wife died in the last few years, so we have been teaching about the Plan of Salvation. He likes what we teach but he says he is too old to do anything about it.

On Sunday, we went over with the Sasaki Fufu (a couple who are closer to his age than we are) and it was straight miracles--we introduced them, then basically just sat back and watched as the members made friends with him, taught and testified of the joy of the gospel, and invited him to church! He had declined our invitation the day before, but coming from them he said he would give it some thought. F san mentioned that he had kind of felt unloving pressure from some other religious representatives before, but the Sasakis were able to resolve all his concerns. They told him about how we are volunteers, and how all the church members are volunteers, and how everything that we share is shared because we find joy in it and want others to have that same joy. They talked about how he is welcome at church, and we would love to have him even though he is not a member, and even if he is not planning on becoming a member. All these things that we could have said, but were so much more powerful coming from a "regular person" rather than a missionary. And they really set the stage for us to be able to teach so much more effectively, I was amazed by the trust the Sasakis have already put in us. Member missionary work for the win!

We picked a PI named C as an investigator this week as well, he is an awesome guy. He has had a lot of trials in his life, with family and illness and whatnot. We taught him the Restoration on Sunday, and he is understanding everything so quickly. He loves the idea of a God who loves us and wants to guide us, and he readily accepts the idea of prophets which is huge. He is excited to start reading the Book of Mormon and we will meet with him again next Sunday.

There is a super awesome RC named Takano Kyoudai, he loves swimming and the gospel so we get along really well. We taught him on Saturday and it was fantastic! He had super deep questions about outer space and other worlds haha. I have never had a lesson that in-depth before. And he has only been a member for 2 months! We were talking about how Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ created numberless worlds, and Takano Kyoudai said "wow...and Jesus chose to come to this earth? I guess we're really lucky to live here huh?" It is amazing to see his thirst for more and more of the gospel. He is such a powerful member already.

People here are very friendly, almost everyone is willing to talk at least for a little bit. We housed into a guy whose brother died recently. He said he had been thinking about what happens after death for the first time in his life, then we came to his door! He took a Book of Mormon, we recommended Alma 40 for him to read. We knocked on the door of a lady who didn't have interest in the gospel, but thought it was fantastic that we taught free English and asked for 5 more fliers so she could tell her friends about it. We have been picking up PIs like crazy, and we have been so blessed that when we go to follow-up, they are almost always home. We are like 14 for 15 on totsu zen visits this week, it has been great.

Thanks for all updates about missionaries, so fun to hear! I'm so excited for Dannica. 

Love you so much! Thanks for everything!
Elder Paskett

1 - first day in Kitakami!
2 - some random old guy gave us a scooter...no joke. Haha. He wants it
back next week though.
3 - saying good bye to Rekka in Yokote!

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, 2017--Miracles, blessings, and transfers

My dear, beautiful mother,

What an awesome, crazy week! So many miracles.

It started off on Tuesday morning, we had a lesson scheduled with I Shimai. We called her during daily planning to confirm the appointment, she answered and told us that she was hospitalized! She had caught some kind of illness in her digestive system, and was on an IV since she can't keep any food down. We had a quick change of plans--we called the member who was planning to joint teach with us (Miyakawa Kyoudai), and he just happened to be at the same exact hospital! He was waiting while his pregnant wife had a check-up, it was perfect. We hopped on our bikes, buzzed over to the hospital and bought some flowers on the way. We met up with Miyakawa Kyoudai then went to her room, we offered her a blessing and she gladly accepted. I anointed with the oil, then Miyakawa Kyoudai sealed the anointing with a beautiful blessing. I Shimai was so grateful and said she felt so much hope and comfort from the blessing. Her faith is so strong!

We called her every day, and each time we talked she expressed gratitude for the blessing and talked about how much it has helped her. We went to visit her again after church Sunday with Miyakawa Kyoudai and his wife. Right as we sat down and started to talk, I Shimai's husband came in to visit her! It was perfect, because we had told I Shimai that her husband is welcome to come to church and to lessons with her, but she had just told us that he's probably not interested. We had been wanting to meet him, but never really had a good chance. Him coming in to see the 4 of us visiting his sick wife was the perfect way to start off a good relationship! He is very friendly and even offered to buy us tea. We had a good opportunity to explain some of our beliefs, he was pretty curious and even asked some questions about the Bible. She is getting pretty close to being baptized, so hopefully her husband will start to take lessons as well! The biggest blessings of the Gospel are in ordinances for families, so we are hoping and praying that they will be able to receive these blessings as a family.

We had splits in Akita, and I got to work with Hisaka Choro, who is on his 1st transfer. We knocked on the door of an old man who told us right off the bat that he wasn't interested in religion, but we kept talking with him. He invited us to come in and talk, so we went in and talked in his living room for almost an hour. He told us jokingly that he is part of the "sake-kyou", and that as a bartender, he does missionary work just like us. Even though he was decidedly not interested in religion, he said in passing that he wishes he could be like us--with purpose and joy. Even though he wouldn't admit it, he was looking for what the gospel. Or at least, he was looking for what the gospel will bring--he just didn't know that it would be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the time was right, we shared some of the Plan of Salvation, and he listened. He took a Book of Mormon and we set up a return appointment!

Su is still struggling with acting on what he learns and feels, but we are making progress. We had a nation-wide Devotional with Elder Oaks, and Su came to watch it, he said he really enjoyed it. He has a lot of respect for prophets and the priesthood in general.

One cool thing they talked about in the Devotional was how the Gospel will grow like a tree--the roots must be strong enough to support the branches before there can be more growth. Elder Oaks told the members to not be discouraged if the growth of the church isn't as rapid as they would like--as long as they keep strengthening the roots, it will prepare the way for the growth of the branches. He also encouraged the members to not just pray for the missionaries, but pray and search for ways that they can share the gospel personally! Being a missionary, I have started to understand how important member missionary work is. I want to be a great member missionary when I get back!

We got transfer calls this weekend, I will be headed to Kitakami! It's a city that is much bigger than Yokote, over by Morioka. It was sad to say goodbye to all the friends I have made here, I didn't realize how close everyone here in Yokote is to my heart. But, I know the Lord needs me in Kitakami now. We are leaving tonight, I am grateful that it is so soon so that I don't really have any time to mope and be sad about leaving haha.

One awesome miracle was that we ran into. The F family at the grocery store when I went to pick up my suit from the dry cleaner!  I was so glad to be able to see them one last time :)

I love you so much! Thanks for being perfect!!!
Elder Paskett

Us with F family

Hanging out with Y at AIU (3 pix)

GoEigo Mission School

The District

Visiting I Shimai at the hospital

With K

At Elder Oaks devotional with Su and Takahashi Kaicho

Pretty sunset out on the tanbo

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15 2017--(Mother's Day Call!) Hisashiburi!

It was so fun to skype you guys! Just 2 more left...can't believe it!

A few highlights from this week...

We housed into some very prepared people! K san and her older sister, E san. Right from the very start, they were just so shocked and happy for us to be there. They told us that other religion people come over sometimes, but when we came they felt something special. They took Book of Mormons like candy, they were so excited,
especially to get them for free! They have just been eating up what we have taught so far. They are both older, and they have no base knowledge of Christianity at all, so we have to spend a lot of time clarifying the doctrine, but they are just so willing to learn and so humble. Truly amazing.

We were trying to find a less-active who lived near us, but the recorded address led us to the wrong wing of the right building. After some nice detective work, we found the right room and rang the doorbell. We found out that the Less Active member moved out long ago, but Ka san, the lady who lives there now became a new
investigator! We gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and didn't have much time to explain it, but we will start teaching her his week!

Su still doesn't know if he wants to be baptized or not, but he has started highlighting the word baptism every time we read it in the Book of Mormon. He has made huge progress from "wanting to forget about Christ" a few weeks ago to telling us he loves learning about Christ. He even decided of his own accord that he would start the New
Testament from the beginning to understand more of Christ's life.

We also went to Morioka for a District Conference and heard some great talks--a member of the seventy came and talked about how we can truly have joy in the gospel. I know that the only path to true, lasting joy is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This church doesn't just have nice principles and teachings, it is literally the Lord's kingdom on the earth, with the power and authority to open the doors of the celestial kingdom and to seal families together for eternity. Christ is truly the only way. There is no other name given. I am so grateful to know by what name I and my family can be saved, and I am grateful for the privilege to share that knowledge with the world.

I love you so much! Have a great week!

Elder Paskett

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 14, 2017--Bonus: video journal and wedding video

Wedding video assembled from Landon's clips:

Video Journals from the week of May 7, 2017; part 1 and 2:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May 8, 2017--Golden Golden Week!

To the most beautiful, amazing, wonderfully awesome and exquisitely gorgeous mother,

This week we had a cool experience with a couple from Yokohama. We had just eaten dinner and as we were leaving, I felt like I should grab a Proclamation to the World on the family. I threw it into my bag and we left, then we passed a couple as we were riding our bikes. They looked like they were not from Yokote (it's kind of hard to explain, but you can just tell). But, we stopped them and talked for a little bit, we found out that they were traveling and were just in Yokote for a day for his father's funeral. We had a perfect opportunity to share the Proclamation to the World and testify of the eternal nature of families. They took the pamphlet, and we expected to never see them again, but we totally ran into them again the next day! We saw them twice during the 24 hours they were in Yokote. God really puts us right where he needs us.

We met an older lady, K, who was so surprisingly receptive to our message, and was so exited to get a Book of Mormon, for free. When we went over a few days later to follow up, we met her mom, who was also so excited when we knocked on her door. She asked if we had been guided by God to get there, and we told her yes. She thought that was so awesome. We told her we loved Japan and that made her even happier. She welcomed us back anytime! We will try to start teaching them for real this week.

We had a great visit with the E family! They are a part-member family so we are usually careful about totsu-zen visits, but we felt like we really needed to visit them on Wednesday. We went and shared the Easter video for this year, and bonded with her kids as well. She asked if we would be willing to help her son with his math homework
sometime, and of course we happily agreed to. She has 3 kids at home and her husband works in Akita city (about an hour away), so she is a real trooper. We are so grateful to be able to serve their family!

We had GoEigo (English class) and only I! That was kind of disappointing but we watched the last part of Meet the Mormons with I, and she thought it was so cool. She talks all the time about how missionary moms are otsukaresama's, and how she wants to help the missionaries because she is a mom and knows how Moms feel about their sons...

We have been blessed this week with finding new spots to go tracting all the time--there are so many neighborhoods with tons of apartment buildings that have lots of families, and every time we start to get towards the end of one neighborhood, we find another bigger one. This week being golden week as well, we have really been focusing on families. We gave out so many Proclamation to the World pamphlets and have really been praying to find families to teach. We have found so many PIs the past few weeks, so hopefully most of them will progress to investigators soon!

It's been a great week and sounds like it was a great week back home too!! Thanks for all the pics, it was so fun too see them all :) Glad the wedding was a blast and I am honored that my cardboard counterpart was able to attend all the festivities. I even saw that I got to dance with a beautiful girl, what an honor. :)

Love you so much! You're the best!
Elder Paskett

The last sakura 

some ancient relic we found...I wonder what it's for...

Zone conference. We found out that Kiribayashi Shimai is from
Hiroshima and knows Sister Ogawa! Or at least recognized her name. 

Pink out with Miyakawa Kyoudai

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May 1, 2017--April Flowers Bring May Showers

Hello there!

Well, today is May 1st, officially my 11 month mark...can't believe how fast it goes!

Speaking of fast, the sakuras went so fast! They are a pretty big deal all over, I'm glad we went to see them last week because this week they are all green! And it was raining pretty hard this week, so that destroyed a lot of the petals. I was thinking they would be pink and white for so much longer. But they were very pretty while they lasted!

Ig. Shimai made huge progress this week! We taught her on Fridayit was one of the best lessons I have been able to be a part of. The spirit was so strong and just guiding the discussion the whole time. We started off talking about the Fall and clarifying her questions, then that led into how the Atonement was prepared from the foundation of the world, and that the Doctrine of Christ is our path to forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We had two sisters from the branch teaching with us which was very helpful as well. After teaching about the Doctrine of Christ, the invitation to be baptized just came so naturally, and this time, she accepted! We haven't chosen a date yet, but she has been praying the last few days about when to be baptized, and we will decide together this week. But the important thing is that she really wants to get baptized! Sister Minakawa (one of the members), who joined the church when she was 20, shared why she chose to be baptized, and it was so powerful. Ig. Shimai said afterwards, "I'm much older than 20...I guess I'm getting baptized pretty late, huh?" We had a good laugh about that, we assured her that lots of people aren't baptized until after they die, so she is still ahead of the game.

After the lesson Ig. Shimai taught us how to make gyoza! She had a great time when we made some "American culture food" (super cheap pancakes from a mix), so she returned the favor with some "Chinese culture food," hand-made gourmet shrimp gyoza. She even made the dough for the shell from scratch! It was so good. We had 3 members there as well, so it was good for her to build more friendships with the branch.

We had a great lesson with R and T as well--they are 17 and 16 years old, and they both like English. I think for both of them, they started meeting with missionaries just for the English practice. On Saturday, we invited them to come to Ramen with us, we had a good time and joked around, then we went to McDonald's for dessert after.
As we sat drinking our Kiwi mcflurries, we had the most spiritual lesson I have ever had inside a fast food restaurant. We started out talking about Christ and receiving relief from guilt and overcoming our mistakes, and it turned into a "rise up and be men" talk. Felt like the good old days with Bro. Holbrook in teacher's quorum haha. We talked about the fight between good and evil, and how we have to choose a side. We talked about Christ coming again, and how we need the 2 of them on His side. We read a little bit from Abraham about the noble and great spirits, chosen before they before born. It was amazing to watch the change in their eyes--we felt the spirit, and we knew they felt the spirit, and really started to catch the vision of what the Gospel is all about. The Lord allowed me to see these 2 young high schoolers, who use their umbrellas as play guns to shoot at cars passing by, as powerful potential Priesthood holders, with the capacity to do so much good.

One of the ladies in our branch had her father's funeral this week, so we got to visit his altar and burn the incense candle thing in his jar of ashes. It was a really cool cultural experience actually. She kindly told us that we didn't have to pray to him, but she would appreciate it if we just kneeled down by the altar. Our investigator K's grandma passed away this week as well--we haven't been able to teach him this week because of that, but we will make him some cookies or something this week. He told us he wanted to discuss some things with us about his grandma, so hopefully the Lord will be able to turn this sad event into something that will help him see the importance of the gospel even more.

Su has actually made a bit of backwards progress, his mental illness seemed to be worse this week than it has been before. He was being very irrational with so many things that he said to us, and not really following anything we said to him. One thing he told us that he just wants to forget about Jesus Christ, but would like us to come over and teach him more about Joseph Smith. We're not totally sure where to go with him right now, but we are just trying to show a lot of love and make sure he trusts us.

We saw the best fireworks of all time in Oomagari this week! There was an international symposium featuring fireworks from a bunch of different countries, it was amazing. We went over there Thursday and talked to sooo many people. The trains were packed, and people were all so friendly (probably because they thought we were tourists). We met a sweet guy named M from Canada and made a new friend J from England, and we met some people from Sudan and Mongolia this week as well. We carried around pamphlets in so many different languages, it was a lot of fun.

So that's been this week! So many adventures--I love you so much and I
hope the wedding is amazing!
Elder Paskett

Omagari fireworks

Ramen with R & T

Cool fish streamers in the eki

April 24, 2017--Popcorn Popping on the Sakura Tree

My marvelous Mother,

The highlight of this week was having Smith Kaicho come down for the weekend--he taught 3 lessons with us on Saturday night. Two of the 3 investigators left with baptismal dates! Su san was a little resistant, but Smith Kaicho was awesome--he said, "if God, who created all things in the universe, including us, and has all wisdom and power, commands everyone to be baptized, don't you think we had better get baptized?" 
"Well, yes, of course..." 
"So, when you know for yourself that these things are true, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith is God's prophet, and that God has commanded all of us to be baptized, will you be baptized?" 
"Sure, sure."
"We believe you can know for yourself by May 30th--if you get your answer and you know these things are true by May 30th, will you be baptized on that date?"
And he accepted! It still seems like he has a lot of concerns, but we finally have a goal to work towards.

K also committed to be baptized! We taught a solid lesson about the Gift of the Holy Ghost with Smith Kaicho, then talked about how we need to be baptized to receive the Holy Ghost. My companion was like, "we will have a baptismal service next Saturday. Will you be baptized on Saturday?" K got that mental-dilemma look and his face and thought really hard for a minute, then said, "I have some plans on Saturday, so it depends on what time. But if it's in the afternoon then it would be fine."

He still hasn't been to church and we haven't taught him a lot of the commandments, so he may need a little bit more time, but I think he will for sure get baptized here in the next couple weeks! I think one thing that has been huge with him is that we have been open in talking about baptism since the first lesson. We've always just plainly stated it for what it is, so it didn't come as a surprise when we asked him to be baptized. Also, we are totally bros--even though he's like 29, it feels like we are the same age. This week we tried the 3-ritz-crackers-in-30-seconds challenge, and he also gave us a ride home in his sweet customized car. He custom-added all these neon light strips inside his shiny black Nissan, and he suped up the engine a little bit too. Plus there is a disco ball on the inside haha. He is so awesome. He knows a tiny bit of English, and he thought that "dai suki" translated to "very like," so Haskins Choro and I have adopted an over-enunciated "VERY LIKE" into our regular vocabulary.

Smith Kaicho came to church on Sunday, which meant that we started on time for the first time since I've been in Yokote! Five minutes before 10:00, Smith Kaicho was like, "well, we're starting at 10:00, even if the branch president isn't here yet." Luckily he came a couple minutes before 10! Everyone was there on time, it was so nice. Su and R both came to church, and President Smith gave such a great talk that was low-key aimed at them. Also, our homie less-active K kyoudai came to church! His gages and piercings were out, and he even wore a purple shirt! It may have been the first time I've seen him in one that's not black. He was engaged in the Sunday School lesson and stayed for the shokujikai after church, it was great!

There is that family of 4 who love skiing (still don't actually know their names...they are in our area book as "Skier Family") who are PIs, we stopped by this week and the mom was sick. So, we assembled a little care package with some soup and herbal tea and mints and gave it to her! She was so grateful. We asked if she had been able to read from the Book of Mormon at all, she said not really, but her husband had picked it up and she said he seems like he is interested! The husband told us a few days earlier (through the intercom box) that they didn't have time to talk to us, so we were thinking that we would end up teaching the Mom without the Dad. But, it looks like we may be able to teach their whole family! They are the cutest little family, we are hoping and praying so hard that things work out.

In other news, the Sakura are starting!! They are all over the place. Yokote is so beautiful right now. Everyone keeps telling us that they will all start dying in like a week but we will enjoy it while it lasts! We also got new bikes this week! The Young Fufu [couple missionaries] came to inspect our apartment and our bikes and ours were really old so they brought us new ones!

Speaking of bikes, Haskins Choro totally biffed it on his bike the other day--an ojiisan [older man] stopped his bike all of sudden and turned sideways so he cut Haskins Choro off, and he had to brake really fast and crashed, it was so funny. The guy just like stood there and watched him pick himself up, he didn't say or do anything at all haha. Also, I kind of cut off a car and almost got hit! (Technically I had the right of way though...) Abunakatta.(Dangerous) Would've been a pity to hurt such a nice new bike.

The church is true! His work is hastening. Being a missionary is the best!!

Love you so much!!

Elder Paskett