Monday, December 29, 2014

Week:30 This has been the most difficult and most trying week of my entire life.

Yet, somehow the most rewarding.

I have never prayed so hard or so often in my life. I have never worked so hard either. Or given so much of myself before. Last week we weren't sure whether or not H and M could be baptized this week (on December 30). On Tuesday (December 23) we had a Christmas Taikai (conference) in Okayama. We got to spend time with Welch Kaichou and Welch Shimai. There was also a talent show, and we got to watch the end of the year slideshow. It was a lot of fun, and we were able to stop worrying about all of the really hard things, at least for a little while. As Welch Kaichou was talking to us about Christ, and about the true meaning of Christmas, my heart just felt so heavy. I knew that everything he was saying was true, but all of the frustrations that I had pushed aside for a couple of hours came rushing back. All I could think, is "how are we going to do this? How is He going to help us do this? I know that H and M are ready, but there are still so many obstacles in the way." As I sat there, I tried my best to not think to much about it. To just allow the spirit to touch my heart, and to remember the birth of my Savior. 

 Happy Birthday Jesus cake at our Christmas Taikai

After the Taikai was over, and once most everyone had left, we decided that we needed to talk to Welch Kaichou. That maybe he would know what we should do. As we talked to him, I felt peace in my heart. He reminded us that sometimes miracles break rules. When Moses parted the Red Sea, the rules of man were broken. When Jesus walked on water, and healed the sick, and fed 5000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, the rules of men were broken. Sometimes for miracles to happen, the things that we put restrictions on and set rules for don't always apply. So, although in almost all cases it is much better for our investigators to be coming to church every Sunday for at least three weeks, that does not always apply to miracles. With that new found reassurance, we headed home with a resolve to do everything in our power to help them to be ready to be baptized on the 30th. 

On the train home we got to talk with this little family, and share with them about the birth of our Savior. And then we headed to H and M's house as soon as we got back. We went over, ready to teach them, and then we were thrown for another loop. M was feeling really sick, so we weren't able to teach them, but we followed up with them about our last lesson, and prayed with them. We also gave M her own Book of Mormon (since we only had one with us when we taught them a few days before). When we got home, neither Howden Shimai or I knew what to do, so we did what we always do when we are lost, or confused, or in need of some guidance and direction. We prayed, and although we still didn't know how, we knew that it would all work out, and that they are still ready.

On Thursday we went over to try and teach them again. We knew that it would be difficult, but not impossible. We just needed to meet with them and teach them. When we got there, M was sick in bed. As we talked with H, she seemed a little concerned about the 30th, realizing just how close that was, but she said that it was okay, it would still work out. We felt prompted to talk to her about the Priesthood, and about Priesthood blessings. As we taught her, she said that we should come back the next day at the same time with the Elders, so that they could give M a blessing. 

The next day, as we were praying before we headed out the door, we got a text from H, but because it was in Kanji, we couldn't read it all. So, we hoped and prayed that she wasn't telling us not to come. We met up with the Elders, and then asked a Nihonjin (Japanese person) to read it for us. As they did, it was exactly what we thought. H wasn't going to be home because S (her grandson was sick - last week he was in the hospital with RSV). We felt like maybe we should just go and check to see if at least M was home, since she was the one who needed the blessing. But, she wasn't there either. So, we sent the elders on their way, and sat there outside H and M's house. I was filled with so much stress and frustration and disappointment that once again they weren't there, and another obstacle was being thrown in their way to keep them from being baptized (this has been something we have struggled with ever since we started teaching them. At first they were just busy, and then people would get sick, and just thing after thing, and trial after trial). As we sat there and prayed and cried and tried so hard to know what we needed to do, M pulled up. As we talked to her, she looked terrible. She was so sick, and we felt so bad. We asked her if the Elders could come over and give her a blessing, and she said although she wanted one, now was really not a good time. That she had a fever, and felt awful, and just wanted to sleep. So we told her that we were praying for her, and that we loved her. 

That night, H texted us saying that she had taken M to the hospital, and asked if we could pray for her. I have never seen someone so tried and tested before. The more and more they learn, and the closer and closer they get to being baptized, Satan just throws more and more obstacles in the way. We know that God must have some really big plans for H and M, because of just how hard Satan is trying to stop them. From the little that we have seen, we know that a lot of people will join the church because of H and M. They will have such a powerful influence on so many people. 

On Saturday, we were able to teach K San, and it went really well. He made friends with K Kyoudai, and we are excited to continue teaching him. That night we headed back to H and M, and we caught them just as they were running out the door. They both looked like they had just been put through the ringer. So, we told them that we loved them, and that we were praying for them, and asked if there was anything that we could do for them. We were trying SO hard to teach them, and to help them, but everything kept being thrown in the way, and it just kept getting harder and harder to keep my faith, and not give up. Both Howden Shimai and I knew that they were ready, and we were trying our best to do everything that we could to help them to be baptized. 

Sunday we told the Branch President and our Branch Mission Leader, and told them about how there is going to be a baptism on Tuesday. We told them about what was going on, but that we knew they were ready. We then brought the Elders with us to their house, and as we got there, we ran into H's other daughter A. H told her that we were the ones that had been praying for S (H's grandson/A's son). M wasn't home, she had to go to work because she didn't have anymore days off, but we talked to H to see if they still wanted to get baptized on the 30th. She said that they did, and that we could come back at 7:30 that night with the Elders, and that the Elders could give M a blessing, and that we could teach them. At around 4:30 we got a phone call from H telling us that M was taken in an ambulance to the hospital, and after talking, she said she would let us know when they were headed home. A couple hours later, she said that they were still at the hospital and would let us know when things calmed down. That night we went home, and we prayed and prayed to know if we should just postpone their baptism, or if we should keep it scheduled for Tuesday. And, like before we knew that we could wait, but that they are ready now. 

I have never prayed so much in my life, and there have been so many times that I just wanted to give up. Why is the 30th so important? Why do they need to be baptized now? But every time I think that I am reminded that everything will be okay. We just need to do everything that we can, and hope and pray, and have faith that Heavenly Father can make up the rest. So, although we are still in the middle of this trial, we know that it always gets hard right before the miracle. The witness comes only after the trial of our faith, and we know that no matter what happens, it will be according to Heavenly Father's plan. And despite how hard this week has been, I know that I have also grown so much. 

I love you all so much, and I hope that you have a Happy New Year.

Love and Prayers,
Robertson Shimai

Our Bethlehem DinnerChristmas Omelets

  Our futons, and Christmas ornaments :)

We were heart attacked by the K family. :) I love those girls!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 29: メリクリスマス

Merry Christmas! 

With Christmas coming just around the corner, we have been blessed to see so many Christmas miracles. We have also been able to really focus on the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. On Tuesdayafter Zone Training Meeting, I got to go on a kokan with Komai Shimai (one of the Sister Training Leaders). She is from Hokaido. It was so fun to be able to spend the day with her. 
Komai Shimai and Robotosan Shimai

We missed our bus to Yonago, so while we were waiting for the next bus, we had some hours to kill. We went to the Aeon (a big mall) and went finding. 

We talked to so many people, and were able to share with them just a little message about the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a big deal in Japan, but not in the way that it is in America. In Japan it is just the commercial side of Christmas that is a big deal. In all the store there is always Christmas music playing. And some people even have illumination (that is what they call Christmas Lights). But, even though many people love Christmas, they have no idea why we have Christmas. In Japanese Christmas is Kurisumasu. And Christ is Kurisuto, so they don't even really have Christ's name in their Christmas. It is fun being able to share the spirit of Christ every where we go. We didn't get to Yonago until around8pm, and then had to leave again after studying the next morning. 

So, most of Wednesday was spent traveling. By the time we got home on Wednesday night, it was about 7pm, so we ate dinner, and then worked on making Christmas cards for the branch, and updating records. Thursday was another slow day, and the more and more the week went on, the more and more my faith began to waiver. I know that if it is Heavenly Father's will, we can and we will see two baptisms by the end of the year, but with all of our plans falling through, and our K san not being able to meet with us, I knew that he wasn't going to be ready... So, we just kept praying, and working as hard as we could. 

Snow! On the way home from Yonago we passed through a giant snow storm! Luckily we were nice and warm on the train. Komai Shimai said it looked like Hokaido!
 (Which is the Island way north at the top of Japan, close to Russia)

On Friday we were able to have a lesson with M San again. She is so ready to be baptized, and to accept the gospel into her life. She even prayed about being baptized and was able to feel the spirit. She knew that it was true. She said though that right now she can't. She doesn't have the energy to fight with her son right now, but she knows that one day his heart will be softened, and she will be able to be baptized. I am grateful for her, and for the things that I have been able to learn as we have taught her. My testimony has been strengthened, and I know that this church is true. That is the whole reason I am here in Japan right now. 

On Saturday, we felt like we needed to visit H and M, our investigators who we have been trying to meet with for weeks. We have seen H every so often, but haven't been able to teach her, and her daughter M has always been busy as well. We felt like it was a good night to go though, so we reviewed the lesson we had prepared, and went over. At first H's friend was over, so we just visited, but then once her friend left, and M got home from work, we were able to teach them a little about the Plan of Salvation, and about the purpose of this life. We taught them about how this life is the time to prepare to meet God. We taught them about some of the obstacles we face, sin and death, and how because of these things, we can't return to live with God. We then talked about Jesus Christ, and through His atonement, we can overcome sin and death. We then taught them about the things that we need to do in order to return to live with Heavenly Father and with our families forever. First we need to have faith in Jesus Christ and in His atonement. We need to repent of our sins and transgressions. We need to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then we need to endure to the end (by continuing to follow the commandments, continually repenting, taking the sacrament each week, and doing our best to become like Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father). As we were talking about all of these things, and how it is through this gospel that we can be with our families forever, M said that they needed to be baptized, and H agreed. H told us that she knew what we were saying was true, and that they wanted to be baptized. Although the date we set needs to change, it was amazing to see them so excited, and for them to recognize the spirit, and have the desire to do whatever they need to be with their family forever. It was truly amazing to see. I remember hearing all of the time, how if everyone knew what we know, they would be running to the baptismal fonts, because they would know of the happiness and the joy that this gospel brings. I am so grateful that I get to share that joy with God's children here in Japan. On Sunday, H, M, and K san didn't come to church, and it made me a little bit sad. But, I knew that everything would be alright. While we were sitting in Relief Society about 30 minutes before church ended, I saw a car in the reflection on a glass sliding door. At first I was trying to figure out who it was. I knew the car looked familiar, but I couldn't tell why. Then I saw a man step out of the car, I knew instantly who it was, but I tried my best to keep my composure. I tried to whisper to Howden Shimai who was at the church, but I Shimai, noticed that something was up. So I tried to very politely excuse ourselves. Luckily at that point the members could see the T family outside. The T's are a part member family, and we have been spending time with T Shimai and her daughter A chan, helping her to come back to church. The last time we saw them was on T Shimai's birthday last week. We were so excited to see T Shimai, her husband (who is not a member), and sweet little A Chan who just turned 5. They had come to drop off Christmas Presents, and M Kaichou (the branch president) convinced them to stay for the rest of Church. He took T Kyoudai to Priesthood, and then we took to A Chan and T Shimai to Primary. She did so well, and we were so excited that they came! We couldn't stop smiling. The members were all so loving and welcoming, and really tried to help them feel welcome. It was so nice to have another child running around, and it really helped to bring some life into the members. It really was a Christmas miracle. Although I won't be home for Christmas this year, I am really enjoying the time that I have to remember Christ as I serve Him this year. What an amazing opportunity is it to be a missionary.

I love you all so much and I am truly grateful for each and every one of you. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

You are in my thoughts and prayers! Love, 
Robertson Shimai
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Gifts from the Branch, they got matching turtle neck shirts! Howden Shimai and Robertson Shimai

Snow outside our apartment in Tsuyama (it isn't sticking yet though)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 28: I know Heavenly Father loves me.

(Our Little Christmas Tree to help us remember our Savior - 25 days of Christmas, 25 names of Christ)

I don't actually know where to start this week. It was a little bit of a hard week, with lots of trusting in the Lord. Over my life I have learned that when Heavenly Father gives you this tremendously enormous amount of blessings, there is usually a trial that is on it's way as well. I have also learned to really be grateful for the hard times, because I know that it is an opportunity for me to learn and to grow, and to stretch myself farther, and to trust my Heavenly Father even more. However, despite those things, hard times are still really hard. Sometimes I think about how frustrating it is when someone cancels an appointment, or when someone doesn't keep their commitments, or doesn't come to church, or even when they are to busy to meet with you. This week I got really upset with the agency that we are all given. I learned just a little bit about how Heavenly Father must feel when we don't do the things that we should, and that He wants us to do. And then to remember just how much He still loves us. I am so grateful for His love, and for His patience. I am trying my best to become more and more like Him everyday. 
(Christmas Card Ribbon Garland Decorated with Nativity Ornaments)

 Cards and Pictures from home

 (THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO much! I am SOOOOOOOO grateful! And thank you so much for getting together with Anna and sweet baby Aashi! It made me SO happy to see her sweet little hand prints! And the tree, and the nativities, and the cards! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! We used the finger puppet one with the daughter of a less active, and she loved it! )

It is so amazing to see just how much Tsuyama has changed in the 4 months that I have been in Japan. The work really is hastening, and I am grateful for the little part that I get to play. This week we were able to teach one of our Less Active members who really wants to come back. She is just afraid of her daughter being to crazy and rambunctious, and is afraid to take that first step, but we know that with time and with a lot of love, she will come back. We also had an investigator tell us about how she was talking to her friends about Heavenly Father and about prayer. She was saying that even though they don't believe in God, they all said that if they were in the midst of a crisis they would probably pray. It is amazing to see just how strong her testimony of the gospel is, even though she only knows very little. Heavenly Father really is preparing people here to receive the gospel. It may take more effort than I have ever used in my life. But, I know that as we continue to put our trust in Heavenly Father, he will help us to find those who are ready. Through Him, we will be able to help invite people to come unto Christ. So, despite the hard things, I couldn't be happier. Nothing is better than helping others to come unto Christ, and teaching them about their true potential, and their purpose here on Earth. 

On Saturday, or branch had their Christmas Party! It turned out so well! There were about 50 people that came (and half of them were non members)! It was amazing to have the chapel filled. To have so many people singing the opening and closing hymns together. To see so many smiling faces!
 We are excited for the day when that happens again. We know it will, just in the Lord's timing. Mostly though, it was wonderful to see so many of the members smiling, and fellow-shipping those who came. We had members talk to H and her friend (H is our investigator that shares the gospel with her friends), and teach them a little bit about the scriptures (there was a scripture written on a little paper with the little candy bags from Santa). We also had one of our Potential Investigators make friends with one of the sisters in our branch as well. We were so excited that they were able to make friends. :) And to see them really apply the things we taught them a few weeks ago at our dendo fireside. I am so proud of them! It just made me so happy and I couldn't stop smiling. 

Despite all of the hard things that happened this week, there was also so much good. I know that as we seek to look for the good in the midst of our trials, we will find it. I know that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of you!

I love you, and I am praying for you all! I hope you all have a wonderful week, and that you are enjoying this wonderful holiday season! Thank you for all of the love, and support, and for all of the sweet letters, Merry Christmas!

Robertson Shimai

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 26: a week of miraclesWeek 26: a week of miracles

I'm staying in Tsuyama for another transfer! :) Yay! Howden Shimai and I will be together for Christmas, and until she goes home in January. I am so excited to be with this sweet branch for another transfer. I truly love it here, and I am glad that I don't have to say goodbye yet. :)

Let me just start out by saying how grateful I am to be serving a mission. I have honestly never been happier. This week, both Howden Shimai and I feel like Heavenly Father is just dumping buckets of blessings on our heads, sometimes so much more than we can even begin to comprehend! I don't know that I even have time to write out all of the amazing things that has happened. I'll try though.

 I'll start with TuesdayOn Tuesday nothing really big happened, just little tender mercies that helped us to know that Heavenly Father was looking out for us. We were able to visit T Shimai, a less active who is having a hard time. She thinks her daughter might have ADD/ADHD, or Aspergers or something. Sometimes she can be a handful. The last time we visited T Shimai, she had just gotten home a few days earlier from her moms. Between just having come home, and her daughter, and being back in quite Tsuyama, she was just struggling. This time though, she seemed much happier, and we were able to talk with her about one of our potential investigators with a daughter about the same age as A chan. She said that she would be happy to meet her, and talk with her about the church. We were so excited. We have learned over the time that I have been here, that she has a hard time coming to church because of her daughter. She doesn't feel like she can keep her quiet and behaved long enough, and so she stopped coming. We are hoping thought that as we start teaching O San, that they can become friends, and help support each other in coming to church with young kids. After visiting with T Shimai, we went housing. While we were housing, although we didn't find anyone to teach, we were able to talk to a lot of people. There was this really nice woman who told us that she had promised her dad that she wouldn't have anything to do with religion for a year (in respect of his death), and so although we couldn't share a message with her, she gave us a little gift, and said that she'd be happy for another opportunity to learn some other day. I am so grateful that I don't need to make any promises that I will not have any affiliation with religion for a year, it seems like a really sad way to live. But, we were grateful to have met her, and were grateful for her kindness. Especially since the majority of the houses that we went to, no one wanted to talk to us. 

That night during Eikaiwa, one of our investigators came, and she brought her friend. :) She was so happy to see us, and we were so happy to see her! She has been introducing a lot of her friends to us recently, and we are truly grateful for her. On Wednesday after teaching a lesson to O San, we had to stop by the dentist. On Monday I had a filling that chipped, and I was so worried about the dentist. Luckily one of our Eikaiwa students recommended a good one just down the road from our apartment. They were really nice, and my tooth was fixed in less than ten minutes! They were so fast, and I was so grateful! Heavenly Father knows just how much I hate the dentist, so I was grateful for the little tender mercy. While they were smoothing the filling, I just sat there and prayed that everything would be alright, and that it wouldn't hurt, and that I would be okay. He definitely answered my prayers. That night we went to teach a lesson to K Chan (our 15 year old investigator). She said she wasn't able to do a lesson that night, but that we could talk for 10 minutes, so we just followed up on what we had taught the week before. She told us that she had prayed during her voice recital, and that she felt peace. She told us that the recital went well, and she knew that God had answered her prayers. She also told us she knew that he was a really important person. :) We asked if she had the chance to read the Book of Mormon, although she had told us the week before that she didn't know if she would have time because of all of her tests she had to study for. She told us that she had read though! We were so excited! We asked if she had any questions, and she said she did, but her friend helped to answer them. We were afraid who had helped her, but then she explained that she and her friend had read the introduction together. Her friend had gotten a Book of Mormon from her older brother as a birthday present. After they had read it, they asked the friend's brother for help, and he had helped to answer her questions. What a sweet tender mercy, that our wonderful 15 year old investigator was able to read the scriptures with her best friend, and learn from a member who speaks much better Japanese than we do. Once again we were so grateful for the people that Heavenly Father had placed in our path, and in the path of our investigator. Heavenly Father is so aware of each of us, and He always prepares a way for us. 

That night when we went home, the Elders told us that they had found three people for us to teach. This week I have been filled with so much gratitude for my Heavenly Father and for the blessings that he gives us. On Thursdaywhile we were SKKing (planning for the week), we got a call from H, our investigator that brought a friend to Eikaiwa. She said that she wanted us to meet her friend Y, and wanted to know if we had time to come over. So, we took a break from SKK, and headed over. When we got there, we were afraid that it was just going to be a we want to speak English with you visit, rather than a we want to learn about the gospel. As Howden Shimai and I were thinking about leaving after a while, we felt like we should stay. H's other friend, C San (who we had met on Sunday), had come over, and started talking to us. She asked us about Noah, and somehow we ended up teaching her about Christ, and the great apostasy, and about the restoration of the church through Joseph Smith. We had prepared a similar lesson to teach K chan the day before, but we hadn't ended up teaching it. Heavenly Father knew we were prepared though, and we were given the opportunity to teach C San. What a wonderful blessing from our Heavenly Father, and an amazing reminder about the importance of being prepared. 

The next day was FridayOn Friday we had so many things happen, that I don't even know that I can write all of it. After District Meeting (in Okayama) we had a lesson scheduled to teach K San (a referral from a less active member in our branch). We had planned to meet with him at3:30, and as soon as District Meeting was over, we caught a train back to Tsuyama, were we would have 15 minutes to meet up with him. As we were about in Tsuyama, I looked at my watch and realized that we had a whole hour (we had gotten the times mixed up, and the train arrived an hour earlier than we had expected). We were able to get to the mall and eat some lunch before teaching him. After lunch we ran into T Shimai (the less active that we taught on Tuesday). She didn't have time to talk, but we were excited to see her. Then, we taught K San, a wonderful man who is so prepared for the gospel in his life. We taught him about God and prayer, and after we taught him how to pray, we asked if he wanted to pray. He said that it was a little bit embarrassing in the Shotengai (kindof like Bridge Street... Kindof), but that he would feel more comfortable praying at the church, he also recognized that he felt the spirit after we had prayed with him. After teaching him, we were able to set up an appointment to teach him at the church. Howden Shimai and I were just filled with SO much gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the wonderful blessings He had given us. Everything that had happened that day, had been a blessing from Him. We realized that we should go to the bathroom before we headed to contact a referral an hour bike ride away, so we headed back inside. While walking to the bathroom, we saw T Shimai again. And this time we were able to say hello, and talk for a few minutes. Her daughter also talked to us a little bit, and even told us "see you," something that her mom said she had never said to anyone before. As we turned around to walk away, we ran into K San, another Eikaiwa student who insisted that we have some ice cream with her and her friends. We were able to tell them a little bit about why we are here in Japan. 

Thing after thing, Heavenly Father kept helping us to know that He truly is in the work here in Tsuyama. He knows us, and is aware of us. And as we do our part, and are prepared, he helps to place people in our path to teach. So many more things like that happened this past week. More things than I can even begin to express. Like I said, it was a week of miracles, and I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven. I know that He loves me, and that He knows what I am going through. I know that I am never alone. I know that as we take the time to prepare, and truly look for His hands in our lives, we will find it. 

I love you all so much, and I am so grateful for each and every one of you! Know that I am praying for you. 

Robertson Shimai