Even though the picture on my license is a little bit cheesy, and the contrast between the too pictures isn't the best with the lightening, I think you can tell the difference between the happiness. :)
This picture is of a painting by one of my favorite little guys.
Just this morning, Perry Shimai and I were looking at pictures of me before my mission. We were talking about how long my hair had gotten (kind of random, and not really relevant, but I promise there is a point to this story. Haha.). So we were looking at all of these different pictures. I had found a picture of my hair right before my mission, and was comparing it with a picture we took yesterday. Originally I was just looking at my hair. Then I was trying to see if I looked older at all, because I remember looking at myself yesterday, and even at the picture I had just taken yesterday, and feeling like something was different. But I couldn't figure out what it was. So, I decided to ask Perry Shimai to see if she thought maybe I looked older too. Or if at least she could figure out what was different, because I couldn't figure it out. After looking at it for a while, and comparing it to some other pictures, she said something that I'd like to share with you today. She said, "You look so much happier. Not just your smile, but your eyes too." It was then that I realized something that I've probably mentioned almost every week. I am so much happier. Not that I just feel happier, but I am happier. The gospel changes people.
Yesterday we had the wonderful opportunity to attend a baptism for T Shimai, a sweet lady the Elders have been teaching. They have been teaching her for about a month and a half. I remember the first time I met her, was when she came to church. She was really cute, and sweet, and a happy person. She was friendly, and talked with everyone. The members of the ward helped her to feel loved and welcomed. Seeing her yesterday though, there was something different. Something had changed. But not just anything. She had changed. Her countenance was radiating. She was smiling not just with her mouth, but with her eyes. The gospel changed her. After her baptism, she looked so happy, and so full of joy. We all went to tell her congratulations, and give her hugs/shake her hand, and I don't think I've ever seen anyone so happy. There were tears in her eyes, but they were tears of pure joy. I walked up to her, and she gave me one of the biggest, most loving, sincere hugs I think I have ever gotten. All I could think was, "I didn't even do anything but say hi to you, and ask you how you were doing, and give you hugs," but to her, that meant the world.
The gospel changes people, and even when we do simple things like smile, or say hi, or even remember someone's name, when we make an effort to help others feel loved and welcomed, they are able to feel the pure love of Christ. They are able to feel their Heavenly Father's love for them, through us. I am so grateful for the gospel. And I am so grateful for the joy that it brings into my life. And I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to share that love and that pure joy with others.
This week, Perry Shimai and I decided to make it a goal to "share the happy." I know, it's not proper English, and it probably sounds a little weird, but we wanted to share the reason we are both here on missions. Because the gospel of Jesus Christ makes us happy. With that goal in mind, we went housing. We talked to a couple of people, but no one was really interested. Despite the rainy weather, and still being a little under the weather, we kept on housing, trying to share with others the happiness that the gospel brings. We housed into this one lady, who came outside to talk to us. We told her who we were, and started talking about the church. She had told us about how wonderful she had felt at church, and kept mentioning how good she was feeling. We tried to share something with her, but couldn't get a word in edgewise. She then told us that she wasn't really interested, but was grateful to have talked with us. In a last attempt effort, I asked if we could leave her with our chirashi (flyer), and she was so thankful. Then she told us to wait, and ran in the house. I have had sweet little grandmas run inside before to get us something, so I figured maybe just a little snack, or drink, or trinket... When she came back out, she walked up to me, and shoved something in my hands, and said that it was for the feeling. She had just handed me money. I knew that we couldn't accept the money, and tried for the next ten minutes to give it back, but she wouldn't take it, and with my limited Japanese, she didn't accept the "a missionaries we can't accept this money," or "I'm so sorry we can't accept this money," or even the attempts at trying to hand it back to her. It started to rain, and she ran inside saying, take it, it's for the feeling. We were left standing outside in the rain with money that felt like a 1,000 lbs. There was no way that we could take this money, and we didn't even want to take the money. All we wanted was to share the joy the gospel brings. And she was able to feel it so strongly that she wanted to pay us for it. (After she shut the door, we called up our district leader, and our zone leaders and were told to go back with a member that could explain that we couldn't take her money, and so we were able to go back with S Shimai a couple of days later to give the sweet lady back her money.)
The message that we share as missionaries, is a message that all the money in the world couldn't buy, and it is a message that can bring you more joy and happiness than having all the money in the world. This message, this is why I am here. This is why I am here in Japan, speaking a foreign language that I barely understand, living and working and teaching people that I don't know, eating weird food, being out in the rain or shine, humidity or bone chilling cold. This is why I spend hours riding my bike, why I spend hours going door to door, or talking to everyone I pass on the street. This is why I am so happy. It is all because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is because I know that the true church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the Earth today. It is because I know that God's power and authority, the Priesthood, has been restored. It is because through the Book of Mormon, I can grow closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ, and to my Heavenly Father. It is because I know that Heavenly Father created a plan for us to be able to return to live with Him and our Families forever. It is because I know that my family can be together forever through the sealing ordinance performed in the temple. It is because I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. It is because I know that He hears and answers my prayers. It is because I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and Redeemer. It is because I know that through the infinite atonement that I can find peace and happiness in my life, I can be forgiven of my sins, and healed of all my weaknesses. I am here because I know that all of this is true. I've never been so sure of something in my life, and I've never been happier. The gospel changes people, and I'm glad that it is changing me.
I love you all so much, and hope that if you don't learn anything else from the things that I've shared about the experiences I've had, that you have learned one thing, the gospel changes people.
Sister Amanda K. Robertson
Japan Kobe Mission
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
One day I let Perry Shimai pick fish for us to eat for dinner, because I felt like being nice, even though I'm not really a fan of fish. Well, she found a little present in hers... And I didn't even take one bite of mine.