12.21.2013

snapping back

So I thought I would write what its like to be back in real life/America.

Everyone keeps asking me how Im "adjusting". So far so good I think. On the plane ride back I felt like a cave man seeing electricity for the first time.  I couldn't belive how violent American films had become. I kept catching glimpses out of the corner of my eye of what people had on their screens. Things exploding, people being violent with eachother and fighting.  I thought "why in the world is that happening?  This is entertainment?!"  Thats something I don't want to let in my life.  But there are some things I am so glad to have back, like..

HOLDING BABIES!


The long awaited year and a half to meet little chaichai/hold an angel.  So grateful!


 Things that I want to hold onto forever:

1. Personal time everyday with Heavenly Father. Just a little time everyday makes the whole day better.

2. The mindset to be happy no matter where you are or who you are with. Viewing everyone as a child of God who is worth your time and attention.

3. Going to bed early

4. How valuable it is to just be face to face with someone

5. Remembering that WE guide our own ships. We can accomplish anything we set our mind to with a plan and with Heavenly Fathers help.


Things that will take getting used to:

No surprise here but everyone keeps trying to set me up with their little brother/cousin/best friend.  I never know how to respond.  Someone had me write down my phone number on a napkin to give to someone else today.  I feel like this isnt the way its supposed to happen, but I am trying to keep an open mind ;)

I wish I could be a professional missionary or professional auntie forever but I know there is more out there for me to do.  I am greatful for my life and for my Savior.  Merry Christmas!





10.28.2013

I cant belive this is the last..


Konbanwa family,
 
Always in the Middle is my new motto.  I kind of got down a little bit one of the mornings one morning thinking too dramatically about my mission wrapping up here.  Truly is bittersweet. Like a pomegranite.  So excited to see everyone but sad to let go of everything Ive tried to build and the people that I have met here. They are precious and I would do anything for them.  So I have tried to just imagine Ive still got 3 or 5 months left. More time to love, more time to serve, and more time to try and do what Christ would do. If your eyes are too clouded with tears, you cant enjoy the beauty of being together in the moment.  I remembered this talk that helped me focus, I loved it, its called Always in the Middle by Elder Uchtdorf.  I loved this part,
 




"New missionaries may feel they are too inexperienced to be effective and so they delay speaking or acting with confidence and boldness. Seasoned missionaries who are close to completing their missions may feel sad their missions are coming to a close, or they may slow down as they contemplate what they will do after their missions.  Whatever the circumstances and wherever they serve, the truth is that the Lord’s missionaries are daily sowing countless seeds of good tidings. Thinking of themselves as always being in the middle of their missions will embolden and energize these faithful representatives of the Lord. As it is with full-time missionaries, so it is with all of us."


So I have been trying to remember this.  My work is never done, no matter what day it is, we are always in the middle. 
 
Today I met the most precious girl.  She is four and her name is Yume which means dream.  We had zone Pday today and it was so cold when we left this morning I had boots on.  When we got to Oizumi which is about 2 hours south of us everyone planned to play soccer.  It was so hot when we got there so I took of my shoes and was playing soccer with the missionaries and then these kids from a near by preschool all came over and played with us. Their teachers had taken them to the park to run around and they were all rolling down a two foot hill having the time of their lives.  They grabbed me and my companions hands and had us come over and try it out too.  This cute little girl Yume came up to me and asked me why I had bare feet.  I told her that I just forgot my shoes, and then she bends down and starts unvelcrowing hers and says "watashni no kutusu ageyo ka?" like "shall I give you my shoes?" and she was just about too and I told her it was okay.  This week we have had alot of opportunities to serve children which is rare on our missions and I was just reminded today of how natural it is for them to love, and instantly share so generously.  Without hesitating I want to be like little Yume and be willing to give some unkonwn person my shoes if they forgot theirs.  I was so touched by her kindness. I will always try to love like them, I know thats why that Savior loved little ones so much. 
 
We played with the kids and the teachers were so happy. When the kids had to go home for lunch the teachers rounded up all the chidren and in order to say thank you for playing with them, the teachers started shouting out different moves for the children to do.  It was like a minature circus act.  They were doing flips, leap frog, and racing and doing very acrobatic work and all of us missionaries were so impressed.  I loved it. 
 
On the way to Zone Pday, Sister Staples recived her first transfer call.  We were enroute on the train so she was sitting next to me waiting for the phone to ring saying the funniest things...like, "this feels like a midnight premier, no feels like Im getting my mission call all over again..no feels like Im having a baby and Im waiting to find out if its a girl or boy.."  She is hilarious especially when she gets nervous.  Her new companion who will replace me is Sister Ikeguchi. She is Japanese and one of my favorite sisters in the mission.  They will also get a new missionary from America whos on her way, so Utsunomiya will have three sisters and three elders.  I am so excited for them!
 
This week we had a  Sisters conference which was really fun so we got to see all the sisters in the mission.  I think when I came to the mission we had like about 30 sisters.  Now I think we have somewhere around 70 sisters and they just keep comming.  Its wonderful.  I loved seeing al my old companions at the temple.  It was also bittersweet.  After the temple session, all the Sisters gathered in the temple anex and we had an all day conference for sisters only.  I gave a training on companionship relationships and how to nurture them.  Comanions are so important.  I cant think of anything more important than having a good relationship with your companion. If your not getting along its hard to do anything.  But when you love eachother and work through things, nothing can bring you down.  I have loved all my companions so much.  I talked about Grandma and Grandpa and how they are the best example of life long companions that I know.  I talked about Grandpa how he always puts Grandma first.  Like putting pink sheets in the hospital beds she uses, and putting chocolate out for the nurses so they will frequent her room more often than all the other rooms.  I just had such a wonderful feeling there at the Sisters conference. 
 
That night we slept at the Honbu in Tokyo since were so far away. I lay on the floor in the mission home (since about 15 of us came to stay at the mission home) and the Budges and the Harrisons (the office couple) were up so late making food for all of us missionaries for the next days conference.  I just thought about how much they do for all of us and felt so greatful as I tried to fal asleep. 
 
 
  My last day at church even thought it was my last, I felt so happy.  I just looked around at all the members who have become like a family to me over the past 9 months and I just felt so good.Saying goodbye was bitterweet thought ofcourse.  One little girl, named Yunachan who is my favorite, person in the ward is also four years old. She came up to me after church with a hand made card and her mom following close behind. Yuna told me thank you Vail shimai, and told me that she wanted to go on a mission. I was so happy for her! Her mom told me that this was the first time Yuna had ever talked about becomming a missionary and thanked me for being Yuna's friend. I would sit next to Yunachan whenever I had the chance and we would do oragami together sometimes in Sacrament meeting. One member told me as I was leaving church  that now I know how to be a real missionary, meaning the real work happens when your a member. I hope that is true. I love these people so much, they feel like my family.




  I spoke in church and that the members whipped out a blue tarp and brought out all this food and had a surprise farewell lunch! There is also a couple, the Ohashis who will be missionaries at the Tokyo temple.  They had the three of us sit at the front of the room and get our food first.  Of course there was a miscommunication and I thought they asked me to dish up first so I was about to dish up my food and my entire ward is in chairs just watching me dish up my plate and im thinking "this is really awkward, everyone just watching me like this, so much pressure to choose the right foods" and then our ward mission leader chimed in and said that they wanted me to give a speech and THEN dish up.  I was embarresed.  No big deal though.  I told my ward how greatful I was that no matter what happened to me and my companion during the week, we could always rely on our ward for love and support.  Just seeing their smiles every sunday made me want to work hard.  They are the best ward.  Later on Sunday night Akao Shimai had us over for Dinner and we taught lessons and had a small testimony meeting.  It is wonderful opportunity to bear our testimonies everyday.  I felt so spoiled on Sunday surrouned with these good people.  The Dad we have been teaching for a long time, the Brother Yamazaki and his family just looked wonderful.  They have a little baby Lilly who is precious.  They are taking a temple preparation class now, even though hes not baptized yet, we have been encouraging them to prepare to go to the temple together as a family.  They really do seem happier lately.
 
We find people the most intersting ways.  This week we were biking down a hill in the city and Sister Staples said "Vail Shimai look, it looks like they are trying to smuggle eggplants across the border!"   She notcied a huge car full of eggplant just like literally an entire van full.  We went back and asked if these little older people needed any help because theses little old women were unloading the eggplants into huge garbage bags hand by hand and it seemed very taihen. They were glad to have some help. We put the large loads of eggplants in this elevator in a nearby building and the women were so happy for our help. They told us they were teachers at a place called KUMON. The teachers loved us and invited us to their Halloween Party on Friday.  Later that week Sister Kubota and I came to set up and then Sister Staples and I helped the ladies at the Halloween party run the Booths.  About 100 families came.   A lady we met there named Tanakasan introduced herself to us and wanted us to come over for dinner and for us to teach her children English.  She also told us she used to go to church every Sunday. It was so much fun to see the kids in their costumes too. 


Kaiyo is still struggeling to stop smoking. We gave her alot of gum and mints this week and she really appreciated it but is still not able to completly quit. More than anything she is addicted to the lifestyle she is in. She works until about 1 or 2 in the morning and when she is depressed she goes into drinking or smoking. The members in our ward are amazing and are always asking about the people we teach. One member asked me at church about Kaiyo and said she is going to write Kaiyo a letter with her testimony telling Kaiyo about her worth, because the member Shimamura Shimai was once in a similar thinking pattern.  I just admire these members so much out here.  They are pioneers and are so strong.  I have learned the kind of member I want to be from their examples.  
These next few days are going to be super busy. Alof ot things to do and people to say goodbye to.  I have never been so happy in my life. I love my mission so much and Sister Staples is doing amazing. I have no doubt that she will continue to follow the spirit and bless the lives of everyone here.
 
I love you and will always be greatful for everyones support helping me on my mission.  Its been an experience like nothing else.  Love it!  See you in a few days!
 
Sister Vail

10.21.2013

Typhoons and Bike Accidents, Kaiyo



This week was full of adventures.
We had a bike accident, got kicked out of a preschool, got stranded in another city, lived through another typhoon! But lots of miracles happened too!
First the miracles, we were able to start teaching Kaiyo this week. She is the one we met at the train station who just lost her mother. Our first night when we were walking to her house for our first lesson, I was trying to get to know her more. I asked her "what kind of job do you have" She is some type of bartender, but she didnt seem to be too fond of it, so I asked, what is it you would rather be doing? She told me that she just wanted to die. This caught me off guard and I didn't really know what to say, but I knew when we reached her apartment we had to teach her more about the Plan of Salvation. She told me that her mom had been sick for most of Kaiyo's life. For about 30 years, since Kaiyo was little she took care of her mom who was in and out of the hospital. Even thought she was sick, she said her mom really loved her no matter what she did, she was always supportive of Kaiyo. Later this week we took the newly released Relief Society President with us to Kaiyo's house to help teach a lesson. We were teaching about commandments and we asked if Kaiyo's mom ever gave her any rules that she should follow, to keep her safe. Kaiyo said her mom only had one rule when she was growing up, "don't cry". Then she just started crying and said, "I've lost everything, my mom, and I don't have a very good relationship with my dad, my dog of 10 years has died, and now I'm sick taking depression medicine. It's very strange because I just met  all of you, but I trust you more than anyone." She told us that she couldn't believe people with such beautiful pure hearts existed.
The spirit was so strong in her little apartment and our Relief Society President just bore a simple testimony about how she knew our meeting was Heavenly Father's doing because he is watching over her. She then turned to me and asked me, if God loves her how much longer would her life be so dark? I didn't know how to answer but then I said, everyone has a difficult time in this life, if we were happy all the time we would never learn. I shared a scripture in 2 Nephi about opposition in all things and promised her that God wouldn't just take her problems away but through doing the right things, going to church, reading her scriptures, saying her prayers and keeping commandments God would give the strength to overcome her many difficult trials and many of her problems would eventually fade away.. I really felt the spirit and I know Kaiyo did too.
 
Sunday was wonderful and our lesson in Gospel Principles, even though the ward mission leader who was teaching had no idea of Kaiyo's situation yet, taught about Eternal Families. He asked us all to close our eyes and envision living with our families forever and asked us all to describe how we felt. Kaiyo just loved church and even though when we picked her up with a member in the morning, she said she could only stay for a little bit, she kept saying she wanted to stay longer, and ended up staying all three hours and then met many members afterwards including the Bishop. Bishop also used to have a smoking problem before he was baptized. She told him how much she loved church and how she wanted to start a new life. He reassured her that it was possible. She told Bishops wife that she wanted to become just like everyone she had met at church. We showed her the baptismal font and we told her we knew that Heavenly Father will give her the strength to stop smoking. When we met her she smoked 10 cigarettes a day, and on Monday she was down to three, and yesterday we asked the Elders and a High Priest in our ward if they could give her a blessing to help her stop smoking. The whole day I felt the spirit so strong, and every time I would look at Kaiyo she was so into what the speakers were saying and she was highlighting in her books we gave her. I am so excited for her. I can just see how much having the light of the gospel has changed her, and I can just picture how much it will continue to work in her life. The gospel is true!

We had a bit of a rough patch-literally one morning when we were running late for a meeting. Sister Staples and I were speeding to get to the train station for a Zone meeting and there was a huge sweeper truck in front of us so last second Sister Staples swerved up the curb which was too huge, so she flew off her bike and then her bike was on top of her, I was right behind her watching the whole thing so I flew off my bike too (on purpose) to see if she was okay. She was all scraped up but she was so tough she said, "let's go!" She got back on her bike bleeding and everything and we made it to the train station. We were sitting on the train waiting for it to move and Sister Staples was still shaking from her accident. We were relived and assessing her damages and then realized the phone and my scriptures were gone! I didn't realize it then but when she fell down I dumped my bike over and some of my stuff spilled out onto the road. Sister Staples said "we have to go back!" This was such an adventure. We got off the train and traced our steps all the way to the scene of the accident, and then when they weren't there we went all the way back to the apartment- no sign of them. Knowing this is Japan we didn't panic.
After asking around everyone around the site of the fall they all had the same answer "go to the police station" sounds a little extreme for Americans but in Japan that's where all lost things end up. We consulted with two police men and they took us into the station and right away I spotted my scriptures out of their pink case and a man was inspecting the contents of my scripture case, I think he was wearing gloves, and the cell phone was just sitting on the desk.
Sister Staples and I were cheering yay! when we walked in, but little did I know we were not in the clear. The police officers were taking notes of everything we were saying, including the exact time of Sister Staples crash, as well as the time we realized the scriptures were missing etc. It's funny we were saying to each other if this was America, people just slam things down on the lost and found shelf and say "here you go", if you come to claim it. Americans are happy to get rid of stuff. Here it was just the opposite. The police officers said we needed to file a report. I was starting to feel like a criminal or something for trying to get my scriptures back. After a half hour of filling out a lot of legal documents and quizzing us about our lost items, we were free to go scriptures and cell phone.

This week we also had the most terrible typhoon. People were saying it was supposed to be one of the worst ones in 50 years. I literally thought Hurricane Katrina was back. I didn't sleep a wink because it was so loud I thought at any moment surely a huge pot or antenna was going to come crashing through the window. I was staying the night in Oyama going on splits with two younger missionaries who are pretty brand new. I started having a small panic attack in the night because I didn't know where anything was in this house/city, so I got up and checked the house for flashlights, and the other sisters seemed unaffected by it. In fact one of the sisters was in such a deep sleep. I could tell because she was snoring very loudly, adding to the sleepless night. I knelt down and said a prayer for comfort in the study area and took a small Book of Mormon from the shelf. I felt so unsafe because I was the oldest missionary and responsible for these younger missionaries. I got back under my covers and held on to my Book of Mormon. I just held it tight and prayed that I would feel peace. I wasn't able to fall asleep but I felt such a warm feeling coming from the Book of Mormon it literally stilled my heart and a few hours later the storm passed. I know Heavenly Father always hears our prayers.

When Sister Staples came to Oyama to pick me up, the trains went down because of the storm so we were stranded in another area, half an hour away from Utsunomiya. It was about lunch time so Sister Staples and I took our lunch break in Oyama. We were literally moving down the line at the food court, literally going to every restaurant at the food court and eating their food. Sister Staples, I found out, also had somewhat of a sleepless night. She was hilarious. She got some fries and she couldn't believe you had to pay 20 cents for ketchup, she had to keep going back to buy more, it wasn't enough. She came and sat down and said "these ketchup packets cost 20 cents each-God bless America!" Since the Typhoon had just happened of course Sister Staples and I were both on high alert. We are always thinking about what we would do in case of an emergency situation.  Sister Staples is a professional at staying calm she says because she said shes always thinking of Emergency situations and the best way to react "that way you are never surprised when an emengency hits, but you're always a nervous wreck". I asked what she would do if she started choking right now, I told her I would grab that mans large soda and start drinking it, Sister Staples (Shes a nurse) told me "If I choked I'd slam myself up against this table and give myself the Heimlich" Shes so hilarious.
Finally we made it back safely after lunch to Utsunomiya. This week we also had a Halloween Party, lots of members brought their friends and dressed up. We were able to get two new people to teach from there and Marjorie came too. We dressed her up as a pirate and she won 2nd place in the costume contest! Yay! Okay I have to go, but I am so excited to keep seeing miracles here. I am going to do everything I can to help these people! Thank you family for helping me LOVE my mission by loving me.

Love You
Sister Vail

10.11.2013

Tender Mercies


Hello family,
 
Last night Sister Staples and I had such a special experience. We had gone out to visit a friend who didnt show up to church today, who lives around the train station but she wasn't home, so we just decided to dendo around the Train station. We were passing out English class flyers and it was not the hottest crowd.  This man even kind of yelled at us for trying to talk to his girlfriend and told us get lost.  We were just starting to feel a little low in spirits because nothing was working out.  We had about 20 minutes left until we had to be home, so we started walking towards our bikes.  Then we noticed this beautiful lady talking very loudly on her phone, wearing black and carrying an overly stuffed duffel bag. I handed her a flyer as I passed, and she stopped but seemed to have no intention of wrapping up her call. She wouldn't even make eye contact she was so into her phone call. She was standing waiting for the buses, and her phone call seemed to be going on forever. I dont know why but I couldnt leave her side.  I even thought, okay is this worth it, should I just go?  Because she wasn't really paying attention to me. I had the gospel art book in my hands and it was open to the section of Jesus Christ's resurrection when he appears to Mary for the first time. I tried to show her pictures as she was talking but she didnt seem interested at the moment. So I kept on passing out flyers near her waiting for her to finish. I knew I had to speak to her. Finally she got off and I introduced myself and told her I wanted to show her this picture of Christ. I told her this is a picture of Jesus Christ after he died and came back to life. I told her I knew through Jesus Christ we all would be resurrected someday and because of Christ we can over come death.  Looking down at her big bag I asked her where she had just come from.  She told me her mother had just passed away and she was comming back from her hometown. Her eyes filled with tears and she said "really I can see my mom again someday?" and I told her yes, through Christ we can all see the people we love again. It was such a powerful moment for me, because I needed to know the Lord was watching over us at that moment and through this tender mercy I was reminded he is aware of all of our needs. I had no idea about Kaiyo's situation but Lord was able to direct our paths to meet eachother. Sister Staples and I sang to her families can be together forever and she just cried and then after told us "I want to go to church". We showed her the map and picture of our builidng, and she said "I know that Building. I just moved in right next to it!" She wrote down her address and said we could visit her on Friday.

I know that everything is in the Lord's hands. I trust him because these are his children, and he is aware of all of our needs. 
 
  Our 16 year old friend Marjorie is doing awesome. She met with us four times this week and everything we teach her, she will reread the verse or rephrase things in her own words to clarify what we are teaching, and is really understanding the gospel very quickly. She is one of the most prepared people Ive ever met on my mission, and we just barely met her two weeks ago in a parking garage. The young women's have really taken her in and all have been really supportive. In our lesson yesterday we were teaching her about tithing and talking about the gifts that Heavenly Father has blessed her with, we were talking about "the spirit", which tells you what things you should do and shouldn't do. After that Marjorie told us she had stopped hanging out with some of her friends from school she used to always hang out with because she just didn't feel good around them anymore. Sister Staples and I were shocked since we had taught her things like the word of wisdom, but we never told her to change friends or anything. We were so glad that she is internalizing everything and making changes on her own. The Youth are such a key to missionary work, its so natural for them to be friend.

Marjorie is so amazing. I was so impressed with her yesterday because this is her test week, but we recently taught her about Keeping the Sabbath day Holy and how important it is to come to church. Yesterday she came to all three hours of church and then we had a lesson, and right after our lesson she asked "so where do I go for Seminary?" I am trying to step away into the background as much as possible so that she can make friends, which is no problem for her. She is really outgoing and bright and its been a really a great oppoirtunity for the youth to be missionaries.

We had a young women's and young mens activity this week that we were invited to. We taught the restoration to the young women and young men, because their leader said that they had never heard the message of the Restoration from the missionaries before. It was really helpful for us to, to adjust our teaching and hear feedback. It was really spiritually uplifting for us and for the youth. Marjorie came too and kept commenting how she knew what we were about to teach. I want this to feel like the ward's baptism, and everyone here has been doing their part at inviting on their own. They even organized a young women's and young mens activity to go out to breakfast at Marjorie's work a pancake factory befor General Conference on Saturday.  She tried on her baptism dress after church and she just looked so beautiful and pure and clean. We asked her why she wanted to be baptized and she said because she wants to stand before God and be perfectly clean and so that she can start over, start a new life. We are so excited for her!

Another great miracle that happend this week is we visited the Nakayasu family. Nakayasu Kyoudai is a recent convert that is just so into work he doesnt pay tithing or go to church very often. Hes a great Dad but just needs a push. We did a little family home evening with them and had they tell what they liked about each member of their family. Then we asked "wouldnt you want ot be together forever?" We printed out four pictures of the temple and challenged Nakayasu Kyoudai to take his family to the temple 6 months from now. Sister Staples had a great idea and told him to write the date on the back of one of the temple pictures and then to put it where he could see it everyday. Nakayasu Kyoudai thought really deeply about it and looked at his calendar and picked out April 4th 2014, and wrote that on the back of a picture of the Fukuoka temple and into his phone. I have loved watching their family grow. We asked everyone to bear a one minute testimony and I really felt the sweet spirit in their home. I told them I will be praying with them even after I return home that they will make it to the temple. 
 

Love you!
 
Have a great week

 
Sister Vail

9.30.2013

Week two with Sister Staples

 Dear family,
 
I know Heavenly Father is quick to turn us around.  This week was really great but I was feeling a little sad just two days ago because one of our progressing investigators Mika, who was doing great at one time but has become busy, said that right now shes not ready for baptism, and shes moving into the city in Kanagawa so she has her mind made up that now is not her time. I really had high hopes for her. No matter how long you have been on the mission you still feel such deep sadness when the people you come to love turn away from their Savior and walk another way. I was thinking today how this mission is a mini life. How the highs and lows come almost daily. I have just learned that if ever you find yourself at a low point, Heavenly Father has hid a miracle right around the corner to bring you right back up.

On Wednesday after district meeting Sister Staples and I were getting our bikes and we saw three high school students, one was really smiley and we gave them English flyers, but the one really smiley girl, Marjorie said she actually really wanted to come. She did come on Wednesday night and then afterwards was asking about when we had church.  She came to church yesterday and since shes 16, we went together to the Young Women's class. She made friends very quickly with all the Youth and wasn't shy at all. Inroducing herself to everyone.  Reminded me of Mia. 
 
After church we had our first lesson and we taught her about the Book of Mormon. While we were talking to her about the Book of Mormon she looked at it and said, "Oh I have one of those, I received it in June, just a few months ago from a blond girl". I pulled out my camera and showed her a picture of my old companion, Sister Hunsaker, and she said, "yes that's her!" She told us that she felt comfortable coming to our church because this was the second time she has run into us missionaries in the past two months and she said both times it was so easy to talk to us. The ward was so warm and welcoming and we had a young women, Yuzuka Nara, the Bishop's 18 year old daughter join us for her lesson. When we told her Joseph Smith's first vision she was on the edge of her seat, and said, "and what happened next?!" She is so excited to learn. Her mother is Filipino and was raised Catholic and her Dad is Japanese. We read a little with her in 3 Nephi 11, and told her how Christ knows her individually and wants to have a personal relationship with her. We also read together how Jesus Christ taught everyone when he visit the America's how we should be baptized. We invited her to be baptized and without any hesitation she said, "yes!" After that a wonderful family the Fukuda's invited us and Marjorie over for dinner and I was able to talk to Marjorie's mom on the phone and tell her what a great daughter she has. We are planning her baptism for October 27th, and I really want her mom to be able to be there as well. We have a lot of support from the Ward Members and especially Young Women and their leaders. We are meeting Marjorie again on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday and we heard her telling the ward members today "see you next week!" She just feels like a little sister to me and I want to do everything I can to help her come to know the Savior.

We also were so surprised this week when we were calling our friend Noriko to find she is doing great.  She is the woman we met just about a month ago on the street, who came to church and loved it and wants to be baptized as soon as possible. She has been in Hokkaido for the past week so we haven't been able to meet with her in person. I was calling her to see how her Book of Mormon reading is going and she is on page 106! I was so surprised and happy. She said she never tires of it, and every time she shuts it she says a prayer. She said, "zen zen akinai de". The greatest part was to hear her say that she feels like something inside of her is changing. She said that she doesn't feel bad for people anymore because they are physically sick, she feels bad for the condition of their heart, and sees how they are suffering spiritually. She has been taking care of her father in Hokkaido right now so she has been seeing a lot of people in the hospital who are sick. She is really looking forward to her Baptism at the end of October as well.


We also visited our friend Fang this week. She has hard a hard life and been in jail and has a hard time trusting anyone. We are just trying to help her believe that there is a God. She told us "lately my days are dark, but I feel love when I look at your big smile." We asked her if she believes in God and she said that she thinks that God left us here for her, that she thinks he is giving her a chance. She finally said, "I think that nothing will change unless I change" so we committed her to come to church on Sunday and I know she was feeling the spirit and she said yes she will be there. We also were able to talk to her husband a little and he has been reading the Book of Mormon as well. Its people like Fang who really need this message of hope.


We dendoed on Friday in Koga and the Koga Sisters are amazing!  Its way out in the Country.  I visited a lady named Sato-san with Sister Linquist. She has cancer and wouldn't stop talking about how she won't be here in 2020 to see the Olympics, That's why she started coming to church because she is scared. I felt so sad for her. She had a lot of angry feelings, towards people who had offended her at church, and just about being sick. We told her that Christ is perfect but the people in his church are still not perfect. She seemed to start to understand. She had shaven hair since she had chemo and wore a little knit cap that made her even cuter.  We just tried really hard to show this lady love. Before we left we sang to her a child's prayer and tears just poured down her cheeks and she said how grateful she was that we came that day. It is amazing to see how the power of Christ's love transforms even the most downtrodden heart. I know the spirit is real and is our guide when we live worthy of his direction.


Sister Staples is adjusting little by little. She can be hard on herself when she doesn't know exactly what is happening in the lesson, and feeling like everyone treats her like a kid because she doesn't know what is going on. But she is doing great and working really hard. I told her how it can be frustrating when you can't get your feelings out in a lesson, but that the simple Japanese that she knows is still enough to bare a strong testimony. I'm really grateful I am with her until the end of my mission because I love her drive to be obedient and is so motivated to serve these wonderful people. When we see success I love how happy she feels. I feel the greatest success when I see her do something, like talk to someone on the train by herself or pull a Chirashi out of her bag to hand to someone. She is a wonderful missionary and her ideas she has for the lessons are so fresh and inspired.  
 
My new companion is hilarious. She said "I tend to get nervous when there is more then five people in the room". A less active invited us to do volleyball game this week, little did we know it was a volleyball/jump roping contest.  The prizes were great --- saran wrap, dish soap and toilet paper, so practical! Now I know how I plan on getting in shape. 
 
 
We were able to teach our friend Inamura-san this week, we are always trying to help people get in touch with their feelings. Like a counselor I guess.  He's super intelligent and thinks with his mind so much and asks deep questions. We asked him "well how do you feel when you read the Book of Mormon and when we have lessons?" He said "I always feel peaceful around you people".  He has been asking really great questions --- ones I've never thought about like, "why in the Book of Mormon if the Nephites were the righteous ones, why did the Lamanites outlive them?" I told him it seems that way, that wicked prevailed, but because of the Book of Mormon, righteousness really is what prevailed, since now because of the Book of Mormon we have a world-wide church.  It appears that these people were defeated, since they were all killed, even Moroni in the end, but that ultimately through our righteous choices, Heavenly Father's side always wins in the end. I guess that's how I feel too sometimes.  We invite everyday and sometimes people reject us, but in the end we win, because we have the peace that the Savior brings. I'm grateful to be here on my mission.  When I was in Koga the stake high councilman Brother Halverson shared with me in the Book of Mormon,3 Nephi 11, that the people didn't hear the voice of the Savior until the 3rd time because they weren't desiring to know.  I know that if we desire to see the Savior, and let him work in our lives then he will.  The rest of the Savior is better than anything in this world.  I know nothing is impossible with him.
 
lots and lots of love
 
Sister Vail






9.21.2013

Sumo Wrestlers and Sister Staples


Dear family,


Today for P-day we went to a famous Sumo wrestling town in Tokyo
called Ryougoku. One of my best friends from my first area, who I used
to teach, Youchan wanted to meet one more time before I go back to
America so she took us here and showed us around a museum and took us
out to lunch. All the sumo wrestlers  were going there to practice so
we were all coming out of the train station at the same time. I felt
they were all celebrities. They all do their hair very nicely and are
dressed in obis, like a man's kimono.  The smaller are the beginners
you can tell.

Japan is making plans and preparing for the Olympics, woohoo! I saw
some of the pictures of maps of where they are trying to build in
Tokyo.  I don't know where they will put it all Tokyo is PACKED!  I
took some pics on the train to show what its like in Tokyo.  Trains
are very cozy.

 The sumo wrestlers are big, but I think they might be the same size
as many Americans. But since we are in Japan, everyone is so tiny
except for them.  I felt like I was their biggest fan chatting with
them and asking them what they carry in their sachels- very simple
answer-an extra pair of "pants" and water.  The best part was being
with  Youchan and Iyanachan. Youchan I met my first week in Japan.
She was going through a rough time when we first met, and I had just
arrived in Japan, and she helped me adjust and love my life here.
Also my trainer called the mission home to see if she could see me
before I left for America, so I was able to see Kai Shimai today too.
Shes working now as a teacher in Osaka and looks great!  It was a very
special day.

My favorite thing that I saw today in the museum was the models of the
town in the "Edo period" like in the 1600's I think.  Japanese people
are so intricate with how they design things.  The model towns all had
little miniature clay people in them that looked so real, and had
facial expressions.  There were binoculars to look through that I
couldn't put down, all around the exhibit and when you looked through
you really felt like you were there.  I loved it!

Oh, by the way, I have a new companion now, Sister Staples.  She is from
Salt Lake City and she just got here 5 days ago.  I said goodbye to
little Tan Shimai at the beginning of the week and now she is a trainer
in Tokyo!  I'm so proud of her!   She was really nervous to be on her
own, but I know she will be great!  I picked up Sister Staples from
the mission home on Thursday and we have been seeing a lot of miracles
together.  This transfer will be really different.  Utsunomiya has
been the biggest area in the mission for a long time, and we were one
of the only areas that didn't have Elders, just us two Sisters up
here.  So President Budge decided this transfer to send Elders up here
to help us and also to protect us. Yay!

My new companion is wonderful.  She looks like Kiera Knitley from
Pirates of the Caribbean, she is beautiful and has a very strong
testimony. Today I was able to bear my testimony to Youchan and tell
her how much Christ and Heavenly Father love her and know everything
she feels. I got a little sad thinking this is last time I will see
here in Japan for a little while,  and be able to teach her like this
in person.  But I feel grateful for all the special things we were
able to do together.  She said at the end, that she has a black heart,
and that if anything happened to her, please to look after her
daughter because we have "clear hearts". I felt so sad for her that
she is such an amazing woman, but she doesn't see her value.  Such
wonderful people.

This week we were biking and we biked by a woman in all black.  We
knew we had to turn around and talk to her.  So we did.  Her name was
Maria from Peru.  She was waiting for her bus.  We introduced
ourselves and she said shes not usually here in Utsunomiya but that
day she had come here and had just come from the Catholic church to
meet with a priest and try to get some advice on some things, but he
wasn't there so she was on her way home.  She asked what was different
between Mormons and Catholics, and I told her the two big things are
we have a prophet, and we have the Book of Mormon.  She thought this
was great and told us she wants something deeper then what the
Catholics have. We showed her a few pictures of Christ and told her
about what the Book of Mormon contained, that it was probably about
her ancestors and she was very interested and said she wanted to meet
again.  Before she got on her bus we quickly exchanged numbers.  Later
that night she sent us an email thanking us for meeting her and said,
"God is everything to me" and wants us to teach her again. It was a
wonderful experience.


This week we also had the opportunity to teach Yamazaki Kyoudai, who
has been investigating the church for a year now.  They recently
returned from Yamazaki Shimai's brother's wedding in the temple. We
started the lesson off asking about the feelings they felt in the
temple lobby and asked if they would like to go inside together
someday. Yamazaki Kyoudai said he would but he felt there is so much
preparation that needs to happen first. We told him that is exactly
right, that there IS alot of preparation, but pointed out to him that
he is on that road already by being a wonderful father and husband,
and also by taking the steps to attend church. We focused on prayer,
and asked him to look at Lilly and describe how he felt about her. For
the first time I felt like he got a little bit emotional and told us
how much he loved her, and how cute she is. We told him that that same
feeling is how God views him, that he yearns to be a part of his life.
He seemed really affected by this and we promised him he could receive
answers to his specific questions. I really feel his heart is
softening. Sister Staples and I prepared a lot for his lesson, talked
it over, and practiced several times to get the lesson just right.
Then when we went to their home, we really all felt the spirit, and I
know it is because we prepared that Heavenly Father was able to help
us.

Last night we went to the Station and we decided to sing Hymns outside
of there  It reminded me of caroling. Sister Staples was so inspired
to bring an English copy of the Book of Mormon to give away. One
Japanese man dressed in very American clothes stopped in front of us
and said, "what are you singing" and we handed him a flyer. He just
kept asking us so many questions and then told us how impressed he was
that we were volunteering out here. He lives in New York and is
married to a Columbian woman. He said that Japanese people don't like
to disrupt harmony, or the way things are, but they need to change
their thinking. He told us that Japanese people need values, something
sturdy something that has been around for thousands of years-
something like the BIble.  He said that he has read the Bible and has
gone to a Protestant church in America and now he is going to a
Catholic Church because of his wife. He was so interested and we were
able to read the introduction to the Book of Mormon with him. We are
so excited to teach him, and we are meeting him again on Sunday. I
know Heavenly Father is working miracles over here and he is using us,
his imperfect servants to do it.  I always think that is the most
humbling part.  If Heavenly Father wanted he could get all this
missionary work done on his own, but if he did that, we wouldn't
benefit or grow.  It is sometimes a struggle, everyday we have to
renew our testimonies, but I know really really that Jesus is our
brother and Savior, and that the Book of Mormon is true and it is the
witness of the truth.  It is wonderful to be apart of it all.  Even
when I come home I promise to always be on the Lord's errand, it's the
happiest life.

Okay time is up.  I love you!

9.16.2013

Miracles

Dear family,

So I just got my last transfer call today. Surprise I am staying in
Utsunomiya!  I'm really grateful to be ending my mission here in a
place I love.  I will have served 9 months here by the end of this
upcoming transfer.  Half my mission!  We were so anxious for the
phone call this morning.  The anticipation is like Christmas except
scarier.  Sister Tan almost fainted when she learned she's becoming a
trainer this week. She is training a new missionary and transfering
out to Urayasu in Tokyo.  I'm staying here and picking up a new
companion who is still in America at the MTC. Since there are so many
missionaries now being sent to Japan, all the young missionaries are
having to train the brand new missionaries too.  I wasn't sure if
Sister Tan was going to cry or not.  I know she will be a wonderful
trainer. I'm sad to see her go but I feel so lucky we could have made
so many great memories together.  She feels like a sister to me and is
always noticing funny things and writing them down. Her planner is
just filled with all my embarrassing moments.

For instance, since it has been so hot lately it's too hot to sleep with
blankets.  The thinnest sheet I could find in our apartment is a
fitted sheet.  So I've been using that and find it very comfortable. I
always feel like I'm breaking out of a cocoon in the morning. Sister
Tan was in shock yesterday morning when she said she woke up and
rolled over and I looked like I was in a body bag.  She also said it
didn't help that she just woke up from a scary dream.  I made her
imitate it later so I could see, did look pretty scary.  I sent a pic
of course.

We had the best last week together.  Yesterday all five of our recent
converts came to church, Kentaroh, Irene, Hayakawa, Nakayasu Kyoudai
and Usa Kyoudai.  I felt so happy for all of them.  Bringing people
the gospel feels so rewarding. I feel like being a missionary must be
like raising kids.  The joys of parenting I think are when you see
your kids do something good,  or something to improve themselves and
you just feel so happy. These sweet people are like tiny babies in the
gospel, and we teach them how to walk in Heavenly Father's path and
when they do it on their own you just feel so good!

 This week our friend Noriko who is just starting to learn about the
gospel surprised us in our first lesson with her and is just dying to
get baptized! We met her two weeks ago when it had just started to rain.
We were biking back from the train station and were in a little hurry
since we didn't have our jackets with us. Noriko was crossing the
street coming towards us and we were waiting for the other light to
turn green. We were starting to get pretty wet, but as much as we
wanted to hurry home we noticed her peeking out from under an umbrella
with really big eyes. She didn't say a lot when we met her, but she
just kept staring intently at us both.  We started telling her about
who we were and invited her to church.  She kept trying to fit us both
under her tiny umbrella as we told her about church and explained what
we did for all three hours.

She ended up coming to church and stayed for all three hours. At
church she said she was surprised because it was like a school, not
like the churches she had imagined, that it was a happy place where
anyone could come to learn. She said she surprised herself because she
didn't get bored the whole time. She told us that she usually  takes
medicine every day for depression, but that Sunday she felt so happy
she didn't even take her medicine.

She said during our lesson that, that day when she met us she didn't
know who we were. Her first thoughts were that we must be the shoe
sales girls at the nearby mall.  She said she kept thinking- Do I know
them? Why are they talking to me?  She told us normally when people
talk to her on the street she thinks they are strange and she never
responds but she said that day she met us she felt like she couldn't
turn away from us. She is probably about 45 but dresses like she is
12.  She is very precious.

 She told us in our lesson she knows now that God had us meet. We told
her that God knew her and loved her, and told her how much faith she
already has.  We taught her about repentance, and about how we can
become a new person through Heavenly Father's plan. As soon as we told
her the blessings of baptism and showed her a picture of Christ
getting baptized she said "hairitai!" (I want to go in!") Sister Tan
and I were so surprised and so excited for her. We told her of course
she could be baptized, but we have to continue teaching her a few more
lessons first. She said that would be alright and she picked out her own
date, October 27th. The Relief Society President, Sister Karube, just
happened to have with her a woman's baptismal dress that the Bishop
had her purchase, so after the lesson Noriko was able to hold it up to
her and she said she felt so beautiful and pure. She is so excited and
looked like a princess after our lesson, just so full of joy.  It
really was a testimony to me that Heavenly Father does everything. We
just have to willingly open our mouths and we will be lead to who is
prepared.

On the way to Noriko's lesson we both noticed this very smiley Obachan
(grandma) walking down the street. We didn't have a lot of time, but we
knew this Obachan was really special. We pulled over and quickly
introduced ourselves and told her we didn't have a lot of time but
asked if we could come visit her after our appointment in about an
hour and a half. She said that would be okay and she said, "are you
going to share a nice message?" We told her of course and quickly got
her address. After Noriko's lesson we fond Torishima-san, this lady's
home. She was so happy to see us. When we first walked into Torishima's
house and I noticed a familiar child celebrity, or so I thought.  I
said "oh so you like Harry Potter, so do I!"  As I got a little closer
and with a puzzled look, Torishima Obachan said, this was not harry
Potter but a Korean pop star who she loved.  She had posters of him
all over her walls.  She was kind of a lonely lady but since we had
come to visit her she kept saying,  "I'm so happy I feel like I'm going
to cry".

She is a widow and her husband has been gone for about 20 years now.
When we sang to her she told us how "shizuka" (quiet) her heart felt.
We taught her about the Plan of Salvation and a little about Jesus
Christ. When we told her we could live with God again she said
'someone like me can't live with God'. We told her about Christ and
about becoming clean again. She really liked this idea and said that
she knew we were sent from God. She said she only has a little time
left, so she wants to clean up her heart so she can be ready. She was
the most receptive older lady I have ever taught on my mission. She
was so humble and teachable and even prayed at the very end the
sweetest prayer at the end.  When she was finished she looked at the
picture of Christ and said, "Iesu Sama, Yoroshiku Onigaishimasu". Kind
of like, "Jesus, from here on lets be friends" Sister Tan and I
invited her to be baptized when she knows our message is true and she
said, "mochiron!" ("of course!") We went back to visit her yesterday to
share a scripture with her and to invite her to our ward activity but
she said it would take her at least 2 hours to get ready but she is
really looking forward to seeing the church on Thursday.

I love finding people on the street.  Last night I saw this beautiful
older woman with a Kimono walking towards us so I called out to her
"Kawaii Kimono!"  (cute Kimono!) to get her attention, it wasn't until
this person crossed the street, I realized this person I had yelled
out to was a young 25 year old man with longish hair.  He quickly
corrected me telling me he wasn't wearing a Kimono it was some type of
men's wear, but he was very nice and we were able to invite him to
English class.  I was a little embarrassed that I mistook him for a woman
though.

The one man we are teaching right now, Inamura-san is doing wonderful.
We were so happy to see him pull out his Book of Mormon and Plan of
Salvation pamphlet with all these sticky notes and highlighting. He
even went out and purchased a Bible with a lot of pictures in it on his
own so he can study the references to the Bible from the Book of
Mormon. He loves the Book of Mormon, but said the practical
application is hard for him. He said in his lesson this week, "If
every person knew this, there would be no war".

Every person is at a different level that we're teaching. One lady Fang
said she can't believe in God because her life is so unfair.  She had
us over for dinner this week and told us more about her really sad
life.  She was put in jail, and lost loved ones, and felt that if God
really loved her he would not let such things happen to her.  Now she's
out of jail, but it's as if her mind is still in chains because she
can't rise above all this negativity and see that there is so much more
to life then hanging on to what happened to us in the past.  So many
people like that are conditional.  We ask people if they believe in God
and they say something like, "when I need help, I believe in God", or
"before a test, I believe" or if things are going wrong I don't believe".
 It's very interesting.  Fang is this way, she can't believe in a God
because if he was really there, he would have helped her, she thinks.
It's interesting that people think that Heavenly Father is supposed to
answer their prayers in the exact way that we want.  Fang said she
feels like the world is out to get her. So Sister Tan and I have been
praying about what we can do to help her find some hope.  This week
Sister Tan and I brought her over a little gratitude journal so she
can write down every day the small miracles she sees in her life.  We
have been sending her a miracle we see every day and ask that she share
a miracle a day with us.  She actually did this and we were so happy!
She said she repaired her bike and it only cost one dollar.  These
miracles are small, but like President Monson said, "The journey of a
thousand miles, starts with one step. watch your step".

We had a typhoon today so Sister Tan and I cleaned the house for P-Day.
 Now I think we're going to make an I'm a Mormon video.  Sorry this is
really long, but I wanted to share some of the miracles we saw over
here.

Love you all.

Sister Vail