Utsunomiya here I am!

Dear family,
I made it safely to my new area!  Yesterday I was alone for the first time in almost 11 months. When we transfer now we transfer alone and meet our new companion at the train station.  It was kind of weird but fun.  I started to mildly feel nervous, but then I started chatting on the train platform and was reminded that Japanese people are the most kindest, gentlest people so I didn't have reason to worry or feel lonesome during my trip. 
We got the shocking news on Friday that our area- Nakano is closing!  Because there are so little Sister Missionaries right now, probably 20 out of 150 missionaries.  A lot of Sister areas had to close.  We already have 7 Elders working in Nakano so when we transfered out no sisters will transfer in. 
Sister Stankoksy and I looked like a couple of pack camels walking through the train station.  It was pretty hilarious.  We had tons of luggage since we cleared out our apartment.  We had to go down a flight of stairs at the station so we did it in two trips.  I ran down the stairs with armfuls of luggage and left our stuff at the top of the stairs and then ran back up gathering miscellaneous things such as our bike baskets and Sister Stankosky's electric blanket in my arms.  Of course by the time I came back down the stairs a sweet woman had already talked Sister Stankosky into letting her escort her to her train and was holding half her stuff. These sweet Japanese people kill me.  You can't escape their niceness.
I got transfered to Utsunomiya.  It is the most northern part of our mission, and it borders with Sendai mission.  It's much more "countryside" everyone says and is famous for gyoza and this place called Nikko that I would love to visit.  It doesn't look like the 'country country' but things are way more spread out then Nakano.  Today we went to visit someone and we came across a total of 2 people on our 15 minute walk. Where I was in Tokyo you come across hundreds of people within seconds.  It's so different here! But I love it so far.  It's much colder but instead of being surrounded by skyscrapers we can see mountains!
My last week in Nakano was wonderful but heartwrenching.  We saw so many miracles our last week there I didnt want to leave. 
This week we had a lesson with my favorite person, Nao Chan.  I feel such a special connection to her.  She looks like Tinker Bell and just feels like my long lost family.  We met her in line at an ATM on Christmas and I feel like she's been my best friend ever since.  This week I made a pumpkin cake and put some in a box to bring to her lesson.  She is the sweetest thing.  We shared with her 2 Nephi 2:25 'Men are that they might have joy!' I wrote my testimony in a Book of Mormon and gave it to her and told her how much God loved her and how he wants her to feel joy. We told her that coming on a mission is like you have a delicious cake and if you eat it alone it's not very fun, but when you have something delicious you want to share it. 
She started crying and said she felt like "Jean Valjean" and we were like the "Good Bishop" from Les Misearbles.  She said she didn't feel like she deserved all this just like Jean Valjean when he steals the silver, and the Good Bishop just shows him love and forgiveness.  I loved her so much just then.  She is so humble and teachable like a child.  She said the most sweetest closing prayer and I will never forget it.  I know I was supposed to come to Nakano to meet her. 
This week we also got to see another miracle.  Anna our new friend randomly called us out of the blue because she was lonely and met the missionaries over a year ago and felt like she wanted to talk to us and be our friend.  She took us to her husband's ramen shop and we gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon too and she has been coming to our English class. 
We also went out with two of our sweet friends Shiyama Shimai and Onishi Shimai. They are both wonderful people and we shared messages with them. They both seemed happy. We just enjoyed each other and talked about how they joined the church.  The Japanese people are such a JOY! 
Another miracle is our friend who has been less active for 15 years came to church for the first time with her two sweet children.  Seeing her at church made me so happy.  I know that there are angels all around us helping us and cheering us all on everyday. 
On my last Sunday in Nakano, Naochan came and sat by me during sacrament.  I felt such extrodinary love for her.  During sacrament I was showing her a picture book about Jesus Christ and explaining about him.  We came to the picture of him holding the little lost lamb in his arms and pointed to his hands and said, "look how gentle his hands are. I love him!"  And she turned to me so genuinely with her hands on her heart and said "I love him too!"  I really felt then that even though so many people in Japan have never heard of Jesus Christ, he is alive IN them.  And they can come to know him through feeling his love.  I love being a missionary. You really just see these sweet people and love them despite any mark or speckle. 
My companion asked me, "what is more interesting to you--a clear perfect marble or one with lots of speckles and is maybe an interesting shape?"   The second one I think.   I know God is there with all my heart.  I know he is just waiting with outstreched arms for us to return to him. 
After sacrament Nao chan said she had something to tell me.  She told me she had a smoking problem for a long time and she was trying to put an end to it but was struggeling to.  And then she said she met us at the ATM that day, and we brought her to the church and introduced her to everyone and she said "my heart felt so full of love. I didn't want to do that anymore."  She has been reading the Book of Mormon everyday and she told me "your love give me big power".  I know Heavenly Father truly is over all and that with him we can do anything!  Meeting her was such a miracle in my life!
 I hope I will love Utsunomiya as much as Nakano!  Sister Dolan is my new companion.  She is wonderful!  She is from Salt Lake City and is so loving and so fun! We knew each other in the MTC so it was so exciting when I found out we would be together. 
your sister marni  

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