Raining its pouring, loving every minute

Dear Family,
This past week has been really rewarding. We watched Irene get baptized and she said at her baptism, "Today is the first day of my new life and walk with Jesus Christ". She looked like an angel, and her boyfriend Jonathan and his brothers were all able to get work off to be able to come. They all looked like celebrities when they came to church, just glowing and smiling from ear to ear.  It was wonderful to see such a happy family.  It was so cute, the brothers and Jonathan waited outside the bathroom for Irene to get changed and gave her hugs and kisses when she came out.  They are so welcoming and full of love. I love that about Latino / Filipino culture, how warm they are.  Jonathan was so full of gratitude and they were just both glowing with joy. He said in his testimony he had been praying for years for Irene to get baptized, because he wanted to marry her so badly, but wanted to get married in the temple.  Irene was so grateful in her testimony to us for helping her learn how to read the scriptures and how to walk back to her Heavenly Father. Sister Tan and I sang "beautiful Savior" and Sister Tan played the flute.  We had about 2 minutes to put it together but it turned out great!  Jonathan kept thanking us after the baptism, and then told us, "the next step is the temple".  By next year they want to be married there. They have a little boy together, Klemintese, who is two and I felt so happy thinking about them all sealed together next year.

Its amazing how people can change.  On Sunday we had a lesson on sacrifice in Gospel Principles class.  The teacher asked if anyone had to sacrifice anything and then Heavenly Father blessed them for doing so. Hayakawa-san, who was just baptized a month ago raised his hand. He said he had quit his job for the church. He explained that when he was taking the lessons he learned how important church was. He was a taxi driver and had to work every other Sunday. In order to attend every week, he would start the meter wherever he was and drive to the church and pay the cost himself to his taxi company. Then he would take his one hour lunch break to attend sacrament meeting and then go back to work. Even when he had to work nights, he would take his one hour break to come to Eikaiwa. He said in order to attend stake conference in Kiryu he told his boss that he was attending his grandfather's funeral so he could go. He said he felt bad about that, so in order to be able to attend all the meetings on Sunday he recently quit his job. I was watching him speak and I remembered the first time he walked into the church in April and how far he has come. He passed the sacrament for the first time this week and is always inviting his friends to church. Watching him and Irene has been so wonderful, I know Heavenly Father is so happy with both of them.

We visited Kentaroh at his home this week with Fukuda Shimai in our ward and her husband and four children. It was pouring down rain but the kids all put on rain boots and had umbrellas, and Kentaroh gave us a tour of his blueberry farm.  He seems to be doing a litlte better.  He seemed really happy and the Fukuda's were really helpful and made him feel loved. 

This week we had lots of adventures.  We taught the plan of salvation to two Buddhist monks, chased down a lady because we felt like we needed to talk to her, but then we couldn't find her and ended up going this super long way, but that actually led us to meet two high school girls who want to come to church on Sunday. 
My favorite adventure was getting caught in a lightning storm and meeting a family named the Inami family. We got up and out early to take a 40 minute train ride to this place called NIshiNasuno.  We met a Peruvian woman there a few weeks ago and we wanted to visit her to give her a Spanish copy of the "El Libro De Mormon" (Book of Mormon) and talk to her about "Jose Smith" (Joseph Smith)  that's about all the Spanish we know put together.  We planned on just bringing the restoration video and putting it on the Spanish setting.  Anyway, we set out to find her so we rode out there  and when we left Utsunomiya, it was beautiful.  But when we got to this other town, the sky was nearly black, and it was the middle of the afternoon.  When we got out on the street it was pouring and there was a really bad thunder and lightning storm.
  We really wanted to find Lydia, but it was hard to find anything because the weather was so bad. We made checkpoints for ourselves to hide under because we were totally unprepared without an umbrella or a rain jackets. So we would walk a little get soaked and then take a breather under a covered area. We stopped in at a little store and the people took pity on us and gave us something that looked like cellophane paper to put on our heads. Then a worker handed us a broken umbrella, but it was better than nothing.  We were greatful and went back out.  Then we started down a street that there were no more stores for a long time and we were getting very wet. I was starting to wonder if we were safer without the umbrella, if we would be attracting lighting by holding our broken umbrella.  Anyway I said a little prayer in my heart that everything would be okay, and then we saw this little barber shop.  It was nice and bright compared to everywhere else so we stopped in.  
  This wonderful couple named the Inammis lived there.  Their shop is in front and they live in the back.  They were probably in their 70ies, and just were the most wonderful people.  They got out this big map and gave us towels to dry off and then insisted they drive us to our destination. When we got to Lydia's house the Dad got out of the car and started knocking on doors trying to help us find Lydia's home.    He would open each door or mail box and say inside "Konichwa Sumimasen!" (Hello Excuse me!) 
  I was so touched by his kindness. It reminded me of Jesus Christ right there pounding on doors with us. He was explaining to all the neighbors "These girls came all the way from Utsunomiya. Please tell us which house the Peruvians live in". He was getting very soaked with rain but was so persistent and asked all her neighbors about this person he had never met, until we found her exact house.  To our small disappointment, after all that searching she wasn't home.  But clearly the Lord had someone else we were supposed to meet. So we left her a letter and Spanish Book of Mormon in her mailbox.
After that we all got back in the car, his oldest daughter who was probably in her 40ies, had us meet her 15 year old daughter.  The Father invited us back to the Barber shop for a "yasumi" (break) and so we thought perfect. We went back to the barber shop and they fed us sembes and mugicha (crackers and barley tea) and we met their oldest son and chatted with this wonderful family. We told them how we are all one family and children of God. They said they were Buddhist but I felt like they were really receptive. We gave everyone the restoration pamphlet, but our train back home was leaving so our time with them was short. We asked if we could sing a song to them before we left to say thank you for everything they had done for us. We sang Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd, and the mother started just crying. She kept saying "I dont know why Im crying right now". I know she was feeling the spirit. They said please come back anytime.We were all wet when we came home and even though we didn't find Lyida, we felt we had a successful day. It is days like that that I will always remember. Relying on the kindness of other people really does make me see how good and special these Japanese people are. They are full of Christs love, we just need to help them recognize him.

Sister Tan is wonderful, she feels like my sister.  This week I also had the special opportunity to bear my farewell testimony at a mission conference.  It was really weird because I just feel like I arrived here.  Our time here is so very precious.  I thought back to all my experiences I've had on my mission as I was thinking what to share with everyone. Even though seeing a Baptism is wonderful, my most special memories are not always at Baptismal services, because they just last one second. The moments that stick out in my mind are the ones like the rainy day we had this week, where we were wet and cold and lost but you just know the Lord put you exactly where you were for a reason.  When you see the spirit work on people and through you.  I love inviting people to be baptized and follow our Savior.  He is the greatest man who ever lived.  The atonement is real, it is magic and the healing balm we all need.  We feel the greatest joy and get the greatest blessings when we live close to the Lord.  He knows you.  It is the best to be able to testify of this.  My favorite thing about being a missionary is when I wave to someone on the street for the first time and they look behind them and then point to themselves with a confused look because they don't believe I'm waving at them.  But I am!  They don't know how special they are.  But we do!
I taught my friend Daiki again how to pray this week.  I asked him what he felt since he prayed the first time and he said, "Ever since I pray, I feel I am carrying God".   We taught him the Plan of Salvation this week and he said the most precious thing.  He said, "Once I stole bike and was arrest, does that mean I go to moon?" (talking about going to the terrestrial kingdom). We were able to teach him about Jesus Christ and his wonderful atonement. I love these precious precious people. 
I saw my MTC teacher today Andrus Sensei at the temple who was visiting for work. It was so nice to see him but also weird because it feels like just yesterday I was in the MTC, but at the same time a different life time ago.  Anyway being a missionary is great. Thank you for everything! I Love you!!
Your Sister Marni

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