repentance is change

Dear Family,

 Our goals eventually become a part of who we are.  This week I was thinking about some things that were once my goals at the beginning of my mission, and now they are just a part of my normal life.  It is an exciting thing. This means with the Lord's help we truly can do anything..  It is so exciting to think that we choose who we ultimately become. 
Lately I have been working on always being on time, keeping a budget and following up on commitments I extend to people.  It is a lie to think we are only one way and cannot change.  The whole point of existing is to change and grow.  I am so grateful that Heavenly Father loves us enough to let us change, improve and become better people.

 I have the best companion ever.  This week I was so stressed because we had so much to do and I had such a long to-do list of everything that needed to get done and on top of that they asked me give a talk on Gratitude in Sacrament so I was more stressed.  My sweet companion looked at my to-do list and without even asking, took it upon herself to complete many of the items, even one night organizing my junk drawer of my desk which looked like a nightmare.  She is an angel and a true disciple of Christ.  I told her she didn't have to go out of her way so much and she said "no its okay I told myself I would always treat my companion how I want to treat my eternal companion".  She is wonderful! It's funny how much being a companion feels like you are married.  In the grocery store today even asking each other "can we get this?".  We have so much fun together and are always laughing it is the best. 
This Sunday we got some disturbing news. Our friend and recent convert came to church today and then before he left he told us he was sorry but that today would be his last Sunday. He is 26 years old and was just baptized in March. He was the first person that I found and taught all the lessons all the way through and then was able to see him baptized. He has been such a special person to me on my mission, through watching his testimony grow, my own testimony has grown stronger. He told me that he would never forget all the things I taught him but because of Japanese culture he couldn't come anymore. He explained to us that a family friend had seen him coming to church on Sunday and told his parents and they were very upset. Its so sad because his testimony is still so strong, but he said he cannot come to Sunday meetings anymore. This was so heartbreaking for both of us. I have met his family and even taught his mom two lessons but since then she asked him to tell us that we can come over anytime but not to teach lessons in their home. I think it is hard for him because he is the only son in his family and he said alot of it has to do with Japanese culture and how they really want you to focus on your ancestors. I want to help him see he can do both, respect his family and also keep being an active member. Fortunately he says he can keep coming to Eikaiwa so I hope we can teach him before or after that. He says if he moves to Tokyo maybe things can change but for now as long as he is living with his parents he cant come. We started crying, I felt so sad for him because he has such righteous desires to go to the temple, and progress but he respects his parents so much.  I was a little relieved though to know that he still has a testimony.  This was hard to hear but I know the Lord will provide a way for him and that this is just a test of his faith.

This week we had exchanges with the Oyama Sisters. A new missionary, SisterKubota came to Utsunomiya and we had a great time together. We rode over to a different train station and visited a member and her son who were home sick with the chicken pox. We shared a scripture with them and asked them to pray for us while wedendoed around their house. We also asked Hasegawa Shimai if there was anyone we could visit in her neighborhood. She referred us to one of her neighbors so we tried to visit but she wasn't home.  We had such a miracle. Our goal was to invite 20 people to church. We were able to talk to so many people, and were able to invite 27 people to church and then talk to even more people about English classes and other events as well. It was an awesome day! It really strengthened my testimony of the power of having members work with you.I was so exhausted at the end of the day but it felt so good to get into bed that night knowing I worked my hardest.

This week was Irene's last lesson before her baptism on Sunday. She is so prepared and really looking forward to her baptism. She had a few reservations about the Prophet because a modern day prophet is still so new to her. We took most of the time to reassure her that we don't worship the prophet but trust in him as Heavenly Father's special messenger. We also explained that Faith is not a perfect knowledge, faith is believing something and then taking action because you think that is what is right, and most of the time our testimony of that principal will grow after we act. We always remind her that if she knows the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, then it all has to be true, and that always helps her refocus. I love teaching Heavenly Father's special children, nothing brings me more joy then helping them understand who they really are.
During Irene's Baptismal interview I felt like I was the one being interviewed the whole time she was in the room with our District Leader, Elder Howard.  We made her an ice cream sundae and she ate it after her last lesson. But she was so nervous, it was making me nervous! I was running around the kitchen in the church asking Sister Tan if I should make ice cream sundaes for everyone.  Finally they came out of the interview and she passed no problem! Phew! So her baptism is going to be this Sunday.  I am so excited for her!!!!

We also had a lesson with Akutusu Shimai. She was introduced to us by her friend ofFukuda Shimai in our ward. We taught her about the plan of Salvation this week and invited her to be baptized on August 18th. She said yes she would like that but wants to make sure its okay with her husband because she says he is the type to take things slow. We are trying to help her understand the importance of reading the Book of Mormon.  She is going to bring her three children to the next lesson, and then she wants us to meet her husband so he can see what we are about. The lessons move along so much quicker when they have a friend to guide them along. Akutsu-san is so great and we are able to meet with her weekly with Fukuda Shimai. I am really excited to be teaching her. She is so receptive and always so eager to learn more.

Hayakawa-san who was baptized last month received the priesthood yesterday. That was really great to see him and how much he has changed. He calls every once in a while still to check in but has stopped calling all the time and has really changed. He is such a strong member and is constantly telling everyone about the gospel and always bringing friends or people he has just met to the church. He has so much passion for missionary work and is such an example to our ward. We are so proud of him!

Yamazaki Kyoudai is still having trouble quitting smoking. Sister Tan and I are continuing our no meat or no candy fast for him. Today we were trying to think of more creative ways we can help him, like telling him to wash dishes every time he smokes or even asking him to give us his cigarettes, or even make a fake cigarette box and write scriptures on little scrolls of paper that look like cigarettes. We really want to help him build his faith so he can have more confidence in himself. Sister Tan had a great idea that him and Yamazaki Shimai should be praying together everyday, this way the pressure is taken off of him and they can work on something together, that can bless them immediately.

I love Utsunomiya ward and the special people here. I am really excited for Irene's baptism next week. I have been teaching her since February and she has really changed during that time. She is so open hearted and humble and her heart is so good and repentant and wanting to be pure. It is such a beautiful thing to witness.

My talk in Sacrament about Gratitude went smoothly.  I was nervous about it all week since I feel my grammer is funny but I felt cool as a cucumber when Sunday came around.  Thinking about Gratitude made me reflect a lot on my mission, how at first I felt the mission was a sacrifice when I got out here.  Everything was so hard and so new.  I was completely dependent on my Japanese trainer.  I couldn't  even go anywhere alone. It felt like a sacrifice of my language, my time, how I looked, who I was, everything. But now I know it was no sacrifice at all, but a true privilege and honor to be a missionary and to be here. I have learned so much and grown in my testimony 100 times more then I would have if I had stayed home, so coming here was no sacrifice at all. Literally the best thing I ever did with my life. I love it everyday.
Lastly today we had a lesson with our new friend Hiromi.  Sister Tan and I biked by her one day a few weeks ago and after we passed her we both stopped our bikes at the same time and thought "we should go back and talk to her".  So we went back and she was so happy to talk to us and today was our first lesson with her.  We taught her about Jesus Christ and the restoration and she was listening and participating so intently.  She asked wonderful questions like, "when Jesus healed people didn't it make him tired, since he was working on making people better all the time?" I never really thought about that before, but I'm sure it did.  It makes me appreciate his sacrifice even more because sometimes I feel so tired but I know that Heavenly Father's children need what we have.  I love this lady Hiromi.  We prayed with her at the end of the lesson and after she opened her eyes she said, "I have this really warm feeling on my back and in my heart.  Its really strange.  What is this?"  We told her it was the spirit and even when she left us back on the street she held our hands and told us she still felt that warm feeling.  Sister Tan and I got a little teary eyed because the spirit was so strong with her.  She doesn't have any kids and is probably in her 70ies but is such a sweet woman and seems a child at heart. 
I was thinking of something mom taught me.  If you want to show someone you like what they have give you. Like a new shirt or a necklace or anything, you use it, to show them you are grateful.  Likewise I know that in order to show Christ how gratefulwe are for him and for his sacrifice we should use the atonement everyday.  I love my savior I want to be like him.  This life is so special.  Sister Tan told me this week "repentance is change".  It is true.  When we change and become more like Christ we turn away from what we used to be and turn to Heavenly Father. 
I loved Elder Christoferson's talk this past conference, how he references my favorite Book, Les Miserables.  I love the Good Bishop when he tells Jean Valjean, "Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man.  Jean Valjean my brother, you belong no longer to evil, but to good.  It is your soul that I am buying for you.  I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition and I give it to God!" 
I know that Jesus Christ lives and is our loving Savior.  He makes us free.  Finding rest in the Savior means we can feel clean and pure before Heavenly Father thorough repentance.  I am so grateful for him!
Love my life Love you each so much!

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