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

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