Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Week 22

Good morning friends,

Miyako is an interesting place. This week I found out that our house isn't actually within the reach of the huge tsunami six years ago, so that's good I guess. We did get to see some of the damage that it caused closer to the shore, and there are quite a few things that haven't been fixed yet. There was a four story building right next to the shore and you can see that the water just barely got up to the third floor. The first two were just the big metal support beams. The walls and everything were just gone. It was kind of crazy. I probably should have gotten a picture or two but I didn't think about it.

Elder Reber is my new companion. He's great. I don't think that I'll have to worry about any comp problems this transfer. He's interestingly also from Utah just like both of my other two comps. I'm not exactly sure why that is. Maybe God just thinks I need to learn to get along with Utah people. Or something like that. :)

The weather is nice. It's 71 right now with a high of 73. Which probably means that it'll actually get up to about 80. Miyako is definitely smaller than Hirosaki, but the mission area is still pretty big. This week our branch mission leader drove us about 70 minutes North to where we have an investigator. That was an interesting experience. He drives a stick-shift... van? It's sort of just a normal box car (like 90% of the cars on the road here) but it's blown up by probably 120 or 130%. I judged him perhaps a little too harshly on his stickshift driving... I guess that's something I can work on this week. :)

Lately I've mostly been reading The Book of Mormon for my personal study. I recently just finished up Alma and started on Helaman. Today I read Helaman 5:12 which is pretty legit. Lately it has also stood out to me how much Alma talks about missionary work. It's mostly in the first half of Alma since the second half is all wars, but there's still some good stuff in the second half too.

A couple that I've highlighted recently (not word for word):
Alma 62:10 - says something about speedily executing those who were opposed to freedom.
Alma 60:13 - The Lord allows the righteous to be slain to bring justice to the wicked
Alma 60:the last verse - I am Moroni, and I don't seek for power I seek for the glory of my God
Alma 57 talking about the 2000 stripling warriors - They remembered the things that their mothers taught them,and they had faith.
Alma 43:47 - Ye shall defend your families unto bloodshed.

Last couple of things: This transfer is already a third of the way over because it's a three week transfer. The new mission president comes in a week after this transfer ends so then he'll have the long 9 week transfer to figure stuff out a little better before he starts calling transfers and stuff. Also I've decided that I have thirty minutes of free workout time built in to the morning so I'm going to make good use of it. If I'm not way shredded by the end of my mission I will have been doing it wrong. :) That might be all.

Lots of love,
Elder Mitchell

 For some reason people in Japan think that Prius's and minivans are 
cool and so they'll deck them out with fat exhausts, low-profile tires, 
and whatever else they care to put on them. This picture is a pretty 
decent example of how people in Japan feel about Prius's. There was 
a pretty good minivan too that I saw yesterday that was lowered with 
four exhaust pipes and fancy wheels. But we were working at that point. 
So no picture of that one. 

  Some pictures that we just took with all the Elders in my district at the 
church building. If you look close you can tell that I have some 
helmet hair. I guess that means that my hair is too long...
Elder Mitchell, Elder Reber, Elder De Leon and Elder Davies
 And then there's one that I got of my new companion, Elder Reber.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Week 21

Hello everyone,

I'm a little pressed for time today because we had transfer calls yesterday and I'm supposed to head to Miyako tomorrow. So it's a rather short email today. The most important thing that I can tell you all is that Miyako is right on the Pacific coast so if there's a tsunami... then I'll be the first to get wet I suppose. But I'll be in good company because Miyako is a four-man area (meaning that four Elders share the same apartment. Interestingly Miyako doesn't have an apartment for Elders, they actually have a house. So that will be interesting). My new companion will be Elder Reber who is basically an old man. He only has two transfers left which means I could very easily kill him off.

Have a great week,
Elder Mitchell

Advice to family and friends with regards to preparing for a mission from an email sent to Bro. Rob Welch the Mission prep teacher for our Stake: In regards to your favor, I can think of two things. One would be to study The Book of Mormon every day and become as familiar with it as you can. I suppose that's not the most original idea, but The Book of Mormon really is what sets us apart from other churches. The truthfulness of The Book of Mormon supports our claim to modern revelation and the reality of the Restoration. Make sure that you have a strong testimony of The Book of Mormon. The other thing is to think about all of the ways that The Gospel has blessed your life and practice sharing those ways with your friends. If you can share the Gospel out of love for people and with a desire to help them, then people on your mission will be about a million times more likely to listen to you.

 Me when I found out I was transferring.

 The cute little boys are the ones that we teach every week. The 
youngest one doesn't actually participate. He just sort of runs around 
and makes noise. But his brother and the other kid do pretty well.

 The family is the Takaya family and Brother Takaya is the Young Men's 
President. Shinnosuke is his son home from a mission for a year or two. 

Me with Shinnosuke the 2nd counselor.

 Otani Kyoudai and I.

Hello Family,

I am still alive and mostly well.  I really enjoyed talking to you all last week. I suppose I hadn't quite realized how much I love you all before I left and went halfway around the world. I realized a little better when I went to BYU, but for some reason that just wasn't quite the same. So there.

Yesterday we got transfer calls and... I'm transferring. . . So tomorrow I have a four and a half hour bus ride to Sendai (the same one that I've taken all the other times) and then two different bus rides (2.75 hours and 2.5 hours) back up to Miyako. It's pretty close to where I am now (but in a different zone), but for some reason somebody thought that my current comp and I both needed to take buses clear across the mission and back. So that will be fun.

Yesterday there was a Japan devotional thing with Elder Oaks speaking at it which was pretty good. They just went back and forth between English and Japanese after every line and it was interesting to see how much of the Japanese I could catch. It still wasn't a whole lot, but I guess I'm slowly and steadily improving... or something like that. 

I'm really going to miss some of the people here. Like Takaya Kyoudai and Nakabayashi Shimai and Otani Kyoudai. And Mikami Kaicho. And Yamaguchi Kyoudai. And Fujita San, our prize Eikaiwa student. And most everyone else. And I really did have a really good district here too. I don't know. I'm still a little confused about exactly what is going on and I haven't had too much time to think about it because I'm in the middle of packing.

I love you all,
Elder Mitchell

Friday, May 19, 2017

Week 20

Hello world,

I got to talk to my family this morning over Google hangouts which was definitely the highlight of the week. We had a pretty good talk. I'm not exactly sure what to say about it except that it definitely wasn't long enough. It's nice to know that the other half of the world still exists. I suppose I had a reasonable amount of evidence that they did from all of the emails that I've gotten in the last while, but there was still a little bit of faith required. But the seeing of their faces and hearing of their voices left no room for doubt. :)

One other thing probably worth mentioning is the fact that I got a new bike and I am again able to cruise around Hirosaki as I please. The office couple brought us new bikes and took away mine with the broken axle and the other one that had just been sitting under our bike cover broken for as long as I've been in Japan. So we now have three bikes that are all in good working order. I guess we'll see how long this one lasts now that it's an established fact that I'm fat. :)

Also, our district leader went home early this week because he's been pretty sick the last few weeks. So I am now the only Elder Mitchell in the district. It's a little lonely.

Perhaps the second most exciting thing of the week is the man named Saito that we housed into this week. Not quite sure if this is insensitive or not, but a decent sized portion of the population of Hirosaki is named Saito. Anyway, this guy is probably about 60 years old and he seems to be pretty interested in religion. He's currently a part of the happy science religion (I really have no idea what that is, but according to this guy it's a worldwide thing), but he readily accepted a Book of Mormon and told us he'd be happy to read from it and then talk about it this next Tuesday. So I guess we'll see how that goes.

I love you all,
Elder Mitchell

 This picture is at my Branch President's house when we had dinner with him 
last night. He has a bird that just flies around in his house which is 
pretty cool. The picture is a little blurry, but that's the best one that I got.
 This is with my first companion.  I saw him at a new 
missionary meeting that was in his area. He's a funny guy. I hope I 
can grow up to be as good of a missionary as he is. :)
The Google Hangout with the family on Mother's Day.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Week 19

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This week was rather enjoyable. There was one event this week that will probably live in my mind forever because of how funny it is to me. Unfortunately it's not the sort of thing that I would expect to cause laughter in anyone else, but here it is. This week the back axle snapped on my bike. I've always told people that I'm really fat (and none of them have ever really believed me) but this is undeniable proof. :)

So actually none of the people involved seem to be of the opinion that my weight was the reason for the catastrophic failure of my axle. There are basically three factors that seemed to have a role in the incident. 1. The bike has been used by other missionaries for who knows how long. It's probably a miracle that it didn't break before I got it. 2. A long time ago while I was riding up a hill with a little larger than average desire to get to the top, I found that my bike started to make a weird rubbing noise when I would pedal. I can only assume that my extraordinary leg strength (I thought that self-compliment fit in very nicely:)) bent some of the inner workings of the bike and caused the rubbing. 3. The gears on my bike would sometimes just change of their own accord when I would pedal very hard or when I would go over a larger than average bump, so the resulting jerk on the pedals probably wasn't terribly good for the axle either.

The final moments of my axle's existence as a cohesive whole were on a wide sidewalk with no traffic and at a very low speed. So when the axle finally snapped at the inner extreme of the gear rack, it was easy to pull to the side and stop. Interestingly, I didn't realize at first that it was the axle that had broken. I felt/heard the pop and then heard the smaller piece fall out and land on the sidewalk. I thought something along the lines of "Oh that wasn't good" and then called for my companion to stop since I was following him at the time. But, this incident is also a small miracle. The miracle is that it was such a low-stakes situation when it actually broke. If I had been riding at any sort of speed, or had been amidst a bunch of car traffic without a convenient place to pull off, it could have been a very different story. As it is, I did not receive any bodily injury, and we are simply waiting for the mission office to send us another bike.

That turned into a rather long story, but I guess that's okay since I don't have a whole lot to say this week. Other than the bike problems it's basically been business as usual. We just pick an area, talk to all the people on the street in between our apartment and the desired neighborhood, and then knock on doors until it's time to come back and eat or sleep.

Lots of love,
Elder Mitchell

Excerpts from emails to the family. . .

So I was trying to figure out in the title how to use the word 'eve' to describe what this P-day is in relation to next one (it being Mother's day for you) since I get to call. I sort of gave up. This is the closest I got: Mother's Day P-day Eve.

Okay so I just got an email, and apparently someone wants to know what I've been studying lately. So um. I've been reading quite a bit out of the Book of Mormon, and I just finished Mosiah recently. I've been rather disappointed with how well I know the scriptures, so I'm trying to fix that a little bit. Lately I've noticed how many times it says 'keep the commandments'. I guess they're trying to emphasize its importance by including it so many times. Anyway, it often says something like 'keep the commandments and have love and charity, and you will receive eternal life'. And then after that it usually says something like 'but if you keep not these sayings you shall reap damnation to your soul'. So I guess we can just make the choice whether we want eternal life or eternal misery. :)

So I did think of another experience that I forgot to put in the regular update. We had a role play lesson with one of the members (who happens to be going to college right now in Hirosaki, but also served in the Sendai mission, like right before I got here) and I quite enjoyed it. I was still clearly the Junior companion (as in, I sort of just waited for Elder Anderson to ask me to say things), but there was quite a bit more back and forth than normal and there just wasn't a whole lot of pressure on me. It was really the first lesson that I've felt like it might be possible to become a decently good missionary in Japan. My self-esteem probably increased by about 47x. :) There is obviously still a quite large area from improvement (as in like I might have reached one or two percent of Japanese language knowledge), but I feel quite a lot better about it right now. It was one of the best experiences that I've had in Japan.

I think the only other thing that's worth mentioning is the seemingly really nice bag that I got today. I, unfortunately, don't have it on me to take a picture, but I might get one by tonight. I think it will be quite a lot better than the one I've currently got.

So um. I think that might be all for today. Tune in next week

I love you all the most,
Elder Mitchell

Monday, May 1, 2017

Week 18

This week was pretty okay. The major things that happened are:

 - This week the last of the snow on the street of my apartment melted. There was a huge pile that people from all over the block made and the last of the snow I saw from it was Monday night. However there is still a pretty massive amount of snow in a pit just south of the church building.
 - This week we had a little bit of service for a single sister in the branch. We just helped her do a little garden. I ended up being the most accomplished user of the hoe, and I sat on the fence so now all of the sisters in the district think that I'm going to become a farmer. That was maybe Tuesday. Elder Sato is the other Elder in the picture because we were on splits. He's one of the ZL's. There are pictures attached. The first one is a selfie and the second and third ones are just of me that they took. For some reason they all thought that me sitting on the fence was the coolest thing ever.
 - We also got to go with one of our English class students to the Cherry Blossom Festival again which was pretty cool. Aomori (the zone that I'm in) is famous for apple trees because their farmers are just the best somehow, and they applied all of their tree knowledge to the park here, so apparently Hirosaki is basically the best cherry blossom festival in the world. I'm going to put a picture of the heart shape (which apparently takes year-round maintenance) and a picture of my comp and I inside the castle. I'm not exactly sure what it is that I'm holding, but it's not a swastika. It's backwards and I think it has something to do with Buddhism.

Well, besides my other bike tire going bad I think that's about it. For some reason my bike just can't keep air in the tires. I'm not quite sure why.

I love you all,
Elder Mitchell

 Inside Hirosaki Castle with Elder Anderson.