Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014

Transfer 12: Week 1

This past week so much has gone on I don't know if I will be able to write it all down.  If I can't please stay tuned for next week's email (by then i will forget).  

First off, big deal.  I TRANSFERED!!!  Wooo.  Actually I really loved my last area so I'm a little bummed.  But, I love this new area too and I am super stoked to work with my new companion Elder Kemp.  We are working in a place called Takasu, which is a little West of main Hiroshima.  I have always wanted to go to Hiroshima, so I am super excited.  It is a lot colder here, though, so that will take some getting used to.  But the Ward is super nice and although it's small (about 30 people) our church building is the stake center.  Maybe we can start to build up the area so our church building is filled up again.  Elder Kemp is super buff and could probably crush my head between his fingers.  However, he is super nice and between the faith of the two of us I think we will learn a lot and see many miracles.  

In fact we saw one on Sunday.  I have been told multiple times on my mission that nihonjin don't understand the Atonement so we need to wait to explain it to them (because they won't understand).  However, I have taught it on the street multiple times and last Sunday we saw a huge miracle.  We talked to this guy who didn't seem all that interested but listened.  He told us he had talked to missionaries before but didn't know much about the church or anything.  Well, we felt prompted to teach about the Atonement and told him how Christ had felt the pains and sins of everyone in the world.  We told him everyone who lives now, everyone who has ever lived, and everyone who will ever lived, Christ could feel their pains and their sufferings.  He could feel their sins, their mistakes, their failures and their weakness.  He knows all of us perfectly.  And more than that, Jesus Christ took that all away, so if we use Him, and His Atonement, we don't have to feel any of those things anymore.  When I asked him what it would mean to him if that was true, he didn't respond.  I waited, thinking maybe he didn't understand the question or didn't have enough interest to care or something.  But as we waited and watched, the man started sniffling and his lip quivered a little.  "okay, it's cold, that's reasonable".  But I soon came to understand, hecouldn't respond.  We never got an answer to the question, but as we testified to the truth of the Atonement we could tell it was affecting him and the Spirit came in strong.  He was busy this week (he spent a few minutes looking through his work schedule trying to find a time to meet; PS nobody does that) but in the end we just settled on calling him next Sunday to set up an appointment.  He was super cool and I was so happy we were able to be in tune enough with the Spirit to be able to have that opportunity to change his life.  We don't know what will happen or if he will be able to continue to learn but I really hope he will be able to come and feel the power of the Atonement at this time in his life.  

Next, yes, we had an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with the Koberstien's; the Couple Missionaries in Kumamoto.  They were very gracious in allowing us and some of our investigators to come and eat in their home.  It was very traditional and we had a ton of food.  I was very happy.  

Then, yesterday, we had a special training by a Brother Heaton, who is a administrator in the MTC.  He is also doing a lot of training in Japan and decided to come to our mission especially because his daughter (Sister Heaton) just finished serving her mission here.  What's more, he served in the Fukuoka mission 40 years ago and actually served in Yanai (my favorite area) too.  It was only one day, so Honbu brought everyone in the mission (except Okinawa) to Fukuoka.  Practically the WHOLE mission.  There were around 200ish missionaries all in the Fukuoka church building (overall around 240 missionaries in the Japan Fukuoka Mission right now).  It was huge.  And crowded.  
It was super good.  He talked about success as missionaries and how people's hearts are changed.  He focused a lot on how it isn't our work, or our gathering of Israel, but God's work.  He will bring it to pass no matter what, but in His own way and time.  

I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be serving right now.  It is such an awesome experience.  The mission is too short and I am trying really hard to be careful not to waste any more time.  I want to help people to come to understand the power of the Atonement and help someone change their life.  

Thanks so much.  I love you guys.  If Grandma or someone wants to send me anything, I would love some warm socks, my feet are freezing.  
Sorry I can't send any photos (no time).  Will send next week.  Love you,
Elder Lee

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Transfer 11 Week 5

Last week I was trying really hard to follow the promptings and guidance of the Spirit.  I have had to learn to put my thoughts and feelings aside and try and learn what Heavenly Father wants me to do.  It has really helped.  

Despite that we didn`t see any big miracles in our area last week.  The only thing that changed was that one of our investigators, Akiyama-san, now has a Baptismal Date and is working to be baptized on 12/25.  It would be super cool to have a Christmas baptism.  He has had some sort of cancer which makes it very hard for him to talk (I think they took out part of his throat).  But he understands most of what we teach him and he reads the Book of Mormon.  He is really great to work with.  

We went to Yatsushiro to do companion exchange with the elders down there who are in my District.  It was awesome.  We saw lots of miracles and through following the Holy Ghost we were able to open people`s hearts.  I have specifically grown to love Family History dendo.  I don`t know a ton about my Family History, but I know that talking about it to people really opens their hearts.  We talked to many people who replied they were Buddhist.  I told them that`s fine, we want to talk about Family History work.  We had some great conversations with people.  On the way home we saw two really cool miracles.  The first has nothing to do with Fam. Hist. but is really cool.  We were walking home and I saw this orange house from the top of the bridge.  I like orange, so I said, "let`s go house that orange house".  Turns out it was a Doggie Salon.  But in the house next to it there was this really awesome guy who we talked about Baptism with. He said he wanted that and we set up a return appointment for Thursday.  
The second was a guy who told us immediately he was Buddhist.  That was my que for Family History.  But before I got my pedigree chart (which I use a lot by the way; fan charts rule), my companion (Bowler Choro) pulled out his MyFamily pamphlet and started showing that to the guy.  Then we talked about eternal families and how through Family History work we can draw closer to our Heavenly Father.  Then he asked a question I never thought I would ever hear a Nihonjin say.  "Even if I am Baptized, what about all my ancestors and dead people?  What happens to them?"  That stunned me so much.  I immediately brought out my picture of the temple and said, "that`s why we have these."  It was way awesome and I know it was led by the Spirit 100%.  If the Lord hadn`t told me to use Family History as a resource for dendo, that man wouldn`t have drawn closer unto Christ.  But I know he was prepared.  And because we were prepared and we were using all the resources at our disposal, the Holy Ghost touched his heart.  It was one of the many miracles I`ve seen on my mission.  When we give everything to the Lord and let him guide us, we see miracles.  

Today we had an awesome Zone P-day.  Our whole zone (about 24 people) came and we played games and made takoyaki pancakes (and regular pancakes).  If you don`t know what takoyaki is, look it up.  Had a fun time.  Can`t believe so many people are dying.  There are 4 members of our zone going home next transfer and one of them is in my doki (the people who came to Japan with me).  It is kind of sad.  

Talk to you next week, Love you.  
Elder Lee

November 17, 2014

Transfer 11  Week 4

HHeelloo..  This past week we worked really hard to get people to come to our Open House.  We made over a thousand fliers and just handed them out to EVERYBODY.  In the end we got ten non-members to come.  It was awesome.  Almost none of them were from our efforts though.  5-6 of them came from members.  One of them is a doctor (friend of a member doctor) and we should be able to start meeting with him soon.  He was super cool.  When he was ten he met the missionaries and he still remembers it.  He was super interested in the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ.  

In the past couple of weeks with Bevan choro we have been able to increase our teaching pool and I think we should be able to start teaching more people.  Last week we got to teach five lessons which was super awesome.  I have also been called to a remembrance that I need to put my opinions away and follow the Spirit more.  When we are calm, patient and led by the Holy Ghost, we can bring to pass more than we could ever do on our own.  

Recently Anderson choro (my last comp.) sent me back a flash drive with a bunch of talks he has.  It`s super awesome and the talks are really inspiring.  They help me understand more how to be a better missionary and give me the motivation to do it.  

We have some big goals for this coming transfer.  For Thanksgiving the mission has a challenge from Kaicho to have 2 BD each.  That means we have to work our butts off to find the prepared people in our area and invite them to Baptism quickly.  We also have a challenge to get 250 people to Sacrament Meeting on 12/7.  We have done this challenge once before in September.  The goal was 200 and we got 213.  Before that the highest ever for the mission was like 80 something.  We are really seeing lots of miracles in our mission right now and I know if we really push for this goal we will really inspire the members here.  I think the most important thing in getting Japan to hasten the work is getting the members dendo fire.  I think this will really help.  We also want to get 2 baptisms per companionship around Christmas.  It`s rather tough, but I think the Lord has prepared us to get this done.  

One last thing I learned.  If we really want to serve the Lord, we need to do it consistently everyday, not just when we feel like it.  Or like if we push really hard sometimes and say, "oh I worked hard, so I get a break".  The Lord needs us all the time, anytime we are needed.  

Loving it out here in Kumamoto.  Love you, hope you are well.  
Elder Lee

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

Transfer 11, Week 3

This past week I think our faith really has shown and we have found more people to teach.  We have found many teaching opportunities on the street and some new investigators as well.  I am super excited to continue to be led by the Spirit to find people prepared to hear our message.  

Other than that we didn`t do a bunch last week.  Nothing interesting at least.  This Saturday we have an Open House that we are planning and preparing for that I think will be awesome.  Hopefully the members will come and bring lots of non-members with them.  
Our mission President has really been trying to get us to do Family History Dendo which I think is a great idea.  So far everytime I have tried it is has led to a good experience.  I really want to get into Family History when I get home because I think it would be a great tool in hastening the work on both sides.  It can help re-activate, keep new members active and introduce new members.  Not to mention it helps the dead.  It`s a win-win-win situation.  I wish I knew more, but I guess I will have to wait a little while `till I can do anything about that.  

Also, I set some mission goals.  I really wish I had set some earlier, but I am glad that even late is better than never.  They are really helpful for my Spiritual progress as well as giving me a direction for where I want to go and what I want to become on my mission.  It`s been such a great opportunity for change; I love it.  

Sorry I didn't write more.  Love you, have a good week.  
Elder Lee

Trying on Kimonos

My English Class

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 2014

Transfer 10, Week 1

So last week was transfer week although, surprise surprise, nothing happened.  I think I already informed you, but one of the Zone Leaders in my apartment changed.  It was sad to see him go, but I love the new one, so it`s all good.  It`s funny, though, because the old Zone Leader`s were together for 4 transfers (like 6 months) so they had a really good relationship.  But now the one who stayed is all like depressed and not himself.  I`m sure he`ll get over it, but separating after 6 months must be hard.  I feel kind of bad, because I`ve never felt like that after losing a companion (I just don`t have that kind of love I guess )-: ).  

No, you haven`t sent me any toothpaste.  We prepared sufficiently before I left.  What`s funny is that I looked through it again and I only have four left.  I started with eight and have used four, which means my calculations were right on track (woohoo).  I can always take peanut butter and graham crackers, but I really am trying to cut down on sugar, so don`t tempt me.  You could send me honey bunches of oats if you want, I eat cereal here, so that would be consumed fast.  Other than that I can`t really think of anything I need or could use (and I don`t want anything that I can`t use or carry around with me).  Maybe some more socks (those nice ones that I may or may not have accidentally thrown away in an attempt to be more tidy.  If you don`t remember that`s cool too.  yeah.  Sorry, but I love you.  

The zoo was cool.  The zoos in Japan are smaller (obviously because they don`t really have land here) so the animals seem really  bored.  But other than that there pretty much the same.  They have a few monkies and bears that are unique to asia, but no pandas.  Yeah.  But it`s fun.  

We got to go to the temple on Saturday.  That was the highlight of the week.  It was great to remind myself of the covenants I`ve made and be able to feel the Spirit so strongly.  I honestly forgot how much I love the temple and when I get home I want to go a lot.  However, on my mission if I don`t get to go again, I`ll be fine.  I need to focus on this work anyways.  I just keep thinking that going through the temple when you`re married must have so much more meaning.  

We weren`t really able to meet with any of our investigators this week, which was a bummer.  But we did get to meet with a former Investigator.  He has met with missionaries quite a few times now and is hardcore Buddhist.  His sect is called Nichirenshu.  Essentially, in Japan you have three kinds of Buddhists.  1.The people who say they are Buddhist but don`t really believe it and don`t really do anything about it.  2.SGI which is a newer branch and has actually been growing lately.  They believe in almost all of the same stuff, but they have a leader, Ikeda sensei, who they listen to and tells them what to do.  They actively proselyte and try to bring people into their religion.  They are very stubborn and reject our message very quickly.  3. Nichirenshu are the strong believers and requires some effort and studies.  Pretty much all the people who are not SGI and care about Buddhism are in this sect.  Very devout and very philosophical.  They think things through very logically and don`t accept anything unless it has evidence of some sort.  
The former Investigator we met with was of the last sect and he and some of his colleagues came to discuss doctrine with us.  He wanted to hear our opinion on some things like, "if there is an all knowing and powerful God who loves us, why does He create things like the Wilconson (some virus that`s killing people in Africa; I have no idea what he was talking about but apparently it`s recent) that kills people and makes them suffer?" and "how could we claim to be the true church when everyone else is too and we don`t have evidence of Joseph Smith`s vision."  Stuff like that.  It was fun but I don`t think it went anywhere.  Got to bear my testimony though, that was good.  He wouldn`t accept any of our evidence that the Book of Mormon is true or any other stuff, so that was frustrating.  If people`s hearts aren`t open though, there`s nothing you can do.  

Other than that, lots of finding.  I still have the desire to work and talk to people, so at least we`re trying to go somewhere. 

Love you guys.  Sounds like you`re having fun.  

Love you, 
Elder Lee

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 21, 2014

Transfer 8, Week 5

Hey, guess what?  I went to a freakin' castle today!!!  Yeah!! Woooooo!  Okay I'm done.  But seriously the castle was the coolest thing I have gotten to do in Japan.  We went by bus (because it was faster than bike) and found out about a 1day bus pass for $7.  So we took it and it saved us a dollar on admission to the castle too (usually $5).  It was super cool; when we come back we will definitely have to check it out (a lot of it's wheelchair accesible, because it's Japan).  Then we ate lunch at the shotengai (a big outdoor mall thing) and took the bus back.  It was super fun and the best P-day we have had here so far (maybe the best in my mission).
If you want, you can find out a bunch of info on the castle.  It was a big battle during what's called the Seinan Civil War.  It was pretty much a rebellion from the Samuri during the 1800's (about American Civil War era).  The Last Samuri movie takes place in that war and part of it was filmed in or around Kumamoto Castle (I definitely want to see that again when I get back).  I'll send some photos after.  

Well, we found a pretty good investigator who has thought a lot about God and stuff, but he says he can't understand the Book of Mormon that we gave him because he doesn't understand God.  We tried to explain God to him but he won't pray, so he might be stuck because of lack of trust or willingness to act.  If so it would be really frustrating if he stays there, because he has such great questions and the gospel would help him so much.  He is 70, but he plays baseball and tennis once a week and ceramics once a week and a whole bunch of other activities to keep him busy.  The gospel would give him what he's so obviously looking for in life.  

We also met some super cool guys last night who will hopefully become investigators eventually.  I love doing this because we get to meet so many interesting and cool people.  

So next week if transfer week (surprise surprise, I know it comes so fast, right?).  I am pretty sure I am staying, because Kaicho wouldn't send me after only one transfer twice in a row (I hope).  Part of the reason we came was to firm up relationships with the ward and I feel like we've done pretty well.  But if we leave now it will amount to nothing and I think Kaicho knows that.  Or he thinks we're needed elsewhere and we'll go.  

As far as a package goes, I would like some more deodorant and some more shampoo would be nice.  Otherwise I have a hankering for graham crackers, but don't worry too much about that.  

Love you guys, hope you have a good week.  
Elder Lee

In front of Kumamoto Castle

Beautiful screens

View from the top of the castle

My companion and I at the top of the castle

Me as a samuri

Our delicious dinner

July 14, 2014

Transfer 8, Week 4

Hey, how's it going?  Not much here.  Apparently it hasn't been as hot as usual or as rainy as usual, so people are worried there is going to be a big burst of rain.  That or the whole rainy season is delayed. 

The Typhoon was a bust.  Absolutely nothing happened! (it turned from Kumamoto down South or something and then died).  So after a usual planning session we went out and dendo-ed like we usually do. 

So far we haven't really found any investigators yet, but in the past week we have really made our goals bigger and been able to find some new people.  Goals are super important in progressing as a missionary and really in anything.  Lately I haven't really worked as hard as I could in Language Study time, but I decided that I want to be able to translate in Sacrament Meeting which will mean I have to work a lot harder and get a lot better at Japanese.  But with that goal I think I will be able to improve my Japanese a lot. 

We have been able to make some good friendships in the ward and I think we can work with members more from here on out.  We got to meet with the Bishop last Friday and it was really good.  He said he really appreciated how we went around and shook hands and introduced ourselves before church and sacrament meeting.  He said his parents really enjoyed it and asked us to continue.  I have found that on Sunday, more than any other day, you have to be super pro-active.  It is a great opportunity to build your reputation as a missionary (something that is very necessary in hastening God's work) and building good relationships with everybody.  I have now been able to learn most of the members names and by the end of the transfer I think the opposite will be true as well.  One great thing I have noticed is although I don't really like to talk to people and am not all that good at Japanese or small talk, Heavenly Father has really given me the gift of tongues and the ability to make friends.  My mind has been hastened and I have found ideas that I could never have thought of on my own.  I am so grateful to see His hand so powerfully in my life. 

I have also discovered that members want to be involved in dendo.  More than that they want to help the missionaries.  This means that instead of trying not to annoy them, I have realized I need to start looking for ways to involve them, or ask for their help. 

I had two very American missionary like experiences in the past couple of days.  The first is when we were riding our bikes and tried to stop a guy who promptly told us to "shut up" in English.  We rode off and when we stopped at a light my companion and I looked at each other and were like, "did he just say shut up in English?".  It was super funny.  I have never had that happen before. 

The next was the same day on our way home.  We were stopping at a light and I smiled to this guy as we passed him on our way through the intersection and I thought he smiled back.  I got a feeling we should stop and talk to him so we waited until he came through the intersection after us.  As I tried to start talking to him, I looked away for one second and he rammed me with his bike (he wasn't riding it, just walking beside it).  It didn't hurt, but it was so unexpected that I jumped.  Then he started yelling at us all super mad.  I had never had this happen before (people have gotten mad at me before, but not enough to hit me).  We promptly got on our bikes and rode off before he could hit me again.

Moral of the story is people get really angry at us for no good reason no matter where you are in the world.  

Love you guys and hope you have a good week. 

Elder Lee 

PS I would also like to onegai you for something (ask a favor=onegai shimasu).  Could you each send me your testimony with an experience you have had in which you testimony was strengthened?  I would really appreciate that. 

July 7, 2014

Transfer 8, Week 3

This week brings not a lot of news to report.  It's been rainy for quite a while now and the past couple of nights there was a ton of thunder and lightening which was awesome.  We have been working our butts of to find some new people to teach and been talking to a lot of people, but so far no one new.  This week we have two former investigators left from the previous missionaries who we are planning and meeting with.  Hopefully we will be able to work with them a little bit.  

One of them is named Tanaka and is super good at guitar.  He plays a lot of Rock and Blues and even some Jazz.  He knows one of my favorite artists (Grant Green) and he wants to do a jam session with the missionaries (Harvey E. our ZL plays drums and they've done a jam session before).  So I might play some piano, if I can (I guess I should have practiced more).  Afterward we want to invite him to hear the lessons so hoping that will go well.  

Last week we met a really cool 30ish guy who had been thinking about God and so we made an appointment and talked to him again.  We had a great discussion, the guy is super cool, but he decided he doesn't need the lessons right now.  Story of my life (in Japan).  We also tried to contact a referral that the Kumamoto sisters gave us, but he said pretty much the same thing.  So we're at square one again (housing, streeting, etc.).  But it's fun.  

Yesterday we had an excellent Zone Conference in which our whole zone (now the biggest in the mission) met and got taught by Kaicho and the AP's (Mission Pres. and his assistants).  It was awesome and built our faith to find quite a bit.  I love hearing the cool stories and the stuff they share really makes us better missionaries.  Essentially there is no point in finding unless we are directed by the Spirit to God's prepared people, so we are going to end up praying a lot until we find some investigators.  

This week we are actually pretty busy though.  On Thursday there's a typhoon (the worst in decades according to the missionary couple) so we've been ordered to stay inside until it subsides (yeah for no sunlight or going outside, not).  So that will be interesting.  On Friday we have some appointments with members so we will be pretty busy because of that.  We have built some great relationships with some of the members and one of them wants to visit a less-active with us.  We are also meeting with members to build faith (always good) and try to establish a good image of missionaries (because apparently they didn't have one before).  But I think we will be able to do some great less-active work this transfer (even if we don't have investigators).    

Wyatt's bike trip sounds super cool; I wish I could go.  I think it would be so fun to ride your bike that far (and I probably don't even need to train right now).  Just make sure he's paying attention to the road and not in a conversation or something the whole time.  That's what gets me; if you get distracted or anything you're much more likely to crash.  Make sure to send me photos (maybe collect some photos over the last 3 months and mail them to me again (love that).  

Kumamoto is indeed hot and humid.  The rain doesn't help at all either.  The one good thing about rain is it does get a little cooler and there's usually a little wind, so that's not so bad.  But the day after is miserable.  The typhoon will be interesting.  I really hope we don't lose power because otherwise it will be really hot.  

There are a lot of people in Kumamoto who say they hate Christianity.  They say that religion, particularly Christianity and Islam cause all war and bad things in this world.  In Japan, Buddhists never cause problems, so obviously Buddhism is much better.  These kind of people say they believe in allowing everyone to believe whatever.  It's kind of a self-righteous image they have and considering they don't really believe in Buddhism either (almost no one does), it really doesn't surprise me that they have this image.  In a lot of cases we can have a decent conversation and I think we are able to change some of their opinions.  But when you can't, then it is just really frustrating.  People just tell us they have no interest in religion.  

Sorry, out of time.  Love you guys and hope you guys have an amazing week.  
Elder Lee

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June 30, 2014

Transfer 8, Week 2

Alright, so I admit it.  I hit my year mark four days ago.  Holy Manchester I have been a missionary for so really long!  I can remember what I was doing last year at this time and it was definitely a lot different than what I'm doing now.  And I am doing a lot different than how I thought I would be.  Sometimes I still get wampy and want to play games or do something non-missionaryie.  But it is a lot easier now. 
I think one of the hardest things about missionary life is the focus.  In order to be led by the Spirit in all things and to be an effective missionary, you need to stay focused on missionary things, like Japanese, talking to people, practicing teaching and stuff like that.  It is so much easier if you are proactive.  If you are able to keep yourself busy and always think about what needs to come next, or how can I improve, or how do I say this in Japanese, then you are much better off.  But to keep your mind running like that is hard sometimes and if you don't have stuff to do all the time to keep you busy, then you end up with some idle thoughts.  If you idle, then it's really easy to start thinking about non-mission stuff and then your desire to work, your resolve to serve softens and it's harder to dendo.  So I have had to learn when to keep busy and when I can relax a little bit.  It's been an interesting experience, but I am super grateful for P-days and the opportunity to de-stress. 

So Kumamoto is great and all that, but I kind of miss the small towns that were just huge.  It's just a completely different environment and ballgame, so I haven't decided whether I like it here yet.  But I love the apartment here.  It's lots of fun and the other guys are way cool. 

Ironically I think riding a bike here is actually safer than in small towns.  There are more bike lanes and wider sidewalks and what not.  And because there are more people the drivers are sometimes more careful and are forced to drive slower.  We've done some fun stuff so far, but not much.  We still haven't been able to check out the castle (hopefully next week).  The castle here is super cool and there's also a volcano that we need to check out sometime.  So we have plenty of stuff to check out.  I got my hair cut and we are just going to write a couple letters and relax today.  I have been super tired ever since getting to Kumamoto.  It might be because of the heat, clouds, humidity or a combination of the three, but all I want to do is sleep here.  But I gambaro and keep working.  Love you guys and hope you have a great week.  I'm glad Wyatt was able to have such a fun time at EFY.  I think the EFY's are getting better and better.  I know the last year I went they changed it up a little bit and I think they're becoming more mission preppy, which is good. 

Love lots,
Elder Lee

This was my last Eikaiwa (English class) in Yanai.

This is my apartment in Yanai when I was made three man for the second time. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 22, 2014

Transfer 8, Week 1

Guess what!  I got transfered again!  Surprise! 
I was so sad to leave Yanai.  Yanai was such a great place and I really loved the people there too.  Instead I got one last call from my trainer (Mukaitani Choro) and was told I was needed in Kumamoto.  So yeah.  I`m now in Kumamoto, Nagamine Ward.  Apparently there are about a hundred or so members of my ward, which is awesome.  I look forward to meeting all of them and I think it will be a great experience.  Yesterday and Saturday were Stake Conference, a special dendou one on Saturday and yesterday a conference that was broadcast from Tokyo and featured some of the church leaders including a member of the twelve (sorry I forgot who).  Was interesting but we didn`t really get to meet any of our members because we helped out the Nagamine Sisters with a lesson and there were just so many people that we couldn`t tell who was from where.  Exciting stuff. 
So, Kumamoto.  Really big city and really cool.   It has four wards (Tsuboi, Shimizu, Kumamoto and Nagamine) and each ward has a set of Elders and Sisters.  It`s ridiculous.  There are only two church buildings though, so Kumamoto and Nagamine share a building and the other two share a building.  I am sure when next Sunday rolls around I will be very confused who`s in which ward (Nagamine or Kumamoto).  But this area is much less rural than my previous areas.  The funny part is that it`s still the most rural out of the four area`s in Kumamoto.  We actually are emailing in a library in Tsuboi area because we came over with the Zone Leaders (who are in our apartment) and checked out the huge mall (called a shotengai).  We also ate some really good chicken tonkatsu, which is like a way to fry meat, and so far this P-day has been super fun.  I hope I will be able to enjoy this area as much as my last. 
As far as investigators and whatnot, apparently we have some, but the previous Elders left us almost no information, so we haven`t really been able to meet any yet.  But hopefully we can find some off our own steam soon.  I am really excited.  My new companion just came from Yamaguchi-ken, Shimonoseki, which is right at the bottom of Honshu (the biggest Japanese island).  He is actual my doki (same missionary age) but we never met in the MTC.  His name is Kirkham.  He was a wrestler, likes Pokemon, is a decent nerd and is actually rather quiet.  But we have gotten along well so far and I forsee no problems into the future. 
Which leads me to my next comment; Whitewashing.  Yes, I am again whitewashing.  This is a little different though, because unlike Yanai where the previous Elders left us with nothing, and Iizuka, where we made it fourman so there was nothing before us anyway, Nagamine has some investigators.  Actually apparently we have one with a Baptismal Date.  However we haven`t talked to him yet and don`t have a phone number.  We finally got the address and tried to visit last night, but he wasn`t home.  Hopefully he is home tonight.  But yeah, so fun stuff.  In a couple of weeks I hope we can check out Kumamoto castle and I`ll send you some photos, but that brings us to my last problem.  No, I did not forget my camera today.  The library computers don`t have an access function.  So next week (we normally email at the church so it should be fine next week).  Hope you guys have a good time in San Diego, say Hi to Colin for me.  

Love you,
Elder Lee

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8, 2014

Transfer 7: Week 5

Let me first apologize for forgetting my camera.  Sorry.  I didn`t realize until about 2 seconds ago when I started emailing.  That is really lame.  Ok.  

This week was rather interesting.  Last week I didn`t really have much to say, but now I have a decent amount (i really wanted to show some photos though).  We went to Ooshima, an island connected to the mainland by a large bridge, and took lots of pictures.  It was lots of fun.  It took us about 35min to get to the island, where we decided to climb a mountain to get the best photos.  There was a lookout point on top that was pretty cool, but it took us another 35min to get to the top.  We would have been fine, but as soon as we started our descent, Anderson choro got a punk (flat).  So we walked our bikes down the mountain.  We then walked to the train station in the hopes of catching a train, but they don`t allow bikes on board.  So we walked back.  It took about 2hrs and 15-30min to get back to the apartment (from top of the mountain).  We were exhausted but then had to ride to an FHE activity that the ward held because our eikaiwa (english class) students were there.  We actually had a really good conversation about the gospel, so turned out well.  But unfortunately I have been tired this whole week because of that trip.  

The second good news is our new investigator.  He is in his twenties and loves to swim.  We found him on Thursday while we were knocking on doors.  He came out to the door (which is unusual) and then invited us into his house.  I was immediately suspicious because every time this has happened in the past, they didn`t want to hear our message and then asked us to leave (which is really awkward and then your like, "why`d you let us into your house if you didn`t know who we were?" Just really weird people).  Well this time was legit.  He said he had seen the missionaries a lot before because they met with his older brother.  His brother speaks English apparently and loved the missionaries, so this guy, kurusu-san, was influenced by the missionaries too.  Kurusu said his curiosity was peaked by those missionaries and lately he has thought a lot about God and what He is and how he can know for himself.  We shared with him the Book of Mormon and our testimonies of how we came to know it is true.  He was excited and really wanted to meet again.  Kurusu is really cool and might come to eikaiwa too.  We are super excited to work with him.  

Finally, I have a new companion!  No it wasn't transfer week (that`s next week).  We had an emergency transfer and Yanagida choro came to Yanai.  yes, he is Japanese; his kanji means willow field.  He is coming from Mihara, Hiroshima and whats more, Tenney choro and Parker choro and Robinson choro were in his last district (two of my best friends in the mission whom I roomed with and my previous companion, all of whom I love).  One poor elder got sick and went back to America, so Yanagida choro came here and now we are three man.  It is interesting and I am excited to get to work with a new elder (particularly a Japanese elder) but I don`t really like working as a threesome; I had enough of it in Iizuka.  But we have had a good time so far and I am looking forward to the next week.  Most likely someone is transfer and it will be twoman again, so I am not too worried.  

I have come to really love this branch.  The people are awesome and some of them are just so cool.  We are trying to get a better relationship with the youth and maybe we can find some new young investigators.  Fingers crossed.  Love you guys and hope you`re well.  I promise I will send lots of pictures next week.  I wanted to just send photos with descriptions instead of this normal email but alas, my memory sucks.  Hope Wyatt has a good time at EFY and whatnot.  Don`t hold back, it's all fun.  

Love you,
Elder Lee

(PS when you guys called me Iain on the phone I was super weirded out.  It will be an adjustment getting called by my first name again, but I think I will enjoy it).  

Monday, June 2, 2014

June 1, 2014

Transfer 7: Week 4

Well I finally feel satisfied with a p-day.  Last week we walked around what they call "White-Wall Street".  It has some interesting history and stuff, so we walked around and took some pictures.  It wasn`t the coolest thing I`d ever seen, but they had some old stuff that was at least worth while.  I have just had so many companions who don`t want to do anything interesting, it`s nice to have a comp. who doesn`t want to waste his p-days either.  Today we might go to the nearby island, if it`s not raining.  Otherwise we will go and check out a cake shop that a member told us about.  I meant to send some photos, but I forgot my camera at the apartment.  Next week for sure. 
Lately I have done a lot of study from the Old Testament.  Anderson Choro has a bunch of talks from Education Week (at BYU) and some other places.  I really like this one guy named Michael Wilcox (for future note I also like Scott Anderson).  He gave a talk called "Treasures from the Pearl of Great Price" or something like that.  But he spent about 40 minutes just talking about Moses Chapter 1.  It is amazing.  But he said something about Moses and how God prepared Moses to deal with the children of Israel because they were not obedient.  I decided to read Moses` life story and have found that there are so many things to be gained from him.  We aren`t all that similar, but I feel that sometimes I can understand and/or relate to him which makes the story really interesting.  It is amazing that no matter how many times God performs miracles through Moses, Israel still complains.
Moses at one point says dealing with Israel is so hard that he would be willing to die if God willed it.  God obviously tells him no, but I thought that was really interesting.  Prophets sometimes have a perfect appearance, like there is no way I could ever be like them, but you can see where Moses faulters and he just seems like a real person, so I feel like he is more relatable.       

Hope you guys have a good week.  Love you.  Sorry I didn`t write much.  I don`t think much happened this week.  But I will send photos with explanations next week, promise.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May 25, 2014

Transfer 7: Week 3

Hello!  It`s raining again.  The law of Monday rain has finally carried over from Amami.  I think it`s a Japanese problem.  Seriously every Monday (sometimes Tuesday too) it rains.  I can`t decide whether it`s Japan or that God just has a good sense of humor.  

Anyhoo, we handed out copies of the Book of Mormon!!!  Woo.  It`s actually been quite a while since I`ve done that.  People in Japan just don`t like taking stuff for free.  Particularly because if they take a Book of Mormon they think they are obligating themselves, something which they don`t like to do.  Admittedly they are obligating themselves due to the fact that we really want to teach them about the gospel, but they should be okay with that too.  

Now the big news of the week.  I have been bursting with this all week.  Last monday, after email, we met an older man by the name of Sakae-san.  He knows people living in CA.  Guess what town they live in.  Nope, Woodland.  They live in Woodland.  His sister is apparently a Christian and has Mormon friends.  She would be around 70`s and her son (I think, maybe Grandson) lives there too.    Her name is Shimada, Sayoko.  Her son (grandson) is Jeffrey Hendrick (again not exactly sure if that`s right).  He sad they might be Mormon (I don`t think so) and they definitely have Mormon friends.  You should find them.  I`m not sure how, but you should.  How many Japanese people could there be in Woodland.  Just go knocking on doors until you find them.  If we work on both ends we`ll create a strong mormon family (baptism!!!).  

We went on Junkai (exchanges) with the Zone Leaders.  It was interesting because the one I went with didn`t seem to have a lot of dendo fire, but he contacted every person we could.  I took that and decided that even though I am not the most enthusiastic about contacting, I can do the same and talk to everybody.  

Also, yesterday we took over church.  We were asked last week by the Elders Quorum President to teach in Elders Quorum about love (Pres. Monson`s GC Talk).  Then we got a call by the Branch Pres. last minute to teach the gospel principles class.  So we taught during 2/3`s of church.  That was interesting.  We also didn`t have a lot of time to prepare because Kaicho (mission Pres.) asked us to do a special study assignment this week.  And we had to plan for a lot of PI`s (potential investigators) so we had no time at all.  But looking back I think we should and could have done more prep. and I feel bad about that.  So will do better next time.  

Also you guys should read Elder Ballard`s talk about Following Up for FHE.  It`s awesome and I think you would enjoy it.  Love you and have a good week.  

Elder Lee

Monday, May 19, 2014

May 19, 2014

Transfer 7: Week 2

Things in Yanai are doing well.  We haven`t gotten lost in a while, so definitely an improvement.  I really like the ward here.  It`s still weird to have so many people you can`t remember all of their names, but the members are great; church definitely isn`t quiet anymore (in my past areas Sacrament Meeting was dead silent).  Yanai is a small town.  There isn`t a lot here, but we are very close to the ocean so some P-day we want to ride along and check it out.  There is an island nearby that has a bridge crossing over it, so we might ride our bikes over the bridge when we get the chance.  We can`t see the ocean from most parts of where we work, but when we ride the train, it goes right along the ocean.

On Saturday we went to Ube for ZTM (Zone Training Meeting).  Every transfer (every 6 weeks) we have training by the Zone Leaders, which is fun, but it cuts out most of our working time.  In Iizuka it wasn`t too much of a problem because it was just an hour away.  But it took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Ube and another 2 1/2 hours to get back.  It was a huge pain.  The trains are rather convenient for missionaries, but in Yamaguchi they all go really slow.  The whole prefecture is just straight up rural.  We left the apartment at 6:30am and got back to Yanai at 4:15ish.  We didn`t eat anything in between, so we made sure to stop and eat before we went back out.  

Today I need a hair cut and we need to do some dry cleaning, so we aren`t doing anything fun yet, but I finally have a companion who likes to do stuff on P-day, so we should be able to see some cool stuff (if we can find anything to do in this podunk town).  Anderson choro and I are doing great.  He is really fun to work with and we are able to teach well together (something that as a missionary is critical).  I haven`t had bad companions, per se, but we didn`t get along great or have the same vision of where we need to go, so this is a nice change.  He also likes jazz, so that gives us something to talk about sometimes.  But we have been able to focus on the work and I think we will see some miracles in the nearby future.  

Last week we did a lot of housing and didn`t get anywhere.  We did run into a couple of Former Investigators by accident though.  The problem is, we don`t have anybody right now who has very much interest.  Most of the people we talk to have already spoken with the missionaries before.  The only way I can think of to find new investigators is to astound them, but you can`t do that in just five words (hello, my name is Lee).  So I haven`t been too happy, but after reveiwing PMG, the scriptures and some other resources, I was reminded that our purpose is just to invite, and if they don`t accept than that`s not our fault, we just keep going until we find someone who is open to our message.  Like it says in the "Power of Everyday Missionaries" book,  You win when you invite (or succeed, I don`t remember exactly what it says).  

I hope you guys are doing well.  Do something fun for me (like a hike, or something) and send some photos.  I`d love to hear about that.  Love you,
Elder Lee

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 11, 2014

Transfer 7: Week 1

Well turned out I was transferring.  I am now in Yamaguchi, Yanai.  It also turns out I`m whitewashing (woohoo!).  My new companion is Anderson choro.  And we are the only two in the branch where we are now serving.  

So Tuesday evening (4:30) we got the call from the APs.  We were actually just about to go out and see a member, so we didn`t have the opportunity to email or anything.  I was told that I was going to be leaving and heading up north to Yanai, with an old friend from Amami island (my first area).  I was thrilled when I heard we were going to be companions.  But I was shocked when I realized that we were whitewashing.  WW is when you and your companion enter an area together at the same time.  They take out the old missionaries and put two brand new ones in.  So neither my comp. or I know anything about Yanai.  

Thursday morning I went to hakata station (in Fukuoka) and boarded a bus that took me up to Yamaguchi.  Afterward I jumped on a train and came the rest of the way to Yanai.  Surprisingly, I met up with Anderson choro when I boarded the train.  The train came and as it stopped we saw each other.  We were both surprised and it was pretty funny.  We hadn`t seen each other since he left Amami (my second transfer, in September) so it was cool seeing him again.  We arrived at Yanai station at 4:00ish (I left Iizuka at 8:00am).  Was a long day but a member picked us up at the station, gave us our phone and keys, and drove us to our apartment.  

We got to meet a quaker from Australia on Friday which was kind of funny.  We talked a little bit and then went to find a member.  We have spent a lot of our time so far finding members and people/places in the area, but it has been good and I think we will have a great fun time this transfer.   I love the area and the people here and I love you guys.  

Elder Lee

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 27, 2014

Transfer 6:  Week 5

As far as food goes, I have to cook everything.  Apparently my companions can't cook worth a darn, so I do it.  But I kind of like it so it's good.  It also keeps me from having to do the dishes very often, so I am happy about that.  We eat a lot of stir-fry, yakisoba, udon, fried rice, stew, curry and spaghetti.  It's really not all that hard, just takes some time.  We make rice for almost every meal, but we eat spaghetti a fair amount, so not only rice.  I like to make curry or stew with rice the best because I don't have to cook dinner, just make enough for both meals.  Very convenient.  But I have also made chicken or pork tonkatsu (like fried but a little different; really good).  We eat sushi sometimes, but only when we go out with members.  We try not to eat out all that much.  

The main event this week was the arrival of the bike (Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Halleeluujaaaaaah!!!)  So we got to visit lots of people who we haven't been able to lately (because they're farther).  

So the investigators son who brought us food last time (shu) was there again when we went on Friday, but she was asleep.  But that didn't stop him; he ran in and told her the gaijin came (foreigners).  She must've been completely out 'cause she didn't budge at all.  Then he decided to play baseball with us while we waited for her.  We played for 20ish minutes and then decided we had to leave.  It was way fun.  Shu is hilarious.  

Also contacted a lady who is 40 or 50ish but loves video games.  We decided to teach through video games (something that Knighton choro and I could do) and ended up teaching about Christ and His atonement.  We actually had a pretty good lesson and I think she understood it really well.  

On Sunday we went to the Relief Society to see if we could arrange a home for a lesson later in the week.  They like to pray for our investigators so we told them about video game lady and they all started laughing when we said we taught through video games.  

I don't remember getting any letters recently, but I will check again.  Sorry to hear the mail system still sucks.  In Japan it is lightning fast.  You send something and two or three days later it arrives on the other side of Japan.  

The black fence does bring back memories. (we painted a wrought iron fence during a community service project, Iain has painted ours at home in the past) I was actually thinking about that the other day.  We saw an old man painting his fence black and I thought about it.  Then I smelled the fumes and everything changed colors.  It was nasty how bad and strong that paint was.  

We don't get a lot of opportunities to serve.  Japanese don't really like accepting service and the city doesn't really organize anything for us to be apart of/help out with.  But we are working on a lot of eikaiwa dendou and trying to get lots of people out to our english class.  Pres. Gustafson wants us to grow to 50 people which is huge.  Right now we are at 22 but still have a long way to go.  But we have grown just since I've been in Iizuka, so there is hope.  We're going to visit city hall and a newspaper service today to see if we can't spread the word a little more.  Maybe go to some schools and talk to the clubs and english classes.  

I don't have anything I need particularly but I'll let you know.  Thanks so much.  I love you.  Have a great week!
Elder Lee

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 21, 2014

Transfer 6: Week 4

We should be able to pick up the bike today so finally we won't be walking, but recently we have gotten really good and will probably be fantastic hikers when we get back.  The weather has been warming up and then getting cool, warming, cooling, but overall it is getting hot.  I suspect in the next couple of weeks we will be sweating like pigs.  

I don't have a lot of time but I wanted to share a couple of funny stories.  Japanese are very interesting and since we talk to everyone, we meet some interesting people.  

Yesterday we got to teach our investigator, ai-san.  She has four kids all of whom are quite rambuncious, but the youngest boy (shu, 5yrs) is hilarious.  Everytime we come over he runs over to us and says hi, asks what's in our bags, and yesterday he started just bringing us out a bunch of food.  It was so funny.  But he brought out this squid jerky that was made in beer or something (I don't know exactly what's up with that) but it was nasty.  Hard, chewy and some weird salty gross flavor.  

But we were able to have a great lesson with her.  We decided to actually read some scriptures with her, which I have been hesitant beforehand because I was not sure she would understand them, but when we read about the Atonement, she was really able to feel the Spirit I think.  

Afterwards we were able to meet with a potential investigator with a two year old daughter who is super cute.  She had these shoes that squeaked when she walked.  We got to use some new visual aids about prayer and teach her why prayer is important to her.  

Recently we one of the sister missionaries in our district made everyone some visual aids to use while teaching.  She is an amazing artist, so they look really good.  

The other day we ran into a British man who doesn't speak all that much Japanese.  When we started talking I didn't realize he was a foreigner, so I started speaking in Japanese.  He said something in english that I didn't catch to I started to talk again.  It was really funny because he walked inside to get his Japanese wife and then walked back out and asked if I spoke english.  I was really embarrassed.  But he said that religion was the essence of evil in this world and asked us to leave.  He was polite, but we didn't get to talk much.  He just seemed like a depressed old man, given up on the world.  

The other week we talked to a man who seemed like he would have listened to our message, but his wife came over and took over the conversation.  She gave the common excuse that she had a different religion so she couldn't listen to ours (no kidding).  We asked her what religion but she said she couldn't say.  She very abruptly turned us down at every turn and was really funny to watch (her husband was silently laughing the whole time).  He seemed cool, but she was just in a knot.  So we left.  

We taught a great lesson to a guy through his kitchen window.  He told us to come back so we're excited to talk through his window again (window to baptism).  

Our laundry is done at home and we hang our stuff out to dry.  I haven't been able to see many of my past comps but when I do it is great.  sometimes I email, but I haven't gotten the opportunity lately.  

All right, I have to go (email time is cut short today, we're going to the Fukuoka zoo as a zone p-day).  Love you, hope youe guys are well.  

Elder Lee