zondag 29 maart 2015

Elder Nelson, iPads & American Pizza

to Adam, me, Allison, +37
6 days ago
Hey, hello! How have you all been?

It's been an incredibly eventful week! It started immediately after my mail last week Monday. That night we got a sudden call from our zone leaders in Shimogamo. They wanted to do a koukan... the next morning! Holy whoa!! So we did. The zone leaders are extremely hard workers. They have developed really strong and deep relationships with each and every single one of their investigators... when we taught it really felt like I was talking to my brothers (and sister). They are really open and trust the missionaries a lot. Not only that, but the zone leaders also seemed to have a good connection with the members in Shimogamo. They had the members accompany almost all of their lessons with their investigators. It was an incredible example to me. I'm striving for the same kind of relationship between us and our investigators and the members in our ward. So, me and my companion have been focusing a lot on creating that connection with the Ootsu members; we've been visiting members and sharing a short, uplifting message with a commitment at the end, offering them our help and service afterwards. We will be helping a member cleaning up her home and helping out a seminary teacher from here on out. I'm really looking forward to it!

Plus! This week we've had the amazing opportunity to hear from elder Russel M. Nelson of the Twelve, prophet and revelator, who came all the way to Kobe! The entire Japan Kobe mission gathered together in the Kobe meetinghouse and it was awesome!! I saw all of my friends and previous companions again: I felt like Ammon (Alma 27:17). No, I did not faint. Anyway, the speeches that were given to us by elder Nelson (and also president Ringwood) were AMAZING!! They were mainly about overcoming our sins and weaknesses. It's truly amazing that the Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us power to overcome these things. Even when we think we're at our limit and about to give up, we can always rely on the Lord's Sacrifice for us. He truly loves us, to the point that He would take our sins upon him and lay down His life for us. It was truly an inspirational talk. We also received training on the soon to be released iPads for the missionaries!! We will be out doing missionary work on Facebook before you know it!! I. Can't. Wait...!!!

This week has been a tremendously good one. Looking back, I'm really content with our efforts and am excited for what the next week will bring! 

Thank you so much for reading my letter once again, everybody! I hope you have an awesome week. May the Lord keep blessing you all with health and happiness. See you next Monday!

L"Ootsu" of love,
(Dang, I need to come up with something else)
~聖徒長老, Elder Santos

(P.S.: I ate some delicious American-style pizza during the koukan with the zoneleaders. Take that!)

zondag 22 maart 2015

Patience & Hope

Hello, dear friends and family!!

Gee, I'm tired!! Why am I so drained?? Is Ootsu cursed with a curse of energy draining? Hahaha, I have no idea, but I'm really happy. We didn't see much direct success, but I'm still happy, because I know I gave it my all. I don't know what I'm doing quite yet, but I'm still learning after all. And you know, that's one of the things I learned last week: I learned that I'm still learning. The irony is tangible. Up to this point, I've always had experienced missionaries as my senior companion (like I mentioned above). In my eyes, they did everything flawlessly. So, with that image in my mind and by becoming a senior myself, I expected myself to do everything flawlessly as well. Perfectionism is a sin, right? And then, when I tried working as a senior, I only noticed the times when I didn't quite reach as high as that flawless senior companion in my mind. "I do everything wrong" is a phrase that came up in my mind a lot. I was down. Frustrated. I felt like I was not supposed to be a leader in any way. Then, a big, friendly Okinawan missionary came to me and gave me a good wake-up call. 

"You're a 6th transfer missionary... And you came here 2 weeks ago... Why are you expecting to do everything right? You're still learning!!"

Whoa!! He was right! What am I doing, worrying about everything I do wrong? I'm new here! I'm bound to make a lot of mistakes at first! All I have to do is learn from them, one step at a time. Life lesson learned. Such a relief! I worked hard last week -- I came home exhausted everyday. And that's all that counts. And what's more: success isn't directly visible, right? Our numbers for our goals last week may not testify of success, but behind the digits something else is happening. All I need is patience and hope!

Hey. You. Thanks for reading my mail. You're awesome. And you know what else? I hope you have a wonderful week, that's what! See you all next week!!

Mammoths of love,
~聖徒長老, Elder Santos

maandag 9 maart 2015

Being a Senior Companion & Moving


This week has almost been as hectic as last week. Moving to the sister's apartment is mostly done now. There's still too much stuff lying around all over the place, making it a chore to go from A to B. But today is preparation day, so we're cleaning up!
We've been meeting up a lot with many people over the past week. It's hard to get around in Ootsu: it's a pretty big area and using your bike won't cut it, so we take the train a lot, making us rack up expenses like crazy! I'll have to do some different budgeting from now on, lest I want to run out halfway through the transfer. The people here are lovely, though, and I'm really happy to see that our investigators seem to have a really good relationship with the missionaries. We've been teaching in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Japanese, by the way. Talk about multicultural, haha!

This week has killed me -- I'm super exhausted. I feel like I have lost any kind of personal time after becoming a senior companion. As soon as we get home we plan for the next day and then when I would normally have time to some personal stuff, I find myself sending mails and calls to our investigators and members. And then time's up, lights go out and there I am lying in my futon, feeling unsatisfied with myself. Still figuring out this senior companion thing, I guess. Kind of underestimated it, heheheh.

Sorry for the short mail; we have an appointment with one of our investigators in a few. Gotta go. Thank you so much for reading!

Boatloads of love,
~聖徒長老, Elder Santos

(P.S.: Have some pictures!!)

maandag 2 maart 2015

Ootsu & Teaching in Portuguese

Hello there beautiful, beautiful peoples!

This week has been a week of CHAOS.

FIRST! When we found out that, to my surprise, both Powell chourou and I were going to transfer out and thus Tokushima would have a "fresh start" -- with two new missionaries without any knowledge about the area, meaning that they would have to start from scratch. The moment we found out, we went out and worked like there was no tomorrow. We visited SO many people in such a short amount of time. A greater majority of those who we were meeting up with were actually people we had never seen before -- people who were investigating the church before and then stopped, people who were contacted a long time ago who seemed to have interest and random strangers calling us out of the blue saying that they want to meet with us. It was crazy! And because we were going to transfer, it meant we had to have the only elder staying in Tokushima, Lamb chourou (bless his heart), to go and switch with us for appointments (MANY times) in order for him to build a relationship and become friends with them and take over them for us. At first I was a little frustrated when I heard I was transferring, because things started to look up in Tokushima, but then I realized that this is the Lord's work, not mine. I just push the rock, He moves it. It was prideful of me to be worked up about it.

SECOND! I met up with my new companion, Madruga chourou, at the transfer point and immediately went to Ootsu from there. Fun thing about Ootsu: there are a TON of Brazilian people there! Madruga chourou (who is also Brazilian) said that most of the lessons he taught were in Portuguese. It seems I'll have to dust off the ol' Portuguese in my noggin'. Anyway, we arrived in our apartment (which was located in Kusatsu instead of Ootsu, strangely enough) and then I found out that we are moving to the sister's apartment in Ootsu (because the sister missionaries moved out permanently): everything in our apartment was a mess. My stuff is still packed, waiting to be moved to the new apartment, so I have been trying living off of my carry-on supplies and clothes (which is going just fine). It has been hectic over here in Ootsu. Not only that, but because we are taking over the sister's investigators, we had a lot of sudden appointments with people we didn't know (most of them were moved to a later date, because of everything that is going on). 

Also, I got made into a senior companion for the first time in my missionary life, which was a really scary thought when I first heard about it. But in the end, being a senior companion only means you carry the phone and talk a little more during lessons and planning than the junior companion, that's it. (To be honest, I still feel like a junior companion. Madruga chourou, even though he is two transfers younger than I am, has a lot of knowledge and is better fit to be in a leading position, I feel. The Lord works in mysterious ways.)

But allow me to make one thing clear to you all: I stinkin' LOVE Ootsu already. Not only is it a beautiful area, with high snow-peaked mountains and an enormous lake, stretching out into the horizon, in the middle of it (I'll take pictures of it one day), but the ward and the members here are really friendly and warm. They came up to us and said that they were looking forward to working with us -- in a rather proactive way too, by making appointments with us to both meet and eat and also do missionary work together. It's really amazing how much fire the Ootsu members have. It really inspires me.

This transfer may have had a rough take-off, but I'm 100% sure that this journey will be an unforgettable one.

Thank you SO much for reading -- I can't tell how much I appreciate you for taking your precious time to read the escapades of a clumsy European missionary on a little island somewhere in the oceans, random reader! I will see you all next week! Take care!

Truckloads of love,

~聖徒長老, Elder Santos

How many? In Tokushima

Hello, family!
It has been a very good week! We've had Zone Conference and our mission president was there! This was my favorite zoneconference so far! I cannot stress enough on the fact that every single Zone Conference or "taikai" has answered most if not all of my personal concerns and questions. With every taikai that has come and gone, I've begun to realize more and more that the things discussed in those meetings are revelation from God, given to us through our leaders.
On that note, I'd like to talk about another amazing experience I've had last week concerning revelation. Each area in the Japan Kobe Mission has a "sheep number". This special number represents the amount of people in the area who are ready to receive the Gospel, be baptised and endure to the end. But this number isn't isn't just a randomly guessed number -- we believe that it can only be found through revelation of God.
With the baptism of the Tokushima Sisters' investigator recently, our sheepnumber was brought down by one once again. However, the number went from 1 to 0. That meant that we had to figure out the new sheepnumber for our area. We made an appointment for all six of us to gather at church and find out what to do next. 
We all knew that it would require spiritual unity and divine guidance in order for us to uncover the number. So we started off by singing a hymn, praying together and sharing our past experiences concerning revelation and seeing the Lord's hand in our work in order to invite the spirit. As we all shared experiences, we all felt the presence of the spirit and felt like we were ready to receive some revelation! We all received a small sheet of paper to write down the number we felt impressed to. We all kneeled down and reached out in prayer to our Father individually. As I was wrestling in the spirit, focussing on connecting with God and trying to deliver my will unto Him, I could vaguely see numbers in my mind's eye. It wasn't really clear, but there was definitely something. Trying to interpret those numbers, I ended my prayer and wrote it down. I felt good about it. When everyone was done, we all looked at each other anxiously; the air was tense. We all revealed our numbers and... we were all over the place. No matching numbers at all. 
Our District Leader told us all the we didn't need to worry, as revelation comes little by little. I also thought by myself that at that point and time, I wasn't ready to receive direct revelation from God and I needed more time to spiritually prepare myself -- I decided to personally fast and pray. We made another appointment to meet up again and we were all encouraged to receive revelation as companionships and bring our numbers to the meeting. As our meeting ended, we all went our ways and went back to following our sheduled plans for that day. As we were out working, I noticed that I was very fatigued. It couldn't have been because of fasting, because I wasn't hungry at all. I turned to my companion and found out he was also exhausted. Apparently, we both used up a lot of "spiritual stamina" during the wrestle we had with the Lord. When I realized that, I came to grasp the magnitude of what we were doing and was reminded of the veracity of spiritual matter -- God really does exist and so does the Spirit. 
Fast forward to the next day, during our morning-study hours. Me and my companion had planned to use one hour in that morning to once again try to find out the new number. First try: miss, but we were close: both in the forties. Second try: miss, but our numbers got closer. Third try: our numbers were 1 apart! Fourth try: we got it. As we both found the number 46, we both felt joy and peace. 
We brought our number with us to the meeting that day. As we all gathered in the same room, we started revealing our companionship's numbers. We turned around our sheets of paper and... miss! We all had different numbers... 38... 42... 46. But they were really close! We felt like we were almost there!! Before we tried to do it for one last time that day, one of the missionaries suddenly said "...Forty-three." We all looked at at him, surprised; where did that come from? He said he didn't know and he felt a little strange for suddenly thinking about that number. In any case, we all got down on our knees again. This time when I was trying to identify this mysterious number, I couldn't stop thinking about the number 43. It just felt... right. As I couldn't see anything else, I wrote it down. I didn't know what to expect. I was actually tired -- expecting we would miss again and I'd have to try once more. But then! We all revealed our numbers and they were the exact same number. We were all surprised and really happy! We found the number! We found the number!!
Right now, there are 43 sheep in Tokushima.
God speaks.
I love you all. I hope you are all aware of the presence of your Father in Heaven. He is really there and He is watching over you.
Stay strong,
(P.S.: Transfer calls came in. I'm moving to Otsu! Farewell, Tokushima. I will miss you!!)

zondag 1 maart 2015

Korean BBQ & Much More

Konnichiwa, minasan!!
Last week has been an action-packed week full of... action...! A lot of things happened!!
First, we had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Elder Aoyagi (one of the Seventy) and his wife, along with our mission president and his wife in a big conference in Okayama! It took an uncomfortable two-and-a-half-hour bustrip and a crash for the night at the missionary apartment in Okayama (actual sleep not included)... but oh my GOODNESS was it worth it!
Our mission president went first and he talked about sacrifice and consecration. In order to walk with our Savior as missionaries, we need to remain focused on Him and obey Him exactly. We need to drop our personal affairs and devote ourselves to the Lord, just like the Peter and his brother dropped their nets and thus their jobs as fishermen to follow and serve our Savior (Matthew 4:18-20). Lately I had been feeling like something was missing. Dendo just lacked "oomph" and I didn't quite know why. Listening to president Welch's talk gave me something to think about and to apply to myself. What is it that I need to give up in order to follow Jesus without being hindered? Something I've been able to chew on and think about for the past week. 
Elder Aoyagi's talk about a missionary's pattern of success was really comforting. No one succeeds at first; this was even backed up by the countless accounts of ancient missionaries' ministries in the Book of Mormon. Through patience, diligence, hard work and hope, the Lord will entrust the missionaries with His power -- the power of His Atonement --  and success will be seen. In the end, we are only able to do this through the Lord. This is His work and not ours, just like sister Aoyagi told us by giving us an example of the man who could not move this huge, immovable rock on his own, but only through the Lord's help.
Sister Aoyagi's talk was special. She focused on being smiley and cheerful, vigorous in our work. It just made me feel like smiling ever since the conference. And not to forget sister Welch for sharing an amazing testimony with all of us. It was a really moving story about her parents and their wonderful examples as missionaries and I'm really glad she wanted to share somthing so dear to her with all of us. It truly testified of the role of the Spirit in missionary work and made want to do better to stay open to His promptings. Elder and sister Aoyagi have given us an immense amount of new ideas to try out. I'm going one step at a time right now to apply all this revelation received for us. It is a lot. I hope I can do it all. 
Then, we had a wedding in our church building last Saturday. It was very nice and I am really happy for the lucky couple! JOY!! That same day we had a baptismal service in the evening for someone the sister missionaries have been teaching. I got to play the piano for the special song during the meeting (only found out the day before , so I was quite stressed). But it all went well and she got baptised and we all had a great evening. Oh, and I also made "chocolate salami" (my mom knows) as part of the refreshments and I didn't mess up, thank goodness.
And last but not least we did splits on sunday with some members: the missionaries all split up and each took a member to work with them for a while as their companion. It was really fun! We went out on the streets with two members to introduce the Gospel to everyone and visited less-active members who may have needed some help. It was a really good experience and I could see the missionary-fire roaring in these members as we worked together. I hope we can do this often to spread the fire in among every member in our branch. Things are looking bright for the Tokushima branch.
Other than that, we did a lot of finding, tried to find lost less-actives, had a few lessons with our beloved investigators and had yakiniku (korean barbeque) in our apartment. It's been a fantastic week!
Thank you so much for reading all of this, everyone! You just took the time to read my experiences and thoughts and that really means a lot to me. I hope you have all an amazing week! See you next week!
Large measuring units of love,

Earth Hiccup & ZTM

Hey, dear peoples!
This week has been great! First, we've had another Zone Training Meeting. It was amazing. Every single question I had about my own conversion and missionary work has been answered. And looking back, so have my previous questions and concerns in previous ZTMs. Evidence that God truly knows us each individually and actually reaches out to us through our appointed leaders. I'm really grateful for my leaders and for the revelation they receive for us. Oh! We also had an earthquake during the ZTM. As the earthquake alarms went off on all of our phones, we were met with a sense of utter doom, leading us to dive under the desks and tables and prepare for death. But then planet earth decided to hiccup only once and it was done. We are all okay!
Also, we were able to teach the couple we met through Eikaiwa again last week. They are really eager to learn more about the Mormon church, as they both have a Christian background (one of them even recited the Lord's prayer in Japanese) and really want to know what sets us apart from other Christian sects. They really liked the things we talked about and are willing to step out of the comfort zone and experiment... is this Book of Mormon thing true? Or is it just a lie? Does God really talk to us? If they are as eager as when we meet, they will find an answer. I hope they find one soon!
Other than these events, we've had a very nice Templework Fireside at church about Family History, did some service by picking up trash around the train station, had a koukan within our apartment (with one of the other four missionaries) and did a lot of knocking on doors and talking to people as usual.
Thank you so much for reading my email, dear friends! I'm sorry it's super short -- but here is a picture of a blue chair. Enjoy. Have a great week!

Buckets of love,