こんにちは！How are you all doing in your various locations? I am doing quite well here in 都城、日本 (Miyakonojo, Japan)!
This week has been superb! Kuzuguchi san came to Sacrament Meeting this Sunday! She has a baptismal date set for the 26th of this month (next 土曜日 – Saturday), but her work schedule is very 忙しい (busy) so it has been very difficult for her to attend church. We actually were quite pleasantly surprised when we saw her. Elder Jensen and I were invited to speak in church yesterday, and she must have arrived slightly late because I did not notice she was there until I stood up to speak. Kuzuguchi san is progressing very well. I mentioned last week that we have been texting her a daily scripture, and that she has been responding favorably, but lately in addition to her response of how much she liked the scripture, she often includes her own お勧め (recommendation) from the Book of Mormon! She is amazing, and definitely prepared for baptism. She has previously mentioned that she has a 不安 (fear) that she would like to discuss with us (which we will once we can meet with her again; the past two appointments we unfortunately had to cancel because she was not feeling well), but I am sure that through the Spirit’s guidance we can address her needs.
This week we were supposed to meet with another baptismal date investigator, Taira kun, but due to the 台風 (Typhoon) we had to cancel. 😦 Also, since he did not come to church yesterday we will have to reschedule his baptismal date (which was also on the 26th). However, Elder Jensen and I believe that is probably a good thing, since he still has some issues that need to be worked out. We also need to inquire after his age; previously we had assumed he was 20 years old, but now we are thinking that he is probably still 19 (likely soon to turn 20, but still 19 nonetheless). We have a weekly volleyball activity that he comes to without fail, so we should be able to inquire about that then (and set up another appointment!).
Our third investigator with a baptismal date is Maeda san. He has been a bit tricky, though. We visited him this week and taught the Plan of Salvation, which he seemed to like (it is oftentimes difficult reading him, as he does not show much emotion). In the lesson we asked which kingdom (Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial) he would want to go, and of course he picked the Celestial kingdom. However, when we asked if he would make various commitments (i.e. coming to church, reading the Book of Mormon, etc.) he came up with a reason that – although valid – does not render making and keeping those commitments impossible. He currently wants the blessings without the work. However, I am certain that as long as we teach by the Spirit, and teach well, he will understand that the blessings will not come without effort on his part. We can teach the choices and how to make the correct choice, but in the end the investigator has 選択の自由 (freedom of choice). I have great hopes for Maeda san; we are still just in the beginning stages of really teaching him, so hopefully he will make the right choice.
The 都城支部 (Miyakonojo branch) is really starting to light up with 伝道火 (mission fire). When I arrived here the work was good, but many of the members did not seem very involved in missionary work. Over time they have warmed up, but still had not seemed to ignite. However, it seems that the Open House really provided the fuel to ignite the flame. They have been quite involved over the past couple weeks. In order to fan the flame into a conflagration we feel we need to work more with the ward leaders to develop a good vision for missionary work in 都城 (Miyakonojo) I can see that they have the energy, but without a goal that energy will be quickly expended in fruitless efforts. However, if they have a vision then they – with the missionaries – will be able to accomplish miracles here.
This week I finished reading the little green book about missionaries working with the members. I think it has provides a lot of needed guidance, and there are many things that I know I can improve upon. The main two things that I have been thinking about this week are being more bold and developing a good 関係 (relationship) with the people I meet. The first point – being bold – really hit home for me from a story at the end of that book about missionaries in Germany. I imagine that you have already read it, but from that story what really hit me was, first, the missionary’s boldness in discussing the Book of Mormon with her, a seasoned professor of theology with multiple PhD’s, and then secondly – and this part struck me even more forcefully – was the woman’s unapologetic declaration of truths before 100+ students of religion. As stated by the author near the end of the account, the men (who had previously been her students) gave a standing ovation at the end of her testimony and wept openly because she was so completely honest and sincere in stating her beliefs. That is how I want to – and know I should – become in stating my testimony every day: boldly, honestly, sincerely, and without apology. I feel that sometimes we approach people somewhat apologetically – at least subconsciously – essentially apologizing that we are telling them the truth. That is not how it should be! We know the truth, we know it has brought us happiness, and why apologize to others for knowing that it can bring them happiness? I really need to be more bold (but not overbearing).
I also finished reading Our Search for Happiness by Elder Ballard. It was very good. Even though it is directed primarily toward those who are not members of the Church, I gleaned much wisdom from Elder Ballard’s words.
Regarding building a better 関係 with members, an account from President Joseph Fielding Smith struck me when I read yesterday in Priesthood meeting. President Smith served his mission in England, and while there the missionaries began visiting with another American man and his wife. At first the visits did not have anything to do with religion – the man simply wanted to talk with other Americans about American food, sports, culture, etc. However, the discussion eventually turned spiritual when the wife asked Elder Smith whether she would ever again see her baby that had died without baptism. Elder Smith responded from Moroni 8, and from then they were able begin teaching the family about spiritual matters. This account really impressed upon me the importance of first building that 関係 with the people we meet – getting our foot in the door, as it were. They must first trust us before we can get our foot in the "spiritual door". Some may take longer than others to reach that point, but the important thing is to first be a sincere friend, and then they will gradually begin to open their hearts to us.
I know that this is the Lord’s work. I am a very imperfect tool, but as long as I strive every day to become better then I can be an effective instrument in His hands. I love this work – and I love these people – so much! This church is true. My testimony of that is strengthened every day, especially as I read, study, and ponder the words of the Book of Mormon, and testify to others of the truthfulness of this message.
I love you all! Have a wonderful day, a great week, and a super fabulous year!
p.s. As for the typhoon this week: I’m alive! I am also quite safe and dry. We had to stay inside the apartment on Wednesday, which is when most of the storm hit. Apparently when it arrived at Kyushu it was had dissipated quite a bit, so we ended up just with a tropical storm instead of a typhoon. I guess Okinawa got the worst of it.
p.p.s. The next book I am reading is Jesus the Christ. I am spending much of what little free time I have reading. It’s great! I love it!