こんにちは！ How is everybody doing in their various locations? I am doing quite well here in 清水、日本 (Shimizu, Japan)!
This week has been quite wonderful! On Friday I did an exchange with Elder Oshima, during which we visited one of our investigators, Inoue san (also known as "Iesu Piedro"). He is about 70 years old, and is a very interesting and entertaining guy. Elder Gonzalez and I met him about three weeks ago, and have been able to meet with him three times (including the visit during that exchange) since then. It is difficult to keep the conversation on topic because he really likes to talk, but the things he talks about he always applies to Christ and the gospel. It is actually rather amazing; I can definitely take some good tips from him for using analogies, because he uses a lot of them when he talks with us. He was actually christened into the Catholic church (which is when he received the name "Iesu Piedro") many years ago when he lived in Tokyo. He said that the real reason he was christened is because he was dating a girl that encouraged him to. So, at first he did not actually believe in Christ, but he decided to read the Bible, and as he did so his faith was strengthened. He has not yet accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon from us because he cannot see (and therefore read) very well anymore. However, he has read the pamphlets we gave him (albeit with a little effort), so we will try again to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon and invite him to try reading it. Unfortunately (as far as I know) there is not a large type Japanese version, but we will do what we can.
On Saturday we were going to have a lesson with one of our college student investigators whom we have not been able to meet with for a while, Daichi san, but then he had to cancel because he was doing something with his friend at that time. However, yesterday we stopped by his apartment and he was there! First, Elder Gonzalez noticed and asked about a San Francisco sports rug (which we had not seen before), from which conversation we were able to BRT a bit (since Elder Gonzalez studied near San Francisco at Stanford), which was great! Elders Gonzalez and Rogers (his previous companion) had taught Daichi about prayer, so we asked whether he had tried praying, and he had! We asked how it was, and he said he had expressed gratitude to God. We shared Alma 36:27 and taught that in addition to expressing gratitude, we can also ask for and receive needed help and guidance through prayer. Before leaving we asked whether it would be alright if we prayed with him, and asked whether he would like to pray – and he did!!! It was so good! I love Daichi so much. He is awesome!
I am grateful for the opportunity which I have had to work in Shimizu for the past six weeks. It has gone by so quickly! Every transfer passes by more and more swiftly. I know that wherever the Lord calls me to labor is where He needs me to be. This morning during companion study Elder Gonzalez and I were discussing the areas which the Lord calls us to, and that sometimes we as missionaries wish He would place us in a stronger area, or a place where people would be more accepting of our message. However, Elder Gonzalez pointed out that – in the comparison of the Lord being the Gardener, we His servants/assistant gardeners, and our mission/the world as His garden – the Lord does not need many workers to tend the parts of the garden that are already beautifully trimmed, planted, raked, and otherwise perfectly taken care of. He doesn’t hand us a pair of shears just so that we can stand around in a beautiful part of the garden and look good. He gives us the tools and places us where the garden needs work. So, even though – or rather, because – the work is difficult at times, we should always remember that we are here to work and beautify the Lord’s garden – to remove the weeds and plant the flowers. Additionally, we should also always remember that the Lord is always there beside us, working with and instructing us how to become better gardeners – and the better the gardener, the more difficult area the Lord will want him to work in so that thereby the garden may receive the greatest benefit and beautification.
I love this work! I am grateful to be a co-gardener with the Lord. He is the Master Gardener, and although my labors are minuscule in comparison with His, as I strive to become more like Him I can gradually become a better gardener each day.
I know that prayer is powerful! When we taught Daichi about prayer, I felt then the testimony of the Holy Ghost that our words were true, and I know now as I did then that it is still true. This is the Lord’s Church. While many other religions possess great truths and do great things for the world, I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints contains the restored fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and my purpose as a missionary here in Japan, far from home (and barbecues, chili, fresh-pressed apple cider, and many other wonderful things) is to declare that truth to the people here and invite them, as Jesus did, to "come and see". I am grateful that Heavenly Father in His perfect love has provided the Spirit to guide, protect, and direct us, and that as we follow our Father’s promptings He will lead us safely home.
I love you all! I especially love my family! As my younger brother has mentioned in a few of his letters, throughout my mission so far I have seen my love for other grow, and it has been amazing and miraculous to see the great love that I have developed for my family at home. I love them so much!
Have a wonderful day, a superb week, and a spectacular year!