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! I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas devotional (which we watched a week later than everybody else). All of the talks were wonderful – and the music, of course, was superb! – but I especially liked Elder Christofferson’s remarks on the condescension of God. The part that particularly struck me was when he said, ‘Jesus was the Firstborn among spirits and the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. Although we are not begotten of God in the flesh, we are, just as Jesus, the spirit offspring of God. Thus, our birth into mortality is also something of a condescension, and like Christ’s, it has a noble purpose. Just as Jesus, we came down from heaven to do the will of Him that sent us and to achieve, with the grace of Christ, immortality and eternal life. Might it be important for us, as we seek to “ascend up on high,” also to descend below at least some things that we might comprehend more fully and become more Christlike? If Jesus needed certain experiences, might we also require some challenges and trials, “that [our] bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that [we] may know according to the flesh how to succor [one another] according to [our] infirmities”?’ During this Christmas season – and throughout our individual lives – there is always something that we can do to "descend below some things" in order to better comprehend each others’ needs and become more Christlike. We should be willing to do as Jesus did in order to be as He was. Of course we are all imperfect, but that is one of the great miracles of the Atonement – it enables imperfect people to become perfect.
This week, on Saturday evening, an investigator that the Shimizu sisters have been teaching for a while was finally baptized! Her name is Kyomi san, and she is great! Her little boy is also very cute. (Unfortunately I still do not have easy access to send pictures, but I may go to a 7-Eleven sometime and burn a CD to send to you. For now you will just have to apply your imagination). Kyomi’s older sister was baptized a few years ago, so Kyomi has had contact with the church for the past few years, but did not really start investigating until this year. Sister Iwasa (who finished her mission about one week ago) started teaching her with Sister Heaton (who also finished her mission about one week ago) when they were both working in this area together back in March, and the sisters had been teaching and working with her – with many ups and downs – ever since then. The long and short of it is that she finally accepted the commitment to be baptized, and did so on Saturday! It was a wonderful baptismal service, especially since Sister Iwasa was able to come down to Kumamoto for the weekend and be at the baptism! There were many tears of joy.
Today we visited 熊本城 (Kumamoto Castle); again, I have many pictures, which you will see at some point in time. It was beautiful, and the interior of the castle is set up as a museum where you can read about and see scrolls, paintings, photographs, and artifacts from the castle’s history. It is quite interesting.
Last night we met with one of our Vietnamese investigators, Dwan. He is great! We had heard from one of his friends that he has been reading in the Book of Mormon (we gave him a Vietnamese copy a while ago), but we had not been able to properly meet with him and follow-up since then. When we visited him yesterday we discovered that he is currently in Mosiah! We are very excited about that (especially since he got through the Isaiah chapters; that is quite a feat, especially since he chose to read it on his own without any real guidance from the missionaries, since we haven’t been able to meet with him very often). Yesterday we taught – very simply, since there is still a massive language barrier – about prayer by sharing 3 Nephi 14:7-8 and teaching how to pray from a Vietnamese copy of one of the pamphlets. He prayed at the end – silently. The same thing happened when we previously prayed with another Vietnamese investigator, An. Hopefully we will be able to have them pray out loud with us. It will be easier to teach them if we can do so with the member of another ward in our stake who can speak Vietnamese; we are going to contact that member this week, and hopefully set up a time on Sunday when we can all meet together.
This week we began an activity which our mission calls The 12 Days of Christmas, during which we do something (such as sharing a short message, a song, etc.) every day with one of our investigators for the 12 days before Christmas, and then share the Church’s Joy to the World video with them on the last day (the 24th). We have decided to do this with Daichi san; on the first day we left him a fruit (it was either a yellow apple or a Japanese pear; we couldn’t really tell) and shared the verses from Lehi’s dream in which he tastes of the fruit of the tree and finds that it is desirable above all other things, and then we are sharing messages and pictures relating to the story of Christ’s birth (i.e. a scripture and picture about Mary, then Joseph, then the Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy about the star, then the wise men, etc.) each day. It has been very enjoyable, and we hope that he is able to feel the Spirit through these little messages.
Well, I am just about out of time. I love you all, and am looking forward to being able to talk to you next week!
Have a wonderful day, a superb week, a very merry Christmas, and a fantastic final 2 1/2 weeks of the year!
p.s. Congratulations on graduating, Michael!