Happy New Year!

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 nice. We had a lot of とつぜん (sudden) meals with members; I’m guessing that the members here like to feed the missionaries during New Year’s week, so we had a lot of great food. Our Chinese investigator, Yukimatsu san, was able to join us for one of the meals, which was great! He is an awesome kid. I think I mentioned him recently (about how he has fallen in love with on of the Eikaiwa students). We were going to try meeting with him again on Saturday or Sunday, but unfortunately he procrastinated his homework to the last few days of Winter break, and therefore was swamped and unable to meet. However, we should be able to meet with him this week, and we are hoping to be able to set a baptismal date with him.

This we have seen some very interesting miracles. Particularly, as we were housing a large apartment near the end of the day, we met a man named Nakagawa san. He is 76 years old, divorced, and apparently atheist. When he answered the door, we hardly had time to introduce ourselves before he invited us to come inside (in English). At first we thought we had heard wrong, but he repeated himself and motioned us inside. We were quite stunned, since nobody in Japan invites you into their home on a とつぜん visit; and more than that, he actually invited us into the house (not just the げんかん [entryway]). Then we had a 40-minute conversation with him about a lot of different things, such as God, post-WWII Japan (he was about 10 years old at the war’s end), commandments (particularly the Word of Wisdom; he offered us a drink, and of course we declined, and he asked why), along with many other things. It was a very interesting conversation, and his English is quite good. We were not able to set up a specific time to return, but he said that we could come back (he wanted to keep talking, but it was nearing our curfew, so we had to depart). We will definitely return soon.

Lately I have been thinking a bit about the people that we talk to who "reject" us – or rather, they "reject" our message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I say "reject" (with quotes) because I don’t really like using that word to describe their reaction, but I can’t think of a better word at the moment, so that one will have to do. Anyway, what I have pondering relates to something my younger brother recently mentioned about some of the people he has been teaching in Brazil. He mentioned that the past week has been rather difficult for him (he compared it with Joseph Smith’s emotions in Liberty Jail), since many of their investigators "rejected" the message. In his words, "People who have received answers that the Book of Mormon is true, people that have literally had dreams that they need to be baptized in the church of Jesus Christ rejected the greatest gift they could ever receive. And many were SO CLOSE to receiving the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One girl, after going to church, told us ‘Even if this church is true and is the only way to return to have eternal happiness, I think I would prefer Hell’."

As I mentioned, I have been thinking a bit about the people who "reject" this message, and about how we – as missionaries and members — as those who are hoping, praying, weeping, and pouring out our hearts for these people – should respond to such "rejection". I suppose we have one of two choices. We can either weep or rejoice. Should we not choose to rejoice? But what reason have we to rejoice over those who "reject" our message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We should rejoice over the fact that they even had the opportunity to come into contact with missionaries; with members; with a random internet search that brought them to mormon.org; with a cast-aside pamphlet lying in the street; even if they choose to "reject" the message – or rather, in that moment they choose not to accept it, but instead glance at the muddy pamphlet, see the name of Christ, and walk by without a second glance; or browse the website for a moment, then move on to other things; or say "I will never become Christian" when their recently-baptized spouse invites them to come to church; or tell the missionaries, "I would prefer Hell." Certainly if these people said "yes" in that moment of decision, our joy would be great, but their saying "no" should not promote us to sorrow. Let us rejoice that they were blessed with a contact that billions of God’s children may never have in this life, and whatever stage they are at – be they ready or not to receive baptism – that contact, however brief, however small, has moved them one step closer to their Savior, and someday they may step out of the darkness and embrace the light. And in that we have great reason to rejoice. As Sister Hinckley once said, "You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache." 🙂

I love this work! I know that this is the truth. I am so grateful for the opportunity to represent the Lord, and am grateful that He is willing to allow me – as imperfect as I am – to represent Him. One of my friends currently serving in Mexico recently wrote of something a members mentioned while cleaning my friend’s cut: "She later told me that when she feeds the missionaries or when we come to her house, she feels like it’s Jesus Christ coming to her home, so she felt like she was cleaning Jesus Christ’s wounds. It was really neat and sweet to think that people really see me like that. A representative of Jesus Christ." I am grateful to be a representative of Jesus Christ, and pray that I am doing all I can – and becoming better every day – to be the representative that He needs me to be.

I was also touched by a little message from another friend that my mom shared with me. She wrote: "I used to pray I’d become something extra special… As a child something extraordinary like a ballet dancer or a singer. Now I realize every person is extraordinary. My calling in this life might be to "just be" mom…. Nothing more. Nothing could truly be more special or more extraordinary than that gift. I’m grateful for it."

I am not yet a parent myself, but I am so grateful for the wonderful examples that God has provided for me. My wonderful mom and dad, my loving family, my great friends. I may "just be" a missionary – and definitely not the best missionary, either – but I can be somebody’s missionary, and be able to have that influence of good in their life, even for just a small moment. And in the end, we are never "just" a person. We are all truly God’s children, and as such have greater potential than we could ever possibly dream. There are not words (in either English or Japanese) that can adequately express the joy I have in the knowledge that I am a child of God, and He loves me.

I love you all! I hope that you had a great New Year celebration. Have a superb day, a great week, and a wonderful year!

Love,

マドセン 長老
Elder Madsen

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