Hello, everybody! How are you doing in your various locations? I am doing quite well here in Japan!
This week has been rather wonderful! We had interviews with President Gustafson yesterday. These were his last, as he and Sister Gustafson will be finishing their mission in about four weeks. They will definitely be missed! In my interview he shared with me what is probably one of my favorite scriptures (especially as a missionary): Alma 26:22. It is actually a scripture that I have been thinking about quite a bit on my mission, especially lately. I know that it is possible to bring thousands of souls unto repentance, just as Ammon and the sons of Mosiah did, but in order to be able to do that I need to first repent, exercise faith, do good works, and pray continually without ceasing. If I fail to do any of those things then I will not be able to see that success which the Lord promised to us through Ammon’s words. In other words, in order to invite others to come unto Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, I need to first repent of my own sins and transgressions, have and show faith in Jesus Christ, honor and magnify my baptismal covenant, always strive to recognize and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and (of course) keep doing these things every day until the day I die (and, really, I imagine I will keep doing them after I die, too). As I do those things I will be able to see that great success which Ammon promised. Another interesting thing about Ammon’s promise is that he says those who follow this formula will be instruments in bringing thousands to repentance. Whenever people read this scripture, they often focus on that word "thousands" and assume it means that they will baptize thousands – which is not necessarily false; I definitely believe that we can baptize thousands. However, Ammon does not promise that we will necessarily personally baptize these thousands, but that we will be able to bring them to repentance. I may or may not personally baptize thousands of people as a missionary – that depends on my faith and the Lord’s plan – but I do know that I can be the means of bringing thousands of souls to repentance through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, which are the first essential steps leading up to baptism.
Speaking of baptism, yesterday at our training (which we had along with interviews) I heard an analogy for baptism that I really liked. It is very simple. If you compare life to a marathon, sometimes as we teach our investigators they may view baptism as the end goal, and that once they receive baptism they have won. However, baptism is not the end goal. It is actually the beginning, and everything that we teach them before baptism is to prepare them for the marathon that they will be running after receiving baptism – to prepare them to endure to the end.
It’s been a bit slow as far as lessons go because we were pretty much starting from scratch at the beginning of the transfer, but we are finding a lot of new investigators so I have great hopes that we will start having more lessons. This week we had a couple really good lessons, though. We met with one investigator named Shimobeppu. She is a young mother with a 6-month-old baby, and she is very interested in our message. We taught part of the Plan of Salvation to her this past week, and I definitely have a testimony of the power of members in lessons (especially when we missionaries do not speak the language very fluently). The members who came to our lesson were essential! Unfortunately, Shimobeppu’s grandparent was hospitalized the day before our lesson, so with that and taking care of her baby she said that she does not have much time to meet right now. However, we will definitely keep up with her and try to meet with her whenever she can.
We also had a great lesson about God with a high school student named Fujita. He is a surprisingly deep-thinker, especially for a high school student. He had listened to Jehovah’s Witnesses and studied other religions before, but had never heard of our church, so he was interested in hearing what we had to say. We met outside in the middle of the rain and ended up talking for nearly an hour about the nature of God. He is quite interested; unfortunately because of school and after-school activities (he does Budo, a type of martial arts), he is very busy and we were unable to set up another appointment with him, but we will definitely follow-up again this week.
I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to be the Lord’s servant here in Japan. I know that this is the Lord’s work, and I love it!
I hope that you all have a wonderful day, a beautiful week, and a fantastic year!
p.s. Apparently there was an earthquake somewhere in Japan yesterday. For those who might be worrying, we didn’t feel anything here, so we are doing great!