Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Talking to Britt on skype!

Thanksgiving comics

Christmas caroling by the train station

Christmas cake

Christmas with the mission President as Santa

The Area Map

Japanese always make the peace sign. We're not sure why...

Missionaries roomies!

Christmas in Japan!

My first Christmas away from home was so strange! We had a lot of fun though. After coming home from the all-day mission conference, we consolidated the MASSIVE piles of treats the four of us got from our wards, ate a simple dinner, and planned for the next day like we always do. Christmas morning we got up at 6:30 and excercised like usual (well, I guess I'm the only one who actually excercises) and then opened the few presents we got from our families! Except Nagamine Shimai---she's from Okinawa, and because shipping inside of Japan is relatively cheap she got four ENORMOUS boxes full of goodies from her home ward. We had a lot of fun watching her open them! Then Sister Facer and I went off into town to get some missionary work done before spending the rest of p-day at home doing laundry and cleaning and normal stuff. Later tonight we're having Christmas dinner with the elders and some young adults in the ward so I'm sure I'll tell you all about that tomorrow.
Thank you for the Christmas packages, family! I got very lovely warm tights from Grandma Lenna and the aunts, and then I got my sketchbooks (and candy) from you guys! Thank you so much for sending those! Hopefully they'll last until the end of my mission because I've fit 3-4 months in each sketchbook so far. Trina said she sent a package so I'm still waiting on that one, but send a huge thank you to all the family at home praying for me and supporting me! You guys are the best!
I'll talk to you tomorrow, probably closer to 5 or 5:30pm so we can make our afternoon lesson in time. Make sure you to think of some questions to ask about Tokyo!
Love you,

Monday, December 10, 2012

November comics 2012

Dec. 10, 2012

Hi family!

My companion and I are in the church (in the family history center) waiting for an investigator to come while we check our emails, and the keyboards here are crazy! Remember when we went to Europe and the letters were all in different places? It's not as bad as that, but all the punctuation is a bit off, the keys are different sizes, and there are two or three symbols on each key depending on which language you want. Every now and then I sit back and am amazed at how much Japanese the Lord has helped me learn. We open up the scriptures in a lesson or write an email to our investigator and I think, "A year ago there's no way I could have understood all these scribbles!" But the Lord opened up a way for me and all the other 700 Japan missionaries to make sense of it all so we can communicate with the people here and teach them the gospel. I still have a long way to go, but even learning kanji is getting easier and more meaningful. You who have studied other languages will know how cool it is to compare scriptures and stuff and see how the meaning is enhanced. But yeah, even though some days it seems impossible, it's very fun. 

My President's letter this week was a little lengthy because I wrote individually about some of our investigators, but it's all great news so I'll include everything and you can read at your leisure:

Dear President,
This week was a little slow; Sister Facer got sick so we didn't get to proselyte much, but we still were able to teach our scheduled lessons and saw so many miracles! 
Hasegawa Shimai - She's been an investigator for a long time and knows all the lessons, so we teach her Christlike attributes using PMG and it's been going very well. This week she told us that the more she applies what we teach, the happier she is all day and the better she feels. We've been focusing on prayer, and she's been able to find more comfort in addition to improving relationships with her family. It was really cool to see how she's making the connection between the gospel and an improved life. 
Bi Shin - She's our Chinese member referral; she knows nothing about religion but she wants to know. She has so many friends who are Christian and are happier than she is "even though she has more money than they do." We had a member joint lesson this week and Bi was able to hear more testimony about how we can feel God is there. She's still not sure she believes but she wants to believe so badly. When we read scriptures together it's difficult for her to understand, but her face lights up and she eagerly sets the next appointment.
Kajita san - We met her housing and were able to start doing personal Eikaiwa with her. We brought the GoEigo book but she didn't like it very much---instead she wants to learn English out of the church magazines! She has a lovely little family and cares so much about teaching her children good values. Her kids are very good at English too, so hopefully through the Liahonas we can help them learn about and apply the gospel.
Miho chan - She's the girlfriend of a member and today was her second time at church. She is SO prepared; she accepts everything and is so thirsty to learn more. She prays every day on her own and, because of that, said she feels more prepared throughout the day; she said she can understand more of what she wants in life and how she can achieve it. We told her about how happy God is to communicate with her and she was so pleased. Today we set a baptismal date for December 30th! She said the closing prayer for the lesson and it was so cute. She said, "Heavenly Father, I want to work really hard to get baptized on the 30th, so please help me understand." Our member joint is a great teacher and is helping her progress daily. I love being able to work with the two of them.
Matsunaga san - She is a widowed older woman who houses foreign exchange students, and she's impossible to contact by phone but whenever we stop by she is so hospitable. Although she forgets to pray and read the Book of Mormon, she loves listening to us teach. Today we taught the Restoration and it really helped her understand Christianity. She'd seen some anti-Mormon program on tv this week, and talking to us made her feel so much better. She loves how everyone in our church helps each other and is genuinely kind. The more she hears about the church the more she wants to join; our focus this week will be helping her convert to the gospel of Christ as well as His church.
Kichijoji is a wonderful place to work! The people here are amazing and I love helping them. It's such a special privilege to share my testimony with those who need it. Today in church we sang "Because I have been given much I too must give" and I felt that sentiment so strongly. The gospel has blessed my life in too many ways to count and it makes me so happy to share that with others.
Thank you for all you do President! We'll work hard this week to fill our stockings with miracles!
Long Shimai

As for Skyping on Christmas, Sister Facer is probably going to talk to her family around noon on Christmas day which is 9 pm for her family in Utah. We usually proselyte in the evenings so it would be better to call before lunch, but that would put my call right in the middle of the Long Christmas Eve Extravaganza which might be difficult. Or I could push it one more day and call you in the evening on the 25th if that time is easier (for me the 26th around 10am). Talk amongst yourselves and get back to me!

Did you guys all watch the First Presidency Christmas devotional together? Wasn't it great? How about reading the December church magazines? Reading the Liahona (international Ensign) has become one of my very favourite things to do on my mission. Those magazines were a huge source of comfort when I was struggling, and now that I'm doing much better I still turn to them almost daily for wisdom and beautiful pictures. People here, when they find out I've already graduated from college, ask me a lot about what I want to do when I go home, and I usually say that working on the church magazines seems like such a dream job. I would love to use my interests in writing/design to help spiritually uplift people worldwide. Maybe I'm just on a missionary high and never want to quit, but it would be a meaningful career and there is some appeal in that.

Well, I know everyone at home is busy with Christmas preparations, so I'll let you get back to it! Enjoy all the music and treats and family extra for me! Love you!
Long Shimai

Monday, December 3, 2012

November 9-13, 2012

December 3, 2012

Hi family!
Thank you for sending the photos of the Santa Run! It looked hilarious! We have a Nihonjin living in our 4-sister apartment now and it was very funny trying to explain to her what thousands of you were doing dressed up as Santa! Too funny.
This week in Kichijoji was spectacular, as always. My president's letter this week is short but I'll include it because it talks about some of the things we're doing recently:
Dear President,
We had a GREAT week in Kichijoji! We've been seeing lots of miracles! The people we're teaching are growing to trust us more and more and accept commitments that help them strengthen their faith. What we struggle with most is getting them to attend church. People get too busy or too tired to make it a priority. We've been working with more less-actives recently too, and we're not sure how we can better teach the importance of sacrament meeting attendance. We'll work on that this week.
One thing that's been really helpful in our dendo (missionary work) is expressing lots of love. I feel like that's a strong point in our companionship. We try to help our investigators and members understand that we want to help them progress in the gospel out of a sincere love for them. Facer Shimai is great at pointing out people's strong points and using words to express her love, and my favourite way is to give hand-made thank-you cards and pictures to people we teach. I'm learning about the importance of using God-given talents to enhance dendo and make it personal to each missionary.
Another thing that's been really helpful in our area the last few weeks is scheduling member mogis (role-play lessons). During weekly planning we look through the area book and schedule mogis with two sisters/families we want to get to know better, then we practice teaching a lesson we have coming up with an investigator. This has been working SO much better than unplanned member visits I've done in the past. We get to know the member, they get to hear the gospel and think about missionary work, and then we always ask for advice on how to improve our teaching. We've really been strengthening our relationships with the sisters in the ward, so when we ask for joints for investigator lessons we have more to go on and they trust us more to agree to help. It is such a privilege to work with these members and help strengthen their faith and desire to dendo.
Sister Facer and I have been working on filling our stockings with lots of miracles! It's going great and we love it! Thank you for the idea and thank you always for the inspiration and guidance! We love you!
Sister Long
The first line to his reply was, and I quote, "It sounds like you have found your dendo groove if there is such a thing :-)  " I love our president. He's such a smart guy but he's never afraid to be goofy, and he's passionate about the work and our people. I can't remember if I wrote this last week or not, but every missionary has a stocking hung up at home, and every night we're supposed to write miracles on index cards to fill our stocking with. On Christmas Eve we'll all get together at the mission home and read some of our miracles. This really is the best time to be a missionary. Of course I miss home, and whenever we hear Christmas music or families out shopping I get a teensy bit homesick, but I love being here at this time of year. I have fallen so hard in love with missionary work in this area and I'm never going back!
Thank you for forwarding Tanner's emails. I spend so much time focusing on my own missionary work here that I forget he's on the other side of the world doing a lot of the same stuff! It's cool to see him growing, especially because I went through all the same things not too long ago. I hope he learns life lessons much earlier than I did! As for skyping, we should probably do separate times so it doesn't get too crazy. On Mother's day it was about 10 am for me and 6 pm for you...however that works out with the time difference. I'm not actually sure when I'll be able to skype so maybe I'll get back to you later on that? It will probaby be the 26th for me and Christmas evening for you but we'll see. I like Tanner's idea of writing questions down beforehand so there's no wasting our 30-40 minutes! As for plans for coming home next August, don't ask me yet! I don't know! I don't want to think about it because I'm loving this way too much.
Thank you so much to everyone who's been writing me! You're the best. I love hearing about your experiences sharing the gospel with family and friends. The very best gift we can give to anyone this Christmas is a chance to strengthen their relationship with Heavenly Father and the Saviour.
I love you all and I'm grateful for all you're doing! Sorry my emails haven't been very full of detail lately but I never feel too bad because you get my journal pages too. Enjoy them!
Long Shimai

Monday, November 26, 2012

Best Missionaries Ever

Brittany in Tokyo and Tanner in Chile

Holidays in Japan 2012

Nov. 26, 2012

Hi family!
I'm glad you all had a fun cruise! Looking at all those photos was torture! I'm glad you still got to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home. Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays, so I missed having all the family around! We still got a lovely dinner though; a half-American family here invited us and eight other missionaries over. We had all the traditional foods (minus my favourite green bean casserole) and had a really great time.
In my president's letter this week I talked a little about the cool teaching experiences we've been having, so I thought I'd share with you:
We had a great week! We received a referral from a member and were able to teach together today! I really had my testimony strengthened of how powerful member missionary work is. The girl we taught was able to have a friend she trusted teach and bear testimony of why the gospel is important in every day life. She wants to get baptized, and we may have to refer her to another area, but she is so prepared! She accepted Joseph Smith's testimony right away and is so excited to learn more. Christmas miracle!
Another miracle we had was yesterday we met someone on the street while biking, and she said she didn't believe in God, but when we talked about our church she thought it was really unique among Christian churches and decided to come. And she did! She didn't show up until Relief Society, but it was a great lesson and she wants to meet again.
Lately I'm learning about how important the unique message of the Restoration is. We just started teaching a Christian obachan (grandma) every Sunday night about the Book of Mormon, and she thought it was just okay---she said she'd heard Jesus' teachings many times before so it was nothing new. BUT we taught her tonight about how our message is special; the Book of Mormon is evidence of the Restoration of Christ's only perfect church. She was really impressed by that and promised to read and pray to know if what we teach is true.
We're working hard to strengthen our investigators' faith in Christ. Already the gospel is changing their lives! We'll keep working diligently to be part of the Christmas miracle!
Even though the Nihonjin aren't Christian, Christmas is still a huge deal in this country because of all the commerical possibilities! All the stores are decked out and it's a really fun atmosphere. BUT of course Christmas is all about the Saviour. As a mission, we want it to be a white Christmas; we want to see as many people as possible in baptismal and temple clothes, so we're working hard. All the missionaries watched the video below and are working on what we want to give the Saviour for Christmas. It's helping us strengthen our faith and be more dedicated to the work.
I want you all to watch it too and do the same thing. The Saviour did everything for you. What can you give to Him?
I love you all! You're the best! Have a great week!
Long Shimai

Nov 3-Nov 8, 2012 comics