Monday, July 30, 2012

Comics July 17-22 New Companion!

Letter July 30, 2012

Hi family! Sounds like you're busy as ever. So are WE! Mano Shimai is always pushing our companionship to go faster, talk to more people, and work harder. It wears me out, but I'm glad to have a companion who senses the urgency of the work. She is so great with members and we've started doing all sorts of fun sister missionary things like delivering cards and cupcakes and flowers to leaders in the ward. Working with church members is her favourite type of work, and I can see why; it's the most effective. Did I ever tell you that statistic? About 1 out of every 4000 people contacted on the street will be baptized, but if a person is introduced to the church by a friend chances are 1 in 8. Wow!
This week wasn't too exciting (other than what you'll see in my journal pages later) so I'll talk to you about FOOD (again)! I always get a kick out of Japanese grocery stores. They are NOTHING like that international market we go to in Las Vegas. The place is absolutely slick and clean, everything is colourful and organized, the staff all wear adorable uniforms, and there's cheerful European music playing in the background. The only thing to disrupt the serenity of the shopping experience is that every few feet there are tv screens advertising products or showing recipes in typical enthusiastic Japanese style. Food in general is more expensive in Japan, especially fruit, but it feels good every now and then to splurge on yellow kiwis (I don't think they have these in America) or green beans. One of these days I'll have to go into a supermarket and just take photos of everything for you!
Sorry this email is a bit short for now, but I'm sure you're getting plenty of MTC stories from Tanner. Wait until he sees what missionary life is REALLY like! It's going to be SO different from Japanese work, that's for sure.
Well, I love you all! Take care!
Long Shimai

Monday, July 23, 2012

Transfer 3 with new companion in Matsudo!

Hi family,
I hope everyone has had a good week! Summer is in full swing in Japan and I'm lucky I haven't melted yet. I survive mostly on two drinks called POCARI SWEAT and CALPIS. Pocari Sweat is sort of like Crystal Light, and Calpis is a sweet milky water that is way more delicious than it sounds. I wonder if Asian markets (or even regular ones) would have them in America?
Doing missionary work with my new companion Mano Shimai is so FUN! She has a lively little personality, but what makes it fun is she has such a great attitude about the people. Even if conversations with these crazy people go horribly awry she always has something positive to say about them. I'm going to get out of the habit of complaining quick this transfer. Mano Shimai also is always coming up with fun little games or conversation topics in between talking to people or ringing doorbells. She's helping me be a better missionary towards the Japanese people, which is important, but she's also teaching me how to be a fun companion. I'm taking good notes so the rest of my mission can be this enjoyable. It's still tough, and it's frustrating when the people here don't think they need the gospel, but my great companion keeps me motivated to keep working and just love everybody.
Two highlights from this week:
1. Teaching Yoshida-san. She's an eighty-year-old woman whose husband died recently, and she's the neighbor of a church member who invited us over. We were expecting to just listen to her vent about how sad and lonely she is now, but instead she pulled out a notepad and said, "Okay, tell me all about your church!" びくりしました!It was so sweet teaching her the plan of salvation and saying, "This is where your husband is right now! He's learning all about Jesus too and he's waiting for you. One day you're going to be reunited, and if you follow God's plan you can live together with each other forever." People on this side of the world have never heard anything like that. They need to know the doctrine that death isn't the end of our loved ones. It really strengthened my testimony of eternal families to be able to teach her about it. She was so funny too---I was the first American she'd ever talked to, and she kept worrying that my feet would fall off from sitting on the floor. She also worried about me riding a bike, sleeping on a futon, and eating Japanese food. Bless her heart. My companion is American too but since she has a Japanese face she didn't warrant much concern.
2. A member took us out to dinner for a less-active member's birthday and we went to a "tabehodai" restaurant, which is basically all-you-can-eat bread! During our three-course dinner, waitresses kept bringing around plates of at least a dozen different varieties of bread and rolls. There were normal things like sourdough and croissants, savory breads like onion and garlic, sweet orange and cinnamon rolls, and then some unusual ones made from Japanese herbs, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. All SUPER delicious. Bread is, by far, my favourite food to eat in Japan. Even though it's not originally Japanese food, they have perfected the art, I can assure you!
Are you guys doing anything fun in Utah for the 24th or are you all too busy? It sounds like you're having a great summer!
Keep praying for me to learn Japanese, because I need all the help I can get. Thank you for your support everyone!
~Long Shimai
P.S. If anyone has been wanting to send me a present, I could always use more sketchbooks! I brought two with me from America that will last another month or so, and I haven't found one yet in Japan that I like much. I've heard the cheapest way to send packages to missionaries is to order it on and select the mission home as the shipping address. There's an Amazon warehouse in Sapporo Japan so it shouldn't cost much more than if you sent it within the United States. Pretty cool. I'm sending a picture of the kind of sketchbook I like if anyone wants to send me one! I love you!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Letter June 12, 2012 (sorry out of order on the blog)

Hi, family!
Another week has gone by in Matsudo...sometimes I feel like I'm starting to learn my way around the city, and other times I'm completely lost and wonder if I'll ever figure out Japan. House addresses are nigh impossible here! Houses aren't numbered in sequential order but in the order they were built, and in most places it's the blocks that have names instead of the streets. Some American missionaries have assured me that I'll get used to it one day, but who knows. At least our companionship cell phones have GPS!
Nothing exciting happened this week so I'll share an experience from last week: one recent convert we work with, Kiko-chan, is 18 and a college student. We see her often because we're teaching her mother and because she comes to all the church activities, including English class. She was baptized a few weeks before I came to Matsudo, but missionaries still teach recent converts the lesson again so I've gotten to know her well. She has such a thirst for the gospel and she has such a sweet testimony of the Saviour. It's a privilege to see her grow and learn more. Anyway, last Saturday she went with some other church members to the Tokyo temple to do baptisms for the dead. She came home late and had a ton of homework to do, so she slept in Sunday morning and missed church. On Monday morning, P-day, she called us and asked us if we could go over to the church and open it for her; she felt really bad about missing sacrament meeting the day before and just wanted to "see the church."
I really didn't want to go. This was my P-day, my personal time, and she could see the church from the outside, couldn't she? My companion insisted, though, so we walked over and let Kiko-chan inside the church. We had a short lesson about doing temple work for the dead and talked about the importance of what she did in the temple and how she felt there. Kiko said she was nervous but the temple was so pretty and she can't wait to go back. After, we talked about her Book of Mormon study. It's difficult to read (all the Nihonjin say that), but she likes it. We showed her some of the highlighting and marking techniques we use to help us learn and she really enjoyed that. She even wanted an English copy of the Book of Mormon to help her study (her college major is English).
At this point, I was ready to call it good and move on with the day. P-days always go by so quickly because we have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in; I wanted to hurry up and do the grocery shopping. Kiko-chan, however, wanted to know if she could sit in the chapel for a bit and pray. I played hymns on the beautiful grand piano in the chapel and another hour went by. It wasn't long before I felt ashamed at feeling rushed to move on with my life and fulfill my own needs. Kiko-chan is a busy college student; she could have been studying or shopping or out with friends, but instead she sought the missionaries and special time to commune with God. At 18 years old, Kiko-chan is such an example to me of righteous living! She's only been a member a few short months, but her desire to follow the Saviour is completely changing her life. She's brought two friends to church with her already, and because of her example her mother will be baptized the first week of next month. She told everyone at English class that she can't wait to be a missionary herself, and she is a friend to everyone in the ward. Even though I didn't help Kiko get baptized, I feel such a warm fondness for her because she was one of my first friends in Matsudo.
Kiko-chan is what we missionaries call a "kinjin," or a golden convert. She is an example of how the Japanese can accept the gospel of Christ and let it change them from the inside out. Kiko wasn't a bad kid by any means before her baptism, but through her conversion she is gaining so much purpose and hope in her life. What a blessing it is for her to start off her life as a young adult following the Saviour and keeping His commandments!
Even though missionary life is rough and ever day I wish I had a different companion, when I think about Kiko-chan I have hope for the work I can do here. If I can buck up and focus on the people's needs instead of my own, I can help others love the Saviour just as much as Kiko and I do.
I'm glad to hear about the fun activities everyone is doing at home, and I love hearing about your experiences with doing what's right and keeping an eternal perspective! I'm working hard for all of you!
Love you,
Long Shimai

Comics July 5-11th, 2012

July 16th Letter New Companion!

Hi, family!
Wow, it sounds like the busy Long summer is still at full speed! I hope Mum and Dad are feeling better from their wild adventures in Hawaii. I'm glad you get to taste some Japanese culture there! Hawaii is actually SUPER popular in Japan. A ton of people go there on vacation, and almost all the married members in Matsudo have been to BYU Hawaii.
The big news I have for this week is, of course, that I'm now no longer a "bean-chan" (Japanese missionary-speak for "Greenie"). Ohsugi Shimai got transferred and I'm staying in Matsudo with my new companion Sister Mano. She's full Japanese but lived in Salt Lake City her whole life, so she says she's as gaijin (foreigner) as they come! She's on transfer 8 or so and very good at Japanese. I went proselyting with her yesterday after she moved in and she's such an awesome missionary! She relates with the people here so well, and she has a great attitude. She laughs and smiles all the time. We set a transfer goal to have a lot of fun and see a lot of miracles. I'm very excited.
Lots of family members keep emailing me about my Japanese...I don't know how I would "rate" it, but I'm feeling okay. From what I've been told, I'm quite good for only having been in Japan for two transfers. However, that doesn't make me feel much better when people have conversations around me and I only catch 5 words. I have to remind myself every day to be patient! It will come as I work hard and love the people here (working on that and getting better). When people compliment my Japanese, I always tell them that it's because of all my family praying for me at home. Here's something funny: people tell me I have a "pretty" accent. I don't sound much like an American speaking Japanese but I don't sound like a native either (though I try to immitate them as much as I can). I wonder if learning French has anything to do with it?
The photo I'm sending this week is from another big dinner party ("shokujikai") at the Ishijima family's house. We had a big goodbye party for the two Japanese missionaries transferring out. There are a few nonmembers, including a foreign exchange student from Sweden, but most of the people are our friends in Matsudo ward. My last companion was in Matsudo half her mission, so lots of people at dinner and at church came up to say goodbye. It made me more motivated to be a better missionary so that I get that kind of farewell too! I love the members here, but sometimes it's hard to build good relationships with them because of the language. It's not easy to get to know someone when you spend most of the time going, "Huh? What was that? One more time? Eh, nevermind..."
I hope Tanner's doing great in the MTC. Well, I know he's doing great! The first week there is a shock because as much as you can prepare for a mission, you're always surprised to see what being a missionary is actually like. It will be the same kind of readjustment when you actually get to Chile but will last much longer! Everyone here in Tokyo says the first two transfers are the hardest and then it gets fun; I hope so!
Love you all---keep up your missionary efforts and try harder. This gospel is so important and the work is urgent! You're the best!
Sister Long

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Letter home June 24, 2012 Matsudo

Hi family,
Before I forget, happy birthday Mum (and Trina!). It will be July before I get to write you next, so I hope you have a very happy birthday! Isn't it fun to be 29? It sure was fun to hear about your trip to New York! Wow, you did a lot of stuff! (But of course I'm not surprised, since Mum and Trina were in charge of the scheduling). I remember visiting on the church history tour and of course we only got to see a few things, but I remember it being a busy and beautiful place (well, beautfy is in the eye of the beholder). It's probably a lot like Japan: people rushing everywhere, huge buildings, colourful lights, and even some lovely greenery. Japan is gorgeous, in case anyone didn't know already! I'm excited for all of you to come back with me one day because it's awesome. I hesitate to bombard you with photos because there are so many better ones on the internet (not that I take many photos anyway), so take some time this week to google Japanese scenery! It's the best.
This week I had a cool experience talking about my ancestors (by the way, good luck on your geneology missionary work Dad! That's so cool!). In Japan since there are so few members it's kind of a big deal to talk with other members about how many generations of your family have been in the church. Most are second-generation members, a few are third, and there are a LOT of converts. Anyway, we went to dinner with a potential investigator and were showing our family photos. Ohsugi Shimai is a second-generation member of the church, and I had to stop and think what I am. I realized the number is probably pretty large! I told my companion and the investigator (who, surprisingly, is very familiar with LDS history) that I have ancestors who were members of the church while the D&C was still being printed and who came as pioneers to Utah. They were VERY impressed by that. I guess I'd always taken it for granted to have so many family members as part of the gospel, so talking with them about it was a real eye-opener for me. I'm so lucky and thankful to have a strong family and pioneer heritage! It makes me want to learn more about them when I get home.
The next thing I have to talk about is our mission president! President Albrecht is being replaced this week with a brand-new one! Everyone is a little nervous about what the new president will be like, but it's exciting too. We know he is called of God and will help us do great things in Japan. Anyway, this week we had a goodbye conference (i.e. party) for President Albrecht and someone decided it would be a genius idea to try to fit all 200 of us missionaries into one photo! Somehow we managed to do it, too! The Tokyo mission is the biggest in Asia (something like 180 missionaries and 30 senior couples) and THE pilot mission for technology (we're the only mission in the world with laptops, how cool is that?). So I wanted to send you one of the photos from the conference! Trying to find me in there is like a Where's Waldo game, but good luck! Tokyo mission is the best!
Next I want to share a cool find from my personal study. It's about qualifying to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost:
"According to Elder Bednar, the standard is clear. If something we 1) think, 2) see, 3) hear, or 4) do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. The Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest. We need to 'let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly; then shall our confidence wax strong in the presence of God...the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion and our scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth' (D&C 121:45-46). We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives through meaningful prayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent and exact obedience, faithfulness and honoring of convenants, and through virtue, humility, and service. And by steadfastly avoiding things that are immodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost. We also invite the ongoing companionship of the Holy Ghost as we worthily partake of the sacrament each Sabbath Day." (Elder Bednar quoted from the May Liahona 2006).
The companionship of the Holy Ghost is SO important, you guys! As a missionary, I get to see how much it affects people's lives. When we tell investigators that they can have a member of the Godhead to be with them, to give them peace and direction, and to help them learn, they are so excited to be baptized just so they can qualify the gift of the Holy Ghost. Holding that to be true, how tragic is it that each of us could qualify for those blessings but instead we choose to watch stupid movies or listen to music that drives God's Spirit away? I think sometimes we take the gift of the Holy Ghost for granted. Joseph Smith, when asked about how this church differed from other churches, said that we have the authority to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, and everything else about the church is second to that. Think about that! If you aren't trying hard to invite the Holy Ghost to be with you, you are really missing out! I can tell you as a missionary that the Spirit is so helpful and so wonderful. I couldn't teach without His influence and I definitely couldn't survive in Japan without that peace.
I love you guys! Ganbatte kudasai!(Work hard and good luck!)
Sister Long
P.S. I am still WAITING to hear from my favourite sisters---it's been way to long! And my dear brothers need to write me too! I could really use some of your humor, beloved family! Love ya ~
P.S.S. Here are a few more things I drew this week! I'm sending copies to my college friends serving missions in Korea, the Phillippines, and other parts of Japan. Missionaries rock!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Brittany's 1st Baptism!!!

Hi, family! I don't remember if I told you or not, but every 6th week all the missionaries get to go to the temple. It's closed on Monday, of course, so once a transfer we have P-day on Tuesday instead. If you were worried, don't panic! But if you were asleep when it's time for me to email anyway, then no problem.
Thank you to EVERYONE who emailed me this week! I love, love, love hearing all your spiritual moments and scripture study, and it's also very fun to hear about all your crazy summer activities. Tell Lacey that being busy doesn't get her off the hook from emailing me! I haven't heard from her or Bridgette in months!
The big news from Matsudo this week is that we had a baptism! It's technically my first baptism in the field but I'm hesitant to call it that since I didn't actually do much. Wakana Shimai is deaf and never understood me so my part of the teaching pretty much amounted to pointing to places in the pamphlets and scriptures for her to read. Oh and I sent her an email a few times. But anyway! Her service was on Sunday morning and it was phenomenal. Even I felt the Spirit and I had no idea what was being said. It's so exciting for investigators to get baptized! Sometimes we concentrate so much on getting them into the water and up onto the pulpit that we forget baptism is just the beginning---they still have many lessons for us to teach them (the ward members help), we want to prepare them for the temple, and our ultimate goal is to see them active their whole lives. It's so cool to be a tiny part of that experience! Wakana Shimai was really nervous but having her daughter there (she was baptized in April) was really wonderful. Enjoy the photo. Ignore the fact that I always look terrible in pictures. I've actually lost over 2 kilos this transfer and I feel great. It's all the biking and walking I guess, and Tanner would be proud of my biceps from doing push-ups every morning. I've heard that it's really common for people in Japan to lose a lot of weight during the summer; it's so hot that people just don't want to eat. This week it's been REALLY hot and muggy, and people keep telling me it will only get worse! I guess I should be used to it after growing up in Las Vegas, but the humidity here is killer.
So Tokyo Mission got a new mission president! President Budge. He's quite young, 50 or so I think, and he's super awesome of course. He served a mission in Japan and has lived here for many years since. We had a zone meeting this week where he presented his vision for the mission and got us all fired up to "take it to the next level." What really endeared me to him was hearing that near the beginning of his mission he had a lot of experiences similar to mine (well, I guess most people do). During our interview we talked about how rough it is to have a native trainer, and instead of lecturing me on all the lessons I could learn about patience and love, he just thanked me for my effort, told me to stick with it, and promised it would get better. He told me to remember the three P's of dealing with difficult people: 1) it's not permanent, 2) it's not personal, and 3) it's not pervasive (i.e. just because this one aspect of your life is hard, that doesn't mean you're entirely a failure). That helped me a lot. Transfer calls come on Friday! I'll probably stay in Matsudo and get a new companion, but I won't know for sure until then.
I have a request from Mum: can you send me that bread-egg-souffle-thing recipe you have? Lately the members have been giving us a ton of bread and I'm getting bored of cinnamon toast! Any other good recipes I should try? One thing I really miss about not having free internet access is not being able to Google recipes when I want them! So it's either stick with the basics or wing it and end up eating something not very delicious.
Questions from Mum: that sushi dinner we ate last week (two weeks ago?) was about 1500 yen each (around twenty dollars). When we eat in restaurants we typically spend between 700 and 1200 yen. That's a bit less than the amount I spend on a week's worth of groceries! We don't eat out very often, usually only on social occasions, and although I've heard of Tokyo missionaries buying convenience store meals almost daily, we buy only ice cream and rarely. I guess because we don't have many investigators we have more time to cook cheaper meals at home. I love cooking though, so I don't mind, and I usually eat quickly so I can work on my comics. My stomach is doing okay. I feel mostly fine when I'm careful, but I've learned that in addition to meat some foods that cause me trouble are tomatoes, cheese, and chocolate (nooooooo!). My doctor warned me about that so it's not a shock but it's still not pleasant. Stupid ulcer-or-whatever-the-MTC-gave-me. I'm getting slightly better all the time though, so hopefully before long I'll be able to eat like normal again.
Sorry this week's email is kind of boring! (I'll have more next week when I have a new companion and/or area.) I guess nothing can compare to the excitement of Tanner leaving for two years! It sounds like his farewell and open house were really fun. That's cool that you met a returned Tokyo missionary! I'm surprised to hear he knew me because I don't remember him at all. Treat your ward's missionaries nicely and just love 'em, because that's what they really appreciate!
Thanks for all you do, family. You're the best! Good luck with all your crazy summer activities!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1st addendum note from Brittany

I forgot to write this in my big email, but the third photo was of the "Thank You" cards I make for Matsudo Ward members. Even though I can't speak much Japanese yet, I still want to let them know I love them, so my specialty has become hand-made thanks cards. I make variations of the panda one most often but I do other things too. People really appreciate handmade cards---I've seen more than one taped to a fridge when we've visited their house later! Plus I get to use my talents for good. It's the best!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy some more of my journal! Thank you very much for your support and encouragement as I plug away at these! It occured to me this week that in the two minutes or so it takes you guys to read one page, I've not only lived that entire day but I've spent another hour or two writing and drawing about it. Puts it into perspective for me, I guess; five months doesn't seem like a lot until I go back and see I've got an entire sketchbook and a half of days. I'm really excited to share it all when I get back. (Matter of fact, on my absolute worst days, that's one of the reasons that keeps me from going home---who wants to publish a book of a missionary who wimped out?)
Love you, miss you!
Long Shimai

Sushi for Brittany!

Official 1st Sushi in Japan

July 1st letter from Brittany

Only two more weeks in this transfer, and I'm now a five-month missionary. Wow! 早い!
Thank you for sending me all the fun photos!!! It really is fun to see all you guys playing out at the lake and in New York and all over the place. I miss the lake! Can you believe I'll be home at the end of next summer just in time for peak Lake Meade season? I can't believe it. Also thanks for forwarding me the sweet note from Tyler! He cracks me up. (Everytime I say that, I sound like Mum, don't I?) And it was fun to see the photo of Matt and his growing family, wow! I bet Grandma's happy to have another great-grand-baby coming!
To answer a question, the scripture I wanted for my plaque is D&C 31:3: "Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come; and your tongue shall be loosed, and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation." As I've been re-reading the D&C, I've noticed a LOT of the sections are personal revelation to missionaries in the early days of the church. I especially like this verse because I waited so long to go on a mission and my mission time finally arrived! I definitely needed the comfort and assurance that my "tongue would be loosed" to learn such a backwards language. All your prayers at home must be paying off, though, because people tell me all the time how impressed they are by my Japanese, especially older missionaries who have their own experiences to compare it too. I'm so thankful to have a faithful family rooting for me at home and sending up extra prayers for me to "declare glad tidings of great joy" to the people of Japan. Thank you!
I've got a fun photo for you this week; it was Ohsugi Shimai's birthday on Tuesday so a member took us out to a fancy sushi restaurant. I was all, "Oh, I'll just choose something safe like noodles" but SURPRISE it was the type of fancy restaurant where you book a private room and order everything in advance! To my great delight, none of the sushi the member ordered for me had seaweed on it so it was at least palatable. It wasn't too bad, especially because it was high quality stuff, but I just don't like the taste or texture of raw fish. (All the missionaries keep telling me that will change soon enough). I took a photo of the entire array I was served because I knew Lacey would enjoy the plating! Starting at the upper left and going clockwise, that's 1) green salad with a scoop of really good potato salad, 2) some sort of kelpy mush in vinegar with raw okra on top (I didn't like this), 3) in the white pot is a savory egg-custard thing with shrimp and pork at the bottom, 4) cold udon noodles with greenery and cold bacon (there's a bunch of ice in the bowl underneath), 5) sesame dressing-ish dipping sauce for the noodles, 6) four kinds of fish and eggplant sushi plus pickled ginger, 7) honey-mustard ham plus a deep fried ball of mushy dough, and 8) pumpkin pudding floating in some weird broth (NOT mango as I thought it might be). The only thing that actually made me gag was the pumpkin thing, which surprised me because I like pumpkin, but this pudding had all the wrong flavors and a horrible texture. But anyway, the church member wanted to take a photo of me eating my first sushi in Japan! Ignore my awful hair and pasty complexion---it's rainy season.
I hope everyone's excited for Tanner to go to the MTC! It's July....11th or somewhereabouts yes? Is he there for the full nine weeks or on the five-week Spanish pilot program? (Not like he needs much anyway because he's taken like fluent already). I'm sure you will all get lots of awesome blessings for having TWO full-time missionaries out in the world! As much as I gripe and complain about what I have to do as a missionary, it really is an amazing opportunity to share the gospel and help people change their lives. As a side bonus, my life gets changed along the way. All the things I complain about are helping to make me better.
My spiritual message for you this week is about the Holy Ghost again. Now, I'm sure you remember President Monson talking about how he always responds to spiritual promptings immediately because he's learned from many experiences how important it is. A lot of other general authorities have talked about this too---letting the Lord know that if He needs a servant, they are willing and will immediately act. I have my own story to add to the host of others: every week, as a companionship we have weekly planning where we discuss the next week's activities, who we will focus on, and how we will meet our goals. A few weeks ago, Ohsugi Shimai was showing me the ward map and mentioned a Nagasawa Shimai who lives way off in the corner of the map. Nagasawa Shimai is married to a man who opposes the church, but she comes faithfully and even makes the bread for sacrament every week. Lately we've been visiting a lot of women in the ward, so I suggested we put Nagasawa Shimai on the list for that week. Because we would need to visit when her husband wasn't home, we planned to schedule a time at church that Sunday, but other things became more important and we didn't go. The next weekly planning I still felt like we should visit her, but again an entire week went by and she didn't make in into our plans. And so on for another week. Finally, at church yesterday, I actually met her. I recognized her photo from our area book because she was up on the stand playing the organ. Even though I was supposed to show our investigator to Sunday school, after sacrament meeting I made a bee-line for the organ and, in my simple Japanese, introduced myself and asked Nagasawa Shimai when we could visit. She was SO happy to meet me! Her exact words were, in English even, "I've been waiting for you! Please come to my house!" This dear sister, having who-knows-what kind of problems in her home, needed the comfort and friendship she knew would come from the missionaries. Weeks ago I felt that I should respond to her need but I didn't make it a priority; she was stuck waiting. This experience really taught me a lesson; what good is it for us missionaries to pray for spiritual guidance if, when we receive it, we ignore it and do something else? Like President Monson and others who have had similar experiences, I feel like I never want to ignore a spiritual feeling again. I want the Lord to be able to count on me to respond immediately, even if I'm busy with other things. Elder Bednar has taught: don't worry whether it's an actual prompting or not; if it is a good thing, just do it and soon! We don't always know when someone else needs help, but the Lord does; we need to pay attention to what He tells us.
Thank you for all your support, family! I'm glad you're having so much fun, especially with family and church activities. I hope Joy gets better and my fish stays alive at home, and of course I know Friday's the best cat ever. You're a great family and I love showing all your photos to people we meet. Until next week!
Ai shite imasu!
Long Shimai

Father's Day post June 17, 2012

Hi family,
It's Monday afternoon here but I think it's still Sunday in Las Vegas, right? Yesterday before church I was thinking about Dad and I made myself a huge pancake and egg and hashbrown breakfast. My breakfast-time cooking definitely isn't as good as Dad's, but it was nice to have a taste of home! I realized one of my best memories of Dad is him getting up early on Sunday mornings to make us heart and snowman pancakes. You kids better appreciate it while you can! Love you, Dad! Thank you for your uplifting emails, for your work in the temple, and for your help in the ward. You're the best!
You'll here about my week from my journal pages later (I'm still sending them two weeks behind), so for my email I'll address some questions I've been getting from the extended family:
P-Days right now aren't really that special. From what I hear, a lot of other Tokyo missionaries go see cool sites like the zoo, Tokyo tower, the new SkyTree (tallest building in the world now I think?), shrines, and all that. My companion doesn't want to though so we pretty much just buy food and do laundry and that's our P-Day. It's nice to have extra time to write letters and relax, but it's hard being cooped up in the apartment all day. Thanks to all you returned missionaries for the lectures on getting along with my companion...Heavenly Father lectures me all the time too, and so does my mission president and so do my fellow missionaries. I guess "lecture" isn't the right word---more like "lovingly encourage." I'm still having a rough time but I'm relying more on the Lord to help me get along and be more tolerant. When I absolutely have had enough, I just have to remember I only have to do this for one more month before transfers!
We have plenty of American missionaries in my zone for me to talk to when I miss speaking English. Both my zone leaders and my district leader are all from Utah, and being around them is fun because sometimes I forget that missionaries are just goofy nineteen and twenty-year old boys! Most of them, though, have already been here a year or more so their Japanese is good, they love the work, and they have so much enthusiasm for the gospel. They're great examples to me and do so much to lift my spirits and help me learn.
I'm attaching to this email a few things I've drawn this week besides my journal. Remember back in the MTC (that was another lifetime ago!) when one of my friends drew some custom pass-along cards with superheroes on them and stuff? I drew some of my own and mailed them back. So that's fun. From this same friend I got the idea of using pictures as mneumonic devices to remember vocabulary words. Right now I'm working on lesson 4 (the commandments) so the pictures are really helping me remember! I'm going to send those to some of my fellow missionaries.
Well, it sounds like you all have a TON of cool activities planned for the summer! It sounds awesome! Every time you go to a bbq have some extra cold watermelon for me down in humid, rainy Tokyo! (Rainy season started this week and it is HOT.) I'll make sure to eat extra sesame seeds and ginger for you!
I love you lots so take care,
Long Shimai

Brittany's home made pass along cards comic style

Japanese Lesson by Brittany

Check out Brittany's name tag!

June 9th-June 17