Sunday, July 1, 2012

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

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