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!)
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!