Monday, September 24, 2012

September 8-16th Comic Diary

September 24, 2012

Hi family,
It sounds like you've had some exciting things going on this week! You guys sure are busy! Thanks for sending all the fun photos and forwarding Tanner's email. It makes me appreciate Tokyo a lot more when I compare my experience to cold showers and hot dogs every meal and living with 3 natives! I bet he's doing great though.
This week was hard for me, like usual, but thank you all for your encouragement! I really appreciate every bit of "Hang in there" and "Learn from this" because I need all the help I can get! One thing that's really helped is this week we got to hear from the Asia Area Seventy (first counselor I think?), his wife, and our mission presidency. The mission president's wife, Sister Budge, gave an AMAZING talk about studying our patriarchal blessings to gain counsel and insight. I wanted to share her study suggestions with you:
1. List specific gifts, talents, and tools, especially spiritual gifts. Which ones help you become a better missionary?
2. List counsel, warning, and anytime it says "Remember..."
3. List promised blessings.
4. Based on your blessing alone, who does the Lord tell you you are?
5. What is your role in your family?
6. What is your role in the Lord's kingdom?
7. What does your blessing teach you about your personal ministry?
8. What does the Lord tell you will help you reach your goals?
9. What doctrine are you taught?
10. What items are repeated?
11. Is there a theme?
12. What life events are foretold?
13. Are there patterns or formulas?
14. Can certain phrases be interpreted differently at different points in your life?
15. Pray to receive the Lord's interpretation of your blessing. It's okay to pester Him about yourself!
16. Pray to strive to fulfill the promises.
17. Memorize your blessing.
18. Treasure its words, ponder them, and live worthy of them.
Up until this week I'd read my blessing dozens of times but probably never actually STUDIED it. I learned so much! It really helped my blessing become personal scripture and trust more in the Lord's guidance, especially that first study suggestion. In my blessing, the Lord specifically lists my talents, and when I studied this week I noticed that every single talent listed can help me in my missionary work. It will help me with direction to focus on as I'm developing my skills here in Japan teaching these people, and of course all that I do will help me be a better person throughout my life. My blessing promises that too---that my mission will help me improve my character. So far I don't think it's worked much but maybe little by little I'll get Christlike by the end. You're right, Mum, I am struggling with my purpose here. Like, specifically, why Japan? Why Matsudo? I don't have the answer yet but I'm working diligently to find it. As we teach our investigators how to find answers to their own prayers, I learn a lot about how the Lord will answer mine, and it's the same way: scripture study, church attendance, and sincere prayer. Heavenly Father loves us and will answer.
I hope everyone has a great week! Stay out of trouble (ahem cough LACEY cough) and choose the right! Let's make it to the celestial kingdom together!
Lots of love,
Long Shimai

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Comics August 25-30th Matsudo

A Taste of Japan!

September 20, 2012

Hellooooooooo family,
Konnichiwa! I was really excited to hear about the new flooring in the house! I bet it looks way awesome. You guys work so hard.
I have some more photos for you this week, especially of food (as expected).
1. We met an Eikaiwa student to give her a tour of the church, and at the end she unexpectedly gave us some treats! I thought they were hilarious---each one is shaped like a little old Asian face. They're cake-like on the outside and on the inside there's anko (a slightly sweet bean paste). Giving storebought desserts to friends is way more common here than it is in America. The Japanese have a long history with giving fancy gifts.
2. One of the members of Matsudo ward runs a business in her home teaching housewives how to bake bread! We visited her this week, had a practice lesson, she fed us, and left us with some amazing homemade bread. Even storebought bread in Japan is SO GOOD. How many times have I emailed home about the bread now? Eight or nine? I really can't even describe it. It rivals the bread we ate in France.
3. There's a less-active member of the ward whose husband owns and runs a bento shop next to their home. Bento shops are like fast-food restaurants here in Matsudo (and probably most of Japan). They have a variety of lunches to choose from and the workers assemble it quickly. Typical bentos have a ton of rice, meat or fish, and pickled stuff. Anyway, we've been trying to visit the less-active sister every week this transfer but she's hardly ever home, so we usually buy bentos from her husband while we're there. This particular bento has rice with umeboshi (a sour pickled plum to preserve the rice, plus it's traditional), mystery pickled things (tasted okay), hamburg (basically like meatloaf), french fries, and spaghetti underneath the hamburg if you can believe that.
4. After a particularly itchy day, I took a photo of my mosquito-bitten pale legs! Also make sure to enjoy the fabulous tan line I'm developing on my feet. At least there's always purple nail polish.
5. I continue to use my drawing to do missionary work, one of the few things I can actually do well in Japan. Since our ward is so big, I spend a ton of time making birthday cards and thank you cards for members. I feel like in Japan there's an obligation to make my drawings extra cute-sy.
6. and 7. The long-awaited JAPANESE TOILET PICTURE! (This one is for you, Julianne.) This particular toilet is in our church building, but most look like this. You can probably understand now my apprehension to press any of the buttons. Not only can I not read any of the kanji, there are graphic icons that show what might happen. One of these days.
8. Mano Shimai and I went to take more purikura with one of our investigators! Her name is Noriko-chan and we probably won't be able to teach her much because her mom belongs to a different church, but she's way cute and loves God.
I hope everyone is doing great at home working hard, studying the scriptures, and building love. Tanner goes to South America like tomorrow right? That's crazy! I bet he'll be great.
Love you all~
Long Shimai

Monday, September 17, 2012

Brittany making Melon pan!

Comics September 1-8th, 2012

September in Matsudo

Hi family,
The house looks great! You guys sure work hard. I hope somebody cleans that fishtank before Christmas!
The two photos I'm sending are from learning how to make MELON PAN! It's a sweet bread that you can only find in Japan and all the Americans love it, so a ward member who runs a bakery taught us how to make it. We went with an investigator and it was way fun. Another highlight this week was getting an investigator and a less active to church! We work really hard throughout the week, but if we have someone sitting next to us in Sacrament meeting all the work seems worth it. Both of them really enjoyed it and will be coming back! Woohoo! Do you ever get bored in Sacrament meeting? Try imagining what the meeting is like for a Japanese person coming for the first time. I get to do that all the time as a missionary and it helps me feel the Spirit more when I think of all the significant things we do that a newcomer would ask questions about.
My spiritual thought for the week is one I had because of studying KANJI. I've written about this in my journal already, but kanji is way cool! (But tough.) One kanji I've been thinking about recently is 証. It's usually pronounced "akashi" or "shou" and it means "witness." This kanji is used when writing the word for a witness at a trial, but it's also the same kanji for "testimony." The most common place you can find it is on the Book of Mormon where it says "Another testament of Jesus Christ." イエスキリストについても一つの証。 We don't use the word "testament" all that much in everyday speech, but if you replace it with witness, it would say on the front of the Book of Mormon "Another witness of Jesus Christ." That is our message to the world. The Book of Mormon is all about Jesus Christ, His life, His teachings, and His gospel. When we read the Book of Mormon we can learn more about Jesus Christ and what He expects of us. Most importantly, the Book of Mormon in addition to the BIble supports our belief that Jesus Christ is Heavenly Father's Beloved Son, the Redeemer and Savior of the world. Through studying the Book of Mormon we draw closer to the Savior, increase our belief in His power, and deepen our understanding of the role He plays in our lives. The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of the reality of Christ's divinity and what that means for each of us. Here in Japan, where so few people are Christian, we promise people that reading the Book of Mormon will strengthen their knowledge and testimony of Christ. We rely on the Book of Mormon as our special tool for bringing others unto the restored gospel. It's a miracle that we have such an amazing book! I hope you all read from it every day, because you don't know how lucky you are to have your own copies in a language you can read. I talk about the Book of Mormon all the time but that's because I LOVE IT! I love getting people here to accept their own copy (and it's TOUGH, believe me) because I love the feeling of handing over something precious and hoping they will cherish it as much as I do.
I also have a funny bit of Japanese culture to share with you. The Japanese are all about honorific language, you know that, and one way they do that is by adding suffixes to people's names. "-san" is the most common, translating to Mr. or Ms. Another one is "-sama" which is a step-up in honor. We say "Kamisama" for God, "Iesusama" for Jesus, or "Ousama" for king. This week I learned that another quite common one in Japan is "Gagasama." As in Lady Gaga. Everybody reveres Gagasama here! Although I wonder how much different that actually is than from America.
Okay, family, keep working hard and doing your best with all the crazy stuff out in the world. You can do it! I love you!
Long Shimai 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comics August 18-24th

September in Matsudo

Hi family,
It's September already! When did that happen? I'm glad to hear you're all getting back into the routine of school and everything. My companion and I were talking about how we missed going back to school. She's going to grad school in New York next year and I'm not sure yet what the heck I want to do, so it was an interesting conversation!
I have some more fun food to talk about this week (as always). Probably the highlight was what I THOUGHT was a pizza miracle. I was having a really horrible day getting stressed out by missionary stuff, and then we had a break to do a role-play lesson with a single sister in the ward. It went well and she's a very sweet lady, and afterwards she fed us pizza for lunch! I'd been craving pizza for weeks, so to have one hand-delivered to me on such a bad day was a blessing. Or so I thought. Allow me to describe this pizza:
It was divided into four sections of toppings that went like this.
1. Pepperoni and hot dog
2. Canned corn and turkey
3. Potato gratin and tuna fish
4. Tomato and cuttlefish
Sometimes I really miss America.
But anyway, I got an email from Lacey asking for more photos of food, so here are some things I ate this week!
1. I don't have time to make bentos anymore, so on days when I need a quick lunch I'll usually just throw things in a bowl to try and keep portion control. This one has rice with sauce on it (the Japanese NEVER put sauce on rice), salad, ginger, and sweet potato.
2. My typical breakfast (i.e. almost every day) is cinnamon toast and plain yogurt or fruit.
3. On days I don't have toast I have American granola! In Japan we have a thing called "Fruits Basket" where members at church donate food storage stuff to the missionaries. Every once and a while a member goes to Costco and buys us granola! It is a delicious blessing, especially because it has fiber in it and Japanese food is quite fiber-low.
4. Something we eat very often is curry rice. It doesn't look that appetizing, but it's so good! You buy the stew stock and then add whatever meat or vegetables you want. This one I made with sweet potato, carrot, and pumpkin, but I've also had eggplant, green bean, and onion curry.
5. A member made us this very Japanese soba meal. In the summer, Nihonjin like to have cold buckwheat noodles which they dip in sauce mixed with green onion, raddish, and wasabi. I don't like it all that much, but Mano Shimai loves it. The member also served us tempura (batter-fried vegetables and shrimp) which was delicious.
Another question I got in emails was about Japanese economy. Honestly, I have no idea! Maybe I just don't have the vocabulary to talk about it, but it doesn't seem like people talk about economy or politics around me because I'm a missionary. Luckily I won't have to worry about it because we get our missionary money every month. Yay.
That's all I have time for, but I hope everyone is doing great! I'm so glad to hear about the Prestige debt blessing! That's awesome! And I'm glad you feel more at peace about Joy. I was thinking about her this morning listening to conference. I sure am glad for forever families. When I'm feeling like missionary work is hard and pointless here, I remember that all the millions of families here need to know how much God loves them and has provided a way for their relationships to last. Everyone needs to know that!
Thank you for all your support, family. I love ya!
Long Shimai