Happy New Year family!
Remember last week when I told you how to say "Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu" ? Well. Yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, every speaker who got to the pulpit started with "Happy New Year" and because this is Japan the entire congregation said it back every time (more like a general murmur, not like the ALOOOOOOHA! you might be picturing). The mutual greeting thing is HUGE here, especially around such a big holiday like New Year's. I think it's almost obligatory to repeat it back to someone. For example, when we were housing just for a change of pace I started talking with a big friendly "Happy New Year!" The man at the door wasn't interested, but he let me finish introducing myself, said "Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu" back before promptly telling me to go away. I love Japan.
Another funny thing from sacrament meeting: Sho, a Chinese college student who was recently baptized, got to pass the sacrament for the first time today and he was great. Then the bishop asked him to say the closing prayer and he included, "Dear Heavenly Father, We're grateful that we got to eat such delicious bread together even though we're all fasting." I LOVE recent converts. They have a lot of faith because they're changing their whole lives around for the gospel, and in return they get so many blessings.
Let's see...the other thing I wanted to talk about this week was Naoko! She's a woman in her early thirties we're working with who lives in a town not far from Kichijoji, and she helps her parents run a bakery. We've become such good friends over the past few weeks (and her bread is to die for!). She loves English and wants to visit America, so I hope it's okay that I offered to let her stay at our house when she stops by Las Vegas! She really doesn't want me to leave Japan and offered to let me stay with her for a summer and help run the bakery. What do you say, Lacey, want to come to Tokyo and learn how to make bread and pastries? :D
But anyway, the reason I wanted to talk about Naoko was because I had a really cool experience with her this week. She loves missionaries and has been to church before but never really saw it as fitting her lifestyle. This week when we visited, she talked a lot about a personal problem she's dealing with, and because she really trusts us as friends she asked for our advice. I could have talked about worldly solutions to her problem, but instead I brought up prayer and asking God, who's the smartest person in the world and who loves her, what He thinks the best course of action is. She was skeptical at first, of course, but I shared an experience about when I prayed to know which college to go to, and how through good feelings in my heart I was able to know which one was right. Her interest was piqued and so I pulled out a pamphlet from my purse explaining about prayer and went over it with her. She was conflicted; she wanted answers, and she really hoped she would get them, but she wasn't sure what would happen if she tried---but she trusted me and knew I cared about her.
I wanted to share the experience because I feel like it's a natural way to do missionary work in your normal lives at home. You all have so many friends who may or may not know you're a member of the church, but they do know there's a difference about you. When you share simple things like why you go to church, or what you do when you struggle with problems, they'll listen. Sharing the gospel isn't about wearing a badge and knocking on doors; it's just telling your friends what you're doing to be happier and how they can be too.
I've probably gone over time, but I hope you're all doing well and getting back into the swing of things! I love and pray for you!