Sunday, March 31, 2013

3/19/13 Letter

Faaaaaaaamily hello! Thank you for all the fun emails! It sounds like you're having lots of fun! You know what, so am I. Well, today was hectic because we had our bi-monthly mommy-and-me English class (and you all remember how much I love babies), but then we got to go shoe shopping so that was good therapy. :D
We had another great week of missionary work in Kichijoji! Um...yeah, you can read about it in my journal coming up, but know that weather's been gorgeous, people have been hilarious, and I'm learning so much about the Spirit and service and touching people's hearts. We've had such a great transfer and been able to help so many Nihonjin. President hinted that I'm transferring out of Kichijoji next month, so I'm preparing Sister Grosland to take over and it's kind of bittersweet. I've seen so much growth since I came here back in October, but there are also a lot of people whose progress I won't get to see after I leave and that's a bummer. Grosland Shimai tells me one of the hardest things about missionary work is that you get to see a lot of beginnings of stories but not many endings. It's so true. We have no idea what will come of talking to people every day, teaching them English, helping them pray---we can just trust in God's plan for them and work our hardest. I feel so privileged to be a missionary right now! It's the best. I can't say it very eloquently, but yes. Missionary work is the best.
Sorry I don't have much longer of an email this week, but I hope you're all getting excited for General Conference in a few weeks! Every six months I take a while to ponder things I'm struggling with/wondering about, write them in my journal, and listen to Conference for the answers. I LOVE hearing the prophet and apostles speak directly from the Lord. My companion and I listen to old conference talks every morning and it has really strengthened my testimony in their authority and in their love for us. I hope you all take the challenge to "test" Conference and see what it can do for you!
I love you all the time!
Long Shimai

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Food in Japan

Okay, family, as requested (by Lacey): this week's email will be photos of everything I ate this week! Lots and lots of pictures, so only Mum is getting this email, but enjoy! Some food is very Japanese-y, other food is just me cooking at home, but I thought it'd be fun to get a look at a typical week in Long Shimai's mouth! That sentence should have sounded better...
1. A typical breakfast for me (i.e. I eat it almost every day) is cinnamon toast on white bread! I know, it has the nutritional value of cardboard, but my other options are corn flakes and rice, so...But yeah, there's some yogurt with yuzu (a variety of lemony fruit) jam and I always eat breakfast while reading Jesus the Christ. Hopefully I'll finish for a second time while I'm still in Japan!
2. You can't find good Mexican food anywhere in Japan so sometimes I make it! For lunch we had quesedillas with leftover rice, peppers, and cheese inside, plus salad for looks.
3. I do all the cooking here in Kichijoji H.Q. While I cook during lunchtime, Grosland Shimai usually surfs and reads me highlights.
4. This photo isn't all that interesting, but it's a cardboard tube of drinkable orange juice and it is TINY. Most things in Japan are either comically small or ridiculously big. Not many in-between sizes for some reason.
5. On Wednesday nights instead of going to the apartment for dinner, we usually buy bentos from the Seiyu (Wal-Mart) across from the church and eat before Eikaiwa. This week I chose some sort of noodle stir fry dish plus dango. Dango is balls of gooey rice dough with, in this case, teriyaki sauce, anko (red bean paste), and strawberry anko.
6. I LOVE making eggplant parmesean in Japan because1)  eggplants are plentiful and cheap 2) members give us tons of spaghetti and sauce 3) our toaster oven is much faster than a normal oven. Plus it helps Grosland Shimai get her veggies down!
7. This photo is awful because our kitchen light is broken right now, but we took leftover curry and mixed it with soba (noodles) for a quick dinner.
8. Another thing the members give us plenty of is hotcake mix! I rarely make pancakes because I want to use time in the morning to write in my journal, but every now and then the both of us crave pancakes.
9. Something the Japanese do that we don't really do in America is use separate dishes for each food item instead of piling it all on a plate. So: white rice, spicy veggie stir fry, and leftover macaroni salad we got from a member.
10. Another pretty typical Long Shimai lunch: vegetable soup (recipe: throw in all the random veggies we have in the fridge), white rice, and green salad.
11. This was a Sunday afternoon lunch. We came back to the apartment after church absolutely starving but with no food, and it involved me trying to improvise potato koroke (fried veggie balls) out of mashed potato mix. They turned out...not good, but we smothered them in okonamiyaki sauce (sort of ketchupy) and they tasted okay. Plus: the ever faithful cup-o-noodle!
12. Sunday dinner was also typical of every missionary in Japan: curry rice. All it really takes is potatoes and carrots and onions, and it's delicious.
13. This morning's breakfast was mochi! Mochi (gooey globs made from glutenous rice with the texture of gum and not much taste) is best fresh, but we also get a lot of the dry kind that comes in blocks. You boil it in water and usually eat it with soy sauce, but I like to add honey and butter so it tastes like a scone. According to Nihonjin, this is an abomination. I didn't like mochi when I first came to Japan, but it's growing on me.
14-15. Our ward mission leader took us and the elders out to yaki-niku (literally: grilled meat). Yes, your favourite college kid vegetarian went to an all-you-can-eat meat restaurant. It wasn't bad, at least until I watched a COW TONGUE get cooked in front of me and then ATE IT. I squealed and made a scene, of course, but then was informed that it was actually the second round of cow tongue and they just hadn't told me the first time. Typical. But anyway, what makes it a fun part of Japanese culture is that you cook everything yourself on a grill in the middle of the table.
16. Today we went to the park with our friend Yu-chan, and she made us bentos! We ate ongiri (rice balls), garlic chicken (in the foil), pumpkin, spicey noodles, and potato salad.
That's all I have time for this week, but keep an eye out next week for plenty of photos of the famous Japanese CHERRY BLOSSOMS!
I love you all, family! You're the best!
Long Shimai

Monday, March 11, 2013

Comics 17 Feb - 22 Feb. 2013

11 March 2013

Hi family!
I'm glad to hear you had a fun and busy week! I remember going to ton of those BYU dance shows and enjoying them. And I'm glad you heard from that random American member that showed up in Sacrament meeting! He had a really good time talking to us about his own service in Japan, and he tried to hug me once which was awkward, but he radiated love and enthusiasm for the work and the Japanese people. I actually meet a lot of members on a regular basis who served in Japan and have kept close contact with the country their whole lives. I love seeing that kind of life-changing perspective that missionary service brings.
And yes, Sister Grosland is a LOT shorter than I am! She is the only sister in the mission (possibly the country) to ride a child's bike instead of a mountain bike like everyone else. Right now I'm listening to her "listen" to a letter from her family. When her camera SD card fills, she sends it home, and then her family scrolls through the photos together and records their commentary to send in a tape back to her. They're a tight-knit family and she always talks lovingly about them. Her mom may or may not read my blog, so I promise she only says good things about them!
Thank you for the ADORABLE photos of Benjamin in his play! No need to harp on me for not sending enough photos home. I already know that I'm terrible! BUT, on the other hand, not every family gets hand-drawn comic pages of their missionary's life either. C:
Let's for Kichijoji this week, the weather was SUPER warm which was lovely for dendo-ing at the park, then we had a crazy Chinese dust sweep over Tokyo, and it's back to being cold again. But the famous Japanese plum trees have started flowering, and the cherry blossoms will be out in a few weeks according to locals. SO looking forward to that.
As for actual missionary work, here's a snippet from my letter to the mission president:Probably the highlight of my week was a church tour with Yuka. We've been teaching her since about November and although she really likes what we teach, she has three sons all involved in sports so has never been able to make it to a Sacrament meeting. We normally teach at her home, but last week we impressed upon her the significance of Sacrament meeting, so we at least were able to schedule a church tour as our next lesson. We invited a member with similar interests and the tour went so well. Yuka expressed how smart the organization of the church programs are, and we were able to testify that's because they are of God's design and not man's. Our member joint shared sweet experiences of baptism, Relief Society, and Primary, and we felt the Spirit through hymns and primary songs. We ended in the chapel and had a great discussion about the church. Recently we've been strongly urging Yuka to get baptized, but her family is devout Buddhist and she doesn't want to rupture relations with them. We invited her to pray about getting baptized but weeks went by and she hadn't. As we sat talking in the chapel about the Holy Ghost and how we feel so much peace in God's house, Yuka confided in us that she had indeed prayed about being baptized, and she felt like her answer was that for the time being family is more important. Although it wasn't the answer we wanted to hear, we were thrilled that Yuka turned to Heavenly Father in prayer and sought personal revelation. We don't know when she will have the courage to share her desire to join the church with her family, but we will keep strengthening her and preparing her heart. She is a wonderful mother and so very receptive to truth. She clearly recognizes the presence of the Holy Ghost in her life, so we will work hard and pray for when she will be able to accept the gift of the Holy Ghost through baptism.
So the lesson I learned is Heavenly Father answers prayers! I knew that, of course, but I felt much more deeply than ever that answered prayers are not exclusive to tithing-paying members of the church. Heavenly Father loves ALL of His children and will guide them when their time is right. Anyone can have faith and seek God in prayer. That's the lesson we teach to every person who hears the story about a 14-year-old boy who went into a grove of trees to pray.
That's all I have time for this week, but I love you all and pray for you daily! 皆さん頑張りましょう!(Let's all do our best!)
Love you,
Long Shimai

Comics Feb. 10-16, 2013

Comics Jan. 31-Feb 9, 2013

March 4, 2013

Hi family!
Congratulations on Tyler making volleyball, Lacey having successful school events, and Bridgette and Benjamin doing awesome in their shows! You all look like you're having a blast in your photos.
Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad! Is it 24 years now? I hope you have lots of fun getting exhausted by your six awesome children. I thought about you a lot recently, actually, because on Sunday our Gospel Principles class (for new members/investigators) was about eternal marriage. In an interesting turn of events, every person in the class was single, so the teacher asked us missionaries (the only non-converts with temple-sealed parents) to share what blessings we felt in our lives because of our parents' temple marriage. I talked a little about how you two helped make the temple a focus in our home growing up. Every month you would leave for a mysterious Session at the temple and return with delicious cinnamon rolls. You also always had beautiful pictures of the temple in our house, so growing up I had such a positive image of the temple and wanted to go there. When I finally could at twelve, and again at twenty-one, I got to share in how much you valued the temple and our family sealing there. So thank you for making eternal values a part of my life for the last twenty-two years!
We've continued to have some amazing miracles in Kichijoji this week. Grosland Shimai and I work together very well, and I feel like I'm doing everything as a missionary I'm supposed to. My study and language skills have improved a lot, so I'm focusing on how to be a better teacher and how to teach by the Spirit. The Lord is helping me every step of the way, and I feel Him really making up for my weaknesses. We have many people that we're working with and their faith is increasing steadily. It's such a blessing to see them learn how to communicate with their Creator and Father. I love being part of this work.
One thing that's helped my teaching skills a lot is consistently reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese for half an hour every day. It's been harder the last week or so because I've been in the quoted Isaiah chapters, but tackling such difficult scripture in such a difficult language is actually helping me learn new insights too. I have to spend more time figuring out what they mean, and it's been rewarding. For just one example, I was reading the famous scripture which in the English version says "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder." In Japanese, the reading is more like, "For us a child is born, for us a son is given, and the authority to be king/ right to lordship shall be upon his shoulder." Jesus Christ was given to the world for our sakes; He loves us and knows how to guide us. We worship Him as our Saviour and King. I'm so grateful for that knowledge. It helps me make decisions every day that lead to my happiness and peace of mind.
The most exciting part of the week was that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to Tokyo! He chose only one mission in Japan to visit with his wife, so the 180 or so of us got to have a private conference with an Apostle on Friday at the temple! We also heard from Elder Ringwood (Area Seventy in Asia) and his wife, who's actually one of Elder Nelson's daughters. Elder Nelson said he was very impressed with our level of preparation and worthiness as a mission, so instead of a prepared message he opened it up to a 90-minute question-and-answer session. It was such a choice experience. He helped our entire mission by teaching ways we can be more effective, touch more people, and be powerful ambassadors of the Lord. At the end he left his Apostalic blessing on each of us to return home in safety and continue missionary work the rest of our lives. I won't share all the details of what he said because it pertains mostly to missionaries, but he talked a lot about our responsibility as children of Ephraim to gather Israel in preparation for the second coming of Christ. He said many, many times "The Lord is hastening His work." All the new missionaries are just one manifestation of that, and he promised there will be many more.
My companion and I got to hear not just from two general authorities this week but FOUR! Elders Callister and Aoyagi (First Quorum of the Seventy) and their wives also spoke at a special conference in Kichijoji for all the stakes in our mission (nine). One interesting thing that happened was he asked each stake president and their wife to introduce themselves and how they joined the church. Eight out of nine mission presidents and their wives all joined the church between ages 15 and 22! They said they'd been traveling all the missions in Japan and the same results came up at every conference. The leadership of the church comes from those who are brought to the gospel when they're young and hold onto it their whole lives. That's true of anyone raised in the church who develops a solid testimony in their youth. We've been asked as missionaries to target young people because of their tendency to search for and accept truth.
Last, I want to share a story from Elder Callister's address to us on Saturday. He said there were two men who wanted to have a contest to see who could cut down the most trees. They entered a forest, and the first man worked non-stop from dawn until dusk, taking a break only to eat lunch, and he cut down 100 trees. The second man took a 10 minute break every hour during the whole day during which he entered a small cabin and came back out to resume work. At the end of the day, he had cut down 125 trees. The first man was baffled. He had worked much harder and much longer than the second man, so why did he cut down less trees? The second man replied, "I spent ten minutes every hour sharpening my axe."
Elder Callister talked about how vital it is to take time to prepare for the trials of the day, specifically by praying and reading our scriptures in the morning. He said morning prayer sets the tone for the day; we can talk to Heavenly Father about our goals and our needs, and we can begin the day with gratitude in our hearts. Regardless of the work we need to get done, if we make time for the Lord, He will help us use the rest of our time more effectively than we could on our own. I know that's true. As a missionary I have the blessed privilege of spending an hour every morning praying and studying the scriptures, and it helps me so much to focus and prepare. I hope everyone makes time in their lives for the things of eternal worth.
Thank you for all your emails this week! I love you and am working hard for you! Enjoy your warmer weather!
Long Shimai

Saturday, March 2, 2013

February 25th

Hi family,
Thank you for the emails this week! Mum sent some especially sweet mushy emails about how awesome I'm doing at missionary work. That's probably not true but thanks all the same :D
You probably all heard the news by now, but yes, there will be 58 new missions in the world by July, and one of them is right here in Tokyo! Our mission president just announced it to us this week. Nobody really knows the details yet, but our mission is splitting into Japan Tokyo and Japan Tokyo South, with six stakes in each one. We're getting tons of new missionaries this summer, mostly sisters, so it's going to be a really exciting time for missionaries! I'm not sure which mission I'll end up in; the only thing I'm worried about is my best friends---the other sisters!---getting separated in the last few months of our missions. The new mission president is Japanese, and he's actually the bishop of our current president's ward! So Tokyo will be in good hands! I'll let you more as I know more.
This week Kichijoji saw tons of miracles AGAIN! Our investigators are doing really well. The biggest problem we're encountering is hard-hearted husbands and fathers who won't let their wives get baptized, but our biggest asset has been prayer. Prayer is so fundamental to feeling peace, earning blessings, and receiving answers from God, all of which strengthen faith in God and in the restored gospel. I love love love listening to our investigators pray during lessons and hear about their experiences praying on their own. It's the best!
One investigator we've been working with, Oikawa Shimai, is progressing well right now after a rough spell since Christmas. She's been really thinking about joining the church, so she asked us to teach her about baptism and the Holy Ghost again. She's struggling to understand why baptism is necessary---shouldn't faith and repentance be enough? Although we talked to her about why we need to be baptized, what we focused on was the BLESSINGS that come from baptism, the number one of which is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It took some explaining, but eventually she understood what the difference is between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Anyone can feel the Holy Ghost during special spiritual times---while they're praying, or sitting in church, or listening to uplifting music---but when we stop those activities our feelings return to normal. However, after baptism when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost via authorized Priesthood holders, we're entitled to feel that peace and spiritual nourishment at any time: doing the dishes, playing with children, sitting at work, etc. As long as we're living worthy, we can feel the Holy Ghost always.
Oikawa Shimai understood the concept, but she expressed doubt in this way: "This is a rude question, but if all the members of your church have the gift of the Holy Ghost, why don't theyact like it?" That was an embarassing question to have to answer. We told her again that it depends on how much effort we put into seeking the Holy Ghost---that is, living in harmony with God's will. I returned her question with another question: "Of the church members you know, who do you think feels the Holy Ghost the most?" She then described a newlywed who teaches the Gospel Principles class. Oikawa Shimai said this member teaches her class with sincerity and love, and that she was always trying to be a good person. I was grateful for the example of that good sister who was living the gospel to help prove our point.
The experience made me think about all of us. From the outside perspective of someone not in our church, do we look like we have something special they don't have? Do we act like we're trying to invite the Spirit into our lives daily? Or are we making choices that make us seem just like everyone else? People are watching us a lot more than we think. So family: be good examples! Not only for the sakes of those nonmembers watching, but for yourselves. The more you seek the Holy Ghost's companionship---which has been promised to you, by the way, by the Creator of the universe---the more you will feel it in your lives and the more you'll be blessed. There's nothing sweeter.
I'm about out of time, but I hope you enjoy the comics for this week! I haven't taken any photos in forever, sorry :/ but I guess I just tell stories in a different way. Maybe next week?
Thank you so much for your support, love, emails, letters, and especially prayers! Please send your faith up to heaven for these special people in Japan! I'm praying for all of you too.
Love you lots! 
Long Shimai