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!