Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013 Letter From Britt!

Hi family! Thank you for all your fun emails and photos this week! It was especially fun to see Elder Stephen. I'll send him a letter soon, so hopefully it will get to him while he's still in the MTC! And I'm really looking forward to all those photos of ITALY! You must have had a blast!
This email has to be really short because we have to dash to a lesson at the church (we spent too much time picnic-ing and playing today), but Wylie Shimai and I had another great week in Kiryu! Send up your prayers for Ogiwara-san who is supposed to get baptized next Sunday (after only a month! Can you believe that?) and for us in general to strengthen this area. We've been seeing so much success and it's amazing! The Lord knew what He was doing when He let me have Wylie Shimai back (I didn't learn enough from her the first time). We're just terrified for next transfer when we'll probably be split up and training two or three new sisters each...Yikes.
I wrote Dad about the Mother's Day call, but I still don't know for sure when it will be so I'll email again next week with specifics. I'm excited to talk to everybody! Especially my dear SISTERS who haven't written me in forever! You should be more like Tyler, who writes me hilarious emails every single week about crazy stuff he's doing, like going to steampunk festivals. Oh, the things I'm missing.
This week I read in the Liahona about reviewing General Conference talks every week in family home evening. I thought that was a great idea! The families I read about didn't just re-read the talk, they discussed its principles and how they could apply it in their own home. That's not much of a spiritual message for you, but please make family home evening a priority! Like all the general authorities said this month, Satan is attacking families, and we have to build our defenses from the inside out. GOOOOOOO FAMILY!
I love you guys! Keep smiling and have lots of fun!
Long Shimai

Kiryu comics April 10-15, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Photos of Kiryu!

Letter April 22, 2013

Hi family,
Thank you for your emails! It was so fun to hear from everybody, especially BEN! I read his email out loud to Sister Wylie and she went, "Awwwwww!" I sure miss you guys. And I'm bummed I'm missing so many of your plays! I bet you are all superstars. It's so fun that you get to be involved in that. To Lacey I will say, "Otsukaresama desu!" What a trooper for sticking out the presidency! And I LOVED the photos of the Highland games. You guys are hilarious.
I have some photos for you this week thanks to Wylie Shimai!
1 - This is what our futons (beds) look like---basically a pile of blankets and sleepy missionary on a thin mattress. (This photo comes from a homework assignment from our zone leaders; for our first zone meeting each companionship was supposed to re-enact a movie. We chose "While You Were Sleeping." Nyark nyark nyark.)
2 - The two of us on sister exchanges with the sisters in Oizumi (Tokyo's Portuguese branch). The sister in front is actually Brazilian but grew up in Japan, and the other is a completely Japanese brand-new sister who knows no Portuguese at all! Fun times.
3 and 4 - Brother Fujinuma in Kiryu Ward is a less-active, but he's very lonely so we visited him this week for dinner with another member. Brother Fujinuma is a retired military man and he loves planes! He showed us his model kits and magazines and photos and fed us so much curry we about burst.
5 - An adorable text message from Ogiwara-san after we taught him the Plan of Salvation. We laid it out before him and he said, "You should show this to all the Japanese people! They only know heaven and hell, but this is a plan with so much more hope! These people need that!" (He said that in Japanese. His English is not very good but it's very endearing.)
6 - Neither of us have gotten any mail since we've been in Kiryu. Maybe we're just getting old, or maybe we're so far out in the middle of nowhere the postman can't find us!
7 - Kiryu is so windy that my bike gets knocked over all the time and my helmet has taken some nasty falls. You may not be able to tell if you haven't seen a missionary helmet, but the entire back chunk is missing and the left side is all skiddly-wompus. Fun times!
8 - Today we went out for lunch at the restaurant of a less-active's friend! I remarked to Wylie Shimai that I'm wearing this shirt in almost every photo I send home because it's unofficially my P-Day shirt. What we ate: katsudon (breaded and fried pork with onion and egg cooked in sugary soy sauce + served on rice), salad, miso soup, and the token Japanese pickly things.
9 - I wasn't actually present when Wylie Shimai ate this scary-looking thing, but who can resist a picture like that?
Missionary work in Kiryu this week has gone really well! We're busier than ever and teaching a lot of great people every chance we get. It's awesome! I'll let you read more about it in journal pages for the next few weeks.
The other bit of news I have is about change in the Tokyo mission. Recently church headquarters issued an announcement that because of the surge in sister missionaries new leadership positions are being created, namely Sister Training Leader, which is basically a zone leader position held by a sister. They join President's council, train at conferences, and reguarly exchange with sisters in nearby zones. The first ever sister training leaders in Japan Tokyo Mission history are none other than Wylie Shimai and Long Shimai! President didn't really have another choice because we're some of the only sisters not training, but we figure we're out in the countryside so we can't do too much damage. We have no idea what we're doing, so it should be fun!
I think that's all I have this week, but I love you all lots! Have a great week and talk to all your friends about the GOOD NEWS!
Take care,
Long Shimai

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 14, 2013

Hi family!
Thank you for the emails! I just got to watch conference this weekend and it was awesome hearing about the hastening of missionary work. You know what more missionaries means? Ordinary members have to work harder to find friends for the missionaries to teach! We have several great members here in Kiryu ward who are always inviting their friends to church and inviting them to meet with the missionaries. Almost every baptism in Kiryu in the last several years has been from member referrals. It's such a blessing to have an investigator's experience at church based on the friendship of a permanent member instead of on a missionary who might leave in a few weeks. Then missionaries get to spend more time doing our job as full-time teachers and less time hunting for the needle in a haystack so to speak.
Did I already write to you about the paradigm shift in Tokyo mission? Our mission president is talking to all the leadership in the stakes here about how the way we think about missionary work is changing with the hastening of the work. My favourite ones go like this:
Old way of thinking: Success in missionary work = baptism.
New way of thinking: Success in missionary work = inviting!
Old way: Member missionary work is hard, but it's a commandment.
New way: It's easy and natural to share what we love with people we love.
Old way: I'm too busy to share the gospel, but God will forgive me.
New way: God blesses busy people with more opportunities to share the gospel.
Old way: I don't have enough knowledge or skill to share the gospel.
New way: The Lord uses the weak and simple to do His work.
Old way: I can only invite my friends.
New way: We can invite anyone to hear the gospel.
Old way: Talking about church at work is bad.
New way: We can talk about church anywhere.
Old way: Using "Mormon vocabulary" in everday conversation (Young Women's, Priesthood meeting, Stake Center, etc) makes people uncomfortable so I shouldn't use it.
New way: Using Mormon vocabulary opens opportunities to share our beliefs.
Old way: I have the gospel so I need to help those who are less fortunate.
New way: We can mutually help each other to grow and strengthen our relationships.
Our mission president is spreading these statements around Tokyo to help build memers' confidence that they not only should do missionary work---they can! The prophets and apostles who spoke at General Conference made it very clear that we have a responsibility and privilege to assist in the gathering of Israel. Heavenly Father needs our help to bring His children home. I feel so blessed to be right in the thick of that work. Kiryu is few in number and filled with all sorts of crazy characters, but they each have testimonies and God loves them so much. I can feel how much He wants His Nihonjin children back every time I look at them.
Wylie Shimai and I have met some interesting challenges the past week, but we've seen so many miracles too. Our biggest one is that our new investigator Ogiwara-san has set a baptismal date for May! We met him our first Friday in Kiryu because a member called to set up a lesson. We weren't sure what to expect, but we soon found out he'd been going to different protestant churches on and off for 30 years but none quite matched what he felt in his heart about God and Jesus Christ. We taught him several lessons and he watched all of Sunday General Conference yesterday. He said everything he heard agreed with what he felt, and he learned some new things as well (like the priesthood) that just felt right. We talked after the session about the doctrine of Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end), explained the blessings of baptism, and I was really nervous so my Japanese came out all wrong but he agreed to work toward being baptized! After working in Kichijoji for six months and not teaching anyone who could commit, I feel so blessed to be in this area at the right time to teach this sweet man. The gospel of Jesus Christ can help anyone with whatever they face. Our Saviour's atoning grace enables us to overcome anything, and I am so grateful for that.
I hope you follow the counsel from General Conference to unplug from technology, strengthen family relationships, seek more of God's light in your life, and be exactly obedient to earn blessings Heavenly Father is aching to give you. I'll do my best too on the other side of the world.
I love you lots!
Long Shimai
P.S. You asked a question about kanji, but I didn't understand the question...There's no way to logically construct kanji the way you can do spelling in English; each kanji's way of writing and several ways of reading just has to be memorized. Sound like a pain? It is. C:

Comics March 22-April 2, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Comics March 13-March 21st

Comics March 1-12

April 8, 2013

Dear family,
Thank you for your emails! Sorry I wasn't able to reply to anything last week, but I got a double load today and it looks like you're still having a blast. I'm still waiting for a photo of Tyler in his kilt!
I haven't been able to watch Conference yet because it's on a one-week delay in Japan. From what I've heard though, it sounds like the missionary excitement is in the air! It's so cool to be part of the madness, even if only on the front end. Madness is not an exaggeration, either; our mission got 13 new sisters this week (to add to our 17) and they told us about how the MTC has doubled and there are sisters everywhere. Apparently the MTC is renting out BYU apartments to house everyone! Plus, our mission was only expecting 11 sisters so two got unexpectedly conned into training! There are only four shimai not training right now (me and Wylie Shimai are two of them!), but next transfer we'll get 10 more sisters so we're not sure what the mission president is going to do! Maybe we'll each get two sisters? Crazy stuff. But anyway, I'm looking forward to conference! I know the messages I'll listen to are true and will help me focus on how to help my area.
Kiryu is...well, it's SO different from my previous two areas! We're in the border of Tokyo mission where it's all countryside. It's gorgeous here! But also very windy, and we're having to get more creative with proselyting since there aren't many people around. We're getting permission from president to go to exercise classes at a community center to meet people, and we're starting up more English classes to make friends. We've been talking to a lot of members about successful dendo, and the concensus is that even if people don't have interest, if they see that missionaries are good people and become their friends, they will agree to at least listen to the message and unexpectedly find something they want to hear more about.
The biggest shock in Kiryu is the ward. We have a HUGE church that was converted from an old warehouse, but only about 30 active members (my last wards were 250 and 150). We have a primary of 5, a young men's of 1, and 0 young women---the majority of the ward is older single men and older married couples. Relief Society was 8 people, including two missionaries!  Wylie Shimai and I spoke in sacrament meeting and just poured out our love on this little ward. The members have told us that most inactive members don't come because it's so difficult to get to a church out in the countryside. Many of the members we talked to have lost a lot of hope, and we want to do everything we can to build their faith and trust in the gospel. We're going to do all we can to brighten and lift the saints here and bring in as many new ones as we can! Our long-term goal for the ward is to double sacrament meeting attendance in six months. If we can do it by the end of this transfer, all the better! We know God has a purpose for sending us here, and we're not going to waste a bit of it.
As for being companions with Wyle Shimai again, it's the BEST! It's kind of weird because we were companions at the MTC exactly a year ago---we had no idea what we were doing but we had a blast, which is exactly the situation we're in now. Living together is so much fun and we're laughing all the time trying to make new friends. We've met lots of cool people already and taught several lessons, so our faith is up and our future is bright. Keep your prayers up for the saints in Kiryu!
I'm so grateful for all of you and I love you! Enjoy the warm weather and beautiful flowers!
Long Shimai
P.S. The two photos attached are 1) what my desk looks like on the inside. Elders (and one sister) have been graffiti-ing my desk for 30 years or more! And 2) Wylie Shimai and I made a meishi (business card) for each of the ward members with our picture. We've both got weight to lose but luckily one of our investigators is a fitness instructor who loves cooking healthy food! We'll try not to have TOO much fun this transfer C: