Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Happy New Year Message to Our Missionaries

It is New Year's Eve here in Japan and we have a holiday sports activity and zone conferences starting tomorrow. Here is a copy of our message in this transfers newsletter.

Dear Kobe Missionaries,

How wonderful it is to start out this New Year with all of you here in Japan serving the Lord. We have just had a wonderful end of the year celebrating the birth of our Savior and seeing the most convert baptisms in a single month since the mission reopened over a year and a half ago. What a blessing it was to see so many people come unto Christ this wonderful time of year. And several were actually baptized on Christmas day. It truly was a white and wet Christmas in the Kobe Mission.
Many missionaries experienced the first baptisms of their mission this past month. How I desire each missionary in the mission to have the opportunity to be a part of that wonderful conversion process culminating with one of God’s beloved children entering the waters of baptism. Our purpose is to find, teach, baptize, confirm and establish the church in Japan. We have made great progress in fulfilling this purpose in the past several months. But we can and will gradually learn to do even better. We have emphasized the importance of baptism to all of you. This is how people repent and come unto Christ. Mormon taught the “first fruits of repentance is baptism.” (Moroni 8:25) Baptism is central to our purpose as missionaries. We must continue to emphasize its importance and help all those we teach understand that it is the gate that all must enter.
However, “your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.” (See PMG p. 10) I think all missionaries want to baptize. I certainly hope you all do! But you must remember that the number of baptisms you have does not make you a successful missionary. A successful missionary is fully committed to being a "Preach My Gospel Missionary." According to Preach My Gospel, a successful missionary will:

- Feel the Spirit testify to people through him
- Love people, including his companion and desire their salvation
- Obey with Exactness (all the commandments and mission rules)
- Live to have the Spirit and know how to follow the Spirit.
- Develop Christlike Attributes.
- Work effectively everyday.
- Help build the church wherever they are assigned to serve.
- Warn others of the consequences of sin.
- Teach and serve other missionaries.
- Go about doing good and serving others.

So as we begin a New Year here in the mission, I ask all of you: Are you a successful missionary? Do you obey with exactness? Does this list of characteristics above describe you? When we truly become Preach My Gospel Missionaries and are fully committed to our purpose, we will feel the Spirit, love our missions, love our companions and the Japanese people, and be successful missionaries. And in many cases, baptisms will follow as a natural result.

Let us continue to have faith and hope, two of the attributes of Christ, to see an increase in the harvest. But in doing so, we must remember that people have the agency to choose whether to accept our message.

“Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice. Some may not accept our message even when they have received a spiritual witness that it is true…You should not, however, become discouraged; discouragement will weaken your faith…and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit…When you do your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself.” (PMG pp. 10-11)

As we begin a New Year, it is my prayer that each of you will recommit to be a Successful Missionary. Success is a choice. When we choose to be a Preach My Gospel Missionary we start to choose success.

I testify to each of you that the Lord has given us the tools and a plan to follow. When we use the tools and follow the plan, we will be successful. As a mission we will continue to focus on fulfilling our purpose and inviting people to repent through baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost. And I know that as we do this, the harvest will increase and each of you will be not only happier, but wonderfully successful!

Much Love,
President and Sister McIntyre

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

Christmas Eve was spent with our family and 6 new missionaries. They arrived on Tuesday night and we spent all day Wednesday (Christmas Eve) in training and orientation. We had a nice sukiyaki dinner that evening and a chance to share testimonies and talk about the mission that lies before them and the true meaning of Christmas.It was especially nice to have Julie with us. Above going around the table from left to right, elders Budge, Murphy, Aquirre, Chamochumbi, Solomon, Ngawaka, Rika and I, James and Julie.We later had our traditional Christmas cake. We spent Christmas morning together as a family.

Ricky and Julie on Christmas morning.

Mom and daughter. Erika is doing well in Sapporo. We talked with her on Friday morning (the day after Christmas).
Christmas afternoon was spent playing at the church and watching movies. The missionaries had a nice relaxing preparation day and set up for our special Christmas program, dinner and baptismal service Christmas evening. On Christmas night in Kobe, we had a nice spiritual program with all the missionaries and some of our friends taking lessons from the missionaries. Then we had a Christmas feast at the church. We had a big turkey, ham, desserts, salads, etc. I think everyone was very full by the end. After dinner, we started our baptismal service. Above is a picture of the elders (Rassmusen, Bohman and Fa'aleilei) with Zhou-san who was baptized. Above is Sister Rasario Nishiura who was also baptized and the elders from Kakogawa, Remund and Payne. Rosario asked that I perform the baptism for her. We had taught her at our home several times and Sister McIntyre and I fellowshipped her and her family.
Above is Rosario with her family at the baptism. She has three children. Marian, her daughter, is also taking the lessons, but was a little nervous about being baptized so let mom set the example and go first.
Rosario is from Peru and has lived in Japan many years. Her father was Catholic and her mother was a member of the church. But she had been raised Catholic. Zhou is from China and is a fine young man who was so prepared to hear the gospel. We expect to see great things from him and in his life related to the gospel. We were blessed with 4 baptisms in the mission on Christmas Day. It really was a white Christmas in Kobe.
December has been an interesting month for the mission as we have seen many people come unto Christ through baptism. The interesting thing is that the baptisms this month include people from China, Peru, Brazil, the Philippines and of course a majority from Japan. The mission now has missionaries serving from or with original ties to the US, Japan, Hong Kong (China), Canada, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and the Philippines. (not to mention Hawaii and Alaska which to many are their own countries). We truly are called to preach the gospel to the world even in the Kansai region of Japan. It is beginning to remind me of the ward I served in for several years as bishop. We had members in the ward representing over 15 countries and many languages. Perhaps that experience helped prepare me to serve here in Kobe. We truly are all children of our Father in Heaven. There is one God for all and one baptism.
We have never before experienced a Christmas week like this last one. I am glad transfer week will not fall on Christmas the rest of our mission. To be honest, it was very busy and exhausting, but will certainly be a Christmas to remember and cherish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Almost Christmas!

Elders Fukui and Nicerio, who work in the mission office, decorated the mission home with Christmas lights. They did a great job and the color coordination was quite good. We cannot compete with temple square, but it really looks nice right next to the church.
On the 21st we were able to attend the baptism of Taiki-kun. He is 9 years old. He was taught by the missionaries as his family has just recently began coming to church again. The missionaries worked with the family and he was baptized by his father. Taiki wants to be a missionary someday.
Sister McIntyre was in a baking mood and made Elder Bowman a cookie for his birthday that looks just like him! He wanted to save it, but I think he ate it after the pictures.
On the 23rd, we saw 4 great elders return home after two years of service. Elders Baldridge, Bowman, Moore and Akagi. We took the normal picture for our newsletter, but they wanted a silly picture too. That is the one we are posting here.
Christmas week is transfer week. This is a big challenge. We flew these four home so they could make it in time to be with their families. Normally they would have left on the 26th and missed Christmas at home. The evening of the 23rd, we picked up our six new missionaries and they will be assigned and transfer out on the day after Christmas. Christmas is preparation day. We have two baptisms schedule in Kobe on Christmas as well. We are expecting a white Christmas. We will update everyone in a couple of days!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ricky Getting Some Air

#15 Ricky McIntyre gets some air over the defenders as he led his team to two big victories this past week. League play has ended and the Kobe based Canadian Academy Falcons finished tied for 1st place. They will now play in a league tournament, travel to Tokyo for few exhibition games right after New Years and finish the season with a trip to China to play in the Asia Pacific (APAC) tournament.
In the game above, Ricky scored 30 of the teams 66 points. This was a season high game for him. He had a sprained ankle at the beginning of the season and has not been 100% until recently.
Here he is doing a ballet move and fouling the other team! I wish I was flexible enough to kick myself in the head sometimes! Nice Job Ricky!

Friday, December 12, 2008

December Begins with Interviews and Praying for a White and Wet Christmas

We have been busy interviewing and meeting with the missionaries in their district meetings since the beginning of this month. We have interviewed all the missionaries except those in Wakayama, which we will do next week. We travelled to Kyoto, Osaka a couple of times (Ibaraki and Abeno), Fukuchiyama and Nara. I think we interviewed about 80 missionaries in the last 10 days.Here are the Nara district missionaries. Elders Fruean, Honda, Varjao, Burton, Openshaw and Capener. After interviews and district meeting, we all had lunch together nearby and then enjoyed a donut from my favorite Mister Donuts shop.Here is a better view of the Nara church building.

On Sunday the 7th, we visited the Nishinomiya Ward for the first time. Above is a picture of the building. It is a good size building in a very nice residential area and near a major university. We had the chance to meet the father of Sister Yamashita, one of our missionaries from Tokyo as he happened to be visiting the area. We also met with the Takagi family. Brother Takagi co-authored a book on the history of the church in Japan with me which was published about 12 years ago. I have not seen him in a several years as he had been living overseas. He is a university professor and we enjoyed attending his Sunday School class.

We have several baptisms scheduled in the mission this month. Some are set for Christmas day and several the Sunday before. We are all dreaming of a dressed in white and getting wet Christmas. While some of those we teach may need more time to make and keep their commitments, we are hoping this will be one of our best months for seeing people repent and come unto Christ this year. Here at the mission home we have been helping to teach and fellowship a wonderful lady and her daughter. Last Sunday evening we had the chance to invite her to be baptized on Christmas day and she was very excited to accept the invitation. She is working on giving up her coffee, but told us not to worry. So we are expecting a white and wet Christmas here in Kobe. We will keep praying that it will come to pass!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Last Week of November 2008 Summary - Zone Conferences, Toyooka Branch Conference, Thanksgiving

Everytime I go to Toyooka, these big carp just jump out of the river and scare me!Below- Sisters Wade, Ise and Painter at our Thanksgiving gathering at the mission home. They made the meal. We are all grateful, it was delicious!Thanksgiving Week was Zone Conference Week for the Kobe Mission. We held two combined Zone Conferences this week, one in Mikunigoaka and the other in Ibaraki. For both of the conferences, Sister McIntyre cooked turkeys and Sister Painter made some turkey a la king gravy with the meat. We had pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and of course rice. Feeding over 100 missionaries with our limited resources was not easy, but they all had plenty to eat and it tasted like an American Thanksgiving! Our conferences focused on Preach My Gospel chapters 10 and 11. Teaching skills and helping people make and keep commitments.
On Saturday evening Sister McIntyre and I travelled to Kawachinagano in the Sakai Stake to conduct a Fireside workshop on the importance of families.

Then early Sunday morning we were off to Toyooka for branch conference. See the detailed entry and pictures below. After returning from Toyooka on Sunday night we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner as a family and the missionaries in the Kobe district. The missionaries invited some of the their investigators, including a whole family of four, over our home for the dinner and we had a chance to fellowship and teach them. As always, a busy but wonderful week in the Japan Kobe Mission. Yes, the church is true and alive and well here.

Our meal Sunday night at the mission home after Branch Conference in Toyooka.

Toyooka Branch Conference - November 30, 2008

Sunday we attended the branch conference for the Toyooka Branch in the Fukuchiyama District. Sister McIntyre and I spoke as did Branch President Fujikawa and District President Tada. It was a wonderful conference. Sister McIntyre also taught a short lesson in Primary and spoke in the combined R.S. Priesthood meeting. Here are some of the sisters with Rika after conference and lunch. We love this branch. There are so many wonderful faithful families there. There is always a wonderful spirit in the meetings. I recently assigned two additional Elders to serve in this branch. The members are trying very hard to share the gospel. There were 7 non-members at branch conference and a total of 54 people in attendance. Average attendance is usually somewhere in the 30's. The branch set a goal to have over 50 attend and they exceeded that.
Above- Many of the branch members. By the time we took the picture, some people had left. Through the efforts of the branch presidency and home and visiting teachers, there were several people in attendance that had not been to church in a long time. One couple came for the first time in ten years. Some members brought their non-member parents as well. The missionaries serving here are Elders Kunihiro, Jones, Sorenson and Andrews. I suspect we will see some wonderful people coming to Christ here in the near future.

Here we are with the primary kids and youth. This is the future of the branch and I think it looks wonderful! I can imagine the day when these youth become missionaries and begin having families of their own. They are being raised by wonderful parents who teach them the gospel. We just love this branch, as we do all the branches we serve.
After the conference and lunch, Sister McIntyre and I travelled and visited two part member families with Presidents Fujikawa and Tada. We were able to visit the Kishida family and Nakashima family. It was wonderful to visit with these kind families. Both fathers are not members, but wonderful men who support their families and wives and have a positive impression of the church. The Nakashima's have a son serving in the same mission, Sapporo, with Erika. My counselors also visited families in the branch with other members of the branch presidency. It was a wonderful day.
The purpose of conference is to strengthen, inspire and increase the faith of the members. This was accomplished.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mission President's Seminar - Asia North Area in Seoul Korea

November 21 -23 we attended our area's mission president's seminar in Seoul, Korea. We were privileged to have Elder Oaks of the Twelve and Elder Clayton of the Presidents of the Seventy attend with their wives as well as our Area Presidency, Elder Evans, Elder Stevenson and Elder Choi of the Seventy with their wives. Above is a picture of the Japan mission presidents. Elder Oaks is on the far left and Elder Stevenson on the far right. We are next to Elder and Sister Stevenson.

Here we are with President and Sister Tateoka who came out with us and are serving in Sendai. We loved his hat. Sister McIntyre is from that mission and President Tateoka has been a great support in helping Sister McIntyre's mother become more active at church again.

Here we are with President and Sister Daniels. They are Erika's Mission President and Mom in Sapporo.

This was our table for dinner one of the evenings. Elder and Sister Stevenson, with us, President and Sister Daniels and President and Sister Perriton who are serving in Korea.
Here is the whole group at the Seoul Temple. We were able to do a session together one afternoon.
Above is the whole group again as we took a walk through an old palace in Seoul. Elder and Sister Oaks and Elder and Sister Clayton are in the front row with the area presidency. We are on the far left.
Here is Sister McIntyre with Sisters Evans, Stevenson, Traveller (Nagoya Mission), Clayton and Hill (Tokyo Mission).
It was a great three days and will certainly be one of many highlights of our mission.
We arrived home to find the mission still here and doing fine! I only had one phone call I had to take concerning a missionary during the trip.

Zone Leader Council November 17, 2008

On November 17th we held our Zone Leader Council in Kobe. Above are the 12 Zone Leaders and 2 Assistants.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our Reason for Being Here - Rounding Out Transfer Week with Baptisms

Christ is the reason and our purpose is to invite all to come unto Him and repent by receiving baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As transfer week ended with the returning missionaries leaving on Friday, on Saturday (after watching James' basketball game) and Sunday we travelled to Kawachinagano and Wakayama respectively to see some wonderful people come unto Christ through baptism. Above is a picture of the attendees for the baptism of Sister Morimoto and her son Keigo. He is 16 years old and a wonderful young man. The baptism was held in Wakayama church, but they are members of the Iwade Branch. Iwade does not have a font so everyone travelled to Wakayama for the service. This was Elders Mauai and Wintz's first baptisms and the first baptisms in the Iwade Branch in four years. Needless to say the members were excited. Nothing excites the members more than to have new members join them. Nothing breeds missionary spirit better than the fruits of missionary work. We heard many testimonies today from people remembering their own baptisms of many years ago as they expressed their gratitude for the missionaries that found and taught them.
Above are the Elders with the Morimoto's and us. Elder Baldridge who returns home next transfer found Sister Morimoto in the Area Book and contacted her earlier this year. She had been found several years ago and lost contact with the previous missionaries and had had no contact for about three years. Elder Baldridge started teaching her and was transferred a couple of months ago. He was able to come back and attend the baptism with us.
We also attended a baptism in Kawachinagano for Sister Kamimura.
Above- Elders Jorgensen and Andreasen with their newly baptized member, Sister Kamimura. She was found and taught because a member (Sister Soga) started a conversation with her at a bus stop. If we can just get the members to work with us by simply opening their mouths and letting people know they are members of the church, we will see many more baptisms like Sister Kamimura.
Sister Kamimura is sitting between Sister McIntyre and Sister Soga. This was the first baptism for these two elders as well. Oh how we want all the missionaries to have this choice experience. This will not be accomplished without the help of the members. We have 100 missionaries and 22 million people in our mission. We have been called to preside over the mission and missionaries, but more and more I am feeling we need to and can have a great impact and influence on the members here. We speak every week somewhere and have many opportunities to teach and inspire the members and local leaders. It is a great blessing and help to have Rika speak with the members with me as a Japanese member and leader. She can testify as a Japanese member that what we share is not something from America, but something the Japanese can do as well. More and more members are catching the vision and trying to do more to share the gospel. Our belief is that there will be a great change in the hearts of the members here in Japan and that change will bring about a great miracle among the people of this country. Our mission is in part to help that change occur.
We are also just mom and dad to a couple of young men here though. We have to balance our time accordingly! Ricky was away at an overnight basketball retreat on Awaji Island, but Saturday James had a game at the Canadian Academy.
James is #8. They won this week. He is the point guard.
As usual, next week is already planned out and will be another busy one!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Transfer Week - We really love these weeks

We returned 6 great missionaries this week. Elders Murayama, Shultz, Kimura, Lessard and Sister Ichikawa. The longer we are here the closer we become to these missionaries and it is harder to see them go. They testified that the last months and weeks of their missions were the best. All worked diligently to the end. Elder Shultz found many new investigators his last week and had one person commit to baptism after meeting and teaching him for the first time last Sunday.
We had a great dinner the night before they left.
Below are Elders Murayama and Rasmussen. Elder Murayama returned home after serving in Kobe for 9 months of his mission. He serve the last few months here as my assistant. Elder Rasmussen is 6'7" and even when standing on the couch Elder Murayama is not quite as tall as his companion! We will miss him as he returns to Hokkaido. Hope he can see Sister Erika McIntyre there and give her our love.
Sister Ichikawa also served in Kobe and we went to lunch this past week with the Kobe missionaries to wish Elder Murayama and Sister Ichikawa farewell. Elder Christie also transferred from the mission office in Kobe to Amagasaki this week. Below are Sisters Ichikawa and Tsuda and Elders Rasmussen and Nicerio enjoying some shabu shabu.

We sat next to them and ate yakiniku. Below are Elders Murayama and Christie with us.

Sister Ichikawa was picked up by her parents who live in Saitama near Tokyo. They drove all night to pick her up and had breakfast with us. They are not members of the church, but supported her on her mission. Sister Ichikawa and Sister Tsuda had a wonderful baptism this past week in Kobe before going home!

Elder Westover's parents also came to Japan and met us at the mission home. They will enjoy a week of seeing the sights before returning to the US.

Here are the returning missionaries again.

We have 5 new wonderful missionaries! 4 arrived from the MTC in Provo and one from the Japan MTC.
Above are our new elders from left to right - Elder Oshiro from Okinawa, Elder Drake, Elder Reading, Elder Neider and Elder Monson. These are well prepared missionaries that are going to serve the Lord wonderfully here.