Monday, September 29, 2008

Baptizing in Shingu - Week Ending September 28

Saturday afternoon Sister McIntyre and I travelled to Shingu to interview the Wada's for baptism. We picked up the zone leaders, Elders Shultz and Allen, in Wakayama on our way down. The traffic was good and we arrived in Shingu after a 4.5 hour drive. Elder Shultz, on the far right in the above picture, served as the branch president in Shingu for 7 months. He and Brother Tsuboi (also pictured) were the first to give Sister Wada a copy of the Book of Mormon. Brother and Sister Wada have been studying the gospel with Elders Melluish and Matsuoka (and Elder Maeno before that) the past couple of months and early Sunday morning we were blessed to see them enter the waters of baptism.
We held the baptism in a beautiful quiet spot on a small tributary branch of the famous Kumano River in Shingu. The water was clean and clear and the weather was wonderful. We had a short meeting at the church and then travelled to the baptism site for the baptisms. We returned to the church and closed the meeting. We then had our normal Sunday services.
Elder Melluish leads Sister Wada into the water.
Elder Matsuoka prepares Brother Wada.
The Wada's with Brother Tsuboi and the missionaries.

The Wada's with President and Sister McIntyreThe beautiful country side near Shingu.

The Shingu branch is the smallest in the mission. We had two non-members at the baptism and they also attended church meetings with us after the baptismal service. We first met the Wada's in August when we took our first trip to Shingu. They have a sweet and pure faith in Christ and will be a great addition to the small group of Saints in Shingu.

This was a special baptism for Elder Melluish as he completes his mission this week and was able to be a part of this baptism his last week in Japan as a missionary. A tender mercy of the Lord. He has shown great faith as a missionary.

We spent most of this week preparing for transfers which are upon us this week. We have 8 returning and 9 new missionaries coming in.

Here are few more pictures from the trip.

Sister McIntyre on the scary bridge at the river. This looks down on the location where we held the baptisms.The Kappa is a mythical Japanese creature that lives in the rivers. It looks like a cross between a turtle and a frog. This was a little statue of a mom Kappa with a baby.

This has nothing to do with the baptism but we found it on the way and Kappa are mentioned a lot in Japanese literature. We just wanted to get a picture of one.

Not a lot of time to write so we will check in again when we can!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week of September 14 - 21. Interviews and Fukuchiyama Branch Conference

Another Busy week in the Kobe Mission (they are all busy I guess)!

We continued our interviews of the missionaries travelling to Nara on Wednesday interviewing 6 Elders after which we enjoyed lunch with them at their favorite restaurant. Thursday we were off to Abeno in Osaka to interview 14 missionaries. Friday we went to Iwade in Wakayama to interview the southern half of the Sakai Zone which consists of 14 missionaries. While I interview each missionary one on one, Sister McIntyre meets with companions and reviews their area books and visits with them about health, cleanliness and things I do not focus on so much. She always takes cookies, brownies or cinnamon rolls for the missionaries. She makes them herself or if we do not have time because of the travel schedule, she has Sister Ise prepare them for her. Districts also hold district meeting when they all come together for the interviews. This week in Iwade, all the missionaries were looking forward to the all you can eat Yakiniku (BBQ Meat) lunch. It only costs 1000 yen ($10) and the missionaries can eat all the meat and side dishes they want. They were looking forward to that. They live on a conservative budget and really enjoy an all you can eat deal, especially if it is meat!
A happy group at the end of the meal!

On Tuesday night I attended a Stake Coordination meeting with President Sugimoto of the Sakai Stake in Mikunigoka. It was my first formal meeting with him as mission president. I know him well as he works for Franklin Covey and I hired him and was his boss up until I came on the mission. It was nice to meet with him in this capacity.

We are seeing improvements in our efforts to spread the gospel in the mission. Last week we had 6 more people scheduled for baptism than the previous week. The missionaries are catching the vision and showing their faith. Today (Sunday), Sister McIntyre and I attended a branch conference in Fukuchiyama. Fukuchiyama branch is in the Fukuchiyama District which is under the direction of the mission. Branch President Tsujino, Sister McIntyre and I spoke in sacrament meeting. It is a small branch with usually only 15 or so people attending. Today we had about 30 with the visiting leaders from the district and 3 non member investigators. We had a great meal prepared by the members as a branch after the conference. I had a chance to meet a Brother Masumoto who is not a member yet has a son on a mission in Fukuoka. His wife is a member and he attends with her very regularly. He told me he is waiting for a confirmation to his prayer about getting baptized. He really wants to be sure it is true. I told him he already knows. He will be baptized someday (I hope soon) and he is already an active member! We did not get a picture of the members this time. And the building is rented. We will be sure to post a picture next time. Elder Williamson and Elder Varjao are working in the Fukuchiyama Branch. Elder Varjao is new, just arriving last month. He is from Brazil and English is his 2nd language and Japanese is becoming his 3rd. He is a very serious and focused Elder. His companion and trainer shared with me a special story of what happened when they were teaching Brother Masumoto a few weeks ago. They were discussing baptism and Elder Varjao (only in Japan a week or two at the time) had a chance to testify to Brother Masumoto. When he did he spoke wonderful Japanese and went on for some time explaining why baptism was important and testifying. Everyone was very surprised as he did all this in great Japanese. Even Brother Masumoto commented that he did not know Elder Varjao could speak that well. It was certainly a gift of the spirit. Elder Williamson told me the story and shared with me how amazed he was at the experience.

A shot of Fukuchiyama Castle in the middle of town. Taken from the car so not a really good view.

In another area the missionaries took my challenge to talk with as many people as possible as a way to show their faith and find two new investigators each week. Elder Beecher and Elder Ashdown, in order to find two new people to teach that week, set a goal to talk with 150 people in one day. It was hard, but finally one day they exceeded the goal by talking with 153 people. They told me they were a little discouraged though because they did not find one new person who would make an appointment to listen to their message out of the 153. But they said they would try again. The next day was busy with appointments and meetings and they only had about an hour to proselyte. To their surprise, in that hour they found two people and hit their weekly goal! They were really excited and felt the Lord had blessed them for their efforts the previous day. But the next week, both those people they found ended up not being so interested. A little disappointed, but not ready to give up they kept the faith and continued to show their faith by their works. The following week, one of the people they had been teaching that they had hoped would be baptized but had stopped progressing came to church and said she wanted to be baptized on the 21st of September. That was today and we now have a new member in the Kita Rokko Ward. When we show our faith the Lord blesses us. Sometimes the blessings do not come in the manner or at the time we expect, but they come. All this happened this month for these Elders. The goal to baptize in Kita Rokko before transfers (by the end of this month) was achieved even though a few weeks ago it looked like it would be a hard thing to accomplish. A little hard work, faith and patience paid off and taught us all a great lesson.

A shot of the country side near Fukuchiyama. It was a cloudy rainy day. This is a village nestled up against the mountains with the rice fields nicely laid out.Look out for wild bore running across the road sign! They are quite common in the Japanese mountains.
Clouds coming down on the mountains. Fukuchiyama District countryside.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This Week In Kobe - Monkey Park Preparation Day

President and Sister McIntyre above Kyoto City in the Arashiyama area.
Last week we posted a lot of missionary pictures. This week we are posting a lot of monkey pictures.
Above - Sister McIntyre with James and Ricky at the trail head to the monkey Park in Arashiyama.
This week consisted mainly of missionary interviews. Monday (September 8th) we stayed in Kobe and I interviewed most of the Kobe Zone. 18 missionaries in one day. That is quite exhausting, but a great experience as I can have one on one time with each missionary. Tuesday was spent in the office preparing Sunday talks and a youth fireside on Saturday and a missionary fireside on Sunday.
Wednesday we traveled to Fukuchiyama for interviews. Thursday we went to Kyoto and interviewed that whole zone, 14 missionaries. Friday we were in Ibaraki (Osaka) to complete the Osaka North Zone interviews. After the interviews, Sister McIntyre and I went out street contacting with the Zone Leaders. Sister McIntyre prefers "shopping" dendo. This is when she goes into stores and shops and then talks to the clerks and workers about the church. The problem is she usually ends up buying something! Luckily this time all she found was a 1000 yen pair of dress shoes. I think it is an expensive way to proselyte! We were able to talk with many people and share some materials with many. After Dendo, I met with President Kido of the Osaka North Stake and the zone leaders for our monthly coordination meeting. President Kido is setting a great example in his stake regarding missionary work and we appreciate him and his leadership.
Saturday we were back on the road again to Kyoto. President Tamaya of the Kyoto Stake asked us to speak at a fireside for the youth in his stake. We left Kobe in the morning and after having lunch upon arriving in Kyoto, we visited Arashiyama. Since it was Saturday we were able to take the boys with us. This was the first family day we have had in several weeks. Arashiyama is a beautiful historic part of the ancient capitol. The mountains in Japan are home to the infamous Japanzaru or Japanese monkey. In Arashiyama, there is a Monkey Park where many monkeys hang out on the top of Iwata mountian. You can climb the mountain and see and photograph the monkeys. On the top they have built a cabin that you can go in and feed the monkeys. You are not allowed to feed them outside. They are wild and if you look them in the eyes, they will scream and attack you. We tested this theory and it is true.
On top of the mountain with all the roaming monkeys. The city of Kyoto in the background.You can only feed them from inside the cabin for your own protection. Some are big and mean and have sharp teeth! This is Sister McIntyre giving a mommy monkey an apple bite.Rick kept trying to get close to this mom and her baby. They kept running away though.James was making friends with the two little babies. They were real cute and played together when they were not riding on their mom's back.
They were everywhere and you were safer in the cabin.Nice shot of a big mom with her little baby.More pictures

After spending an hour or so with the monkeys, we made our way to the Stake Center in Shimogamo. We changed and prepared for the fireside. There were over 60 people there including many leaders. We talked about remembering who you are and setting worthy goals in life.

Sunday, we traveled to the Kakogawa Ward and Sister McIntyre spoke in sacrament meeting. After church we had a fireside to which basically the whole ward attended. I spoke about member missionary work and the Bishop talked about their ward mission plan. The boys stayed home and attended the Kansai Branch next to the mission home.

We heard Erika will be returning to Japan on the 29th (the next transfer) to report to her mission in Sapporo. She is staying in the MTC half the normal time since she already speaks Japanese (6 weeks instead of 12).

We are gradually seeing some results of our efforts and little miracles as the missionaries apply the things we teach and follow the Preach My Gospel principles and guidelines. We are grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord. We see and feel them often.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Zone Conference Week September 1 - 5, 2008

Some of the missionaries at the Sakai Zone Conference held at the Wakayama Church

We had 4 zone conferences this week. Needless to say it was quite a busy week. On Monday we travelled to Kakogawa and held the Kobe Zone Conference. Tuesday was preparation day for the missionaries so no conference was held. Wednesday we went to Sekime Ward in Osaka for the Osaka Zone Conference. Thursday it was the Shimogamo Ward in Kyoto for a combined Kyoto and Osaka North Zone Conference. And Friday we travelled to Wakayama and held the Sakai Zone Conference.

We focused on following up on our increased efforts to find people to teach. Each zone brainstormed ways they are currently using to find and contact people. We talked about where, when and how to find. I presented two training sessions at each conference. In the morning, I taught about the importance of planning and goal setting. Finding efforts will only be effective if we begin with a plan and have clear goals and objectives. In the afternoon, I talk about focusing on the the restoration and using the Book of Mormon and talking with people about the importance of families as a way to approach people and spark interest in the gospel message.

In the Sakai Zone in Wakayama, each companionship shared a finding best practice and demonstrated how they do it. Here are some fun pictures of their presentations and posters.Some bike dendo action from Christiansen and Andreasen.Kanno and Tupou explaining about how they never give up!

Sisters Sadler and Notsu always try to talk to "one more person" before going home believing that may be the "one."Zone Leaders Allen and Schultz talked about how they plan to find and talking with everyone.Fishler and Williams demonstrated how to get past the first "kekko" or "no" while contacting people. We also discussed appropriate missionary language!Smith and Ruesch shared their skills at housing.

Elders Shoaf and Lytle - It is Baptize Time.Mauai and Wintz - Seeing the Miracle! Following the principles in Preach My Gospel.Mooseman and Thompson on the merits of using Eikaiwa.Melluish and Matsuoka on working with members. Goodey and Hobson on using a new missionary and English as a finding tool.

We have wonderful and obedient missionaries. They are showing their faith and working harder to find the Lord's elect.

President' Message September 8, 2008

Beloved Elders and Sisters of the Kobe Mission,

What a wonderful time it is to be serving the Lord in this great land of Japan. 107 years ago this month, then Apostle Heber J. Grant dedicated this land for the preaching of the restored gospel and the harvesting of souls. From 1901 to 1923 the Japan Mission saw just over 100 converts. Dendo was hard, the language was hard and missions were long, most averaged much longer than three years. Since those early days, a great miracle has come to pass in Japan. Today we have branches, wards, stakes and temples. Nevertheless, I'll bet there were days when those first missionaries wondered if such a thing would ever be possible in this land. But they showed their faith and endured to the end and laid a foundation for the church in Japan.

The Lord leads His work and those first few missionaries found a handful of the Lord’s elect and gathered them (See D&C 29:7) in and taught them the gospel. After World War II, those members helped to re-establish the church in Japan at a time when the people of Japan were more prepared to hear the message. Over the last 50 years, membership in Japan has grown dramatically and there are now many strong families and members throughout the land. Yet the work today seems slow to many of us.

The prophet Moroni teaches us in Ether 12:6 that we should “dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Elders and Sisters, we receive blessings and can and will see miracles, after we have earned the right to see them by exercising our faith. The trial of faith may be different for different people, but the principle remains. Faith precedes the miracle. In Ether 12:12 we read: “for if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore he showed not himself until after their faith.”

I have witnessed a great increase of faith in our missionaries over the past several weeks. I know many of you are showing your faith by your obedience to the Preach My Gospel program and my counsel as your mission president. I have heard from many of you in your letters how you are talking with more people and opening your mouths. Lessons are increasing as a result and our average number of “new investigators” per week is slowing inching up. The Lord will require us to show our faith by our works. Many of you are already seeing small miracles in your dendo. Some are finding miracles in their personal lives as they are learning to love their missions more. We are on the right track. As we stay focused on our purpose, open our mouths and talk with everyone everywhere, the Lord will guide us to those elect that will “hear His voice” and we will see more people come into the waters of baptism. As we focus our conversations and messages on the importance of the family and the restoration, using the Book of Mormon daily as we find and teach, the Lord will bless us for our obedience and faith and the harvest will increase. I know this is true. And I know the Lord keeps His promises to us, when we are obedient.

In closing I want to share with you a quote from President Hugh B. Brown. This talk was delivered in the Abeno Chapel in our mission on April 21, 1967. Addressing the Japanese members he said,

“I’m telling you, you are going to live to see some marvelous things in connection with this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...Some of you people who are listening to me tonight will live to see the day when there will be a Japanese man in the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church. I do not know when it will be. I will not live to see it. But some of you young people will live to see it and then you will realize that God loves the Japanese people. And some of you Japanese will be among the leaders of the church. I feel this in my heart tonight and I dare to make this prediction in the name of the Lord...It will take faith, courage and fortitude to remain faithful to the must be stout hearted men and women...I thank God that he planted the seeds of the gospel here in Japan and a few courageous folks have stayed with it until now when it is beginning to bear fruit.”

This is the Lord’s work and He leads it. Let us all be faithful, enduring to the end, withstanding the trails of our faith, knowing that the blessings come in due time.
We love you and are honored to serve in this, “the greatest mission in the world,” with you!

President and Sister McIntyre

President's Message August 1, 2008

Below is the first President's Message we wrote in our Mission Newsletter the beginning of August. The newsletter for the missionaries is called the Kansai no Kiseki. Our focus in the work has been building on the things we expressed in this first message and our direction has been evolving as we learn and follow the Spirit.

Our Dear Elders and Sisters of the Japan Kobe Mission,

We are so happy and excited to be serving with you in this great work. We have only been with you for one month, but we have had the chance to meet each of you personally and feel of your spirit and desire to serve the Lord and the Japanese people in this part of the Lord’s vineyard. Our testimonies have been strengthened and our family greatly blessed as we have talked with you and watched you over the past several weeks. Thank you for the fine example you are of the Savior, whom you represent, and his gospel, to our family and the people of Japan. Always remember who you are!
As I mentioned at our last Zone Conference, I have felt strongly we need to focus in a couple of areas to hasten the work and increase our harvest here in the Kobe Mission.
First, we must have the faith and hope that we can succeed in our purpose. I know we can find and see more of God’s children in this mission come unto Christ and into the waters of baptism. I am encouraged by, and believe in, the words of Alma. (Alma 13:24)

“For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.”

Here in Japan people are being prepared and angels are declaring it unto many. Our job is to find those people among the millions residing in our mission. It is a daunting task, but it can and is being done. My prayer is that we can all have the vision and faith of President Spencer W. Kimball who said,

“My brethren, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our approach to teaching all the world?...Are we prepared to Lengthen Our Stride? To enlarge our vision? …I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open the doors. THAT IS MY FAITH.”

Second, we must hasten and increase our efforts to find those prepared to accept our message. Faith without works is dead. We must work like it depends only on our efforts and pray like it depends entirely on the Lord. When we show our faith by our works (and work effectively and smart) then the Lord will open doors.

Here are some areas we can focus on to start:

Working with Members - Our efforts must include the members. We are on the same team. We must build trust with the members. We can do this by serving them and showing them how serious we are about the work. We can start with the bishops and ward mission leaders. In some areas this may take more time than others. In some areas members are few. Whatever the circumstance, we must do it and we must begin now. That is Lord’s program.

Talking with Everyone – While we are building our relationships and increasing our efforts with the members, we must step up our own finding activities. Elder M. Russell Ballard has challenged missionaries to talk to 10 people everyday, outside of your normal “dendo.” The best way to start a conversation is to simply say “hello.” My challenge to each companionship is to work towards the goal of finding two new investigators each week. Right now our average is about .5 new investigators per week per companion set. If we can do this, we are enlarging our vision and lengthening our stride.

Focus on the younger people –A few years ago when President Boyd K. Packer was here in Japan he said the following,

“The Church will grow in Japan…almost everybody we meet, the stake presidents, the former stake presidents, were boys when they joined the Church. Their wives joined when they were girls. The Church in Japan has been built on the backs of the young people. We want to start that again.”

We will seek out families and others, but we should particularly make a concerted effort to seek out the younger generation. I think 17 – 25 year olds are at an age when they are seeking the truth and they are not yet set in their ways and bound by the traditions of their fathers.
These suggestions are simple. They probably are not new. But as we start our service with you here in Kobe, I testify to you that this is the place to begin and the direction we should go. As our journey continues the Lord will guide us and adjust our direction according to our faith and needs just as he guided Lehi and his family in the wilderness with the Liahona.

We have the greatest mission in the church here. And you are the greatest missionaries. We love each of you and look forward to serving with you. Know you are doing the work of the Lord. He guides and directs it. We will not fail if we simply follow Him and his prophets.

May the Lord Bless Each of You!

President and Sister McIntyre
(and Erika, Julie, Ricky and James)

Monday, September 1, 2008

New and Departing Missionaries August 2008

We had 11 new Elders arrive this past transfer, but we lost 9 Elders and 1 Sister who completed their missions. Needless to say it was a busy transfer week.

These are the new 11 the night before we matched them with their new companions and sent them out into the field. They were all very excited to find out their first areas and companions. This was an energetic group that could not wait to get out and talk to people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The first day they were here we took them out to lunch and they talked with people and we even placed a Book of Mormon and got an appointment. They caught the vision of "opening your mouth" that first day!Here they are after signing the mission quilt. (Elders Faalalei, Johnson, Andreason, Heiner, Honda, Hobson, Tibbs, Matsuoka, Varjao, Culter and Kanno)Two years is a long time! The distinguished departing Elders and Sister of August 2008. This was taken just before we dropped them off at the Shin Kobe Train Station bound for Tokyo. (Elder Marcusen, Sister Bensen, Elders Inouye, Lee, Morgan, Strong, Levi, Ashdown, Hancock and Yamaguchi) They served honorably and are now among the elite Kobe Mission alumni!

This week we are having Zone Conferences. We are focusing our training on Finding New Investigators. We also have a goal of helping each ward and branch in the mission complete a mission plan by the end of September. Another goal has been to build trust and unity with the local leaders. We have been working with all the stake and district presidents (and bishops and branch presidents) to train them and provide them with materials to help them accomplish this. Sister McIntyre and I travel to a different ward or branch every week. Last Sunday I gave three talks. One in sacrament meeting, one in a missionary fireside and one in a stake leadership training meeting. I think I have been averaging about 2 talks every Sunday (and another one almost every Saturday at firesides or training meetings as well). Sister McIntyre usually speaks when I speak, but not always. I always tell them she can speak better Japanese than me, but it has not got me out of speaking yet! I will keep trying.