Monday, April 27, 2009

Julie is in Kobe!

The sakura have all fallen, but the azaleas are almost in full bloom. The mission home and office are surrounded by these pretty flowers. Along with Spring, Julie arrived back in Kobe where she will spend spring term before going back to BYU. We are so happy to see her and have her back with us for a while.

The kids minus Erika doing some posing for the camera.

James is now taller than Julie. That was not the case at Christmastime when she was here last.

Ricky is passing me up a little and James is now taller than mom.

Sunday the 26th we attended the Kansai Branch in Kobe. After church we had a lunch with the Wades, the Kobe sisters and a recent convert and his wife here at the mission home. After lunch we had a great lesson with everyone there. Later in the afternoon we attended a get together for recent Young Single Adult converts in the Kobe Stake. We had five young men (all in their 20's) that have been baptized since the first of the year in attendance. We have been focusing on finding the elect and doing so by focusing our efforts on the younger generation. These young people may serve missions and will marry and establish strong LDS families. The Lord has blessed our efforts and we are seeing the church estblished and future leaders coming unto Christ in the mission.

Akashi Apartment Move

We closed two old apartments and replaced them with new ones this week. The Nishinomiya apartment and the Akashi apartment. Both were quite run down and some of you mothers would not want your sons living in them! Neither did Sister McIntyre. The Akashi apartment had been rented for 21 years. You can imagine 21 years of elders living in the same apartment. Just normal wear and tear would be bad enough! This room above had wall paper from the 1970's, but some of it was torn off and moldy. Don't worry, our other apartments are not any where near this bad and no one used this particular room.
The Akashi elders with the office staff and assistants after several hours of clean up and moving. Elders Steele, Rassmussen, Throop, Bohman, Remund, Fukui, Andrews and Sisters Painter and McIntyre. The tatami mats where worn through and the whole place needs a major overhaul. The owner however, was surprised it was in as good of condition as it was after so many years. We may even get some of our deposit back. (Wow) The new apartment is a 1 minute walk from the church, very nice and it cost a little less!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Great Missionary Experience From Sister Erika McIntyre - Sapporo, Japan

This is from this weeks letter from Erika. A great example of what it is like preaching the gospel here in Japan and a memorable spiritual experience for her.Okay, I have a fun spiritual experience for all of you.. so if you don't mind, go get your scriptures. Before I begin I have one piece of AMAZING news. TSUTSUMI-san is GETTIN BAPTIZED!!! Yup, we committed her on Sunday. She will be getting baptized on Mothers Day, May 10... after which I get to talk with my wonderful family on the phone. Wow, that day will be a good one! =)

OKAY... story. So Tsuji shimai (my companion) and I were heading home on our bikes and had some time left, so we just decided if we had a feeling to go somewhere, or if some place looked good to house, we would just go with our gut. We were biking home and nothing really necessarily looked good and I didn't have a strong feeling, but for some reason we turned into a neighborhood and found some apartments and started there. There were 3 towers, A, B, and C, and we decided to start at A. We found a cute older lady, and made an appointment with her, we went to B, and found a 59 yr old man, and made an appointment with him too... we were going to go home after tower B, but we decided to head to tower C before going home. In tower C, we found another lady and got an appointment with her. I was seriously overwhelmed with gratitude for Heavenly Father's guidance. OK... but that's not the story... so here's the story, Tower B, the 59 year old man. We went to visit him again Monday. Our team up (member) couldn't come, and being a man, another woman is necessary, but being Monday night, most members have FHE and we couldn't find anyone. The man was telling me how beautiful he thought my eyes were and all that, so I was also a little hesitant and thought we would pass him off to the elders anyways.... SO we asked the elders to come. All 4 of us went to his (Saito is his name) apartment and this is what went down (quote my journal cuz its faster): "anyway we went in and well, he is very strong in what he believes. He says that he can learn from other people, and that he doesn't know everything, but when we try to tell him something he tried to contradict us... but it was an amazing experience and the spirit was there. As we asked about God, he said he can't see God with his own eyes, so he can't believe. We used many examples of not seeing, but believing, but he still said unless he can see Him he doesn't believe. He continued to say all these things that he believed and ended it by turning to me and saying, "see there is no God right?" I didn't really want to argue, but decided to testify... I began speaking, "No, I KNOW there is a God. I have my own personal experiences and witness that God is there. I've felt his love and know without a doubt that He is there. We each can have a personal relationship with Him and I've truly felt Him many times in my life, and have had experiences too personal to share through which I KNOW that He lives." Up until this point he would attack us mid-sentence, or as soon as we finished he would say something, but as soon as I finished talking, for once in the 40 minutes we had been there, he was DEAD SILENT. That's when I realized how powerful personal testimony is. No one can deny what another person knows or believes or experienced. You can't tell someone their testimony is wrong. He just sat there and stared at me, not sure what to say. Then Elder Jones came in and also began to testify, "I too know that God lives, we all have had similar experiences and that is why we are here (on our missions)." Then he asked Saito-san, "Haven't you at some point in your life felt God's love?" Now before, Saito-san was saying how God doesn't exist, but this is how he answered, "Well, yea, I MAY have felt His love...." then he said, "but whether it's God or Kami, or Hotokesama (Buddha), I don't know. But yea, I've felt that there may be some greater being..." When he said that, the story of Alma and Korihor came into my mind. And this morning during personal study I thought I would open up and compare the experiences. Alma 30:37- Alma asks, Believest thou that there is a God? :38 Korihor says, "Nay" :39 Alma: I say unto you I know that there is a God and also Christ shall come. :40 Alma asks, "what proof do you have that there isn't a God, besides only your word? :41 Alma: ...but I have all things as a TESTIMONY that these things are true. (testimony is greater proof than just words) :43 Korihor: Show me a sign :44 Alma: All things denote there's a God :48 Korihor changes from completely denying to.. well.. maybe... "I don't DENY the existence of A GOD, but I do not believe that there is a God." Saito-san to sokkuri to omotta (Just what Saito said!). Anyway, through this experience with Saito-san, I realized the importance of TESTIMONY. We can say, we believe, we feel, we think, but WE KNOW is the strongest witness you can give. And THAT is when the HOLY GHOST carries it UNTO the hearts of those we teach. Also, I realized how true the scriptures are and how they STILL APPLY for us today. Just as ELDER BALLARD's talk on those who have gone before, we can truly learn lessons from the missionaries in the Book of Mormon. Missionary work is still done the "Old fashioned way" (when it comes to testimony and conversion.)

After we talked with him some more, he said he had read the Bible before. So I offered him the Book of Mormon. He had heard of it, but had no idea what it was about. He read the introduction with us there, and seemed way into it. We pointed out Moroni 10:3-5 and marked it for him, then gave him a hand out entitled 20 questions that the Book of Mormon answers. He read those and said he had interest to learn more. The Elders took the next appointment and my companion closed with a prayer. He also knelt as we prayed, and as soon as words were spoken I felt a rush of the spirit. It was a great learning experience for me to feel the power of testimony and the Book of Mormon. It is SO IMPORTANT for us as missionaries (and as MEMBERS) to TESTIFY of the things we believe (know). The Holy Ghost will help us if we do, and will be with us to support what we say. WE don't JUST think, believe, or hope, but WE KNOW this church is true. We have received the confirmation, and we have the responsibility to spread the Word with all those we meet."
There are stories like this happening everyday in this country and the Kobe Mission. The work is moving forward. We are very proud of Erika, our sister missionary, and the work she is doing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All Shapes and Sizes

These are probably our tallest and shortest missionaries (Elders). When the missionaries first arrive and meet these elders, the Japanese missionaries can't remember who is who between Rasmussen and Latimer and the foreign missionaries have a hard time distinguishing between Maeno and Kanno, all pictured here. Rasmussen is about 6'8" and Latimer must be about 6'4" or so. Not sure about Maeno and Kanno. You can guess. We interviewed the missionaries in Abeno, Osaka this week and it was Elder Kanno's birthday. We celebrated with a homemade cake baked by Sister McIntyre. Elder Kanno turned 20.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Erika's Birthday, Our Anniversary and Another Week Passes

President Daniels sent us some pictures of Sister McIntyre this past week. Her birthday was the 12th. She is wearing the blue sweater sitting next to Pres. Daniels. This must have been a recent zone conference. Below - Erika is sitting next to Sister Daniels during zone conference lunch. We sent her a care package for her birthday and of course correspond by email every week like all parents of missionaries do.
Looks like they had dessert or birthday cake for everyone! Erika is doing wonderful and enjoying her mission in Sapporo! She is glad it is finally warming up a little and the snow is melting!
This week we travelled to Iwade to do interviews in the Wakayama Sakai Zone and also Mikunigaoka for the Sakai Mikuni Zone interviews. Saturday I travelled to Kyoto and conducted training with all the bishops in the stake (at the request of the stake president) regarding the Preach My Gospel missionary program. Sister McIntyre travelled to Abeno in Osaka to attend the baptism of Sister Emi Miura.
Here is Sister Miura with several missionaries starting from the right - Elders Latimer, Maeno, Harris, Sisters Kogawa, Miura (in White) and Meyers and Elder Kanno.
Sunday the 19th was our 23rd wedding anniversary. We were invited to speak at the Ibaraki Ward Conference on the topic of (you guessed it) missionary work. Somehow word got out about it being our anniversary and the ward missionaries made gifts for us. Standing next to me is Brother Yoshino who was Sister McIntyre's institute teacher in Tokyo 27 years ago when she first joined the church. He also served as a mission president in Japan several years ago. The Iwaki Family also gave us some delicious chocolates. We were very touched by everyone's kindness and enjoyed the conference and visiting with the members there. Above we are pictured with Elders Capener and Castleton and the 4 ward missionaries.
It is official now. We have been married for more than half my life (and in a few months the same will be true for Rika). 23 of 46 years. I don't remember much about what it was like without Rika and I don't think I want to. I often think how amazing it is that we were born on opposite sides of the world into very different circumstances and cultures and yet have ended up together with a wonderful family united by our love of each other and the gospel. Sister McIntyre joined the church as a 17 year old young woman. Over the next several years our paths crossed many times. At times we were in the same place at the same time (on both sides of the globe) and did not even know each other. But somehow after my mission we ended up in the same ward at BYU, eventually began dating, and were married two years later. To be able to serve together here in Kobe is like a dream to us. We would have never imagined we would be asked to do this, but we are glad we were and can serve the Lord and Japanese people. It is miraculous to us to look back over our lives and see how the Lord has taught us and prepared us to do the things He wants us to do. That evening, the Kobe Elders and Sisters joined Ricky, James and us for cake (made by the members in Ibaraki). We will have two more anniversaries while we serve with our 25th just a few months before we complete our term of service.
Ricky and James both gave nice talks in Sacrament meeting today about the Aaronic Priesthood and the Duty to God Program. We left right after their talks and made our way to Ibaraki in time for the ward conference there. Next week we have more interviews and will be opening two new apartments. Also, next weekend Julie returns to Japan from BYU and will spend spring term with us. We are excited to see her. We are also starting to prepare for a big transfer. We have 9 new missionaries coming in the end of the month.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More Cherry Blossoms and Fukuchiyama Interviews - April 2009

Just across and down the street a couple minute walk from the mission home is the Gokokuji Temple. Lots of Sakura in bloom so we walked down at lunch time one day this week and enjoyed the beautiful blossoms.

This week we travelled to Fukuchiyama to interview the missionaries and to hold my monthly meeting with the District President. We noticed the sakura blooming at the Fukuchiyama Castle so we stopped and got a quick picture. This is a great little castle in the center of town set on a big hill. Not too sure of the history on this one, but it was certainly lived in hundreds of years by a Daimyo and Samurai who ruled the area.

Here is a picture of the zone. Elders Nicerio, Ritchie, Cutler, Sheffield, Badger, Bohman, Ito and Oshiro. Elder Fukui, who works in the office right now had a birthday this week and it seems that everyone made him a cake!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kyoto Zone Interviews April 2009

Easter week - We visited Kyoto for interviews on Tuesday the 7th. The Easter bunny also joined us with eggs and treats. Kyoto is beautiful with all the trees in bloom.
After a zone lunch at Shakey's Pizza - all you can eat, we returned to the church in Shimogamo for interviews. The missionaries can get all the pizza, etc. they want for 670 yen. I am fairly confident they do not make any profit off the missionaries. Pictured above - Elders Budge, Andreasen, Cook, Thompson, Shattuck, Madgiman, Shepley, Williamson, Manning, Obata, Chamochumbi, Jones and Sisters Webb and Notsu.Everyone was pretty sick from eating too much pizza and the conversation changed to what we do each day for morning exercise. They seemed surprised when I told them how many push ups I do every day. To demonstrate, Elder Cook challenged me to 25 on the spot. They enjoyed watching that! We both did 25 and I am sure everyone got a good picture. You never know where and when those pictures will show up though! Kind of scary...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Himeji Castle Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) 2009

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom and fortunate for us the Kobe Mission area has some of the best and most famous viewing spots in Japan. One great place is Himeji Castle. On preparation day we visited Himeji and met up with several missionaries. Some were viewing and others planned to do some sports activities at the castle park.
This is the inner most mote around the castle with cherry blossoms.
Elders Steele and Wintz.
Sisters Glenn, McIntyre and Yamashita with the bamboo. Not sure what they are doing?
Another castle shot. People love to picnic under the trees this time of year and there are lots of people around to talk to!
Here is a group of missionaries. Yamashita, Glenn, Sorensen, Throop, Mizuguchi, Wintz, Steele, Remund, Varjao, Rasmussen, Merrick and Payne.
This is a shot from the front of the castle. It is about 400 years old and one of the largest still existing in Japan. The grounds are very spacious and you can see the castle from miles away as it stands high in the center of the valley.

Outside the walls, vendors are selling traditional Japanese festival food. That what I call it anyway.
Candied fruit.
Tako Yaki - Octopus dumpling balls
Sweet bean cakes.
Okonomiyaki - Pancake style cabbage and meat cakes.
And of course your basic squid on a stick.
Another pancake type roll on a stick. Shrimp in the middle.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 2009 Begins with Visit to Otsu, Shiga Prefecture

April 5th, Fast Sunday, we fasted as a mission to show our thanks for the wonderful converts we have seen so far this year and to help us find and ask the Lord to lead us to more people prepared to hear and accept His message. Missionaries also fasted personally to help further develop Christlike attributes. We invited the members to join in the fast as part of their normal fast day. In the afternoon, we travelled to Otsu in the Kyoto Zone to see the baptism of the Olivera family. Otsu is a wonderful city in Shiga prefecture along the shores of famous Lake Biwa. The Olivera's were baptized into the Omihachiman Ward, which does not have a font in their rented church building. The Otsu church is very nice and stands on a hill above the lake. You can see the lake a little below on the left in the picture above. Otsu is about 30 minutes by car from Omihachiman.

The family of three was baptized together. Brother and Sister Olivera are from Brazil, but have lived in Japan for nearly 15 years. She is Brazilian Japanese. Mayke, their son, is 15 years old and was born and raised here. They were first contacted about 9 years ago by the missionaries and have been studying the gospel ever since. Brother Olivera said he wanted to be sure before joining and now he is looking forward to their next goal of being sealed in the temple in one year. Elders Magidman and Thompson were the latest to teach them, but other elders still serving in the mission and pictured here also taught them the gospel including Elders Obata, Fukui and Monson. Elders Magidman and Obata are also from Brazil. The 5th was also Elder Wade's birthday. We had cakes made by the missionaries and cookies designed by Sister McIntyre.
Earlier in the week we had a chance to stop by the church in Miki and visit with the elders there. It is rented building and looks a little worn outside, but it is quite nice inside. The Miki branch is up the mountains just above Kobe in the Kobe stake.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March Wrap Up!

March 29th we had the pleasure of attending the baptism of Thompson Kojo right here in Kobe. He was found and taught by our Sr. Missionary couples here in the office, the Wades and Painters. Elders Wade and Painter met him at Costco and after being prompted by the Spirit and crossing paths with him in the store three times, they asked him about the gospel. His lovely wife and little baby attended the baptism. She is now being taught the lessons by the sisters in Japanese. He is a very spiritual man with a strong Christian background. He was moved when he heard that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored and began studying the Book of Mormon and received a firm testimony of that book and Joseph Smith after attending a fast and testimony meeting. We all hope he will have the chance to baptize his wife in the near future. Ricky went to Tokyo for a few days during spring break and attended youth conference in our old stake, Tokyo South. They had a clean up the beach service project one afternoon. Ricky is near the back on the right, just to the right of the young man standing in the back row. It is probably hard to pick him out!
Here are a few pictures from some of the other baptisms in the mission this month.
In Abeno, Sisters Meyers and Kogawa taught and baptized Sister Abe and her daughter, Nagisa. Elder Latimer and Kanno are also pictured and supported the sisters.Brother Kawasaki of Wakayama was taught by Elders Fishler and Hinton.And Sister Ishikawa was baptized in Okamachi. She was taught by many missionaries over a period of time. Elders West and Ito performed the baptism as she had to sit in a chair due to a bad back. She was taught by Sisters Sadler and Kurashita.Sister Mai Kuwamoto was taught and baptized in Tanabe by Elders Christiansen and Drake. There are more but these are the pictures I have now. The month of March was truly a wonderful month for the mission. Christ is the Reason and Joy is the Reward!
On the 30 and 31st, we held zone conferences and were visited by the Area Medical Advisers and their wives, Elder and Sister Brown and Elder and Sister Mead. Elder Brown is a medical doctor (orthopedic surgeon) and Elder Mead is a counseling psychologist. They taught the missionaries about physical and mental/emotional health during part of the conference. We enjoyed their training and wonderful testimonies.
The cherry blossoms are almost in full bloom and we are moving into our interview mode. April is here!