Saturday, May 23, 2009

Recent Worthy Converts

We cannot attend all baptisms, but we get pictures sent in for many of them. Here are some recent baptismal pictures.Above is Brother Tanida of the Akashi Ward, Kobe Stake with Elders Steele and Andrews. Below is Sister Uraguchi of the Miki Branch, Kobe Stake with Campbell, Edfrennes and Nielson. Sister Ou and Brother Miyake in a double baptism in the Hirakata Ward of the Osaka Stake with Elders Bahr and Murphy.
Brother Nakase of the Amagasaki Ward, Kobe Stake seen here with Elders Shoaf, Edfrennes and Christie. Below, Brother Saito with his family and Elders Wintz and Merrick in the Akou Branch of the Kobe Stake.

Another double baptism above in the Wakayama Ward of the Osaka Sakai Stake. Brother Hiraiwa and Brother pictured with Elders Fishler and Christiansen.

Sister Tanimura was baptized in ward Katsura of the Kyoto Stake by Elders Williamson and Cook. The work moves on! I will continue to post these as I can get pictures and have time to post them. This is proving to be a wonderful year for the work in the mission.

New Office Couple - The Pypers Arrive

On May 19th, Elder and Sister Pyper arrived in Kobe as our new office couple. After a few weeks in the Provo MTC, they spent two days working with the Painters here in Kobe before taking over officially. We are so happy to have the Pypers back with us in Japan. Yes, back in Japan. The Pypers served in Kobe Japan in 2001-2 as the office couple. In fact they were the office couple at the time of the closing of the mission with the mission realignments of 2002. Elder Pyper remembers the day when he closed the mission office door for the last time and locked it. It was a sad day. But what a blessing now to be back in the reopened Kobe Mission!
Here are the Pypers with our family. In between serving in Kobe, they also served an office couple mission in Guatemala. So I believe this is their third mission together. I did not ask Sister Pyper her age, but I will tell you Elder Pyper is 78 and seems ready to serve three more missions! These senior missionaries (all of them) are my heroes. What a blessing it is to serve with them and learn from them and their fine examples.
For about three days we had three senior couples in the mission. The Wades, The Pypers and the Painters as seen above. We are now back to two as the Painters finished their service and returned home.
The night before the Painter's departure, we had a dinner with the outgoing and incoming office couples and finished off the evening with testimonies. It was a wonderful experience. If you are able, my advice is to serve a mission. And then, serve another one!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Elder and Sister Painter Return Home

This past week we said goodbye to Elder and Sister Painter who have spent the past year and a half serving in Japan as our office couple. The office couple serve as our office secretary and financial secretary. They also can engage in proselyting, help with English classes and in training the missionaries. There is a lot of back office support that goes into running a mission, and they make sure it happens. Here they are with our family (minus Erika) their last night in Japan.The Painters were wonderful and served so diligently. When we arrived they had already been here for about 6 months. They made sure things kept moving smoothly during that transition and beyond. Ricky said Sister Painter always greeted him with a big hello and smile! She was just so happy all the time. Although the language was a challenge at times, you would have never known. Elder Painter has his own company back in the US and he handled all our mission finances without any trouble. It was truly a blessing to have them serve with us.
With children and many grandchildren left behind at home, it is a great sacrifice for these couples to go to a far off land and serve for all those months. But they would tell you it was well worth it. In their final testimony, they shared their feelings about how they have grown closer through serving together and how they have learned to love Japan and the people here.
Hope you had a great reunion with your family. We love you!

May Activity Update

We have recently assigned additional missionaries to the Hirakata area of the Osaka Stake. Hirakata was the old headquarters for the Osaka Mission. The old mission home and offices still stand on the property next to the nice three story church building. The Hirakata district now consists of 4 elders and two sisters who all live right there on the church property.We took a picture of them after interviews on May 15th. The next day there were two convert baptisms in the area, the first in some time. Pictured above - Sister and Pres. McIntyre, Sister Kogawa, Elder Murphy, Sister Yamashita and Elders Bahr, Campbell and Honma.The sisters live in the old Mission Home Residence. They occupy just the first floor and are very happy to be there! The elders all live in the elders quarters in a separate building over the old mission offices.While I was in Tokyo at the Mission President's Seminar, Rika took Julie to Himeji Castle. It is only a little over an hour drive from Kobe. They went on the tour of the inside. Below is a shot of the town out of one of the windows. In other news, for some reason, James wanted to get a buzz cut. We did not argue. Julie and I were happy to help him out.He started a trend as three of his friends came home from school the next day with him and asked us to cut their hair too.
We wanted to leave his half done.
The buzz boys. James is on the far right. To be thirteen again!!
More updates soon!

Swine Flu in Kansai

Please don't worry, but the swine flu has infected our mission. The flu showed up in Kobe City a little over a week ago. Schools closed in an attempt to contain it, but it has found its way to several other parts of the mission including Osaka and Kyoto. The Japanese government is taking a very cautious approach to this even though it appears to not be much more dangerous than the seasonal flu. Missionaries have continued to proselyte with no real restrictions, but they have been instructed to be cautious, wash hands often (luckily the Japanese bow and do not normally shake hands) and avoid large crowds or people with symptoms. Ricky and James have been out of school all week, but have been told they can return to school next week. Other cities are closing their schools now though. Usually they close them for a week in hopes of allowing the virus to die out before it can spread further. No missionaries have contracted the flu, nor have any members to my knowledge.
I was in Tokyo for about three days this past week for a mission president's seminar. While I was gone, the assistants and Sister McIntyre picked up our new office couple, the Pypers, from the airport. The Japanese all wear masks to prevent "getting" sick. We have been assured this will have little affect, but the Japanese still wear them. When the Elders walked into the terminal, there were people, mainly high school students going on a school trip, packed into the terminal. For some reason when they saw the two American Elders they were surprised and started clapping. The Elders ate it up.
There has been no deadly cases of the flu, but the situation has began to have in impact on the work. The church policy is for us to strictly follow the government's directions and when a city closes its schools and asks that you not hold any big gatherings, church meetings are cancelled. As a result, we have had some baptisms postponed and this coming Sunday there are no meetings being held in several parts of Osaka and all of Kyoto. In fact, stake conference in the Kyoto Stake was completely cancelled. This month has turned out to be a challenge as we seem to have had a wave of bad luck and have lost many people scheduled for baptism for various reasons and now a flu epidemic. We have been seeing great success this year in the mission but it currently feels like the adversary has stepped up his activity to thwart our efforts from all directions. We can't baptize people unless we can get them to church! Nevertheless, we will move forward and establish and strengthen the church in Kansai.
On a related note - To our surprise the other day, while the elders were in the front of the church, a black car pulled up and a man got out and introduced himself as a member of the Yamaguchi Gumi (The Japanese Yakuza). That is one of the most famous crime groups in Japan. The Yamaguchi have their headquarters just a few blocks from the mission home. He handed the elders three boxes of surgical masks and said since the flu broke he thought we might need them. For those not familiar with the Japanese crime syndicate, these are the real thing. They have however, over the years been friendly to the church and can often be seen looking after the neighborhood. One year a couple of them showed up with bags of candy at a primary holloween party. At the time of the Kobe earthquake the church and the Yamaguchi Yakuza were the only groups to provide water and support to many people in the immediate area in the days following the disaster. Just an interesting side story about the mission. I would post a picture of their headquarters but they may see it and try and find me!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monkeys Monkeys Monkeys and Maiko in Kyoto - May 2009

Julie is here until mid June and we only have one or two Saturdays open between now and then. Finding some family time is not always easy for us. Teenagers have so much going on especially at the end of a school year. Trying to get them all together for a family activity is sometimes a challenge. We have two stake conferences this month which will take up two of the weekends. We wanted to take what time we had and do something fun. So this past Saturday we spent the day in Kyoto and visited Arashiyama.Julie had never been to the monkey park so we took her on the hike up the mountain.Kyoto City in the background. It was a beautiful, clear, warm day. The monkeys were active as usual. There were several newborns, the youngest being born in the morning of the day we visited.
Mommy is giving Jr. a little massage. This little guy was about one month old.
Ricky and James found a friend getting some shade. The baby on the right was just born and still had the umbilical cord attached.
Mom and young.
This is the alpha male monkey. He is about 26 years old. The Japanese monkey lives about 30 years on average.
To feed the monkeys, we have to get in the cage. Julie and James feeding them bananas.
Julie and Ricky teasing one.Just having some fun during the hike down the mountain.In Arashiyama we found a little Maiko and took pictures with her. Maiko are apprentice geisha.Later we went to downtown Kyoto for dinner and shopping. We stayed at a hotel in Kyoto and enjoyed the Japanese onsen bath provided. Julie and Rika in their yukata going to the bath.The next morning, Sunday (and Mother's Day), we attended sacrament meeting in Shimogamo Ward and then drove over to the Katsura Ward to attend their sacrament meeting in the afternoon as well. Both wards are located in Kyoto. The kids were great to attend church twice, all in Japanese.

This is the Katsura church building. It is a renovated building converted into a church. Getting out to the 40 plus wards and branches in the mission for church is not easy. Even if we attended a different ward or branch every week, it would take at least a year to hit every unit. When you consider that we have stake conferences and general conferences as well, not to mention attending church as a family in our home ward from time to time, getting to every unit once a year is actually a challenge. When possible, visiting two units in one day is a bonus for us we cannot pass up!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 2009 Mission Tour

Elder Stevenson, of our Area Presidency, and Sister Stevenson conducted a mission tour this past week and instructed and taught us in two separate conferences.
Two conferences were held. One in Ibaraki for half of the mission...
...and the other in Kobe for the other half of the mission. All missionaries in the mission attended at least one of the conferences. Among many things, we learned some foundational principles of missionary work (Obedience, Diligence and the Spirit). During the afternoon of both conferences, he led the missionaries in an in-depth study of 2 Nephi chapters 2 and 9. They were amazing meetings and much was learned and re-learned about the doctrines of the atonement, the resurrection, the plan of salvation, and the law found in these chapters.
Not related to the mission tour, but we just got a shot of the spring festival parade that went right in front of the church and the mission home. Many believe these portable shrines, that are carried with two poles running parallel along each side, are symbolic of (or originated from) the Israelites carrying the Ark of the Covenant before them into battle. That is speculation, but one of the many really interesting similarities between ancient Israel and the traditional Japanese Shinto religion. This shrine was so big it was supported by wheels underneath. Most are smaller.
We did not get to attend, but Elders Varjao and Kurose sent in a picture of Sister Utsumi's baptism from the Kakogawa Ward in the Kobe Stake.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Sword of the Spirit - Kimono Pictures Taken Last Year

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!! 2009 About this time last year we visited a great studio in Harajuku, Tokyo to take some fun kimono family pictures. Seems like a long time ago, but it was only a year ago this month.A few months after these shots, we were in the MTC. It took a couple hours to get everyone dressed and all the make up applied to the girls. Rika said it was hard to smile because it felt like her face would crack.
Erika had no trouble smiling. She continues to do so on her mission in Sapporo. Julie as well. Our two little dolls.
Samurai don't smile much and Ricky and James played the part well.
The girls...
...and the boys.
As missionaries, perhaps a picture with a sword in hand is an appropriate image. The sword is the only offensive tool found in the whole armour of God. We girt our loins with truth. We shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We wear the breastplate of righteousness, and above all we take the shield of faith to protect us from the fiery darts of the adversary. Finally we cover our heads with the helmet of salvation. But it is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, that we take into battle against the adversary as we boldly open our mouths to make known the mysteries of the gospel. As missionaries, we obtain the word through the Spirit and through that same Spirit we take the Word unto the world. (Ephesians 6)
Nothing is more powerful or influential than the Word of God.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for it is right. Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise) Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Sister McIntyre had wanted to take these pictures for some time and we finally got them done before moving from Tokyo. Some great memories! But perhaps an even greater message for missionaries.
Happy Mother's Day!