Friday, July 9, 2010

New Areas, New Missionaries and a New Mission!

Mission Tour to the Shikoku Member Districts and the Okayama Stake
The end of June we set out to meet our new missionaries and explore the new areas of the mission. With the consolidation of the Hiroshima Mission into Kobe and Fukuoka, the Kobe Mission took over two member districts on Shikoku (9 Branches) and the Okayama Stake (10 Wards and Branches). We added 19 units and 32 missionaries. Below is map of just a small piece of Shikoku. We came across the island in the upper right hand corner to Tokushima.
We set out on Sunday morning and visited the small branch of Sumoto on the island of Awaji (part of the Kobe Stake). We enjoyed speaking in sacrament meeting and visiting with the members. After church we headed towards the forth largest island in Japan, Shikoku to see our new area. The following is a travelogue of our week. We travelled over 1500 kilometers (over 1000 miles) in six days, held 4 Zone Conferences and interviewed all 32 new missionaries during the trip. We also saw some beautiful cities, churches and countryside.Tokushima Church - Sunday afternoon we arrived at the church in Tokushima. We found the sisters there teaching a lesson and introduced ourselves to them. They were surprised to see us. We also met District President Korida and the Tokushima Branch President at the church.It was a good chance to take a picture with some of our leaders in the district.Takamatsu Church (District Center) - We then drove to Takamatsu where we would hold our conference and interviews Monday morning. We stayed the night in a hotel here and met up with the assistants and office missionaries who came from Kobe in the other van Monday morning.During our zone conference, the members in Takamatsu made everyone a delicious lunch. Here is picture a of the Takamatsu Zone missionaries. They are now part of the new Kobe Mission!Marugame Church - Conference and interviews lasted until about 4pm. We left Takamatsu sometime around 5pm and headed for Matsuyama clear across Shikoku. On the way, we had the chance to stop in Marugame to see the brand new chapel there.
Marugame is located in Kagawa Prefecture and Kagawa is famous for Udon Noodles. Of course the elders wanted to try some. So dinner on the road was in Kagawa at this noodle shop. Although it was getting dark, between Matsuyama and Marugame lies the Niihama Branch. There has not been missionaries there for about 6 months and we are sending some in next week. So we needed to find the apartment and make sure it was set up for our elders to arrive.We first located the little church and got a picture as best as we could in the dark. Niihama Branch - The apartment was also located and in good condition. So we continued our drive to Matsuyama. We finally arrived and went to our hotel while the elders joined the Matsuyama Missionaries in their apartment. It was a little crowded so they tell me.
Matsuyama Church (District Center) - The next morning, Tuesday, we met at the church and held a great conference and interviews.
Here are the missionaries from the Matsuyama areas. Welcome to the Kobe Mission!More wonderful food prepared by the members. The missionaries do not go hungry out here!Wednesday was our big travel day from Shikoku across the inland sea to Honshu (or the main island of Japan), and across Honshu to Yonago which lies on the coast of the sea of Japan (Okayama Stake). We figured it would be a 6 hour drive and since we had no preparation day that week we took the morning to see some of the sites in our new area before heading out.We visited Matsuyama Castle on Wednesday morning. It is one of the nicest castles I have visited and has a spectacular view of the city and sea. The elders loved the chair lift that takes you up to the castle on the mountain.Here we are inside the castle walls posing for a picture. Here is a view of Matsuyama city from inside the castle. The rumors that Shikoku is the countryside and there are no people to share the gospel with are not true. We found Tokushima, Takamatsu, Marugame and Matsuyama to all be quite large cities. We look forward to sharing the gospel here.
After the morning tour of the castle, we headed towards Imabari, the last branch we planned to visit on Shikoku as we made our way to Yonago.
Imabari Church - Imabari is a smaller city up towards the inland sea of Japan. We had lunch there before catching the freeway over the islands back to Honshu.The drive back to Honshu was quite amazing. Several islands in the inland sea are connected by a series of bridges that connect Shikoku to Honshu. We finally arrived in Yonago just as it was getting dark. Again the elders went to the apartment and we retired to our hotel near the church.Yonago Church - The next morning, Thursday, we again held zone conference and interviewed all the missionaries. Welcome to the new Kobe missionaries from this zone.
After interviews and the conference, we offered to drive the sisters back to their area, Kurayoshi, before travelling back down to Okayama for the night. The drive to Kurayoshi from Yonago takes you along the Sea of Japan. Wind off the sea is common thus this area of Japan has some of these big windmills to generate power.
The Kurayoshi church, a branch, is out in the country. The proud Kurayoshi Sisters. Sisters Matsuda and Fujiwara in front of the church.
Here are the assistants, Elders Monson and Masui at the entrance to the Kurayoshi church. After dropping off the sisters and also inspecting their apartment (which was clean) we headed for Okayama. We stopped for dinner at a family restaurant and finally made it to Okayama around curfew time for the elders. Okayama Stake Center - The Okayama Stake Center is quite large and sits next to the former mission home and offices of the old Okayama Mission. We still use the large missionary apartment there as a place for missionaries to stay when traveling. Parts of the old mission home are also currently used by the stake and for other church offices.We had a wonderful conference in Okayama and interviewed all our new missionaries. Welcome to the Okayama Zone!
Before leaving Okayama, we drove across town to see the Okayama Nishi Ward building.Saturday, after the assistants returned to Kobe, Sister McIntyre and I visited another church in the Okayama Stake (in a big rain storm), Tsuyama, where we attended a very nice baptism with the elders there.
Elders Maxfield and Burhoe baptized Sister Nakagawa. This was the first baptism for us to attend in the new part of the mission. What an amazing week it was. The pictures here really do not do our trip justice. We are so excited to work with these additional missionaries in these wonderful areas of Japan. After arriving home in Kobe, we had little time to rest as we needed to prepare for our Zone Leader Council and our special all Mission Conference - Blog update coming soon!

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