Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 2013 -- One more picture from Sendai

So Natalie and her companion had lunch with some people on the 18th floor of a government building.
Our favorite Sister Missionary in Japan -- skyline of the city of Sendai in the background.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 2013 - Pictures from Sendai

Natalie is still puzzled how a cookie can be crisp and "moist".  Apparently "moist" is the popular adjective in Japan this year!

Enjoying some noodles with her companion, Sister Takatsuka who will end her mission on December 13th.

Natalie has found a new favorite bakery a few blocks from her apartment.  I think they see her often.

Roommates enjoying Indian curry on their day off.

Natalie surrounded by fellow missionaries

Natalie doing a famous "selfie"

Someone is very happy.  She found where they hide the chickens in Japan.  I think she wanted to pet and talk to each one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 2013 - Pictures from Matsushima

Natalie is now in the heart of the main mission city of Sendai.  Much larger, much busier, and warmer than Aomori.  On her first preparation day, she and her companion went to Matsushima which is nearby.

Sister Orgill and her new companion, Sister Takatsuka

New companions on bridge with ocean and pine-covered islands in the background

Someone is very happy in Japan; standing in front of shrines carved out of a cliff

Week 22--Sendai, Japan

Well, you couldn’t find a place in the mission more opposite than Aomori. I hear crosswalks beeping and taxis driving all night long, I sleep on a bed (well, a bunk with a futon on it), and the accent is entirely different (as in, they speak like normal Japanese people!) My companion, T-Shimai, is the BOMB. Oh my goodness I’m so lucky. She's from Kanagawa-ken, she's 23, this is her LAST TRANSFER, she's already been in Kamisugi for 6 months, and SHE IS THE NICEST PERSON OF ALL TIME. She also doesn't speak English. Let me give you the low-down on my situation right quick. 6 shimai tachi sisters in one smallll apt. How do we do it? Magic. Anddddd 4 of them are Nihonjin. And K-Shimai is insanely jozu skilled speaker (also from my doki training group) and I'm so glad to have her!! Sometimes a little English is nice after you've been babbled at for 4 hours by obaachans grandmas...which has happened to me 3 times so far. The Ward (yes WARD) is HUGE and they’re SO NICE and fam, if M-kyodai adds me on Facebook and you accept, I'm sure you'll see at least 5 THOUSAND pictures and videos of me. He's not active but he LOVES the missionaries. The members are so amazing. And I CAN FINALLY SEND PICTURES YAYYYY!!!! I wanna tell you about everyone in my district but I also wanna send pictures!! T-shimai is a bad-booty. She rides her (MOUNTAIN) bike with no hands and is absolutely the kindest sister in the mission.
  So holy 5 months that I’ve been out!! Unreal. Missions go by too fast. We went to Matsushima for P Day and went on a ferry to see all the little islands. So much fun! It was technically in Tagajo's area! Kamisugi is geographically SUCH a small area compared to Aomori! If I trip, I'm out of boundaries!! But HOLY MOMMA OF INCLINE. We biked for a straight hour to our investigator's house today- up a MOUNTAIN. But man was it fun coming back, and my goodness was she worth it. The spirit was so strong. She just miscarried what would have been her first child and she is so heartbroken. We're helping her to realize that through the gospel that things will be alright and that with an eternal perspective, the hard things in life are handled with more ease. We have so many great investigators here that WANT to believe, and goodness knows that as Alma taught if you only have a desire to believe; it can work into a sure knowledge of the truths of Heavenly Father' s restored church. I told her that's how my testimony came. It wasn't until I realized that I wanted to believe and wanted to know that these things were true and was willing to put in the effort if they were that my answer came. This gospel changes lives; and I wouldn't be in Japan working my hardest if it didn't. Love you much!!

November 2013 - Pictures from Aomori

Natalie just transferred to Sendai and now has the ability to send pictures.  Here are a few from her last area:

Heading out on the bikes -- the yellow one, not the little pink one.

Four sisters from the same group in the MTC with their Japanese trainers

Fearless Aomori threesome heading out on their bikes in a typhoon ... that is a road behind them -- just temporarily a river!

Aomori Missionaries hamming it up.  Looks like Sister Yoshikawa has sprouted one of Sister Orgill's legs.

Aomori missionaries enjoying a meal together.

Sister Johnson and Sister Orgill heading out on another epic biking trek.

Companions Sister Johnson and Sister Orgill somewhere near the tippy-top of the main island of Honshu.

Aomori sister missionaries

Aomori missionaries

Aomori sister missionaries down by the harbor ... Morgan, Johnson, Yoshikawa and Orgill

Chillin ... Aomori-style.
Sister Orgill shopping in a local Aomori market (hint: she's the blonde)

Week 21--Aomori, Japan

Well, it looks like I'm leaving behind apples, 18 feet of snow, and my 68-year-old "boyfriend" because I'm being transferred to Kamisugi!! My companion is a Nihonjin on her final transfer- Taka-something or other! It will be a great experience. I already miss Aomori- but there are things to love in every area.  This transfer was a hard one (probably not the last, I would bet). We worked our tails off and saw very little success as far as numbers. We experienced a lot of disappointments, stress, and hard times. But I have grown from it; I know I have. It is certainly in times of opposition and hardship that we grow the most. At the end of our ropes when we had done all we could do, the Lord gave us the miracle of Y-san. Sometimes we just have to hold out faithful a littleeeee bit longer, and the Lord will bless us abundantly for our perseverance. I know that God answers our prayers. He is continual answering mine. We are not alone in the trials of this life. In the words of Jeffrey R. Holland, "Some blessings come soon, some blessings come late, and others don’t come until Heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ; they come." And come they do. We have been teaching N-shimai as if she is an investigator because she went inactive as soon as she was baptized, and watching her faith slowly progress as she trusts us more has been a blessing to watch. And the fact that Y-san just happened to walk into Eikaiwa English class after it was done when we could all chat with her, and she just happens to be around our age (24) and speaks English fluently and lived for 4 years DOWN THE STREET from J- Shimai in Rocklin CA and that she wants to be a Christian and that her parents let her do what she wants as far as religion is all a MIRACLE. I don't have much else to tell you this week; I love my district, the branch, and our investigators.
   I know Kamisugi will bring great things as well- and I look forward to it! Time to peace out of the freezing north and say hellooooo to Sendai!
Love you all; you're in my prayers.
Keep it classy, and remember that the Lord watches over you always!

Orgill Shimai

Week 20--Aomori, Japan

Hello hello! Well now I understand why people can't fully explain WHY missions are so difficult; yet so rewarding. Sometimes it is just SO DIFFICULT. There are a lot of heartbreaks with investigators and hills on a bike (and really, REALLY cold weather) and overall, for me just sometimes feeling so inadequate to be in such a marvelous work. But the Lord only has imperfect people to work with, which must be terribly frustrating to Him! But He deals with it; and so should we. So I want to tell you about the biggest miracle of the week.
N-shimai met the missionaries when she was 19 and got baptized about a month later. She then went immediately inactive, and no one had visited her since 2007. So OF COURSE J Shimai and I went. She came to the door. She's now 28, has been married for a year, and has a little baby. We asked her if she believed in God. She said no. We asked her if she would pray every night. No. If she would pray just that night. No. And then we bore our testimonies to her, and asked her to pray at the end. She reluctantly said yes. As she prayed, she thanked Heavenly Father for giving her her child and that we came to see her. When the prayer ended, she was crying. I said quietly, "I know that God lives." And she said "Yes, He does." She's way great, and we've been able to go back and teach her again. The Spirit is so strong when we teach her. Those are the times when I just walk away thinking, "and THIS is why I'm on a mission."
   I'm mentally steeling myself for the prospect of training so early in my mission (next week we'll get our transfer calls and find out) and so I lead EVERYTHING for this last week of my training. I plan, schedule, find people's houses, take every phone call and text, etc. But I'm finally getting good at the Japanese map systems!! Thank goodness. Learning the kanji helps out a TON! So it's getting COLD. Like WAY COLD. Like hurts your lungs cold. And I'm sick right now. But still genki well!! Mom and Dad, perhaps sending my purple snow coat would be good (mom has the black version I took to Spain) in my winter package. Just a thought! So far so good, though.
   All of our investigators were too busy for us this week, so we continue to pray for and try with them. But I had kind of a funny experience housing. This woman answered the door and I was introducing who we were when her eyes got really big and she just started smiling super wide. Kind of alarmed at that reaction, I asked her, "Are you alright?!" She said, "Oh no I'm fine it's just that...you're really pretty." Haha well THAT'S not a usual Nihonjin reaction when they answer the door! But I thought it was funny.
This week has just been another steady week of endurance. Sometimes it was difficult. It's difficult being with the same person 24/7, no matter who the person is, and especially if they're just opposite. But we work well together! This is not our work; it's His. And thank goodness for that.
Love you all, thank you for your prayers.
気を付けて!! Take care,

Orgill Shimai

Week 19-- Aomori, Japan

I so wish I could send pictures! I made a pigeon friend today that hopped right into my lap. We went to the ocean as a district and took some splendid pictures. I'm glad you saw M’s pimpin’ pictures of us! Our district is awesome, are we not?! Unfortunately, with this next transfer there is much that will probably be changed in the district and many of us will have to leave. But change is the reason we have come to this Earth; to change our lives, to align them to the will of God, and to allow Him to change our hearts. I've been working on that a lot recently. As much as I have been humbled, I still have this punk barrier of pride. Allow me to testify to you that there is a reason the Lord gives his commandments INCLUDING preaching the gospel two-by-two. And when I ignored that reason, I could not have the spirit. I was so exhausted. And it was all because I was trying to do His work without Him. Insanely stupid, I know. I just feel ashamed for wasting ANY of the precious time the Lord has given me in these 18 months to share the Gospel with His children. It has been a changing week indeed.  And not just a week; but a process of getting out of the way and letting the Spirit work on people's hearts. We both have weaknesses for sure, but it is only together with the Spirit that we can teach.
So as you know, General Conference was the BOMB. I listened to it for the first time yesterday because they had to translate it into Japanese (but I got to listen in English :) and I LOVED IT. So many amazing talks where I felt the Spirit and felt motivated to change. At the MTC, I didn't understand the Atonement as well as I am learning to now. I once asked R Shimai, "Do you ever feel confused about what to repent for because we're not really doing anything wrong?" The atonement is not about avoiding punishment for breaking God's commandments; it enables us to develop a saintly character. When we stop doing wrong we are not done; there's more we should be doing right. The Atonement changes our CHARACTER. It doesn't matter how long we've had these habits or how defeated we feel; it can change us. I feel it changing me.
  We taught a genkan doorway lesson to a less active this week who hasn’t been to church (nor her family) in about 20 years. We asked her to pray that night to feel a renewal that God was there and loved her. She said "Yeah, I'll pray, but we can't just start coming to church. We're so busy and blah blah excuses." I finally said, "Our purpose as missionaries isn't to just get you and your family to come back to church. You're not a number to us. Our purpose is to help you come closer to the Savior and to God and feel their love. We want to help you, and that is why we're here." I don't know why I felt so prompted to say it to her- but I did and so I said it. She looked a little surprised. She agreed to pray. But I was just reminded of our true purpose as missionaries- it is just to help people have the happiness that we have by knowing that we are children of a living God and that this life has a specific purpose and there is a specific plan set up for all of us to return to Him. It's not about number of baptisms or people at church; it is helping people towards happiness they didn't know was available.
So investigators. They're difficult. K-san is great (He came to General Conference!!!) But he just really likes learning about THINGS; we're trying to help him grow his FAITH.
O-san is a bit of a punk;) His poor wife was hit by a 4 ton truck 4 years ago and now her brain is tilted, which causes serious problems for her. We try to help in every way we can. She feels no need for God; she is at peace with her suffering. And he chewed me out for calling him at 8 pm (my companion asked me to against my better judgment...) and he's so busy being so smart it's hard for him to find time to find faith. But we pray for all of our kyudosha investigators and their progress. The hardest things about Nihonjins Japanese is that they're SO BUSY. They can't find time to meet with us; every minute of every day is already scheduled. So our appointments are soooo barabara scattered- it requires a lot of patience. I wish I had stories for you- But this week was just a whole lot more hilarious comments on our gaijin-ness foreign-ness and how tall and blonde and pretty and white and......we are. Some funny reactions though;) Including near- traffic accidents at intersections especially! But life is classy, I LOVE it in Aomori, the weather is PERFECT, and the countryside is amazing (and so is my biking stamina through hills baha). I love the work and I'm always reminding myself whose it is. Never forget that your Heavenly Father loves you, and can make something better of yourself than you can.
Love ya much!

Orgill Shimai