Charlie has his work cut out for him in his current area, Nishinomiya, just on the outskirts of Kobe. The members are few, and finding people to teach has been a challenge. Other than Shota-san, who was recently baptized, it’s been a dry few months. Here is what Charlie said about it a few weeks ago:
This week was pretty hard. For a while we hadn’t seen a lot of success finding, and we were spending all of our time working and working with no results. It was very disappointing. On Saturday I decided to fast all day. That day was another day with no lessons planned, so it was all finding. I tried tirelessly to talk to every person I saw, but as we were shot down over and over and over again, it became very frustrating. I know that rejection is a part of missionary work, but you’d think after praying and seeking revelation about where to go, then going there, and then trying to talk to hundreds of people for three days in a row, you’d find somebody. That was disappointing, and then there’s always the answer that missionaries say, “Well, I know there’s something I’m supposed to learn from this.” True, but I’m here to bless the lives of other people, not just to strengthen myself or to come back and just be super experienced and wise and what not. I came here to serve others. But after the fast, I was really able to feel Heavenly Father’s love for me, and I could feel that Heavenly Father was just preparing me for something greater later on in my mission. I was reminded to have a more eternal perspective, and that our failures in the moment can become successes in the long run.
Then last week, he met someone interesting.
On Thursday I was in Amagasaki with Phillips Choro and as we were on our way to visit someone, I stopped and talked to a man from Sri Lanka. He spoke perfect English. He asked, “So what are you doing in Japan?” I said, “I’m a Christian missionary!” He said, “Oh, really? Well come on inside!” and pointed around the corner to where I assumed he lived. I was thinking Wow! This guy is awesome! He probably already has a testimony of Jesus Christ! Then I turned the corner and saw a cross on the top of the building, and he said, “You can call me Father Lihan.” Yep. I had just found a Catholic priest at his church! (So he did have a testimony of Christ.) We went inside and all the people working there were really nice to us. We talked to Father Lihan for about 20 minutes about experiences we’ve had working in Japan with the people. It was pretty unexpected, but it was cool.
That didn’t pan out quite like he thought it would. And probably not for the priest, either. But it’s a good story.
Then, in this week’s letter:
I had an amazing experience I want to share with everyone that I had a few weeks ago when I was on an exchange with Elder Phillips in Amagasaki. This was the same day we met the Catholic priest. We went to visit someone we hadn’t seen at church in a while, but he didn’t answer the door when we knocked. So we prayed to know what to do. After the prayer we talked and Phillips Choro said he wanted to go back to the church to prepare for our next lesson. But during the prayer I felt the slightest urge to house* the cul-de-sac we were in. So we did about eight houses or so and no one answered. Just as we were walking out of the cul-de-sac, Phillips Choro said hello to a man walking by on the adjacent street. We started talking to him and found out that he was a recently converted Christian and loved hymns and Jesus Christ. We showed him the Book of Mormon and explained what it was about. After a minute or so he said “Tatteiru no wa shindoi wa! Uchi ni ikou ka?” [Standing here is tiring! Wanna go to my house?] So we followed him home and we sat down in his living room and he gave us something to eat. He started talking about a lot of random things, like how the hole in the ozone layer is God’s punishment to the world for being lazy. But we found that he had a firm desire to follow God. We set up another appointment with him for the following Sunday and left for our next lesson. This week I got a phone call from Elder Phillips and he told me that this man, Ueno-san, wants to join the church! Apparently he said, “I want to be baptized, and I want to be baptized tomorrow. Are there rules about that?” He’s going to be baptized on December 21st. The smallest prompting to house that area put us in the right place at the right time for God to place one of his sheep in our path. This man was so prepared to receive the restored gospel. Our chances of finding him on our own among the hundreds of thousands of people in Amagasaki were slim to none. Surely this is a miracle. He IS working through small and simple things to bring great things to pass. The Holy Ghost will guide us to those people who are prepared if we let him.