Happy New Year! Or, as the Japanese would say, “O-shogatsu omedetou!” We ended our year on a high note: we had the opportunity to talk with Charlie on Christmas Day via video conference. As you can see from the picture, he looked happy and well, and he sounded great. He bore his testimony in Japanese and it was beautiful. He even moved his grandmother to tears. (She might not have been the only one…) It was pretty much our favorite Christmas present.
After church yesterday Weckesser Choro and I left to go visit an old man in the ward named Ishihara Kyoudai who I hadn’t seen in weeks. He’s like 90 years old, and I hadn’t seen him for a while, so you know…we kind of went to go make sure he hadn’t died. Well he was alive. He’s the funniest 90-year-old Japanese guy I’ve ever met. He’s so sweet, and lives by himself but everyone in the neighborhood knows him and loves him and brings him food. He looks like a Japanese version of Mr. Frederickson from the movie “Up”. He tried to give us koucha [black tea] and then he said “Aa! Anata wa nomenai ne!” [“Oh! You don’t drink tea, do you?”] and then continued to make some for himself. Weckesser Choro and I laughed…he’s a member, too! But we let it go because he’s way old and innocent. We found out why he doesn’t come to church–he doesn’t have money and has to walk to church 2 1/2 hours both ways! And he needs a cane, too! That poor old man! We are definitely going to arrange for him to have a ride from now on. Can you imagine a 90-year-old man with a cane walking to church two and a half hours both ways!? Now that is some faith. Who cares if he still drinks tea!
The first year of my mission was the best time of my life. I can’t wait for the second. I can’t believe how fast it has gone. Too fast. I’ve noticed many changes in myself and in my desires. It’s been amazing. I have learned to put myself last, to put my needs and my wants and my desires behind so that I can help other people like Christ did. When I focus on other people, my life is so much easier and enjoyable. A few months ago I was entirely concerned with my abilities. Wanting to become better–speak Japanese better, know the gospel better, work on all the things I wanted to work on. And I was stressed because I always felt like I was behind in my personal development. But I realize now that I have a higher priority: to serve others. I dropped the personal goals that weren’t so necessary and just focused on helping other people. Sometimes it’s frustrating when they don’t want to be helped, but I know I’m doing what’s right: just serving and giving people the gift of the gospel. And through that I’ve grown faster than I ever could have just focusing on myself.It’s hard to imagine why that works, but when you look at things with an eternal perspective, it all makes sense. By turning outward rather than inward, we open our hearts to the Spirit of the Lord, which can grow us a lot faster than we ourselves can. I’ve learned more about the nature of God and his love and the Atonement in one year being in a Buddhist country than I ever did in 18 years living in a Christian country. God can do things like that to us, if we let him. I can’t wait to keep serving for another year. I can’t wait for every day to leave the apartment and help some people. I can’t wait to see the hearts of the members of the church be opened. I can’t wait to see a temple in this area one day. I can’t wait to meet all the wonderful people I will get to meet the rest of my time here. I can’t wait to see more of the works of God. I’ve really gained a testimony of just how much God really does love us, each and every one of his children. There’s not a person on this earth that God doesn’t care about hearing a prayer from. There’s not a person in existence that he exempts from using the atoning blood of Christ to cleanse, purify, and strengthen. Every single one of his children. The thought that so many of his children don’t know that yet makes me want to get out and preach every day!
And a few more just for fun:
A Happy New Year to everyone! May 2015 bring you health and prosperity. O-shogatsu omedetou gozaimasu!