The mission continues to speed by like a bullet train, at least for Charlie. For us back home it seems like such a long time since we’ve given that boy a big hug, but having the chance to live chat with him on Mother’s Day was a wonderful gift. He is busy, positive, happy, and tired all at the same time. Here is what’s been going on with Charlie Choro lately:
This week my eyes were opened to just how much Japanese people don’t know about religion or church in general. So many Japanese people avoid even touching religion because there are a lot of religions that kind of force people to do stuff and brainwash people (Soka Gakkai*, etc.) A while ago I talked to a guy on a train named Nakayama san who had been to America for about a year. He was really cool, had a young family, and had interest in Eikaiwa [English class] so I gave him a chirashi [flyer]. He started coming to Eikaiwa, and even a few church activities with his wife and two-year-old daughter. This last week I texted him and asked him if he wanted to hear our message about families after Eikaiwa. He said yes, so after class we went to another room to have a lesson and then all of a sudden he got really scared, nervous, and confused, as we sat down and started to ask questions like, “Why is your family important to you?” “What kind of things would you like to do so you can find more peace and happiness in your family?” He spoke up and said he had no idea why we were sitting down talking about this, and pointed at our nametags and said, “What’s your goal here? To convince me to put on a nametag like you guys and become a Christian?” I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I thought he at least understood that missionaries were not there to FORCE him to join our church! So we spent an hour or so trying to calm him down and reassure him that we were his friends and that we only just wanted to help him and his family. It was a crazy lesson. I realized that one of the biggest obstacles in Japan is simply people not having an idea of what missionaries are or do, and not having a good image of religion in general. Luckily Nakayama san later said he wanted to keep learning, but it’s frustrating that we missionaries have to fight that kind of stereotype. All we want to do is help people!
*Soka Gakkai–a somewhat controversial new religious movement in Japan based on Buddhism that has been known for its aggressive recruiting methods and that some call a cult.
So recently in Senri the dendo [work] is struggling; this area has been pretty dry for baptisms. That’s the problem with areas with big wards in Japan–sometimes missionary work doesn’t seem so urgent to them. They don’t really worry about sharing the gospel as much or bringing their friends to church. I’ve been working really hard in this area to change that and I will admit that I’m tiring out a little bit. But I would never once in a lifetime say that I haven’t really had any successful areas. I’ve done my best in every single one. I have found so many people to teach in every area. Of course, not very many of them choose to be baptized, and that’s okay. I’m not here just to count baptisms. Love has to be the motive, and in order to baptize people and help them stay active they need a lot of help from the ward. And baptism definitely isn’t the end–the end goal is an eternal family. And if I go about trying to help everyone I see have an eternal family, then no matter how many people I teach or don’t teach, this mission is setting me up for life –not just in this life, but in the life to come, with an eternal family. Knowing that makes the difference in every day I’m out here.
I’ve been here in Japan a long time now. Sadly, the 75 percent mark is approaching soon in about another month. Time flies by way too fast! The mission has gone by way, way too fast. I feel like I just got here, and already I’ve got all these little beans [brand new missionaries] who’ve been on their missions for two or three months in my zone and it’s weird to think that my past zone leaders and district leaders have now all gone home, and now I’m where they were at when I was a grean bean. まさか！[no way!] Yes, I’ve been in Senri for quite a while now. Almost four months. The next transfer email comes in about two weeks. We’ll see what happens. I’ve loved it here in Senri but it’s been hard. More than any other area, I feel like I’ve been working against a wall here this whole time. But I have grown a lot here. And I do feel like I’ll probably be transferred. I’ve been a zone leader for more transfers of my mission than I haven’t now, and I am way… tired. I’m doing my best but I need a change to get my energy going again. But here is my dream for next transfer–whitewash Kochi with a greenbean Nihonjin* and stay there for the rest of my mission. That’s the dream. We’ll see if it’s what the Lord wants, but that’s what I’m hoping for.
So I think my sinus infection will be ok, かなあ？[I wonder?] I got antibiotics this week but Japanese medicine is pretty weak so I’ll probably have to go back for more. But this is my Japanese doctor experience right here: So I walk into an Ear-Nose-Throat place on Tuesday night and I sit down and fill out a form for insurance, address, etc. which is normal. There was also a box to mark off what was going on with me. I marked up 副鼻腔炎 which is fukubikouen, which means sinusitis, then turned in my paper and waited for about half an hour. Then they pull me into the office and sit me down in a chair where an old Japanese doctor says, “Japanizu O-k?” to which I replied “Hai, hotondo wakarimasu kedo…” [“Yes, I mostly understand…”] He pulled out a long, pointy silver object and then started off by saying “Gomennasai!” [“I’m sorry!”] Let me rephrase this. If you walked into a doctor’s office, sat down, and the first thing they did was pull out a huge sharp metal object and say “sorry!”, what would you think? A little bit of a red flag, don’t you think? But before I can even think that, this guy’s got this object up my left nostril, deep, deeper, deeper, oh yep, I can feel it deep in my nasal cavity now… he’s probably going for my brain… now get this–the long pointy metal object happens to be (DRUMROLL…) a mini vacuum. He turns this mini nose vacuum thing on and leaves it there to jumble my brains for about 60 seconds and then pulls it out. I have no idea what just happened in there. Then before I can even open my eyes he sticks it up my right nostril and does the same thing!! UGGHH!!! he pulls it out and I roll my eyes open. Thankfully, I am still conscious, and most of my brain feels intact. But I may rethink this if I ever get another sinus infection.
The other day when I was in Osaka for zone conference we saw a huge screen downtown playing the movie “Roman Holiday” for everyone. Of course I was the only one in the group of elders who knew what the movie was. Aren’t you proud of me?
I love you all and pray for you all and think of you every day. I know that this gospel the Lord has given us is true without a doubt and that it can change lives. I’ve seen and felt it change my own. It’s a wonderful privilege to be serving the beautiful people of Japan.