We hoped and prayed that this day might come and it finally has! Charlie was able to visit our Takeda family in the town of Shimanto-shi, about an hour from Kochi where he is currently assigned. He and his companion boarded a train last Thursday and traveled south, where he was met at the station by family members, and then they went to visit his great-grandma Takeda. Charlie last saw all of them in 2012, when our family visited Japan. He was a 16-year-old boy then who could only say a few words in Japanese. This is the first time they’ve seen him as a missionary, and what’s more, he is the first Mormon missionary they’ve ever seen. (There is no LDS church in their village, so missionaries don’t make it out there too often.) None of the Takedas–besides Charlie’s grandmother Seiko–are members of our church; they had a lot of questions for him, and he had a lot of answers. They were thrilled to have him come visit and hear him speak Japanese. What an exciting day for everyone!
Well this week was great! I got to go visit the Takedas and everyone is doing great! It was one of the happiest days of my mission. They’re doing really well and they were really excited to see me. I even met someone I hadn’t met before – Haruki and Chiyoko’s daughter Kumiko, who’s been living in other parts of Japan every time we visited so I never got to meet her. She moved back to Kochi recently. Sadly, and ironically, Tsutomu* and his family were all up in Kochi-shi for the day for a baseball game so I missed them! I’ll have to go again. In other news, Yoshihiro* has moved back from Sapporo to Kochi, I don’t know if you knew that. And, another surprise was that Haruki and Chiyoko’s daughter Keiko* had passed away about a year ago from cancer, I don’t know if you all knew or not. But despite that everyone seems to be doing really well, and Obaachan [grandma] is still alive at 102! She is so sweet. Of course, when I got there she had no idea who I was, and I think was also a little surprised to hear that she had great-grandchildren. [She gets a little confused sometimes!] When I talked to her she really seemed to miss Baba [Charlie’s grandma Seiko] and said that she wants to meet her again.
It was the first time any of them had seen a missionary, and they all seemed to be a little confused at why I had to bring along a white guy that they didn’t know and why I could only spend one day and why I couldn’t ride alone in the car with Junko. But it was a really good opportunity to explain what I was doing and why I became a missionary. Next time I visit I’m definitely going to share about eternal families.
*Tsutomu–the son of Uncle Haruki and Aunt Chiyoko
*Yoshihiro–our uncle, brother to Haruki and Seiko
*Keiko–the daughter of Uncle Haruki and Aunt Chiyoko, who was only in her 40s and was married with two teenage daughters.
We were heartbroken to hear of the passing of our sweet cousin, Keiko, and wonder why they hadn’t let us know. Perhaps it was too difficult to talk about. But we find comfort in the thought that we were able to see her on our last visit, and that with the restored gospel, we have the blessings and the sealing power of the temple here on earth. We plan on doing the temple work for her very soon. We are sure she is waiting for it!
This last week I reached a point where I questioned a part of my own testimony, but as a result my testimony was strengthened. We met a lady on the street one night who was Buddhist who gave us a beat down for being Christians for about ten minutes before I just decided to stop listening and walked away. Luckily my companion didn’t understand any of what she said. She said some very demeaning things that no one should ever have to hear. I wondered afterward what could make her have so much conviction that her obviously wrong religion was right. And then I wondered to myself, how can I say that she’s wrong if I have never really learned about what her beliefs are? In addition to the outward criticism, she did add a ‘testimony’ of the experience she had of changing her heart through Hotokesama [Buddha]. How can I say that she didn’t? If I were to criticize her for having that experience, it would just make me a hypocrite for sharing my experiences with the Atonement. I never questioned the fact that I had experienced the Holy Ghost or the power of the Atonement, but I did wonder how she could have experienced the same thing we are striving for without either the Holy Ghost or the Atonement. I prayed and studied the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I felt prompted to visit a certain place in Isaiah which gave me comfort and strengthened my testimony that the Holy Ghost can speak through the scriptures. And the answer to my questions came clear as day when I turned and testified to my companion at a needed time this week. There are a lot of ways people change themselves, for bad and for good in this world. But no matter what else is out there, the only thing that can cleanse us from sin and qualify us for the Kingdom of Heaven is the power of the Atonement accessed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No other person, object, or power can do that. I know that to be true from the bottom of my heart. In addition to sharing our testimony about what we know to be true, we have to be courteous of others and be careful not to condemn others when we testify and teach about the gospel. The way of Christ was always forigiveness – not condemnation or criticism.