This week’s letter home bore the happy news of yet another visit to see our Takeda family in Shimanto, and a chance to reconnect with cousin Tsutomu and his family, who were out of town on Charlie’s last visit. He came bearing gifts this time:
Well the highlight of the week was definitely going to visit the Takedas again on Saturday. Last time I didn’t get to meet with Tsutomu or Mami and their kids, but this time they were all there, except Haruto, who was at baseball practice until late at night. But they are all doing well, and I was able to give Mami, Tsutomu, and Haruki all copies of the Book of Mormon with my testimony written in the front cover, wrapped in Japanese cloth wrapping that they use for bento boxes, which probably has some fancy name in Japanese that I have yet to learn. Anyway, it was way good! I’ll send pictures. Little Nobu is already four and looks totally different! He is so cute!
Other things seem to pale in comparison to news like that (how can you beat sharing the Book of Mormon with your own family on your mission to their homeland?!), but stories of meeting strangers because of what first seemed like unfortunate circumstances are pretty worthwhile, too.
We decided we wanted to focus some more on former investigators so we set off to another kind of faraway place on our bikes to go visit them. While we were biking through kind of an inaka [country] area, I took a 3-inch screw to my rear tire which left a hole big enough to expel all the air from my tube in a matter of seconds. We had no choice but to walk around and try to find a bike shop, which was nowhere to be found where we were, out in the middle of the rice fields. In the midst of this war of mosquitoes and tumult of muddy tanbos [rice fields], I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who will be here to help us; or, is there anyone even here at all? If anyone be here, where are they, and how shall I know it? (Haha recognize that quote?) As we were walking around, a lady who was walking home asked us if we needed any help. We asked her where a bike shop was, and she said she knew, but it was kind of far away from where we were. She kindly offered to walk us there, and we accepted. Kitamura san was very nice and after we got to talking about who we were and what we do, she seemed very interested. While we waited at the small bike shop for the only man there (who had to be over 90) to replace my punctured tube, we talked about our message with Kitamura san and invited her to meet with us and hear the message. Now on Wednesday we are meeting her AND her friend who she invited to come! We’re way excited. God always prepares the way for the gospel message to be shared with those who are prepared. Sometimes that “small and simple means” might mean a lost screw in the middle of a road. Who knows. All we can do is choose to have a positive attitude through our trials!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the gospel’s power to change people this week, and have been reflecting particularly about how it’s changed me. But obviously, just by coming to church, speed-reading over a page of scripture, and saying a 10-second prayer before bed every day won’t really change your heart inside. One thing I’ve learned during my mission is where desire comes from. Human desire. It comes from understanding. I understand that if I don’t eat every day, I’m going to starve. So I eat. I understand that if I don’t study Japanese, I won’t be able to talk with anyone, so I study. I understand that if I go to school and work hard and get good grades, I’ll provide myself with a more successful headstart in life, so I go to school and work. The same thing applies to the gospel. We might look at people who go less active, youth who struggle, and people who don’t keep the commandments and wonder–why? The why is that they simply don’t understand the gospel. They don’t understand the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When you think about that, it really helps us to understand what our role is as teachers. It’s not just to get through the Sunday School lessons and hope that everyone paid attention. It’s about addressing each individual’s needs and seeking through revelation what we can do to help them to understand the gospel–not just hear it. We have to teach in a way that they can all understand the message.