Tag Archives: baptism

Sayonara, Japan…

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snow on lanternsThis is it. Charlie’s last week in Japan. He leaves us with a few parting words, thoughts on what he’ll miss the most, a heartfelt invitation to share the gospel, and of course…one last funny story.

I feel like this last full week of my mission is going to be much like Frodo’s last stretch up to Mount Doom, or Luke Skywalker’s last duel with Vader, or Superman’s final brawl with Zod. It’s going to be intense. We’ve got a lot to do and a lot of people that we’ve been finding to get ready for progression and eventually baptism. No slacking for me!

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So, funny story from this week…we were in Matsuyama and I was translating into Japanese for the meeting for all the Nihonjin [native Japanese]. Then our Nihonjin zone leader Elder Miyagi got up to speak. For a solid minute or so, he spoke to everyone and I translated for him. But I forgot that he was speaking Japanese and not English, so I just repeated every word that he was saying without even realizing it! Then he gave me a funny look and I realized what had happened and then stopped the translation and said, “eh?…oh…” And the entire zone burst out laughing. Quite an embarrassing moment. I don’t even know what’s Japanese and what’s English anymore. You’re going to have one mixed up kid to deal with next week. 


And now for a few parting thoughts on the mission, from his favorite memories to what he’ll miss most, and what he’s most looking forward to upon his return:

What memory will you cherish most from your mission?

There are so many! I don’t know if I can pick just one! But definitely, baptisms are great. It’s great to see people come unto Christ and choose for themselves to enter God’s church. There’s no greater feeling than knowing you helped them or that you found them.

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With Fukumitsu Shimai, March 2014

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With Shota Yamamoto, October 2014

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With Masaki-san, June 2015

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With Kitazoe-san, December 2015

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

The most valuable lesson I learned was the power of example. The best teacher is not our words, but our actions. I’ve experienced so many times the principle of showing someone the way, not just telling them the way. Whenever I just told someone to do something without explaining the why or first being the exemplar for what I was trying to teach, it never worked. But when I did, it became a powerful way to testify of Jesus Christ.

Where was your favorite city?

I loved all the places I served and can’t pick! Some were harder than others, but you grow to love wherever you are, and the people you serve there.
What will you miss about Japan the most?
I will miss the amazing Japanese people and getting to speak Japanese all day long!
(Don’t you worry, Charlie. Grandma Seiko can’t wait to speak to you in Japanese! And correct all your grammatical mistakes…)
What one thing do you wish you could bring back to the U.S. with you?
I want to bring home a Japanese baby.
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Cutest pre-schoolers. EVER.

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My cousin’s little baby, Nobuto. Those cheeks!

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Random adorable Japanese baby boy.

(Who wouldn’t? But those are tricky to get through customs.) 
What Japanese food will you miss the most?
Definitely the delicious raw fish and squid.
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(Hmm…but why?)

What food can’t you wait to eat back at home?
Probably pumpkin pie. That doesn’t exist here.
(We can arrange that.)
What can you not wait to do when you get home?
SLEEP. And hang out with my wonderful family. And go to the temple.
And finally, Charlie, how has this mission changed you the most?
I’ve gained about 20 pounds. Does that count for anything? Haha. Besides that my faith has grown from a young sapling to a massive tree. I have no doubt that Christ is our Savior, and that this church and this gospel are true.
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The mission has been the craziest, most joyful, most painful, most tiring, adventurous, spiritual, and blessed years of my life. It went by way too fast. I invite all everywhere who are worthy and of age to make the sacrifice and serve the Lord. It will change your life. It will shape you and make you better in ways you never thought possible. As I finish my mission, I just want to end with my last testimony as a full time representative of Jesus Christ that He lives. He lives. If you follow him, love him, and give all to him, you will receive so much more in return. You could never possibly imagine now what’s in store. He will guide and help those in need through any hardship or any trial in life because he loves you.

See you soon.15.12.02 in kobe

 

The End of September

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torii gate
With less than three months left on his mission, Charlie is starting to feel that mix of emotions so common at this point: ambivalence, excitement, pressure, and disbelief. So much to do, and so little time! But he loves his area, loves his companion, loves his mission–he loves it all. No wonder he feels uncertainty about leaving in a few months. (But we try not to bring that up. Here is how he reacts to that topic:)
I can’t believe it’s the end of September already. I counted the days to the end of my mission today for the first time in my mission. I only have 86 days left, I think. That’s less than 3 months! こわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわいこわい*
*it says in Japanese: “scary, scary, scary…” (and now it’s even less than 86 days. He must be truly frightened by this point.)
nakasendo
This was the CRAZIEST WEEK EVER.
The conference up in Kobe was awesome. The craziest part was, I had been either companions with or had been the zone leader or district leader for over half the missionaries who were there as district leaders now. It made me feel… like a really old missionary. But it was way good. I got to see all my old MTC pals – Barr, Weir, and Goldhamer. It was the first time we had reunited all together since we first got to Japan. President Welch always nails training meetings like the stud he is. I also had interviews with him this week as well, which was way fun. He said he plans on keeping me here in Kochi until the end of my mission, which is good, because I love it here!  
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15.09.20 reunion

A reunion for Charlie and Goldhamer Choro (center), his former MTC companion.

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An early morning view of Kobe from the peak where the elders hiked.

Well, we had transfer announcements today and it looks like I’ll get to stay another transfer with the beloved Matsumoto Choro. バプテスマを見ましょう![Let’s see a baptism!] We have a goal to find someone to baptize before the next transfer. We know it’s not just about the numbers, but we always have a goal to find someone whose life we can help change. In any of my companionships, the only ones I’ve seen baptisms with were the ones where we stayed together for more than one transfer, so let’s DO THIS!!! 

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The dynamic duo: Charlie and Matsumoto Choro hitch a ride with members.

Matsumoto Choro and I have got really good unity in teaching going now and we’re starting to see some miracles happen. Just last night, we prepared really hard for our lesson with a progressing investigator named Noguchi. He’s an interesting man, and a very good person, and wants to follow Jesus Christ now. Before, when I first got here, he didn’t even want to believe in God or pray, but now he prays every day. We’ve seen a complete change in this investigator. Last night we boldly invited him to be baptized and he accepted a date for the 31st of October. Then right after that we found a new guy who has a ton of interest and wants to meet and read the Book of Mormon together! And we’re meeting another really solid investigator tonight who we’re planning on inviting to baptism as well.

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We had a great district meeting this week and we focused on the power of prayer. It was a great meeting and we all prayed together and got revelation for our investigators in the district. It was probably my best district meeting yet. The power of prayer is real!

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In each of our letters to Charlie, we try to include a mystery scripture in which we quote the verse but not the reference, and he has to tell us where it’s found. We’ve only stumped him a few times (it’s always when we quote Proverbs or Psalms, or some obscure reference in Leviticus). Then Charlie does the same for us. This is the verse he ended his last letter with:

Here’s mine:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.”
I, too, testify that he lives!
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Joy Is the Reward

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Charlie is on fire and loving his mission! He recently had the opportunity to witness someone he has been teaching be baptized and become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this is what he said:
This week Shota got baptized. It was so amazing to look at a perfectly clean person, someone perfectly clean from sin. He was so prepared. I’m very lucky I had the opportunity to teach him. After the baptism he gave me a big hug and said “Thank you!” He really understood the importance of baptism like no other investigator I have ever seen. Baptisms are awesome. I hope to help many others make that first covenant with God. The feelings I can’t even describe. Joy is the reward. Yamamoto Shota will be confirmed and receive the priesthood next week. The gospel is true! I learn that more and more everyday!
Charlie and Shota Yamamoto at the baptism.

Charlie and Yamamoto Shota at the baptism.

With Novak Choro and Shota-san, standing below the words "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

With Novak Choro and Shota, standing in front of the church.

So after the baptism we went down all the way to the other end of our area to visit a less active whom we had never met. We arrived at his apartment door, and as soon as we knocked he welcomed us in immediately. His apartment smelled thickly of cigarette smoke. We sat down around his table and he started telling us about all of his problems and how he needed help. We prayed with him and after the prayer he meditated for a long time, maybe two or three minutes of silence. Then all of a sudden he got up, grabbed his box of cigarettes, and crushed them in his hands. He threw away everything in his ashtrays, and Novak Choro took all his lighters so he wouldn’t be tempted by the garbage. It was amazing to see this man have such a sudden determination to change. God knows what we need to stay healthy. The Word of Wisdom* is genius. God promises us huge blessings of health and knowledge if we follow it. Just think how healthy people would be if no one smoke or drank. The human body in and of itself, as one of God’s creations, has the ability to be healthy on its own if we treat it correctly. The Word of Wisdom is the instruction manual to keep our body in working order. Would you put regular fuel in your fancy Mercedez? I don’t think so. People who have a fancy Mercedez tend to keep it in pretty good condition. They value it. Do we value our bodies the same?

*Word of Wisdom–revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet in 1833. A code of health followed by Latter-day Saints that instructs us not to partake of alcohol, tobacco, tea, or coffee, and to partake instead of healthy grains, fruits, and herbs. Found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89.
Ahh, the famous "Mister Donut" shop. Do these donuts fall under "healthy grains"?

Ahh, the famous “Mister Donut” shop. (Are these donuts considered “healthy grains”?)

Same question for squid.

How about squid?  Does the Word of Wisdom mention squid?

So here’s the funny story of the week. Yesterday we were out on the streets on Sunday afternoon, kind of advertising to people our family English Program. The Family English Program is genius. It lets us teach families in their homes for 30 minutes of English and 30 minutes of the gospel. It lets busy families who can’t come to Eikaiwa* get their English practice and then also get hooked on the gospel. We had never done streeting this way before so we were pretty excited to see which families would have interest, even if their main interest was learning English. We walked up to one guy and he starting talking to us. He said “I’d like to hear about your church, but I don’t want anything to do with you if I have to learn English!” and walked away. Novak Choro and I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Shoot! There he goes! Come back! We can arrange that for you!


*Eikaiwa–free English conversation classes taught by the missionaries
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The missionaries strike a silly pose.

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Japanese kindergarteners on a field trip crossing the street. Look at their cute little hats!

 

And he’s been thinking a lot lately on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how understanding it more helps in missionary work.

This week I’ve really been feeling the Atonement of Jesus Christ as a source of motivation. In Preach My Gospel it says that the more you understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the more your desire to share the gospel will increase. That’s so true. As I’ve studied the Atonement this week I’ve felt a greater desire to declare to the Japanese people the significance of the fact that they are saved only through the Only begotten of the Father, our Redeemer Jesus Christ.
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Water lanterns float in the ocean at a Japanese festival of remembrance.

Well spoken, Charlie. We are all saved only through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, after all that we can do. Charlie is doing all that he can to teach the people of Japan this message. And he is doing it with all his heart, might, mind and strength. We are so proud of you, Charlie!

Helping people come unto Christ

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Some life lessons you learn while being a missionary:  1) Just when things are going well, life throws you a curve ball. 2) As soon as you get used to something, it changes. 3) It’s not all about you. And 4) It’s not about the numbers or seeing baptisms, it’s about helping people come unto Christ. Charlie has just about mastered these lessons–and all in the past week. Read on:

As soon as I thought things were going to settle down, it turns out that I’m being transferred away from Kawachinagano!  My mind was blown when I found out this morning. I’m really sad to leave this area. It’s my home ward. You moved*, and so my home ward became the Kawachinagano ward. But I’ll go wherever the Lord wants me to go.

*re: our family’s recent move from Arizona to Utah. While Charlie was away. (At least we told him about it.)

Out to lunch with the Kawachinagano District missionaries.

Out to lunch with the Kawachinagano District missionaries.

Charlie’s first thoughts when he learned that he would be transferred were of the man they’d been teaching and what would happen with his scheduled baptism. He’d been struggling lately with a lot of difficult issues, and he really wanted to help this man resolve them.

 We taught him briefly about the healing and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We asked him when he wanted to be baptized. He said that week on Sunday. The next day we sat down in their house for two hours. We taught him about every single commandment you have to commit to before being baptized. He committed to live them all. I pulled out a trash bag that I had brought and asked him to throw out all of his alcohol, cigarettes, porn magazines, and anything else not in line with the commandments. He did. All the cigarettes, the skimpy ladies, all went in the trash. It was awesome. We threw it all away. I was amazed with how much the Lord was changing this man.

The next day we taught from Preach My Gospel about the temple and family history work and callings. He set a goal to be sealed to his wife* a year from now. I was so happy for them. All was looking great. He was ready to be baptized Sunday morning. Steers Choro came and interviewed him. After the interview he said we had better wait a week. He said we needed to use the week to make sure he was completely ready to go.

*sealed to his wife–a special ceremony performed in Mormon temples which binds a married couple not just “till death do you part”, but for eternity.

Charlie practices calligraphy with the character for 'love'.

Charlie practices calligraphy with the character for ‘love’.

 That made me nervous. I knew transfers were coming up. If I were to get transferred, I wouldn’t be here for his baptism! The thought wrecked my inside for the next two days. Then this morning, as I was studying from Preach My Gospel, I calmed myself down and figured it all out. My purpose is not to see baptisms. It’s to help people come unto Christ. I did everything I could to help this man receive baptism. I did my job. Seeing him be baptized is not a necessary part of it. I readied myself to find out what would become of transfers, and this morning I found out I’m getting transferred to an area in Northern Osaka called Hanayashiki.  And I will go wherever the Lord wants me to go.

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Kawachinagano, my little hometown of Japan, will be in good hands. These last few weeks I worked really hard, despite challenges, and the Lord blessed us. I’ve put my heart and soul into this area. And now I have to leave; I’m being called to another part of the Lord’s vineyard. Believe me, I don’t know how do deal with half the stuff I’ve been dealt with this past month, but I’ve really been helped by the Lord. I’ve been guided every day. I just do it because that’s what the Lord requires of me. And it always works out.

Playing a game at the senior citizen center.

Playing a game at the old folks’ home.

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That little old lady looks like she’s having the time of her life.

Charlie's information plaque at the church. (They misspelled Bahr. We get that a lot.)

Charlie’s information plaque at the church. (They misspelled Bahr. Oh, well. We’re used to it.)

What it says: he is from Arizona. His birthday is August 10. There are five people in his family, and his mother’s side of the family is from the town of Shimanto, Japan. His favorite food is curry rice. His hobby is volleyball. His favorite scripture is Mosiah 14: 3-5, and his quote in the blue bubble says: “Let’s work together!”