Tag Archives: Book of Mormon

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.

03.14.33 Fukumitsu-san

With Fukumitsu Shimai, March 2014

14.10.23 shota san

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.
Pre-school crossing

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.
14.10.09 squid

(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.
snowy bridge
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

 

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Life Lessons from Charlie

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autumn alley
The clock is ticking and Charlie has less than six weeks left on his mission! That has us here at home elated to see him again–we feel like he’s been gone forever!–but Charlie is feeling quite ambivalent about leaving Japan and the mission. Here are a few life lessons he’s learned in the last little while from which we can all benefit:
So first thing first–transfer announcement! Matsumoto Choro and I are staying together for my last transfer on the mission. I kind of wanted to train again since it would be my last chance, but I couldn’t ask for a better companion to spend my last six weeks on the mission with.
This morning we had a lot of fun. We woke up at 3:30 and studied, and then at 4:30 I ran with Matsumoto Choro to the church where we met up with the rest of the district and our ward mission leader and we ran up a mountain. Actually, I ran up the mountain and everyone else biked, because I am a beast. Actually, my bike is just broken right now so I had no choice but to run, but it was way fun. We went and saw the sunrise and it was beautiful! I have tons of great pictures from the top of Mount Godai, or Godaisan.
15.10.19 sunrise

O-hayou gozaimasu from the land of the rising sun!

Life Lesson: Don’t let life’s little obstacles stop you from enjoying the sunrise! (Or: When your bike is broken, just run!)


 I want to tell you about a man here in the Kochi branch who was just baptized a few months ago. His name is Mitsuei Mori and he is one of the most inspiring people I’ve met on my mission. His conversion story is so cool.  Mori Kyoudai is 75 years old and has an apartment full of the craziest antique collection I have ever seen. Paintings, wood carvings, statues of all shapes, sizes, and forms, framed puzzles, mosaics, swords, rugs – you name it, he has it. Every time I go in his apartment I find something I have never seen before. He has been a Bible reader and a church goer from the time he was very young. The missionaries from about a year ago found him in a park, doing – guess what? Reading the Bible! They gave him a Book of Mormon and he immediately was hooked on the stories and the amazing doctrine written in it. He’s only been baptized for about 5 months, and even though he doesn’t have very good eyes anymore, he diligently reads the Book of Mormon every day. And it’s not just a page or two, a chapter, or a couple verses–he reads for 4 hours every day. He’s almost completed his fifth time through since being baptized. He’s a man who has experienced the power of the Book of Mormon and it has brought him closer to God. I’ll send some pictures of him at his baptism and him with his very first copy of the Bible, which he still has. It’s falling apart! 
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Brother Mori with his tattered but much-loved copy of the Bible.

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At his baptism!

15.10.15 Mori Kyodai

Charlie visiting with Brother Mori, a man who truly loves his Book of Mormon!

Life Lesson: The Book of Mormon changes people. It brings them closer to God. (And: If you ever wonder if you’re reading your scriptures enough, don’t compare yourself to Brother Mori!)


Matsumoto Choro is doing really well. I’ve got some pretty funny stories to tell about him this week. I showed him my fine-hair trimmer this week and immediately he was curious, so he asked if he could try it on me and clean around my eyebrows. So I let him give it a try. The whole time he was messing with it I was kind of feeling like he was cutting too much, but I just let him keep going until he stopped and said “かっこいい!” [“Handsome!”] I looked into the mirror, surprised to find half my eyebrows gone, and in place of them, little stubbles that were about as long as dad’s beard after not shaving for 2 days or so. I spent the next half an hour plucking the stubs with tweezers, cursing myself for letting a Nihonjin [native Japanese] use American toys. Good thing my eyebrows are pretty thick… Good ‘ole Matsumoto.
 [Yikes! We’re hoping they’ve grown back by the time he gets home…]
with Matsumoto Choro

(This picture was obviously taken pre-eyebrow trim.)

Life Lesson: Don’t let someone else do your personal grooming for you (especially your Japanese companion).


Another time this week we were walking on the street and found a deaf lady. I tried to communicate, but I don’t know sign language in English, let alone Japanese. When she was about to walk away, Matsumoto Choro all of a sudden busted out Japanese sign language like a beast, to which she replied, “OK!” and took the pamphlet I was trying to give her and then left. I turned to my companion and said “I didn’t know you knew sign language!” He replied, “I don’t. I only know that one sentence.” “What did you say?” “I said, ‘Will you be baptized?'” I laughed all the way back to our bikes. I’ve never known another Nihonjin quite like Matsumoto Choro.

15.11.04 service

Life Lesson: Don’t let your inadequacies keep you from sharing the gospel!


Superman for Halloween, of course!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . . Bahr Choro!

15.11.08 halloween party

Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Japan, but who doesn’t like to dress up in costume and hang out with the missionaries?


This week was pretty good. I wanted to get my last transfer started off right, so Matsumoto Choro and I had a detailed planning session on Tuesday and set some goals to help keep me focused and powering strong until the end. That’s one of the most fundamental principles for success in life. If you have no goals, you have no purpose. If you have a goal and you are working toward it, you are progressing. If not, life loses its meaning. That’s why the gospel is so fundamental in our lives. It gives us the goal to live with our Father in Heaven again. And God made it so easy for us that he already gave us the action plan we need to follow to achieve this goal. And he even gave us the Savior to help us when we make mistakes along the way. All we have to do is make the choice between right and wrong. So what’s it going to be?15.11.05 waterfall

Life Lesson: Set goals. Aim high. And remember you have a Savior to help pick you up when you fall.


This week we had to go up to Matsuyama for zone conference, and I had to give my final testimony because it would be my last zone conference. That was a scary feeling. I was more nervous for that than I was to give a talk a few weeks ago in Japanese in church. じゃ、これから生活を日本語でしよう!英語とか要らんわ。 “So from now on I’ll live life in Japanese! I don’t really need English.”  [Hmm…actually Charlie, yes you do.]
It was a really emotional meeting for me. I almost start to cry every time I think about my mission ending. I feel like it’s too early for that! It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was new here, and I remember one of the elders who was getting ready to go home soon. I felt so sorry for him, that his mission was ending. I was so glad that wasn’t me. But in just a few weeks, that will be me. And that seems crazy!
Here’s my scripture for the week:  “Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Alma 36:24)
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At Charlie’s last zone conference in Matsuyama (sniff, sniff…)

Life Lesson: When you dedicate your heart, might, mind and strength to serving the Lord, it makes it difficult to leave and come home. But there is no better way to serve. That’s the only way to serve. And it will all be worth it.
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A Testimony of the Book of Mormon

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Missions change people. They make them stand a little taller, reach a little higher, work a lot harder. They strengthen their testimonies, deepen their understanding of the gospel, and open their eyes to different cultures and experiences. Sometimes they even make it difficult to come home, and do things like…speak English again!

Hello from Kochi! We had a great week, we’ve been teaching lots of lessons and working with lots of less actives. I know there are all kinds of good things going on but it’s hard to…what’s the English word…思いつく? come up with? I think that’s right… Dang, English is so hard! We are working really hard with the branch right now. We just hit 50 people this week in Sacrament meeting. The branch president was really excited. I’d take pictures of the primary kids for you, but there are no primary kids. I’m dead serious. The only one just turned twelve. There are two nursery children. 

That poor Primary President…

Here are a few pictures of Charlie with his district:

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“Here’s the Kochi district at sushi. I have an awesome district!”

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Waiting at the bus stop while wearing matching ties–now that’s district unity!

As I approach these last two months, I’ve been realizing that I don’t have a lot of time to dendo* left. Which scares me. So every day I’ve been working like a maniac. The dendo is struggling a little bit here in Kochi. A lot of the people we have found are doing well, but the thing is with Japanese people, they’re  just too busy. A lot of the cool finding stories I have sadly end up with them being too busy to meet, even though they want to learn. More than Buddhism, for sure, Japanese schools and workplaces are the enemy of missionary work. So many good people who would learn just don’t have enough time to meet a lot. It’s so frustrating! So we’ve been finding a lot of new people, but we’re having a hard time getting them to stick. But basically, my goal for Kochi is to make a ward here. That’s what we’re working for right now!

*dendo–missionary work; to proselyte

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“Here’s the Kochi church building. It used to be a bar I think. And there is a house on top of it. I’ve always wanted to talk to those people, but I have never gotten the chance!”

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In front of the statue of Sakamoto Ryoma, a swordsman and hero from Kochi, whose efforts helped overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate. (And now you’re wondering what the Tokugawa Shogunate was…)

Well, setting the depressing discussions of reality aside, it was a truly amazing conference we had this weekend. The apostles and prophets are awesome. Were they always this good? I don’t remember conference being this good when I was a kid. But it probably was always the same, and now I’m just way more in tune with the spirit.

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There’s Charlie, reaching a little higher…

Ice cream at Kochi Castle

A P-day trip with the greenie and ice cream at Kochi Castle!

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Autumn in Japan is breathtaking!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Book of Mormon lately and its power to bring the children of men unto Christ. Every person I’ve seen get baptized on my mission has had a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and has spent some serious time reading and pondering the truths which are contained in that sacred record. Here in Kochi right now we are working with a less active named Uno Kenjirou, a very funny old man, who really has never had a testimony ever since he joined the church. But we started meeting with him every week. At first we tried to teach him the lessons again, but he wasn’t really progressing that way. Then we changed our approach. We started reading the Book of Mormon with him every time we go. We started in 1st Nephi, Chapter 1, and every time we have gone back since we have read with him. We are on chapter 6 with him now. We haven’t gotten super far, but he has already changed and has started to ask more questions and talk about more gospel related things when we meet with him as he has read and pondered with us about the examples of people like Lehi and Nephi. He’s starting to reconvert to the gospel of Christ with the Book of Mormon. I’ve seen other people like him change their lives and feel true happiness through study of the Book of Mormon. The biggest change I have seen is within myself. I know that that book is true. That book has power. When I’ve had questions or doubts, even about my own faith, I can always go back to the foundational testimony that I have that the Book of Mormon is true. If you know that the book is true, all doubts in life or about the faith or anything at all just seem to melt. What greater expression of God’s love could there be than this testament we have of the Savior Jesus Christ? I know of none.

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A tiny jizo statue deep in thought, probably pondering the truths contained in the Book of Mormon.

On family, flat tires, and finding people

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The rugged and beautiful coastline of Shikoku.

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!

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Wrapping gifts for the Takeda family on the train ride from Kochi to Shimanto.

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The cloth-wrapped copies of the Book of Mormon.

15.09.04 little nobu

With little Nobu, his four-year-old cousin, who was just a baby the last time Charlie saw him.

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Having lunch with the Takeda family!

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“Aunt Chiyoko had a little trouble with the technology (the ipad), so the picture is mostly of the ground, but here we all are at the Takeda family home!”

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Charlie takes a selfie with Uncle Haruki and Aunt Chiyoko.

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!

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The dastardly (yet divinely placed) screw.


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. 

 

15.09.08 bridge

The famous “sinking” bridge in Shimanto, which disappears into the river when the water rises.

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Feeling proud of his homemade chocolate chip cookies!

15.08.41 bday package

Joy that the long-awaited birthday package finally arrived! (Why it was postmarked from “Miami, FL” we’ll never know…)

15.08.39 yukatas

Charlie and Matsumoto Choro don yukatas (summer kimonos).

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Fireflies light up at dusk in the village of Shimanto.

 

 

 

“Being a missionary has definitely changed me…”

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We’ve seen a lot of changes in Charlie while he’s been on his mission. We’ve watched him embrace the language, culture, and people of Japan; learn to eat anything and everything (including raw squid sushi); stand a little taller; even start to look a little more Japanese himself. But the most gratifying thing we’ve witnessed is the growth of his testimony as he’s learned to rely completely on the Savior.

Things are going well. The Lord has been helping me to grow every single day in so many ways. I will ever be grateful to him for all the blessings he’s given me and the blessings I’ve seen on my mission. There have been a lot of miracles. Not all miracles are mindblowing, biblical ones, but the miracles that are really life-changing are the ones that are small. The ones that are every day things we do, and the ones that are gradual.

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Charlie, Kodama Choro, and a friend enjoy a waterfall at a nearby park.

We had a big zone conference recently. I can’t believe how much my stamina for meetings has grown on the mission. Three hours of church doesn’t feel like anything anymore. Anyway, we talked a lot about how we need to let our purpose as missionaries change our hearts. This one and a half to two years is super special and it’s the only time in our whole lives that we’ll ever get to spend like this. If we don’t let this change our hearts and help us draw closer to Christ, what a waste! Being a missionary has definitely changed me. You can probably tell. Being a full-time teacher of the gospel can only do one thing for a young man–teach HIM the gospel. The true meaning of the gospel. It’s not something that can be learned in seminary or in Sunday school, but only by experience and faith.

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At their recent zone conference. President and Sister Welch are front and center. (Charlie is on the back row, 5th from right.)

Charlie and his companion have been teaching a young man named Masaki, and are witnessing the dramatic change in him that the gospel brings:

Masaki is progressing really well. He even came to clean the church with us on Saturday. When I call him on the phone and ask him what he’s doing, he’s always reading the Book of Mormon! It’s awesome. I really appreciate your prayers. They really do help and the results are visible. We got to go on a car ride this week with Masaki and talk to him a little bit more outside of a lesson context and it was really cool to see how the gospel is changing him. He no longer has the desire to smoke or drink. He has had a pretty rough past as well, and hasn’t made some of the best choices. But during the car ride he talked about how he felt like everything in his life was changing, and that his family has noticed changes in him as well. We’re going to try to meet with his family soon and see if we can share the gospel with them.

I’ve really come to love the people here, not just in my area, but everyone I meet. Japan truly does have an amazing culture and has a lot of really good qualities that I think the U.S. needs to work on a little bit. It’s cool to be able to really immerse myself in a language and culture of another country so deeply that when I see a “gaijin” [foreigner] on the street, I forget that I am actually a gaijin, too.

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Can you spot the ‘gaijin’? It’s hard to tell!

The mission has brought me closer to Christ in so many ways. My patience has been tested and tried in so many ways, and so has my ability to love other people. There have been so many countless blessings that I’ve had from serving a mission so far, but probably the biggest one is just that my capacity to love and not judge has grown. My ability to listen has grown and my patience has as well. I know that as we truly seek to put upon ourselves the attributes of Christ, our lives really do improve in every single way. The trials and hardships of every day life don’t get us down as much, and we live life with an energy that could only come from having the Holy Ghost in our hearts. The gospel is true!

15.06.07 dodes

And now for a few glimpses into the lighter side of Charlie’s missionary life:

15.05.06 tabeniku

Grilling your meat Japanese style.

15.06.10 in no out

You can go in, but you can’t go out. Hmm…something ain’t right.

15.06.08 whoa saru

Charlie makes friends with a Japanese macaque!

15.05.17 concert

An impromptu concert in the park draws a cute crowd.

15.06.13 nice text

Best post-lesson text message ever!

15.05.16 super charlie

Look what all that biking has done to Charlie’s legs: he’s so strong, he dented the bike rack.

15.06.04 osaka in hand

He’s got the whole world in his hands! (Okay, maybe just Osaka.)

Thanks for keeping up with Charlie Choro! Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!

 

Enjoy every moment!

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Snowy day in Kyoto.

Hard work is a cure for almost anything that ails you. Charlie and Yamaguchi Choro have been working day and night trying to find people to teach, and it seems to be paying off. This past week they found five new investigators who have set baptism dates–a huge change from a few weeks ago when they had no one to teach. But he has learned along the way that, as frustrating as it is not to be teaching anyone at all, the numbers are not what’s important, people are. And another lesson he’s learned (and a mantra for life): enjoy every moment.

It has been a crazy week filled with lots of random things that I would never expect. But it has been a good week. We have really been trying to get some people on their way to baptism. Converting to the church is a long, hard road, and one that takes a lot of desire and faith. I have so much respect for converts, especially in Japan or other places where it is really hard to make it all the way to something like baptism. Coming into the church is something that takes a lot of work on the part of the investigator, the missionaries, and the ward. But that is the amazing thing – we are able to do it, with the help of our Heavenly Father. This week we had Elder Aoyagi of the Seventy come to the mission. It was a really great event. A point he made is that God can do his entire work, on his own, in an instant, if he wanted to. He is the only one who holds the power to do so. He chooses to use us, when we are humble and asked to be used. And even then, it takes effort on our part to be clean, worthy, and ready with skills so that we can become effective instruments in the hands of the Lord.
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Charlie and Yamaguchi Choro on their visit to Kyoto.

I definitely know that the Lord’s work is about a lot more than numbers. I definitely understand that it’s his work and not mine. And I know that he delivers us out of bondage eventually, no matter what it is. I knew I worked really hard last week, and I definitely learned in my heart, not just my head, that I just need to enjoy every moment and not worry about it all so much. It sounds so cliché, because people say that kind of stuff all the time. But human beings never really learn something until they feel it. Converts to the church don’t convert unless they feel the gospel. Children don’t learn rules until they feel the effects those rules have. I believe that Heavenly Father really teaches us this way. When we teach people, in Sunday school, in investigator lessons, in homes, in any setting, we need to focus more upon what people feel, more than what they hear. The spirit works through feelings, and only sometimes words. And even when it works through words, it’s only to emphasize the feelings. So, so should we. ね?[Right?]
15.02.25 kyoto field trip

P-day sightseeing! The missionaries with some members of the Kyoto ward.

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The Kiyomizu-dera (Temple of Clear Water), an ancient Buddhist temple in Kyoto and an UNESCO World Heritage site.

During a companionship study this week Elder Yamaguchi and I were reading in the Book of Mormon about the missionaries of old and about how they saw success. It was fun to study. One of the things we noticed was how all the missionaries in the Book of Mormon went to a lot of different places to preach. We realized we were not doing things quite like that – Senri has a lot of hills and is pretty big, so getting to all parts of the area can take a lot of time on bikes. But we felt prompted to start focusing our efforts on finding in the city of Minoh. Minoh is on the opposite side of our area from the apartment, but we decided to show faith and go there against however little time we thought we may not have.  The first day we went to Minoh we found a 17-year-old kid who wanted to change his life and follow God. We taught him about prayer and his first prayer was super sincere. We are meeting him again today. There is never anything that can go wrong when you are following the Holy Ghost.


For their recent day off, Charlie and his district were able to visit the beautiful city of Kyoto. It’s a city filled with Buddhist shrines and temples, ancient streets and vintage shops. Here are a few more pictures from his field trip that day.

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The Otowa Waterfall at the Kiyomizu-dera, where visitors can drink sacred water from a ladle.

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Charlie! Quit playing with the sacred water!

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Wielding the Japanese lucky mallet (and trying to look cool doing it).

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With Totoro, a giant woodland creature from a children’s cartoon. Charlie grew up with this furry guy!

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Kyoto’s famous Gion district, the best place to spot a geisha (or lots of tourists).

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Standing before the Deva gate, entrance to the Kiyomizu-dera.

It looks like Charlie is enjoying every moment. Missionary work is hard work, but few things in this world are as worthwhile. Keep it up, Charlie Choro. We love you.

On coincidences and Christmas in Japan

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What’s new with Charlie Choro lately? He hit the year mark on December 11! One year down, one more to go! While we at home feel excited about him hitting the halfway point, Charlie is a little ambivalent (“I can’t believe my mission is half over! I’ve got to work even harder!”) He also has a new companion. Elder Novak transferred to a new area and Elder Weckesser, from Canada, joined Charlie in Nishinomiya.
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Sayonara, Novak Choro! It’s been swell.

I can’t believe the year mark has arrived. This is it! The 2nd half of my mission! It’s been all build up until this point. Time to hit the pavement harder than ever before. Elder Weckesser is my new companion. He’s from Alberta, Canada. He loves running, oatmeal, maple syrup, and the feeling of your eyelashes and nosehairs freezing. He’s very Canadian. I feel very Arizonan around him because I’m always cold.
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Konnichiwa, Weckesser Choro! (Hey, is that Canadian Maple Syrup?!)

As we’ve mentioned before, the missionary work in Nishinomiya has been challenging. The Latter-day Saint ward there is quite small, and the members don’t always seem very enthusiastic about missionary work or accepting the elders’ invitations:
We ended up having dinner at a ward member’s house that night. We enjoyed the dinner, and they invited Shota [a recently baptized member] as well. It was really fun until we started the spiritual message. We shared a message from the Book of Mormon and then invited everyone to read it as a family. And they said no! They said no to reading the Book of Mormon as a family! We got shot down.

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That was unexpected.

This week was tough on the zone and our area. We tried really hard to follow revelation and follow the spirit. But I feel like no matter how hard I try, things just don’t happen. But then we had a great leadership meeting on Friday and it really helped me to understand the bigger picture, and helped me to understand that God is working with ALL of his children. He’s working with ALL of them. It helped me to realize that every person I talk to was guided there by God. There are no coincidences, and God really is the one doing the work here in Nishinomiya, and in Japan, and in the whole world. He knows where the prepared people are. They aren’t lost to him. He’s trying to lead us to them all the time.

So on Saturday we experienced that a little bit. We were filled with the desire to find someone and the faith that we would. We felt prompted after praying to go walk by the college campus by the church and the first person we talked to was an old guy who said he had just come from listening to “kirisuto kyou no hanashi” [a talk on Christianity]. Coincidence? Obviously not! We told him that the church was really close and he said “Ikou ka?” [Shall we go?]. So we went and sat down in the chapel and taught him about the Restoration. Really cool, testimony-building experience. 

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Two nights ago I was praying, which is nothing out of the ordinary, I pray long and hard every night. But I finished my prayer and plopped down into my futon and was trying to go to sleep but then a thought came that I should read my patriarchal blessing. I thought no . . . I’m too tired. But then I couldn’t escape the thought that I should read my patriarchal blessing right then. So I got up and turned on my flashlight and pulled it out of my scriptures and began to read. I came to the part where it talks about the House of Israel. I remembered a passage I had just been reading for part of the Book of Mormon challenge in Jacob 5. I turned there. Verse 27 says “But behold, the servant said unto him: Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit unto thee, that thou canst lay it up against the season.”
I was thinking what did this mean? What do I need to spare a little longer? The transfer just started, and my mission is only half over. I’ll be sparing it more than a little while. But as I was thinking, I realized that I had given up on the ward here. We’ve put in so much effort into building relationships with members and trying to help them do missionary work and had seen nothing out of it that I thought there was nothing more we could do. I was satisfied with continuing to teach and uplift members, but taking care of the work myself until they were ready. Here it was, Heavenly Father taught me something I didn’t even ask for but needed to know. I didn’t know quite how to apply it yet, but I went back to bed feeling the spirit. Then the next morning in church, one sister bore her testimony about how Elder Novak and I had given her a challenge to give two copies of the Book of Mormon to friends. She did it, and apparently she got really good responses from her friends, who were really grateful for the books. It was way cool to hear, and I realized that the ward members were making much more progress than I thought they were. And I need to have faith as much as they do! I need to wait just a little while longer here and continue to work with them, and that is what I will do. 
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Christmas is not widely celebrated in Japan, as it’s not a Christian country, and is thought of more as a celebration of happiness and less of a religious holiday. Schools and businesses are still open on December 25, and Christmas Eve resembles Valentine’s Day more than anything–it’s a night for couples to go out, eat KFC and “Christmas cake”–a sponge cake decorated with whipped cream and strawberries–and see the lights. (Clearly some of those traditions did not come from the west!) The city of Kobe has one of the largest light festivals not just in Japan, but in the world. The festival actually commemorates the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995, which killed thousands and left many in darkness for weeks. The lights, which are illuminated every December, are considered a symbol of hope and recovery. How perfectly coincidental that they occur during the Christmas season! (Or is it? Remember what Charlie said: there are no coincidences!)
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Merry Christmas from Kobe, Japan, home of the Kobe Luminarie Festival! Wishing you and yours peace, joy, hope, and the blessings that come from the source of all light, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

By small and simple things…

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Tiny jizo statues offer a prayer.

Tiny jizo statues offer a prayer.

Charlie has his work cut out for him in his current area, Nishinomiya, just on the outskirts of Kobe. The members are few, and finding people to teach has been a challenge. Other than Shota-san, who was recently baptized, it’s been a dry few months. Here is what Charlie said about it a few weeks ago:

This week was pretty hard. For a while we hadn’t seen a lot of success finding, and we were spending all of our time working and working with no results. It was very disappointing. On Saturday I decided to fast all day. That day was another day with no lessons planned, so it was all finding. I tried tirelessly to talk to every person I saw, but as we were shot down over and over and over again, it became very frustrating. I know that rejection is a part of missionary work, but you’d think after praying and seeking revelation about where to go, then going there, and then trying to talk to hundreds of people for three days in a row, you’d find somebody. That was disappointing, and then there’s always the answer that missionaries say, “Well, I know there’s something I’m supposed to learn from this.” True, but I’m here to bless the lives of other people, not just to strengthen myself or to come back and just be super experienced and wise and what not. I came here to serve others. But after the fast, I was really able to feel Heavenly Father’s love for me, and I could feel that Heavenly Father was just preparing me for something greater later on in my mission. I was reminded to have a more eternal perspective, and that our failures in the moment can become successes in the long run. 

Then last week, he met someone interesting.

On Thursday I was in Amagasaki with Phillips Choro and as we were on our way to visit someone, I stopped and talked to a man from Sri Lanka. He spoke perfect English. He asked, “So what are you doing in Japan?” I said, “I’m a Christian missionary!” He said, “Oh, really? Well come on inside!” and pointed around the corner to where I assumed he lived. I was thinking Wow! This guy is awesome! He probably already has a testimony of Jesus Christ!  Then I turned the corner and saw a cross on the top of the building, and he said, “You can call me Father Lihan.” Yep. I had just found a Catholic priest at his church! (So he did have a testimony of Christ.) We went inside and all the people working there were really nice to us. We talked to Father Lihan for about 20 minutes about experiences we’ve had working in Japan with the people. It was pretty unexpected, but it was cool.

That didn’t pan out quite like he thought it would. And probably not for the priest, either. But it’s a good story.

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(The cross on top is a dead giveaway.)

Then, in this week’s letter:

I had an amazing experience I want to share with everyone that I had a few weeks ago when I was on an exchange with Elder Phillips in Amagasaki. This was the same day we met the Catholic priest. We went to visit someone we hadn’t seen at church in a while, but he didn’t answer the door when we knocked. So we prayed to know what to do. After the prayer we talked and Phillips Choro said he wanted to go back to the church to prepare for our next lesson. But during the prayer I felt the slightest urge to house* the cul-de-sac we were in. So we did about eight houses or so and no one answered. Just as we were walking out of the cul-de-sac, Phillips Choro said hello to a man walking by on the adjacent street. We started talking to him and found out that he was a recently converted Christian and loved hymns and Jesus Christ. We showed him the Book of Mormon and explained what it was about. After a minute or so he said “Tatteiru no wa shindoi wa! Uchi ni ikou ka?” [Standing here is tiring! Wanna go to my house?] So we followed him home and we sat down in his living room and he gave us something to eat. He started talking about a lot of random things, like how the hole in the ozone layer is God’s punishment to the world for being lazy. But we found that he had a firm desire to follow God. We set up another appointment with him for the following Sunday and left for our next lesson. This week I got a phone call from Elder Phillips and he told me that this man, Ueno-san, wants to join the church! Apparently he said, “I want to be baptized, and I want to be baptized tomorrow. Are there rules about that?” He’s going to be baptized on December 21st. The smallest prompting to house that area put us in the right place at the right time for God to place one of his sheep in our path. This man was so prepared to receive the restored gospel. Our chances of finding him on our own among the hundreds of thousands of people in Amagasaki were slim to none. Surely this is a miracle. He IS working through small and simple things to bring great things to pass. The Holy Ghost will guide us to those people who are prepared if we let him.


*house: a missionary term for walking through a neighborhood and knocking on doors to try to find someone to teach.

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Charlie with his friend, “Grandpa Casper”.

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The view overlooking Kobe Bay.

Autumn in Japan

The brilliant autumn colors reach their peak in late November near Kobe.

A day in the life of Charlie Choro

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Ever wonder what life as a missionary in Japan is like? Well, wonder no more! Here Charlie describes a typical day for us:
The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and Novak Choro and I get up and go running down the street for about a mile or so. The smell of car exhaust along the road can be suffocating but then you turn the corner and get away from the buildings and all of a sudden there’s a rice paddy, there just to freshen things for us. We come back, shower, get dressed, I throw a couple of slices of bread in the toaster for breakfast. We want to get ready early so that we can have time to get to the church by 8 a.m. to start our study on time. We pack our study things, hop on our bikes, and race over to the church while shouting and waving “Hello” to all the school kids as we pass by.  A shinkansen [bullet train] passes over us on the huge bridge we cross under every day.

We get to the church and study the scriptures, Preach My Gospel [missionary study manual], etc. for one hour. Then we have companion study for an hour and we plan things we want to do that day, discuss the needs of our zone, etc. Then at 10 o’clock we start our language study. Flash cards, grammar books, scriptures in Japanese. I’m trying to learn how to say all the cool words for Lehi’s dream*, like “The iron rod” and “great and spacious building”. Then we cook the yakisoba [pan-fried noodles] we brought with us to the church so that we don’t have to go back to the apartment. After lunch we walk over to the college right by the church for an hour or so and pass out flyers for Eikaiwa [English conversation class]. After that we bike over to visit Toratani san, an 85-year-old investigator who speaks the worst mix of Kansaiben [Osaka dialect] and broken English that I’ve ever heard. Then we bike over to the neighborhood we picked to go housing at that day. Today we’re focusing on family history work. What Buddhist doesn’t like learning more about their ancestors? Well, apparently none of the people in that neighborhood.

*Lehi’s dream–as recorded in the Book of Mormon, a symbolic vision that the prophet Lehi had concerning his family, the tree of life, the temptations of this world, and how God’s love fills us with true joy. Recorded in 1 Nephi chapter 8.

 Then we go visit Shota san, the most golden guy ever known to mankind. We ask him what his favorite scripture is and he says “The chapters in 2 Nephi written by Isaiah that talk about the scattering and gathering of Israel.”  I never thought a 3-week convert would know more about the gospel than me. Then we spend our last few hours at Kitaguchi train station and talk to whomever we can start a conversation with about the gospel. After that we go home and make phone calls to all the potential investigators we found. Not a lot of them answer, but we still call them anyway! Then we have follow ups. We’re making phone calls to the zone members, district members, and the assistants to see how everything is going and then report on the missionary work in the zone. It can be a little stressful; a lot of the missionaries in the Kobe zone need a lot of help. But it’s very rewarding. We plan our next day and pray a lot about where the Lord wants us to go. We finish up planning about 9:30 and then have a few more follow ups. By 10 o’clock it’s a quick dinner, change into pajamas, and by 10:30 we plop on our futons. We’re exhausted but we know we have zone training this week so we spend some time praying and pondering about what to teach. After a few minutes we talk about what we feel we should do. By then it’s pretty late, and we can’t resist sleep any longer. And that’s a day in my life here in Kobe.
Elder Novak stops to talk to a young man on the street.

Elder Novak stops to talk to a young man on the street.

 Are you tired yet? But wait! There’s more! He answers some of our most pressing questions about life in Japan. Charlie, what’s something that puzzles you about the Japanese culture?

 I have never been able to figure out how people can sleep on the train all the way to their stop and wake up just as the train stops at their station.
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 sleeping train
Any strange fashion trends over there? Take a picture of it so we can see back home!
Lots of girls wear colored contacts. But I’m not going to take a picture of that.
What do you miss most about pre-mission life?
I miss being able to spend time playing the piano.
What do you miss the most about being in America? What don’t you miss?
I miss mom’s cookies. I miss the low prices in America. I don’t miss hearing bad words.
[Charlie just earned big brownie points. Cookies are on the way!]
What do you think is the biggest difference between the Japanese and Americans?
Japanese people are much shyer than Americans. Also, they all wear nice clothes when they go outside. No pajamas outside the house. They also work really, really hard, for really long hours.
 What are some of your favorite foods in Japan?
 My favorite Japanese meal is…maybe okonomiyaki? I love melon soda and omochi. And chocolate koalas.
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No, this is not a pizza. This is okonomiyaki. YUM.

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Melon soda. Why do we not have this flavor in America?

Omochi, a rice cake filled with sweet bean paste and a delicacy in Japan.

Omochi, a rice cake filled with sweet bean paste.

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Chocolate koalas. Whoever thought of these is genius.

 
 What’s your favorite thing about Japan?
My favorite thing about Japan is… everything? That’s a hard question. I’d probably say the Japanese people.
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Finally, what’s your favorite part of being a missionary?
My favorite part of being a missionary is being able to walk outside with a Book of Mormon in hand and a commitment to give it to the first person you see. I love seeing people come unto Christ and taking his yoke upon them. I love having the opportunity to make decisions by the Holy Ghost every day. I love getting a stronger testimony of the Lord and his work. I love the opportunity I have every day to come closer to Christ myself. I just love it all.
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The best five months of my life

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Charlie makes more little friends!

We were able to talk to Charlie on Mother’s Day so he could tell us over the phone how things are going and, of course, so he could shower his mother with obligatory maternal praises. A phone conversation brings out bits and pieces of his life he might not mention in a letter, for example, that he lives next door to a pachinko parlor (sort of a cross between a mini casino and a pinball arcade, Japanese-style). That was nice to know. We also learned that his favorite kind of sushi is raw octopus (don’t knock it till you try it–it might just be as slimy and chewy as you imagine!). But he said his favorite part of being a missionary so far is seeing people’s lives change for the better. And that pretty much made our day. Actually, it made our week. It made the past five months of missing him so much all worth it.

Even though we spent one hour with him on the phone, he still found the time later that day to write us a letter and send some photos. Here are the highlights:

This week was pretty tiring. We tracted and went streeting pretty much every day all day this week. We spent 8 hours on foot on Friday and handed out a ton of EiKaiwa chirashis [English class flyers].  Lo and behold, no one new came. Baah! Our EiKaiwa class is really tiny usually and the same people always come. But it was good. Tuesday we did lots of housing. We even accidentally knocked on a member’s door which was kind of embarrassing, but she gave us mugicha  [wheat tea] and cookies so it was ok. We also taught Fukumitsu Shimai again. She has such a strong testimony! She’s grown a lot and her greatest desire is to go to the temple and take her husband one day. I’m so blessed that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of His great work and to see miracles like her. On Wednesday we tried Morumon sho densha dendo* and got on the train and just rode around for a little while and talked to people. We just sat there sometimes and read the Morumon sho and waited for people to say “joozu ne!” [“very good!”]  when they saw us two gaijin “reading” nihongo [foreigners “reading”  Japanese]. I gave away three copies of the Book of Mormon that day!

*Morumon sho densha dendo–passing out copies of the Book of Mormon on a train

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But we’re constantly trying to further the work here and find the elect. We’ll find them whenever the Lord wants us to find them. I’ve realized lately that finding people to teach is not so much about knocking doors or talking to people on the street every day for hours and hours, but becoming the kind of disciple that the Lord can trust His children to. Missionaries who come to the field with this mindset will have so much more of an advantage over others with the same calling. Finding will be as simple as saying hello if the Lord can trust us enough to put people who are ready in our path.

Well it’s been a great five months. The best five months of my life. I can’t believe it’s gone by this fast. It’s craaazy. My testimony has really grown. I know that the Savior lives. This work is His work. In my own life, the teachings of Christ have brought me so much peace, and through His teachings life can be full of joy and meaning. I want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone. I testify that the gospel is God’s gift to us!

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“Let your light so shine…”