Tag Archives: Japan Kobe missionaries

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

15.06.20 masaki

With Masaki-san, June 2015

15.11.21 kitazoe

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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A Testimony of the Book of Mormon

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kyoto stone lantern

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:

sushi for lunch

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

bus stop

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

kouchi branch

“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!”

ryoumasan

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!

autumn in kyoto

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.

autumn jizo

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

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!  
15.09.26 taikai
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!!! 

15.09.25 car ride

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!

nihon lanterns

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!
koi

A Farewell to Osaka…

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Dotonbori

This week has been a good week for Charlie. Make that a great week. Two exciting events happened in the same week: a baptism AND a transfer. Let’s start with the baptism, shall we?

Ok, big news, big news!! Anyway here we go. Yes, Masaki was baptized! The baptismal service was awesome! Masaki was a great investigator and friend. I’ll remember him forever. I feel so blessed to finally get to participate in the baptism of another person here in Japan. Senri has been a long, hard battle. It’s been rough and tiring and taxing on my mind and my body. There were many weeks where I felt forgotten in this little patch of the vineyard. I prayed and prayed so hard every night to be able to find someone who we could baptize here. Sometimes my hopes weren’t even that high–I just wanted someone to teach! What I can say I gained here in Senri is a testimony that God will answer our prayers and that He will on his own time. He always will. There’s never a loss of hope if your hope is in God and Jesus Christ. He will always pull through. Believing that is true faith.

Here are Charlie and Kodama Choro filling the font. Wow, are they ever excited. (Don’t drop the camera!)

15.06.19 in the font

And here they are with the newest member of the Senri ward, Masaki-san (second from left):

15.06.20 masaki

Now let’s get to the transfer. But first off, a little recap of the past six months and the significance of this transfer. It’s been a year and a half that Charlie has been in Japan, and he’s pretty much spent all of that time in and around the big cities of Osaka and Kobe. The last six months have been spent in Senri, just outside of Osaka, and it’s been a challenging area for him. But the Kobe mission also encompasses the island of Shikoku to the south, the smallest of Japan’s four major islands, and also where his grandmother was born. Her family still lives there in Shimanto and the Kochi area.

shikoku map

Can you spot Kochi? It’s on the south central coast of this island. 

Charlie has been hoping and praying that he’d have the chance to go there, but in his last interview with the President he was told that would be unlikely. Kochi was probably becoming a sisters-only area, the President said, so it was best for him to put it out of his mind. Well, transfer calls came on Monday this week. And guess what?

In other news, (you can probably tell already from the way I talked about what I learned in
Senri)–I’m being transferred. This will probably be my last area. And I can’t express to you how excited I am for this one. Because this time, for real, I am going to Kochi! My mission president pulled through!!! I’M GOING TO KOCHI!!!! We gotta arrange to meet up with the Takedas [grandma’s family]. We have to! As soon as possible!! I was so surprised this morning because I was told I wasn’t going to get the chance to go down there. Kochi didn’t even go through my mind this morning as I was wondering about transfers. I just never thought it would happen!

It looks like the Lord had something else in store! So sayonara, Osaka:

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Hello, Shikoku!

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shikoku road

Much of Shikoku is rural, filled with rice paddies and green rolling hills. It is overwhelmingly beautiful. Below is a picture of Jane overlooking the Takeda family home in Shimanto from our trip in 2012.

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And here is a picture of Charlie’s sweet great-grandmother, Kameno Takeda, who is now 102 and still thriving:

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I think she’s been waiting for him to come say good-bye to her before she passes on. (Then again, she might be around for years. We don’t really know what she’s waiting for. Neither does she!)

How does Charlie feel about this?

It's a good day in Japan!

Stay tuned! The next few months are bound to be an adventure for Charlie.

mossy statue

“Being a missionary has definitely changed me…”

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red lanterns

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.

15.06.09 waterfall

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.

15.06.05 big zone

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.

15.05.10 bros

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!

 

On Easter, the Atonement, and so many blessings

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kyotosakura

Spring has arrived in Japan, and with spring comes the beautiful cherry blossoms (sakura). If you’re lucky enough to visit Japan in your lifetime, go during springtime. There are few things as magical as a cherry blossom-lined cobblestone street. Charlie was able to visit Kyoto at peak season and share some pictures with us, as well as his insights on Easter, the Atonement, and the many blessings of missionary work.

This was a week of a lot of personal growth and learning about myself and how I can become more humble, loving, and Christ-like. The investigators are coming, slowly. We’ve had quite a few drops lately and it’s been pretty sad, especially when you find people who you really want to help and who you think will progress and then they end up choosing not to. But all missionary work is one big great act of love and charity. It’s what Jesus did. His Atonement wasn’t a number–it was pure, infinite love for all of us. Our job here is to help other people feel the love God and Jesus Christ have for them. We’re working as hard as we can to build relationships with the ward members and help the other missionaries in the stake do that as well. I think the biggest thing that would help members do more missionary work in Japan is just getting to know the members’ friends. Think about it: if you were invited to a friend’s house and then missionaries showed up and started teaching you about a religion you’ve never heard of, wouldn’t that be pretty awkward? But if the missionaries focused more on showing Christ-like love to the new people they met, we would see a lot more success in helping people come unto Christ, because it becomes something they feel, not something we tell them.

15.04.18 charlie

Anyway we are working crazy hard, and the Lord is blessing us. One of the things I’ve learned about dendo [missionary work] is that if you are not always improving, you’re going backwards. The minute you lose focus, something or someone drops. Missionary work takes a lot of mental, physical, and spiritual exertion. And even then it’s not enough, and you always need God’s power to support you as well. I never dare stop, because if I do, I might be missing out on some blessings. Lately I have felt like I’ve been through the refiner’s fire. I’ve been tried, tested, worked, blessed, and worn out, and God has really helped me become a tool in his hands for many things. Every night when I pray I just feel so much gratitude for my Father’s blessings. He has blessed and helped me so much. Now, I think we’re ready to start seeing some miracles.

sakura

I have been humbled by how much the Lord is blessing us lately. On Tuesday I got a phone call from someone named Uemura san. I wasn’t able to answer the phone at the time because I was in a training meeting in Kobe, but when I listened to the message, I heard a female voice saying, “When is your church? I want to come to church. I have some questions I want to ask about your church, so please call me back.” I called back faster than you can say kinjin [golden]. We set up an appointment for the next day. We had a really spiritual lesson. Uemura san has had some rough stuff going on in her life, and she wanted to start coming back to church. She belonged to another Christian church when she was young, but she had quit going. She had driven past our church a lot and noticed it and felt like she wanted to come, but she was always too busy. But now things in her life have changed. She has more time and the desire to learn. God really does prepare people, and sometimes all we have to do is be ready to help.

sakura red gates

As far as other news, Kodama Choro and I found two teenagers on the street named Kan and Soda. No joke. They became investigators this week and every time we talk about them it becomes a joke. “Hey when’s our next appointment with Soda can?” “Why don’t we pop them a quick text…” “Those two have bubbly personalities.” Do you miss my puns? [Yes, we do!]
15.04.01 Bahr and Barr

Charlie and his MTC mate, the other Elder Barr, receive their Ipads and are ready to go digital!

15.04.02 preschoolers

Little preschoolers on a walk. Could they be any cuter? NO! (The little tyke with his hand in his pocket! The orange bucket hats! Stop!)

Well, this has been a rough transfer in a lot of different ways. For a long time I feel like I’ve been working, but pushing against a wall the whole time. There have been a lot of obstacles while I’ve been here in Senri. It’s often hard to see my personal growth while I’m going through the thick of challenges, but when you look back, the growth is always visible. I have no idea what lays ahead but I know that the Lord will always help. As it was Easter this past week, I have been thinking a lot about how we can all find hope through Jesus Christ, in and through His Atonement and resurrection. No matter what happens in this life, I know we can find solace in believing that Jesus Christ gave his life for us. He overcame the impossible–sin and death–for all of us. When I think about this, I realize just how small any trial I have actually is. There will always be adversity in life, and there will always be the power of the Atonement just waiting for us right there, ready to help us. The Savior is always right there. I know that my Redeemer lives.
kyoto cherry blossoms
15.04.11 sakura
15.04.32 charlie sakura

Domo arigato, Charlie Choro, for sharing your testimony, your stories, and your wonderful pictures of the cherry blossoms! (And pictures of cute little Japanese children are always a bonus.) Happy springtime, everyone!

Charlie’s Top Ten Lists

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Charlie’s Top Ten Lists

Our family loves to make Top Ten lists (i.e.: Favorite Places We’ve Been, Things That Made You Laugh Today, Things You Love About Mom ;), etc.) so we asked Charlie to do the same about life in Japan as a missionary. The results are in, and here they are:

maneki neko

 

Top Ten Things Charlie Loves About Japan

1. I love the people.
2. I love the food.
3. I love how it rains a lot, even though it’s hard to bike in.
4. I love how Obaachans [grandmas] walk around on their own everywhere.
5. I love talking to people on trains.
6. I love giving American pennies to little kids.
7. I love how everywhere you go there is either a ramen shop or a convenience store within sight.
8. I love how the garbage trucks sing little songs as they roll around town.*
9. I love how there is always a vending machine on every street in every neighborhood.
10. I love how all the business men and women dress. Everyone dresses really nice for work.
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A street sign reminding drivers to be mindful of the elderly. It says “Silver Zone.” Only in Japan!

vending-machine

If you can’t find what you want in one of these vending machines, you are way too picky.

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Charlie tries a green tea ice cream bar. And no, it’s not against the Word of Wisdom. (from our trip to Japan in 2012)

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A corner ramen shop in Osaka.

rainy kyoto

Another rainy day in Japan.

*singing garbage trucks–he is not making this up, they really do play catchy little tunes from loudspeakers while they collect the trash (like ice cream trucks in America, only minus the ice cream). Watch this little video below:

(You’re welcome.)


 Top  Ten Things Charlie Loves About Being a Missionary

1. I love learning the gospel more and more every day.
2. I love being put in situations where you have no option but to just follow the spirit and put your shoulder to the wheel.
3. I love working with the wonderful members of the church.
4. I love building strong legs because I have to bike everywhere.
5. I love watching the hand of the Lord guiding everyone’s lives.
6. I love having opportunities to testify of Jesus Christ every single day.
7. I love trying to be a good companion.
8. I love looking for opportunities to help people every day.
9. I love seeing people I teach progress in the gospel and come closer to the Savior and feel more of God’s love in their lives.
10. I love not having to worry about anything but serving the Lord.
Bike helmet + suit=Mormon missionary

Building those strong leg muscles!

15.02.23 kyoto ysa

The elders pal around with some YSA members in Kyoto.

15.03.05 bbye gooch

With his companion Yamaguchi Choro.


Top Ten Best Moments on the Mission So Far

1. Baptizing Shota san and Fukumitsu Shimai.
2. Yesterday at church hearing the wonderful Senri ward’s testimonies and feeling everyone’s friendship.
3. Teaching zone training meeting and feeling like everyone was helped.
4. Seeing Shota share his conversion story with all of the missionaries in the zone.
5. Every night when I kneel in prayer and talk with my Heavenly Father.
6. Street contacting with Elder Novak. We did some pretty goofy things.
7. Praying with the members in the ward council in Nishinomiya ward about the number of prepared people in our area.
8. Holding my first conversation in Japanese.
9. Feeling love from my family on Christmas on Skype.
10. I love that moment when you find someone in the last apartment in the building.
14.10.23 shota san

At Shota san’s baptism in October.

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At Fukumitsu Shimai’s baptism, March 2014.

04.14.29 YSA

With some of the ward members in his first area.


Top Ten Things I Miss From Back Home (not limited to ten)
1. Watching old movies with the fam.
2. Playing sports with Dad and Sam.
3. Having Frau sleep between my legs so I can’t move.
4. Building random purposeless things with my free time in the garage.
5. Reading scriptures and praying as a family.
6. Driving you crazy with techno music.
7. Asking Papa a question about anything and hearing a well-educated answer.
8. Walking into the cleanest, best smelling house ever whenever we go to Grandma and Grandpa Bahr’s.
9. Feeling all of Baba’s wonderful quilts.
10. Watching Boobear [his nickname for Jane] make random little projects.
11. Playing golf with my dad.
And many more of course…
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Charlie’s beloved Frau (a.k.a. Fraulein Maria, our mini schnorkie) who loves sleeping on Charlie’s bed.

 


Well, that’s it for Charlie’s Top Ten lists. If we were to write a list of “Top Ten Things We Miss About Charlie” it would far exceed ten. And it would sound rather depressing, like he were dead, which he’s not. So we won’t go there. Suffice it to say, we miss everything about him. (Except maybe his weird techno music. No–actually I even miss that.)

In Charlie's grandma's home town of Shimanto, Japan, at Dragonfly Park, June 2012.

In Charlie’s grandmother’s home town of Shimanto, Japan, at Dragonfly Park, June 2012.

 

 

Choose ups rather than downs!

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osaka by night

A view of the Osaka night skyline.

Charlie has returned to his roots! (That is, he’s been transferred back to Osaka, which is where he started out.) This time he’s on the north side of town, and his new companion is Elder Yamaguchi. So far he’s had companions from Mexico, Australia, Canada, and the U.S., but this is the first one from Japan, and you know what that means: all Japanese, all the time. Gambatte ne! [Good luck!] Here are some of his thoughts from the past few weeks.

On his new area and companion:

The area is saikooo [awesome]! Yamaguchi Choro is the man. He’s sadly going home next transfer, so I only get to have him for six weeks but it’s going to be a good six weeks. These past few days have stretched my Nihongo [Japanese] in ways I didn’t know it could be stretched. Yamaguchi Choro speaks some seriously gangster, mumbly Japanese. He’s way funny. He’s from Aichi ken. I love him already.

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His new comp, Yamaguchi Choro, on a particularly bright and sunny day. (Maybe next time we’ll get one with his eyes open.)

On choosing to be happy, regardless of your circumstances:

This week was good, it had its ups and downs, but all you have to do is choose ups rather than downs! Happiness is always a choice. We can choose to be happy and positive, or we can choose to wallow in the mire of our trials and challenges. But then how would we grow? (And who would want to be around us?) It seems so very easy, but it’s also so very hard, because I would actually rather solve the challenges and make it easy to be happy, but sometimes we can’t. That is part of the plan. And for the things we can’t do, we can rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

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15.01.24 lunch

We’re working with some good people here in Senri. We’re really trying to work with the ward again, something I haven’t done since Hanayashiki (Nishinomiya was purely working ON the ward). 111 people came to sacrament yesterday! It was awesome!

On speaking and translating Japanese°:

So you know how I said my Japanese was being stretched… Well there’s a gaijin [foreign] family in our ward who moved in about two weeks ago. So now I’m the ward translator! Yabai! [Dangit!] It’s so hard! I didn’t do so well yesterday translating the Osaka Ojiichans’ “Japanese”*. The gaijin family said I did a really good job, but in all honesty, I just made up stuff half the time because I couldn’t understand and neither could they. It was intense. This morning I listened to a Preach My Gospel CD in Japanese for about two hours while I was cleaning to practice translating everything into English… It’s way hard! Even if you understand perfectly what they said in Japanese, it doesn’t directly translate into English so you have to think fast about how you would say it in English, and then by the time you do that, the person talking has already moved on. Ganbaru zo-! [I’ll hang in there!]

*Osaka Ojiichans’ “Japanese”–what the old men from Osaka (called “grandpas”) speak, which according to Charlie, is not Japanese at all but rather some mangled form of Chinese and Japanese put together.

°Japanese is a notoriously difficult language. Heber J. Grant, after opening up Japan for missionary work years ago, called it “the devil’s tongue.”

15.01.18 nishichiiki

Charlie’s last zone meeting in Nishinomiya before transferring to Osaka.


And now for the fun ones:
15.01.23 mochi

Charlie helps pound rice into mochi, a sweet rice cake dessert. (Hopefully he hit the rice, and not the man’s head!)

15.01.25 engrish tee

More bad English on a camo print t-shirt. Why would you NOT want to wear this?

 

15.01.14 funnytag

Hmm…no thanks, I don’t need more drama in my life.

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The Osaka version of Times Square.

15.01.27 eki

Charlie and Weckesser Choro bidding farewell at the station.

Thanks for keeping up with Charlie Choro! Have a great week, and remember: choose the ups, not the downs!

 

 

A New Year

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kinkakuji in snow

Snow falls on the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto.

Happy New Year! Or, as the Japanese would say, “O-shogatsu omedetou!” We ended our year on a high note: we had the opportunity to talk with Charlie on Christmas Day via video conference. As you can see from the picture, he looked happy and well, and he sounded great. He bore his testimony in Japanese and it was beautiful. He even moved his grandmother to tears. (She might not have been the only one…) It was pretty much our favorite Christmas present.

14.12.25 christmas call

Talking with Charlie via skype on Christmas Day.

14.12.18 xmas party

Charlie and his companion at their ward Christmas party.

14.12.26 nativity

An interesting anime version of the Nativity. (Nice ‘stache, Joseph.)

Charlie’s letters always provide us with a healthy dose of both spiritual insight and humor. He told us about going to check on an old grandpa in the ward they hadn’t seen in quite a while. Worried that something might have happened to him, they were happy to find he was as healthy as ever:
After church yesterday Weckesser Choro and I left to go visit an old man in the ward named Ishihara Kyoudai who I hadn’t seen in weeks. He’s like 90 years old, and I hadn’t seen him for a while, so you know…we kind of went to go make sure he hadn’t died. Well he was alive. He’s the funniest 90-year-old Japanese guy I’ve ever met. He’s so sweet, and lives by himself but everyone in the neighborhood knows him and loves him and brings him food. He looks like a Japanese version of Mr. Frederickson from the movie “Up”. He tried to give us koucha [black tea] and then he said “Aa! Anata wa nomenai ne!” [“Oh! You don’t drink tea, do you?”] and then continued to make some for himself. Weckesser Choro and I laughed…he’s a member, too! But we let it go because he’s way old and innocent. We found out why he doesn’t come to church–he doesn’t have money and has to walk to church 2 1/2 hours both ways! And he needs a cane, too! That poor old man! We are definitely going to arrange for him to have a ride from now on. Can you imagine a 90-year-old man with a cane walking to church two and a half hours both ways!? Now that is some faith. Who cares if he still drinks tea!
14.12.29 up man

Charlie and Ishihara Kyoudai, whose secret to longevity might just be…black tea?


Some of Charlie’s reflections on how quickly time flies as a missionary, and how it has changed him:
The first year of my mission was the best time of my life. I can’t wait for the second. I can’t believe how fast it has gone. Too fast. I’ve noticed many changes in myself and in my desires. It’s been amazing. I have learned to put myself last, to put my needs and my wants and my desires behind so that I can help other people like Christ did. When I focus on other people, my life is so much easier and enjoyable. A few months ago I was entirely concerned with my abilities. Wanting to become better–speak Japanese better, know the gospel better, work on all the things I wanted to work on. And I was stressed because I always felt like I was behind in my personal development. But I realize now that I have a higher priority:  to serve others. I dropped the personal goals that weren’t so necessary and just focused on helping other people. Sometimes it’s frustrating when they don’t want to be helped, but I know I’m doing what’s right: just serving and giving people the gift of the gospel. And through that I’ve grown faster than I ever could have just focusing on myself.
15.01.16 chiiki

With the missionaries of the Nishinomiya district.

It’s hard to imagine why that works, but when you look at things with an eternal perspective, it all makes sense. By turning outward rather than inward, we open our hearts to the Spirit of the Lord, which can grow us a lot faster than we ourselves can. I’ve learned more about the nature of God and his love and the Atonement in one year being in a Buddhist country than I ever did in 18 years living in a Christian country. God can do things like that to us, if we let him. I can’t wait to keep serving for another year. I can’t wait for every day to leave the apartment and help some people. I can’t wait to see the hearts of the members of the church be opened. I can’t wait to see a temple in this area one day. I can’t wait to meet all the wonderful people I will get to meet the rest of my time here. I can’t wait to see more of the works of God. I’ve really gained a testimony of just how much God really does love us, each and every one of his children. There’s not a person on this earth that God doesn’t care about hearing a prayer from. There’s not a person in existence that he exempts from using the atoning blood of Christ to cleanse, purify, and strengthen. Every single one of his children. The thought that so many of his children don’t know that yet makes me want to get out and preach every day!

 A few more pictures of Charlie at work (or play?):
14.12.27 lego

Unfortunately for Charlie, this was a bar, not an actual LEGO store.

 

14.12.20 jump

At the baseball stadium where the Osaka Tigers play.

And a few more just for fun:

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Japanese girls visit a Shinto shrine to offer prayers for the New Year.

 

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A beagle wearing a “kagamimochi” (rice cake) hat for New Year’s Day.

snow monkeys

Japanese macaques soak in a hot spring in celebration of the New Year. (Actually, they have no idea it’s a new year. I just really love this picture.)

A Happy New Year to everyone! May 2015 bring you health and prosperity. O-shogatsu omedetou gozaimasu!

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.
14.12.03 bbye novak

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.
14.12.14 syrup

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.

14.12.05 weckesser

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. 

14.12.08

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!)
kobe lights

 

kobe lights 2

 

kobe pink lights

kobe twinkle lights

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.