Tag Archives: Kochi Japan

Enduring to the end…

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jizo statue leaves

The end is nigh. The end of Charlie’s mission, that is, not the end of the world.  (Then again… maybe that’s coming, too.) But he still has a few stories to tell and experiences to share, including an interesting baptism, a blessing in the park, and taking a 170-kilometer bike ride across the island, which gives new meaning to the expression “endure to the end…”

This week as we were on the way back from an investigator’s house we found Brother Mori, the recent convert, in a park sitting down by himself. He has been feeling way sick lately with all kinds of random things. But he wasn’t able to come to church last week because it is too far for him from his house. We talked to him in the park and as he explained his situation, we offered to give him a priesthood blessing and he accepted. We sat him down on a park bench, and Matsumoto Choro gave him a beautiful blessing in Japanese.  After the blessing he bounced up immediately with 100 times the energy he had before and said “Genki ni narimashita!” [I’ve become well!] He came to church this week happy as ever. The power of the priesthood is amazing!

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Matsumoto Choro, Brother Mori, and Charlie in the park.

It looks as though Charlie’s eyebrows have recovered from Matsumoto Choro’s grooming experiment. So sorry if you had hopes of catching a glimpse of that awkwardness. (Although it looks as though someone else has been borrowing his fine-hair trimmer–and it’s not Brother Mori!)

This week the sisters also had a baptism. I was given the honor of performing the ordinance. Kitazoe San is 85-years-old and is the sweetest old lady ever. She has a hard time walking, though, let alone getting up steps. And in Kochi, there is no font–just a rubber gray inflatable that comes up to about waist high.

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This is their font before they inflate it and fill it with water.

We could not figure out how to get her in the water.  All the members tried all kinds of crazy ideas with chairs and tables to help her be able to get up over the edge of the pool. We started the meeting a half hour late, still with no idea how we were going to help this woman get in the water. She even suggested we just do it in a river nearby. That might have been the best option. But with faith, another priesthood holder and I gave her a blessing next to the font so that she could have enough strength to get up and over the edge of the pool. Then, with the help of members and the other elders, we helped her up the step ladder, had her sit on a podium, then hoisted her over down another step ladder into the pool and she was in the water in about two minutes or less. It was a miracle! I know the Lord blesses those who use the priesthood worthily, and will give anyone the strength they need to get into the waters of baptism to make covenants with him. Kitazoe San said that her legs truly felt lighter as she pushed with all her might to get herself into that font. Her faith helped her be baptized, both spiritually and physically!

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The sister missionaries and Charlie with Kitazoe San at her baptism.


 

In last week’s letter, Charlie told us he woke up at 4:00 a.m. on their preparation day because the elders were planning on biking that day from Kochi to Muroto, a famous look-out point on the island of Shikoku. Apparently only the most stalwart of Kochi missionaries will make this 170-km (105-mile) trek before they leave. Well, that was all that needed to be said for Charlie to rise to the challenge:

The bike ride was awesome. And it was about a total of 170 kilometers round trip, which is… imagine a trip from Tucson to Phoenix. It was a long one! But the next day, I wasn’t even one bit sore. Which sounds crazy, but I’ve been biking for probably 20 kilometers a day on average for two years, so I’m used to the feel of a bike and my muscles don’t get sore from that kind of exercise anymore. But the next day I was absolutely dead tired. Not sore, but there was just no energy in my body! But I will send lots of pictures and videos. The trip was beautiful. We have now become legends. We saw tons of cool stuff along the way. We learned a lot about the gospel, too–mainly about enduring to the end, patience, and the power of prayer. It was a great day.

Enduring to the end, patience, and the power of prayer: tools that can come in handy in many situations in life, but particularly on a 105-mile bike ride in the rain! (However, they did become legends, so of course it was totally worth it.) Here are a few photos from the ride:

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The elder on the left points to where they started from, Kochi, and Charlie points to their destination, Muroto.


But anyway, Matsumoto Choro and I are working ridiculously hard and pulled off 25 lessons this last week. We’ve got a lot of potential with some people that we’ve found in our teaching pool, some people that can definitely be baptized within the next couple of transfers. We have been working really hard to see a baptism from our investigators, and it doesn’t look like anyone will pull through this transfer, but as long as Matsumoto Choro stays here in Kochi for the next little while I’m sure that he’ll be able to maintain what we’ve done here. We’ve been doing a lot of housing lately – that seems to be the key here in Kochi. We find people to teach literally every time we go knocking on doors. A lot of people have a negative attitude about tracting, but here’s what I’ve found:  if the people are prepared, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, because they will hear the message. They will. Whether it’s on the street, at a door, at English class, with a member friend–the way they are contacted doesn’t really matter. As long as you’re following the Spirit, no matter what type of proselyting you are doing, it will be effective. Matsumoto Choro and I have been praying about areas to house and buildings to knock doors on, and we have been finding two to three new investigators a week basically all from that. You just have to pray and do what the Lord wants you to do!

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fall in japan

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:

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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…

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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.

I love Kochi! (or: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for you!)

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The beautiful beach at Katsurahama.

A lot has happened in the past month! Charlie had a birthday and turned 20 (what the?!), got a new companion, nearly drowned when it rained for a week straight (okay, not really, but he did get very wet), and was able to see the famous Kochi Yosakoi Matsuri, a huge dance festival that takes place every August as part of the Obon Holiday (more on that later). Read on!

This week was the craziest week of my life! SO much random stuff happened… I don’t even know where to begin. It rained Monday through Friday on us over here and every day it caught us by surprise and we got soaked. You think we’d learn our lesson, but on Tuesday we said “No, it won’t rain today, it rained a ton yesterday.” Wednesday: “No way, it rained two days in a row really hard, it’s gotta clear up today. There’s no way we need rain coats.” Thursday was “Four days in a row? Impossible. ” Friday was: “By now we’re just used to gettin wet, so whatevs.” 日本へようこそ! [Welcome to Japan!]

KOCHI, JAPAN - OCTOBER 23: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Commuters walk in the rain on October 23, 2013 in Kochi, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Welcome to the rainy season in Japan!

But this week we also had some pretty cool experiences and I got to see how the Lord’s hand guides us even when we make mistakes! My companion and I had taken the train to go to some towns east of Kochi-shi to visit a few less actives. Travel took longer than we expected, and later in the evening we missed our train back to Kochi, meaning we would be late going home and we wouldn’t make our curfew. We felt pretty bad about that, especially because we would just be sitting at the station for another hour or so waiting for the next train to come. There was only one other man in the station at the time, quietly sitting in the corner reading a manga [comic book]. I went up to him and asked him to help us buy the right train tickets back (which isn’t that hard to do, but I figured it would be an easy way to start a conversation). We started talking to him and it turns out that he had met missionaries before, and was willing to hear a lesson on the Book of Mormon right then! We taught him and set up an appointment to meet the next day. Even in times of inconvenience, if we reach out a hand to the people around us, the Lord will bless us for it.

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The city of Kochi and the surrounding coastline behind Charlie–what a great view!


The Yosakoi festival takes place every year in August during the Obon Holiday, when Buddhists believe the spirits of their ancestors return to their hometowns for a visit–it sounds spooky and ghostly, but it’s more religious and happy. While most Obon festivals include traditional Japanese dance, the Kochi Yosakoi is renowned for its contemporary and energetic dancing, colorful costumes, and wooden hand clappers. People travel to Kochi from the far corners of Japan to watch over 20,000 dancers take to the streets, and Charlie was thrilled to be right in the middle of it all. His enthusiastic review of the Yosakoi had us laughing!

Yosakoi was the coolest matsuri [festival] I have ever seen! Not that I have been to that many matsuris in my life, but this one was way cool. I will send lots of pictures and videos because I took a lot. I could go on and on about how cool it is, but I’ll just end here because you just gotta see it. It’s like feeling the Holy Ghost, right? You can tell someone til their ears are sore about how awesome the Holy Ghost is, but until they pray and actually feel it on their own they’ll never know! Ok, I’ll finally end this paragraph now and just send the videos and pics already.

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15.08.31 yosakoi stage

yosakoi dancers

What a fun time for Charlie to be in the city of Kochi! Pictures just don’t do it justice. If you really want to feel the whole spirit of Yosakoi, watch the video below. (Like he says, you just gotta see it.)

[note: if no video appears on your screen, open this page in another browser by clicking on the title “I love Kochi!” in blue letters at the top of the page.]

Moving on.

My new nihonjin dode [Japanese companion] Matsumoto Choro is awesome. We already get along like two peas in a pod! He speaks really funny English and usually makes me laugh and then we both give up and just start using Japanese instead. It’s way fun. We’re going to see miracles this transfer. We’ve already found some good people these past couple days and we’re going to find more. I hope I get to keep this companion until the end of my mission. We’ll see!

 

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Charlie and Matsumoto Choro having a swell time.

It’s fun to get to experience a different culture, being here in Japan, and being with a Japanese companion. I love the Japanese people more and more the longer I am here in Japan. Like any culture, it’s not perfect. It’s made up of imperfect people everywhere. I believe that the key to bringing cultures and different races and people together is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the power to fill the holes in our lives and in the societies and cultures we live in. I know that no matter who you are, where you are, what your background is, how old you are, or how much or how little hope you may have, the gospel of Jesus Christ is for you. It will make “weak things become strong.”

 And finally, a few more pictures of some of Charlie’s adventures over the past month:
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With a statue of one of his childhood superheroes: Anpanman! (Beancake Man. Yes, he is a real superhero in Japan, a symbol of justice and a sweet snack cake all wrapped up into one.)

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Whoever treated Charlie to this lovely little birthday cake is my new favorite person.

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At Katsurahama, a scenic beach about 30 minutes south of Kochi.

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This photo pretty much sums up how Charlie feels about Japan, being a missionary, and life in general.