Tag Archives: Mormon missionaries in Japan

Sayonara, Japan…

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

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

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


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

What memory will you cherish most from your mission?

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

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With Fukumitsu Shimai, March 2014

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With Shota Yamamoto, October 2014

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With Masaki-san, June 2015

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With Kitazoe-san, December 2015

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

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

Where was your favorite city?

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

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

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Random adorable Japanese baby boy.

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

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

See you soon.15.12.02 in kobe

 

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

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.

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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. 

 

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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!

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

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Charlie and Matsumoto Choro don yukatas (summer kimonos).

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Fireflies light up at dusk in the village of Shimanto.

 

 

 

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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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.

A Family Reunion!

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Top, L-R: Uncle Haruki, Cousin Junko, Aunt Chiyoko (Haruki’s wife), Aunt Tomie. Bottom, L-R: Cousin Kumiko, Great-Grandma Kameno, Charlie, Elder Howe.

We hoped and prayed that this day might come and it finally has! Charlie was able to visit our Takeda family in the town of Shimanto-shi, about an hour from Kochi where he is currently assigned. He and his companion boarded a train last Thursday and traveled south, where he was met at the station by family members, and then they went to visit his great-grandma Takeda. Charlie last saw all of them in 2012, when our family visited Japan. He was a 16-year-old boy then who could only say a few words in Japanese. This is the first time they’ve seen him as a missionary, and what’s more, he is the first Mormon missionary they’ve ever seen. (There is no LDS church in their village, so missionaries don’t make it out there too often.) None of the Takedas–besides Charlie’s grandmother Seiko–are members of our church; they had a lot of questions for him, and he had a lot of answers. They were thrilled to have him come visit and hear him speak Japanese. What an exciting day for everyone!

Well this week was great! I got to go visit the Takedas and everyone is doing great! It was one of the happiest days of my mission. They’re doing really well and they were really excited to see me. I even met someone I hadn’t met before – Haruki and Chiyoko’s daughter Kumiko, who’s been living in other parts of Japan every time we visited so I never got to meet her. She moved back to Kochi recently. Sadly, and ironically, Tsutomu* and his family were all up in Kochi-shi for the day for a baseball game so I missed them! I’ll have to go again. In other news, Yoshihiro* has moved back from Sapporo to Kochi, I don’t know if you knew that. And, another surprise was that Haruki and Chiyoko’s daughter Keiko* had passed away about a year ago from cancer, I don’t know if you all knew or not. But despite that everyone seems to be doing really well, and Obaachan [grandma] is still alive at 102! She is so sweet. Of course, when I got there she had no idea who I was, and I think was also a little surprised to hear that she had great-grandchildren. [She gets a little confused sometimes!] When I talked to her she really seemed to miss Baba [Charlie’s grandma Seiko] and said that she wants to meet her again.

It was the first time any of them had seen a missionary, and they all seemed to be a little confused at why I had to bring along a white guy that they didn’t know and why I could only spend one day and why I couldn’t ride alone in the car with Junko. But it was a really good opportunity to explain what I was doing and why I became a missionary. Next time I visit I’m definitely going to share about eternal families.

*Tsutomu–the son of Uncle Haruki and Aunt Chiyoko

*Yoshihiro–our uncle, brother to Haruki and Seiko

*Keiko–the daughter of Uncle Haruki and Aunt Chiyoko, who was only in her 40s and was married with two teenage daughters.

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From our visit in 2012. Uncle Yoshihiro is in orange in the front; cousin Keiko (who recently passed away) is standing on the back row, 2nd from the right, wearing a cap, glasses, and mustard shirt. Her two daughters are just to the left of her. Cousin Tsutomu is on the front, far right, holding his baby boy.

We were heartbroken to hear of the passing of our sweet cousin, Keiko, and wonder why they hadn’t let us know. Perhaps it was too difficult to talk about. But we find comfort in the thought that we were able to see her on our last visit, and that with the restored gospel, we have the blessings and the sealing power of the temple here on earth. We plan on doing the temple work for her very soon. We are sure she is waiting for it!

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Charlie with his great-grandmother. Doesn’t she look fabulous for 102?! (Aunt Chiyoko is peering over her shoulder.)

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Cousin Junko, Aunt Chiyoko, and Cousin Kumiko wave good-bye from the station.

We can’t help marvelling at the fact that of the seven missions in Japan, Charlie was called to the very one where he had family living. And that his Mission President finally sent him to serve in the very area where they are, after a year and a half. And that none of our Takeda family are members of this faith, nor have ever seen a proselyting Mormon missionary while they’ve been living there. Of course they know that his grandmother Seiko is a member, and of course we’ve told them about the Church when we’ve had the chance, but we have respected their faith and they have respected ours. Yet still we marvel at the Lord’s inspiration, His timing, and the blessings of this gospel, and missionary work, and eternal families. The Lord knows where to send His missionaries!

 To cap off his incredible week, Charlie also had a soul-searching experience that taught him a lot about personal testimony:
This last week I reached a point where I questioned a part of my own testimony, but as a result my testimony was strengthened. We met a lady on the street one night who was Buddhist who gave us a beat down for being Christians for about ten minutes before I just decided to stop listening and walked away. Luckily my companion didn’t understand any of what she said. She said some very demeaning things that no one should ever have to hear. I wondered afterward what could make her have so much conviction that her obviously wrong religion was right. And then I wondered to myself, how can I say that she’s wrong if I have never really learned about what her beliefs are? In addition to the outward criticism, she did add a ‘testimony’ of the experience she had of changing her heart through Hotokesama [Buddha]. How can I say that she didn’t? If I were to criticize her for having that experience, it would just make me a hypocrite for sharing my experiences with the Atonement. I never questioned the fact that I had experienced the Holy Ghost or the power of the Atonement, but I did wonder how she could have experienced the same thing we are striving for without either the Holy Ghost or the Atonement. I prayed and studied the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I felt prompted to visit a certain place in Isaiah which gave me comfort and strengthened my testimony that the Holy Ghost can speak through the scriptures. And the answer to my questions came clear as day when I turned and testified to my companion at a needed time this week. There are a lot of ways people change themselves, for bad and for good in this world. But no matter what else is out there, the only thing that can cleanse us from sin and qualify us for the Kingdom of Heaven is the power of the Atonement accessed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No other person, object, or power can do that. I know that to be true from the bottom of my heart. In addition to sharing our testimony about what we know to be true, we have to be courteous of others and be careful not to condemn others when we testify and teach about the gospel. The way of Christ was always forigiveness – not condemnation or criticism.
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A view of a village in Shikoku.

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The rice paddies that frequently dot the landscape of Shikoku.

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Charlie with children from troubled homes that he serves and plays with each week.

A Farewell to Osaka…

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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!)

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

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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:

osakacity

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

The best five months of my life

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05.14.20 kids

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!

Pathway of lanterns

“Let your light so shine…”