Monday, August 26, 2013

Hop to Detroit, vault over the Pole . . .

Hey there,

We're finally actually heading out to Japan! Flight plan: leave MTC Monday 26 August at 4 a.m. Salt Lake City to Detroit to Japan, arriving Tuesday 27 August 5:30 p.m. local time.

New Mailing Address:

Elder Matthew Patrick Naylor
Japan Nagoya Mission
1-304 Itakadai, Meito-ku
Nagoya-shi, Aichi
JAPAN 465-0028 

These past few weeks have been an immense learning experience. Not just a complete brainwash of absorbing the Japanese language, but also a lot of time for reflection and learning about my worst weaknesses and best strengths. After these weeks, I already feel a closeness with God, a greater desire and capacity to love others and treat them with respect. I feel a greater push to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone I meet. I have copies of the Book of Mormon ready to give to people in the airport on the way to Japan, and I honestly can't wait for the opportunity to just talk to people.

The fresh and beautiful way of the Gospel of Christ is the greatest gift I could ever give anyone. It's about to be Christmas for two years straight in Japan. Let the season of giving begin.

So I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my last email, but LAST Tuesday (August 13th) we had the immense privilege of hearing from our beloved apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott, here at the MTC. It was an amazing experience. He came and spoke to us all about prayer and communing with God in a more personal and loving way. I learned so much from his words, but even more from his spirit. When he walked into the room.....a room full of thousands of people.....everything changed. A wave of happiness and love rushed in and enveloped us all as we stood up, almost in unison, to show respect and admiration for a beloved Apostle of the Lord. It was an awesome experience!

So a couple weeks ago, the other elders and I uncovered some epic red fabric with blue crabs on it. The creative sides of our brains started pulsing, and we spent one of our p-days sitting in our room doing arts and crafts for several hours. Talk about manliness. Most of the elders decided to make satchels ("crab satchels"), but I decided that I wanted an apron. So I started sewing and cutting and ironing and sewing and cutting some more. Mom, I'm learning how to sew! I'm actually becoming a man now.

My apron WAS finished, or so I thought....but it turns out my sewing skills need some I'm gonna have to finish/start over on my apron when I get to Japan. It'll be truly a sight to behold, though, and the special guard against spilling rice on my clothes as I cook will be very much appreciated.

It's been really hard starting to say our goodbyes to everyone. We've had to part ways with our teachers, who have been amazing friends throughout our time here. I love them all so much.

Here are Matt and his companion with their lovely sensei, M.  She returned from a mission to Japan three years ago.

Here are Matt and his companion with their sensei, N, who returned from a mission to Japan Tokyo earlier this year.
Matt's district, flying to Japan Monday 26 August.

Mom and Dad, friends and family, thank you so much for everything. I have been getting so many letters and support over the past weeks here in MTC-land. To my Coast Guard friends especially, I think of you often and I miss you very much. I miss everyone. But I could not be doing anything better right now. I have been called to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Japan...truly a humbling and sacred calling. I am so blessed and thankful for this opportunity. I really couldn't be happier.


(Elder Naylor)

P.S. So I got my new Japanese nametag, which has my name in katakana. Unfortunately, though humorously, they spelled my name wrong, so instead of saying the Japanese equivalent of "Elder Naylor" (Neira Choro), my name instead reads "Meira Choro"....."Elder Maylor." Legit.

Travel plans . . . LEGIT!

Monday, 19 August, 2013

We got our travel plans. Can you say ECSTATIC? It's actually almost here. We leave for Japan next Monday (the 26th). Straight twelve hour flight over the north pole from Detroit to Nagoya. Legit.

We feel super confident in the language right now. We've taught two lessons to actual Japanese church members IN JAPAN via Skype, both lessons wonderful. I can now say just about anything I want to say in Japanese, as long as there's a simple way to express it. My companion and I go into every one of our lessons (several each week) with full confidence that we can say everything we need to, and answer questions as well. It is awesome.

Pretty sure all that confidence will be put to shame come next Monday (Tuesday in Japan) when we step off the plane in Nagoya and magically forget everything we learned for the past nine weeks, haha.

Mom, I got the Coast Guard photos Everyone LOVES hearing all my Coast Guard and barracks stories, haha. To any of my CG friends reading this, I think about you guys every day. I hope you're all so happy right now.

Last night we had a shadow puppet show in our room. All the Elders sat on a bottom bunk and we hung a blanket up in front of them, turned out the light, and turned on a flashlight. Another Elder and I made up a story about bunnies and chickens and attempted to act it out using our hands. It was legit.

We (the Elders in my district) will all be traveling on the plane together and spending the first night in Japan together in the mission home. I can tell that we are all going to be lifelong friends. We all get along so well.

My relationship with God has grown through my time here. I have developed a closeness with the Spirit. Being constantly surrounded by people who are striving to come closer to God is a gift and a blessing. I can already see how this mission is going to continue to bless me years down the road.

As for all of you family and friends out there, I love you so much. I have felt your prayers and I think of you often. Thank you so much for your support. I have been flooded with awesome letters. Thank you! It seriously means so much to get a letter from anyone on a mission. Take care!

Mina san o ai shite imasu!
Ganbatte kudasai!

Mata ne,
Elder Naylor

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holy crap, I could hardly understand a word she said . . .

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was pretty chill. Last Sunday I was relieved of my district leader duties, having served my three weeks, and was replaced by none other than my wonderful companion, Elder Brown. He's doing a great job so far. He is humble, down to earth, and very mindful of others. He's going to carry us through these last couple weeks very well.

Wednesday we had a special training session, in which each companionship taught a lesson with real Japanese church members via Skype. It was so cool! Our companionship's victim, Taguchi Shimai, was so nice.

But, holy crap, I could hardly understand a word she said.

My companion and I did our best to teach her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in halting Japanese, and we probably sounded like sick walruses to her. But she just kept smiling and complimenting us on our language abilities. Japanese people are so sweet!

By chance, I happened to meet an elder here who, like me, is taking a sabbatical from military service in order to serve a mission.  He did a year at the Naval Academy and is now getting ready to head out to the Japan Tokyo Mission. We met up and talked military for a little while. Pretty cool.

I've been reading about charity in the scriptures. When you have a minute, go look up "charity" in the Bible Dictionary. You'll love the definition they have.

Then look up the scripture references attached to it, especially Moroni 7:47. Moroni is one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon.

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever,
and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day
it shall be well with him.

This week I finished reading both the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. So cool! I'm now working on finishing Jesus the Christ and have started reading the New Testament. My goal is to finish the entire standard works before Christmas (in other words, I'll have the New Testament finished before I get to Japan, and I'm gonna have to work my butt off to get through the Old Testament before December....)

I leave for Japan in a little over two weeks! Mom and Dad, mark your calendars, because on that day I'll be able to call you guys from the airport! Just giving you a heads up.

I love you all. Thank you for your love and support. It means the world to me.

Love always,

Elder Naylor

Dreaming in Japanese

Dear family and friends,

Things here are HOT. I went out with some of the bros (I mean Elders) yesterday to play soccer, and I was sweating bullets before we even got to the soccer field. I think I've lost two or three pounds in sweat alone. The days are going fast. Back at the Academy, people always said that "the days are long, and the weeks are short." It's true here as well.

Last week our district was struggling with a few issues within companionships, but through lots of prayer and inspiration many have been resolved. Our district grows closer together as a family each day. It's going to be a real bummer when we all have to say goodbye. 

We are all SO excited to get out to the mission field. The rice fields of Japan are white and ready to harvest, lemme tell ya. We keep getting told that there is an unprecedented amount of missionaries getting sent to Japan right now, more than ever before. My branch president worded it thus: "Why do you think that the Lord is sending so many missionaries to Japan right now? I am convinced that this is because the nation of Japan is ready for an explosion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Seriously, I got goosebumps reading over that again.

The language gets better every day. I've been having dreams in Japanese now, for real. Still not sure if that's a good sign or a bad sign or not, haha. It is seriously such a cool language though.

In Japanese, the way you speak is dependent on your relationship with the individual with whom you are speaking. When speaking to someone of younger or equal status (i.e. a child, or a close friend), you use "plain form." When speaking to someone you've just met, or someone of higher status (i.e., someone on the street or an elderly person), you use "masu form," which is more polite. As missionaries, we're taught to use the "masu form" with just about everyone. There's another way we call the "honorific form." This is reserved for people of extremely high status, and also for speaking about deity.

Disclaimer: I know hardly anything about this language. To anyone reading this who actually knows something about Japanese, I apologize for sounding like an idiot in that description.

My favorite part of being district leader is the opportunity to interview members of my district at the end of each week. We sit down one-on-one and discuss the past week and how the individual missionary and his companionship are getting along, and how they are progressing. People are open about their concerns and anxieties, a wonderful opportunity for me to listen to the Spirit and be guided and directed on what to say to them. It's also a great opportunity to connect on a personal level and be their friend. I feel a sincere love for every single missionary in our district. There are 14 of us. I could not possibly have been placed with better people.

For some really beautiful and thought-provoking scriptures, read 2 Timothy 1 and 2 this week. Those chapters have been on my mind a lot.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind . . . 
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord . . .  
Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, 
but according to his own purpose and grace . . . 

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus . . . 
The Lord knoweth them that are his.

Mom and Dad, thank you so much for your frequent and much appreciated letters. I am so blessed to get mail every week. Eric and Joe, you are in my prayers every single night. I miss you both so much.

And to all the rest of my friends out there, you are on my mind often. I hope all of you are safe and well. Shoot me a letter any time. I have made it a goal to send a personal reply to every hand-written letter that I receive, and I've kept it so far. Thank you to all who have written to me. It really means a lot.

Ai shite imasu!!

Mata ne,

Elder Naylor

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Konnichiest of Wa's to You!

Dear Family and Friends,

We are halfway through our time here at the MTC. The fact that we can carry on simple conversations in full Japanese boggles my mind, along with reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese too. The gift of tongues is so real.

This past Wednesday, my companion and I volunteered to be host missionaries for all the new incoming missionaries for the day. After you get the new missionary, you take them around and get them checked in and try to calm any nerves. It was great getting to know them and learn their names so I can keep tabs on them whenever I see them here in MTC-land.

So when I came out to get another car, as I was standing waiting by the curb, I happened to glance over at another car that was already being helped. There was a huge Latino family, and they were all excited and happy about their daughter who evidently was the missionary, giving hugs and taking pictures and stuff. As I looked at each member of the family, I came upon the dad, and instantly recognized the whole family. Remember Idanelish T. from Hidden Springs, back in 5th grade, who I went to the quincenara with? She was the missionary! I walked over and greeted them and we were all so happy to see each other after so many years! Idanelish's mom got my email and wants to stay in touch. Idanelish is going to a mission in California. You never know who you might run into here!

I've learned quite a bit about myself this week. This past Sunday, we re-evaluated some of the district goals we've been working on. Up until that point, we'd been focused on goals that would help us learn the language better and faster. I noticed that some people were struggling.

After gaining some new insight at the leadership meeting for zone leaders and district leaders on Sunday morning, I realized what was missing in our district. We'd been so focused on learning the language and learning how to teach that we had forgotten the primary purpose of the MTC, and that is to come closer to Christ. Above all else, that is the most important thing that we gain. The language really doesn't matter, nor do the teaching skills; those attributes will come quickly once we get to Japan and have experience teaching real people.

So as a district, we decided to focus on finding one or two Christlike attributes that we individually struggle with, with the goal to focus and think about developing and improving on that characteristic within ourselves for the entire week. I have truly seen a change in everyone this week. Everyone seems happier and more focused. We love each other more. We have grown closer together.

It has been a struggle for me to find the appropriate balance between stewardship and leadership. As district leader, I've realized that my job is primarily to take care of my district, rather than to be "the guy in charge." In the military, leaders are expected to tell people what to do and make sure the job gets done. It's different here. I've learned to take a step back and be less demanding and more understanding. While it is my job to guide the district, it is not my job to order people around. It is my job to be everyone's friend and take care of the individual needs of 13 wonderful people. I am learning and growing every day from this calling. I love each of these amazing missionaries.

After finishing the Book of Mormon last week, I started reading in Doctrine and Covenants. I am halfway through now. It's so cool to read about the struggles and experiences of the early Church and the counsel received directly from the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. What an extraordinary man.

Thank you for all of your support and love. Moroni 8:3 has been important to me this week:

I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end......

I'm always praying for you, both family and friends. I can sense your prayers on my behalf, and it is immensely comforting.I love you all so much.

Mata ne,

Matt (Elder Naylor)