Monday, December 30, 2013

よいお年を = Yoi o-toshi o = HAPPY NEW YEAR !

愛する家族友達 へ、Beloved family and friends,

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and will have a great New Year celebration. I know I have a lot to look forward to as I contemplate this next year, the entirety of which I will be happily and blessedly spending in this the Land of the Rising Sun. 

New Year`s is THE HOLIDAY in Japan. The big one. Everything is pretty much gonna shut down this next week as people prepare for shogatsu. Hard to dendo at this time of year since everyone is so busy, and the Church members here are well aware of that, so many of them have graciously invited us over to eat and spend time with them this week.We have 5 dinner appointments scheduled so far. Legit.

This past week was incredible. We saw and were a part of so much awesomeness.

Christmas Eve, we spent our evening with an awesome member taking gifts to this family that lives near her who don`t have much. We brought food and warm clothing and presents for the kids. They were so grateful, and I could feel the love of Christ in the eyes of the children. I was grateful and blessed to be a part of a small act of service that made Christmas special for this humble family.

Christmas Day honestly felt like a regular day. People don`t celebrate Christmas much in Japan....some families do a small gift exchange and maybe have a cake party, but nobody really gets work off, everybody is still out and about doing their regular business. 

Family Night with the O family
Such was the case for us missionaries as well! We spent the day visiting and bringing presents and seeing how people were doing. It was great. 

In the evening we held our regular English Eikaiwa class, at which we had overwhelming attendance! We normally don`t talk about religion there....our purpose is to teach English free of charge, while trying to find new people to teach the Gospel (if they are interested).

But since it was Christmas, we incorporated a spiritual message. We read the story of Christ`s birth from the Bible together (in English), and then talked about it, and then sang some Christmas hymns and songs and played games and ate a bunch of food. 

It was fantastic! Such a special evening, and I could tell that everyone felt the Spirit, especially as we talked about and testified of Jesus Christ. 

Also that evening we had a lesson with our investigator, N-san. It was a special lesson, indeed. After answering his questions from his scripture reading, we shared a short Christmas message with him...John 12:46...
"I am come a light into the world, 
that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness."


We testified to N-san of the reality and power of the love that our Savior has for each of us, and he said he felt something. He couldn`t quite understand it, but as we finished up he suddenly started praying and asked Heavenly Father to help him understand the feeling that he felt. We know that it was the Spirit testifying to him that this message is true, and that Jesus Christ does truly love him. He`s really starting to receive answers to his prayers. Overall, Christmas was a wonderful day.

Mom, Dad, Eric, and Joe, it was such a great experience to Skype with all of you this week!! You all looked fantastic. I have such an awesome family. I could feel the love from across the ocean. Thanks for that special experience. I love you!

So a couple weeks ago, I had the thought to share these beautiful prayer rocks with the kanji for "prayer" written on them ( 祈り ) with the Y family (big thank you to Cathy Schiefelbein for making them for me before my mission!). 

Well, as we started our lesson with them last night, the husband pulled his prayer rock out of his pocket and straight up told us that he ALWAYS has it with him. As if that wasn`t awesome enough, he said that it has truly helped him remember to pray. He told us two experiences from the past week in which he was having a hard time with something, and then he put his hand in his pocket and felt the prayer rock, and then he would pray, and immediately a feeling a peace and contentment would enter his heart. I almost cried, I was so happy. I love that family so much.

Transfer calls came and went this past Saturday, and nothing changed, which means Elder Ahuna and I will be serving together here in Ichinomiya for at least another six weeks! Woooo! I love it here. The members and the people are fantastic. 

My district. I'm the tall one.
We finally got snow this week!! It didn`t stick, but Elder Ahuna and I spent a couple of days riding our bikes through flurries of snow and icy wind, super stoked. 

I hope everyone has a fantastic week. As we look forward to a new year, I have many resolutions in mind. The most important one though, which, simple as it yet may sound, is nevertheless the most significant and incomparable goal for which we all are come closer to my Heavenly Father and to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I can testify-- we find happiness by strengthening and forging a loving and close relationship with the Heavens. I pray that all of you may be able to do so as well.

Stay classy folks!

Peace and love,
Elder Matt Naylor


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas!


I can`t even explain how crazy/rough/awesome this past week has been!

First of all, my birthday was awesome. We spent the most part of the day trying to find more people to teach, unfortunately without success, but had good experiences nonetheless. We went out to eat Indo-curry for lunch and dendoed the owners, which was great. They`re already good acquaintances of ours, so we get along super well, so it was easy to start talking to them about church stuff. 

One of my favorite things out here on the mission so far is just making small and random relationships with people all over the place, and then seeing the same people over and over again out on the street, in restaurants, at train stations, etc. and just being able to talk to them and continue to build relationships. It`s seriously the coolest thing. There comes a point when you feel like you just know everyone, and you can go hardly anywhere without seeing a familiar face and having someone to talk to. It`s freaking awesome.
My first companion in Japan, Elder H, is now Brother H.
He came to visit before his 2-year commitment to the Korean Army
So Mom and Dad, the Christmas package you sent was great timing. It came on my birthday! As you know, I have like 0 patience, so my reasoning for opening all the Christmas stuff you sent me was that it was my birthday. Need I any more justification? No, I don`t. The food was delicious (keyword: was....meaning that it`s virtually all gone by now) and I am super grateful for the music and warm clothing and everything in between! Thank you so much!! And the calendar is awesome. It made me super 懐かしい (natsukashii) and made me miss home and the Coast Guard, but it makes me smile every time I look at it. Thank you!
Japan, thank you for the love. Origato gozaimasu!

I was really feeling the love this week. Sister S and her companion Sister A gave me more stuff for my birthday when I saw them again on Wednesday for zone conference, which was super nice considering they already gave me stuff at district training last week.The zone sang to all the missionaries who had recent birthdays, and I got some new socks from the mission (YESSSS). And the ward came through, gave us these huge boxes of awesomeness!

Zone Conference was great. We focused mostly on the Savior and how we can become better missionaries and keep our faith strong in Jesus Christ. I felt a great spirit there.

Disaster struck after zone conference, however. Basically all of the missionaries in the zone got sick. As a result, Elder Ahuna and I were holed up in the apartment for two whole days. We`re still trying to get the smell out of there, haha. I didn`t get too bad of a sickness, but Elder Ahuna was practically on his deathbed. 
with the wonderful I family
While he slept all day, I used the extra time to go nuts with scripture reading and to continue to map out the members and less actives in our area. It`s a daunting task....I`ve only gotten through 4 pages of the member list out of 26....but it will definitely be a huge benefit for the missionaries who serve here after we`re gone. It`s already helped us a lot when we try to visit people and find new people. It takes forever to map people because all the addresses and names are in kanji. It`s awesome though, it`s accelerating my learning of kanji big time. Sweetness.

We got two new investigators this week though, despite the sickness! Samurai and Furone, ages 9 and 11, both in the part-member O family (Seira`s siblings). We had an awesome evening with them, teaching the whole family (except the dad) about God and about the scriptures. The spirit was super strong, and the kids had a sincere desire to learn more. I freaking love kids.

Another miracle (completely out of nowhere), Y-san randomly showed up to church yesterday!!! Seriously SO happy to see him, and super surprised too! We had an awesome lesson with them later that evening, and they`re progressing! Reading and praying and everything! It`s so awesome to see them starting to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. It was cool earlier this week, we decided to visit them randomly and unannounced, and it turned out his wife needed some help moving some heavy stuff around. She was really happy that we stopped by, and we were able to lend a hand. I love building relationships with people through service. She was super grateful. Awesome stuff.

Japan has caught me!
At church I had a chat with this guy in our ward, Brother S. He is a dear friend of mine here. As we were talking, he suddenly just straight up asked me if he could tell me about some of the problems he`s been having lately. It was a really tender moment as he poured out his heart to me as we sat there in the chapel. I felt a very sincere and real love for the guy, and I could feel Christ`s love for him as well. I was also touched that he actually trusted me enough to tell me about his problems....many people are generally pretty closed about their emotions and stuff like that. But it made me realize how grateful I am for the trust of the Church members here and the relationships I have made with them. I love it here in Ichinomiya. Plus it was also a big confidence builder for me that I was able to have a relatively deep and meaningful conversation with someone in Japanese. I guess I am actually learning the language, after all, haha. Thank goodness for the Gift of Tongues.

I`m looking forward to a Christmas Skype sesh this week! Just FYI....Elder Ahuna and I are trying to set up Skype on the computer this morning, and it`s not really working, but we will keep trying. If it doesn`t work, we can still talk on the phone. I`ll keep you posted, no worries.

sometimes I cook for myself
even Idaho spuds!

sometimes I don't!
Okonomiyaki. DELISH.
I love you all so much. This week, I really can`t explain how grateful I am. So many awesome things happened this week, despite some of the bad stuff, haha. I have felt the love of God and Jesus Christ so strongly. I cannot possibly deny the feelings that I have felt. This Gospel is true. God loves us. We are all brothers and sisters, children of the same divine being. What awesome knowledge!


Peace and love,

Elder Naylor

Sunday, December 8, 2013

They said Yamato, now they say Nihon

Hey hey hey!!

Fun fact/Japanese/History lesson for you: Japan was originally called Yamato 大和--"great peace," or the Land of Great Peace. Now it is known as Nihon 日本--"sun`s origin," or Land of the Rising Sun. I`ve been studying a lot of kanji lately, which really has helped broaden my understanding of the language. It pretty cool. Still have like a billion things to learn though!

But those words ring true....this is a land of great peace, and it is truly an awesome sight to wake up to that sunrise every morning.

Anyway, now the important stuff. Elder Ahuna and I found a new investigator this week! Actually it would be more accurate to say that HE found US. It was a classic example of the Spirit leading us. As we were returning back to our apartment,, we decided to stop in at the 100 yen store close by (the Daiso) to buy some treats for a lesson at the church. 

While we were inside looking around, a young man came up and started talking to us in English, asking if we were college students. We happily replied that we are actually missionaries, and we came to Japan to teach people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and help people find greater happiness and peace in their lives. 

He was truly interested in us, and super friendly. Asked us a lot of questions, and then, once again breaking the normal routine of typical missionary encounters, HE asked US if we could meet again sometime. It was all pretty much too good to be true, haha. We are meeting him at a family restaurant close by later tonight. His name is Kosu-ke, about 24 years old, and he`s a total bro. Can`t wait to see him again.
this isn't really Kosu-ke! the guard at Nagoya Castle
We were also happy to have Fu-san and Fi-san back in town this week! They have been away on business trip in Kobe, so we have been unable to meet with them since the end of October. We stopped by to welcome them back last night, and taught them again about prayer. Stoked.

No-san is doing great. We meet with him every week, and he is always reading and praying. We are encouraging and helping him to recognize answers to his prayers, which he is still struggling with. But it will come with time. 

We've found that most Japanese people really like to take their time and ease into things slowly.....they don`t tend toward quick or sudden changes. That`s why we see a lot of people who have been investigating the church for quite some time. But everyone is different, of course.

Elder A and I spent a lot of time knocking on doors this week, since we haven`t done much housing lately. Close to 200 houses/apartments this week....we found a huge apartment complex with like 12 enormous apartment buildings, ready for us to conquer, haha. We really want to find some more people to teach.

Nagoya Castle Door Approach:
Hello, Sensei? We couldn't help but admire your home.
We have a message to share with you . . . and then we'd like to schedule the LDS Area Christmas Party.
Right now I`m putting my map skills to good use. We have this giant map of our area in our apartment, and I`ve been working on it for past month and a half or so to locate all of the active church members, investigators, and less active church members in our area. The map is dominated by less active members, and it`s been really useful in our planning sessions to go out and find people and bring them back to church. 

The main success with less active members that we have seen has been with the O family, whose daughter S is one of our investigators. They all came to our English class (Eikaiwa) last week, and it was great to see them. Sister O is from Thailand, and doesn`t speak much Japanese (and no English), but she`s taught us some cool stuff in Thai. I`m learning random words from tons of different languages on my mission so far....Portugese, Thai, Tagolog, Vietnamese,`s legit.

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the awesome mail I have been receiving lately. I`ve gotten some wonderful letters and packages from people, and I can't express how grateful I am for all of you. Thank you so much!! I am definitely feeling the love!!

I leave you with the words of Isaiah the prophet, which book I just finished this morning:

"For thus saith the high and lofty One 
that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; 

I dwell in the high and holy place, 
with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, 
to revive the spirit of the humble, 
and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

May we ever remember to humble ourselves and reach out to those whose spirits are in need of reviving, whether it be to comfort a struggling friend or show kindness to a complete stranger. 

If we all unite in purpose to lift up lost souls and shine our light into the cavities scattered across this broken world, imagine the change we could see. Imagine the glory of such a change. Imagine such peace. It all starts with the individual who lights up the darkness.

I love you all! Stay classy, folks!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

ネイラー 長老
we found this great park in Ichinomiya

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Going to Nagoya Castle this week!

My fellow Americans,

Konnichiest of wa`s to all of you! It`s a BEAUTIFUL morning here in Japan land!! The sun is shining, the weather is crisp, the sky is blue, and I`m repping the pink tie that I bought at the 100 yen store a while back. Life is GOOD!

This week has been great. Last Monday Elder A and I went out to visit people and share some uplifting messages with them, help them out with whatever they need, etc. En route to a less-active member`s house, the heavens broke forth and poured out an epic deluge of rain and thunder that cascaded in flowing rivers down the streets of our fair city of Ichinomiya. 

Most of the people we visited were not at home, and we were pretty bummed out, thinking that our infinite trek through the downpour would all be in vain, having not yet talked to anybody, when we decided to visit one last person. It was a less-active family (the I-sans), and thankfully they were home! They were so kind, and absolutely shocked that we were out and about in the storm, but very grateful that we came to visit. They invited us in, but we just stayed and talked with them in the genkan (entryway) because we were soaked to the bone and didn`t want to turn their house into a swimming pool with our wet clothes. We talked for a while and then shared some scriptures from the Book of Mormon, inviting them to read the scriptures every day and to pray. They graciously accepted the invitation. We`re gonna probably visit them again this week.

Thanksgiving! we had it twice. WONDERFUL members fed us American turkey.
On Tuesday we decided to stop by the Y-san's apartment unannounced, and they were super happy to see us. We talked for a bit, asked them to read the book of Enos and try to pray every day (they`re struggling with that), and set another appointment up with them for this next week. They`re seriously the best people. We love them. 

We also stopped by to visit the K family, who are active members of the ward but sometimes struggle with various things. When we shared a scripture with the mother (also from the book of Enos), she was very grateful, and said that every time we visit and share a scripture or a message, it`s exactly what she needs to hear. That`s the power of the Holy Ghost right there. Awesome stuff.

On Wednesday we had a mogi lesson (mock lesson) with a member of the bishopric, Kad-san 兄第. Taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (lesson 3 from PMG). He gave us some good feedback on how to improve our teaching. Afterwards we went with him to help out a struggling member of our ward, Toda-san 兄第, with cleaning up his home. Service is seriously the greatest blessing. 

Later that afternoon we had a lesson with our investigator, K-san, and talked about the importance of the Book of Mormon. He`s doing pretty well....says he believes about "70%" of what we teach him. We`re working on that "30%". Hahaha. 

Then in the evening we had another lesson with N-san, who is continuing to do well, and another night of Eikaiwa (English class). I love being the teacher of the Eikaiwa class, and it`s SO FUN. I love it. Maybe I`ll come back to Japan to teach English someday. Legit.

Thursday we met with our friend Keita, who has sent in his mission papers and is awaiting his mission call. We are now teaching him out of Preach My Gospel every week to help him prepare to serve his own mission. He`s a great young man....super fun, and has great faith. Comes from a great family, the Hibino family. We often use him to help us teach lessons to investigators. It`s been our focus lately to bring members with us to investigator lessons, because they really bring the Spirit with their testimony, and they also speak Japanese better than us, haha. Later that evening we had a lesson with our investigator Seira, and brought our return-missionary friend Eiji along with us. Great lesson.

Friday was awesome. We had district training, so we took a train to Fukutoku and got together as a district to learn from each other. It was awesome. We had an appointment later that afternoon with someone who called us and said they wanted to investigate the church...the Kane-sans...and we were kinda on a tight schedule. The train back to Ichinomiya was running late, so we ended up arriving at the train station about 15 minutes after our appointment was scheduled, which was to be at the church, about a 10 minute walk from the station. Uh-oh. 

We booked it from the station....must`ve been a fun sight, seeing two white guys with backpacks running their fannies off through the neighborhood....but it was a good thing we ran. We arrived just as they were leaving, and they were super understanding about us being late, and we were able to have the lesson and pick up a new investigator, Kana-san. When we came running up and told why we were late, the mother (it was her son who became the new investigator) said that it must have been "fate" that we arrived just on time to catch them before leaving. Legit.

Last night we had our own epic Thanksgiving with some church members at a members` home, along with a bunch of less-active members and non-members. After eating a TON of classic American Thanksgiving food (never eaten turkey with chopsticks before) and playing a fun game, Elder A and I shared a message about being thankful (DocCov 78:19) and the Spirit was super strong. It was a great experience.

Today for p-day we`re heading to Nagoya to check out the famous Nagoya Castle. Expect pictures next week!

Thank you all for everything. I love you all so much. You`re all the best.

Peace and love,

Elder Naylor