Tuesday, January 28, 2014

We're teaching 16 people!

Family and friends,

I am probably the happiest I have ever been in the longest time right now as I write this. I am so happy right now. Let me tell you why.

Elder A and I found two more people to teach this past week. I don`t know how many I`ve told you before, but right now we`re teaching 16 people! It`s cool for me to take a step back and see the progress of this area since I arrived five months ago, when we started out teaching just three people. 

The best things is seeing these people`s lives change as they learn about Jesus Christ and as we try to show our love to them through service and friendship. The two new investigators` names are K (18 years old, half Peruvian, looks like an American white teenager but speaks fluent Japanese and hardly a word of English or Spanish, haha) and Ti Y (a mid-life woman who was super happy and friendly when we visited, and agreed to meet with us and talk more about the Gospel). Awesome stuff.

Yesterday Elder A and I had some free time in the evening so we went down to the train station downtown to talk to people and find someone new to teach. We kinda split up (while still staying in sight of each other) and started striking up conversations with people. 

I was really touched when I started talking to this guy named F from the Philippines. He seemed surprised when I talked to him, but once the ice was broken it was like I was talking to a close friend. I surprised myself with how well my Japanese seemed to be coming out (I also used a couple of lines of Tagalog on him that I picked up from other Filipinos here, which he couldn't believe, haha) and quickly realized that my Japanese was flowing smoothly primarily because I had taken a leap of faith by getting up the courage to talk to a complete stranger, and God was blessing me for my initial action by supplying me with the necessary skills to continue forward. 

Another thing that stuck out to me was how much of a difference it made for me to think of this guy as literally my brother, and talk to him with the mindset that I was trying to make a new friend rather than shove the Gospel down his throat. Even though he was not interested in the Gospel, I was still blessed and edified by the experience of talking lovingly and openly with another of God`s many precious and valued children, and I made a new friend in the process.
Japanese garden, prepping for spring growth!
In light of this experience, I want to share with you something that I learned at a Leadership Training Elder A and I were invited to a couple days ago at the mission headquarters. We were trained by President Yamashita and his assistants and also by one of the managers from the MTC, Brother Heaton. Two subjects of the training impressed me. 

First off, we talked about seeing things from our own perspective vs. seeing things from God`s perspective, a.k.a. a "worm`s eye view" vs. a "bird`s eye view." When we strive to help someone out (in our case as missionaries, when we strive to share the Gospel with someone), and that person rejects us or is not interested, we may feel discouraged and disheartened. But God is pleased. He is pleased with our efforts in trying to help one of His children. And what`s more, though we may not be able to see very far down the road of eternity, He can. And our simple act of love has planted a seed for someone else to nourish within that person to whom we have shown our love. 

Another thing that impressed me at this training was something that Bro. Heaton said: "Heavenly Father is not stressed out if we miss it...He is thrilled that you`re trying." This had a big impact on me with regard to both my struggles with missionary work and my journey through the paths of life. These lessons I learned were in my head as I talked with F at the train station. 

A lot of other stuff happened this week that I wish I could share, but I`m running out of time! Suffice it to say that our Heavenly Father is a God of miracles, and miracles happen every day, whether we can recognize them or not. I also finished reading Talmadge`s Jesus the Christ for the second time this past week, and now I`m embarking on the New Testament again, alongside the Book of Mormon. I love the scriptures.

I would also like to give a shout out to my boy Luis Carrillo, who has been called to the Panama City, Panama Mission. When I got the news, I literally jumped out of my seat, I was so happy. Congrats, man. You have been in my prayers every day, and will continue to be, especially as you embark to serve the Lord. I`m so proud of you.

Panama City LDS temple
I love all of you SO much. I know with every ounce of my soul that this Gospel is true, and that our Father in Heaven loves us so tenderly and compassionately. This knowledge I cannot deny, nor can I hold back from sharing it with others....hence my desire to serve a mission. 

And what a marvelous mission it is proving to be. The Lord is hastening His work in the Land of the Rising Sun and throughout the world to prepare us for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we are here to share this message with the world. May all who hear this message feel of its truth and power, and the eternal happiness associated with it. This is not a message of fire and damnation....this is a message of peace and hope. An eternal and lasting peace and hope. The greatest gift the world has ever seen.

Peace and love,
 Elder Naylor


The Good Outweighs the Bad

Sunny yet freezing!

This week was awesome though. To start things off on the best note, Elder Ahuna and I were blessed to find someone new to teach! We met him at the train station a while ago, and left him our number (unable to get his number from him), and he actually called us a little while later. We ended up meeting with him for lunch, and got a feel for his religious background and interests. 

His name is Y, from Morocco. Speaks French, Spanish, English, and Japanese (we talk to him in English). He was raised as a Muslim, and he has a very firm belief in the existence of God as the Creator of the universe and our Heavenly Father. He is also very open about religion and straight up told us that he would follow any religion that could prove itself to be correct. He loves talking about this stuff and was very excited to meet with us again. 

To put it in a nutshell: this guy is hands-down totally prepared to receive the gospel. We`re building a great friendship with him. We`re actually meeting with him again today to give him a tour of the church building and teach him the Restoration in about 2 hours from now. Awesome!

with Y from Morroco
In spite of this and other awesome stuff, this week also had a lot of disappointments. Most of our lessons were cancelled, and it seemed that there was an unusually large amount of people who were not interested and who seemed to reject our message. It was somewhat of a trying week in these ways. But the good things definitely outweigh the bad. So it`s all good.

Elder A and I also got plagued with some more sickness this week, woooo! Elder A came down with a terrible fever and I came down with a rather nasty cold, thus confining us to the apartment for a couple days. 

But something very special happened, something that really strengthened my faith. On Saturday night, as Elder A`s fever seemed to be getting worse and making him weaker, I prayed very fervently that Heavenly Father would completely take the fever away from him by the time he woke up in the morning so that we could get back to work serving as full-time missionaries instead being stuck in the apartment. 

We were happy to see that in the morning when he woke up, the fever was indeed completely gone. It may seem rather small, but to me it was another confirmation to my steadily growing testimony of the reality of the existence of a loving and tender Father in Heaven. Anyone could convincingly say that the lifting of my companion`s fever was probably natural, and that it would`ve happened anyway regardless of whether or not I had prayed about it. Quite honestly, before I came on my mission, I may have believed that myself. 

But this felt different. 

As I`ve come here to Japan with the purpose of teaching others about Jesus Christ, and in the process tried to draw closer to my Heavenly Father as well, I have started to gain the testimony that many everyday occurrences that we have in our lives are not mere coincidences or products of a natural world. The Spirit bore witness to me that this was indeed an answer to my prayer, and it was something that I needed. My faith was starting to face some struggles and subtle creepings of doubt this week due to various discouragements, and this small yet personally significant experience was what I needed.

I testify to everyone reading this message that we have a very real Eternal Father who dwells in the celestial worlds, who created each of us, and who takes an active interest in the lives of each and every one of his precious children. You are important to Him. He wants you back. If you are ever faced with feelings of doubt as to whether He is actually there, or is really listening to you, I promise that He is. I urge you to get down on your knees and pray and ask to feel His love. I know that you will.

This concept of a God as our Heavenly Father is truly much more than just a mere religion or church teaching. This is a part of our lives. If we can learn to pattern our lives in such a way as to live for more than just going to church every once in a while or simply "going through the motions," but rather that we may come to realize that God is a part of our everyday lives and the actual perpetuator of our existence, and the source of all our breath, and life, and everything we do...then I believe with firm conviction that we will see a distinct and lasting change in the way we view this mortal life and the way we view ourselves. This change will enlighten us with a new understanding and fuel us with profound and radiant happiness in day to day living.

we keep teaching
I love you all! Thank you for all of your support and love. It truly does help me.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


Monday, January 27, 2014

Japan in January

Life is GREAT!! But holy snapdaddy, it is COLD here.

a cup of hot chocolate to warm up
Great happenings this week. First of all, we have an awesome ward mission leader. Bro. H and his wife took us out to an all-you-can-eat mega restaurant in Kita Nagoya last week, and let`s just say we went nuts. They had sushi, every kind of meat imaginable, salads, desserts, ice cream, rice, ramen.....EVERYTHING. Needless to say, I was unable to eat dinner that night or breakfast or lunch the next day, haha. 1 meal at this place = 3 normal meals otherwise. AWESOME.

We were blessed to find 3 new people to teach this week, and many other potential victims (mwahaha). 

The story about the first one is awesome. Her name is A, and she has been our friend from Eikaiwa for a while. She loves missionaries and always hangs out with us and the sister missionaries. She is about 24 years old and speaks pretty good English, having lived in Australia and visited America before. Super nice. She often comes to play ping pong with us on Saturdays, way fun. 

preparing to teach
Well, this past Saturday, we were planning to study some scriptures and stuff with our friend K, a young man from our ward who just received his mission call to Tokyo and is now preparing. We told A that he`s preparing to become a missionary like us, and asked her if she would be willing to let us and K teach her a "practice" lesson. She was totally cool with it, and so we sat down and taught the entire first lesson with her, allowing K to do most of the teaching. It was a fantastic lesson. The Spirit was manifest very strong, and we all felt it. After the lesson was over and we asked her if we could do it again with the next lesson, she happily agreed. Cool!

Ichinomiya sunset
We also went to visit the M family yesterday. They are an older couple in which the husband is the brother of a member of our ward. We taught them about the Book of Mormon and they agreed to hear more, though they did say that they are Buddhist and not really interested in joining the church. No interest? No problem. We`re still giving them the opportunity to hear it, and maybe they`ll change their minds. They`re super nice. Gave us a bunch of food to take home before we left, haha. Nice.

Lots of other crazy stories about finding people this week, but I`m running short on email time today (had to use up part of my time to email my Company Officer back in Coast Guard land). 

Suffice it to say that through our finding efforts we had dinner with a random dude that we met at the train station on Friday, we met a nice woman at a convenience store who said that her sister has a Book of Mormon that she was given a long time ago, made contact with a nice guy who works with a less-active member of our ward and wants to learn about the church, and got called up by an awesome guy from Morocco who had our phone number from an Eikaiwa flyer that we gave him a long time ago in passing at the train station and wanted to hang out with us.

I love you all so much. This work is by far the best work we can be engaged in....bringing people to a knowledge of their Savior, Redeemer, and devoted Older Brother, Jesus Christ.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


Happy New Year, NOBODY'S HOME!

Greetings all my lovely peeps,

HAPPY 2014!!!! I hope New Year`s was a blast for all of you!!

To put in bluntly in the words of Sister Brady (one of the lovely sister missionaries in our district), *sarcastic voice* "Yay, Happy New Year, NOBODY`S HOME."

To explain, New Year`s is probably the busiest time of year in Japan land. As a result, during virtually the entire week, NOBODY IS HOME. Everyone returns to their homelands/hometowns for the holidays, and in addition, everyone is very busy with family stuff and therefore often unable to meet with the missionaries.

But it wasn`t too much of a problem! We were blessed with a plethora of generous dinner appointments from members of the ward, who knew of our plight in trying to fill our week with productive activities. They graciously invited us to partake of some DELICIOUS Japanese New Years` food. 

Among the special foods eaten around New Years` is mochi, which is little more than pounded, cooked rice. And by pounded, I mean POUNDED. It has no resemblance of rice whatsoever apart from the white coloring. But it is delicious! It takes on a sticky/chewy taste, and is often served in a bowl with anko, a type of sweet bean that is a common dessert food here. Super delicious.

We took advantage of the New Years` season to share messages with the members about making goals to share the gospel and grow closer to God this year. We`ve been able to further build relationships with the truly wonderful and delightful members of the Ichinomiya Ward. I`ve also been assigned to give my second talk in this ward next Sunday, in which I will be speaking on making goals for the new year as well as goals for eternity. I`m super stoked.

Elder A and I were still able to meet with several investigators. We made contact again with Fu-san and Fi-san, who have lately been too busy to meet with us, having cancelled many of our set appointments. We were only able to talk with them for a short time, and we focused our messages on prayer. It was nice to meet with them. We love them dearly.

We also made another impromptu visit to the Y-sans, and talked about setting goals for the new year....specifically to make an effort to read the scriptures and pray daily, and to come to church often. We can tell that they love when we visit, and we in turn love visiting them.
Sister Y is expecting a baby this very month!
No-san took us out to eat at an all-you-can-eat (tabehodai) pasta and pizza restaurant last Monday. It was DELICIOUS. Our ward mission leader, Brother Hibiki, is taking us out to another tabehodai place again this week. As I explained during our Skype sesh a couple weeks ago, my assumptions that I would get super skinny here in Japan have been dashed to pieces. Thank goodness for the exercise time we get in the mornings, haha. I`ve been using it to full advantage. Elder A and I bought some exercise equipment last week.

so many amazing meals
I cannot fully explain how much I love it here. As I am slowly but steadily gaining more confidence in the language, I am learning to love it even more in all of its splendor. I especially love the translations from English to Japanese in the scriptures. The nuances of Japanese have taken a special and tender hold on my heart. The language of the scriptures is beautiful in its structure and choice of wording. I especially love the words of Jesus, the Master Teacher.

I have begun my third reading of the Book of Mormon since coming on my mission, and I have begun my second journey through James E. Talmage`s Jesus the Christ. I`ve also ordered the Japanese version of that book: キりスト・イエス, which I look forward to reading as well. My studies have been rich with increased understanding of the Savior since coming on my mission.

SO worth reading!
This mission is hands down the best choice that I have ever made. To all my friends who still by some miracle actually still read my emails and blog (hahaha), thank you. I love you all so much. To my Coast Guard friends especially, with whom I have forged a deep bond of friendship, I think about all of you daily. You are in my prayers. I have come to tears on more than one occasion as I think about my friendship and kinship with all of you. You are family to me. Stay true and stay bold in your standards and values that you are striving to defend through your faithful service.

I leave you with the words of Paul the Apostle:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: 
now I know in part; but then shall I know 
even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

I testify that each of us is known. Each of is is known personally and tenderly by the transcendent God who created the earth and the cosmos, and He created you. He knows you. He loves you. You are His precious child. Though we are living in a fallen world, where we "see through a glass, darkly," unable to fully comprehend our purpose and divine nature as sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, we will indeed one day come to know our purpose for existence, and feel the love of our Heavenly Parents.

Stay classy, folks!

Peace and love,
Elder Matt Naylor