Monday, February 17, 2014

Good News in Fukuroi

Greetings from Fukuroi!!

So let me just give you the bare lowdown of what has happened to me in less than a week, and you`ll get a sense of how I`m feeling right now:
with my new companion, Elder C

Elder C and I speak to each other only in Japanese. As a result, my conversational Japanese has already improved probably tenfold.

Our first lesson here in Fukuroi, Elder C and I set a baptismal date for Naruse M to be baptized on March 1st. My first baptism here in Japan.

At that same lesson, Naruse M`s husband also became an investigator, and he may also be baptized.

  • I gave my first priesthood blessing to someone in Japanese (actually two separate blessings). One of them was a less-active woman named Morishita K, and the other her husband, who is not a member. Both have been sick lately.
  • I got asked to play the piano for priesthood meeting at the branch here in Fukuroi, which I`ve never done before.
  • N-san texted us from Ichinomiya to let me know that he set a baptismal date for February 23rd.
  • I learned how to make sushi from some members of the branch here in Fukuroi at a branch sushi party.
  • I became best friends with a little girl with Down syndrome here in the branch named Ayaka.
  • We have a guitar in the apartment.
  • No, wait. I don't think you understand. We have a GUITAR in the apartment!!
These are just a few of the awesome things that have happened in this past week. Needless to say, I`m a little overwhelmed with gratitude right now. Wow.

Basically, Fukuroi is legit. The branch is pretty small....there were about 20 people at church on Sunday....but the members are strong, and the Spirit as well. 

train station, Fukuroi
My new companion, Elder C, is awesome. He is an AMAZING teacher and we are getting along great. It has taken some getting used to speaking Japanese LITERALLY everywhere, but it's helping my language skills improve so much. The language barrier really hasn`t been a problem. Elder C speaks almost no English, but since I`ve been in Japan for 6 months we are able to understand one another and converse in Japanese both in the apartment and abroad. It`s kinda fun.

One of our other investigators here, Hidaka-san, is a total bro. I met him at the sushi party on Saturday and we were INSTANT friends. He`s about 26 years old and loves basketball and fishing. He came to church on Sunday and we taught him a lesson about the Atonement, faith, repentance, baptism, and the Word of Wisdom. He understands it all very well and he seems very prepared. We are hoping, we will probably invite him to be baptized.

I have just seen tons of miracles here in Fukuroi already. I love it here. I miss Ichinomiya, but I am looking forward to my time here.

I was SO HAPPY when N-san texted last night to tell me he`s getting baptized. It meant a lot to me that he wanted me to know, and I am also just SO happy that it`s finally happening. He is SO prepared. I`m super bummed I don`t get to see it, but that doesn`t matter. I`m just thrilled that it`s happening. He was my first investigator here in Japan.

N-san, the first person I taught in Japan. He's getting baptized February 23.
I'm humbled and grateful!
The computer here is slow, I have to cut my time short. But dang, I am so happy!!! The Lord is truly hastening His work as it sweeps boldly across the Earth. What an exciting time. I testify that this work will continue to go forward and that miracles are VERY real.

Peace and love,

Elder Naylor
This is Patrick,  from Nigeria, back in Ichinomiya.
 He freaking loves the gospel!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Transferred!! New city: Fukuroi

These past couple days have been a great mix of emotions as I prepare to say goodbye to Ichinomiya, which has been my home in Japan for almost six months now. Dang, man. I guess I thought I`d stay here my whole mission. NOT true, haha.

Ayano from Eikaiwa class, a REALLY fine English speaker
My new area is a place way out in the boonies called Fukuroi. It is in Shizuoka-ken, which is a region on the very southeastern tip of the mission. Mount Fuji is out here, though not in my area. I`m told I will still be too far to be able to see it. 

Fukuroi is apparently a huge area that involves several hours of hard biking to get from one end to the other, which is good because I could use the exercise, haha. It is mostly country and very little city, in contrast to Ichinomiya, which is on the outskirts of Nagoya and therefore very urban. 

I keep hearing that it`s beautiful there. We also have some coast on the southern border of the area, so I`m stoked I get to see some ocean. The church in the new area will be small....a branch of 20-30 people, and most of them are elderly folks. Japanese older people are super funny and wonderful, so that`ll be nice.

My new companion is Japanese!! Apparently he speaks very little English. His name is Elder Chiba. Never met him, so I`ll tell you more about him next week after I`ve gotten to know the guy. I`m pretty stoked to have a Japanese companion, it`ll definitely accelerate my language to be forced to speak Japanese even in the apartment. I`m glad that I am able to easily have basic conversations in Japanese by now so that we can (hopefully) understand each other.

Saying goodbye to my beloved friends here in Ichinomiya has been hard. I`ve come to love the ward and people here so much. When the bishopric announced in Sacrament Meeting that I was getting transferred there was this big ripple across the congregation of people gasping, hahaha. Then they invited me to come up and bear my testimony, and it was hard not to cry. I have felt so much love from this ward since coming here. I will never forget these people.

Tonight we`re gonna ride out to Inazawa to say goodbye to the O family, whose three kids Elder A and I have been teaching for several months. It`ll be nice to see them again one last time. I know they will get baptized too.
The wonderful O family. I'll miss teaching them!
N-san is doing GREAT. We took him to another Family Home Evening at the mission home last Monday with President Yamashita, and it was a fantastic experience. I got to see many of my other missionary buddies and meet their investigators. I also got to see my old MTC companion, Elder B, and it was so good to talk with the bro again. I miss that guy. 

After the FHE President Yamashita came up to me and we had a long and really good conversation. He asked me more about N-san and then said that he wanted to come and join our lesson with him later that week. That lesson proved to be an awesome success. On Wednesday night, Pres. Yamashita drove out from Meito to meet us at the church in Ichinomiya, and he basically taught the whole lesson. Actually Elder A and I barely said anything. And it was PERFECT. 

He talked about prayer and helping N-san learn to really pray and feel the influence of God. Heck man, even Elder A and I learned a ton from that lesson that we want to apply in our own lives. It was powerful. President Yamashita also shared his conversion story, which is very powerful. 

The biggest thing I took away from his conversion story is this though: at the time he was investigating the church, he was not that "golden investigator" that missionaries like to talk about. He often canceled appointments and didn`t always keep commitments. The missionaries may have been tempted to drop him at times. 

But can you imagine what would`ve happened if they had dropped him? He probably would not many years later become a powerful member of the Quorum of the Seventy and also my own beloved mission president, here blessing the lives of missionaries, members, and investigators in the Japan Nagoya Mission. (side note: how many missionaries can say that they have had a current member of the Seventy sit in on one of their investigator lessons? I guess I got pretty lucky then). Oh and the whole lesson was in Japanese. President Yamashita`s Japanese is very good. (He is Japanese....go figure)

Met with the Y family last night. They knew that someone was probably going to transfer this week, so when we told them that we have some news for them (that I was going to leave), Sister Y said, "I don`t want to hear the news!" It wrenched my heart to realize in that moment how truly close I have become with this family. They are WONDERFUL. They are so kind to us, and lately we have seen a lot of progress with them....they have been praying every day and reading the Book of Mormon. They carry those prayer rocks that I gave them everywhere they go. They gave us some sweet gifts at Christmas and again yesterday because one of us was going to leave. They keep saying they want to come visit Idaho! I love them so much. And I know that they will receive baptism someday. I hope to see them again.
However, I REALLY like chocolate.
We're working on spelling in Eikaiwa (English) class.

Saying goodbye to N-san was kinda hard too, but he always goes to different wards throughout the mission to see his old missionary friends, and he said he will definitely come visit me later on during my mission. 

We also got to meet with some member families to say goodbye on Saturday and Sunday. Had some good food and played games. Took lots of pictures.

To sum up my feelings right now, I am just overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel that I have been immensely blessed here in Ichinomiya, and I know that there are countless other blessings to await the future months of my mission. I try not to think about the fact that my mission is already almost 1/3 over. But I still have a long way ahead, and I`m honestly really looking forward to it.

I love missionary work!!!!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

P.S. Mom, thank you for sending me good American shampoo and soap. The Japanese soap and shampoo that I have been using lately (derived from horse fat) has been....well....different.

there's a lot of mayo on this sushi

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Good News

Hey everyone,

Let me know how the big game turns out. Go SEAHAWKS!

Lots of successes, and lots of discouragements this week. Pretty typical week for a missionary I guess.

Let's stick with the good news though, shall we? So I told you a while ago about how I gave those prayer rocks to the Y family to help them to remember to pray, right? Well not only do they pray every day now on their own, but the wife even made these beautiful pouches to hold them in....she wears hers as a necklace everywhere she goes, and the husband keeps his on his key ring! How sick is that? 

The best thing is just seeing how much they`re progressing in the Gospel. I`ve come to love them SO much. Last night while meeting with them they exclaimed how crazy it is that I have been here teaching them for almost five and a half months and how fast the time has gone. Time has indeed gone fast here. 

The wonderful Y family!
I wish you could see it . . . Sister Y has her prayer rock in a pouch on her necklace
Tonight we`re heading down to the honbu (mission home) with our investigator N-san for a special FHE (Family Home Evening) with the mission president. We`re way excited. We did this a few months ago with him and it was a really great experience, so tonight should be great. We have been praying mightily for a miracle to help N-san finally make the decision to be baptized. I have complete faith that that miracle will come when the time is right.

I think I`ve mentioned before how investigators in Japan tend to be investigators for a longer period of time than in other places across the world. Japanese people are thoughtful. They're very contemplative, very reserved, and tend not to adapt particularly well to abrupt or sudden change. This is part of their culture, and there is something to be admired in their common carefulness and attention to detail. Many of our investigators want to take their time and make sure that they are truly ready and prepared before making a big decision such as baptism. Others are genuinely scared of the solemnity and importance of such a momentous event. 
we teach with these lovely Sisters
Such concerns are natural and understandable, and I appreciate the fact that they do so readily view baptism as something important and significant. Baptism is a covenant with God....a promise to do our best to keep His commandments and follow the perfect example of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Many of our investigators seem to understand this, and they do not want to rush their decision. 

Our goal and our job as missionaries is to help them realize how faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can help them overcome these fears. We are absolutely imperfect teachers and we do not know the best way to help them.....but Heavenly Father does. And He is continually guiding us in the right direction. I am SOOO grateful for the support system that I have in my Father in Heaven. It has rendered miracles.

Lately I have been reading the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. I LOVE reading the words of Jesus Christ. I can empathize with the Apostle Peter when the Lord sees many of His disciples turning away from Him, and thus inquires of His closest friends and followers: "Will ye also go away?" Then Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."

Rembrandt's Christ. The Savior of all!
Jesus Christ does indeed have the words of eternal life. I testify with all my heart that I know without a doubt that Jesus Christ is aware of us, that he loves us, and that we, through him, are the beneficiaries of the most endless and infinite sacrifice ever performed on this earth....the Atonement of the Savior. 

How could we possibly not want to share this knowledge with the struggling souls of this fallen world who have no knowledge of this good news? It is the greatest service we could ever help bring them souls to the eternal worlds and endless rest with our original and unchanging, infinite Father.

I love this work. I love ALL of you. THANK YOU for all of your letters, emails, and kind words. I am very happy and so blessed.

Peace and love,

Elder Naylor