Monday, March 31, 2014

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth . . .

Hello everyone....

I got to shower about 12 times this week. If you will recall, there are 7 days in a week, and most normal people shower once a day. But for me it was Genesis 7:19: "And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered." In shorter terms, IT RAINED BUCKETS.

We spent a lot of time visiting church members this week. Had some good visits with them. One that stands out to me was with the N family. The parents are really old, but still super happy and cheerful. The father is 92 years old, and he served in the Japanese military during World War II as a radio operator. He had some crazy experiences. An extremely humble and kind man. 

we're over it
It was an interesting experience to talk to a man who was once compelled to fight against my own country and then be able to sit in the same room with him, all old feelings of enmity completely dispelled, talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love that God has for all of His children. We truly have come full circle.

On Friday my companion, Elder Ch, traveled to the mission headquarters in Nagoya while I stayed to hold down the fort here in Fukuroi. 

heading to work

I was accompanied by two much younger missionaries, one of whom had been out on his mission for only a couple days. The three of us had a great day together. We helped weed the garden of a family in our ward for several hours and then spent the rest of the day knocking on doors. Much to my surprise, we actually found a man who was interested in learning more, and he invited us to come back again next week. It was very sudden but quite welcome. Missionaries LOVE it when people are so open and receptive to learning more about the gospel.

On Saturday we went with a couple church members to an ancient Japanese shrine up in the mountains. The area up there was pretty touristy, and in the little bustle of shops and bazaars down below we hoped to share the Gospel with some people. No luck, but the scenery was beautiful.

mountain shrine
cherry blossom Spring

 At church on Sunday, we (the missionaries) put on a special meeting for the whole branch to talk about missionary work. It was fun. We talked briefly in front of everyone about seeing the big picture of life rather than our own limited perspective of the next day or next week, and then Elder Chiba and I did a role play in front of everyone in which I was a colleague of his at work and he was a church member trying to casually bring up the Gospel in a non-confrontational, ordinary way. We managed to somehow make it funny, and I think the people liked it.

The main goal was to help them realize how easy and comfortable it can be to talk to friends or colleagues about the good news of Jesus Christ and the wonderful knowledge that we have about Him. It was a good experience.

Then later that night, while knocking on doors, Elder Ch and I were blessed to find someone else to teach. A middle-aged woman who was very nice seemed intrigued by our message, and allowed us to come back and teach some more. Legit. Then that night we had a chance to meet with the less-active church member who has ten cats and help her out with some stuff.

For those of you reading this who know the Holmstead family, I got a letter from Kaylee Holmstead (serving in the Japan Sendai Mission) that had llamas on it. If you know her family then you`ll know why that`s funny, hahaha. It was great.

Overall this week really wasn`t anything groundbreaking, but I nevertheless had some experiences this week that have strengthened my testimony even further of the divinity and infinite love of our Father in Heaven. I really am so grateful for the Gospel and everything that I have as a result. It means everything to me.

Thank you everyone for your CONSTANT love and support. I get letters weekly from people whom I love, and it is always the greatest thing ever. You are all the best!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

anything we can do to get our message out

Monday, March 24, 2014

Greetings from the wonderful world of MEAT.

Explanation: This week, Elder Ch and I were treated to the most DELICIOUS and ENDLESS supply of all-you-can-eat food (which included a lot of meat), courtesy of an investigator and some church members. Needless to say, I am grateful that we ride our bikes everywhere as missionaries, or else I would probably have grown twice in size since coming to Japan. Awesome food!

This week was good, had some good experiences, felt the Spirit, received a fair amount of rejection (meaning almost everyone), helped some people out with various problems, and tried our best to keep big smiles on our faces every day. Basically a typical week for a missionary, haha.

will anyone want what I have to offer?

maybe everyone will!

On Tuesday, Elder Ch and I visited a less-active member who is sick and cooked dinner for her and her husband. At their house they have ten cats...yes, TEN CATS. Every single one of them are stray cats that they found on the street and took into their home (in Japan, there are stray cats EVERYWHERE.....if you ever see a cat, chances are it most likely does not have a home). All the cats are super sweet and friendly. Some have missing eyes or missing tails, but all of them are so fun and cheerful.

the gospel is for everycat
the prophet Enos
Anyway, at this family`s house, after dinner we talked with the wife for a while to help strengthen her faith and come back to church. It was a very good experience. As Elder Ch allowed me to take the lead, I truly felt the Spirit working through me and say the things that she needed to hear. It was a simple yet powerful testimony-builder for me that the Lord truly does make sure that His servants help people in the way that they need it the most.

I taught her about the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon and how powerful his prayer was as he spent all day and all night out in the forest calling upon His God to forgive him and to save his people from destruction.

I have always loved that story, and I was happy to help this wonderful lady come to have a love for this story as well, and also strive to strengthen the power of her own prayers. Then Elder Ch bore his powerful testimony. The Spirit was with us in that small Japanese kitchen full of cats.

While knocking on doors this week, we found a very nice man who appears to live alone in a small apartment fairly close to the church. He stood out to us at first mainly because he actually gave us time to share a brief message before cutting us off and shutting the door (which is usually what happens). He even accepted a pamphlet and a Book of Mormon. We got to talk to him for about five minutes, and as we bore our testimonies about the blessings and happiness we have received through the Gospel, I noticed a slight but visible change in his face as he listened to us. I think that the Spirit of God definitely touched his heart. It was a very simple but nevertheless tender experience for me.

In Japan, I must say that missionary work can be very hard at times (of course, it`s hard anywhere you go). Nobody here has a Christian background, and when they hear the word Kirisuto (Christ) they kinda tend to shrink behind an invisible barrier and not really give you a chance to say much else, having no interest.

But one thing I love about Japanese people is their unique concern about families, which seem to be more important to them than in some other cultures. I have noticed that we sometimes have more success with people when we talk about families. And indeed, families are so wonderful and important, and central to God`s plan for our eternal happiness.

One of the primary and fundamental teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that families are eternal, and that we have the opportunity and blessing of living together forever with our families, even after our time on earth has come to an end. This is one of my absolute favorite teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and one that gives me hope concerning what will happen to me and my family when we have all passed away.

On Thursday we spent the morning and afternoon fasting on behalf of one of our investigators who is struggling with various issues. We also spent the day biking over endless muddy hills in the pouring rain. I was happy though as I peered through the soaked air at the beautiful landscape here in Shizuoka-ken (ken is the equivalent of "prefecture".....kinda along the same lines of a "state" back in America), which is covered in rolling hills with endless rows of bamboo trees and pine trees against a backdrop of tall mountains looming in the distance.....yet mere hills under the distant shadow of Mount Fuji, which, though far away, is occasionally visible from a high point on a clear day. Japan is beautiful, man.

that's Mt. Fuji!!
On Saturday we went and volunteered at an old-folks home up in Mori-machi. It was a delightful experience. Just like old folks back in America, the elderly people at resting homes here in Japan are just as sweet and fun to spend time with. Of course I could hardly understand a word that any of them were saying, their smiles and joy to spend time with us spoke to me in the universal language of love that is understood by all nations, creeds, races, and cultures. It was a tender experience to contribute to helping them have a good day that day. I look forward to volunteering there again soon.

Church yesterday was great again (as always), but one simple part stood out to me. An older lady in the branch here who has had a lot of tragedies in her family in the past (husband had a stroke and can`t do much on his own, none of the children want anything to do with the Gospel, among other things) stood up to give the closing prayer after Sacrament Meeting. As she prayed, the Spirit suddenly grew within the room. She prayed simply but fervently and pleaded with Heavenly Father that we may all feel peace in our day-to-day life and overcome our various trials and troubles.

Her prayer was simple, but it was so heartfelt...a real prayer. I noticed her wiping tears from her eyes as she went to sit back down afterwards. It was a small but noticeable thing to me, seeing her example of how we ought to pray to our loving Father in Heaven. I believe he wants more than anything to hear us offer up the true feelings of our heart when we pray, rather than a routine recitation. I was grateful for that.

I testify that this Gospel is in fact the only sure way to have peace in this life in eternal joy in the life of eternal worlds to come. I know that we all have a universal Father in Heaven who wants each of His children to have eternal happiness. And I am so grateful for this knowledge.

And one last thing.....HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear brother Eric!!! I LOVE YOU BRO!!!!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

a quick bite of Ramen for lunch . . .
and then, we got work to do

Monday, March 17, 2014

The simple bearing of one's testimony . . .

Whattup everyone,

This week was great. I still love Japan. 

There is this lady in the branch here, Sister H, who loves missionaries. She is a convert of about 15 years, and she wishes that she could serve a mission herself, but she is older and it is hard for her. So she compensates by helping us out whenever she can, and we are SO grateful. She gives us names of friends and family, she has us over to her house, and she even brings us a bunch of food every Sunday at church. 

One thing that she does really sticks out to me....she wakes up at 6:45am and prays for a missionary opportunity EVERY DAY. She has been doing this for several years. Sister H has one of the most beautiful testimonies ever...last Sunday she spoke in church about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the Sacrament, and her testimony was so sincere and powerful. I am grateful for powerful examples of branch members here in Fukuroi like Sister H.

the world is filled with the light of Christ
We have an investigator from Iran, named B. Total bro. His Japanese is completely fluent, though his native language is Persian....ergo, we called the mission headquarters in Nagoya and they sent us a Persian Book of Mormon pronto. B is a happy man. We gave him the book a couple days ago and he`s looking forward to reading it. We`re looking forward to meeting with him some more!

Last week we had a "game night" at the church. It was FANTASTIC! We invited all the neighbors who live around the church, investigators, and church members. It was a great turnout! About 20 people were there (mostly kids) and we played ping pong, cards, Settlers of Catan, and other fun stuff. I got to bust out the guitar for a little bit. It was great fun, and we built some great friendships with the people here. My bro H-san (one of our investigators) even gave me a hug before he left. In Japan people don`t give hugs as often as in America, so that really meant a lot. Needless to say I was way happy that night.

As we tell people about our faith, it is important to remember that getting in arguments or heated discussions will NEVER be successful. It takes away completely the Spirit, and it just causes tension. 

One thing I have come to learn on my mission is that the simple bearing of one`s testimony is the most powerful way to express your beliefs, hands down. I love the declaration by Joseph Smith: 

"Truth will cut its own way" 

Joseph Smith
Everyone is absolutely free to their own beliefs, their own form of worship. It is our obligation not to tear others down for their beliefs that may be contrary to our own. In the end, the truth of the Gospel will eventually fill the world with the love of God. We need not hinder the progress of that truth by creating problems between ourselves and those who follow a different way of thinking. We are obligated to show love the others in the best way we can, and personally, I enjoy sharing love with others much more than getting into arguments. Everyone just feels better and happier that way.

I would like to close by simply declaring a portion of my own testimony. 

I know that we have an Eternal Father in the Heavens who watches over us each individually, with a love that is infinite and incomprehensible. I know this to be so true. I have felt a portion of His love. I know that He is there, and He is directing everything. I know that through the Prophet Joseph Smith, God has once again restored the original truth of the Gospel to the Earth here in the last days. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus Christ suffered the Atonement for me and for you so that we would have the opportunity to become clean from our sins and worthily dwell in heaven again with our Heavenly Father. This knowledge has given me the most sublime direction and hope in my life. Though I know that I am very weak, and have so many weaknesses and imperfections, God is perfect, and He will help me to be worthy to stand in His presence again someday.

"Compared to God, man is nothing...yet we are everything to God." 
                                                   ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I love you all. Thank you for everything! Stay classy, folks!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


Monday, March 10, 2014


Last night, Elder Chiba and I were planning on riding our bikes to the church and leaving them there to walk around the nearby neighborhoods and knock on doors for a bit. As we were turning the corner from the church, the emergency sirens posted throughout the area suddenly went off. 

Our first thought was that a tsunami was headed our way, but then we turned to see that instead a house fire had erupted in the building next to us. We ran up to make sure no one was inside (so much smoke) but luckily the whole apartment was empty. So we just stood back with all the people who had come outside and watched for a few minutes as the firefighters showed up and did their fantastic work. Presently the owner of the apartment returned and we were able to talk to him and try to calm him down a little bit. We offered our help for anything he needed and gave him our names and number, and taught him briefly about God and Jesus Christ. I felt so bad for the guy...he just suddenly lost his home...

he got harrowed too
While on the subject of crazy experiences, I have also come to realize that getting a haircut in Japan is a harrowing experience. 

I am grateful that no one back home has the misfortune of having to behold me on account of the current condition of the top of my head.

This week was good. Once again, Elder Ch and I got to see a lot of great things. We have been working with a less-active Church member lately named Bro. Ao. He is a really special guy who has been having a lot of problems lately. He`s currently looking for a job and hasn`t been to church for a while. We`ve been visiting him regularly and decided to re-teach him all the missionary lessons to help rekindle the fire of faith in his heart. 

The Spirit seems to be working with him because this past Saturday he drove with us to Shizuoka (about an hour and a half away) to hear our mission president, Pres. Yamashita, speak to the various missionaries, members, and investigators in our zone. It was a great experience, and I think it lifted Bro. Ao`s spirits. 

Tokyo temple
"Holiness to the Lord"

Not only that, but when we invited him to church the next day, he actually showed up! Even passed the sacrament and everything! It was great to see him, and also great to see all the members welcoming him warmly back to church. Good stuff. We`re working to help him progress to going to the Tokyo temple soon (he hasn`t been to the temple in a LONG time).

We also had an impromptu visit with our friend M-san, who I mentioned before used to live in Boise (SO CRAZY) and speaks very good English. We were walking around his neighborhood, saw him outside his house, and went to greet him. He was happy to see us and offered to take us to come see his farm! We were stoked at the invite and went with him in his tiny Japanese truck. He is very passionate about natural agriculture (no chemicals) and showed us all the different stuff he was growing, and we helped him out with a few things. 

Then on the way back we started talking religion. From the start, he told us straight up that he wasn`t interested in the church, just learning English. And we were okay with that. But then he just started asking us questions, and he seemed very impressed with our beliefs. Before we knew it Elder Ch and I had taught him most of the first missionary lesson,

Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

The Spirit was strong, impossible for M-san not to feel it. After we related the story of Joseph Smith`s First Vision, the whole car was just silent. The air was electric. And M-san was touched. He wants to meet with us again when he has more time. It was a great experience. One of many such like experiences that I have had thus far here in Japan.

Another day Elder Ch and I were riding our bikes and came across this homeless guy with his belongings piled in and on top of his front basket on his bike. He was kinda older. Very friendly when we stopped to chat. He was riding his bike from Kyoto to someplace up by Sendai (a ridiculously far distance, especially for a bike, ESPECIALLY homeless and your bike is pretty much broken and all your belongings in a jumbled heap on a tiny basket). It was a humbling sight. Didn`t tell us why he was traveling that distance. 

We gave him all the food that we had with us (two oranges and some sushi) and shared a message with him about the Gospel. He was very interested, and said he has studied a lot about many different churches before. To be completely honest, he was kind of crazy. But I felt a sincere love for the guy and wanted him to be happy. He offered cigarettes (haha) and we just chatted with him for a bit. When it was apparent that there was nothing much more we could do for him, we left him a church pamphlet and our names and number and said goodbye.

Our investigator H-san came to church yesterday, and it was great to see him. Eye-opening experience, though. During priesthood meeting, we started having a discussion about faith. Many people were voicing their own opinions about various points of doctrine regarding faith, and even arguing somewhat with each other. 

Elder Ch and I sat there with H-san just praying that everyone would stop making such a confusing and difficult learning environment for our investigator, who still knows very little about the church and the Gospel. It was very frustrating, but at the same time I learned a lot about how the Lord really wants things to run in His church. 

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus teaches about avoiding contention. In that whole chapter, He also sets forth His doctrine, which is truly quite simple and not complex.

And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger,
 one with another.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:28-30)

Christ appears to the Nephites
The Gospel was not meant to be confusing or frustrating. The Gospel is most beautiful when presented in the light in which it was meant to be revealed...purely and simply. We do ourselves no favors when we get into crazy, deep doctrinal conversations full of personal opinions and viewpoints during regular church meetings.

And we especially do not do any favors for people who are new and still learning about the church when we bring out our own personal opinions regarding Gospel doctrine with them, either. Of course, we are all human and very imperfect. The Lord`s Gospel is perfect though.

I don`t say these things to publicly condemn or vilify anyone...but I now feel very strongly that Church meetings are meant for us to uplift and edify each other through the pure and simple teachings of Jesus Christ`s Gospel, and not to create a war of words and opinions.

Luckily, after church Elder Ch and I were able through the Spirit to help Hidaka understand things better (he was very confused) and it turned out well. He still wants to continue to learn. I admire his desire to follow Jesus Christ. He seems like a really pure, humble guy.

District in Fukuroi
May we share a message with you?
At zone conference this week, Elder Ch and I were randomly chosen to go up in front of our whole zone and do a practice missionary lesson in which we were teaching our mission president and his wife about the Restoration. Luckily it turned out very well, and I was comforted by President and Sister Yamashita`s kind praise of how the lesson went, while also learning some good ways to improve.

I`m stoked to hear that Matt Fales is home from his mission! All of you are in my prayers. I love you all so much!! Thank you for EVERYTHING!

Peace and love,

Elder Naylor 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fukuroi is AWESOME

Hey everyone,

Fukuroi is legit. I love it here. This week has been fantastic, actually. Where to start?

First of all, N-SAN HAS BEEN BAPTIZED!!!! I found an email from him this morning in my inbox and he said that during the baptismal service he really wanted to see me. Dang, man. I wish I could`ve been there; when I'm transferred out, I can't go back. But it doesn`t matter in the slightest because regardless of my presence or not, N-san has been blessed with the most desirable and wonderful presence of all....the Spirit of God. And I am SO happy for him.

Regarding baptisms here in Fukuroi, Naruse M-san has expressed OVER and OVER how excited she is to be baptized. She and her husband came to church yesterday and we had a good lesson with them. We had to move the baptismal date back to March 8th to allow time to finish teaching her the lessons, but it`s still gonna happen, and I am STOKING. She is super prepared.

The T-sans came to inspect our apartment. Look, Mom, how smiley they are.

Okay, so last Monday for P-Day we went to this SICK bird zoo thing in Kakegawa. It`s called "Kachouen" and it`s basically the most legit bird park you will ever see. You go in and there are crazy birds everywhere, and most of them are not caged. You can just purchase little cups of food and walk around and birds will just fly right up to you and sit on your shoulder waiting for you to feed them. There are owls, parrots, penguins, ducks, geese, swans, flamingos, toucans.....

But behold, this is not all.......THEY HAVE EMUS!!!!! You know, those crazy freaky giant Australian flightless birds with RED EYES that attack people in the wild and poke their eyes out?

Yeah. They have them. And you can go into their enclosure, where there are like a dozen of them, and run around with them and feed them and touch them and stuff. HOLY CRAP.
Friday I had a companion exchange with Elder M, from Brazil (my current zone leader). I met him a couple months ago when he came to Ichinomiya before a leadership training at Mission Headquarters in Nagoya. We became instant friends back then, and we were stokin to be able to serve together for a day. We talked to a lot of people and saw a lot of great things. That night we got to go play basketball with a member from the branch here (Bro. O, from Fukuoka) and a bunch of his work buddies. We had a fun time playing basketball, and the best part, we built good friendships with his work friends and invited them to church and to our weekly English class. They were interested. Legit.

The other day Elder Ch and I went to visit a member who lives FAR AWAY and let me tell you, my legs probably grew double in size from biking over all those hills. It was BEAUTIFUL though. We actually got kinda lost somewhere in these beautiful hills in the middle of nowhere. It was kinda fun. We eventually found the place too, so it was all good.

OH and I GOT TO SEE THE OCEAN!!!!! We went to visit a member family, the A family, who live right by the coast. Let me tell you about that visit though, because it was actually probably in the list of top ten spiritual experiences I`ve had on my mission so far. Nothing crazy, but it was just a really good feeling. The A family is an older couple who have seven children, six of whom don`t ever go to church and one of whom is not even baptized. The parents are super strong Church members though. They are the sweetest people ever. The father had a stroke and therefore it`s very hard for him to talk, but he ALWAYS has a smile on and he is one of my favorite people. The mother is so nice. We had a long talk with them trying to help them help their children. It`s very hard for them. We shared some uplifting messages with them and then the mother prayed for us at the end, and it was among the most beautiful and sincere prayers I have ever heard. She pleaded for guidance for her family and thanked God for all of her blessings. It was just really special.

Since we were so close to the coast we dropped by to take a look because I was dying to see the ocean again. It`s been so long! We spent 5 minutes looking and taking pictures and then went back to work. It was a nice break from a particularly long day.

Dang, there`s so much more I want to share. Elder Ch and I saw some amazing things this week. Seriously, I really wish I could just type out EVERYTHING. But suffice it to say that I have seen the Lord do amazing things here in Fukuroi already. Literally amazing. I love it here. I love Japan. I love the Gospel. I love all of you. And I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and my Father in Heaven, and His Spirit.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor