Monday, April 28, 2014

A lot of knocking on doors

Helloooooooooo everyone!!!

if only Elder Ch had tried the octopus

Mostly good week! Except unfortunately though, my bro Elder Ch seems to have gotten sick.  Zannen (bummer). Despite us being stuck in the apartment for a couple days (miraculously I didn`t get sick), we were still able to see some great things.

On Wednesday we went to visit a wonderful family in our branch, the A family. They live right next to the ocean, so naturally this visit also included a very necessary look at one of God`s most majestic creations, the Pacific Ocean. As always, it was great to see it again.

On Friday, I spent the day in Shizuoka. While there I met a cool guy who used to be in the Japanese Coast Guard as a helicopter pilot!! Way cool, right?? Now he flies helicopters for the fire department. He was surprised but delighted when I told him that I was in the U.S. Coast Guard back in the day, and we had a great conversation. Made me way natsukashii (nostalgic). I miss my CG friends so much.

missing old friends, no one here has any fun
On Sunday Elder Ch and I went nuts knocking on doors in the evening and found three new people to teach. They were all super prepared, it seems. One was an older lady who had learned about Jesus Christ when she was really young but forgot everything and wanted to learn more from us. Another was a Brazilian guy (yes, ANOTHER Brazilian) whose wife attends another Christian church close by. And yet another was a middle-aged woman who believes in God and wants more direction in her life. 

Through the course of knocking on doors we met lots of other people, including one guy who Elder Ch was convinced is a member of the Yakuza, or the "Japanese Mafia". I will admit, there was something sketchy about the guy....we knocked on his door around 8:00 at night, and he was wearing all black, had a shaved head, and had a not-normal look in his eye, haha. As we were walking away from the house, I turned back and saw him staring at us mysteriously out the second-story window, haha. (I tell this story because I thought it was funny, not scary....I don`t think he was actually a member of the mafia). 

This week I also had the opportunity to play guitar at an assisted living center on Saturday. They were all so nice and seemed to really enjoy it. It was priceless seeing the smile on their faces. Though they all spoke in very old and sometimes garbled Japanese that was hard for me to understand, the universal language of love shown brightly on their faces as Elder Ch and I went around and shook everyone`s hands and basked in their smiles and expressions of love. I always love volunteering there.

Though this past week seemed short, I felt like I grew a lot. I am grateful for the love that God has for each of us. I have felt it very powerfully in my life and seen it manifest in the lives of others. I am so grateful to be here.

I love and miss you all! Thank you for everything!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor



Monday, April 21, 2014

But I have been comforted


Another great week. Life is good. This morning I got a haircut and, well, it was decent!

Ever since I started learning Portuguese the Brazilian contacts just keep HAPPENING. And I still can`t really speak Portuguese, by the way. Only a few phrases for now. But hopefully by the end of my mission I can carry on a basic conversation.

our district in Fukuroi, visiting a glass factory
we each made a ring
Elder Chiba and I were knocking on doors this past Saturday and suddenly found a young man named Bryan, and yes, he is Brazilian. Thankfully he speaks good Japanese (no English). As soon as he opened his door and we introduced ourselves, he asked if we were Mormon, and then said that his father is a member of the Church! Totally took us by surprise. 

His father lives in Suzuka, which is within our mission boundaries but all the way on the other side of Nagoya. He is an active church member over there and has talked to his son many times about joining the church. He was basically already prepared for us to meet him. The next day he came to church with us and said he will probably get baptized. Music to our ears!

road to the ocean, pathway to the sun
Our friend O-san, the older man who randomly came to church a couple weeks ago, also said that he would like to get baptized. I can`t believe it. For the past three weeks that he's been coming to church, he's made amazing progress. At first he knew nothing about Christianity whatsoever .... and now here he is, three weeks later, saying he would like to get baptized. And that for the past couple weeks he has been praying on his own and feeling the influence of God in his life. I can`t explain how prepared and special this man is. We may well set a date next time we meet with him.

It has been slowly getting warmer here in Fukuroi, if you don't count the cold and rain. But we are happy as ever. I wish I could just go into detail about every good experience we`ve had this past week.....from running into old contacts on the street to being just in the right place at the right time to talk with someone to being protected from car accidents and other hazards.

Last Friday I went on a companion exchange in Shizuoka for the day. I spent the day with Elder G, my zone leader, who goes home in 8 weeks (he was in the MTC with my previous companion, Elder A...they go home together). We had a fantastic time. That night at the English class in Shizuoka, I chatted with a great guy named Ta-san. He is Japanese, but also speaks fluent English and Portuguese. We connected really well. Suddenly he started telling me about some of his problems, and how he gets stressed out really easily. Then he asked me how our church could help him deal with stress in day-to-day life more easily. We had a fantastic conversation about God and feeling more peace in our lives. It looks like he will continue to meet with the missionaries in Shizuoka. I sure hope so! I don`t know if I will ever see him again.

got to play a little guitar at this cafe
This week I just feel good. I have almost finished my second time through the New Testament of the Bible, and I`m working my way through the Book of Mormon again. I learn something new and insightful every time I read. I absolutely love the scriptures. I wish I had realized how amazing they are before I left on my mission.

Lately I have suddenly been feeling very homesick. It was unexpected. But I have been comforted knowing that I am doing a great work here in Japan and that I am serving my Father in Heaven, and there cannot possibly be anything greater.

I love all of you SO much! Thank you for continuing to support me through letters and encouragement. I have so much to be grateful for.

Peace and love,

Elder Naylor


Monday, April 14, 2014

I could feel her spirit was at peace


Let me tell you what is up, my spirits are, that`s for sure. This was one heaven of a week.

First off, Elder Ch and I finally made contact with our friend Junior. He is Brazilian and is a less-active member of the church. He stopped us several months ago on the street when he saw us and said he was a member of the church and hadn`t seen anyone from the church for about 7 years. We were finally able to get a hold of the bro this past week and visit his apartment. Great guy. Hasn`t been to church for 7 years, though his family back in Brazil and the U.S. appear to be active members. He has become a good friend to us and we`re working to help strengthen his faith and remember his priceless relationship with his Father in Heaven. It`s going great. Truly a miracle that we even found the guy in the first place.

So we have a friend who comes to our English class every week named Alvaro. He is also from Brazil. He has become a very close friend to me. Older man who speaks very fluent English. Not really interested in the Church per se, but he loves coming to our English class every week because he loves to spend time with missionaries. He says that he always feels a good feeling around us that makes him happier after the stresses of the week. Of course this has little to do with our own personalities, but more to do with our hope that spending full time as missionaries helps us to magnify the presence of the Spirit and our desire to help people feel a greater closeness with God....hence the good feelings that he feels around us. 

However, lately he has been showing more interest in the church. It all started a couple weeks ago when I was reading a copy of the Liahona (a church magazine). In it was a powerful article about the nature of God that really touched me. I brought it to the next English class with the intention to share the article with Sister O and Sister H, the two sister missionaries who work with us. 

At the end of the English class I was talking with Alvaro and found out he had lost his job and was having a rough time with things. He said he had been thinking a lot about God lately. I immediately felt prompted to run inside and grab that magazine and give it to him. He was super grateful and said he would read the article.  

Turns out that after that he not only read the article, but he read the entire magazine. He was very touched by many of the things in it. I told him I would bring another magazine the next week. Then he said that he had been thinking lately and was wondering if he could come check out church sometime the next Sunday. I was thrilled and happily invited him to join us the following Sunday (this past Sunday). Turned out that was the weekend that we were watching General Conference (which we get a week late in Japan to allow time for translation). Alvaro came and stayed for the entire two Sunday sessions and absolutely loved them. He was especially touched by Elder Uchtdorf`s talk about gratitude, "Grateful in Any Circumstances." (So was I!)

Afterwards Alvaro told me that he wants to come again to see a regular church meeting as well. I happily invited him. He has become a very good friend and I want to see this guy take part of Jesus Christ`s Gospel, the never-ending source of everlasting happiness in both this life and the life to come.

Elder Ch and I had another interesting experience this week when we ran into a man on the street. He appears to be homeless. We actually met this guy on the street in a completely different city (Iwata) about a month ago, and shared a church pamphlet with him at the time. He seemed very humble and like life hadn`t exactly dished him the best piece of the pie. It seemed like more than a coincidence that we happened to run into him on the street again back here in Fukuroi last week. He was surprised to see us, just as we were surprised to see him. We offered him our help for anything he needed, but he declined. We then shared our testimonies with him and gave him some more uplifting things to read, mainly about the Plan of Salvation that allows us to have hope in this life and in the life to come. He seemed visibly touched by our message, though we were unable to set up a time to meet with him. I hope that he can feel of our love though, and more importantly, that he can feel of God`s love for him.

A new student came to our English class this week, just moved here to Fukuroi. He is completely fluent in English. Turns out he lived in Portland, Oregon for about 20 years back in the `80s and `90s. I immediately made it known to him that I have family in the Portland area and that it is one of my favorite places in the whole United States (shout out to brother Joe and my Grandma and Grandpa and my aunt and uncle`s family the Brimhalls!). Nice guy, and it looks like he will be coming every week to our class.

While coming back from an interview with the mission president, we met an African man from Cameroon on the streets of Shizuoka. Speaks French and English. He was very nice and listened attentively as I briefly described our beliefs to him. He said that he is Muslim, but is totally open to learning about different religions and beliefs. We had a very good talk and left some church materials with him. It was, as most mission experiences are, very uplifting and contributed to that day being a particularly good one (along with the fact that we had just eaten at a delicious ramen place for lunch). Also that same day on the train we met an American family who was familiar with the church and were excited to see us. They were from the San Francisco area, so I happily told them that my brother had served his own mission in San Jose, not too far south from them. It was nice to see some familiar American faces!

On Saturday, Elder Ch and I rode our bikes out to a hospital in the neighboring city of Iwata to minister to the older sister of a lady in our branch who had requested that we give her a priesthood blessing. Her older sister had been struck by a car while riding a motor scooter several months ago and has been in a coma ever since. It was a very humbling sight to see her lying in such a helpless yet peaceful and calm state. Elder Ch told me that immediately prior to her accident she had been taking lessons from the missionaries and, after hearing the Plan of Salvation for the first time, had declared that she believed it to be true. 

With this knowledge I did my best to give her a good blessing to comfort both her and her family. 
It was a sweet experience, 
and I could feel that her spirit is at peace. 

Elder Ch and I also had the opportunity to talk a little about the message of the Gospel with the older brother of the family, who had come along to visit his sister.

peaceful sanctuary
Yesterday, which would have normally been our p(rep)-day, was instead spent visiting most of our Brazilian contacts. My Brazilian missionary buddy Elder Florentino came to Fukuroi from Hamamatsu again to go on a companion exchange with me to teach me some more Portuguese and assist with teaching our Brazilian contacts around here. We had a great day and got to talk to a lot of people. It`s still really hard for me to try to pick up another language while I`m still learning Japanese, but it`s also kinda fun.

I received a package last week that made me feel like I was in Texas again. Thank you to my fabulous Siebach relatives for reminding me what the second best state in the U.S. is (after Idaho, of course). I proudly wore the "Texas Rangers" t-shirt to go play sports that night. The food was delicious (keyword "was" . . . it was promptly devoured).

I am feeling the love over here! Thank you everyone for all your love and support. I am grateful for all of you, and I am grateful to be here.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

cherry blossom canal

Monday, April 7, 2014

Seven great days! Let brotherly love continue

Hey peeps,

Let`s just start off by saying that I didn`t think that I would be coming to Japan to learn Portuguese.

Brazil and Japan have an interesting connection that ties back to the aftermath of World War II and the automobile industry. As a result, there are lots of Brazilians here in central Japan, and for some reason most of them speak little to no Japanese. But they are the coolest people ever, and as they often come from a Christian background, tend to be very interested in our message about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Within the past few weeks Elder Ch and I have found several Brazilians who want to meet with us. The most notable find is a small family consisting of Pedro and Gabriella and their small son, Miguel. We found them while knocking on doors last week and they were super, super happy to see us. They don`t speak Japanese OR English though, so we could only communicate by using a translator on their iPhone, haha. 

It turns out that back in Brazil, they met with the missionaries many times and they love the Church. The wife even went toured the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple during an open house. They really wanted to meet with us more, but the language barrier is a problem. It`s also hard for them to come to church and not be able to understand anything without a Japanese-Portuguese translator. 

When I called President Yamashita about it, he told me to go ahead and start learning Portuguese along with my Japanese.
Luckily, in the city next to our area (Hamamatsu), there happens to be a Brazilian missionary. We are now conducting companion exchanges every week in which Elder Florentino comes here to work with me in Fukuroi and help me learn Portuguese and help teach. It`s working out well so far.

Apart from that, Elder Ch and I had an unusual amount of success this week--one of the hardest and yet most rewarding weeks on my mission so far. On Monday we found the Brazilian family, Pedro and Gabriella and Miguel. 

Tuesday, Elder Ch and I spent most of the day weeding the garden of a member of the branch, and then while knocking on doors that evening we found a woman who was interested in all the different religions in the world and wanted to learn more. 

Wednesday was the companion exchange with Elder Florentino, and he and I had a great time. We met with another Brazilian woman named Andreia who accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon in Portuguese and said she would like to hear more. We met with Pedro and Gabriella again that evening. 

I am coming to LOVE the Brazilian people. Every one I've met loves to party.

On Thursday for our weekly English class, we made it an "Easter" theme. We dyed eggs and had an Easter egg hunt in the church, haha. It was super fun.

Friday we spent most of the day in Shizuoka for a zone conference, about an hour away by train. After the conference we went out with some of our other missionary buddies to an all-you-can-eat restaurant downtown, and I got STUFFED. It was SO GOOD. I LOVE JAPANESE FOOD. 

On Saturday Elder Ch and I met with several people, and were able to find two more investigators who wanted to learn more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While knocking on doors that evening, at one point we came across an older woman who lives alone. She told us that her husband is very sick and in the hospital. Immediately we started testifying to her of a loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers prayers, and we offered to pray for her husband right there on her doorstep.

She is Buddhist. We felt she was touched by the message concerning a Father in heaven. 

She started to weep and said "Please pray for him." 
As we prayed, I could feel the love that God had for this woman. 

peaceful shrine in the cherry trees
And Sunday was great. As we were standing in the entrance of the church greeting people as they came in for Sacrament Meeting, and older man suddenly showed up outside. He was gazing up at the church building with a curious look. Elder Ch and I immediately went to greet him, and he said that as he was out walking that morning, he saw the church and was stopping to admire "the beautiful building." We talked for a minute or two, and then invited him to come in and join us for Sacrament Meeting. 

His name is O. When he heard my name (pronounced "Neira" in Japanese), he said it sounded like a woman`s name, haha. During the meeting he would lean over to me or Elder Ch and ask all sorts of questions (Who is Jesus Christ? What does this bread and water mean? Who is Joseph Smith? etc...). It was also Fast Sunday, so he got to hear the powerful testimonies of many church members. He seemed very intrigued. He is mostly blind, and can`t really see very well, and he especially enjoyed the singing of the hymns. 

After Sacrament Meeting, he came to join us for our Gospel Principles class, and Elder Ch and I taught about the Plan of Salvation. He was so interested and really liked the message. He then told us that he would like to hear everything that we have to teach, and that he would come back to church next Sunday. Music to our ears!! To be honest, this guy is a miracle investigator. I still can`t believe what transpired yesterday.

another beautiful Japanese building
In short, last week was a week of miracles. So many awesome things happened. I really love it out here in Japan-land. And I love all you guys.

This Gospel is so true. I know without a doubt that we do indeed have a loving Father in Heaven who is watching over us.

I leave you with the simple yet powerful words of Paul the Apostle: "Let brotherly love continue." (Hebrews 13:1). I echo his plea that we may all continue to show love for our fellow men and women on earth. We are all brothers and sisters under the same heaven and the same God. You are all my brothers and sisters, and I love you so much.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor