WHAT is UP!
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.
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,
|cherry blossom canal|