Friday, June 27, 2014

Okazaki the hillside city


Fantastic week!! I will start off by saying that I love my new area, my new companion, and my new responsibilities. It has been a wonderful experience here in Okazaki.

The Yahagi River in Okazaki
Okazaki is a nice-sized city with two beautiful rivers and some steep hillsides, on the eastern outskirts of Nagoya. Just north of us is Toyota City, home of the car manufacturer. Really tall apartment buildings spring up across the landscape. Our apartment itself is up kinda on a hill, and there is a park across the street with a very beautiful view of the city and the hills. We get that nice view every morning when we exercise at the park. The nearest train station is a two-minute walk away, and the church is a five-minute bike ride (over a steep hill) from the apartment. So far the past week, we have hardly used our bikes at all, but instead take the trains and walk everywhere. I kinda like it this way.

My new companion, Elder A, is a total bro. He is another Brazilian, straight from Sao Paulo, still a new missionary and eager to learn. We have been working well together. I am very impressed with him; he seems much more mature and focused than I was when I was a new missionary. He will become a great leader in this mission. We are already the best of friends. It is still strange and a little complicated to carry out the zone leader responsibilities when the other zone leader is not my companion, but we're making it work. We do companion exchanges several times a week because Elder Ch and I have to travel often to the mission headquarters in Nagoya or to do companion exchanges with the district leaders in our zone. So it looks like this transfer it will be more like having two companions, haha.

my new bro, Elder A from Sao Paulo!
One bit of fantastic news, we will be seeing a baptism soon!! This past week Elder A and I met with a man named Hiro-san, and he is planning to be baptized on July 13th. He is an awesome guy. He loves coming to church (came to stake conference this past weekend) and he has a great desire to follow Jesus Christ and make good choices with his life. I am so impressed with him and excited to see him enter the waters of baptism in the next few weeks.

Elder A is helping me out a lot with Portuguese (my last companion helped me a lot, too) and I am starting to learn the language a little faster now. It`s still hard learning two languages but it`s a nice challenge. I can promise you my Portuguese won`t be anything special when I get home, haha. My Japanese is progressing pretty well, though.

I think it`s very interesting that I have not had a typical mainland American companion since the MTC, haha. So far I've worked with a Korean, a Hawaiian, a Japanese, a Brazilian, and now my second Brazilian companion. I love everything I'm learning from them! It`s been super fun!!

he looks worried
I am just absolutely loving it here. I wish you all could see the wonderful places that I have had an opportunity to serve in, and meet the amazing people I get to work with. Missionary life is just the greatest. It`s not easy, but infinitely rewarding.

Thank you all for everything. 

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


Monday, June 16, 2014

unexpected transfer and a new calling

Family and friends,

Well I suppose I can start off this week with my most unexpected news: I will be transferring.

Even though I was still in the middle of training my new companion Elder Sch, President Yamashita called me this past Saturday to let me know that I am being sent to serve as a zone leader in the Okazaki Zone of the mission. I was SUPER surprised. It`s gonna be kinda unusual, since (1) I was still training a new missionary, and (2) my new companion will also be a new missionary (I will be follow-up training him). Elder Sch is awesome and he's doing awesome, so I'll go forward with faith.

My new companion will be Elder A, another Brazilian! Wooooo!! It`ll be interesting though because normally there are two zone leaders and they are both companions, but instead the other zone leader (Elder Cha-) won`t be my companion, but we will be sharing an apartment. My new area, Okazaki, has four elders and two sisters. Sounds like a really fine area, people keep telling me great things about it.

I am really going to miss Fukuroi though. This has been a wonderful district, and I have enjoyed serving here for the past four and a half months. I am also gonna miss my awesome companion, Elder Sch! We were only together for six weeks, but we have become the best of friends. He has taught me so much, and he is an amazing missionary. My last week here ended on a wonderful note though. Let me tell you . . . 

First of all, we had a really awesome barbecue here at the church this past Saturday. We had been working with the branch leaders to organize it for the past several weeks, and it was a huge success. We had probably about 50 people show up (more than we ever get at church on Sundays, haha), and most of them were friends, investigators, and other nonmembers. We had a great time mingling with people and playing games and just helping people realize that church members are totally normal people, haha. It was super fun.
at the branch barbecue, where I am normal
but Elder Sch sees the world upside down

Then on Sunday we had another unexpected miracle. A young man on his bike randomly showed up in front of the church right before Sacrament Meeting was starting and asked if he could come in. We had never met him before. His name is D, and he is from Indonesia. Super nice guy, became good friends right away. He had been looking for a church for quite some time and then finally a friend told him that where our church was (I want to meet the friend too!) and then D just showed up on Sunday. He stayed for all the meetings and we had the chance to teach him a lot. He absolutely loved it, and we`ll be meeting with him again soon (well, by "we" I mean Elder Sch and his new companion). I am super bummed that I am not gonna get the chance to teach this guy since I am transferring tomorrow, but I am so happy to see someone else start to take these first steps back home to his Heavenly Father, and I know that Elder Sch and his new companion will do a great job with teaching this guy.

Did I mention how much I am going to miss Fukuroi? So many great people here. And my district. Our district saw so much success this past transfer, and I was just so impressed with everyone`s hard work. I am excited for my new zone though and the challenges and blessings that lay ahead. It`s gonna be a fun ride, but goodbyes are tough.

breaking bread, er, chopsticks in Fukuroi for the last time
I am so grateful for the Gospel, and I testify from my heart that I know that we have a loving Father in Heaven who watches over us every moment, and that Jesus Christ is our beloved Savior and Older Brother.

Thank you everyone so much for just being awesome! I mean it when I say that I really love all of you, both family and friends! You`re all the best!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


farewell Fukuroi

Monday, June 9, 2014

We are building good, solid relationships

Hey everyone,

I`m sorry I`m going to have to keep this email short. Time has disappeared within the past few weeks, haha. Notable events from this past week:
  • We have been finding new investigators! Lots of people are crossing our path who seem very prepared to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Our recent convert, Brother O-san, is doing very well. The branch is helping him gain his footing as he gets used to membership in the Church. He has never known about Christianity at all in his life up until about two months ago when we met him for the first time, so it all is still very new to him.
  • We are building a really good, solid relationship with the family of a woman that we met a couple weeks ago named Ume-san. She helped us out when we knocked on her door a couple weeks ago asking her to help us find an address nearby. In time we were able to testify to her that she can see her deceased husband again someday.
  • My companion is awesome, and I love training him. He is teaching me much more than I am teaching him.
  • This district is doing so well. We have baptisms coming up this month for several people, and I can`t even express how happy I am to see my district performing so well. It is an honor to serve with these wonderful missionaries.
  • Our district went to the beach last week for a district activity. Super fun. I miss the ocean so much.
  • Elder Schmeil and I had an epic battle with a spider-demon as big as my hand that was hiding behind the soap bottle on the sink in the bathroom in our apartment this week. I took a video, but unfortunately I can`t send it over email. You`ll have to wait patiently to see it in a year. I assure you though, it was epic, like fighting Shelob in Lord of the Rings. But now I shudder with the knowledge that even our apartment is not safe anymore.
I am very happy here in Japan. I love serving the Lord here. And I know without a doubt in my soul that this Gospel is true, and more than anything that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all mankind, and He loves us more than ANYTHING.
I love all of you so much! Thank you for everything. You all mean so much to me.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


Monday, June 2, 2014

The work is moving forward

What`s up everyone,

I`m sorry for not being in as much contact the past couple weeks. It`s been hard to write letters and long emails lately because of everything that has been going on. But I can tell you that things are going so great here! The work of salvation is moving forward speedily and beautifully.

It has been over a week since Brother O was baptized and confirmed into this wonderful church, and the pass over to the branch has been going smoothly. He will be receiving the priesthood very soon, and he is becoming an indispensable member here. He wants to try to introduce his daughter to the missionaries now, and he has this fabulous desire to share this beautiful Gospel with all of his friends. He is progressing smoothly. I love this guy.

We have been seeing a lot of success as a district lately. The Hamamatsu Sisters in our district just saw a baptism yesterday, and it went so well. We will be seeing a few more baptisms from other companionships in the district within the coming weeks, and I`m really looking forward to seeing these miracles continue to unfold. The Lord has been blessing us so much.

celebrating with the sisters in the Hamamatsu District
The other day Elder Sch and I were trying to find an address and after much frustration finally decided to ask the neighbors. The first door we knocked on was this kind older woman who came outside and walked around with us to find the address. Then she surprised us by knocking on the doors for us, asking people if they were home, haha. No one answered, so she invited us back to her home to have something to drink. She was so kind! We found out that her husband passed away about a year ago, and she misses him a lot. We began to teach her our message about the eternal nature of families. We left some church materials for her to read and set a time to come back. Another great finding story.

We are getting creative in our finding attempts. Last week we went to an English cooking class at the university. New friends, awesome food!
two district sisters (Shimai) at the cooking class

One characteristic of the hot and humid Japanese summers is that the ginormagantic spiders just HAPPEN.  I was riding my bike the other day and this enormous eight-legged demon about the size of the palm of my hand just jumped on my arm, and I almost crashed because I was so freaked out. And just this morning another demon spawn the size of a silver dollar crawled out of the shower drain and tried to attack my exposed foot while I was taking a shower. I hope I can survive these next few months of utter terror, where no one is safe, even while riding a bike...

new friend T-san

We have been blessed by the Lord here. I am so grateful for the successes and experiences we have been having. I hope all is well back home. Sometimes I wish I had access to the news to see what is going on in  the world, but at the same time I'm grateful to be completely caught up in the business of helping people learn how to return home to live with God and their families in the eternities above...a work that far surpasses the cares of this world. This life is just the blink of eye, a brief glimpse of eternity. None of us....myself included....can at this time fully comprehend the implications that this life has on our eternal existence. But I can testify: if we seek God with our hearts and live His Gospel, the blessings of eternity will be bestowed upon us, and then we can prepare for the eternal worlds to come after we have nobly borne the trials of this life in this world.

Sometimes I feel extremely inadequate. I have an infinite list of weaknesses and personal challenges that I need to overcome. I can boldly testify of the power and miracle of the Atonement, though. The Atonement is not just a wonderful gift that I believe in and hope is far more than that to me. I have actually experienced the Atonement working in my own life. I have had several life-changing moments where I have sought my Father with my guilt and sins and just put it all in his hands, asking Him to take it away and just let me start over and become the man that He wants me to be. 

off to work in Fukuroi
And my merciful, eternal, unchanging, loving Father....has seen fit to give me that chance, over and over. I testify from my heart that forgiveness is real. God loves us SO MUCH. He never wants to punish us. He will never hold back the blessings we are entitled to receive if we just trust Him and do what He asks. He asks so little of us, especially compared to everything that He has given us....literally EVERYTHING. And He wants so badly for us to be able to come back to live with Him. I don`t think he`ll be standing at the Judgment Day with a long list of our faults and sins and everything we ever did wrong that disqualifies us from the Kingdom of God....rather, he will be begging us to come and stay. We won`t feel worthy to stay because of our imperfections and weaknesses....but the infinite Atonement fixes all of that. Our guilt is washed away. We are made clean and pure. And then we can confidently stand before God and Jesus Christ on that day and feel worthy of His embrace, having accepted the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our own lives, and striven to endure and perfect our lives up until the very end. Of this I testify.

I love all of you so much. Thank you for always being so patient with me. I love this Gospel and I love missionary work!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor


district beach day