Sunday, December 28, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hey hey hey,

Merry (late) Christmas!! I hope you are all doing fantastic! Mom, Dad, and Eric, it was so nice to Skype with you this past week. You all looked great and it made for a wonderful day. Thank you so much!

Santa Kuro-osu didn't have a beard, 
so we made one out of his boot trim
Christmas was a great day. We had a Christmas lunch with some church members up in the mountains (no joke.....they live in a treehouse), spent a good part of the day talking to people on the street and sharing Christmas messages with them, and I even got to play Santa for some kids at a party. Probably my favorite part of the day was spending my morning talking to the family on Skype and then the rest of it reading all of the beautiful accounts of the Savior's birth....the greatest story ever the scriptures and then going out to testify to people in trains and on the streets and in their houses about their Savior and what He has done for them. I love the Spirit of Christmas, especially as a missionary.

Mom and Dad, remember the beautiful blue set of scriptures that you got me for Christmas exactly four years ago? I have almost completely filled up those scriptures with markings and notes and highlights and they have become one of my most treasured and favorite possessions. This week I bought myself a Christmas gift and got a new small-size black quad set of the new 2013 edition scriptures to read alongside my treasured set of blue scriptures and start afresh with marking and highlighting the new things I learn in the new set of scriptures. Thank you so much for getting me those scriptures 4 years ago....I am still going to continue to use them for years to come. They are still in great condition, and they will always be known to me as my "mission scriptures."
 I have really come to absolutely love and treasure the scriptures. I have found so much peace as I have read them. Elder Sugimoto and I use the scriptures in every lesson we can with our investigators and we always find so much power in using the Word of God. The words are beautiful and inspiring and captivating. My testimony grows each time I crack them open.

Last night while lying in bed I thought back on the past year and realized that 2014 will be the only full year of my life in which every day was spent as a full-time missionary and servant of the Lord. As I looked back and reflected on the memories of this past year, I realized that this has been the best and by far the most rewarding year of my life. I have loved every minute. It has not always been easy, but it has 100% always been worth it. 
There is nothing greater than losing yourself in the work of God. I love this work so much and I love the people that I have met and worked with. I have seen people's lives change as they come to know their Savior and their Father in Heaven. The happiness in their lives that they now have as a result of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift beyond price and of immeasurable value. I can't believe I was so blessed to have this gift in my own life as well.

I testify that the work of God is moving forward and filling the world with the love of Christ. As missionaries we are mere instruments in bringing about a culmination of a work that has began since before the foundation of the world, a work that is far greater than any of us can possibly imagine and which is infinitely glorious. I don't fully understand the blessings that God has in store for His children, but I do know that they are accessible to anyone, anytime. I love this message.

I love you all so much! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

Christmas Eve party, with shepherd masks. And bicycles!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I cannot contain my love for the Gospel!

Hey peeps,

What a whirl of a week. So we had a special visitor to the mission this week, Elder Michael Ringwood of the Quorum of the Seventy and his wife came to do a mission tour for the past three days. It was such an uplifting and inspiring experience. Elder Ringwood is the current president of the Asia North Area, so he basically is in charge of everything churchy on this side of the globe from Japan and Korea down to the Philippines and other Pacific islands. Elder Sugimoto and I had the opportunity to accompany them along with President and Sister Yamashita as we traveled all over the mission and the Ringwoods and Yamashitas provided some valuable training to all of us missionaries.
The interesting thing to me was how different each meeting was; I had figured that they would generally keep their messages the same because they were meeting with different groups of missionaries, but each day was a different message, and I could tell that each message was specifically tailored to the needs of the missionaries in that meeting. It was a striking example of spiritual inspiration to me.

One of my favorite highlights was Sister Ringwood's message, in which she centered on the Christmas theme and compared us missionaries to the shepherds in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The shepherds were among the most humble and lowly of the time, yet they were among the first to hear the glad tidings of the birth of the Savior of the world.
Then they immediately went about telling everyone they could find about the glorious tidings of peace and goodwill, without hesitation. It made me see the greatest story ever told in a new light and I felt a closeness with the shepherds as Sister Ringwood spoke. I certainly can relate with them; as missionaries, we are among some of the least-experienced people of the world, and yet we have been entrusted with the most glorious message the world has ever known.....the Gospel of Jesus Christ.....and given the opportunity to share it with the nations of the earth. It is a big responsibility for someone so young and uninformed. I honestly feel overwhelmed with the task. And I cannot count the number of times I have had to rely on divine help to fulfill this calling.

This divine help is very real. I have been on my mission for about a year and a half now and I still don`t really know what I`m doing, honestly. But I am comforted to know that I am not alone. God called me here, so why would He leave me to fend for myself? There have been distinct moments during my mission where I have prayed for help and felt words come out of my mouth that I didn`t really think to say. At other times I have just felt a feeling of comfort when I was scared or confused. 
The divine help I have been blessed with has been a result of sincere prayer and effort. I also know that I really can`t do anything without it. It took some time to recognize finally get my head around the notion that it`s not about me. But once I have started to realize that and let go of all things worldly desires and passions, my homesickness, my ego....miracles have happened. And I want to hold onto this for as long as I can.
Once you forget yourself, and lose yourself in the work of God, you can find real happiness. This is honestly so much more enjoyable than worrying about myself, haha. I still have lots of personal vices and problems to let go of.....still too many.....but to look back and see how I have progressed so far is a miracle in and of itself. And I just want to share this miracle of personal growth through the perfect Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world.
We are teaching someone right now who is so close to touching this light....he has even tasted a bit of it through a powerful personal experience through prayer a couple weeks ago....and I think he is starting to see how the Gospel is helping him already. Once he fully realizes what this is doing for him and his eternal potential, I know that he will decide to come and stay. But the decision is completely up to him, and all we can do is give him the means to make the decision himself.

I love the gifts of God, especially the gift of agency, or freedom to choose. God respects and honors this gift so strongly that He cannot and will not ever be able to hinder our personal decisions. That is both the most beautiful and most frustrating part of missionary work, haha. It is wonderful to see someone decide for his or herself to draw close to God; it is heart-breaking to see someone turn away. But when they do turn away, we thank God that they are even given the opportunity to say no.

I cannot contain my love for the Gospel! I am just so full of happiness because of it. Yes we have bad days, and yes life is rough, but the mountains and valleys are what make the landscape more beautiful in the first place. To look back and see how far we have come is priceless.

I love you all so much, and I know that our Eternal Father loves you even more. Thank you for all you do. Always remember the potential for change within you.

Love always,
Elder Naylor

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I suppose I shouldn't have really expected . . .

What`s up everyone,

Hello from Japan-land. The snow is finally falling and it finally decided to get cold this week. It was fun playing soccer this morning.

This past week was transfers, which was a bittersweet experience for us here in the mission office. On the same day that we had to say goodbye to 13 returning missionaries (many of whom where the Sisters who were in the MTC with me and came to Japan with me in the same group), and then dry our tears and make up smiles to welcome 10 brand new missionaries into the field, straight from the MTC. Good stuff. We have some good missionaries in this new batch, they were all super cheerful and happy to be here.

not yet!
Yesterday I had my practical exam for my Japanese drivers license, and to put it nicely.......FAIL!!  It must have been a sad sight to see me out on the driving course trying to get used to everything being on the opposite side of what I`m used to, on top of the fact that it was my first time behind the wheel of a vehicle for over a year and a half, plus my first time ever driving a vehicle in Japan, haha. I suppose I shouldn`t have really expected to pass my first time (hardly anyone ever does). Now I know what to expect for next time. However I won`t be getting my license anytime soon, so it looks like we`ll still be using trains for the next few weeks. Shouldn`t be too bad though.

Last night we had a very powerful and moving lesson with our investigator, Ya. He was actually found in Okazaki (my previous area) about a year and a half ago, and then transferred here to Nagoya. He is a way cool kid and still loves meeting with us. He had a spiritual experience recently where he felt something very powerful after his prayer, so yesterday we spent the whole lesson focusing on helping him understand what he felt and what it means for him. He still is having a hard time understanding. We prayed together again yesterday and he felt that same powerful feeling again. We all felt it. There can be no question that he has been receiving answers from his Heavenly Father, but he still needs more help understanding what it means. We invited him to baptism several times but he is still not ready. He is progressing well though, and I really like him a lot. I am grateful to meet with such wonderful people.

This work is amazing. I am so eternally grateful for the gifts that our Heavenly Father bestows upon us. Every day I have so much reason to be full of gratitude. I love the Christmas season and the focus we place on the Savior. He is the greatest gift ever given to the world, a gift that all mankind can freely partake of. There is so much love in the plan of salvation that our Eternal Father laid out for each and every one of us to progress eternally. I love this message. I love all of you too. Thank you so much for your messages and support.

Peace and love,
Elder Naylor

might be planes, trains, and NOT automobiles for a few weeks . . .