This last week was splendid! I am absolutely in love with Toyooka. It's such a beautiful area. The weather here changes pretty quick, but it's been mostly ended up nice this last week. One evening when we were by the Eki (train station) a sign said there was 91 percent humidity and it was 15C. There were a couple of days with heavy rain, and a couple of days were pretty chilly, but other than that it's been really pleasant. Since we're in and surrounded by mountains and the thick forest and vegetation it feels a lot like being in Jurassic Park sometimes. There's so much humidity that there's fogginess and a lot of low clouds around the mountains. It's really pretty, but yesterday we went to go visit a potential investigator who lives up a little canyon. When I was riding my bike up the small road in the mountains with the light of the sun all but gone with the onset of night and the thick forest on both sides of me, the light on my bike muffled by the shrouds moisture in the air, I couldn't help but feel like I was going to get jumped by a pack of raptors or something. It's fun!
Dendo (missionary work) in the inaka (country) definitely involves a lot more knocking on doors. I was almost on the verge of thinking that it's different or more difficult this last week, but the Spirit helped direct my thoughts and I've come to see otherwise. It doesn't matter at all where you are, the basic principles for missionary work are the same. The necessity to rely on the Lord and follow the Spirit are constant. God's promise and invitation to "Ask and ye shall receive" is unaffected by how many rice fields there are. And regardless of your location the Gospel is still true and the magnificent power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ remains infinite, eternal, and necessary to carry out the work of Salvation.
This last Wednesday my companion Elder Kawabata had to go to the hospital. He had to go last transfer to get a check up for some symptoms he was experiencing, and he was instructed to come back after some tests had been performed and things had been examined. I won't go into detail, but he found out he has an illness that will stick with him for the rest of his life. It's pretty rare and there's no known cure, and will require him to take medicine daily. A bit taihen desu ne? But he's a genki guy who's one to see the opportunity in things. As we talked about it that night, he said, "God's given me a great tool that I can use to help other people. I can better help those with physical illnesses and afflictions, because I've got one." His attitude of "No obstacles, only opportunities" is inspiring to me. We've still been getting along great, and working great together.
In the Zone I'm over there are 2 districts and 17 missionaries. It's one of the smaller Zones (probably because it's inaka (country)). It's funny because one of the District Leaders in the Zone was my Zone Leader for my 2nd and 3rd transfers. We visit the districts probably at least once a transfer - to go to their district meetings. But this transfer the way things have worked out we'll get to see the whole Zone probably 3 or 4 times. There are going to be 2 Zone Training Meetings it seems, interviews with Kaicho (mission president) are this transfer, and there's also going to be a District Conference (this District in reference to the smaller version of a Stake) soon.
I was able to meet everyone in the Zone this last Friday because there was a Zone Training Meeting. Once a month the Zone Leaders and the President have a meeting, and shortly there after the Zone Leaders communicate and have a meeting with their Zones about what the President feels the mission needs to focus on to help further the work of the Lord. As I am a new Zone Leader I actually missed the last meeting with the President, but Elder Kawabata filled me in and we planned well and our ZTM was great. That same day in the evening we had a meeting with the District President and because of that we headed back to our area pretty late. The train we were on that night hit a deer. Since when does that ever happen? I guess only in the inaka (country). Anyway, the train sat there in the middle of nowhere for about 20 minutes until things got cleaned up and checked out. By the time we arrived at the eki (train station) in Toyooka, we jumped on our bikes and cooked it back to our home. We got inside the door 2 minutes before curfew! Woo!
On Saturday one of the investigators of the Sister missionaries in this area received baptism. It was the first baptism I've been to as a missionary. It was a beautiful experience. The Branch here in Toyooka is very strong and they have a lot of dendo (missionary work) fire. They are loving, incredibly helpful to us as missionaries, strong in the gospel, and way willing and ready to accept this new sister into their branch family. Yesterday during Sacrament Meeting I got to stand in the circle as she was confirmed. It was incredible to stand there and listen as the Branch President confirmed this good sister a member of the Church, conferred the Gift of The Holy Ghost, and blessed her in Japanese. It was a wonderful feeling to be a part of it in the first place, but it felt way cool that I was able to understand it all. I felt such a sense of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for all of the help He's given me, and all of the progress I've made thus far.
Elder Kyle Hutchings
p.s. Oh, mom, to answer your question, there really aren't that many primary kids in Japan - at least in the areas I've been. The primary was maybe 8-10 in Takatsuki, in Kochi there was 1, and here I think there are like 3. But the few there are are way fun and sweet and they love the missionaries.
This river is pretty close to our house. We cross the bridge over it just about everyday. I took this picture today - the weather is beautiful.
Far over, the Misty Mountains cold...
The view outside the church. It's pretty much surrounded by rice fields.
The Church building. And Elder Kawabata.
A picture from the Baptism on Saturday. The older lady in the middle with the flowers got baptized.
Most of the branch members came to the baptism. There are about 20-30 active members.