Mom and Dad,
This last week came and went in a flash. It's been a full week. I feel like I'm losing my mind sometimes because of how quickly everything is moving.
I got the envelope! Thank you so much! I love the hat! It will be perfect to put in my bike basket and wear when I get to places. I anxiously await the next package! Please express my thanks to Grandma and Sister Shepherd for the money, it means so much to me to have their support. I send my love - and somebody hug them for me (I can't hug them because I'm in Japan and also I can't hug females anyway, so onegaishimasu!) It's been chilly and humid as usual here - I'm glad to hear things are frigid in good old Utah. We haven't gotten any snow yet, but the way things are looking and feeling, it's an "any day now" kind of situation.
This last week we had an incredible experience. For privacy purposes, I'm only going to refer to people by initials. On Thursday we we received a phone call around 3:00 in the afternoon. It was from a man who addressed himself as T. Kyodai (brother) who said he needed help. He asked us if we could meet at the church at 6:00, and so we agreed. Because of the kyodai thing, we figured he might be a less active and decided that it would probably be best to have a doseki there, so we called the incredible M. Kaicho and he graciously agreed to help us out. We ended up going to the church at about 4:30 for some reason or another, and when we got there we received another phone call from T. Kyodai. He asked us if we could meet right away instead of at 6:00, and we said, "Uh...sure. That shouldn't be a problem. Let us call our friend and make sure that's all right and we'll call you back." After asking the M. Kaicho (branch president) if he could come right away (to which he responded yes, and in super-heroic fashion arrived at the church only a few minutes later) we reconfirmed things with T. Kyodai.
While we were waiting at the church, we filled in M. Kaicho on everything we knew to that point. He went in and checked the membership records and we found nobody with the name T.. Shortly thereafter, T. Kyodai showed up to the church. We sat down with him and simply started talking. We started by expressing our love to him, and expressing how much we wanted to help him. We pointed out just how awesome we thought it was that he had sought help, and started asking him some simple questions and he opened up and told us just about everything. He's 54 years old right now and his life has been pretty stressful lately. He's concerned about his job, his and his sister's health, and how his breath smells (legitimately, he was concerned). In trying to find help he had sought out a lot of other churches and religions, but hadn't felt like it was helping him like he needed. Somewhere along his searching, he remembered that he'd received help from Mormons in the past. He also remembered that he had been baptized by Mormon missionaries about 30 years ago. Because he remembered those things about Mormons, he decided to try and get a hold of them. Somehow he got a hold of a missionary in Kobe, and they gave him our cell phone number. He then called us (the call we received at 3:00). Between calling us the first and the second time, he told us he had called a Protestant Bokushi. But when he was talking to the preacher, something just felt wrong, and there was something different about us, and that's why he called again and wanted to meet right away.
After a little more discussion, we came to find out that after being baptized 30 years ago he moved around a lot, had plenty of hard times, and thought a lot about God and who God is. He really just wanted to do what is right and grow closer to God. He had been praying for all of those years, but he never had felt he was doing it right. What he really wanted was for us to teach him how to pray. Thinking through things, though, before we went guns blazing into how to pray, and thinking things through, we asked him more about God and his personal image of Him. We explained how important it is to know who you're praying to, and then simply explained who God is, and what that means to us. It was moving to see just how excited and right it seemed to him - to see his face and his eyes light up as he heard that God is His Heavenly Father. After that, we taught him how to pray, and demonstrated to him how to pray. He really clued in to the fact that you can use your own words, and that you're really just talking to God.
I could write more about that lesson and what went on, but I know you're busy and have a lot of letters to read. I'll cut to the chase and write my take aways. I feel like that was one of the best lessons I feel that I've ever had the privilege of participating in. The Spirit was so strong, and I feel like I learned so much about everything from that lesson. As Hoshino Choro and I looked back at it, we realized that what made it so good was that we truly applied and followed the all of the training that we have been receiving from Zinke Kaicho. We really followed what we've been learning - and what we receive from our Mission President is truly revelation and direction from God. That's why that lesson went so well. We really took time to listen and sympathize (something that M. Kaicho is incredible at, which is why I love him as a human being and as a doseki), and then read the air and allowed the Spirit to guide us as we asked him more questions and taught him Eternal truths. We shared our feelings and experiences, and truly opened our hearts. At the end of the lesson T. Kyodai said that what he felt and the help he received was 10 or 20 times that of what he was expecting from talking with church people. He also said he never felt like he could talk so openly about his feelings.
As a side note with T. Kyodai, there is still no proof that he was baptized or confirmed a member of the church. He remembered in detail where it happened and the names of the Elders back then, and we can't see any reason he would have to lie. I asked the Recorder to do some digging, and we're awaiting any developments. It's our thought, though, that if there is no record or proof that the ordinances were performed, that he be counted as an investigator. We're waiting for the confirmation on that before we count him, but we're still going to meet with him and help him from here on out.
This last week we had a ZTM and it went quite well. We went to MLC on Tuesday, and then had Zone Training Meeting on Friday. It was a good chance to reinforce what was learned at Zone Conferences which we had recently and to do some good training on how we can all improve to move the Lord's work forward. Something we really emphasized was True Discipleship. Our mission has a theme of "True Disciples - One and All" and we are dedicated to becoming no less than followers of Jesus Christ in our heart of hearts. At MLC we came to realize that True Discipleship hasn't been emphasized enough, so it was something we focused on in ZTM. It was my responsibility to do the teaching on it, and I'll be honest, it was a bit of just me getting on a soap box and preaching, but I put my heart and kidneys into that "sermon". I really focused on our intentions and if we're really serving because we love Him and I referenced Jeffery R. Holland's talk "The First and Great Commandment." I shared my experiences and I feel like it was all impactful, but I guess the true measure of all of it will be to see how much it shows up in the results. As a companionship, we intend to follow up heavily on what was discussed at ZTM and to really keep everyone focused on becoming True Disciples.
This last week came and went in a flash. This is truly the Lord's work. I'm grateful for all I am privileged to learn and do in His service. All of the amazing people I meet, the True Disciples who help me and serve alongside me make impressions on me that will affect my life and others in ways that they don't know. I am so tired. But I am filled with a joy and a fire that swallows up any fatigue, hardship, or sorrow.
There's a lot more I wish I could tell you about this last week, but I fear that my time is running short for today. I'll send some pictures if I can today or next week, and try and get in some of the other things I've learned.
PS. Most of the story about T. Kyodai was copied from my letter to Zinke Kaicho - so if there's anything you don't understand or if I wrote something like "Kaicho, ..." then I'm sorry.