Mom and Dad,
Not going to lie, I took a long time writing my e-mail to Kaicho (President) this week so I'm just going to copy and paste some of the things I wrote to him and send it to you. I think most of it should make sense.
I sure hope the mini-cows are still around when I come back. I'd love to see them! And eat them! Also congrats to Marisa on getting her permit!
Just a bit of explanation beforehand:
This week we planned and did a Zone Training meeting. It went well and was really good.
Kato Choro (Elder) and Aono Choro are the Assistants. They're both Ni Hon Jin (Japanese) and both about as tall as Mom. It's funny, because most every other assistant has been a tall, well built gaijin (White). Also it's funny because Kato Choro is 27 years old. He's a way interesting fellow. He was baptized about 2 years ago, I think. Amazing to think that even though He was baptized just 2 years ago now he's a missionary serving as an Assistant to the President.
Kouta Kyoudai (Brother) is an amazing fellow. His testimony is strong and he is always so cheery. I'm pretty sure he has a nervous system disorder of some sort. He's confined to a wheel-chair and his movements are very jerky. His mental capabilities are impaired, but he is able to think and talk. When he talks, because of the nervous system disorder, it comes out as a kind of a semi-intelligible Japanese/moan. It's not always easy to understand even for a Ni Hon Jin, so talking with him is a lot of guessing, completing his sentences, and checking if you're understanding what he said. I love the brother. He served for a period of time as a missionary in the Japan Kobe Mission.
After the ZTM it was our privilege to have some time to kokan (exchange) with the Assistants. Aono Choro spent just a little time talking with me. I've always respected Aono Choro. I think the first time I met him was on the day before the Aoyagi Taikai (Conference) last May. My trainer and I went to Okayama the day before the taikai, and he was a Zone Leader there with Elder Price. When I met him, I told him, "You are beautiful." He replied, "You are beautiful too." Thus began the beginnings of our beautiful relationship. Anyway, during the kokan the other day he shared with me something profoundly important and valuable. He shared with me what he has realized about how to see success. His testimony at MLC was powerful when he asked, "Do you know how to see success?" and it really set me to thinking again about what success is and what it means to see it. Aono Choro explained to me that he sees there being three parts:
1) To Obedience add Faithfulness. Obediently applying the tools and training we receive, and on top of that really doing so with an attitude of following the Spirit and trusting in His power.
2) Humility/Receiving Counsel. Always being humble enough to receive whatever counsel the Lord may give you from whatever source. Having the humility to recognize our mortality and that we need His guidance and power.
3) Relying on the Lord. Knowing what it means for you personally to rely on the Lord. Understanding how you can personally work effectively with the Spirit, receive revelation, and how you personally go through the process of desire, think, believe, focus, rely.
In all of the paintings of Book of Mormon stories, the characters are all ridiculously beefy and muscley. Aono Choro may not match Lehi's family in physical size and stature, but I think if Aono Choro's spirit and Nephi's arm-wrestled, Nephi's spirit would have a run for it's money. Aono Choro is beautiful, and a spiritual beast.
Having a chance to talk with Kato Choro was wonderful as well. We discussed how ZTM went and some ways it could be improved. More than anything, he said, Elder Hoshino and I need to focus more on how we are doing as Zone Leaders in our day to day responsibilities. Our follow-ups, our interaction with the missionaries in our Zone, etc. As we discussed the state of Fukuchiyama Zone and the missionaries in it, we overall came to the conclusion that as a Zone the quality of our lesons probably isn't that good. We're not powerful teachers. I do get the feeling that's the reason that's a major factor in why finding has been slow around the Zone. As Wong Choro has said, "The Lord needs powerful teachers, not powerful finders." As Kato Choro asked me about everybody in the Zone, I came to realize that there's really nobody who has awful Japanese. Everybody is doing reasonably well. However, as Kato Choro and I were talking the thought came to me that perhaps our Japanese isn't from our hearts. To what extent the missionaries in this zone are able to speak from their heart in Japanese. How much of a lesson is really the words that the missionary wants to say and said from their heart? If they're not speaking from their heart and bearing powerful testimony, then how can we make a spiritual oasis? I get the feeling that improving lesson quality - especially the heart-feltness - is where I should focus with the zone.
As I was thinking about improving lessons this morning, going into language study I decided to read from romaji PMG chapter 10. I feel incredibly blessed that my language study time is still revelatory time. When I read aloud during study, that I'm not only able to work on my intonation and pronunciation, but I understand enough that the Spirit is able to whisper things to my heart. At the beginning of chapter 10 is the scripture D&C 84:85. When the phrase "take ye no thought before hand what ye should say" translates into Japanese the word "omoiwazurau" is used. That word means to be anxious about, to worry over. I then opened up the scriptures in D&C 84 and read from verse 81-85. I remembered that as we follow His way we are Relying on Him. It talks about the yuri - the lillies and not worrying about things. Right here He says that He knows our needs, thus He knows our investigators needs. We need to plan carefully, but we shouldn't worry and be anxious about things. We need to trust him and rely on Him. We need to following the attitudes He has instructed us to have - don't worry about things, relax and go slow, be of good cheer. It was a reminder to me of when I was a very young missionary. At that time I wasn't very loose and Japanese didn't come out very naturally. As such when I would just relax and try to feel the difference it made was huge. Things would come. My testimony took more power, and I was able to speak from my heart.
We have an investigator who is the husband of a member. He comes to church every week. Even so, he has no intention of being baptized. He 80 years old and a crusty old fellow who isn't one to speak his feelings. Lately we've been wondering about how we can get into his heart, and Hoshino Choro had the idea to have a doseki (member) lesson with Kouta Kyoudai because this old man seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Kouta Kyoudai. We weren't entirely sure though, how to arrange for such a lesson - Kouta Kyoudai is in a wheelchair, and our old man lives pretty far away. Yesterday, though, the opportunity presented itself after church. We had a really good "lesson." It was half home-teaching, and half a lesson. Kouta Kyoudai, one of the greatest kikan senkyoushi from the JKM, was insistent that we take some time with him to teach the Terada fufu - because as it turns out they are one of the families in his home teaching stewardship. So, we sat down with them and Hoshino Choro translated from Kouta Kyoudai to our dear old man. It was magnificent how much of a difference there was in the responses to questions given by the old man, when they were coming from Kouta Kyoudai. He actually said a sentence or two rather than just "I don't know, I don't care." While at the end of the day he didn't accept the invitation to be baptized, I think we've found the key to helping invite our old investigator unto Christ.
Hope most of that makes sense. I had a great week, and I'm still happy and healthy. Going to go look for suits again today. If I do find something fitting, I won't pay more than ￥８000 for it.
Crazy to think we're getting a new Kaicho (President). That means that Zinke Kaicho has almost been here 3 years. That means it's almost been a year since my trainer returned. That means that in 2-3 days I'll have hit my 1 year anniversary for existing in Japan. Wow.