This week has been fantastic, and I hope that I can remember all of the good stories I wanted to tell you. It's been incredibly busy, so I didn't have time to write out my thoughts through the the week, but I guess it doesn't matter because you won't know if I forgot to tell you something good, でしょう？
First a few of the funny things that happened throughout the week. Deschamps 長老 and I were talking about Japanese words, and he suddenly asks me "do you know what the Japanese word for panda is?". I respond "is it Panda?" because panda fits the syllabary of Japanese and could totally be a native Japanese word. He quickly says no and tells me to look it up. The Japanese word for for panda is 熊猫 (kumaneko) which literally means bear cat. When I looked this up in the dictionary I gasped and immediately yelled out "A panda is a freaking bear cat!?" It took me long enough to look up the word that Deschamps 長老 was able to grab a drink of water and begin to drink it. Apparently he found my outburst so funny that he promptly began to choke on his water. He was coughing, and sputtering, and occasionally I could hear a half formed laugh as he ran to the bathroom and quickly shut the door. I'm pretty sure I made my companion laugh so hard he threw up.
Most people in Japan walk around trying to ignore everyone around them. But, as missionaries, our goal is to do the exact opposite of that, so we say hello to everyone. When we say hello, people actually look at us and realize that we're
外人 (foreigners), and sometimes it takes them a few seconds to process when they look at me. I can see them go through various stages of shock when they actually look at me. I'll break it down into a few easy steps for you.
1. Confusion: "I think I just heard something."
2. Sheer terror: "He's going to eat me"
3. Confusion again: "Why is he smiling at me?"
4. Uneasiness: "I don't speak or understand English. How am I going to understand what he wants from me?
5. Recognition: "He's speaking Japanese to me right now. I think he said hello" (They think. But in Japanese)
And then they respond to my hello one of there own and all is right in the world, but for a few brief moments I get the special opportunity to see what true terror looks like.
Now, it's time for the fun Japanese fact/facts of the day. In Japanese they have a thing called counters. A counter is a word that follows a number and classifies the type of object to which the number is referring. They have a counter for cylindrical objects, flat objects, round objects, people, small animals, medium-sized animals, large animals, birds, fish, and a whole host of other counters. One other thing about Japanese is that there are A LOT of homonyms in the language. The crazy thing about Japanese Homonyms is that they can be pronounced and written in exactly the same way, but then written completely differently. This doesn't really make sense in any language other than Japanese, but I guess that's what you get when you have three different writing systems. Let me give you an example that will tie all these fun facts together. There is a sentence in Japanese, that my companion used the other day, that means "there are two birds in the yard." It is written 庭には二羽はいます is spelled にわにはにわはいます and is pronounced niwa niwa niwa wa imasu. Yep, Japanese is pretty awesome.
So, the other day my companion and I were studying in PMG about the Plan of Salvation, when we got the the section about the kingdoms of glory. There was a line in there that reads "Because God rewards everyone according to deeds done in the body, there are different kingdoms of glory to which we may be assigned after the Judgment" and the word assigned really popped out at me. I started laughing in the middle of our study, and Deschamps 長老 asked me to explain. So I described this image that popped into my head. The image was of everyone lined up at judgment day turning in their earthly test papers. Some people look really confident with their papers nice, neat, and organized while others have their papers crumpled up and torn. Once they come to God he takes a big stamp and slams it down on the test, giving them one of three grades, those grades being CEL, TUR, or TEL. The only way that anybody was receiving the highest grade from God is if they had Jesus as their Tutor. He gave them lessons, examples, and assignments to help them understand and pass the test. When they wrote down an incorrect answer he uses the Celestial whiteout of the Atonement to give you a another chance. It's a very goofy analogy, that's why I started laughing, but I thought it was still pretty accurate. We are all in this probationary state. A test, so to speak, and we all are going to need to turn it in and be graded at the end. Even if we try our very best, we won't be able to get the highest grade possible on our own, because we can't teach ourselves all of the information in order to pass. However, we don't have to teach ourselves! Jesus is offering free tutoring, we just have to come to Him!
Now, onto the really important stuff! On Wednesday we were out streeting and we decided to take a walk through the park. Tsurumi-ryukuchi park is right across the street from our apartment, and it's huge! you could walk around it an hour or two and still not see everything within the park. People go camping in it frequently. Anyway, we're walking along and we hear a man playing the guitar and singing. We look at each other and think "huh...this guy probably won't run away when we talk to him." and seek him out. We find the bench that he's playing on and stand in front of him waiting for the song to be finished. Then we start to listen to the lyrics and realize that this Japanese dude is singing about Jesus! In Japanese! In Japan! Nobody just sings about Jesus in the park in Japan. Nobody even knows about Jesus in Japan! We were super excited, so after the song ends we walked up and talked to him. We started by asking him what he believes, but before he even finishes his sentence he finally notices our name tags and literally jumps for joy. He said he was surprised because nobody in Japan is Christian, and just got really excited when he saw Jesus's name on our tags. So we told him that we're missionaries and teach about Jesus literally all the time. We got his phone number and invited him to church. Then, Sunday rolls around, and he actually came!!!! We had a lesson with him after Sacrament during second hour and explained the Restoration. We ended with our testimonies of the Book of Mormon and committed him to read and pray about it. We also set up another appointment for this Wednesday. I have a really good feeling about this man. The Lord really is preparing people everywhere for the Gospel!
I love it out here! I know this is where I'm supposed to be. I know that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have read it through multiple times just since coming out on my mission, and I know that through the reading of it all of God's children can get closer to Him. I love you all! See you next week.
God bless. All the best.
Ttyl, in a bit!
With best regards