So, today is the start of oshougatsu, which just means the New Year. Japan apparently takes this New Year's celebration thing very seriously, or so I'm told. This morning, when Deschamps 長老 and I left the apartment, we saw literally nobody on the streets. It was empty of people, cars, bikes, dogs, cats.... everything! We don't live in the most tokai (urban, or city) part of our area by any means, but it's still Osaka! Like, the heart of Osaka, and this morning it felt like a ghost town. I assume that everybody was up incredibly late partying. Pretty much everyone has work off, so they didn't get up in the morning. Anyway, just kinda a weird feeling.
I didn't have time to write my email last week due to Christmas, skyping my family, and so on, so I'll tell you a little bit about the events of the last two weeks. First, we had a really fun Christmas party for our Eikaiwa class. Deschamps 長老and I made a big pot of curry and rice for everyone, and then bought a bunch of snacks. At the end of our class we brought out the food and just ate and talked with everyone. It was a great experience, and it worked out really well in more ways than one. We also happened to have a Koukan with the Zone Leaders that started that night, so we had four missionaries at the Eikaiwa Christmas party as well as a few members talking to all of our Eikaiwa students. We got a couple of new investigators, and I got to teach alongside one of our members about the Book of Mormon to a new student. We were even able to give her a Book of Mormon!
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were really great! Our amazing, kind, and generous members brought us a TON of Christmas presents on Christmas Eve ! It was so nice, and they even got us new winter coats! We then went to someone's house and had a wonderful dinner with a few other ward members. The Sekime Ward members are the best! Then, Deschamps 長老and I went out to an all you can eat Chinese food place near Umeda Station on Christmas day, and it was so good. Over all, we just had a pretty great Christmas in Japan.
We also had our second (and final) TTTM (Trainer Trainee Training Meeting) as trainees. I got to see all of the missionaries that I came to Kobe with, and that was a blast. I learned so much about how to be a better missionary, and we got to see Smoot Kaichou and Smoot Shimai, which is always a pleasure. Smoot Kaichou's son was also there. He was visiting for Christmas, so we got to hear a little from him. Near the end of TTTM Smoot Kaichou asked his son to bare his testimony and share a few experiences from his mission. He shared a few stories from when he was called as a branch president of a small branch in Africa about 9 months into his mission. It was a really spiritual and uplifting experience
Now, I need to come clean about something. I've kinda been hiding it from you all, and I can't let this lie continue to weigh on my conscience- even a lie of omission. My bike was stolen. Well, more specifically, my bike was stolen my second week in Japan. It got taken shortly after my companion's bike broke, so we both just decided that we would walk everywhere. Everywhere! For a while we were walking 8+ miles a day. It's been pretty crazy. So yeah, my bike was stolen, but now onto the fun part. The day my bike was stolen, my companion and I said a prayer and asked for it to be returned when I needed it. We then went to the police and filed a report for the missing bike. Then over two months passed. We were starting to loose hope that it would ever be found. It is Osaka after all. There are literally millions of bikes here. It's like trying to find a specific, stolen needle in a stack of other random and possibly still stolen needles. But, I testify to you that the Lord is kind, loving, and merciful, and that he answers prayers, because a couple days ago the police showed up at our door with a wonderful late Christmas present: my bike! It was still scared and weighed down by the chains of sin (it had the thief's bike lock on it still), but it had made its way back to me. I couldnt' be happier!
Funny thing about the Japanese police, they don't have all of the same tools that police in America do. When they dropped off my bike, they said, " That lock on the tire isn't yours, right?"', and then we agreed that it wasn't mine. We looked at each other in silence for a few moments, and then he said, "Well you'll probably need to take it to a bike shop to get that off." I was a little confused until I realized that they didn't have bolt cutters. But it's okay, who needs a bike shop when you have God on your side. With the inspiration and help of the Spirit, Deschamps 長老 and I were able to break the bands of sin that weighed down my rear tire, and all is well now.
I'd like to end by sharing a quote from president Eyring from his talk "Walk with Me". It reads : "The Lord’s work is not just to solve problems; it is to build people. So, as you walk with Him in priesthood service, you may find that sometimes what seems like the most efficient solution is not the Lord’s preferred solution because it does not allow people to grow. If you listen, He will teach you His ways. Remember that God’s work and glory is not simply to run an effective organization; it is 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39). This is, after all, why He gives His priesthood authority to flawed mortals like you and me and invites us to participate in His work. Our progress is His work!"
Up until this point on my mission, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that the success in the Gospel is not about your outward results or achievements, but it is about the internal changes that come from applying Christ's teachings. The purpose of the Gospel is to make us better. It is to help us walk the path to becoming like Christ and like our Heavenly Father. Every one of us has that potential, because God created us in His image. We are his children.
Well, that's all for now. Love you all
God bless. All the best.
Ttyl, in a bit!
With best regards
1. My area
2. Power of prayer
3. Alone but not alone
4. After TTTM
5-6 Puzzles I got on Christmas in Umeda