So first. A bit of an introduction to Christmas in Japan.
Christ in Japanese is spelled キリスト (kirisuto) but Christmas is spelled クリスマス (kurisumasu)--they don't even use the same character or spelling! That just goes to show how disconnected it is from Christ. But it's cool cause we just get to blow people's minds when we tell them that the reason they eat Christmas cake and KFC (the common way to celebrate among Japanese people) is to celebrate Jesus's birthday. Their minds are also blown when we tell them that Jesus was the first Christmas present, and that's why we exchange presents! So yes, these people are far from nativities and other Christian traditions.. but they're on their way:)
The past month or so has definitely been one of the most fun ones of my mission for lots of reasons:
1. I got to wear a Santa hat every day for like 2 weeks straight
2. It's not super weird to talk about Jesus because it's like "HEY DO YOU KNOW CHRISTMAS IS JESUS'S BIRTHDAY" (not quite like that, but you know)
3. Christmas caroling, wreath making, secret Santa, Christmas parties, etc
4. Still jamming out to Clay Aiken #ohmaryyydidyouknow
I would love to share all of the cool things I've gotten to see and feel during this Christmas season, but I also have a lot of pictures I'd like to send and I feel like both are just too much! So here are some miracles I've been able to see during the past few weeks:)
- one of the less active ladies we have been meeting with who I LOVE so much has been coming to church every week with her kids. She is so humble, and so willing to make changes in her life. She received a calling to be part of the relief society presidency this past week, which means she is officially an active member:) it's hard to believe she was gone- it feels like she never left! she is such a great example to me that no matter how far you think you are and no matter how long it has been, it's never too late to come back and feel Gods love. She told us how much more hope she feels now that she has been praying and reading the scriptures, and how being at church feels right. I know that she's not the only one who can feel that way:) if any of you ever feel like you're getting a bit far from who you want to be or the happiness you want to feel, I promise that Jesus Christ and his Gospel are the way back.
- we spend a lot of time on trains, and so talking to people on trains has become one of my favorite hobbies. Some people talk a lot, some people talk hardly at all and it's like pulling teeth getting them to open up out of their Japanese shell.. Which is fair, I don't know if I'd be in the mood to talk to some stranger on the train. Man, missionaries are kind of weird sometimes haha. but anyways! We started talking to this high school girl Rena, and she wasn't really in the mood. It was kind of awkward and I was like "dang she's just a moody high school girl who doesn't want to talk to us" . But we pushed through the awkwardness and somehow started talking about Jesus Christ. She wasn't super happy before, but when we started telling her about what kind of a person he is, she just sat up a little taller, smiled a little bit more, and a little bit of light came into her eyes. We showed her last year's Easter video, and afterwards she told us "wow, I wish I knew that kind of person." She has some hard stuff going on in her life and isn't the most happy, but we got to tell her how because of Jesus Christ, we can smile even when life is hard. Her stop eventually came up and we hadn't exchanged information yet to be able to contact her again- so as we were scrambling for something with our number written on it, she said "it's okay, I'll take the next train back. Let's exchange emails!" GUYS- she missed her train stop for us! In a place where trains come once an hour, that's a big deal! Miracle.
-a few weeks ago when we were in Kobe, we met this guy from Ghana named Emanuel. We talked to him and his friend for a while, got to share a Christmas message, and that was the end. Then this past week, on the way home from Christmas conference in Kobe, we met him on the train AGAIN! He was talking about how he was kind of sad because all of his family is in another place and Christmas isn't the same here, and we were able to sing some Christmas songs with him and celebrate just a tiny bit as friends far from home.
Then there's the countless sacrifices made by members to make sure other people had an enjoyable, christ-centered Christmas:) our branch Christmas party, Christmas eikaiwa, and Sasayama Christmas party were packed! And lots of people got to learn the true meaning of Christmas. :)
In short- this Christmas was the most memorable so far! I'm glad I got to be here in a place I love with people who really need Christmas . I hope all of you had the best season:)
Lots of pictures to follow: よろしく!
1.wreaths we made with the YM
2. Cute high school band that performed at our Christmas party
3. Santa sushi?!
4. Brazilian Santa!
5-9. Sasayama Christmas party! We took nativity pictures!
10. Hohoho District Meeting
11. Kids Eikaiwa
12. Blue Skies & Santa Hats