August 26, 2013 week 31 The Number 31

Hello, hello, hello.

Its crazy how fast time flies by during the week. Sometimes I wish I could really slow it all down. This week was wonderful. Lots of adventures, and new friends, and moments that I know I will never forget.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sister Carrasco and I went on exchanges with some of the other sister in our zone. Sister Carrasco stayed in Oizumi, and I went to Takasaki, to work with Sister Ivory. She’s a new missionary who has been in Japan for about 2 weeks now. I should have known that the exchange was going to be an amazing experience when it started with this little japanese girl coming up to us on the train platform, and asking us if we spoke english (in japanese). Her name was Miki-chan. We talked to her a little bit more, and then she ended up getting on the same train as us. In case you all were wondering, its incredibly rare for Japanese people to come up to gaijin (foreigners) and start talking to them. Usually we have to make the first contact. Thats why I was so surprised when she came up to us. But she said that she saw us, and just knew that she had to talk to us. I talked to Miki-chan on the train some more, and told her about how we were in Japan to preach the gospel, and that we were missionaries. We taught her about faith, and believing in things that we can’t always see, like God and Jesus Christ. She was only on the train with us for a while, but I gave her a little pamphlet on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Kumagaya Sisters contact information so that she could go to Eikaiwa. She was such a sweet little girl. I know that there was a reason why she talked to us, and hopefully the Kumagaya Sisters will take good care of her as well.
Sister Ivory and I spent the rest of the day in Takasaki talking to people on the street, and inviting them to Eikaiwa, or trying to teach them a little about the gospel. It was so much fun to work with a young missionary. They still don’t understand everything or anything that people say to them, but they have such amazing faith that they will talk to the people that need to hear from them. Takasaki has a beautiful church building too. With a chapel AND pews. amazing. The Oizumi church building right now is a rented out bottom floor of an apartment building. Its a little small, but the members never complain about it. They’re just happy to have a place to worship.

On Thursday I was back in Oizumi working with my companion once more. On that day we got to teach Celia, our only progressing investigator at the moment. But the lesson was amazing. We taught her about prayer, scripture study, and coming to church. She’s still having a hard time with the last one. Unfortunately. But at the end of the lesson, we asked her some of the baptismal questions, and she told us that she believes that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. And she believes that this church is true. Her only concern is working on Sunday, and her family. We just found out in this last lesson with her that her whole family is Catholic, and not very fond of the idea of her joining another church. At this point we are just doing everything we can to strengthen her faith and get her to take that next big step towards baptism.

On Friday, we got to visit Bruna again 🙂 Her leg is getting better every day, and she’s literally counting down the days until she can get out of the hospital. They took away her wheelchair though, and she can walk with crutches, so she’ll be home in no time. Hopefully once she’s home, we can try to teach Bruna and her family together. Bruna’s mom, Debora, was the first one to actually meet with the missionaries. She watched that LDS movie, “The Other Side of Heaven” and literally 2 days later the Elders came and knocked on her door. She hasnt been continuing the lessons, but Bruna decided that she wanted to listen, and took the lessons by herself. Its amazing what faith she has for a 14 year old girl. (Soon to be 15, her birthday is in 2 weeks!)

The rest of the week was spent the good old fashioned way, knocking on doors. Its hard work, but our investigator pool has been getting smaller and smaller lately, so we know that we need new investigators in the mix soon. We were supposed to have appointments with a few people this week as well, but unfortunately they fell through.

My favorite day of this week by far though, was Sunday 🙂 It was the best Sunday that we’ve had in Oizumi, and the reason behind the title of my email. On Sunday morning, Sister Carrasco and I got out early to go try and visit some recent converts and house a little bit before church. (Missionary work is 24/7 my friends, and we are encouraged especially to proselyte on Sundays, because that’s when families are home). Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet anyone before church, but before we started housing in one apartment building, I felt like we needed to send an email to Nadia Toyoshima. She and her family haven’t been to church since I have been in Oizumi. So, we did. Just said hi, and told her that we missed her, and were wondering if she could come to church today. About an hour before church, when we were getting on our bikes the phone went off. It was Nadia. She said thank you so much for emailing her, and that she knew that she needed to be at church. I really think her daughter Nicole helped. She went to efy (especially for youth) last week, and I think she has been trying to get her family back as well. When Sister Carrasco and I got the email we were literally jumping in the street, and hugging each other. Everytime before that we had invited her to come back, she said she couldn’t. It really was a miracle. But it didnt end there.
We came out of DCS on Sunday, and almost had a heat attack when we walked into the chapel. Usually Oizumi has about 12 people in sacrament meeting. Including 4 missionaries. On Sunday we had 31 people come to church.(the number 31 from my email!!) Thats more than I have ever seen in the Oizumi group. And they were all members, recent converts, and less actives that Sister Carrasco and I have been working with lately. Marisol and her son came, and the Toyoshima family as well 🙂 It was just such a great moment to know that we are helping Oizumi become stronger.
After church, we had dinner at a members house with a bunch of the other ward members. It was wonderful to be able to sit and talk to them, and get to know them better. There is definitely still a bit of a language barrier, but if I have learned anything as a missionary, its that words don’t matter, as long as you have the Spirit.

Mom sent me this scripture from a missionary farewell that I really liked, so I’m going to share it back to you guys 🙂

71 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come.

72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.

73 And there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard; and the natural branches began to grow and thrive exceedingly; and the wild branches began to be plucked off and to be cast away; and they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof.

74 And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal; and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning.

I really love this parable. I feel like it applies to so many things happening in the missionary world today. Obviously the Lord is hastening his work, I’ve seen that just with the crazy influx in Sister missionaries, and all my amazing friends telling me about their decisions to go on a mission. But I think a big part of working in the Lord’s vineyard that people don’t always see as missionary work is working with those recent converts and less actives. Its part of taking care of the vineyard. You can’t just plant a tree, let it grow a little, and then leave it to be. We have to help our converts as well. They’re a big part of the vineyard. And I really saw that this week in Oizumi. Yeah, we’re having a hard time with getting our investigators at church, but this week there was literally almost 10 people that were converts or less actives that we decided to focus on, and we saw how much it helped. They all came to church, and they’re coming closer to Christ, and the vineyard in Oizumi is thriving.

Well, I love you all, and I love hearing from you every week, and I love being a missionary. Its really a gift and a present, something to cherish, to be a missionary. You get to be completely set apart from the world, and serve with everything you have. Its not always easy, but it is always always always worth it.

Amo muito voces 🙂

Sister Hunsaker

August 19, 2013 week 30 Heroes and Heroines

Boa noite, buenas noches, こんばんは!

Thanks everyone for the letters and the love 🙂 things have been going great in Oizumi, a lot better than I thought they would now that Sister Carrasco and I are officially on our own.

This week was full of funny experiences, and great spiritual experiences as well.
Maybe I’ll start with all the funny things that happened this week, and then we will move on to the spiritual things.
So! Moments that made me laugh incredibly hard this week:

1. getting a hair cut in Japan. ATTENTION ALL SISTER MISSIONARIES GOING TO FOREIGN MISSIONS. Avoid getting a haircut at all costs. Cut it in the MTC, where the people are american haha. We went to get a hair trim this week, and I asked the woman to just trim my hair, about 1 inch. I even showed here with my fingers. But, in Japan they like to cut hair with a razor type thing instead of scissors, and the first stroke in the back of my head ended up being a lot shorter than we had anticipated. I knew I’d lost a lot of hair when I saw my companion laughing and could feel the air conditioning on the back of my neck. Granted my hair wasn’t super long before, but I probably lost a good 3 inches of hair that day. The woman insisted that she thought I would look better with short hair anyways. I have returned to a short little bob once more. Needless to say I won’t be getting a hair cut again in Japan if I can help it.

2. Talking with Marisol, and her son Ramshan. (I’ll explain that more a little later. It was spiritual too). But we had a lesson with them this week, and about half way through one of my sentences Ramshan (10 year old boy) got up, walked super close to my face, and says, wait! do you paint your eyes??? He was convinced someone could paint their eyes blue. cute kid.

3. Tracting in the treacherous buildings with Sister Carrasco. Obviously we’ve been needing to do some tracting and housing because our investigator pool is lacking at the moment. (I now have a solid watch tan line, and shoe strap tan line to prove it.) Anyways, we went down to this area where we knew a bunch of Brazilian live and started for this slightly older apartment building. We went to the bottom floor and took the elevator all the way up. The moment we stepped out of the elevator a pigeon flew out of nowhere and right into our faces. I screamed (of course) and Sister Carrasco put up her hands defensively, but ended up punching me. The next floor a semi (I think its a cicada in english) nearly flew up my skirt when we knocked on someones door. Not a huge fan of those things. And on the last floor I think we ran into spider webs at least 3 times. It was literally like the indiana jones ride in real life. But, we met some really awesome Brazilian girls, gave them a Book of Mormon, and have appointments with them next week 🙂 So all is not in vain.

4. Being ambushed by an old eikaiwa student. On thursday night when we had eikaiwa, I was writing some words on the board when all of the sudden I hear, “Excuse me, but where is Sister Hunsaker?” It was one of my Eikaiwa students from Utsunomiya, Yusuke. I think I talked about him a little bit when I was serving there. He’s very very very protestant, but he loves Mormon people, and missionaries. I was incredibly surprised to see him, and thus my reaction time was not nearly fast enough to stop him from running up and giving me a hug. My 6 month streak broken! Gah. We’ll see if I can make it a year from now on.

5. Practicing reading the scriptures with Sister Carrasco. We’ve been trying to be a lot more strict with language lately. No english in the apartment, and we try to only speak in the assigned language of the day until 8 o clock at night. Its a work in progress, but we are getting there. On el dia de espanol, we were reading the Book of Mormon outloud together for language study, and Sister Carrasco started laughing and said, “Sister Hunsaker you speak Spanish now with a Brazilian accent.”. So I have gone from speaking Japanese with a Spanish accent to speaking Spanish with a Portuguese/Brazilian accent. Go figure.

6. Going to the zoo today with the elders. Today was P-day once more, so for fun we decided to go to the zoo with the elders. Such goofs. I attached some pictures, but there are these really cool things where you can go under some of the exhibits, so you are right there with the animals. Anyways, one of the elders walked up to a Japanese man and started talking to him about the gospel, and invited him to church and tried to give him a Book of Mormon. At which point the guy started laughing and told us he was a member. It reminded me of that moment in the best 2 years where the new missionary invited the bishop’s daughter to church. We all got a good laugh out of it afterwards.

This week we taught lessons in portuguese, spanish, and Japanese. Its starting to get easier to switch back and forth, but its a little hard to balance study time amongst the languages. I dont want to have awful Japanese by the time I leave Oizumi, but at the same time, I really need Portuguese and Spanish to be able to communicate with a gente.

This week we met twice with one of our recent converts, Marisol. She’s from Peru, but lives in Japan with her son, Ramshan. She has an amazing desire to follow Christ and make sure she follow all the commandments. We taught her the plan of salvation this week, and then read the Book of Mormon together with her for another. She speaks incredibly fast spanish, but she always makes sure im understanding what she is saying. She has a great testimony of forever families. Her mother passed away right before she met the missionaries, and it played a big role in why she joined the church. She had a dream that her mom was asking her to help her, and then the elders knocked on her door. They taught her the plan of salvation, and about how her mother still had the chance to accept the gospel. How crazy is that? We’re working on getting her to the temple now so that she can be baptized for her mom.

The other convert we met with this week was Bruna-chan. I love her to death. We visited her once this week and taught her about the Liahona, and then told her about patriarchal blessings, and how they can be a Liahona in our lives. I still don’t understand everything that mine instructs me to do, but reading it now, I realize how important it was for me, my testimony, and the people of Japan, that I serve a full-time mission. After we talked to Bruna a little more about it, she decided that as soon as she feels ready, she wants to get her patriarchal blessing. She really wants that guidance in her life.

We also got a visit this week from our dearly beloved friend Paula. (Formerly my last companion Sister Silva). She was in Oizumi for a little while this week, so we went to lunch with her and got to sit down and see how her life was going after her mission. It was so weird to see her in jeans and a t-shirt! She told us it was definitely a little strange to not be a missionary anymore. and she told us that she never realized before how hard it was to be the only member in her family, aside from her Mom. It made me realize how important it is for converts to the church to have their family and friends support them, and be good influences in their life, otherwise its going to be hard to continue to hold onto that iron rod.

This Sunday at church was my favorite Sunday so far on my mission. All the youth just got back from efy, and during sacrament meeting, they all got up to bear their testimonies. Its amazing how much someone can grow just during a week, or a few days at things like efy or girls camp. All the youth came back saying they felt the Spirit so strongly, and that they wanted to be better missionaries. My favorite though was hearing Nicole Toyoshima get up and bear her testimony. Nicole was baptized in May, but she hasn’t been to church since I’ve been to Oizumi. We were all a little worried that she was going to go straight from Recent Convert to Less Active. But when she got up, she told everyone about the Spirit she felt, and how she hadn’t felt it in a long time, and she knew it was because she hasn’t been coming to church. During Sunday School, we somehow got on the topic of the last days before Christ comes. Everyone agreed that when he comes, its going to be a time of fierce temptation and trials, but that those people, particularly the youth are going to be some of the most valiant we have ever had. And that time is now. I see it in the youth in the Oizumi ward, and I see it in all those young women and men that I love from back home. I know all of you just had the chance to go to the temple for baptisms, and I am so glad that you did. There is nothing like the peace that you can feel inside the temple.

I was reading an amazing talk this week from Ezra Taft Benson called “In His Steps” and I loved this quote (sorry its a little long)
“In all ages prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—this is a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been so well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power.

Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?

Great battles can make great heroes and heroines. We will never have a better opportunity to be valiant in a more crucial cause than in the battle we face today and in the immediate future. Some of the greatest battles we will face will be fought within the silent chambers of our own souls. ”

I love what it says about heroes and heroines. Everyone one of us was a hero or heroine in our own way in heaven, otherwise we wouldn’t be here now. And its our actions, and those decisions that we make everyday that determine if we will become those people that we were meant to be. The youth of the church amaze me. Every single one of them is a hero to me. So many people write me emails and tell me about how excited they are to go on missions, and to share their testimony with the world. And of course, our parents are our heroes as well. We all have to have someone to look up to and fashion our lives after, and I know the youth of this church are so amazing because they learned from their parents. Myself included.

I guess the moral of the little quote and my rambling is to challenge everyone to find that hero or heroine inside of them. Its there somewhere, and we just have to follow the Lord to find it. I love all of you so much, and I’m so thankful for the example you set for me, and the joy you bring me every week when I hear your updates. Being a missionary is definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, but its always worth it. When someone prays for the first time, when you find that special person that needs the gospel, and when you see the members doing everything they can to share the gospel. All of those moments make me feel like I’m doing something right. That in someway I’m being a hero. And there is nothing else in the world that can compare to that feeling!

até próxima semana!

te amo!

sister hunsaker

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August 12, 2013 week 29 ” I’ll go where you want me to go

Boa tarde!
I love hearing from everyone on p-day 🙂 there’s always some email that cheers me up/makes my week. Things have been crazy hectic and amazing here in Oizumi this past week. Sister Carrasco and I dropped off Sister Silva at the train station this week, so we are officially on our own! And on top of that, I’m now on TRANSFER 4!!!!!!!! Where does the time go???? Its incredibly scary to think about. I’m a little bit ahead of Sister Carrasco in terms of transfers, so when it comes to Japanese and related things, I have to take care of us. Luckily nothing too crazy has happened yet. Well actually….. okay funny story of the week. So, after we took Sister Silva to the station Sister Carrasco and I came back to the apartment to do weekly planning and set some goals for the transfer. After we’d been on our own for literally 1 hour, the phone started making incredibly weird ringing noises and buzzing. We picked it up to check it, and it was an EARTHQUAKE WARNING. That sucker only goes off if there is like a 7.0 or above earthquake headed your way. And of course the whole message was in Japanese, so pretty much the only thing we could read was, “earthquake, please be careful”. Naturally we started panicking, because we had no clue where the emergency kits were, or where our evacuation center was. So we packed up our stuff, found the emergency kits, and waited for like 10 minutes….. and nothing happened. In the moment we looked like chickens with our heads cut off, but by the end of the ordeal we were dying of laughter. It was a great way to start off the transfer. (And don’t worry Mom and Dad, we now know what to do in case of an emergency.)

Another highlight of this week was Music Night on Tuesday. Its basically where we get out a bunch of instruments and investigators come play or practice. It helps them get to know the missionaries in a less intimidating situation, and its a great opportunity for us to follow up with investigators. Anyways, that night, my favorite little girl ever, Gabi came, and she decided she wanted to play the piano. We got out the primary hymnbook for her, and she played the right hand of I am a child of God. After that, she wanted to learn how to sing it. So I sat down with her and we sang I am a Child of God probably 3 or 4 times all the way through. But her little voice was so cute singing it. We’re working on talking to Gabi’s parents at the moment to get permission to teach her and her older brother. She’s 8, and her brother Kadu is 10. They are half brazilian half japanese. But hearing her sing “lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way, teach me all that I must do, to live with him some day” almost made me cry. Because she is literally one of Heavenly Father’s children, and he wants so badly for her to return to live with him someday. In a way, all of our investigators are like G. They’re like little children. They dont know the way, and they need help to get there. Thats why we have to be the best teachers possible.

On Friday, Sister Carrasco and I about worked ourselves into the ground. We decided that we didn’t have a ton of investigators, so we hit the streets and started tracting. Not my favorite thing to do in the summer, but you always meet interesting people. The weather here is incredibly hot. Gunma-ken (where I live) is the hottest area in the Japan Tokyo Mission. You feel like you’re swimming when you go outside. That and you can feel the sweat rolling down your back when you are outside for more than 10 minutes. Gotta love it. Anyways, we housed for 4 hours straight on Friday. And of course, the last door that we knocked on that day was someone that decided to talk to us. His name is Fabian. He has 2 little kids, and his wife is a nihonjin. we talked to him a little bit about eternal families, and then I felt like we should talk about the Book of Mormon. So I reached into my bag, pulled out a Book of Mormon, and we taught him a little bit about it. Afterwards he took the copy of the Book of Mormon, and agreed to let us come back and teach him and his wife together 🙂 Woohooo. new investigator! It makes the 4 long hours incredibly worth it.
After housing, we road our bikes over to Celia’s shop to teach her a lesson. We taught her about enduring to the end. We were incredibly worried because it would be our first lesson in portuguese without our Brazilian companion. So, we said a prayer outside her store, and then walked in to teach her. Heavenly Father is amazing. Everything that Celia said to us, Sister Carrasco and I understood perfectly, and we were able to answer her questions. Me in portuguese and Sister Carrasco in spanish. Celia’s main problem is coming to church on Sunday because she works all day, everyday. And she knows that if she gets baptized, it would be an even bigger sin to not come to church after that. But, she told us that she knows everything we teach her is true, and that the Book of Mormon is true as well. So now, we’re just praying to know how we can teach her and help her to get to church on Sunday. Thats the only thing that is really holding her back.

On Saturday, we went to go visit Bruna because she is in the hospital recovering from her knee surgery. She could be in there anywhere from 2 weeks to a month! Call me crazy but that seems a tad bit long. But she was really glad to see us 🙂 Being in Oizumi I thought I would worry about losing my Japanese, but all the kids here, including Bruna, prefer to speak Japanese, so we made her promise to keep teaching us. But it was really good to visit with her. We read the Book of Mormon together (incredibly slowly, it was in Japanese) and read about when Nephi was commanded to build a ship. After that, we talked about prayer, and how Heavenly Father answers all of our prayers, even the small ones. Bruna just nodded and smiled and told us how she prayed before her surgery because she was nervous, but before she knew it she was awake, and her leg hasn’t been hurting her that much since then 🙂 She’s the strongest recent convert we have in Oizumi. If all of the people that were baptized here were like her, Oizumi would be a branch by now.

Sunday went really well as well. We were able to talk about our investigators and converse with the members better than ever before. They are all amazing, and always try to help us out with anything. Including teaching us how to make Brazilian food. Sister Funaki said she’s going to teach us how to make everything haha. And the members are also so helpful with us trying to learn portuguese. If we don’t know a word they help us out, and if we say something wrong, they correct us a little bit so that we know how to say it right. And of course, they are ever so encouraging. They all say how much I’ve changed from the first day, when I couldnt speak to them at all. My favorite reaction though was Brother Maeno. He was telling me I was learning fast and then said,” voce vai casar com um brasileiro”. I’ll let you google translate that one Mom and Dad haha. (You will marry a Brazilian!!)

P day has been going swell so far as well. This morning we had a lesson with a recent convert, Marisol, and we taught her and her son a little bit about faith, and how it can help us when life gets a little hard. Afterwards we had lunch with the elders, and since then we’ve been running around trying to get shopping and everything done. We have a little break right now, and then we have a lesson tonight with our investigator Erina. We’re planning on teaching her lesson 3, and if all goes well, inviting her to be baptized. We’ll see how it goes!

I don’t have a scripture for the week, but I do have a verse from a hymn that we sang this week in sacrament meeting:

Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now in the paths of sin
Some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide,
Tho dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet:
I’ll say what you want me to say.

Its so true, that if we let the Savior be our guide, we can do anything. No matter how dark or rugged the way 🙂 things have been getting better and better here in Oizumi, and I know its because I stopped trying to do things my way, and through my hands in the air and decided to trust in the Lord. Its incredibly scary to take that leap of faith, but its so worth it once you do. For all those future missionaries out there, you’ll know soon enough. I had no clue that when I decided to go on a mission I would be called to Japan. And then called to an area where the main language is Portuguese. But the Lord makes everything that much more clear when we but our trust in him 🙂 Amo voces. Until next week!

love,

Sister Hunsaker

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August 5, 2013 week 28 Alma chapter 26

I don’t even know where to begin! This week has been honestly one of my favorite weeks on my mission so far. I guess I can start off with last week, and p day. So last week we once again had the chance to visit the beautiful Tokyo temple. Its funny because if you look up the pictures of it on lds.org it looks like it is separated from everything, when in reality if you are walking down the streets on Tokyo, if you weren’t looking for the temple, you might miss it. It’s like building, building, temple, building. But the angel Moroni still manages to stick out on top 🙂
After the temple we went to this place called Asakusa, which is like a huge outdoor marketplace and has a lot of Japanese architecture around it. That’s where the cool pictures came from. And, I got a nametag in portuguese for Oizumi! Never thought I would have a tag like that on my mission, but it’s fun nonetheless.
After Asakusa we had to catch a super fast train back to Oizumi in order to get back in time for eikaiwa. So we got home in 1 hour, instead of the usual 2 and a half it takes us. After Eikaiwa, we had a lesson with Erina. She still has that desire to be baptized, but we can tell she has a worry about something, and we just need to figure out what it is, so that she can continue to progress.

Wednesday was incredibly busy, but in the best way possible. We were busy having lessons with some really amazing people.
The first person we went to visit was Bruna, and her younger sister Eduarda, who is our investigator. We had her draw a bunch of little sheep on a piece of paper, and then took one away and put it somewhere else in the room. Then we taught her about Jesus Christ, and how he is our shepherd, and he will always go out to find the lost sheep, and make sure they come safely home. Eduarda was also our one investigator that came to church this week 🙂 Hopefully if we can make a good relationship with her mom, she’ll be more willing to let Eduarda come to church and we can get her mom’s permission for her to be baptized. That’s pretty much the only thing thats holding us back right now.
After Eduarda, we went to visit Celia, and taught her about repentance. It was my first time leading a lesson that was in Portuguese, and it was terrifying. But, it was one of the best lessons we have had with her. We taught her about repentance, and how through Jesus Christ and his atonement, we have that power to change, and become better people. It was honestly the most I have ever felt the Spirit in a lesson with Celia, which is a really good thing, because next we want to teach her about baptism, and you definitely need the Spirit to teach about that. (but i’ll talk about that lesson later).
After Celia, we had a second lesson with Erika, the girl we found housing a few weeks ago. We taught her about the plan of salvation. The only problem we really have with Erika is that she wants to understand everything with her head, and we just want her to focus on if it feels right in her heart. She is still working on her belief in a God, but at the end of the lesson, we got her to pray for the first time in her life. It was incredibly simple, but it was what she needed to ask Heavenly Father. The one thing she said that I remember so clearly was, “Heavenly Father, I still dont know if you are really there… but I want to know. Please help me to know.” There is something so powerful when you hear someone pray for the first time. Even when they don’t completely understand it, you can always feel how happy Heavenly Father is to have one of his children reaching out to him once more.
That night, to celebrate the great day we had, we had a takoyaki party for ourselves. Takoyaki is one of my other favorite Japanese foods. It’s basically octopus, vegetables, flour and seasoning. Kind of like okonomiyaki. But its really fun to make. They kind of look like pancake balls at the end. So I put in some pictures of that too because I’m a goof. The head thing I’m wearing has some kanji on it that says something along the lines of, fighting spirit. I thought it was fitting.

On Saturday we had 2 more really amazing lessons. And 2 really cool exciting things happen. Our first lesson was with Celia again, and Sister Silva let me take the lead on the lesson again. We taught her about baptism. Why Christ was baptized, how we are baptized, and then the blessings of being baptized. At the end of the lesson, I pulled out my little picture of me and dad from my baptism day that I always keep on me. I told her about my baptism day, and what I felt, and then I told her about how we prayed for her everyday, and that I knew God loved here, and that he wanted her to return to him. She started to get teary eyed at the end, and so was I. But the Spirit was undeniably testifying to her the importance of baptism. Thats when we invited her to be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority. She said, “Yes, I want to”. There is nothing more amazing than having one of your investigators accept the invitation to be baptized. We set a baptismal date with her for September 15th, and she’s a little nervous about it, but we know as long as we can get her coming to church, everything will work out. That seems to be the one thing that always holds people back. Just coming to church.
After Celia, we went to visit one of our other investigators, Noriko, from Peru. We taught her about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Noriko is our one investigator that we teach in Spanish, and teaching her made me realize that I understand Spanish better than portuguese, but at this point I’m pretty sure I speak better Portuguese when it comes to lessons. But both need a lot of improvement haha. At the end of the lesson, Sister Carrasco invited Noriko to be baptized. She said yes, and we set a baptismal date with her for September 1st. Our one concern with Noriko is that her family is Catholic, and she is worried what they will think if she is baptized into our church. But she testified to us so many times in our lesson about the peace she feels when she reads the Book of Mormon, and the peace she feels when she meets with us. She wasn’t sure if she had received an answer yet, but I told her that that peace that she gets when she reads is part of God’s answer to her that this gospel is true, and that it could really bless her family. As long as we continue to meet with her, I know she can be baptized. She has so much potential to get there.

Sunday was fast Sunday once more, and we had an amazing testimony meeting with the members. About halfway through the meeting Brother Maeno (the leader of the Oizumi group) leaned forward in his chair and gave me the “I want you to bear your testimony look”. So I did. I told the members about when I first met them, and how I didn’t understand anything they said, but when I wrote my letter to President Budge that week, I asked him if I could serve in Oizumi during my mission, because I felt such a strong Spirit from the people there. They all have amazing testimonies of the gospel and such love for each other. And then I got transferred to the wonderful land of Oizumi. During the rest of church, I thought my brain would melt out of my ears. We had 2 Japanese sisters come and visit from another ward, and they asked me to translate for her during Relief Society. The poor woman is lucky if she got half the lesson. I still don’t understand all of Portuguese, especially when it’s something from a church magazine. The words are incredibly hard. That and the grammar is backwards. So you have to wait until the end of the sentence so that you can translate to Japanese. Goodness. It’s something I’ll definitely have to work on. But, hey I guess it will help out my Japanese as well. After church, we had a break the fast/farewell party for Sister Silva. It was great to have all the ward members there, and some of our Eikaiwa students came as well. Oh! And Sister Nakayasu, from my ward in Utsunomiya came too 🙂 It was so great to see her and her kids again. She said things are going great in Utsunomiya, but that she’ll be visiting Oizumi every so often to see me and meet with the members. I think she misses Brazil a little bit. But I took some pictures with her (9), and then with the Toyoshima girls, who came to church as well (10) 🙂 Nicole is on my left, and Fernanda is on my right. I really really want to strengthen their family and get them back to church. They haven’t been coming regulary since I came to Oizumi.

Today was another fantastic p day in Oizumi 🙂 we had a zone pday, so everyone came here and had a good old time. We played soccer, ate Brazilian food, and then had a massive water balloon/water gun fight. That’s why we look soaking wet in all the pictures. I’m still not dry as I’m sitting here writing this email. But it was tons of fun. Not everyone from the zone came, but enough to have a good time with everyone. (11 and 12). My favorite people that came though were Eduarda and Gabi. Gabi is a little girl that comes to our Music Night and Eikaiwa with her older brother. She’s the cutest thing ever. She was fascinated with my hair and kept telling everyone how she wanted it. She’s on my left in the picture with her and Eduarda. (13).

So… the other thing that we had today was of course transfer calls. sadly my current district will be changing a lot. It used to be just me and a bunch of Brazilians, but a lot of people are leaving our district, and we have a lot of new people coming in. But, Sister Carrasco and I are staying in Oizumi, and continuing to work here. I can’t even begin to describe how happy it makes me. Sister Silva was talking to someone the other day about it, and the transfer that I came to Oizumi they were supposed to close the area, because they didnt have anyone that could speak portuguese. So they decided to give it one last chance and stick in the california girl that could understand spanish. and after that, the niigata zone from the sendai mission got added to the Tokyo mission, and we had Sister Carrasco come and help us too. And because of all that divine intervention, Oizumi is staying open for Sister Missionaries 🙂 It just makes me so happy. There are so many amazing people here that need to gospel, and I’m excited to spend another transfer here working hard, and trying to understand whats going on, and spreading the gospel to everyone. Sister Carrasco and I are still pretty young missionaries (I’ll be transfer 4, and she’ll be 3), but I know we are going to see so many miracles here next transfer in Oizumi.

I got a really great email this week about Alma chapter 26. All of you should go read it. Its exactly how I feel about being here in Oizumi.
2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?

3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.

4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.

5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.

6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.

Sometimes when times get rough, its hard to see what exactly the Lord has blessed us with. But look at what Ammon says.. Thousands of people were brought unto God, and Ammon says that when the storms come, their converts will be strong, and work together, and won’t be overcome by the darkness. That’s my goal for working here. To work so hard and see these people come closer to God, and to be strong even when the whirlwinds come, because they do.

I’m so grateful each and everyday to be a missionary. especially here in Oizumi. Its something completely new, and incredibly hard everyday, but its also the most blessed I’ve felt in my whole life. I love you all!

te amo!

sister hunsaker

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