January 26, 2014 Week 53 “New Places And New Faces”

Konnichiwa minna!

My first p-day in a Japanese area in almost 7 months. So weird. I have a ton to tell you, so I’ll try to remember everything. The first half of the email is going to be while I was still in Oizumi, and the other half in Tsukuba.

My last 2 days in Oizumi we saw so many miracles. It made it that much harder to leave, but Oizumi will always be in my heart. They became my family. I’ll always be praying for them.
On Tuesday morning we finally got to have a lesson with Debora. Go figure, right before I leave. But it was really good. We talked about families, and then we talked a little bit about her daughters, and the conversion that they went through. We asked Debora if she thought that her daughters had changed since they joined the church, and she stopped and thought for a second, and then said she knew that they had. They were stronger as a family, and both of them seemed to have more direction in the things that they wanted to do. At the end of the lesson we invited Debora to come to church with her daughters, and she said that she had always thought about it before, but had never taken the time to actually go. She was almost just waiting for us to invite her to come and see.

Wednesday was the hardest day of my mission without a doubt. There was so many people that we ran around visiting, so many people that I had to say goodbye too.
We saw Nadia and Nubia first. I’ll miss both of them so much, but I know that the sisters in Oizumi will take care of them.
The hardest was visiting the Mercado and Noguti families. We visited the Mercado family first and had a lesson with them, and then stayed for dinner afterwards. CK purposefully ate her dinner as slow as possible, just so that I would stay longer. When we finally left she gave me a hug and said not to worry, “またいつか” Which basically means that we will meet again someday. I sure hope so. We left the Mercado family and went to the Noguti family house. We had Bruna and Duda talk about why they were baptized, and did a mini akashikai (testimony meeting). I was already practically in tears before the closing prayer. We said a prayer, and then Bruna ran back to get a little present for me. A letter that she wrote and a keychain she made. Saying goodbye to Bruna and Duda was harder than I ever imagined. I’m surprised I didn’t fall off my bike on the way home.

All in all, I know Oizumi will always be such a big part of my mission, and not just because I spent half of it there. The people there, the members and my investigators, they became my family. They will always have a special place in my heart. I feel like leaving there I really understood what Ammon felt when he was talking to the king and he said that he desired to labor among the people all the days of his life, even until the day he died. Being a missionary you have the chance to forge such a special bond with the people you teach and help to grow in the gospel. Its something that can’t be broken by distance. Whether I’m in Tsukuba, or back in California, I’ll never forget them, and how much they helped me on my mission. I just hope that I helped them as much as they helped me to grow.

On Thursday morning we woke up early and got on a train to go to Omiya, where we changed companions and I had to say goodbye to Sister Carrasco. That one was hard too. We were companions for 5 transfers! I feel like that’s practically unheard of as a sister. I love her like my sister. The only reason Im okay with leaving Oizumi is because I know she will take care of it.

And then we rode lots of trains until I finally arrived in Tsukuba with my new companion Sister Sickles. She’s a great missionary, and she has a lot of desire to be a missionary. And she isn’t afraid to stop people and talk to them. We’re going to see so many miracles this transfers.

Tsukuba is waaaaay different than Oizumi. It kind of reminds me of Utsunomiya a bit. Right around the Tsukuba eki (train station) there is a lot going on, and the farther away you get the more rice fields and little japanese garden trucks you see. We don’t have any investigators, so we’ve been out on the street everyday stopping people and trying to share the message of the gospel, of eternal families, and of our Savior’s love with them.

We’ve met some way awesome people so far, and have exchanged phone numbers, but no appointments quite yet. So this week will be a lot more knocking doors and stopping people. I’ll be a professional finder in no time 🙂

And guess what… there’s another language that I started learning here in Tsukuba! Kidding 🙂 Well, kind of. A lot of our ward members are deaf, so them, plus some of the other members speak/sign Shuwa, or Japanese sign language! Sister Sickles and I went to a class that some members did on Saturday and so far I can introduce myself and say my name. Plus God and Jesus Christ. And colors. haha. It’s a start. Shuwa is actually way easier than spoken Japanese because you don’t have to worry about grammar nearly as much, what is really makes Japanese so darn hard. I don’t think I’ll ever learn enough Shuwa to every be fluent in it, but it has been lots of fun so far.

Sunday was… up and down. Literally. We had to ride our bikes from Tsukuba to Tsuchiura to a members home so that we could get a ride for stake conference. It’s like an hour bike ride. And its basically all hills. I have never been so tired on my mission. Not as bad as a marathon or anything but I was definitely praying the whole way home. Which took about an hour and a half because the wind was blowing directly against us the whole way. Probably the most challenging thing so far on my mission. No joke. But, we made it to stake conference, so all is well. Stake conference went really well, there was one talk that I really enjoyed, but I’ll tell you more about it later.
When we got back home from stake conference we hit the streets to go find some people. We went to the Tsukuba eki to do some streeting and pass out some Eikaiwa fliers. While we were there you will never guess what we saw. A whole team of SUMO WRESTLERS. I’m super bummed I didn’t try and take a picture. They were HUGE!!!!!!!! Like giants! I always pictured them as way chubby japanese men, but not so my friends. They are incredibly tall and thick. Most of it muscle. I can’t even quite describe it. Rather frightening at first actually.

To end on a spiritual note….
At stake conference, a woman related a story about a stray cat that she always saw whenever she went grocery shopping. He was always there, just watching her. A few times she tried to help him, but he always ran away. One day it was raining, and she saw the cat again in the parking lot, looking as sad as ever. She went over to it and said things like, Nyan-chan (What she named the cat), aren’t you cold? Don’t you want some food? It’s warm at home. Why don’t you just come with me? Im here to help.” She tried again to help, and the cat started to back away, but she tried again, “Nyan-chan, isn’t it cold? Aren’t you hungry? Wouldn’t you rather come home?” The second time the cat came to her, and she took it home and took care of it, and she still lives with the cat to this day. But she related this story to our Heavenly Father, and us. Sometimes we get lost, and we sit and wait for our Heavenly Father to help us, but when he sends someone our way, we run away, we get frightened to take that step that we need to in order to come home. And then the day comes when it is raining, and it can’t get any worse. And our Heavenly Father is there. “My child, isnt it cold? Arent you hungry? Wouldn’t you rather come home?” Our Heavenly Father is always there for us, we just have to be willing to take that step, no matter how scary it might seem sometimes. We can just keep sitting there and waiting until that day when the rain comes, and it seems like we are abandoned. We have to have courage to take that step, come unto our Father in Heaven, and he will help us and heal our wounds. I think that is one thing my mission has really helped me to understand. How to rely on my Heavenly Father. Because I know I cannot do anything without his help. I love being a missionary. It’s the greatest experience anyone could ever have. We get to help those people that are out in the rain to make that step to return to their Father in Heaven. I love you all. I miss you too, but I know this is where I am supposed to be 🙂 Until next week… I love you more than all the rice in Japan!

Love,
Sister Hunsaker

 

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January 20, 2014 Week 52 “tchau tchau Oizumi”

boa tarde!

today was… great, really sad, really exciting, everything all at once.

I’ll start from the end, today. We had zone p-day in Kiryu once more, we basically just all got together and played volleyball and soccer, and everyone waited to get their transfer calls. We were sitting in sacrament meeting on Sunday, and about half-way through the meeting this wave of sadness hit me. I started crying during the sacrament hymn, and I think I kind of knew that it would be the last time I saw some of the members for a long time. So it didn’t surprise me as much as I thought it would when calls came this morning. But it still was just as hard as I thought it would be. Once you really love an area and don’t want to leave is when they transfer you. One of the assistants called us and said something along the lines of “So Sister Hunsaker, we want to thank you for all the hard work you’ve done in Oizumi, and we know that you have been there for a while, so we are going to be moving you to a different area.” I barely managed to squeak out an okay, and when I did my voice cracked on the phone. But, there’s nothing I can do now. The people that I was supposed to help here in Oizumi will always be a part of my life, and Oizumi will always have a special place in my heart. I spent half of my mission here, and its something I’ll never forget. I’m going to Tsukuba now, and I’ve been called as a Sister Training Leader. Its a lot of responsibility, but I’m looking forward to what it will bring.

This last week in Oizumi really was amazing, it makes me sad to be leaving, because we really have so many potential investigators now, and those that are really starting to progress. But maybe I was supposed to build up Oizumi a little more for the next sister that will be coming here with my old companion.

We met with one of our Brazilian investigators Diane, and she let us into her home and we really got to sit down and talk to her. It started out as an English lesson, but then switched over to our families, and then we got to talk about the gospel when I asked her what her biggest desire for her daughter is, and she said to raise her with the gospel in her life. Slowly but surely, I can really see Diane changing. She still doesn’t have that desire to be baptized and follow all the gospel principles that we’ve talked about, but she is becoming more open to listening to what we have to say, and she can feel the difference when we are at her house.

On Thursday and Friday we had exchanges with Sister Taketomi and Sister Brown. It was way fun to be with them. They have an awesome love of the gospel, and a desire to share it. And, we saw way cool miracles on exchanges as well. When I was with Sister Brown we found an apartment building that had a ton of Brazilians in it. And go figure, most of them were men. Don’t worry, the elders have lots of people to visit now. But one of the doors that we did knock on was a woman named Luciana Dias. She is from Sao Paolo and is living here in Japan with her family. We talked a little bit and she seemed really interested in listening, but was just getting ready to leave the house with her husband. We exchanged phone numbers and I gave her a chirashi before leaving. She looked at it and read some of the questions on the inside and said, “Its true, I really want to know why we have so many Christian churches nowadays”. I won’t be here to teach her specifically, but she told me that her daughter would really have interest in talking with us as well, and now that I think about it, her daughter is going to Tsukuba University, which I’m pretty sure is way close to the church in my new area. I’m sure there was some divine intervention there. When I was with Sister Taketomi we saw another cool miracle as well. After Eikaiwa we went to visit Daniela, a way old former investigator whose husband is a member. We’ve tried visiting her a billion times before, but today she was finally home! She was getting ready to leave, so we set up an appointment with her for next week, and quickly shared Mosiah 2:14 and talked about building our lives on a spiritual base, and then setting that same base for our families and children. Daniela is way awesome, and I know she can make those changes that she needs to in order to have the best thing possible, an eternal family.

On Friday we went to go visit the Mercado family. CK and B-boy were both home, and CK also had a friend over, a little girl named Ainjell. We’ve actually met with her before as well. We decided to talk to them about family history, and we also talked about how the Book of Mormon was a record for the descendents of the Lamanites, to teach them about what their ancestors believed, and to help them have that knowledge of the gospel as well. We also talked about how things like journals can really give us something to share with our families someday, and teach them about what we believed. So, to make things fun for all of them, we decided to make a time capsule 🙂 Something to give them a little bit of history, and see how things change in just one year. They get to open it in January 2015. We put in things like pictures that we had with them, or ones from when they were baptized, and also wrote notes to ourselves, and made lists of things that we like. Just to see how everything changes so oddly in so little time. I love that little family so much. I know they were one of those people that I was supposed to meet here.

On Saturday we were supposed to have a lesson with one of our investigators, Maria, but she called us about 2 hours before and said that she was having these weird headaches and that she wouldn’t be able to make it. We asked if she was still feeling ill, and talked a little bit about blessings of health and asked if she would be interested in receiving one. And she accepted! We went with the elders and she received a blessing, and then we stayed to talk with her a little bit. She said that during the blessing she felt peace, and like something was being lifted from her shoulders. And as we were talking with her after we could really see that she was feeling better. We shared the scripture Jacob 2:8 with her, and talked about how things like the blessing she received really could heal her physically, but that even more important, the word of God really can heal the wounded soul. Maria has that desire to learn, and I know she really can progress as long as she takes the time to keep those commitments and strive to follow the gospel of Christ.

Sunday was great. The theme for the day was families, and one of the families in the ward spoke. Both the daughters, and then the parents. Their dad was just baptized a little over a year ago, and he’s already a way strong member. He was one of those people that is like an eternal investigator, he was taking the lessons for something crazy like 5 years. But now, their family is getting ready to go to the temple. Probably when they go back to Brasil so that the session can be in Portuguese. But that’s really what missionary work is all about. Not just baptism, but getting people to that last point. Enduring to the end and receiving the gift of eternal life.

I’ve loved every second that I have spent here in Oizumi. It’s something that I’ll never forget. I love all of the people here, and I want so much to be able to visit them again someday and still see them strong in the gospel, and doing the things that they need to in order to return to their Father in Heaven. Well, I’ve got a lot of packing to do, so I will talk to you next week and let you know how everything is going!

Love you more than all the rice in Japan 🙂
Sister Hunsaker

p.s. I almost forgot! Its snowed on Sunday here. ew. Those little flakes get in your eyes way easy when you are in a bike

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January 14, 2014 Week 51 “My Shepard”

Konbanwa!

How is everyone? Hopefully living because only mom emailed me from the fam this week. Little hunsaker children. You know who you are 😛

This week in Oizumi definitely had its ups and downs.

On Wednesday we met with two of our investigators, Diane and Doris. With Diane we talked about the Book of Mormon and serving one another. Its hard teaching her because she agrees with and believes everything that we say, but as soon as we try to extend a commitment she kind of backs off. We asked her to take Moroni’s promise and she basically said no. That if it was the word of God, she would just know. She didn’t need to read or pray about it. She’s an interesting one. When we went to go visit Doris, she dropped us. We definitely didn’t see that one coming, especially when the last lesson we taught we focused a lot on baptism and she seemed really interested in it. She just said that she couldn’t change what she believed. It was kind of a smack in the face in all honesty. She said she would call if she wanted to learn again, but for now she wanted us to stop visiting. Zannen.

This week we also visited the Takamura family. Sadly, they’re going back to Peru next week, so it was the last time we had the chance to visit them. We shared Alma 26:37, Which talks about God being aware of all people, wheresoever they might be. We were really hoping they would come to church on Sunday because the lesson went really well, but no luck there unfortunately.

A really fun part of this week was having zone meeting in Takasaki. After the meeting, we had a zone blitz. Basically all of the missionaries in Kiryu zone prayed together, and then we went out to go take over Takasaki. We had 3 hours to go out and try and find people. It was actually way fun. I got the chance to work with Sister Snow, who is an awesome missionary. We walked from the church to the Takasaki eki, and just streeted people the whole way there. It was interesting to dendou in Japanese again, and to see how other people share the gospel. We saw a lot of miracles through the zone blitz. Sister Snow and I talked to a really cute Japanese girl who accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and told us that she believed in God. She was really surprised by everything we were saying, but more in a way that it was just so amazing to hear. She kept smiling and saying, “Sugoi!” There were a lot of other fun people that we talked to, but that was probably my favorite one. At the end of the blitz, a Japanese man that the elders had been talking to came out of the train station with his arms overflowing with little bottle of hot cocoa. The elders told him we didn’t drink coffee, so he went inside and bought every single one of us hot chocolate. He was a way nice guy, and as we were leaving he was already sitting down reading his copy of the Book of Mormon. Sounds like a keeper.

On Sunday in sacrament meeting all of the missionaries spoke. Kind of to start off the new year, and get a focus on missionary work. And partially to give the members a break I’m sure. Seeing as they probably give a talk every few weeks. And today in DCS Brother Maeno talked about how each of us was chosen in the preexistence to come to Oizumi at this point and time. And to bring souls unto him. And that it is our duty to pray, and find out who we are supposed to help, and how we can help them. It was a nice reminder.

Other than that, things are slowly but surely moving along here. Transfer calls are next week and my companion and I are both nervous to see how it goes. We’ve been together for 5 transfers now, so we both know that one of us will be transferred. Both staying here with a new companion and being transferred are scary thoughts. Either way I’ll most likely have to be the leader for a little bit, until my new companion gets the hang of things too. But hey, who knows, we could both be blown out of the water and stay together once more.

This week Sister Carrasco and I were coming home and we got caught in a pretty awesome ice cold rain storm. That day things hadn’t exactly been going our way as well, so to have the rain coming down on us without coats was the last thing I wanted to happen. We were stopped at a stop light, and while we were waiting I looked down the street and just started laughing. I guess you could call it an epiphany moment. Never in my life did I think I would be on a bicycle in the pouring rain in Japan, in a town where people speak Portuguese. And despite how awful that day had been, I realized I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. If every day of my mission was like picking sunflowers in a field there is no way I would appreciate those amazing spiritual experience that you have every day. When we got out of the rain that night I looked up a scripture in the Bible that one of the elders had recommended I read.

Psalms 23:4

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The Lord is our shepherd. So why should we fear? He really is with us every step of the way, and will always be there to comfort us. I know that’s true. I love you more than all the rice in Japan!

Sister Hunsaker

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January 5, 2014 Week 50 “Look Not Behind Thee”

Darling Loved Ones,

How are you all doing? I hope your holidays and week were as good as ours out here in good old Japan. This week was interesting, definitely a little rocky, but at the end I think I learned more about myself and how important our investigators are than I ever have before.

So this week was obviously New Years. Everyone keeps asking if I learned alot about Japanese culture… but in all honesty I spent New Years with a bunch of Brazilians… so I have no clue how the Japanese people are on New Years. Except very intoxicated. They advised us not to go tracting on New Years Eve and New Years, and to stay in the apartment for the most part unless we already had appointments.

But New Years was really fun. We took a train down to Okegawa, where some of our members live and had dinner with them, and played bingo and jenga. You know, one of the few games that we can play as missionaries. And, of course, before we left we shared a spiritual thought with them for the New Year. But I won’t talk about it yet. I’ll save that for the end of my letter.

This week my companion and I also gave a training at our district meeting about “casting out fear with love”. It was incredibly intimidating at first to be the one doing the training instead of listening, but it was still fun. You know what they say, the best way to understand something more is to teach it 🙂

For the sake of time I’m just going to mention one lesson that we had this week. It was with our Peruvian friend Doris. We went in and decided we were going to talk about the Book of Mormon, and baptism. We began by sharing a scripture with her out of the Bible, the one in Ezekiel that talks about the stick of Ephraim and the stick of Judah. We then talked about it and told her how this was referencing the Bible and the Book of Mormon. And she really understood it. You should have seen her face. She was completely in shock. Like I’ve never seen someone have such a strong reaction to that scripture before. And then we shared some scriptures out of the Book of Mormon that talked a little more about reading the two together, and how they both testified of Christ. After that is when we started to speak about baptism. And she told us it really was her desire to be baptized, but that she felt like she needed to be completely sure before she did anything. Which is respectable. Its good to make sure you have a testimony of something before diving in blindly. We invited her to be baptized and she accepted. Now we just need to get her to a date.

So, something that I really learned about this week, and the message that we shared with the members was centered around the story of Lot and his wife. The ones that were commanded to leave Sodom and Gomorrah. (its in Genesis 19). And, as the story goes, the Lord told them that no matter what they do, “don’t look back”. But, sad as it is, the wife of Lot turned around and was turned into a pillar of salt. So what’s the importance behind this story? Why did Lot’s wife look back? Probably not because she was just curious about what was going on, but because her heart was still in the city she was leaving, and she was longing for her old life. But the Lord had commanded them to leave all that behind, and focus on their future. And its the same with us. As we start this New Year, we need to keep our eyes set on the future, as with our faith. We can’t change what has already happened, but we sure can aim for a better future. All of us can leave the past behind, and become the people that we are meant to be. There’s a really cool scripture that I read this week in Philippians 3:13.

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before”

Thats my New Years Resolution. Forgetting the past, and reaching for those things in the future. To look towards the future with faith. Faith that my Heavenly Father has a plan for me. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but I know that as long as I’m out here serving with all my heart. might, mind and strength, that it will be more wonderful than anything than I could ever imagine.

I love you more than all the rice in Japan.

Love,
Sister Hunsaker

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