Thursday, April 4, 2013

More Goodbyes

It has been a tough month in the mission.  Three transfer days in four weeks is not what a mission president wants to have happen.  The regular transfer of March 12 was mostly joyous.  We lost one great elder but gained 8 wonderful new missionaries. (See the next blog.)  But then on March 30, our wonderful missionary couple who has been serving in Matsumoto completed their mission.  We said goodbye to Elder and Sister Matsuhashi.  They will be so dearly missed, especially by the many people who love them in Matsumoto.

We enjoyed a Family Home Evening with some of their beautiful family as part of the send off.  That was a delight.  Mission couples who are out in the field are the best thing that can happen in a mission.  And the Matsuhashi's were THE best.  Here are a few pictures to prove it.

These are our beloved Matsuhashi's.  You only have to look at them to love them.
We could use 100 of them in our mission.  Elder and Sister Matsuhashi focused on the less active.
They brought several people back into the fold, and developed relationships
of love with many people.  They knew just what was needed and did it.

Seated are some of the Matsuhashi's beautiful family.
Behind from left:  Elder Olsen, Elder Hara, Elder Sarager, Elder Baker,
 President and Sister Baird, and Sister and Elder Barney

Fun with the district.  Front:  Sister Matsuhashi, Sisters Thayne and Yamada
Behind from left:  Elders Romero, DeMille, Wilcox (behind), Rocha,
Parry (behind Rocha) Okajima, Kobayashi, Kusume, and Elder Matsuhashi

Elder and Sister Matsuhashi taught dance at the church.
People loved to come, to learn to dance and to get to know each other.
They also attended choir practice every week and brought many potential
investigators with them.  

Elder and Sister Matsuhashi became dear friends with many people.  One elder who knows them
well said that Sister Matsuhashi has a really fun personality, makes delightful jokes and makes friends
easily.  He said Elder Matsuhashi has a dry sense of humor, and is a superb Gospel teacher.

A great game at a fun church activity.  How many toothpicks
can you get to stay on the bottle?

And finally, just 10 days later, it was time for the Barney's to return home.  Elder and Sister Barney have served as the
mission finance secretary and the mission secretary.  They have loved being in Japan and working with President and Sister Baird, and they were very sad to leave.  Nagoya will always hold a special place in their hearts.  
Sister Barney in her usual position

Elder Barney, helping fix breakfast at transfer time.

Urano Shimai and Sister Barney.  They will miss each other.
Elder and Sister Barney did just do office work.
This is sweet Yoko Yamamoto, who they love and hope will some day join the Church.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 2013 Transfers, Almost Perfect

Transfers would have been just perfect, if we hadn't had to say goodbye to one great missionary:  Elder Ito.  But we know he will do great in the future and will continue to be a great missionary.

Elder Ito's Goodbye Dinner.  Around the table from left:  Elder Olson, new recorder,
Elder Clark, outgoing recorder, Elder Hara, Commissarian, Elder Ito.  President and Sister Baird,
Elder Ellsworth, outgoing AP, Elder Schade, AP, Elder Sambongi, new AP, Sister Urano,
and Sister Barney.  Elder Barney is on his favorite end of the camera.

President Baird put on his special glasses, so he could look
more like Elder Ito.

Elder Yoshiya Ito says he is an extrovert.  He loves talking to people.  He is honest and obedient and has been to church every Sunday since he was a baby.  All three of his older brothers were missionaries, and he noticed how their missions made them better men.  Elder Ito is friendly, easy to get along with, well-loved among members and missionaries.  He was completely obedient as a missionary, always focused on his purpose.

Heading out to the eki:  Elder Schade, Elder Sambongi, Elder Ellsworth, Elder Ito,
President Baird, Sister Baird, Sister Barney and Elder Barney
If we hadn't had to say goodbye to Elder Ito, transfers would have been perfect.  And here's what made it close to perfect:  8 great new missionaries.  

Here is the entire group, in the driveway of the mission home.  From left:  Elders Benzon,
Moretti, Nakahara, Suzuki, President and Sister Baird,
Sisters Hansen and Watanabe, and Elders Ishijima and Sugimoto

Elder Jordan Benzon   

From Taylorsville, Utah, Elder Jordan Benzon is the youngest of six children.  His family loves being together, the Gospel, and music.  Elder Benzon also loves backpacking, running and working out.  He is outgoing and fun loving, and has been blessed to recognize what and when the Lord needs him to say something.  He wants to serve a mission because he loves the Lord.

Elder Ellsworth is very smart, and has the special talent of knowing just about any word, it's definition, and how to spell it.  He is also a very good pianist and cellist.  He is soft-spoken but always a gentleman and a dedicated, hard worker.  

Sister Sierra Hansen

Sister Sierra, from LaCrescenta, California, has been studying Aisian studies with an emphasis on Japan.  She loves to sew and make things, read, write and sing.  She says she is quiet, but not shy.  She is just not a big talker.  She gets excited about the Gospel.  She says she wouldn't be serving a mission is she didn't know the Gospel was true.

Sister Adachi is a very loved missionary.  She gets along with everyone and works hard at her missionary responsibilities.  She is kind and full of love, and shows it easily. She is one of those people you can't resist liking.

Elder Koki Ishijima

Elder Koki Ishijima is the fifth person in his family to serve a mission.  There are six in his family, and one is still too young to serve.  Elder Ishijima loves the piano.  He started when he was young and had a very good teacher, so he enjoys it a great deal.  He is a very serious person, and he says that can be good and bad.  He knows he will have success on his mission if he relies on the Lord.

Elder Hilton loves to sing and dance.  He is an intelligent and kind person who loves to help others.  He is creative and enjoys talking with and learning about others.  He is just very likable. 

Elder Guilherme Moretti

Elder Moretti comes to us from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He has an older brother
 and sister and a younger brother.  He loves missionary work and wants
 to do it for the rest of his life, along with graduating from college 
and having a family.  His hobbies are judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mua-tai fighting. 
(Be nice to him.)  He also loves music and plays classic guitar, 
bass, and piano.  He loves the Gospel and sharing it with others.

Elder Seipel enjoys Jiu Jiustu, break dancing and he wants to revolutionize
the world.  He says that sometimes he is withdrawn and sometimes outgoing.  
He is generally hard working and can be fairly patient.

Elder Sachio Nakahara

Elder Sachiio Nakahara is from Okinawa, Japan.  Elder Nakahara enjoys badmitton or ping-pong.  He was working hard each day and very busy, and these games relaxed him because he was good at it and it relaxed him.  Elder Nakahara says his life has been really changed by the Gospel, and it has been a good result.  He is very enthusiastic to share the Gospel, and hopes that God will grant him the power needed to carry out the work.

Elder Ashcroft is a hard-working missionary.  And he has his future pretty well thought out.  He hopes to work at BYU TV while he's in school, but he has an entirely different plan for his major (business).  Elder Ashcroft is also very good at math.

Elder Haruki Sugimoto

From Kanagawa, Chiba, Japan, Elder Sugimoto's family has four members. He has a younger brother.  His parents both served missions in Japan.  Elder Sugimoto's biggest dream is to be a father who can go to church on Sunday with his family.  He likes sports, was on a soccer team, and has studied Spanish at university.  People have told him he is sincere.  He knows he is honest and optimistic.  He has read the Book of Mormon many times.

Elder Heo is a really great trainer and has done it several times.  He is a hard worker, dependable, and follows mission rules well.  He is full of love and kindness, and when you listen to him teach the Gospel, it is hard to believe he is a relatively new member of the church.  

Elder Toku Suzuki

Elder Toku Suzuki, from Saitama, Japan, comes from a great family of 9.  Two of the 7 siblings are younger than him.  Five of his family have served missions.  Elder Suzuki has a goal to study in the US after his mission.  But his biggest goal is to become a pilot.  He is currently licensed in First Aid.  He is curious, positive, and shows his emotions.  His brothers, telling about their missions, convinced him to serve a mission.  

Elder Sanderson is a very happy person, and you can see that in his smile.  He finds it easy to get along with others, and he tries to do that well.  He is always excited to share the Gospel with others because he knows it will bring them happiness, as it has him.  

Sister Aya Watanabe

Sister Aya Watanabe, from Provo, Utah, has two sisters and two brothers.  Her father was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and her mother is from Idaho.  Sister Watanabe is studying advertising at BYU, and wants to minor in graphic design.  She loves winter and being in the snow, especially skiing.  She loves people, and everywhere she goes, she finds herself surrounded by people she loves.  She is very happy, naturally optimistic, and enjoys sharing her love.  She has felt the Saviour's love multiple times.    She has always wanted to serve a mission.  

Sister Fujisawa has loved sports since she was a child.  Playing sports always gives her new insights and she enjoys mingling with friends while involved in sports.  She sincerely loves children and would love to become a PE teachers.  She has a strong will, but uses it with gentleness and love.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who are YOU looking for?

If I had interest in the Japan Nagoya Mission blog, under the care of President and Sister Baird, I would want to look for my companions, my child (or myself).  But most of us don't have all day to read three years worth of blogs.  So I just wanted to make sure you noticed the "Search" feature on the top left of this blog.

Type in the last name of your person of interest, and you will find something about him or her.

We have some additional tabs at the top, that are stories of some very special members of the Church here in the Nagoya Mission.  Our missionaries have rubbed shoulders with and fallen in love with these amazing members, and they have written about them.  To quickly find stories written by your favorite missionaries, see below:

Name Number Volume
Adachi 6, 10, 22 2
Amussen 16 3
Baker C. 2 2
Baker K. 15 2
Burnett 2, 7 3
Correia 28 2
deOliveira 19/ 18,19 2, 3
Doll 1 1
Duarte 7 1
Dunn 4 3
Eguchi 14 3
Farnsworth 21, 23 1
Gauthier 4, 16 2
Gibb 17 2
Gillespie 26 1
Gish, Z. 11, 13/4 1, 2
Harada 2 2
Heo 10 1
Hernandez 7 2
Hilton 2 1
Hiruta 16, 17 1
Hooton 24 2
Hunt 5/ 1, 3, 5, 20 2, 3
Ikeda 29 2
Ishihara 20 1
James 8 3
Jones 28, 29 2
Kaminishi 8, 15 1
Kerksiek 5, 12, 28 1
Koch 16 1
Kusume 11, 12 2
Ludlow 6 3
Macdonald 14 1
Matsuhashi 6, 3 1, 2
Metsatahti 13 1
Mimaki 27 2
Nakanishi 24/ 21 1, 2
Nishimuro 20 1
O'Hara 3 1
Olsen 8, 15 1
Parry 11, 12/9,18 2, 3
Petersen 18, 22 1
Rocha 17 3
Rogers 22 2
Roney 9 1
Saito 11, 12,13 3
Sambongi 4, 19 1
Sanderson 26, 27 1
Sarager 1 1
Seipel 8 2
Severson 25 2
Shimizu 25 1
Shimohara 9 1
Soliai 4 2
Shimoji 10 3
Takabori 29 1
Thayne 13, 14/15 2, 3
Wakamatsu 18, 20 2
West 9 2
Yamada 13, 14/15 2, 3
Matsunaga 24 1

Then go to "Member Stories, Vol I, II, or III and be inspired.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Festival Smorgasbord

Japan is a country of festivals.  If one had time, a festival could probably be found somewhere in Japan every weekend.  Here, for instance, is the list for just the festivals celebrated each year in the city of Hamamatsu.  They all look fun and interesting.

Akiha Fire Festival

Ever since long ago, Mount Akiha was believed to have supernatural powers to prevent fires. Bow and arrow, sword, and fire dances are performed at the Akiha Shrine. At the Akiha Temple, a firewalking ceremony is performed where both believers and spectators celebrate the festival. (Haruno, Tenryu-ku — December)

Enshu Dainenbutsu

When a family commemorates the first Obon holidays after the death of a loved one, they may request that a dainenbutsu (Buddhist chanting ritual) be performed outside their house. This is one of the local performing arts of the region. The group always forms a procession in front of the house led by a person carrying a lantern and marches to the sound of flutes, Japanese drums and cymbals. (Saigagake Museum, Hamamatsu City — July 15)


Hamamatsu Festival

Hamamatsu Festival, held from May 3 through May 5 each year, is well known for Takoage Gassen, or the kite fight, and luxuriously decorated palace-like floats. The festival originated about 430 years ago, when the lord of Hamamatsu Castle celebrated the birth of his first son by flying kites. In the Meiji Era, the celebration of the birth of a first son by flying Hatsu Dako, or the first kite, became popular, and this tradition has survived in the form of Hamamatsu Festival. It is extremely exciting to see over 160 large kites flying in the sky to the sound of bugles. Those who visit Hamamatsu at this time of the year can experience the city at its most exciting time.

During the nights of Hamamatsu Festival, people parade downtown carrying over 70 yatai, or palace-lake floats, that are beautifully decorated while playing Japanese traditional festival music. The festival reaches its peak when groups of people compete by violently marching across town. (Naka-ku, Minami-ku — May)

Hamakita Hiryu Festival 

This festival is held in honor of Ryujin, the god of the Tenryu River, and features a wide variety of events such as the Hamakita takoage (kite flying) event and the Hiryu himatsuri (flying dragon fire festival) which celebrates water, sound, and flame. (Hamakita-ku — June)

Hamamatsu International Piano Competition

This festival celebrates Hamamatsu's history as a city of musical instruments and music, and brings dozens of the best young pianists from all over the world. It has been held triennially since 1991 at the Act City Concert Hall and Main Hall. (November)

入賞者披露演奏会 東京公演

Hamakita Manyo Festival

This event takes place in Manyo-no-Mori Park to commemorate the Manyo Period and introduce its culture. As part of the festival, people reenact the ancient past by wearing traditional clothes from the Heian period and presenting Japanese poetry readings. (Hamakita-ku, Hamamatsu — October)

Inasa Puppet Festival

One of the few puppet festivals held in Japan, featuring 60 performances of about 30 plays by puppet masters from all over the country. The shows provide a full day of enjoyment for both children and adults. (Inasa, Kita-ku — November)

Princess Road Festival

This reenactment of a procession made by the princess in her palanquin along with her entourage of over 100 people including maids, samurai, and servants makes for a splendid scene beneath the cherry blossoms along the Toda River. In the Edo period, princesses enjoyed traveling this road which came to be known as a hime kaidō (princess road). (Hosoe, Kita-ku — April)

Shoryu Weeping Ume Blossom Festival

In Ryusui Garden there is a stream with seven small waterfalls and about 80 weeping ume trees pruned to give the appearance of dragons riding on clouds to the heavens. There are also 200 young trees planted along the mountainside. (Inasa, Kita-ku — late February to late March)

It Boils Down to Faith and Repentence

Testimony written by Elder Stewart Insch shortly before his mission.

I have experienced the influence of my Heavenly Father and my Savior in my life and have found that when I am doing the things that I am supposed to be doing, I am happier and my life is easier.  I compare this to the people I see around me, friends, family, strangers, and the things they do to try and find happiness without success.  It breaks my heart to see how miserable others are because of their choices.  I have felt the power of the Atonement in my life, and the blessing of the Spirit and I know that if other people were to take advantage of these gifts that have been given to us, they could find the true happiness that they seek.

My dad taught me something that I always try to keep in mind when it comes to the Gospel.  What he said is that everything basically boils down to two principles, faith and repentance.  Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in all sorts of intricacies of scripture and doctrine and forget why it all matters.  Through faith and repentance, we can keep the commandments and allow the Spirit to guide us in our lives, as well as make up for our shortcomings.

My choice to serve a mission has been an important milestone in my life.  When I was nineteen I put in my papers under the pressure and influence of my parents and church leaders, and felt really wrong about it.  I felt like if I were to go, it would only have been through coercion and out of obligation and not out of my own desire to serve the Lord.  My testimony at the time was relatively weak, and I had a lot of doubts.  After time, I resolved these issues but didn’t really think much about serving a mission again.  I drifted through life, having fun, but feeling no major direction that my life was headed in.  I’ll freely admit that what caused me to redirect my thinking was a girl.

After transferring to BYU, I met a young lady and fell madly in love with her.  As things with her got more serious I started to focus more on my life to that point, as well as where it was headed.  This young woman loved me for who I was, regardless of the fact that I wasn’t a returned missionary.  This knowledge let me be free to reevaluate my choice not to serve a mission.  I thought about the man I was, and the man that I wanted to be and I thought of my father.  I want to be just like my father, and he always said that a mission saved his life and played the biggest role in how he became.  I started thinking it over again, praying and fasting, and I felt like I really should serve a mission.  I felt good about my decision, but I worried how this young woman would react, thinking that it would effectively bring about the end of our relationship.  But once I told her she was excited, and nothing but supportive of my decision.

I feel much better now than I did when I was nineteen.  Even though I was spurred to reconsider a mission, thanks to my involvement with this young woman, I was making the decision on my own, between me and the Lord.  I know that this is what the Lord needs and expects of me at this point in my life.  I am excited to be serving, and feel that this positive attitude and desire will be a great benefit to me in doing the Lord’s work with a glad heart, rather than grudgingly out of obligation.

The only thing that I was nervous about concerning a mission is where I was going to go.  People were constantly asking me where I wanted to go, and I didn’t know.  The one thing I really wanted was to go foreign, since I have always wanted to visit somewhere else in the world and learn a new language.  However, I was truly content to go wherever I was needed.  When I got my mission call and read Japan Nagoya Mission, I was filled with peace.  I had never imagined going to Japan, or any Asian mission, but I knew right away that this was where I needed to be. 

PS:  Elder Insch is now married….to that special young woman he knew before his mission.

Do I have faith? Am I Able to Serve a Mission?

Testimony of Sister Nozomi Tsukino, written just before her mission.

Recently, I learned a poem from the missionaries.  The poem talks about how instead of relying on the testimony that we had, it is more important to rely on the testimony that we have today, no matter how small that testimony may be.  Instead of listening to an inspirational talk that brings tears to our eyes, it is better to speak and let the spirit touch and warm our hearts.  Instead of planning a special day of special experiences, it is more important to live and use our faith in our everyday lives.

When I heard that, I thought about it a great deal.  Do I have a testimony now?  Or do I just rely on the testimony that I used to have and on the testimony of others?

Before going to bed, I prayed to Heavenly Father.  I asked Him, “Do I have faith and a testimony?  Are you sure that I am able to serve a mission?  Please answer my prayer in a way that is clear and easy for me to understand.”  As soon as I finished praying, in my mind, I could feel the words “Alma” and “56”.  In front of me was my Book of Mormon.  I opened it up and read Alma 56.  Alma 56 talks about the faith and determination of Helaman’s 2000 stripling warriors.  I felt that this was the answer to my prayer.  Like the 2000 young soldiers of Helaman, I too wanted to be brave, and I was inspired and encouraged that I could rise to the challenge. 

I am thankful that Heavenly Father answers our prayers.  I am thankful that He provides me opportunities to increase my testimony.  Missionaries serve as instruments in the Lord’s hands, and as a result, are able to bless the lives of themselves and those around them.  I know that the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ.  I testify that I know that the Lord knows me personally, and through the Holy Ghost, shows me what I should do. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inochi no Michi, February, 2013

Click on the picture to take a closer look.

During his visit, Elder Callister told a story from the time he served as a mission president in Canada. He had a troubled elder that he met with regularly. At long last the missionary made the observation, “President, you don’t want me to change my behavior, you want me to change my nature.”
We each might be astonished to discover the same thing. As we meet regularly with our Father in Heaven in prayer, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, we might be surprised to learn that he doesn’t want us to just change our behavior, He wants us to change our natures! “For,” he teaches us in Mosiah 3:19, “the natural man is an enemy to God…”.Each of us, left to our natural state, left to our natures, take a course that is contrary to God’s will for us.
In the same verse Mosiah guides us to put off the natural man and teaches how to proceed. We must yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit and become saints through the atonement of Jesus Christ. That is the amazing adventure we undertook starting at our mission conference in November of 2012. We resolved together to sweep our lives clean and to become partakers of the divine nature of God. All of which is made possible to us through the atonement of our Lord. Each of us has been walking our own path to putting off the natural man. Each has learned unique lessons. Each has grown in very real ways.
One of the discoveries for me personally, was that, I don’t create the change in my own heart. This was an astonishing realization to me. For the better part of my life, I have pursued the continual change of heart and its retention spoken of by Alma in chapter 5 of the book that bears his name. In all those years, I have overlooked the source of that change. Rather, I have been determined to make the change in my own heart. I have worked tirelessly, stubbornly to bring about that change. Though my intentions were pure, my motives honorable, my method was vain—relying on the arm of flesh instead of placing my trust, wholly and completely in Him alone that can bring about such a change in the human heart.
Alma’s own use of passive language should have been enough for me to understand the message, “…there was a mighty change wrought…” not, “…he wrought a mighty change…”Alma 5:12. The clarity was lost on my self-determined mind. If Alma’s intent was lost on me, King Benjamin’s should not have been. In Mosiah 5 King Benjamin asked the people if they believed the words he taught. They responded with one voice “…we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts…”Mosiah 5:2. Though a simple truth, for me it was simply astonishing. I realized that. I needed to let go of my self-willed nature in order to let the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent begin to work a change in me that I could not work for myself! And with that all important adjustment, I have found new paths to spiritual growth. It is exhilarating! Sacrament meetings have become more meaningful than ever in my life. As I renew sacred covenants there, I discover the truth taught by King Benjamin just a few verses down in Mosiah 5:7; “because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons,and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on HIS name; therefore, ye are born of HIM and have become HIS sons and HIS daughters.”
What joy these verses bring to me. It leads me to proclaim with the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness!” Doctrine and Covenants 128:19.  Joseph continues for a few verses and then in verse 22, these words, “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad…” I wish I could quote it all because these verses always raise my spirits. They lift me unto spiritual rejoicing so great that my heart can hardly contain it.
So I put it to you missionaries, shall WE not go on in so great a cause by allowing God and His Christ to change our very natures as we humbly submit? Shall WE not go on in the cause of serving our own brothers and sisters to that same glorious end? Shall WE not commit and become consecrated missionaries? And to these questions I answer, as did the Prophet. Courage, Japan Nagoya Missionaries; and on, on to the victory!
May we continually pursue the cause of God and His Christ by laying claim on the atonement to change our natures through daily repentance and cultivating Christlike attributes is my prayer in His sacred name! Amen.