Thursday, February 21, 2013

Transfers, February 2013, New Missionaries

For anyone who is regularly at the international gate of the airport,
 here (above) is the sure sign that it's transfer day.  Eight carts,
awaiting luggage.  Won't it be fun in July, when we are expecting
at least 20 new missionaries!  
President Baird gets so excited when these great new missionaries come walking through that gate:

Sister Leah Hodson, United States

Elder Samuel Richard, Australia

Elder Victor Lazaro, Brazil

Can't forget the group picture and the Hoiza Shout--YOSH!

From left:  Elder Milder, Elder Mikkola, Elder Lazaro, President and Sister Baird
Sister Hart, Sister Hodson, Elder Chiba, Elder Richard, and Elder Tano

Then they are off!  On to a train from the airport to the Nagoya Station, where they make a quick stop for photos at the Golden Clock, and then transfer to their final leg.  They will arrive at the Kamiyashiro Eki and be picked up to ride the last few blocks to the honbu.

From left:  Elder Clark, Recorder, Elder Hara, Commissarian, Elder Richard, Elder Chiba,
Elder Mikkola, Elder Milder, Elder Tano, Elder Lazaro,
Sister Hart, Sister Hodson, Elder Ellsworth and Elder Schade, AP's
At last, the next morning after some training, they get to meet their first companion and find out where they will be going.

Elder Yoshifumi Chiba
Elder Chiba, left, with Elder Harada are going to Nonami.
Elder Yoshifumi Chiba is from Sendai, Japan.  He was baptized first in the family, and his mother followed.  He has an older and a younger brother.  He wants to work hard on his mission so his family will receive blessings.  He enjoys volleyball.  He is a person who never gives up.  The experience he had when he prayed to know if the Church was true also caused him to want to serve a mission.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ has helped him forgive others and find great peace in his life.
Elder Harada really appreciates his knoweldge of the Gospel and finds resolution of 
problems through it. He feels peace and joy at church.  He feels confident that 
his mission will help him decide what to do for the rest of his life.

Sister Saya Hart
Off to Fukutoku are Sister Hart (left) and Sister Ishihara
From St. George, Utah, Sister Saya Hart comes from a family of five.  Her mother is from Shizuoka and she has a grandmother who lives there currently.  Sister Hart loves the fine arts and visual arts and plays violin and piano. She enjoys photography and would like to study that and film eventually. She is warm and friendly, kind and positive.  She has a great motto for her mission:  Loyalty to the Lord.

Sister Ishihara loves to listen to good music and she enjoys performing as well.  Music brings her joy, especially if she is the one bringing it to others.  She has received comfort, encouragement, courage and power from God through prayer.  She knows that He loves her.  

Sister Leah Hodson
Sister Hodson, left, will join Sister Rogers in Yokkaichi.

From Indianapolis, Indiana, Sister Leah Hodson has two sisters, one of whom is her twin.  Sister Hodson was majoring in acting and linguistics before her mission.  She would love to visit every Disneyland in the world and win every cooking competition she enters.  She enjoys crafts, reading science fiction, and listening to classical music.  She is cheerful and humorous.

Sister Rogers studied Japanese before her mission, so she entered the mission running. She is an excellent trainer and while this is the second person to be blessed by her training, there will be more.  She wants to give 18 great months of her life to her Heavenly Father because He has given her everything.

Elder Victor Lazaro
Elder Lazaro (left) and Elder Romero will be headed to Ina.
Elder Victor Lazaro hails from Curitiba, Brazil.  He is the youngest in his family, and his older sister and brother both have degrees.  After his mission, Elder Lazaro will go to BYU Provo and major in economics.  He loves math and engineering, too.  He likes talking to people, learning languages, and making people laugh.  Elder Lazaro also plays guitar, and likes movies and learning.

Elder Romero says he loves doing things.  He is a very hands-on person.  He has
had many wonderful spiritual experiences and has felt the Lord's hand guiding him.
His life hasn't always been easy, but he has come through smiling,
and he thanks family, friends and the Lord for help in doing that.

Elder Pontus Mikkola
Elder Wilcox will train Elder Mikkola (left) in Tsu.
Elder Pontus Mikkola is from Espoo, Finland.  He is the middle child, with a brother on either side. He loves art and chemistry and studied chemistry for a year before his mission.  He also has an interest in Japan and its culture, so was glad to get called to Japan.  Elder Milder likes Japanese Indie music and trying out new cooking recipes.  He says he is patient and warm-hearted, taking others into consideration in everything he does.

Elder Wilcox loves and wants to travel.  He is outgoing and loves meeting new people and always seems to be happy.  He is excited to have kids and raise a family.  And he is best friends with his own siblings and loves his family "a ton!"  Elder Wilcox plays drums and has even played a show in Hollywood. 

Elder Eduardo Milder
Fujieda will be home to Elder Milder (left) and Elder Matsunaga

From Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, Elder Eduardo Milder has an older brother and sister, and a younger sister.  He lost his mother to cancer in 2010.  Elder Milder studied in psychology in college for one year before his mission and loves getting to know people.  He gets along well with everyone and is patient with himself and others.  He is always in a good mood. He was a professional soccer player for a while.  Elder Milder has had a special friend since he was 10 years old, and hopes to marry her when he gets home.

Elder Matsunaga uses sign language and speaks English.  Some day, he would like to make a movie that changes peoples' minds about God.  He would also like to use movies to tell about our church's doctrine.  He enjoys talking with both children and adults.  He is loving and open to feeling the spirit.  He is a hard worker and kind, and doesn't like being in a bad atmosphere.    

Elder Samuel Richard
Elder Richard (left) and Elder Ludlow will enjoy being in Okazaki.
Elder Samuel Richard is from Perth, Western Australia.  He is the oldest of 7 children and has four sisters.  His family is very close.  He is thinking about being a pilot, a teacher, a lawyer or an engineer after his mission.  Reading, swimming, strategy games and sports of all kinds are what he enjoys, and he also loves to meet new people.  He calls himself funny, outgoing, and focused and he works well under stress and perseveres through challenges.  He is also a good teacher.

Elder Ludlow is hard working, organized and determined.  His testimony is
another one of his strengths.  He is serving a mission because he knows
how happy the Gospel will make people, and he wants to set
a good example for his little brothers.

and Elder Jarem Tano
Kanazawa will be blessed to have Elder Tano (left) and Elder Kaneko.
From Pearl City, Hawaii, Elder Tano hopes to become an aeronautical engineer and work on planes in the Air Force.  His parents and a brother all served missions in Japan, and one of his three sisters served in Thailand.  Elder Tano gained his testimony through prayer, fasting, and scripture study over a period of time.  Part of that testimony is that he was called to be a missionary before he even came to earth. 
Elder Kaneko uses sign language and speaks English.  Some day, he would like 
to make a movie that changes peoples' minds about God.  He would also 
like to use movies to tell about our church's doctrine.  He enjoys talking 
with both children and adults.  He is loving and open to feeling the spirit.  
He is a hard worker and kind, and doesn't like being in a bad atmosphere.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Transfers, February 12, 2013, Finishers

Wouldn't you know it. Time marched on and we had transfers again.  Our finishers have become a part of our heart.   As you anticipated the great joy of seeing your son or daughter walk off that plane, we were saying goodbye to the following amazing and wonderful missionaries, who we have grown to love with all our hearts. Is there some way we could just keep them, AND keep getting the new ones?  Oh, but I'm asking their parents that question.  I guess you want your wonderful, testimony filled, matured and inspired children back.  I guess we'll just have to keep having transfers.

We sadly said goodbye to:


Elder Broderick Danielson
From left, Elder Roney, ward member, Elder Danielson
Missionaries are Elder Larkin, and Elder Danielson on right. 

According to missionaries who know Elder Danielson, he 
is outgoing and gets along well with others. He is musically talented  
and people like to be with him.  He is very excited to teach 
what he has known to be true his entire life.

Elder Peter Farnsworth

This is one of my favorite pictures.  The essence of "missionary."
And the "SHINKO" in the background?  "FAITH"

Service and Smiles
Elder Burnett and Elder Farnsworth
Elder Farnsworth is a hard worker and according 
to other elders, he never complains.  He also loves 
to tell stories and is very good at it.

Elder Zachary Gish

Elder Gish (left) and Elder Hara with two darling
Matsumoto princesses.

Elder Gauthier and Elder Gish
Elder Gish loves to break dance, and even managed to get 
himself in a mission video doing a bit of it.  He loves his companions, 
and for that matter, he just seems to love everyone.

Elder Chad Hilyard

Just a little kick to the soccer ball.

From left:  Elder Farnsworth, Elder Ito, Elder Hilyard, and Elder Matson
Elder Hilyard said at the beginning of his mission that he was shy until he 
got to know people.  He must have overcome that on his mission, because 
other missionaries describe him as someone who loves talking to people and 
who is very good at it.  He is friendly and positive and funny.

Sister Mariah Hunt

Sister Saito, Sister Yamada, and Sister Hunt
Beautiful inside and out.  Sister Fujisawa, and Sister Hunt on right.
Sister Hunt is a good writer.  But what people love most about her is 
that she gets along well with everyone.  She is easy to talk to and warm-hearted.  

Elder Axel Kerksiek

Elder Adachi, and Elder Kerksiek on right.
Doing what missionaries do best.

Elder Wakamatsu and Elder Kerksiek on right, at Suwa Castle.
Elder Kerksiek is easy going with a good sense of humor.  
He can find humor in about anything, so he makes missionary 
work fun.  He is very easy to get along with.

Elder Joshua Matson

Elder Matson on left, with Elder Dunn and two genuine, bonafide Samurai Warriors.
Actually, it's the other way around.  Two genuine, bonafide missionaries.

Elder Ahuna and Elder Matson.  Don't you think
missionaries look more handsome
when they are serving?
Elder Matson gets kudos from other missionaries for being 
hard working and obedient.  He loves to learn and seems to want 
to know everything he can.  He is also very good at Japanese.  When he gets 
home, he will be working on dance and taekwando.

Sister Chalese West

Sister West on left, with Sister Adachi and Sister Hunt.

Darling workers.  From left, Sister West, Sister Masuda, Sister Adachi, Sister Nishimuro
Sister West stands out as being FAST.  She loves to run and 
can do it well.  But she also has great spiritual gifts--she is kind, 
patient, has good knowledge of the scriptures, and a sweet testimony of the Gospel.

and Sister Maori Takatsu

Sister Takatsu loves the Book of Mormon!

Sister Takatsu and Sister Stott
Sister Takatsu has a wonderful knowledge of the scriptures.  
You can tell that by just looking at her scriptures; they are well loved!  
She also has good English and loves to smile and laugh.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What Is A Miracle?

Ogaki, the Miracle Area, by Elder Axel Kerksiek

What is a miracle?  To me a miracle is a personal recognition of God’s power which results in greater testimony, faith, and learning.  Well, let me tell you about a story of a missionary who had such a miracle:

I had only been in Gokiso for two transfers; my companion had been there longer than me.  I thought for sure I wasn’t going to transfer.  We were seeing great success in Gokiso and I was growing old as a missionary.  Transferring was not what I thought I wanted.  Well, as you can guess, transfer calls came and I was being transferred to an area that I knew was having little to no success and was basically broken.  It was hard to leave.  I was sad, angry and lost all motivation.  However, I pressed forward hoping something good would happen.

I got to Ogaki and tons of great things did happen!  I want to tell you about one unforgettable miracle that didn’t end with people in white clothes getting ready to go into baptismal font water, but remember that a miracle is meant to teach and inspire you.

During my first Eikaiwa class in Ogaki a new student came to our class.  He called before and asked to join.  Of course, we said yes!  During his first time in our class, we did an Eikaiwa interview with him.  We found out a little bit about him.  His name is Sato, Toshiki.  He is 18 years old and has a dream to be a fire fighter in Washington D.C.!  We asked if he wanted to know more about the Church and he said yes.  He told us that he just got back from visiting his friend and her family who live in Washington, D.C.  He told us that his friend is a member of our church, and while he was in D.C. for one week, he went to church, prayed, read scriptures, and had FHE with his friend and her family.  WAY TO GO, MEMBER FRIEND!  He told us that he felt good and wanted to feel those same feelings again.

We set up meeting with him two times a week every week.  Teaching him was as easy as pie.  We taught him and committed him to be baptized within the first two weeks of meeting.  He said yes to everything.

We set up a time to meet with his whole family (6 people).  Our first visit with them went so well!  Toshiki’s member friend’s non-member mom was there and she was backing us up on everything.  The whole family became investigators after that night.

I remember on the drive home that night I felt so much joy and happiness.  I could see the potential for them as a family and I could see God working His miracles.

Well, as I said before, this isn’t the perfect story.  We hit some obstacles trying to get permission for Toshiki to be baptized.  We met with the family again.  We did an FHE and had a great time.  Even Toshiki’s member friend’s non-member mom was there and again she was backing us up on everything.  However, Toshiki’s parents still wanted him to wait.

Instead of giving up or weakening in commitment, Toshiki told us that he wanted to continue learning until he gets permission.  He wasn’t giving up.

So for about four months we kept meeting him and reviewing with him all the lessons.  We helped him start reading the book of Mormon on his own. (He is at the end of Mosiah right now).  Of course, he had some challenges, but he got over them and his desire to be baptized increases every time we meet.  One of our members said this about his situation, “When you tell someone they can’t do something, they resolve to do it even more.”

From December to February we were trying so hard to meet with Toshiki’s parents again and make a goal together when he could be baptized.  However, for two months they eluded us with all sorts of excuses from their bag of excuses for missionaries.  But I had a powerful card.  So I used it.  I used the “I-am-going-home-to-America-and-I-really-want-to-meet” card.  It worked.

We were able to meet with Toshiki’s mom last week (last week of my mission.)  My hope was to see Toshiki be baptized before I went home.  He is so ready.  He can be baptized any day if he just gets permission.  However, my hope was not realized.  I don’t know why, but I trust God and His timing.

We met with Toshiki’s mom, but after dinner and before we could talk to her she ran away to go to another appointment.  It was sad.  I wasn’t going to be able to see one of my best friends in Japan be baptized.

However, I learned a lot.  I learned that it is not about me, it’s about him.  I am confident that some day he will be baptized, and I will be just as happy.  I am so grateful to have met him and have been able to teach him and share my testimony with him. My appreciation for this two-year opportunity increased and my love for others has increased also.

Right now Toshiki is doing great.  He is doing what he can to be worthy to be baptized.  He has made some hard choices, especially for an 18 year old, but it has resulted in his strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is not the only miracle that I have seen in Ogaki.  There are tons more.  Every day here has been joyful, every day an adventure.  I am grateful that God knows me and prepared all of these blessings for me, hidden in my last area, Ogaki.  It is my miracle area.  I have made lifelong friendships here, I have overcome challenges, I have seen people grow so strong as a result of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

Maybe my miracle stories are not miracles to others, but God knows us individually and give us individual teachings and experiences so that we can develop our individual talents and overcome our individual weaknesses.

I can never forget Ogaki and I hope I never will.  I came here with all odds against me for any success, but God had planned and is still doing a mighty work here.  He is working miracles.